The Journey to Discovering Bernie V. O’Hare and Much More!
by Lance Miccio, Artist, Veteran, and Friend of the Vonnegut Library
In 1998, I lived in Easton in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. My brothers and I were renovating the Mount Vernon Hotel, built nearly 150 years earlier in 1853. After months of work, my family took a Thanksgiving holiday trip around New England.
While in Vermont, I popped into an old bookstore. I found the “V” section and what I was looking for: Kurt Vonnegut’s famous Slaughterhouse-Five. There were two copies on the shelf. I selected the one that had the same jacket as the original copy I’d once owned in high school and misplaced long ago. I opened the book and checked for the price inside the cover. I was astounded by what I saw. MY NAME – LANCE MICCIO – was printed on the inside cover along with this identification: Mr. Schwecky English Lit. Reading List 1978, Sheepshead Bay HS. This was MY long-lost book! I was pretty sure I’d lent the book to someone while I was in submarine school in New London, Connecticut. Somehow, the very same book made it back to me in true Vonnegut time-traveling fashion. After I told nearly everybody in the quiet, sleepy bookshop that this was my book from 25 years ago, I cruised through the novel in record pace and finished it while still on vacation.
Once we returned to Pennsylvania, it was time to go back to renovating the hotel. One day, I was cleaning out a chest of drawers and discovered a pile of old political posters for a lawyer running for district attorney in Northampton County in 1967. The posters read:
“Trustworthy, Honest, Veteran Bernie V. O’Hare (Pull Lever 5-D).”
Hmmm … That name sounded familiar … and then, BANG! I realized that these posters were promoting one of Kurt Vonnegut’s long-time war buddies, Bernie V. O’Hare! I ran to my 1973 Dodge Dart and grabbed my Slaughterhouse-Five book out of the glove box. I settled into the front seat and read Kurt’s words.
“I was there and so was Bernie V. O’Hare.”
Unbelievable! I knew I must get this find to the Vonnegut family. I tried more than once but was unable to reach anyone to share my discovery. So, instead, I gave some of the posters to fellow Vonnegut lovers and put two in storage. Eventually, I decided to hold on to one of the two and gave the other to another Vonnegut lover when I moved to Los Angeles in 2005.
In 2016, I came across information about So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library (KVML). I reached out to the journal editors, hoping to find a home for my poster and sharing the story of my Bernie discovery with them. They responded, and we got to know each other a bit better. I learned what their organization does and how their So It Goes journal publishes the works of writers, artists, and veterans. They learned I was all those things, and our relationship developed.
I submitted some artwork to the journal for consideration, and it was accepted. I even attended KVML’s So It Goes journal launch during their 2017 VonnegutFest in Indianapolis. I submitted more paintings in 2018, some of which were accepted again. During this period, we began to discuss taking things one step further. It seemed only natural that I do an exhibition with them to honor the novel that brought us together, Slaughterhouse-Five, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as 2019 is the fiftieth anniversary of the book’s publication. The exhibition is titled, “Slaughterhouse-50.” It’s slated to debut in the fall.
In the meantime, KVML is reproducing printed posters of the original Bernie V. O’Hare find, which will be sold at their pop-up gift shop at Circle Centre mall in Indianapolis or online. So get your very own Bernie V. O’Hare poster – an amazing piece of Vonnegut history – and support the Vonnegut Library while you’re at it.
I will end here as my battery will soon be dead … So it Goes …