Spoons

Spoons

It should be no surprise that summer is my least favorite season. Despite the years I’ve spent in Tennessee I am still an Alaskan boy at heart with climate preferences like those of a golden retriever – I’m happiest when it’s no warmer than forty degrees and my feet are wet. I’m also one of a very small group of people whose autoimmune disease symptoms became more painful when the weather gets warmer….which means that as summer heats up I feel progressively worse – when July rolls around my days involve a lot of just laying around reading and trying to mentally “will” autumn to appear in August.

Despite my penchant for speculative subject matter in my art my taste in reading material is fairly mundane. Currently on my Kindle you’ll find the following books:

  • Confederates in the Attic
  • The Year 1000
  • The Mound Builder Myth
  • The Color of Law
  • Empires of the Sky
  • Drums Along the Khyber

Most of these books are historical works, but sprinkled among the titles from times past you will find books about spoons, specifically spoon theory –  an idea that has very little to do with silverware and everything to do with communicating the challenges and discomfort brought about by the  daily battle with  autoimmune diseases. It’s a wonderful concept brought about by Christine Miserando and you can read about it at length at http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com.

Spoons are markers used in allocating/assessing how much you can get done in a day despite the dramatically reduced energy level and equally elevated pain levels that come with autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or in my case anklysosing spondylitis. You start out the day with a dozen spoons, and every action – and I mean EVERY action will cost you one or more spoons. The allocation of twelve is purely arbitrary but I found I was able to calibrate my spoon expenditures rather quickly. Getting out of bed costs one spoon, getting dressed is another one, climbing stairs takes two spoons and going to church takes three…so it’s not hard to see how you can run out of spoons rather quickly.

I’m barely scratching the surface of this marvelous communications tool and I highly recommend you check out Ms. Miserando’s website and read her ideas first hand.

 

 

 

Friend of Son of Beowulf Junior

Paper, pencils and dice were the only accessories used in the first roleplaying games I experienced many years ago, so it was a big deal when 25mm miniatures arrived to aid in visualizing game events. Scarcity and a wide range in quality made us loath to retire characters when called to do during play, and one friend dealt with the situation by renaming and reusing his favorite figure. His prize 25mm figure started out as “Beowulf” only to become “Beowulf Junior” after one particularly lethal gaming session only go be reincarnated as “Son of Beowulf Junior” and eventually “Friend of The Son of Beowulf Junior” shortly before I graduated and moved away from that area and gaming.

I’m in a similar situation as we start to ramp up for the second book. The existence of other books with titles that play off the Midnight Sun / Midnight Son pun prompts me to rule out a simple “Midnight Son 2” title for the second book in the series but for now that will be the working title for the second volume in the series which will cover high school from 1968 to 1971. I had originally planned the Kickstarter for that book to happen next month (May 2020) but the uncertainty brought on by the Covid 19/Corona Virus pandemic is requiring an extra measure of flexibility in planning, but I did want to give you all a heads-up, hence this post today.

While Midnight Son 2 covers a short time span it will actually be a longer book, reflecting the added complexity in life brought on as we approach adulthood. Some of that added length will also come about by the inclusion of section headings for each individual year, bringing into context the increased influence of current events in my life – especially during the turbulent times of the late 1960s/70s. What follows is the intro for the first section:

1968

 I turned off the television and just sat for a couple of minutes, my mind still spinning from rapid-fire dialog and chaotic change in scenes. I had just witnessed a fifteen-year-old boy’s dream come true – 58 minutes of social and political satire interspersed with counter-culture graffiti and sexual innuendo. It was Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and while I initially hated it for replacing the Man from UNCLE it was a perfect introduction to the 1960s, or rather that period from 1968 to 1972 which had all the social characteristics of “The Summer of Love” that comes to mind when most people think of the “The Sixties”. It seemed like we were all witnessing the birth of a new exciting world, but all the same it was an unnerving time to be a teenager.

  •  The TET offensive simultaneously terrified and angered an American public already unhappy with the lack of progress and increasing body count of the Vietnam war in general.
  • Every newscast had a segment on riots somewhere in the Lower 48. Whether sparked by unrest over the Vietnam War or the glacial progress of civil rights, riots seemed to be happening everywhere with collective turbulence culminating in the organized chaos of the 1968 Democratic Convention.
  • Hints of a thaw between the East and the West disappeared when Warsaw Pact tanks rumbled over the Prague Spring movement in Czechoslovakia.
  • It seemed like everyone was getting shot. For a while I’d lived with the assumption that President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 was enough to shock some collective sense into the nation but then Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down in April followed by Robert F. Kennedy two months later.

 On the other hand:

  •  Manned Apollo missions commenced with Apollo’s circumnavigation of the moon making a nice Christmas present.
  • …we were all very pleased but a little confused when the Beatles released the White Album at Christmas time.

 For me 1968 started out in much the same way as previous years – trying to stay warm while waiting six months for first-run movies to finally hit the local theaters. Our governor Wally Hickel was drafted by President Richard Nixon to serve as Secretary of the Interior and Ted Stevens was appointed to the Senate after Bob Bartlett died during heart surgery. The first mall in Anchorage opened up at the intersection of the Seward Highway and Northern Lights Boulevard, a third television station (KHAR channel 13) began broadcasting and a two inch column at the bottom of the front page of the Daily News casually announced that maybe – just maybe – there was oil to be tapped on the North Slope.

I’d spent most of the school year just surviving and the summer of 1968 looked to be a pleasant change of pace. I had grown an inch or two in height while losing an inch or two from my waistline and gaining some coordination in the process. One of the biggest changes involved what I listened to each day – during the summer I bought a very basic record player and while the sound quality was marginally better than a Kenner Close-N-Play it allowed me to explore music beyond the scope of the 2:45 standards coming over my AM clock-radio. From this point on songs became “time-stamped” to what was going on in life.

…and to reflect THAT very fundamental change in my life each chapter in this volume will be annotated with the song or album that was my favorite at the time, which will again bring some added insight to what was going on during that period.

“Hello?”

“Anybody there?”

I’m a semi-shut-in (if that’s a thing) so I’m used to my horizons being clipped short and using Amazon for shopping…but from where I stand it’s not just the mall, church of my grandson’s school that seems deserted – it’s feels deserted here as well. I can’t speak for all of my other word-crunching friends but for me personally – I’ve never had such low readership figures, looks, likes whatever you call it. I hope it’s just quirk brought on by the virus and that as time goes on we all get back to reading and commenting.

To better days!

2020: Sleeping Booty

Though it’s a condition notable enough to warrant a proper name (paresthesia) having one’s arm or leg go numb from sitting in one position too long is rarely a precursor for anything medically serious. Having your leg “fall asleep” may be uncomfortable but it is common enough to have inspired its own Benny Hill fart joke:

She: “That meeting was far too long. We were sitting so long my little bottom went to sleep”

He: “I know – I could hear it snoring”

 I didn’t make the connection between the sitting and the numbing until I was midway thorough seventh grade and I finally realized the sensation was not some sort of exotic malady or extra-terrestrial parasite devouring my nervous system. It became a source of entertainment on those days when the slurred speech and red nose our teacher brought back from lunch signaled that the rest of the day would involve educational movies – I would periodically tuck one foreleg under another until numbness set in, then unfold them to trigger pins and needles tickle-y enough to keep me awake through the second reel of “A World without Zinc!”

Like most other aspects of my life the novelty off the condition decreased when other more interesting aspects of puberty began to manifest themselves but since then there have been at least three times when the unexpected onset of Paresthesia had quite an impact on my life:

May 1971: Hidden Lake (Alaska) Graduation was mere days away when I joined with a small mob of young men from our congregation for a weekend of camping at Hidden Lake; a truly epic campground in a land that is the very definition of epic. I faintly recall that there was some sort of spiritual theme to be discussed during the outing but most of the time was spent running up and down the rocky cliffs that surrounded the campground, paddling canoes in Hidden Lake itself, and climbing the gently sloping face of Hideout Hill that faced to the north. It was as physically tiring as two-a-day football practice had been or airborne training would prove to be in the future, and when I dropped on my cot one night I was asleep before my head hit my pillow.

…but vague nightmares about giant snakes scared me awake early the next morning, and as I scrambled to escape my dream serpents I realized with sheer terror that something was holding me firmly to the cot. It wasn’t until I fought my way awake that I realized what was really going on: when I threw myself onto the cot the night before I had absent mindedly draped my right arm over the cot’s header bar and slept so deeply that I had stirred little if any through the night, causing my right arm to not just “go asleep” but to go into suspended animation. A reading list that included way too much Conan and John Carter of Mars generated the serpentine dream images to account for my arm’s immobility.

March 1977: Camp Williams (Utah) Similar to my sojourn at Hidden Lake only by weekend scheduling and an outdoor venue, the tactical exercise in which I was participating was designed to prepare us for advanced training at FT Lewis WA later that summer – and because of my size, strength and generally annoying gung-ho attitude I was assigned to carry the squad’s M60, a Cold War era machine gun based on the WW2 German MG42.

The scenario called for my squad to set up an ambush for another group that collectively lacked any sense of direction, leaving us to stay hunkered down and waiting much longer than expected. Following the old soldier’s tradition of getting sleep whenever possible I rested my head on my arms which were crossed over the cover and feed assembly of the M60 and promptly fell asleep.

…only to be abruptly kicked awake seemingly moments later by my squad leader. Our opponents had finally fumbled their way along the darkened path to the kill-zone in front of us, but when I reached for the trigger my right arm fell to the ground beside the gun, my arm having gone totally numb while folded on top of the M60. Harsh whispers and a second Vibram-soled kick convinced me to try making a left-handed shot but rather than squeeze the trigger for doctrinally correct three-round bursts I loudly pow-pow-powed through an entire belt of blank cartridges. During the post-ambush critique I was “smoked” for lack of fire discipline but then immediately praised for my aggressive attitude as manifested by all my yelling. Little did the lane grader know that it wasn’t an aggressive mindset but rather a reaction to the “pins & needles” sensation caused by restored circulation that was aggravated by the vibration and recoil of the machine gun.

February 2020: Clarksville TN Aging brings on a plethora of ailments both major and minor, but one of the most annoying is the microscopic capacity to which my bladder has shrunk, which means I visit the hallway bathroom several times a night. As a way to pass the time we stock the bathroom with reading material (in this case a Kindle) and it is not uncommon for me to get caught up in a story and continue reading long after the need for diversion is gone.

That was the case early one morning when I realized with a start that judging by the page count I’d spent more than an hour “distracted”. I clicked the Kindle off and started to stand up…and that’s as far as I got because not one but both legs had gone to sleep. I tried to stand a second time but was met with the same results, so I tried to pull myself up by grabbing the vanity, only to abruptly let go and thud back down to the seat when I found that the vanity wasn’t as securely fastened to the wall as I’d thought.

I started to panic, but then in a flash of inspiration I grabbed the fabric of my right pajama leg and started to bounce the leg up and down in an effort to get the circulation going and some strength restored. After what seemed forever the feeling began to return to my leg, so I leaned on my cane and started to stand up when

BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG!

 David, are you OK in there? It’s been a long time. Are you sick?”

Most people revere the inventor of the bathroom fan for providing a convenient white noise to mask otherwise embarrassing noises during routine visits. I praised his name to Heaven for drowning out the high-pitched “EEEPPPP!” scared out of me by my Beautiful Saxon Princess’ abrupt knock on the bathroom door. I murmured some clever retort (URKK!) as I adjusted my T-shirt and sweatpants and then shuffled back to bed, my sweetheart helping me prop myself into my slightly contorted but customary sleeping position.

…but as I was falling asleep I had enough presence of mind to make a short list of corrective measures to be taken in the hallway bathroom first thing the next morning:

  • Securely nail the vanity to the wall.
  • Change the settings on my Kindle to show the time.
  • Get a railing mounted to the wall so when paresthesia strikes again I can still pull myself up.

 

 

 

 

Happy New Brent!

He moved in with his family in the late winter of 1967-68 and despite his best efforts had little effect on the community of Sterling Alaska. His name was Brent and as was the case with many extremely short young men he had an attitude, styling himself as one tough customer destined for a lucrative (but extremely short-lived) career as the premier cat-burglar of that glittering metropolis to our north, namely Anchorage. That was just one of the reasons why we never really clicked as friends, but as fitting for the times we developed a détente of sorts: If there were no other guys around we’d hang around for an afternoon with the unspoken understanding that subsequent references to the day’s actives would include several comments about how the weekend was ruined by “putting up with that douchebag for the afternoon.”

Sadly enough New Year’s is the “Brent” of holidays. Unless you’re in Scotland or any other location with a high proportion of Scottish “lads and lassies” December 31st and January 1st are holidays that are celebrated because nothing better is going on. Oh, there’s a big glittery ball dropped in Times Square and everyone and his brother is conducting some sort of countdown involving events of the past year, but it’s a rare person older than thirty that’s actually awake longer than thirty minutes into the new year.

…and then there are those pesky resolutions. I’ve gone full circle with New Year’s resolutions, starting with vague goals set as a teenager, New Year’s commitments made as a young man (the writing of which resembled an operations order more than a plan for self-improvement), the New Age-y New year aspirations of middle-age and finally back to vague goals made as senior citizen that aren’t that much different than the ones I made as a high school senior. Most of it entails just keeping on with what I’m already doing every other day of the year:

  • Writing
  • Making Art
  • Walking a couple of more steps each day
  • Showing love for My Beautiful Saxon Princess
  • …and at least for today wishing everyone a Happy New Brent Day!

Late Night Lament Revisited

(With apologies to Moody Blues percussionist/poet Graeme Edge for stealing his title – it was just too perfect for this post. This was composed a few nights back when I woke up in searing pain at 2:23am – I will try to edit it down to something understandable)

While experts say that late night use of personal electronics interferes with sleep, I’ve found that they can be either a blessing or a curse. I’ve kept track of the efficacy of painkillers over the years and found that they fail 12% of the time, which means that I face a one-out-of-a-dozen chance of waking up in pain that is not eased, making that particular night seem much, much longer than the few hours it actually covers. It’s that point that I’m glad to have a smart phone or tablet handy to provide some distraction.

Most of the time it involves listening, as in :

  • Listening to old radio programs; classics like Dragnet or 21st
  • Listening to LT Theo Kojak bellow “CROCKER” while working a homicide case.
  • Listening to Gordon Lightfoot or the Moody Blues take me to simpler, less stressful times or a more spiritual place.

Most of humanity has no concept of living in chronic pain and I have to laugh at those who suggest that I wean myself off my meds and just pray more. It’s hard to understand a life that entails living in the present and just wanting to escape the pain for a few minutes. You think it’s tough enduring the commuter coyote sitting next to you on the train? The one with earbuds in and singing along with their iPod for the entire trip? Try coping with level 6 or 7 pain in your back, hips and knees for hours on end.

It’s even more difficult because of the years I defined myself by the miles I could walk, the mountains I could climb and the adventures I would find on my way. Now my adventures consist of laughing along with the cast of NewsRadio or listening to Days of Future Past in the middle of the night while I watch the moonlight and shadows make a new landscape and pray that blessed sleep will soon come and let me roam in spirit over those new forests and oceans.

Adding a Little Light to The Subject

I guess you could say that this is the last Christmas present I’ll ever get from my mom. Her estate was finally settled and after I paid off some bills my Beautiful Saxon Princess and I decided to put a little bit of the legacy into the house itself. With the first disbursement we had our space-tub (whirlpool therapy bath)  installed in our master bath but this time I wanted to fulfill a fifty-year old wish.

As I’ve written before my bonus room studio bears a strong resemblance to the attic loft I grew up in back on the ranch in Sterling.  As much as I loved “living on the roof” I always wished there’d been just a little bit more window space but Dad wasn’t quite confident enough to try making a skylight or dormer window so I made do with the sunlight I DID have.

… which makes it all that cooler to finally get a similar change made in my current studio. Having it adds sunlight and a cross-breeze when so desired but the change has messed with my spatial perceptions a bit. The VELUX brand window can be opened and comes equipped with two screens: one for the sun and one for the bugs. It  was purchased through Home Depot and installed by Ruggle’s Realty Services based here in Clarksville, with actual installation taking about a day.

Sunday Will Never Be The Same

Spanky and Our Gang was just an inch-and-a=half too successful to be considered a one-hit-wonder but their presence in American culture was cut all too short when lead guitarist Malcom Hale died unexpectedly in the fall of 1968. With tunes like “Lazy Day” and “I’d Like to Get To Know You” the “sunshine pop” band’s positive message provided a welcome respite during those times when social upheaval dominated the news media, but  I will always remember them best for what was arguably their signature tune “Sunday Will Never Be The Same”.

…which is probably why I’ve been playing it a lot lately.

Sundays are definitely not the same for me at this stage of my life, when making sure that my I-Phone is plugged in and charging has a higher priority than making sure my shoes are shined and trousers ironed for work tomorrow morning – or simply being able to make it from my bed to my papa chair prompts the same sense of accomplishment that completing a 5K did when I was younger. That same physical limitation has also transformed church attendance from being almost a habit into to an eagerly anticipated/much appreciated opportunity for spiritual transfusion on those rare days when we can get there.

…but then again some things are not so different. It’s distressing to see heated demonstrations devolve into street violence, but at least the anti-fa and alt-right aren’t bombing each other like the Weather Underground was in the habit of doing fifty years ago.

Life has stayed the same inside the walls of our home as well. Even though my Beautiful Saxon Princess and I are battling our respective autoimmune issues our feelings toward each other are just as warm – no, even warmer as they have always been and we have children and grandchildren around us that share those same feelings, all of which make our home a haven from the craziness

Sunday may not be the same – it’s harder in some ways but in it’s better in the ways that matter.

 

Kickstarter Update 9: Setting the Record Straight.

One of the best classes in my graduate school experience was a design class taught in the theater department. In that class I learned:

  • The importance of color and lighting in creating a mood
  • How costuming can aid immensely in establishing a character
  • The importance of conducting good research prior the actual design process

When designing for a historical production our instructor would insist on primary sources in our research – for example when designing for Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano d’Bergerac we were to find photos of drawings or paintings from the Baroque period rather than copying imagery from motion pictures. I thought it was an unnecessary step – until I actually compared pictures from the 17th century with 20th century designs and discovered multiple anachronisms and wide use of ahistorical color in the later work.

I’m finding a similar situation in the way people look back at the 1960s and 70s. In 2019 there are a lot less of us who actually lived through those times which leaves production of material about the era to much younger people who don’t always consult “primary sources”. The other day I viewed a YouTube presentation about “ten things people don’t know about the 1960s” and of the ten only three of the items were valid observations. I got the impression that the other seven “things” came after the writer spent an afternoon binge-watching Mad Men and it had me wondering if did something similar when looking back to the 1920s as a high school student.

That’s another reason why I wrote Midnight Son and its upcoming sequel. I’m doing my best to capture the essence of those times and pass the information on to younger generations who would otherwise assume that all men of that day overwhelmingly preferred Twiggy to Raquel Welch…which was definitely not the case.

The campaign is definitely starting to wind down and I want to thank you all for the tremendous support you’ve shown this past month. It’s made a lot of difference to me – as all of this has been going on I have also been dealing with a tear in the meniscus of my right knee and the hustle & bustle of the campaign has been very therapeutic for me.

Thanks again!

David

2019: Fractal-blessings

Even though it has been in use for over thirty years fractal is a word that remains a little ambiguous to me. Oh, I’ve read many definitions to include that by the Fractal Foundation1: A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop… Fractal patterns are extremely familiar, since nature is full of fractals: trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes, etc.”

 …all of which is incredibly informative but a bit unwieldy to use in composition or conversation so I tend to think of fractals as: lots of little bits that all look alike and are used to make larger things that look like the little bits. I also use fractal as a found word2 for descriptions that lack a more exact term, a situation that has come about since my mobility became limited and my pain level increased. I am very goal-oriented and tend to think of life in big-picture terms, but I have had to learn to set fractal-goals and recognize fractal blessings.

Where I used to meticulously map out each week in terms days filled with interlocking blocks of time filled with work or appointments I’m now happy to make it to the bathroom and back unaided. Where I used to take my comfortable home life for granted I am grateful for the individual efforts of each member of my family. Instead of just plopping into a chair I am grateful for that one perfect pillow that isn’t too soft or too firm. I read and reflect on each name/like under the FaceBook posts.

Instead of a general “it’s all good” I’ve become more aware of – and more thankful for – each good thing in my life no matter how small.

The fractal-goals and fractal blessings.

___________________________________________________________________

Notes:

  1. A for-real  New Mexico-based non-profit organization advocating math and science education through the use of fractals.
  2. See 2019: Found Words