I Miss My Mom

I woke up yesterday morning to searing pain in the area that fifty years ago we euphemistically referred to as the “lower tract”. It continued until mid-afternoon, prompting at least thirteen trips to the WC but by early evening the discomfort had eased off enough to allow me to get some sleep. Today has been almost normal but the slightest tummy-rumble has me calculating the location and transit time to the nearest bathroom.

Normally I wouldn’t both mentioning this development, but the exact same thing happened two weeks ago with the same symptoms and progression. We’re still searching for a common factor between the two weeks…but  as I have been  checking out medical guides and websites I couldn’t help but think of my mom, the walking PDR (Physician‘s Desk Reference). She was a registered nurse with a four-year degree and would have been a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps had Little Man and Fat Boy not rearranged sizeable portions of Japanese territory. I never worried about any sort of illness or mishap as long as I could get her on the other end of the phone.

I miss my mom.

Thank You Kent Gardner

No – you’re not seeing things – the masthead illustration HAS gotten sharper and brighter, thanks to the efforts of my good friend Kent Gardner. Kent is a crackerjack designer from Vermont and he kindly took the time to clean up Emma and John for me. Gardner is also that rarest of commodities in the creative world: a designer who actually knows what he is talking about.

..yet another peek!

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn in my creative career was that the last few details take almost as much time as the main process – and it turns out be much the same case with publishing. However, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and as far as I can tell it’s not the headlight to an oncoming locomotive.

The checklist for finishing “The Life and Times of A Midnight Son”  isn’t too overwhelming:

  • Three interior illustrations
  • Cover artwork
  • Final edit

We still have to hammer out marketing details but for now I will share the  the illustration that accompanies the final chapter.

Third Parent

 

Come Fly Away With Me

Come Fly Away

You could call this Re-run Saturday+1, but then this isn’t a repeat of something I’ve written or created. This poster graced the wall of the room I shared with Scott Dickinson in Lathrop Hall at the University of Alaska in 1972. It did play an important part in my professional development – I was so entranced by the image that I switched majors from pre-law to illustration.

The original poster was close to 24″x36″ but this copy measures 11″x17″. I held on to my first copy for almost ten years but lost it in one of the three  moves we made between 1987 and 1990. This smaller copy actually works well for me as the sloped ceiling in my studio puts hangable wall space at a premium.

1981: Anniversary

It was a beautiful golden day that only September in Alaska can give to you. As I whooshed through the wet underbrush I’d occasionally glance back at companions equally focused on harvesting cranberries: in one direction was my Beautiful Saxon Princess toting our newborn younger son in a kid-pack while vainly trying to simultaneously pick berries and keep up with our wandering two-year old; in the other directions our friends with their toddlers  a little farther off. I looked past them to Pioneer Peak, then in the opposite direction to the Sleeping Lady. Autumn in Wasilla – life couldn’t get any better.

Suddenly my digital wristwatch chirped, shaking me out of my reverie. I looked down to see the small screen flash [09/07/81] with a small star to the right of the numbers …but I was totally baffled at the information on the display

  • Why was the alarm going off at 2:00 in the afternoon?
  • Why was tomorrow’s date on the display?
  • What did the little star signify?

…then I remembered that I had set my watch for Zulu time during the alert earlier in the week and that 2:00/14:00 was midnight in Greenwich England. As for the little star – why was the 7th of September important?

May 1980

There is nothing sadder than a second lieutenant trying to be dignified so I was glad that I was off-post, in civilian clothes and effectively unidentifiable as I periodically shivered with the sheer joy of being stationed at FT Richardson Alaska.1 It was my first break in the whirlwind of in-processing and with my little family staying with my parents down in Sterling our quarters on post were a little too empty so I drove into Anchorage for the evening to visit my old stomping grounds.

First on the list was the McDonalds on Northern Lights Boulevard – a destination for my family during trips up from the Peninsula as well as the last stop on the way south for the team bus after playing Anchorage schools. As I stood in line I tried to picture my football cronies around me and noticed with a start a bespectacled redhead guy who looked very familiar.

As I gave my order I mentally thumbed through the travel squad:

  • Carter?
  • Carlson?
  • Cutsinger?

No – none of the names fit.

  • Wetzel?
  • Wiggins?
  • Wilbourne?

None of them either – and when I looked up the red-headed guy was walking around the corner into the dining area. Ever curious I decided to exit using the door on that side of the building and as I walked past I saw him sitting with his young family. As I walked past his wife looked up and our eyes locked.

It was my (former) Best Friend.2

September 1980

Life had been a blur: I had no sooner finished in-processing when I was sent to Snowhawk ( Arctic Warfare Orientation) followed immediately by NBC (Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Warfare) course…and after that I was so busy getting my platoon organized that the chance encounter at McDonalds had been forgotten.

I was so distracted that I barely heard the heads-up my Beautiful Saxon Princess gave me about a church auxiliary leadership meeting to be held in our home …which would include “one or two people you already know”. I idly thought about the kids I’d gone to church with at the old 11th and E street chapel almost twenty years earlier and wondered which of the pig-tailed little girls had grown up and would be in our home tonight.

I totally missed The Look.

The night arrived and it came to pass that as I was worshipping in front of the soldier’s altar of Corcoran jump-boots, KIWI shoe polish and old diaper I heard hesitant footsteps first climb the stairs to our bathroom then come to a stop outside the study door. I stopped polishing and strained to hear anything, then got up and walked to the door to come face to face with my (former) Best Friend for the first time in seven years. The intestinal Stukas went into action making me wonder if I could ever be heard over the gurgling of my stomach, and I reached back to scratch my neck – not because it itched but to buy time to think of something suave and sophisticated to say.

“URRKKK!”

She replied softly “Hello David” and we stood there for a few minutes exchanging pleasantries dancing around what we were really thinking while I feigned indifference and struggled to keep my inner dialog inner:

 “It was so long ago I can hardly remember the actual break-up”

 “Yeah”   (Well I do: the 11th of December 1973. 9:37 PM Mountain Standard time)

 “We were both so young and inexperienced with relationships.”

“Yeah”   ( I am so glad I kept my mouth shut about Debbie)

“Your wife is so sweet and so pretty”

 “Yeah”   ( Too bad you…Yeah)

 …and then another potty-seeking lady started up the stairs behind us bringing the conversation to an abrupt halt and sending us back to our respective lives and families.

September 1981

My company commander peered at me over the rims of his BCGs3

“You know LTD this is (bleeping) perverse. Once you break up with someone you don’t stay friends. What the h*ll am I do with an executive officer that has obviously lost his mind.”

Captain Kay’s carefully cultivated coarse exterior cracked for a moment and his eyes softened:

” Seriously Dave, what do you hope to accomplish by taking your family on an outing with your old fiancé and her family? You’re a soldier – what do they say about opening old wounds?”

To be completely honest I had no idea, just that it seemed the right thing to do when my Beautiful Saxon Princess presented the plan earlier in the week to go cranberry picking with my Former Best Friend and her family. In the past year we’d dipped out toes into the “just friends” pool and it seemed to work OK, in fact rather than opening old wounds it made me appreciate my Beautiful Saxon Princess even more. It all had all worked to make life even more “OK” as I stood out in the cranberry bushes looking at my beeping, flashing digital wristwatch.

[09/07/81]? I finally remembered. I’d first met my Former Best Friend on the 7th of September 1971. Why I’d had it programmed in my watch I will never know, but as I stood there in the golden autumn sunlight I thought to myself.

” It was such long time ago, but I remember that all we wanted was to be happily married someday and it looks like we got what we wanted. We’re both married – albeit to different people – and yes, I am very, very happy”

I looked down at my watch, pushed the program-button until the [09/07/81] disappeared, permanently erased then carried my bucket of cranberries over to the car.

___________________________________________________________________________

Notes:

  1. FT Richardson had been my first introduction to the Army when I spent time there as a military rug-rat when we lived across town in Spenard and then later when we’d drive up from the Kenai Peninsula

2. See 1972: Subterranean Spring Break

3. BCG’s: birth control glasses. Army-issue black horn rim glasses that reportedly make          the wearer so unattractive that no one would ever reproduce with them.

1970: A Non-combatant in The Sexual Revolution

I handed the magazine back to Wayne, then sat for a minute trying to gather my composure. I’d heard about Penthouse but hadn’t actually seen a copy until that morning on the bus. Playboy was one thing, but this new book was overwhelming; not only were the photos a bit more “European”1, a letters section titled “The Forum” described activities that I’d never heard of and probably transgressed criminal law as well as the law of gravity on occasion. To be honest I was feeling more queasy than turned-on and at that point tried to cleanse my visual palette with another recent literary discovery, National Lampoon.

A freshman sitting on the seat ahead of me clicked on a smuggled transistor radio which hissed out at low volume the 1968 party anthem “Bottle of Wine” by The Fireballs. Nothing could illustrate the change society was lumbering through than that song and the group that sang it. Five years earlier they had taken Billboard’s #1 spot with a very innocuous bouncy tune titled “Sugar Shack” which told the traditional boy-meets-girl/falls-in-love/marries-her story. In the midst of the sexual revolution seven years later things had changed. Really changed. Playboy was telling us that rather than holding out for marriage the girl next door wanted to be naughty.  Penthouse was telling us the girl next door wanted to be nasty.

… which other than providing eye-candy did me no good. Granted, from birth I had been a fifty-year-old man in a kid’s body, but I was subject to the same leaping libido that every other teenager had to deal with, and it didn’t help that in the midst of all these changes I lacked any kind of guidance. My parents gave the traditional “birds and the bees” talk a clean miss and the church wasn’t much better. Those lessons always got shoved to the back of the schedule and eventually forgotten. Leaders in the congregation were just as vague, limiting inquires to “Well, Dave, how are your morals?” Again, literal thinker that I was, I figured they were asking about my morale, so I’d respond, “Well, I’m feeling pretty positive about life, so I guess I’m OK”.

It was against this setting that I was faced with one of high school’s milestones – The Prom. I’d endured two and half years of lurid tales about activities during and more importantly after the prom, but for the moment the issue  was not “what to do” but “who to take”. For guys with on-going relationships, getting a prom date was a slam-dunk, but for unattached guys it was arduous task. This was supposed to be one of the major events of high school experience, a rite of passage to be shared with someone special, but at the time there was no one special in my life. Generally speaking my prospects weren’t bad – I wasn’t a nerd-boy outcast but I also wasn’t a sit-at-the-cool-table Big Man On Campus. I had plenty of friends who were girls, but none likely to make the flip from friend-is-a-girl to girlfriend – but as  fate would have it an answer fell into my lap – or rather, it bumped into me when I ran into Bachelorette 12 (hereafter referred to as B1) in the hallway one day. Conversation was not her strong suit and we hadn’t talked much since the Earth Science class we shared during our freshman year but somehow a game of verbal badminton started up as we lobbed the obligatory small-talk questions back and forth:

  • I asked her how school was going.
  • She asked me if I liked being a teacher’s aide in PE.
  • She said she liked my sideburns.
  • I weakly joked that I liked hers3 .

…then I heard a voice asking her if she wanted to go to the prom. I looked around wildly for the guy trying to cut in, then realized it had been my voice doing the asking. I was equally bewildered when she quietly said “yes”, and we suddenly became a semi-couple planning our big night at the prom.

It was also when I started getting a lot of “wink-wink-nudge-nudge-say-no-more” comments from friends, acquaintances, my charges in physical education, and even guys I normally never talked to. Did I mention that B1 was drop-dead gorgeous? She was like a scaled-up Barbie Doll with elfin features, cascading waist-long brown hair and a Coke bottle figure…and usually clad in skirts short enough to have been made in a belt factory. One buddy observed that she was so perfect “she should have “Mattel” stamped on her a** ” then laughed that I’d know if that was the case soon enough.

Sex. The topic that would just not die. I’d spent a lot of time in the boy’s locker room where a lot of talking had gone on. According to the other guys, KCHS was a hotbed of illicit sex, with most of the female students following the lead of the ladies gracing the magazine I’d been reading when the story opened, but there seemed to be little in the way of consequences. Birth control pills had only been in common use for about five years, and in those pre-AIDS days only truck drivers and sailors would admit to carrying condoms. Math was not my strongest subject but even when you factored in that one week out of the month that the young ladies were hors-de-combat it still seemed like KCHS should be awash in out-of-wedlock infants – to the point of requiring a day-care wing off of the cafeteria4.

All that receded into the background as preparations for the big night were being made: coordinating clothes, ordering a corsage, making dinner reservations and double-checking transportation. Finally Prom-day arrived and as was the case with all big events there were both good and not-so-good developments:

The good:

  • Instead of the rattletrap station wagon I would be using the good car.
  • Dad was going to fill the gas-tank for me.
  • My tax refund had arrived so money wouldn’t be a problem.
  • No zits!

The not-so-good:

  • I had a 12:00 midnight curfew.
  • Mom and Dad wanted to meet B1 and take pictures.
  • I’d finally figured out how far away B1 lived and how long I’d be driving that night.

At one fell swoop prom was transformed from a bacchanalian love fest to a road rally of grueling proportions. By the time I drove to pick her up, drove back home for pictures, drove to the Royal Redoubt in Kenai for dinner, drove to the school for the dance, drove her home, and then got back to my home (by curfew) I’d be putting over 150 miles on the odometer that night. I would be spending so much time behind the wheel that there’d be little time for any hanky panky…which had me thinking that my folks were not as clueless about the birds and the bees as they had seemed earlier.

The first leg of my trip went well enough as I drove to pick up flowers and then on to B1’s home. I was pleasantly surprised to see her clad head to toe in pink satin with her wavy brown hair held back in ringlets by a tiara. With her clothes, my fairly new suit, and flowers for both of us, we got some nice pictures after which we sped to the Royal Redoubt for dinner, then on to the school for the dance. As we walked in I was astounded how much a little crepe paper and colored lights could transform a cafeteria into a tropical island paradise, but then some evil person cued up “Crystal Blue Persuasion” on the sound system and my suppressed vomit reflex brought me back to reality.

Without further ado we went out on the floor and started to dance…while I may not have been much of an athlete at the time, my inner Celt definitely knew how to cut a rug. The cut of B1’s formal limited us to mostly slow songs and while I am not a “bear-hug” slow dancer I do snuggle up a bit, which in this case nearly caused an injury when her petite size put the spines of her tiara right at eye-level for me.

…then it all seemed to be over much too quickly, and it was time to go home. I stayed calm until we got into the car, at which point I started into my repertoire of obscure historical puns which meant I was extremely nervous. It was bad enough that delivering B1 to her house then getting home by curfew would require time travel, but I also had to contend with B1 herself sitting next to me and basically being stunning. The smell of her perfume, the rustle of satin and whissst as she adjusted her wrap – hell, even that damn tiara all conspired with her innate foxiness to turn my knees into rubber and made me oh-so- thankful I wasn’t driving a standard transmission that night.

Then as we pulled out on the highway and headed south she snuggled up against me kind of under my right arm. As we quietly talked about the dance she leaned her head on my shoulder (requiring yet another tiara dodge) and I could feel her breath on my neck all of which had my inner monologue cycling through, “What do I want? What does she want? WHAT DO I DO” ,when she abruptly  nodded to a road5 leading off the highway to the left and said “Hmm? I wonder where that goes to?”

BINGO!

By this time it was dark, and as I turned to B1 and strained to make out her expression in the dim light of the instrument panel I saw what seemed to be a beckoning smile, so I leaned in to kiss her…right on the bridge of her nose. I sat back, looked at the make-up smudge on my lapel then up at the wistful look in her face. She leaned in against my shoulder, reached up for my wide-as-a-glider lapel and simply said, “Oh Dave” in a way that made me know that for me those letters to Penthouse would continue to be fiction…and I was relieved. We talked for a while until a reference to the magazine slipped out, a slip that I feared would destroy the mood until B1 wrinkled her nose and said, “Tell me about it – my sisters are always shoving Cosmo6 in my face!”

We shared a quip or two on the subject as I pulled out of the subdivision and took her home, and I thought about it as I covered that last stretch to the ranch. By its very nature the whole boy/girl sex issue was perplexing, especially with all the social changes that had come about in the past five or six years but relying on the magazine’s “philosophy” would just confuse the issue even more.

Through it all I learned that:

  1. The development of any relationship can’t be rushed.
  2. Most stories are just that…stories.
  3. My best reality check ever is the thought of missing B1’s lips and kissing her nose.

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

Notes:

  1. Un-airbrushed photos taken “south of the equator” which at first glimpse destroyed my friend Mark’s dream of someday becoming a “lady’s (bleep) barber”.
  2. Bachelorette 1 introduced in 1971…and then Dave discovered girls.
  3. Wispy little locks of hair from roughly her temples to just short of her earrings. I loved them then and I still do now – check my sketch book and you’ll find them on every girl in the book.
  4. It was like the stories guys told about fighting – every guy that admitted to fighting also swore “he’d never started a fight but he’d never lost one.” Again, simple math meant (given our fairly small student body) if all these guys were winning all the time there must be one or two bandaged, scarred and toothless wretched young men who habitually lost to everyone else in the school.
  5. See 1969: Sisyphus and Light Tactical Vehicles. It was the road into the same subdivision Jim, and I pushed his jeep all over in.
  6. Cosmopolitan – a magazine wherein Helen Gurley Brown advocated an outlook for women that was basically a mirror-image to Hugh Hefner’s philosophy for men.

…another peek.

The book-thing is still in the works, though it has been a more placid progress than I had imagined. I may have said this already but at the outset I hadn’t planned on illustrations but there were one or two chapters that really needed images to clarify the action. Before long it was a matter of  one thing leading to another – now the whole book is getting illustrated.

This will accompany 1966: Fighting Crime on Scout Lake Road – which you can still find on this blog if you search back a bit.

Fighting Crime on Scout Lake Road

…still a little shaken.

Thank you all for hanging in with me during this dry spell. It’s been difficult to find the motivation to do anything creative after taking not one but two tumbles down the stairs. I will be eternally grateful that bumps and bruises seem to be the worst of it all but to be  honest I am not nearly as brave as I was when I was younger so it’s taking me a little longer than expected to get back up to speed.

The Notre Dame Fire

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-479417

Despite my age and girth I still have a soldier’s mindset – I can plod on through just about anything:

  • When I developed a tremor in my hand that made painting problematic I switched to cut-paper sculpture.
  • When I lost my teaching gig in Nashville I started teaching creative workshops out of my studio.
  • When I fractured destroyed my right ankle I taught from a wheelchair.

…but for some reason this fire at the Notre Dame has shaken me and I can’t figure out why is proving so hard for me to deal with.

  • Maybe it’s the unsettled state of our world today.
  • Maybe it’s my age.
  • Maybe its  because I love Gothic architecture.

The only Gothic cathedral I’ve seen in person was the Duomo and it’s probably just as well that I saw only the one because my heart couldn’t hold up – I think I went into full-body Stendahl’s syndrome. I studied Gothic Architecture from Mark Hamilton at BYU and I usually dwelt a little longer (than usual) on the subject in my own art history as befits living art you can walk around in.

Stephen Royale created this cardstock model for my class and I think should be shown again given the circumstances.

RoyallCathedral