For this edition of the Places of “Friends in Low Places,” we go to one of the islands in the middle of Huntington Lake. This spot plays a key role in the story. Personally, I’ve only been on this island twice, once a couple of years ago.
Unfortunately, the other time was about 10 years ago in the midst of the tragedy. We watched the recovery of a man's body who had drowned and gone missing just a few days before. We toasted the man that evening, but those images of the Sheriff speeding by in his boat, throwing a tarp over a mass, then taking it away is forever imprinted in my brain.
In this edition of the Places of "Friends in Low Places," we trek to Rancheria Falls. In the novel, the hungover crew walk through the mountain trails to get to this beautiful spot. This is the moment when they really begin to contemplate their futures as adults. Little did they know how much those expectations would change. Personally, I've made this hike a dozen times and each time marvel at the beauty tucked into the wilderness.
In today's editions of the Places of "Friends in Low Places," we actually head down the hill just a little bit. While most of the book takes place at Huntington Lake, some of the inspiration of stories take place down the hill at Shaver Lake. Some of the scenes: the campfire on a huge granite mountain edifice, the private shoreline, lounging in couches, the deck of two of the cabins, are all inspired by these settings. I don't know how many cups of coffee I've had on these decks, or marveled at the sunsets on that rock, or games of cornhole and bocce on these shores. Note: The one with my own father holds special meaning, even five years after he's left us.
The Blurb: Jack Reacher is an innocent bystander when he witnesses a woman kidnapped off a Chicago street in broad daylight. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he's kidnapped with her. Chained together, locked in the back of a stifling van, and racing across America to an unknown destination for an unknown purpose, they're at the mercy of a group of men demanding an impossible ransom. Because this mysterious woman is worth more than Reacher ever suspected. Now he has to save them both--from the inside out--or die trying...
Thoughts: Oh I didn't want high brow fiction. I didn't want to think about life and my place in it. I had a long road trip ahead of me and wanted to take my mind off the lonely highway. Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels are the perfect driving companion. They know what they are and do it spectacularly. This is Lee Child's second in the Jack Reacher series so he's not on autopilot yet. The action is crisp, the plot twists carefully planned and the ending satisfying.
Ah, the Lakeshore saloon. I don't know how many times I was in this place on our final night at Huntington Lake. I remember before I was 21 walking by and hearing the raucous sounds pumping out of this wood structure. The first time I actually went inside, the Mike Tyson-Peter McNeely fight was happening... And before we got a beer, it was over.
There were the nights when my buddies would be looking to meet some women (I had a girlfriend, who later became my wife, so I was the ultimate wingman). We also had nights when we put two tables together and played liars dice all night long.
One time, I was into Long Island Iced Teas and after that night, I am no longer into those drinks. One of my buddies continues to drink White Russians only at this place.
There are stories about the saddle in the rafters and the thin wall between the men's and women's restrooms, and the various fights we helped break up through pure charm.
Currently, Lakeshore Resort, including its saloon, is closed. Some say because of Covid, some say the Creek Fire, others say it was sold and they are looking to refurbish. Others say it's unsafe. Who knows? I just hope that eventually it opens again.
The sights of Friends in Low Places takes us to Rancheria Campground at Huntington Lake, CA. This is the campground where Jim, David, Rob, Paul and Jesse spent many of the years. Inspired by the trips I took with my friends. If you look at the campsite map, you can see Site Number 119. When I camped there, it was site 152. Friends in Low Places is available on all online retailers, including Amazon.
The sights of Friends in Low Places take us to many spots in CA. The first is Hank's Swank Par 3 Golf Course in Fresno. Great memories at the self-subscribed “Blue Collar Country Club.” This fun par 3 golf course near the Fresno airport is where the guys played an annual one-club tournament and began their annual trips.
On my own trips with friends, this was always the first stop. it was a meeting spot before we headed up the hill. It was here I'd greet my friends for the first time in a year, then buy a round, pull out a seven iron and play a round. The sixth hole is the most deceptive with 2 bunkers to carry and interestingly the eighth hole is one of the shortest and hardest, particularly with a 7 iron.
If you are ever in Fresno, you only need one club and you will have a good time playing Hank's Swank Par 3 Golf Course. https://www.facebook.com/hanks.swank/
Blurb: It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order...
Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met? Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Margarita Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.
One of the best books I have read this year. It is whimsical and heartbreaking while also a different take on a coming of age and personal growth story.
In a story that's told linearly, but also non-linearly, I didn't know how it was going to end and the story surprised me several times. I sometimes wished that some of the sections and "leaps" were less pages, so we could experience more of her evolution.
The Blurb: There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.
Until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.
But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.
Thoughts: This book seemed to have been written as a set of short stories first, then try to find a way to tie them all together with another mystery. I liked the concept and the individual mysteries. They were very well written and I enjoyed the mathematical reasoning behind them. However, but I think the execution of tying them together, particularly the reveal, was a little clunky and was overly laborious.
The Blurb: The life of Spokane Indian Thomas Builds-the-Fire irrevocably changes when blues legend Robert Johnson miraculously appears on his reservation and passes the misfit storyteller his enchanted guitar. Inspired by this gift, Thomas forms Coyote Springs, an all-Indian Catholic band who find themselves on a magical tour that leads from reservation bars to Seattle and New York--and deep within their own souls.
Thoughts: It's a story of the rise and fall and mystical wonder of an Indigenous blues band. Perhaps I was expecting more. Perhaps, it straddled the line between mystical and wild folklore and music business reality. Perhaps a couple of the characters just were so unlikable, but I came away disappointed. One side, there is the story of life on the reservation itself and understanding the sense of hopelessness one can have when a people have been pushed somewhere and then given rations. On another side, there is the mysticism of Big Mom, of the dreams and the magical guitar. Still, there is a story of a blues band strung together for no other reason as it provides some hope, but why would they let a jerk and his crony be a part of the band. It seemed the parts were greater than their sum. bookshop.org/a/23143/9780802141903In the end, I liked it, but was hoping for more.
Recent Reads and other thoughts
I fail to keep up with the books my wife reads. She read over 100 in 2020. I read 50. You get my thoughts