My Beautiful Saxon Princess

October 1976

I figured we had just enough time to get to the show before curtain time but a recalcitrant shoelace thought otherwise. As I ducked back into my room to change footwear my date eyed a bookish looking folio leaning against my stereo and read the title aloud:

“‘Home before the Leaves Fall’. What’s that?”

I sighed ( it was at best eighteen months since the fall of Saigon) and answered: “It’s a combat simulation of the opening moves of World War One. A war game. Part of my studies in ROTC”

“Ewww”

Even the wrinkle her nose took with that mild expression of distaste failed to disturb the grace of her Princess Diana profile, but I still knew there was no real future as a couple with her.

October 1976 (Two weeks later)

In a low-grade flash of déjà vu I was again rushing to replace reluctant footwear in an effort to beat curtain- time when my new acquaintance spied the same the same slip-cased volume and echoed previous date’s inquiry:

“‘Home before the Leaves Fall’. What’s that?”

I sighed even deeper as realized I either had to do a better job of housekeeping or forego a social life then answered (again) “It’s a combat simulation of the opening moves of World War One. A war game. Part of my studies in ROTC”.

She paused, picked up the game and said “Last summer I made a model of a British 6 pounder anti-tank gun

I was in love!

When we first met my Beautiful Saxon Princess she seemed so familiar that I thoughtlessly scanned past her in search of new faces, figuring we’d talk at the next Alaska/Ricks/New England themed get-together. When I finally realized that the closest we got to a previous acquaintance was studying art under Richard Bird at Ricks College during two widely separated times I began to fret that maybe I’d lost to another hometown suitor. She was gorgeous with a combination Linda Blair/Lynda Carter vibe and was blessed with a cascade of light brown hair, pale blue watercolor eyes and a pert, upswept nose that easily passed for a transplant from Diana Rigg’s face

(…and yes, I did watch far too much TV)

In the vocabulary of the day she was a total fox, but she either didn’t know it or didn’t care. She was just so basically good and sweet-natured that as our relationship developed I was concerned at how she’d fare in the company of the hot-tempered, razor-tongued Celtic mob that is my extended family but that innate goodness has served as a force field against the sarcasm-that-is-graded-for-effectiveness that prevails at my family’s infrequent gatherings.

I’m frequently asked why I don’t write more often about my Beautiful Saxon Princess and why I routinely use that title instead her name – and in answer there are two main reasons for the practice:

  1. Though they are blessedly few in number I do have my detractors and I don’t want them calling her the names and making the attacks they’ve made against me.
  2. After the last forty-four years we’re almost close enough to be one word (“davidandlori”)

…and she is my treasure. Every day I am reminded that I am lucky to be with her and that I married so far above my station that I should be getting nose bleeds.

1977: D.C. Bound…

Third in a series of courtship stories. I look back from 43 years further down the road and I get tired from just reading about running/driving/flying all over the western hemisphere…

David R. Deitrick, Designer

united 727

Time moved at glacial velocity when I was a kid but at some point between age 20 and 22 I was ambushed by a chronological fruit-basket turnover. That endless wait from Christmas to Christmas suddenly shrunk – glance down to read the newspaper while the Super Bowl is on TV /   look up and the puppets from “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” are dancing across the screen. When Lori and I first discussed marriage it seemed like we had all the time in the world but the third week of April 1977 unexpectedly nudged its way into my life while I was otherwise occupied with final exams and portfolio reviews.

My last review was scheduled just a few hours before my flight to Washington DC to get married and in an ironic twist of fate the session went overtime when heretofore disinterested faculty members started asking complex questions about my work. Unfortunately as…

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Music: Abandoned Luncheonette

This fits in nicely with the courtship stories from 1976-77 that I am in the process of reblogging…

David R. Deitrick, Designer

Consider the following terms:

  • algorithm
  • dichotomy
  • paradigm
  • ubiquitous

I don’t think I heard any one of these words prior to 1987 – and I didn’t learn the correct definition of any of them until long after that date. You see, unless the context absolutely demands the use of a “ten-dollar term” I prefer using less-ornamental language, which is why I think we did well enough with the alternate phrases like:

  • steps in solving a problem
  • contrast between two things
  • a model or pattern

…but I make an exception to the rule when using ubiquitous instead of “found everywhere”  as in “the music of Darryl Hall and John Oates was ubiquitous in the Seventies and Eighties!” because it was the absolute truth at the time that their work and faces were found everywhere. They were on the covers of magazines at newsstands. I couldn’t turn on a radio without hearing “

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1977: SCOPES

It’s always been a challenge for the army to train realistically for war. In medieval times young men would hack at each other with wooden swords but practicing with live ammunition can unfortunately produce unfortunate results similar to the “getting just a little bit pregnant” scenario that happens with inept sex education. It wasn’t until the introduction of MILES gear in the early 1980s that truly realistic training exercises started to happen. Training with MILES (a.k.a. the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) gave a wake-up call to units that were accustomed top scores under the old system of using blanks accompanied with bang-bang-you’re-dead-you-missed-you-stupid grunt; squads breezing through evaluations with a 10% loss were shocked  when the unforgiving lasers and sensors in the MILES system assessed 60-70% losses for the same exercise.

For the first time outside of actual combat troops started getting serious about cover and concealment.

Just prior to the introduction of MILES the Army experimented with a stop-gap system called SCOPES, which used low power scopes mounted on M16’s and camouflage helmet covers bearing low-contrast numbered discs that were extremely hard to read without the aforementioned scopes at distances more than a yard or two. When opposing squads made contact soldiers would aim at an opposing troop, squeeze off a blank round and call off the guy’s number to one of the lane graders who would then assess casualties, the helmet covers having been issued in a totally random manner to prevent soldiers from calling out random numbers and eliminating opponents without really taking aim.

It was under those conditions that my squad went through a series of tactical problems at FT Lewis Washington in July of 1977. We took turns as squad leader and were each given a simple mission to accomplish such clearing a path, making contact with an adjacent friendly unit or setting up a hasty ambush. I breathed a sigh of relief when my number came up and I was charged with leading the squad to a downed reconnaisnce aircraft to retrieve a film canister. At first glance it seemed that my biggest problem would be maintaining squad integrity while moving through the dense vegetation of the temperate rain forest covering this part of Washington state, but mostly I felt relief at what looked to be a walk in the woods.

Any elation I felt quickly dispelled as I started leading the squad in a wedge formation through terrain that sloped slightly downhill and into ever-thickening brush. We’d gone no more than ten yards when I lost sight of my two outermost flankers but I figured that between yelling at the top of my lungs and two dependable fire-team leaders I could still keep things going.

“Hey – I’m running into concertina wire” It was my guy on the left. I stopped the squad and went to check the wire, which was strung three strands deep and angled in towards our front, forcing me pull that side of the squad in before resuming efforts to “bust brush”… but with within a few short minutes a faint voice on my right chimed in with “Hey there’s razor wire over here too”, a development which prompted squad members on that side to also draw towards the center of the wedge creating a tactical formation known euphemistically known as a “Charlie Foxtrot”. Internal Stukas started dive-bombing the length and breadth of my abdominal cavity and I desperately searched for a tactical term that I couldn’t quite remember as we broke through the brush into a cleared area bordered on each side with triple strand razor angling in and meeting at a small gate directly ahead of us.

It was at that point that I remembered the elusive term:

Canalizing: the act of restricting an opponent’s tactical operations to a narrow zone by use of existing or reinforcing obstacles

It was also at that point that the machine gun’s opened fire, one to each side of the gap in the wire, prompting lane graders to start calling helmet numbers and eliminating everyone in my squad but me and one of the flankers. I was safe for the moment in a shallow depression but it was only a matter of time before one of the bad guys achieved a better line of sight so in the interest of playing the game I crawled over the closest casualty (AKA my buddy Doug), rolled him up on this side and used his body as a parapet shield before expending all the blanks in both my ammo pouches and those belonging to my now laughing protective barrier.

Any concerns over my tactical decisions during the critique were dispelled as the lead lane grader issued an outstanding spot report for me for my enthusiasm and unique tactical sense .Unable to hold his tongue any longer my human parapet Doug weighed into the conversation with “yeah, nice move but I began to wonder what you were really thinking when you started going through my pockets looking for my wallet and lighter!” to which I shot back with “ just trying to win in an unwinnable situation” but was startled when our lane grader abruptly broke back into the conversation with a quiet but firm “You weren’t supposed to win” that instantly changed the tone of the critique and shut us all up.

As a Special Forces qualified Master sergeant who’d started his career as a rifleman in Korea and spent two tours of duty in Viet-Nam our evaluator was definitely someone to listen to carefully. The lines on his face traced a map of every one of his twenty-seven years as an infantryman though the wrinkles around his eyes were as much the product of good nature as evidenced earlier that morning at the beginning of the exercise when he stressed that his personal motto was:

“Don’t run if you can walk

Don’t walk if you can ride

Don’t go if you don’t have to!”

He went on to tell us about an infantry school study that had shown that new platoon leaders in Viet-Nam often found it “easier to die than to think”, and that just as much emphasis needed to be placed on initiative and imagination as doctrine when training new lieutenants.

“That’s why we scattered problems like this in the syllabus – to get cadets to use their imagination when needed”

“Sometimes you just can’t win”

…which is the point of my story. As I’ve written in the past I have ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease much like rheumatoid arthritis. It is progressive, incurable, irreversible, very painful and getting more so as time goes by which is why insurance underwriters put it in the same “dread disease “category as lupus, multiple sclerosis and others. It’s going to be with me until I die and at best all doctors can do is alleviate the symptoms…which gets more and more difficult to as time goes by. It’s also the reason my writing has been so sporadic this last year. Lack of flexibility brought on by A/S was a major factor in a tumble I took down our front room stairs that in turn caused me to spend a good part of the fall of 2019 flat on my back followed by a slow-down-in-general since then.

Because the disease didn’t come with a missing limb or change in pigmentation it’s not readily apparent which can often lead to judgmental comments of which “You don’t look sick” is the most prevalent and as the topic has not appeared here lately my Beautiful Saxon Princess has been gently elbowing me into crunching some words on the subject so:

 Please understand that your friend or relative or co-worker with the not-overly obvious disability is not fishing for sympathy or trying to figuratively steal your wallet and lighter through disability/insurance fraud. We’re just trying to cope with an extremely difficult situation and we’re just doing the best we can…and just as was the case in June of 1977 I’m still trying to win.

1976 Beads

It just seemed like a good time to run this one again. While these “year-link” posts were all written to be used as chapters in a book there weren’t originally published here in chronological order. We’re getting closer to publication so I’m re-posting a couple of them in proper sequence to give you an idea of what is coming up.

Thanks

d-

David R. Deitrick, Designer

Kenai Central High School was not on the leading edge of popular culture in the 1970’s, but I had no idea how benighted we were until the Yearbook Issue of National Lampoon came out in the spring of 1971. It featured a parody of a 1950’s high school yearbook and as we leafed through the pages I was surprised to see that the Eisenhower-era fads, slang and dating customs Lampoon was mocking were the same ones we participated in. Even though television had been showing us how to look like other American teenagers of the time, our behavior was twenty years out of date.

College brought me a little more up-to-date, though attending the University in Fairbanks, Alaska still had me on side roads instead of the cultural freeway… My hair got longer. I dressed a bit differently and when I fell in love I did something I thought I…

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1969: “Party Hearty…hardly”

I’m slowly working up to a second book and re-blogging this post is part of that preparation.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

One of the first things you learn when starting a running program is this:  The best runners don’t compete with other people – they compete with themselves. Rather than trying to best another person, they try to beat their own time. It’s a good idea in general to set personal standards to measure success. I’ve applied the concept several times in my life, but the most useful personal benchmark has to do with “getting in trouble” and by that I don’t mean life-altering hardship, setbacks or personal challenges – “trouble” as in “Awwwmmmm – you’re in trouble. Mrs. Blinzler wants to see you after recess.”1

In early 1969 I helped organize a party that got me into so much trouble I’ve used it as a gauge for the rest of my life. How did it come about? The same way normally rational people get in unforeseen trouble: Life became…

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1975: Dinner at The Miller’s

One of the first lessons I learned in life is that nothing’s as bad or good as anticipated, that in life there can be quite a gap between the ideal and reality. Nowhere was that deduction more valid that it was in missionary service. As I started my two-year bicycle penance I imagined that my service would include:

  • Working in tandem with equally motivated companions
  • Spending the bulk of my time teaching truly inquisitive individuals
  • Fitting into each community as a recognized and accepted member of the clergy

Reality was somewhat different as the work routinely involved:

  • Struggling to motivate culturally backward companions on their first experience away from the Intermountain West.
  • Spending many, many more hours knocking on doors than teaching people
  • Surviving the social food chain, spending an inordinate time avoiding dogs while knocking on the aforementioned doors.

It was one-third of the way through my mission that I learned another great life lesson:  Any form of illness seems infinitely more serious when you’re three thousand miles away from the family doctor. Such was the case when I contracted the Port Chalmers strain of the flu shortly after I transferred to Skowhegan, Maine early in the winter of 1975. Getting sick right after the transfer was very disorienting as the move to Maine had been most welcome – after eight months in Lynn, Massachusetts life in an urban area had worn thin and I was eagerly anticipating both a change of scenery and an opportunity to recharge my spiritual batteries while turning a new leaf in my service.

I had actually anticipated this new area as I already knew a little bit about Skowhegan after dating a young lady from the area while I was enrolled at Ricks College six months before starting my mission. I was also delighted with Skowhegan’s more northerly location and abundance of trees and snow which made the area feel like my home in Alaska, a similarity that extended even to the floorplan of the local meetinghouse (identical to the one back home) and the rustic nature of the service projects the congregation engaged in. For example each Saturday morning we would cut and haul firewood for less fortunate members and it was during one of those charitable expeditions that I became aware of the family doctor life lesson referenced above.

The day had started nicely enough as we chopped and hauled away, but when I developed a queasy stomach and slight temperature my companion and I headed for home long before our normal 12:00 noon quitting time. By evening my temperature had soared to 102° and I was making regular trips to our bathroom to engage in what is alternately referred to as

  • Barfing
  • Doing the Technicolor yawn
  • Worshiping at the porcelain altar.

I threw up so many times that at one point I began wondering if I needed to check for a lung or some other organ coming up with everything else. Unfortunately, the projectiles kept projecting until early Monday morning when my misery eased for approximately thirty minutes as my body changed gears (and orifice) and I began to deal with:

  • Montezuma’s revenge
  • Rocky Mountain quickstep
  • Trouser chili

The misery went on for another four days, my only respite coming about early Wednesday evening when I collapsed on the hallway floor, dehydrated from the non-stop hurling. Fortunately as the week progressed the intensity of my visits to the bathroom began to ease off and by the following Saturday it looked as though we’d be able to honor a dinner invitation extended to us by the Miller family, stalwart members of the local congregation and parents of the aforementioned young lady I had known at college the year before. Ever the trencherman, my companion was relentless in his insistence to make it to that dinner appointment no matter my condition, but even before the illness I had been hesitant as their daughter had expected more out of the relationship than I, and ended up with bruised feelings…so I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I’d get in their house.

(The fact that their other child would be at dinner and happened be one of the toughest highway patrolmen the state of Maine had on its roster may have been a factor in that reluctance as well.)

As the day progressed the tummy rumbles lessened but did not cease, so ever the erstwhile ROTC cadet I carefully planned the quickest route through town on our area street map. Skowhegan straddles the Kennebec River at a point where several highways merge to cross the waterway by way of a set of bridges connecting mid-stream Skowhegan Island to each river bank. In addition to those road bridges there are two foot bridges, one a former railroad bridge in the center of town and another connecting the Island with the southern bank at a location some distance to the west of the automotive bridge. To reach the Miller’s home we would be walking from our apartment on the northern side of town to the first island bridge, then after crossing we’d veer to the right to the footbridge which conveniently connected to the southern shore not more than 100 yards from the Miller’s home.

I figured it would take us no more than a half hour (45 minutes at the most) but as we started walking a sobering thought came to mind, no doubt jostled loose from my memory by the military aspect of my pre-walk map reconnaissance. It was a quote from the 19th century Prussian strategist Moltke who opined that “No plan of battle ever survived contact with the enemy”. Having been holed up in our apartment for the week neither one of us had a sense for what the weather had been like so we were both surprised when instead of negotiating either freshly plowed or snow-free we would be trudging through sloppy slush that could easily double our walking time.

Unfortunately, dwindling finances required a trip to the post office in the hope that a check from my dad had arrived, a detour to the east that added a further fifteen minutes to our journey, however true anxiety didn’t set in until we slushed off from the post office and  I felt the dreaded URK! in my lower tract that I had hoped to avoid, so we picked up the pace only to be stopped by our district leader just as we reached the first bridge. He and his companion were on their way home after spending the day at a leadership meeting in Augusta and in his zeal to avoid spending seventy-five cents on a toll-call later that evening he took the opportunity to briefly pass on an important change in our weekly reports (something about ink color), “brief” being defined as “forty-five minutes.” When they finally drove off to the east it was colder, darker and I’d already been through three butt-clenching URKs! while we’d been standing shivering in the snow, and as we stepped out smartly across the first bridge the rumbles continued.

Midspan I knew I wasn’t going to make it as the URKs increased in both intensity and frequency. For an instant I thought about turning around but I didn’t know of any bathrooms available before we got home.  Prospects for immediate relief were bleak at best as the few structures on the island consisted of a volunteer fire station, a small park, and church with an attached residence, all of which were closed and dark save for a single light burning above the fire station’s front door. With no other comfort in sight I veered toward the station but as I turned toward it there came an ominous double URK! from my midsection that my companion could hear ten feet away.

I knew I was doomed.

In a panic I turned towards the clergy house set to the side of the church and tried to trot as quickly as I could with my fourth-point-of-contact tightly clenched. Not a light was burning in the place but as I slowly bounced closer I could see that the basement garage door was ajar so I adjusted my trajectory accordingly.

 What followed as I reached the garage door happened in split-second increments:

  • I stepped through the door into the dark basement
  • Located a stack of firewood against the wall
  • Concluded that stack of wood was a reasonable substitute for an outhouse seat
  • Launched myself towards the nearest stack
  • Reached for my belt buckle

….at which point my luck (and sphincter control) ran out.

For the next week arguments ensued in town: Had there been a sonic boom from a low-flying jet or had there been an explosion in one of the mills?  I was just very thankful that no one had been home in the house above my improvised rest stop and that it was both cold and dark as we walked back to our apartment. During the entire trip my companion never ventured closer than ten yards to me and when we did get home I went straight to the bathroom, stopping only to ditch my wallet and shoes before stepping straight into the shower fully-clothed.

The aftermath

Since the seventies, polyester (“double knit”) clothing has endured no small amount of criticism for the use of colors not found in nature and for having all the breathability of Saran Wrap. People forget the fabric’s ability to hold a crease forever, to resist wrinkles and (in this case) repel stains while cleaning up with soap and water. As nasty as I looked (and smelled) that night I was able to wear that same suit the following week with no ill effects…or odor.

Never long on empathy my companion grumbled about the meal we’d missed during the long walk home and continued to snivel until the Millers appeared at our doorstep with covered dishes holding our dinner. When I called later to thank Sister Miller we had a pleasant conversation that put to rest the worries I’d had about the abortive romance with her daughter the year before. I also learned from an article in the newspaper she’d used to cover our dinner that my case of the flu had probably run its course and I needn’t worry about a recurrence of symptoms.

Nevertheless at my first opportunity I sat down again with a street map and marked the location of every public restroom within city limits

,

1973: Taking One for the Team

Fall is my favorite time of year and I thought it would be a good time to share this story again,

David R. Deitrick, Designer

Goat picture

As I grew up my father’s changing employment situation had us moving around a lot and by the time I earned my high school diploma I had attended seven public schools. I went on to earn an Associate’s degree, a Bachelor’s degree and a Master of Fine Arts degree while attending three different universities and one junior college – and when you add those academic institutions to places where I have taught the total comes to sixteen schools with which I have had extensive experience. Of all those bastions of academia Ricks College (now known as BYU-Idaho) was the best, with the fall of 1973 being my best term of my entire collegiate career. I made the honor roll with a 3.8 GPA while carrying 19 credit hours, I was actively involved in the establishment of the first ROTC detachment set up at the school, held multiple responsibilities in my church congregation and earned a small…

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2020: Getting Started

I’ve spent the last couple of months wrestling with one simple question:

How do I get started again?

I’ve been stalled creatively ever since the pandemic hit and have been unable to get much in the way of writing done. A good friend has passed it off as yet another COVID-19 issue but I’ve been already housebound for the last year or so isolation is old news and I doubt there is  a connection. If anything  shelter-in-place has been pleasant as it has given me more  with my Beautiful Saxon Princess than usually is the case.

Granted, I have a lot going on:

  • The spondylitis has gone into the next phase/level/whatever which translates to elevated pain levels – just walking has become much more difficult
  • We’re collectively trying to lose weight, not for cosmetic reasons but for the simple fact that all my other medications aren’t very effective. The less I carry around the less pain I have to deal with.
  • With sixty-seven years behind me it is a whole hell of a lot harder getting fired up to do anything, especially with the political chaos that surrounds us.

There are some people  who would consider my life to be heaven – to be able to just sit around and watch videos all day long – but for me it is a living hell. I’m one of those frustrating people who actually likes to work. I miss the burn I would get after walking for miles and (to quote Tom Bodett) I miss the way my hands would ache after swinging a hammer all day long.

“I WILL NOT QUIT” is still my war cry but at times it sounds hollow. My first task will be internalizing the fact that getting back up to speed is not going to be a rapid process, which brings me full circle to a creative project of mine dating from this time in 1989. It was one of my first efforts combininb 100% brushwork and the “long/skinny format” and I dubbed it “Getting Started” as it captured  the essence of the frustration I felt at the onset of just about every painting I’ve ever made

.…which is what I am feeling with life in general right now

Getting Started

For Miriam

We spent part of the month in a “social distancing times two” situation when my Beautiful Saxon Princess was tested for Covid 19. Our family physician was concerned about symptoms that came to light during a regular check up so our family spent our days lurking in our individual lairs – BSP kept our bedroom while I camped in the studio while Meghan and her family pretty  much had the run of the rest of the place.

As most of my collectible “stuff” is located in the studio I was able to avoid feeling sorry for myself but after 42+ years of marriage its hard to sleep alone. Long ago I found out that doing something for someone else is the best mood elevator EVER so I spent my time putting together some Tinkerbell art for my grand-niece Miriam.

Modified Tinkerbell art that is.

Life had dealt Miriam a pretty flat hand of cards and she spends most of her time immobile. Speech and vision problems isolate her even further so video provides most of her entertainment. She loves the color and motion of “chop-socky” shows like Inframan and has a particular fondness for Tinker-Bell so I came up with posters for her depicting Tink as alternately a Rambo-type adventurer and a crew member from the original Star Trek series.

2020-07-02A TrekBo2020-07-01A TinkerBo