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Gettin' High by David Bourns

Gettin' High

by David Bourns

202 pages
The stories in Gettin' High take place in New York, Puerto Rico and a Michigan farm. An overarching theme is the search for meaning and love as the country rapidly evolves in the 1960s. Musicians' lives are central to all the stories.

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About the Book
The stories in Getting’ High take place mainly in New York City and Puerto Rico, though three are set in rural Michigan where the author grew up. They take place, by and large, during the turbulent decade of the 1960’s. As the title suggests, many characters smoke marijuana and experience its eerie, pleasurable effects. That is one current running through several stories, though not a major theme. Rather, the thematic anchor is the search for love and meaning in a changing, transient world.

The characters are generally involved with music, as performers or students, and what it means to become a professional musician. Music as a means to communicate truly with another person is also an important facet of the plot lines in the stories, whether this is on a river tour or on a formal concert stage, and the characters strive to find the essence of their art in various ways. Of course, music goes beyond words, and this musical quest is what propels many of the characters’ lives and loves. Also, the real-life business of music is another salient aspect for character development.

Three of the stories are set in the rural landscape of the author’s youth. Here the theme of the demise of the family farm is set forth against the backdrop of the long transition from an agrarian to an urban life style which has taken place throughout the 20th century.

All of the stories in Getting’ High were written many years ago while the author himself was working as a professional musician in the Puerto Rico Symphony. As such, they may seem somewhat dated, since this was a time before iphones, the internet, Tik Tok and social media. People needed to communicate more directly with one another, in a more personal manner. And this is reflected in the plots and dialogue of the stories. The roles of men and women were also, for better or worse, more clearly defined, and this perspective undoubtedly finds its way into the portrayal of the characters as they seek to explore new boundaries and experiences—from the farm to the concert stage, to smoking weed—a long trajectory set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war.

Though these stories were mostly written over 50 years ago, the author believes that they are still relevant in today’s modern world. The subject of abortion figures in “A Love Story” as well as interracial love. And the racism still lingering in the South of the early 60’s and which America is still struggling to truly confront, plays a role in “Milly-A Fantasy.” Undoubtedly, the transformative potential of music has not diminished over the years—whether it be jazz, folk music, Hip-Hop, Rap or the classical music of the formal, concert stage. Humanity still thrives on music’s inherent message of hope and its curative power. Finally, it is the author’s hope that, at the very least, readers will find something of themselves in the characters of these tales as they seek out life’s ephemeral joys, happiness and fulfillment in today’s challenging world.


Related Title
  • Collected Poems by David M. Bourns
    Lyric poetry focused on nature,love and farm-life themes.


About the Author
David Bourns was born in Milford, Michigan in 1944. He obtained a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan in 1965 followed by an M.A. in oboe in New York in 1968. He was principal oboe of the Puerto Rico Symphony for 38 years and now lives in Florida.



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