REMEMBER THE KINGDOM: The Chowder Society by Stephen Romano



Well, my new novel is almost here!

In just a few more days, METRO sees the light of your Kindle screen!



We’ve had a great time reminiscing about the real house that inspired part of my new book, me and all my friends, and don’t think for a second that it’s over yet.  As we count down the final days leading up to MONDAY SEPTEMBER 14th, keep it here for a new entry each and every morning.  




Not all the Kingdom activity was about drugs and madness or setting the house on fire.  Those stories are fun and dangerous, but we were also artists and poets, as you may have heard.  The Kingdom was a place of many projects, many schemes, much youthful abandon.  One of our most beloved things each week was a gathering of like-minded young people we hosted in the living room, in which citizens would come from far and wide, with printed matter in hand, and we would read that printed matter aloud to each other in grand sessions that sometimes went on for five or six hours, well into the ether of next morning.  This happened almost every Sunday for a long, long time.  It still happens once in a while when a buddy says, “Hey, what about some Chowder this week!”

The reading group was born one night when Joe and Robert decided to go out to a bar and raise some hell.  For some reason, I was weary and decided not to join them.   Craziness at all hours has a way of leaving you cold after a while, and I often needed to recharge.  While Joe and Rob were out, I picked up an old copy of “Midnight Grafftii,” the book collection of short stories, and read Joe Lansdale’s BOB THE DINOSAUR GOES TO DISNEYLAND out loud, performing to the walls.  I sometimes do things like this when I am alone.  It’s a lot of fun.  And you always hope nobody will walk in the door and catch you being all silly.  But then I started thinking, “Well, what would be so bad about reading BOB THE DINOSAUR GOES TO DISNEYLAND out loud to someone?”  And then I REALLY started thinking . . .

By the time Joe and Rob finally walked in at 2 in the morning, half loaded and laughing like loons, I’d come up with a plan.

“Let’s get all our friends together once a week, turn off the damn TV and fucking READ TO EACH OTHER!”

Joe, who easily owned more books than all the rest of us combined, jumped at the idea and made it his instantly.

“But what do we call it?” he said.

There was no hesitation as I yelled, “THE CHOWDER SOCIETY!!!”

It’s a literary reference, of course.  It’s from the novel Ghost Story by Peter Straub.  It’s in the movie, too.  Look it up and you’ll see why the name was so important to us.

From the very first time we gathered, this thing we called the Chowder Society was magical.  The rule was, there were no rules.  You could read from a poem, a play, a matchbook cover, it didn’t matter.  Just read something.  Out loud.  And listen.  It was decided we would meet each Sunday night, because at the time, that was when The Simpsons came on, and it was a real test of the Boob Tube crowd:  You wanna start the week right and better yourself by READING with your buds or would you rather WATCH CARTOONS, Jackass?  We all gleefully threw Homer Simpson overboard in favor of printed matter and wine.  Lots of wine.

Sometimes humanity in its purest form can really be awesome.

The first-ever thing read on the first-ever night was by me, and it was, of course, BOB THE DINOSAUR GOES TO DISNEYLAND.  I read it in the voice of a snooty upper class english professor, really performing.  Next up, Joe read a short story by Bradbury.  I can’t remember the name of the story now, but it was about a little old lady who gets mugged in an alley, then turns the tables on her attackers with a hidden sword.  Over the year that followed, Joe read the entire book of THE IRON GIANT, chapter by chapter.  People showed up with song lyrics, college essays, newspaper articles, plays and short stories they had written themselves.  Each night, as the readers would start to arrive, I would play Tales of Mystery and Imagination on our stereo, the awesome pop rock tribute album to the works of Edgar Allan Poe by The Alan Parsons Project, which begins with a wonderful narration by none other than Orson Welles.  It always perfectly set the tone for being in a world of pure imagination and stories.  So many people came and went through those gatherings.  Some people came only once.  Others just a few times.  Those of us who remained constantly were always left glowing in the wake of their passing.  One night, a lady named Dolly whom Rob was dating arrived and presented us all with amazing handmade gifts, including a six-page tone poem in the form of a collage hanging on a necklace chain, explaining how my heart had formed through years of being an artist.  I still have that somewhere.  It remained on the Kingdom mantelpiece for years. CLICK ON THE PHOTO BELOW for a super HIGH RES CLOSEUP of the poem necklace thingie; I drew a circle around it, just in case you still can’t discern the prize amongst all the “awesome flotsam.”

Dolly's necklace

She also gave Rob this cool candle, which also stayed up there for a long time.  I still have that, too.


Ah, and the masters of literature we seranaded in those days.  William Kotzwinkle and Joe Lansdale.  Clive Barker and Ray Bradbury.  Hemingway and Douglas Addams.  I once had to run for the bathroom while someone was reciting William Shakespeare and apparently the sounds that came out of my body and reverberated throughout the entire  house were quite the accompaniment . . .

But seriously, folks.

The Chowder Society was a moment in time, and it was a moment of the Kingdom.  It was a thing utterly unique to our home and didn’t have nearly the same magic anywhere else.  We actually tried gathering at Dolly’s home one night and it didn’t feel right at all.  After that, we kept Chowder at our own stomping grounds, where the the alchemy was best.  Where the voices whispered passionately and screamed in mad terror.  Where tears of happiness and rivulets of blood ran rich from the walls all around us.  Where words and music melted into the night, for miles and miles, all within just a few feet, in that awesome living room that saw years of friendships, adventure, dirty sex, true love, bottomless heartbreak and heroic rebirth. And triumph, of course.  This was the power of The Kingdom, at its purest and most benevolent.

A moment that still lasts forever.

Like all the other moments.

Live it.