Atlantic Monthly told him he wrote with his penis. One publisher said his work wasn't "flexible enough" to put him on its roster. Another said he was "too experimental." So Cleveland native Ken Wachsberger founded his own press in 1987 and published his first novel, Beercans on the Side of the Road: The Story of Henry the Hitchhiker, which has since grown into a coming-of-age cult classic.
Beercans is a rambling tale about Henry Freedman, a middle-class Jew who test-drives a Vega from Lansing, Michigan, to Austin, Texas. On the way, he joins the NAZI (Nutty and Zany Idiots) Party, tries to unionize mechanics at a car dealership, gets busted for pot while hitchhiking in Houston, gets laid at Cousin Temmy's Commune in Coconut Grove, bums around in Bar Harbor, and chills out in the 'burbs, '70s style.
"A country that had strayed so far to the right as to elect Ronald Reagan was not in the mood to publish a book that embraced freedom through hitchhiking," says Wachsberger, now a writing professor at Eastern Michigan University. He's often compared to Elyria native Sherwood Anderson, who became a symbol of anti-materialism when he ditched his family and a job in a paint factory to write books.
For the first time in 35 years, Wachsberger returns to the area this weekend to lecture on the First Amendment, the underground press during Vietnam, censorship, and the Holocaust and Jewish resistances. He'll give a free talk at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Westlake Porter Library, 27333 Center Ridge Road in Westlake; call 440-871-2600. He'll also lecture at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Hickories Museum of the Lorain County Historical Society, 509 Washington Avenue in Elyria. Admission is $12 in advance and $14 at the door; call 440-322-3341. -- Cris Glaser
It's a dog's day.
"A cute little jumping, crazy puppy can quickly become an 80-pound, one-dog wrecking crew," Renée Puleo says of her canine breed of choice. That's why she founded Lighthouse Boxer Rescue, a nonprofit group dedicated to saving boxers that have been abused or abandoned for their behavior. This weekend, Lighthouse is staging its first Boxer Fest, a silent auction of rescued boxers, as well as dog food and equipment, that Puleo hopes will pull in $5,000. The money will pay for vet bills Puleo racked up taking care of the orphaned boxers. Boxer Fest takes place between noon and 6 p.m. Saturday at the River Grove Picnic Area of the North Chagrin Reservation in Willoughby Hills. Admission is free; call 216-941-5639. -- Cris Glaser
The Cock Crows
Colton Ford made a decent living with his eight-and-a-half-inch unit. The 40-year-old Angeleno was the star of numerous XXX-rated flicks, boasting such thinking-man's titles as Gangbang Café and Head Games. Now Ford has cashed in his porn fame for a recording contract: He's touring the country in leather chaps to promote "Everything," a song released last month on an indie label. Straight and gay club owners alike are touting the tune as a "hit dance single." Ford performs at 10 p.m. Saturday at Bounce, 2814 Detroit Avenue. Admission is $5; call 216-357-2997. -- Cris Glaser
The Dating Game
If you've been looking for love in all the wrong places, HurryDate has a high-volume solution: an evening of three-minute "dates" with up to 25 people. "It's different than your regular night out, because you know that everyone is single," says HurryDate President Adele Testani. "And you're going to get a chance to meet everyone." Daters receive an identification number and scorecard, and "Every time you go on a date, you circle yes' or no' if you want to see that person again," Testani explains. "You can get quite a few dates lined up." HurryDate is at Mercury Lounge (1392 West Sixth Street) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Register at www.HurryDate.com; admission is $30. -- Diane Sofranec