The mid-1960s through the mid-1970s was a heady, turbulent time. There was a lot going on back then, and author Elisabeth Amaral was in the middle of it all: the fights for women’s rights, racial equality, a music revolution, be-ins, love-ins, riots in the streets, the rage against the Vietnam War, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was an amazing time to be young.
In Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup, Amaral shares her recollections of those times. She and her husband gave up their jobs in New York City, relocated to Boston with their infant son because of mime, unexpectedly started a children’s boutique, and opened a popular restaurant in Harvard Square. Most of all it is a coming-of-age story about herself and her husband as they embarked on an improbable and moving journey of self-discovery.
With sincerity and humor, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup offers a personal and revealing account that reaches out to those who find themselves striving to make a relationship work that, by its very nature, may be doomed. But this story is also one of friendship—and of finding the courage to move on.
“A truly wonderful memoir that reads like great fiction. The characters come alive on the page.” – Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Doctor’s Wife and A Stranger Like You.
“The story of how Liz Amaral and her husband became successful at the epicenter of counterculture businesses near Harvard Square / Cambridge from 1967-1975 with their boutique and restaurant is told with humor and insight. Swirling around them are all of the entrapments of the era, the drugs and free love and betrayal, as well as the politics that defined the times.
With a fierce dedication to her son and husband, Liz Amaral triumphs in this stunning memoir where she discovers that, while love isn’t always what we think it is, it remains, in all its multi-faceted transformations, the driving force of who we are and how we live our lives.” – P.B. O’Sullivan, writer and mathematician
“In her intimate and humorous memoir, Liz Amaral reveals the challenges of a young family establishing a home in Cambridge amid the tumult of the late 1960s. You will discover the disconcerting truth about her marriage and the painful path she takes to find herself again. A true adventure of the heart.” – Kathrin Seitz, writer, producer, and coach
For More Information
- Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup is available at Amazon.
- Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
You Want to WHAT?
People move all the time, for many reasons. When Orlando first discussed moving from the city, the reason was mime. You think that’s hard to believe? You should have seen me, way back in 1967, smack in the middle of the Summer of Love. We were walking down Second Avenue with our son, Nicholas, ten months old. He was already walking, but that day I was carrying him in a pale-blue fringed sling that sat on my right hip. It was a beautiful day, and I didn’t have a care in the world. We passed ‘our’ elderly Ukrainian woman sitting on a wooden folding chair, a faded babushka covering much of her gray hair. This was her spot, outside a tiny storefront between East Sixth and Seventh Streets, and whenever she saw us walk by with Nicholas she would smile her almost toothless smile and wave us over. That day he was sound asleep, yet she silently clasped her hands in joy, her sweet, wrinkled face beaming. “Bubala,” she whispered and then looked at us with large, heavily lidded pale-blue eyes. What stories she must have. The strong sun accentuated the many long, thick white hairs on her chin, and I felt a responsibility to find tweezers and pluck them out, the way I might need someone to do for me one day.
We continued our walk. “I love living here. It’s perfect,” I said, feeling happy and right with my world.
“It’s dirty,” Orlando said, and then he turned to me. “Elisabeth …”
Uh oh, I thought and kept walking.
“I think we should move up to Boston for a while.”
“Yeah, right,” I said.
“Just for a few months,” he said. “So I can study with those mimes I worked with last year.”
I stopped and stared at him before responding. The realization that he was serious stunned me. “Leave the East Village? So you can practice mime? That’s crazy.”
“It’s not,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity. And we’ll have fun. We always do. Besides, it’s getting edgy around here. The vibes are changing. Let’s do it for Nicholas, for three months. If we don’t like it, we can always come back.”
For Nicholas? As if Boston could possibly be better for a baby than the melting pot we lived in. I’d have to be nuts to leave, because nothing could be better than living on the corner of East Tenth Street and Second Avenue. Well, maybe an apartment in Paris or a houseboat in Sausalito but not much else. Certainly not Boston. What Orlando was asking me to leave was a two-bedroom rent-controlled apartment over the 2nd Avenue Deli that cost us one hundred thirty-five dollars a month. He was asking me to leave the Deli with the best chicken soup in the city; Kiev and Veselka, two local restaurants that sustained us with their pierogi; Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Restaurant (I still have the cookbook); Veniero’s Pastry Shop; and Pete’s Spice and Everything Nice. And what would I get in exchange? Scrod, baked beans, and freezing winters. Not a chance!
“How can you even think of asking me to leave all this?” I spread my free arm wide, encompassing the overflowing garbage cans on the sidewalks, the tenements, the uninspiring Mom-and-Pop stores, head shops, St. Mark’s Place, and Gem Spa, home of the best egg creams in the city. We were kids with a baby, living in the throbbing heart of the East-Coast counterculture, surrounded by artists, writers, poets, hippies, Ukrainians, Puerto Ricans, and Hell’s Angels. Life could not get richer than this!
“All what, Elisabeth? The creepy guy who keeps following you and Nicky into our lobby saying ‘Ay, mami’? The bullet hole in our bedroom window? The filth? It’s changing down here. The whole mood is changing. It’s getting ugly.”
He was right. The vibe was changing, from love and peace to something else, and I couldn’t wait to see what that something else was going to be. I wanted to be part of it. At the same time, I wanted to be reasonable.
“Okay. Three months,” I said. “I’ll give Boston three months, but that’s all. Not a day more. We can leave in November, after my birthday.” I started walking again.
“That’s months away,” he said.
“That’s the deal,” I said.