One Year of Henry’s Eclectic: Thank you!


On March 5th, 2013, I posted my first blog entry on Henry’s Eclectic. This blog started out as a direct challenge from a former high school classmate, Miranda, who is an aspiring writer (and whose freelance work can be found all sorts of places when she isn’t busy supporting social media outreach at Fictionista). When talking about my travels around the US, she challenged me to put these stories online, and to get in the habit of writing. I too have literary aspirations, and this blog is a trial run of a kind. The only way to express yourself in writing is to well, write.

I decided to take a risk in my format for this blog, for the most successful blogs focus on one theme–such as food, travel or politics. I chose to filter whatever inspired me through the view of an eccentric collector of experiences (That in fact, is who I am). As it happens, the blog touches on all of these topics, and often more. I also took on this blog in what has unexpectedly turned out to be an annus mirabulis for me, including the birth of my first born, the start a new career path, and a relocation from the nation’s capital back to the American Heartland. Those events were also risky. For a brief moment, I thought my traveling days were lost. But as the cliche goes, those who wander are not always lost. And for me, a sometimes road warrior, I now have new places to visit in the years to come.  In that way, this blog has been a bit of a mental escape, inspired by physical escapes. It functions that way not only for your author, but I hope for the reader as well.

The blog’s mission was to be mostly about travel, and travel has remained at the core of my writing. I have also taken to calling upon famous individuals of the past as avatars, relying upon them to express my personal views through their timeless wisdom and meaningful prose. I have covered a few places to find ambrosia and nectar–the sweets and savories found while on travel. Lastly, I have praised esoteric holidays and seasons, celebrating obscure little corners of Western Civilization. I will continue to do those things. And I may expand into other places as well.

I never expected to become the next super blogger, and have not done so to date. I thought that, if a few friends and family checked in on occasion, I would be satisfied with my effort. Unexpectedly, more than friends and family have stopped by. I am flattered every time that someone takes a few moments to read my entries, taking time out of their own lives, loves and explorations. The media industry always says their job is to put eyeballs on screens, and there is fierce competition for every moment of our collective attention.  I am not in this game to make money, to ratchet up readership statistics or even to promote a book. Rather, I think of this space as a sort of community sandbox, where I spin up my own sandcastles from a shared commons. People are welcome to look on, or knock them down.

Behaims Erdapfel-edit-DenisBarthel

Amazingly, you have tolerated those sandcastles. What surprised me the most in my personal assessment of this blog is my readership, you band of brothers (and sisters) who come back for more musings weekly. I know some of you personally, but for those that I don’t, I am even more humbled by your readership. I have come to find that that readership is international in scope, including places as far away from my current Indiana home as Canada, the UK, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Argentina, Ecuador, Germany, France, Australia, Pakistan, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Lebanon, Poland, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Austria, Finland, Russian Federation, Mexico, Czech Republic, Romania, Kuwait, El Salvador, India, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, South Korea, Serbia, Hungary, Iraq, Israel, Indonesia, China, Norway, Greece, Puerto Rico, Belgium, Peru, Slovakia, Chile, Switzerland, Poland and Azerbaijan. To think my humble little prose could reach the farthest shores and horizons would have been an impossible thought in the year I was born. I should not have been surprised by this panoply, as interest in traveling around America clearly extends off our shores. Just as yuppies in the US seek the “authentic” on their tours of the world, travelers to the US seek the same authenticity among the amber McArches, green Mermaids, big box stores and Anyplace USAs.

Some of you have found your way here through the comments, suggestions and collections of more talented, more popular and most excellent blogs of Caitlin Kelly at Broadside Blog, Richard Nielsen, and The Church of Tea, among others (found under “Summer Reading List” on the right column). I have never met any of those people in person, but through my enjoyment of their works and comments on their blogs, as well as their comments on mine, you have found your way here. Thank you for your visits!


As I think of topics for future posts, I looked to my most popular topics for guidance on what you, dear readers, have enjoyed the most. After over 65 postings, my top ten most visited posts include my weekend romp around Robert Redford’s Sundance, my musings about the language of Starbucks in Starbucks: Five Easy Pieces, taking in the eccentric Chicagoland burger joint The Billy Goat Tavern, my love of British haberdashers and the style of the Princes of Wales, past and present, in  The Secret Language of Striped Ties, the most likely place you will find me in any city in Best Independent Bookeries, my paean to my adopted homeland in Hoosiers, reveling in the ironies of Duke Chapel  and its place as sentinel among the Bacchanalians of the dorm rooms below it, the first citizens of Key West called the Gypsy Chickens of the Conch Republic, a memoir of my Pennsylvanian birthright in Old Country: River Rats, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania and the conflicted nature of art and exploitation in Modern Mona Lisa: Afghan Girl.  If you liked those, you can head into my back catalog for over 60 additional entries from around the US and beyond.

I will continue on my eclectic romp through life, sharing some of those things that made me smile as I traversed, and continue to traverse, America and points beyond.  I thought that I would have exhausted my backpack of stories within a year. It turns out that there are many more stories to share.

Thank you again for joining me, and I look forward to another year of celebrating the life eclectic with you. And, if you like what you are reading here, don’t be shy.  Comment often, share generously, and tell your friends!

Thank you for your patronage!

~Henry’s Eclectic

Photo Credits:

Pennyfarthing. Licensed by by the author

Lake Crescent, Washington: Ivan Meljac

Globe: Title: Behaims Erdapfel-edit-DenisBarthel


Voice of the Past: Robert Louis Stevenson


A celebrity writer in his own time, Robert Louis Stevenson gave the world and every boy their love of peg-legged pirates, adventures at sea and hidden treasure marked with an X on a map. He also gave us Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Less known to Americans may be his poetry, which brooded upon more nostalgic, romantic and sentimental themes.

In his Songs of Travel and Other Verses (1896), Stevenson captures the wanderlust of youth, and the bohemian spirit that he cultivated in his personal life. As Scottish gentry, Stevenson could have contented himself with life at university or perhaps as an attorney. Instead, Stevenson roamed his native lands. He then toured the world, lived for a time in the United States, and moved to Samoa, where his travels finally ended. But for all of those past homes, he illuminated why we can never really go home, in these verses from Songs of Travel:

HOME no more home to me, whither must I wander?
Hunger my driver, I go where I must.
Cold blows the winter wind over hill and heather;
Thick drives the rain, and my roof is in the dust.
Loved of wise men was the shade of my roof-tree.
The true word of welcome was spoken in the door –
Dear days of old, with the faces in the firelight,
Kind folks of old, you come again no more.

Home was home then, my dear, full of kindly faces,
Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child.
Fire and the windows bright glittered on the moorland;
Song, tuneful song, built a palace in the wild.
Now, when day dawns on the brow of the moorland,
Lone stands the house, and the chimney-stone is cold.
Lone let it stand, now the friends are all departed,
The kind hearts, the true hearts, that loved the place of old.

Spring shall come, come again, calling up the moorfowl,
Spring shall bring the sun and rain, bring the bees and
Red shall the heather bloom over hill and valley,
Soft flow the stream through the even-flowing hours;
Fair the day shine as it shone on my childhood –
Fair shine the day on the house with open door;
Birds come and cry there and twitter in the chimney –
But I go for ever and come again no more.

The words capture, for me, that feeling that anyone who has moved far afield of their native land feels, of bittersweet loss. My childhood home sits at the base of a hill in an old Pennsylvania mill town, in a 1950’s era tract of land filled with little ranches. New owners of my grandmother’s home have made their alterations to the old yellow brick pile, noble pines planted by my grandfather are long gone. A dog known only to us is buried in the backyard. Underneath layers of new paint lie the scheme that I knew–a red door and green stoop–replaced with burgundy and a covered porch.

But the people who made that house a home for me are much older or no more themselves.

And in suburban Ohio, another house, once red and tidy, sits cloaked in “greige” and fortified with a foreboding chain link fence. Other homes are still occupied by family, and still others are renovated beyond recognition. Like Stevenson, the change of seasons may brighten those pathways and doorways for new families and new generations, but the energies that made such places home are extinguished and poignantly lost to oblivion.

All that, from the guy who gave us Billy Bones and Long John Silver.

And if those words are not moving enough in prose, English composers adored them as well. Here is Ralph Vaughan Williams send up of Stevenson’s meter:

Robert Louis Stevenson Photo credit: Père Ubu / Foter / CC BY-NC