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THE GHOST OF ASA SNOW

People ask me where I got the names for my characters in Cascade. Some are unusual: Desdemona, Addis, Asa, Popcorn.

Desdemona came from Shakespeare.

Asa? I liked the sound of the old-fashioned name, but I particularly liked the story of a long-ago resident of one of the four towns flooded to create the  reservoir in Massachusetts that I use as the model for my Cascade.

Asa Snow lived in Dana, Massachusetts in the 1840s. His nickname was “Popcorn” because he was a vegetarian who survived on popcorn and milk.  He, like me, had a terrible fear of being buried alive, so he had a metal casket built for himself, with a glass window at the head. He instructed the undertaker to check on him for a week after his death, to make sure that he was well and truly departed. But stories followed Asa long after his death: he walked the earth every November 15. His body, seen through the glass, did not decompose.

Then there’s Jacob Solomon. That name just came to me one day when I was working on a short story–a story that would eventually turn into Cascade–about artists in New York City in the 1930s.  I had decided that Jacob would end up in a tenement on the Lower East Side, and I was looking forward to seeing an exhibit of 1930s photographs at the New York Public Library.

Okay, the VERY FIRST photograph in the show just happened to be the “tenement belonging to Jacob Solomon.” Another ghost?

Maybe. The attached is Jacob Solomon’s tenement on Avenue D, photo by the great Dorothea Lange, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

And for more stories about Asa “Popcorn” Snow, check out the small-press books of J.R. Greene, and this page: Quabbin page.

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