Juxtapositions from the Good Vibe Lounge is a novel trilogy that explores the lives and legacies of Andrew ‘ Drew ‘ Reubens, Alyona ‘Yoyo’ Zalenkov and their circle of characterful friends and families.
The story “Juxtapositions from the Good Vibe Lounge” is set in Central New Jersey, during the late 1970s where both of the main characters are being raised by families from very different cultures with dysfunctional environments.
Volume One, The Paradise We Create, is the Coming of Age story for both teenagers, who are both participants in the music programs at Freepoint High School.
They are both attached to a small clique of friends who bring their unique personalities into the story. Drew is a typical girl-crazy adolescent who is addicted to the attention he gets from the variety of girls he pursues. His overbearing, intolerant Jewish Mother is a challenge to his desire to reach beyond the narrow choices in female companionship and he is pretty intent on upending her expectations as often as possible. In his senior year, he’s preparing to go to college where he will major in music, specializing in Mallet Percussion, primarily performing on the Vibraphone.
Meanwhile, Alyona is living in a remote, rural polygamist enclave of second-generation Russian immigrants. The Zalenkov’s mainstream the children on their compound to the local school system in an attempt to avoid local authorities from peeking in on their lifestyle. However, Alyona has a fateful expectation for her future, one which will mean being married off to another polygamist family in which she will have no control over her future. She uses her time in school to be free-spirited and unfiltered, with a reputation for being a bit of a ‘Space Cadet.’
At some point, the two teens begin developing a chemistry reaching beyond the unique friendship that’s already been established.
The story pivots back and forth to the year 2017, where Andrew and his sister Ellen own a bar, ‘The Good Vibe Lounge’ located in downtown Freepoint preparing for a celebration of Andrew’s daughter Chelsea’s graduation from graduate school. On the afternoon before the party, Andrew’s granddaughter Viktoria, who is the long-reaching result of his ‘pairing’ with Yoyo, begins asking questions about the origins of the bar’s name which leads to an evening-long discussion and storytelling sessions about the comedic and chaotic events of 1977 that set the stage for her own existence.
I was inspired to write this saga as the result of entering into some therapy about four years ago.
My issues were about lifelong regrets and one evening I found myself writing what I can only describe as a ‘stream of conscience’ covering several encounters I had with the young women in my life during that pivotal senior year in High School. Those relationships were also at the base of inspiration for the goals I had, but more so, impulsive decisions I made, squashing those dreams and impacting my life for generations to come. I began working on trying to revive those regrets and make sense of them.
The next step was to have fun with all these emotions and simultaneously fulfill one of those lost dreams… to do something creative and artistic with my mind. So I wrote a stage play called ‘But Who’s Counting’ which was an isolated story of the impacts of three special young girls who each contributed something to my long-term ideals about love and relationships. I completed the play during the heart of the pandemic and once I was done… I didn’t know what to do with it. The more I re-read it and shared it with people close to me, the more I realized… there were so many more components to the story. Many of them were fun, frivolous teenage antics.. but also a darker aspect to the long-term story.
Much of what I wrote about Juxtapositions from the Good Vibe Lounge was inspired by real people and incidents in my life, specifically in the late 70s. However, once I began to reimagine all the what if’s, the alternate outcomes of decisions that were made and the tragedy and heartbreak associated with many of the characters, I began to fictionalize a journey of people whose lives intersected and impacted their futures. The funny thing though.. is when I was all done writing, an overwhelming message touched deep into my heart and it is the one I hope shines through the stories in the trilogy.. that everything happens for a reason. It is certainly a well-known cliché, but in my search for answers and resolutions to the regrets I have lived with for most of my life, it is the very conclusion I’ve come to. We all wish we could re-run a moment in time back that might alter the direction of our lives. But often, we don’t put enough value on what we have as the result of those very decisions we would like to get a second shot at fixing.
I consider myself a diverse person and addressing the subject of who my target audience is for these novels… is a tough one.
Because it includes a lot of diverse subject matter. A number of my readers have called it a romance and I would certainly say the story of Yoyo and Drew is that. But there are also some examples of the social revolutions impacting the generation of the late 70s. Additionally, I address some very familiar family dysfunctions.. and also some that are off the grid.
My subsequent volumes will follow the story into the ’80s and early 2000s. Spoiler alert.. the sequels are a lot more creative fiction and romantic drama, but continue grazing through some of the social changes that have happened which also impacted the direction of the character’s lives. I am hoping to release Volume Two, The Challenges We Endure, sometime this fall and the final Volume Three, The Destiny We Embrace, sometime in 2024.
Authoring this story has been both an incredible therapeutic vehicle for me as well as a labor of love.
As I began to recollect some of the characters and anecdotes weaved into the saga, it brought back so many wonderful memories. And yes, some tough ones as well.. but morphing it all into a fictional story has been a resolution of my desire to do something creative with my life.
I have lived a very diverse life. As a young man, I was a musician, composer and performer, but spent a large chunk of my life as a social worker and a teacher.
During that time I became an advocate and public speaker on many social justice issues in addition to fighting against censorship in the arts in my transplanted life in the Sunshine State. My inspiration for ‘The Good Vibe Lounge’ was also my work in the hospitality industry which was quite a juxtaposition from the activities during my younger days. I am happily married (to my third wife.. it is a charm), proud father of three, grandfather of three… I suppose it’s only fitting that when I sat down to write my first novel I ended up… with three of them. If there is anything I am proudest about it is the aforementioned diversity in my life. I can get up in the morning and set the lineups for my fantasy football team, walk my dogs, debate some science fiction, create a craft cocktail and finish off the day with a Broadway musical. I can’t say for sure if I will do any more writing. But if I have learned anything from my venture into this wonderful world, it is perhaps, you probably ought to never… say never.
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