1970: Requiem for Harvey

A repeat from four years ago and a chapter to my next book , which REALLY is going to the press soon. It seems like any kind of creative effort, be it visual art, sculpture or writing takes an every increasing toll on me…

David R. Deitrick, Designer

I don’t think it has ever been easy for a young man to learn proper boundaries with authority figures. I’m sure that there was more than one 19-year-old Roman legionnaire making bunny ears every time his centurion turned his back, and plenty of lewd comments were made just out of earshot when Shaka Zulu paraded his retinue of wives in front of the unmarried warriors’ regiment…but I do think that learning proper boundaries was a little more complex for for those of us coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Challenging the establishment seemed to be a required subject in any course of study and a required component of every other comedy show on television. The mixed messages I got at home just complicated the issue – it seemed like every day I’d hear my dad talk about telling off someone at work and my mother seemed…

View original post 1,777 more words

1982: “…she’s gone”

My former company commander Bob Moore and his wife stopped by for a brief visit today and the occasion seemed to merit the retelling of this post. While these events came about long after “Captain Bob” was my C.O. but many of the events/conditions in this narrative were equally valid when he was….

David R. Deitrick, Designer

As a newly minted second lieutenant I assumed that troop leadership would be the least pleasant aspect of my duties, but within weeks of becoming a platoon leader I found out I had been dead wrong – I really enjoyed being a leader, but then I had been prepped for the job, having been a teacher’s aide in high school, a trainer on my mission and an adult Scout leader for years.

The only part of leadership that I didn’t enjoy was enforcing rules. Oh, I had no problem leading my guys into difficult situations but I’m not one to crack a whip and rules often seem like punishment to your most capable troops because the restrictions feel like punishment. That’s because rules are made for the lowest functioning people in the group and by setting a limit that keeps them reined in everyone else will be under control as…

View original post 1,337 more words

1963: Slushers

To many people, eight is the age when a child assumes accountability for his actions, but experience has shown me that number is an average, as I have seen children of six with wisdom beyond their years, and adults in their mid-thirties that have all the maturity and good sense of a toddler. In my case it was when I reached my tenth birthday that I made a firm connection between my actions, intents, and consequences. It was also when I learned about fear. Mind you, life with a severely bi-polar parent made for scary experiences throughout my entire life to that point, but events during fourth grade taught me the meaning of capital-F Fear. If nothing else, the change from Little Shasta School to Woodland Park Elementary was unsettling whereas in the first six months I experienced:

  • My first after-school fight.
  • My first fracture (multiple bones broken in my right foot from a sledding accident).
  • My first experience with city traffic and near-accidents.

Education in fear continued even after school let out for the summer as we witnessed a total solar eclipse during a weekend getaway to Palmer, and my grandparents had a near miss with the Reaper when they drove up the ALCAN for an extended visit. However, none of these teeth-chattering experiences could compare to the terror with which I struggled during our week-long excursion to Valdez when I was convinced beyond all doubt that the mountains were going to fall on us.

The trip had started out uneventfully, but when we stopped enroute at the Matanuska Glacier I finally understood how totally isolated we were from the Lower 48. I had slept  through most of our migration north from California, and other than a few side trips, we never left Anchorage, so most of my knowledge of the Last Frontier came from glimpses of the Chugach Mountains to the east, and the Kenai Peninsula across Turnagain Arm to west. What little I knew about the rest of the state came from school assignments and events of our first Fur Rendezvous the preceding winter, but at that particular rest stop I was gob-smacked by the huge river of ice every bit as impressive as the mountains that bracketed either side.

The glacier was impressive, but it didn’t spook me as badly as it did my youngest sister, Merriweather, who took one look and ran back to the car screaming, “I DON’T WANNA LOOK AT ANY SLUSHER!”, a comment that mystified us all until we figured out that in her mangled four-year-old vocabulary, “slusher” equaled “glacier.” As far as I was concerned the only problem was the complete absence of any sign of a hobby shop to support my recently-acquired  plastic-model addiction that would put a junkie to shame.

After a very brief look at the glacier I hopped back into the car to drink the last of my orange soda. Unfortunately, I was unable to drink it all before we hit the road again, and when Dad asked for “just a sip” I knew it would be gone. When he handed back the bottle it took all of my nascent stoicism to hold back the tears. For once Mom responded to my distress and took my father to task with, “No wonder you have a pain in your gut1 – look at the way you put your groceries away.”

I cringed.

Dad wasn’t physically abusive with any of us and would usually go into passive/aggressive mode when arguing with Mom, but one thing you never did was mess with, or argue with him about food or drink. Expecting a full-on fist fight I grabbed a pillow for protection, but was surprised when instead of going ballistic he verbally lashed out:

“Not only do I have a pain in my gut – I have a pain in my butt from traveling with people like you!”

Knowing my mother’s mercurial temperament, I pulled the pillow tighter and mentally gave a salute to the suicidal bravery in that remark but was surprised when the Mom-bomb didn’t detonate. She sat stone-faced while several miles of pavement ran by, then unexpectedly broke out into a chuckle and commended Dad for his witty retort. Exhausted by our miraculous escape from disaster, I shoved my former armor-pillow against the side of the interior and closed my eyes in my now-routine effort to sleep away the miles.

Heavy fog interfered with my first glimpse of Valdez the next morning, and as I made my way to the small cluster of buildings that passed as downtown, the vista didn’t seem that much different from what I was used to back in Anchorage. After being chased out of a small shop for reading (but not buying) comics, I found that the fog had burned off, and that’s when Fear grabbed my ten-year old heart and gave it a squeeze.

It was the mountains – they were so damn high (did I mention that Woodland Park was also where I first learned to swear?) and much, much higher than the Chugach range overlooking Anchorage. I’d heard snarky stories about Native kids on their first trip to Anchorage who would cower in the street for fear that the tall buildings would fall on them, and while the mountains surrounding the fjord were also part of the Chugach range they loomed over the town so terrifyingly close that  I knew exactly how those kids from the Bush felt. I promptly fled to the motel  where the security of four walls and a ceiling more than made up for the lack of television.

The next day we did a little exploring with the emphasis on “little.” In 1963 the town of Valdez was made up of buildings clustered around the Richardson Highway where it entered the valley along the Lowe River between MT Francis and the run-off from Valdez Glacier. The town hadn’t always been there – when the area boomed with the Klondike gold rush and the development of the Kennecott copper mine most people settled along the north side of the fjord. The center of the population moved east with the construction of the Richardson Highway, and when we drove out to what was called the Old Town, there wasn’t much other than gravel roads, tumble-down buildings, and a bridge. Little did we know that in nine months’ time a tsunami generated by the Good Friday earthquake would level the new town that we were now visiting in 1963, and it would be rebuilt as the New/Old Town on the site of the original settlement. 

Upon returning to our lodging I made another trip to the shop I’d been chased out of the day before, where my presence was more graciously tolerated after I bought a small plastic model kit of a B-172. We left for home the next morning, which meant that for once I was awake for just about the entire trip, and by the time we passed Copper Center and entered the Copper River Basin, the scary mountains were well behind us. We continued north on the Richardson Highway until turning left onto the Glen Highway at Glenallen3, then continued on to Anchorage a little over three hours to the west.

That we had actually walked the ground in Valdez made its destruction that much more horrifying when the tsunami leveled it the following March. The town was often in the news during the construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline – which also figured prominently in contingency planning when I was stationed at FT Richardson in the early 1980’s. The closest connection I had with Valdez after that was when I accompanied my older son Conrad to an environmental camp on the south side of Katchemak Bay in 1989 – as we were crossing back to Homer the first fingers of the oil sheen from the wreck of the SS EXXON VALDEZ were just entering the bay.

…and now there are only two situations when I am prompted to think of Valdez:

  • Any time I see a mountain range I instinctively compare them to those oh-so-tall mountains that I was sure would fall over on me.
  • Whenever I work on a model kit I think of that little B-17 model and those ridiculous rivets.

_________________________________________________________________________

Notes

  1. Though I never saw an official diagnosis, my dad suffered from what he assumed was an ulcer and was constantly self-medicating with buttermilk and TUMS. Like most ‘60s dads he worried about his work situation and bills, but he also struggled with the fact that his children had a better standard of living than he did during the Depression.
  2. It was a small-scale model – possibly 1/200, but even as a ten-year-old I was skeptical of the rivet-head detailing on the wing. They were prominent enough to make a “zip” sound when a fingernail was drawn across like a comb…which meant that they would have been an inch or two in height if enlarged to actual size.
  3. I’ve been through that area several times, but my only lengthy visit was in the summer of 1970 when I went to Boy’s State at the boarding school at Copper Center. I’m still convinced that if you stood in the middle of Glenallen and looked off in the distance, all you could see would be the back of your own head. As wretched as the move to the Kenai Peninsula was the next year, I really did dodge a bullet with the move as Dad had also considered bidding on a job in even-more-isolated Glenallen.

Creative Curmudgeon Commentary #6 Thank You Kenny Rodgers

Last of the CCC reprints. #7 will follow soon as in probably next week.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

There’s a messageI appreciate inthe KennyRodgers’ ballad“The Gambler”. At one point in the chorus the Gambler says that during a card game you “have to when to hold / know when to hold ’em” .

The same thing holds true in creative work.

Several weeks ago I wrote a post detailing the process involved with doing a cut paper sculpture of a Hawker Hurricane, which was then going to be integrated with other pieces to make an Avengers illustration (Not the Marvel Team – Steed & Emma).The Hurricane was out of sight/mind while we bought a house/moved in the interim…

…and Patrick McNee died.

My concept for the Avengers piece has changed and theHurricane is not going to work anymore. It will go into the Deitrick Home for Un-used Cut-paper Sculpts so it won’t get just round-filed, but it is still hard not to think I have wasted the…

View original post 9 more words

Creative Curmudgeon Commentary #5: “Idea Men”

I’m running low on these Creative Curmudgeon commentaries – I think I have just one left (besides this one) to re-blog. However, I do have one in the works and may have it done by sometime next week.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

I love Silver Age comics, especially the Superman titles penciled by Curt Swan. I was so enamored of Mr. Swan’s skills that long after a comic was gone I would be mentally superimposing his panels over real-life situations with the accompanying dialog running alongside in my thoughts. Todd Moore and Steve Morgan arguing about a contested goal in soccer would become Superman fighting Metallo. Mike Endsley tossing the softball to second base became Batman hurling a Batarang. Walking into a Howard Watson’s tent at scout camp after he had corn for dinner would turn me into Superman being overcome by Kryptonite.

I even included the sound effects: ZUD-ZUD-ZUD! ( Kryptonite radiation)

“Must escape! (Gasp!) Kryptonite only substance harmful to me! Prevents me from speaking in grammatically correct sentences! (Choke) 

I haven’t seen Howard – or dealt with his flatulence – in over 40 years but I still have situations where…

View original post 717 more words

CCC4: Convention Vampires

David R. Deitrick, Designer

This latest foray into my “Creative Curmudgeon Commentary deals with convention vampires – though before hyperventilation and lowered neck-lined set in I’m not taking about LeStaat, Angel or Edward. The type of vampires I’m talking about today are fairly specialized and their appetites involve money and personal attention rather than hemoglobin. Explaining all of this is going to take some time so crack open a package of whatever “yellow bar” Little Debbie’s is flooding the market with until Twinkie manufacturing comes back on line and settle down for a lengthy explanation.

Science Fiction and Fantasy depends on visualization more than any other form of literature and because of that there is a healthy supply of art for sale, mostly through convention sales. Changes in generational tastes as well as a dramatic revolution in mediums available  for creating art has knocked the market a** over tea-kettle but for now let’s go…

View original post 815 more words

Creative Curmudgeon Commentary 3: No Golden Tickets.

…still haven’t run out of these…

David R. Deitrick, Designer

I’ve been teaching since 1988 and during that time I have seen an unfortunate trend growing – the idea of the “golden ticket”. Other than being a major plot point in the sadly misunderstood Arnold Schwarzenegger 1993 action flick ‘The Last Action Hero” a “Golden Ticket” is something – a tool or qualification that will inexplicably grant you incredible success by merely being in your possession. Aladdin’s Lamp. Green Lantern’s ring. An airbrush. A Waccum tablet.

Or a degree.

It’s sad because students pass through my classes now with absolutely no desire to actually learn anything. They seem to be there solely to pass the class with as little work and as high a grade as possible in order to check off a box on the way to a degree which they assume automatically qualifies and entitles them to an extremely well-paying job. I can understand being pragmatic about school…

View original post 916 more words

Creative Curmudgeon Commentary 2.2: Client Rules

Continuing the revisit to Creative Curmudgeon Commentary

David R. Deitrick, Designer

There’s an old saying that differs in anatomical detail from time to time but the “G” version goes ” Opinions are like arm-pits; everyone has them and they all stink”. With that in mind I’d like to pass on a couple of lessons I have learned about finding and working with clients.

1. Make sure there is some common ground with a new client. Research the company before you approach them in the same way you would if you were looking for a job…because that’s what you are doing – looking for a (short term) job. Have something pertinent to their business in  your portfolio. You may do the very best rendering (ever) of the USS Enterprise but that means nothing to a company that makes tractors.

2. If they are signing the check they are your boss. You’re not doing them a favor by working for them. Remember – there is…

View original post 556 more words

Creative Curmudgeon Commentary 2.1: Starting up

I wanted to rerun this entire series but I can’t figure out how to re-post something that has already been reposted once. I reran CCC1 in 2019 to if you REALLY want to read it feel free to wade back in and find it. For now I’ll just start with chapter two…or the first half of chapter two to be precise. Whatever. Have a great weekend.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

It’s only my second “Creative Curmudgeon Commentary” and I’m already in trouble. My goal is to keep these at about 300 words apiece – a page’s worth – so they’d stand a reasonable chance of being read but there is so much to say. It’s tempting to just forgo the idea and let you stay hunched in front of your computer playing “World of War-Crack”…but I can’t do it. Altruistic to the end, I am compelled to at least try.

As usual I have a story, which starts like this:

It had been a particular stressful critique. The weather had been extremely hot – it was a summer class – and it was getting close to the semester. There was an unusual profile in the student’s grades. Most of them were doing well – A/B range but there were two or three who just dragged bottom the entire term. Lack…

View original post 941 more words

Real-life Gerry Anderson Vehicles pt.7: Flying Train

(1) Flying train. Dahir Insaat – YouTube

It’s been a while since I last paid a visit to this subject but when I came across this video in Facebook a week ago it just screamed for inclusion. It actually took a bit of effort to find the clip – Facebook had dropped it and my Google searches would just dig up clips about airliners, high-speed trains and why airlines hate high-speed trains.

Luck – or more rather perseverance –  won out and I found the video…and as I look at it again I find it difficult to believe that wasn’t a prop from an episode of Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet. Given a choice I’d have picked the first show – I always thought the switch from the big-head puppets to the smaller/more correctly proportioned small puppets was a mistake. Not only were the more life-like figure unsuitable for “walking” they looked creepy.

All I have to do is squint my eyes and I can see wires moving models and canned freon standing in for rocket exhaust….