1971: Your Move

It’s a story that’s been handied down through my mother’s family for generations – two Cornish coal-miners filing a lawsuit against the public works administration for building the sidewalks too close to their butts. It’s tempting to dismiss the tale as urban legend but when you consider how the family physique combines a long torso with stubby legs it’s easy to believe the legend as fact. It also explains why running – especially long distance running – was always such a challenge for me as I have to cover twice as much distance as my longer-limbed buddies.

It was a condition that would be the bane of my entire running life but even though I’ve never been much of a long-distance runner I never stopped trying to do better and by the time I was seventeen I could turn a decent time for a mile run. It was enough to get me through football season and as a teacher’s aide for physical education class when I was counting laps for my students more often than running them myself, but the situation jumped up and bit me in my own low-slung Cornish miner’s butt when a lapse of judgement saw me signing up for a 200 level physical fitness class during my first semester at the University of Alaska.

The class first met on one of those grey drizzly days common to Alaska but the classroom was comfortable enough and before long I was joking with my classmates and looking forward to fifteen weeks of casual activity. Then our instructor walked in and reality scratched the tone arm across the 33 1/3 LP record of my life. His name was Coach Svenningson and he was built like the Bizarro version of me:

  • His legs were as abnormally long as mine were short.
  • Where I was stocky he was rail-thin.
  • Where I was endomorphic his body fat percentage easily went into negative.

At least he didn’t have that frustrated drill instructor mindset found in some coaches and was soft-spoken and occasionally smiling as he passed out copies of the syllabus and highlighted some of the fitness activities we’d be doing. At first we’d be doing a lot of stretching and warm-up work and the last part of the term would involve a lot of handball but most of the semester would involve running.

It was definitely not what I wanted to hear.

Up until this time I had been somewhat of a dilettante when it came to athletics – or anything for that matter. Whether it was drawing, football, judo or shooting I was good for at best two months before I’d get distracted into something more interesting, which worked in quite nicely with the nine-week grading periods that broke up the school year but college was a whole new animal and I’d have to stick with this class for twice as long as usual.

Fortunately this particular set of concerns fell by the wayside as all my studies commenced in earnest and for the first few weeks the physical fitness class was just one academic blur among others as we sedately worked our way thorough Coach’s preparatory program of calisthenics and stretching.

…and then there came D-Day, or rather R-Day: the dreaded day we were to start running, which wasn’t all that dreadful because it entailed some easy laps around the gym (which I could handle) followed with laps around the Beluga1 annex which I assumed that I could learn to handle…but looking forward I could see that when we started running outside any measure of “handling” on my part was theoretical at best.

Given the university’s geographical location less than two degrees south of the Arctic Circle running outside meant dealing with conditions cooler, wetter and a bit less sunny that I was used to for autumn. I was granted a very minor respite when we were given a choice of several trails to run but the shortest was two and half miles long so I’d have to more than double my heretofore best effort. In the hyperlogical mindset of an eighteen-year old male all I could was cling to hope that the support and traction provided by my brand new blue Puma® running shoes would carry me through the course.

…then we were given a sketch map of the course and I knew I was screwed. The run would start at the Beluga but then almost immediately went straight up the slope that separated the upper and lower campuses before crossing Yukon Road and making a loop over a rolling forest track2.

Even though we were still inside I shivered. I was going to be engaged in my least favorite form of exercise while

  • Covering twice as far as my best distance
  • Negotiating one big slope followed by several smaller ones
  • Wet, sloppy weather that could turn into snow at anytime

I decided that no running shoe (no matter how cool the logo) would get me through that distance so immediately after class I went to the administration building to drop the class, but as I was picking up a drop card I ran into a friend from high school who was in the process of dropping out of all his classes and going home. It startled me – he’d been a stellar student athlete all through high school and was the last person I’d expect to quit, but as I looked at him filling out forms I had an epiphany: no matter how hard my classes were or how homesick I became there was no way I was going to spend four more years taking the easy path in life.

…which is why – despite all my doubts – I tore up the drop card and showed up at the next physical fitness class and lined up at the start point of the 2 ½ mile trail.

I started up the hill, thinking that if I could get through wind sprints in football practice I could make it up the hill, a thought my body stoutly rejected as I barfed at the top of the slope. As I crossed the road my legs wobbling and feeling more like Jell-O than flesh and bone and for a moment I considered hiding in the trees until I could fall with the pack on the return trip down the slope but all I could think of was my former classmate dropping of school so I kept going, albeit at a brisk walk rather than a run.

It was more of a barely-controlled forward fall than a brisk walk and I found myself wheeze-singing3 a song I’d heard just before I left for class that morning: “Your Move” by the British progressive rock bank Yes:

Take a straight and stronger course to the corner of your life.
Make the white queen run so fast she hasn’t got time to make you a wife.
‘Cause it’s time, it’s time in time with your time and its news is captured
For the queen to use.

 Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda.
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda.


My run during the next class wasn’t much better, though I did manage to avoid throwing up and during my third time around the trail I was able to manage a slow jog for part of the course. As I’d go through the lyrics my mind would fill in the bass drum that slowly marked time along with the flawlessly blended harmony.

Don’t surround yourself with yourself,
Move on back two squares,
Send an Instant Karma to me,
and Initial it with loving care

Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda.
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda.

After the third or fourth circuit around the trail I began to think about the message of the song – the game of chess as an allusion to a romantic relationship, something that was extremely interesting to me now that the Petite Blonde at church was becoming my Best Friend

‘Cause it’s time, it’s time in time with your time and its news is captured
For the queen to use.
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda.
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda.

Before long I was jogging for the entire course and then one day I found myself running for the entire two and half miles….and once I was able to painlessly4 run the trail I found myself appreciating the golden explosion that is autumn in Alaska:

  • the brilliant golden fall colors
  • the sounds of birds calling to each other
  • the slightly sour smell of unpicked cranberries after a frost

…and then it came time to switch to other fitness activities and while I thoroughly enjoyed learning to play handball I felt a vague sense of loss. Running remained my least favorite form of exercise but I’d finally been able to figure out why cross-country running was so popular among some of my friends in high school…and mulling the lyrics to Your Move helped me figure out the direction a budding romance was headed

Most importantly it was the first time I took on a very difficult/almost insurmountable task and stuck with it all the way through to a successful completion, and while my future still held instances of me “getting out while the getting was good” I’ve been able to look back at the two-and-a-half mile trail and draw strength in hard times. As a later mentor would say I’d taken the first step into adulthood by making myself do something difficult even though I didn’t want to.

 


 

Notes:

  1. The Beluga was a large white inflatable building nicknamed for the white whales that inhabited Alaskan waters and was situated just to the west of the Patty athletic complex. It housed the university’s hockey rink but during the off-season it provided shelter for tennis and jogging during inclement weather.
  2. An area now taken up by the Reichardt building, Troth Yedda Park and assorted student housing cabins.
  3. “Wheeze-singing” entails quietly singing through the gasps and wheezes of the belabored breathing brought on by heavy exercise. It was a sort of a Zen exercise I developed to focus my attention away from the pain and discomfort of running in high school long before portable stereos had been invented.
  4. …well, less painfully maybe.

 

 

This is an extended version – the one I listened/sang to lacked the more electric & energetic section that starts up after the fade-out.

 

Two And A Haldf Mile Trail (2)

The  closest I could get to finding a picture of the 2 1/2 mile trail at the time I was running on it. While this is definitely a photo taken in Alaska the trees look a little tall for Fairbanks. It was a share of a share of a share on Facebook so I don’t have a proper credit but please contact me if you know the photographer

 

 

1964: One For The Road

We were living in Sterling for no more than a week when it became apparent that I wasn’t the only member of the family who missed Anchorage. From the middle of August to the end of September of 1964 we made the trip three times, for reasons ranging from coordinating Church programs to getting medical treatment at the Elmendorf AFB hospital to retrieving some odd item left during the move while crashing at night with mom’s best friend Jeanne Johnson, though Mom let me stay with my best friend Mark instead.

However, because of the recent Good Friday earthquake the trips could end up taking more than just the time required to transit the 276 mile round trip. A good portion of the highway curled around Turnagain Arm, the branch of Cook Inlet that extended to the south of the Anchorage basin. The trip around Turnagain is one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the world and takes in majestic spruce covered mountains with countless waterfalls as well as a few rivers and several major streams crossing under the highway to feed into the arm…and there’s where an element of chance entered in.

During the earthquake the ground level around the southern end of Turnagain arm dropped six feet and in the process guaranteed the eventual death of Portage, a small hamlet/railway station at the south end of the arm. The abrupt drop either destroyed or severely compromised all the bridges over the aforementioned waterways so as part of the recovery effort temporary bridges were erected to the side of the old ones and anchored on raised berms that put the driving surface an extra six feet above the original road bed to prevent damage from ocean waters that now flooded the highway during periods of high tide. it also meant that if you failed to consult the tide table when planning a drive around Turnagain arm you stood a good chance of being stranded on one of those elevated bridges until the tide receded.

…which was how we ended up stranded on a bridge late one August night. My mother, four sisters and I ended up spending four hours crammed into a our white Ford Falcon station wagon, though by that time the mud from transiting the regularly flooded highway had our car looking more than white. It could have been worse – August still gave us extended daylight hours and we were able to pass the time with a stack of comics and a box full of home-brewed root beer we’d been given as we left Mark’s house.

As Mom had forgotten her wristwatch on the trip we were clueless about when we could leave the safety of the bridge and it was a little scary when a set of disembodied headlights appeared off the end of the bridge, lights that slowing coalesced into the front end of a Alaska State trooper’s cruiser. The officer parked and walked up to talk to my mom sitting in the driver’s seat, slowly playing the beam of his flashlight though the interior of the Falcon while enquiring about situation.

Suddenly the flashlight stopped and the trooper asked “Mrs. Deitrick, is everything OK with you and your children?” to which my Mom breezily answered in the affirmative.

“‘Are you sure everything is OK?”

I started to duck for cover – Trooper or no trooper, one thing you never did twice was contradict my mom, but in some random act of sanity she resisted verbally blasting the officer, and glanced back to the spot where the officer’s flashlight was shining…on my five-year-old sister Heather guzzling from an Olympia beer bottle. There was a moment of awkward silence then we all started laughing and explained that Mark’s mom hadn’t removed the label when she refilled the bottle with home-made root beer. She had been a war-bride from Helsinki and had grown up with Finland’s much more relaxed attitude towards alcohol so the thought of removing the labels had never occurred to her.

The trooper got good laugh as well, and after clearing us to proceed he left with a copy of the root beer recipe that Mark’s mom had given us, a recipe that my family also tried shortly after getting back to Sterling.

We just made very, very sure to remove all the labels from the bottles before we used them ourselves.

Kickstarter Update 26 SEP 2019

   This is all going much faster than I had imagined. When we kicked off the campaign earlier this month I assumed time would drag much like it did those few weeks before a childhood Christmas,  but the opposite has proved to be true. It seems like I just blinked and >BLING< we have just over a week to go …which means I’m starting to plan the fulfillment phase of the campaign.
   As is the case with most other book publication campaigns I will be signing books as part of some reward levels, but my signature will include something extra in that along with an inked signature I will be embossing my logo. It’s a mark I adopted just a little less than forty years ago and for the last thirty I have incorporated the image into my “tag” when signing artwork. In dimensional work I use an actual physical construct  cast in polyurethane resin or cut from paper.
   I came up with the embossed version when my son Sean showed me a personal seal he’d obtained in Japan where such things take the place of legal signatures in official documents Obtaining a seal is a rite of passage for young adults in that country with each one being unique and almost impossible to counterfeit.  I thought it was a nifty idea especially when I discovered my forged signature on prints and cards sold by third parties – so now when you see my hand-written signature accompanied by my embossed logo you can be sure that it is genuine.
   As for the logo and any inherent symbolism: first and foremost I wanted a symbol that was bold and immediately recognizable so any meaning is secondary, even speculative. Besides, if ATT can use a Death-Star image for their mark then I can use a mark that looks like a pocketknife, a reversed letter “D” in cursive, or whatever you want it to be.
As usual, thanks again for your support. If you haven’t done so already please share the Midnight Son  link with your friends and family.
Best wishes,
david
DeitrickLogo

1972 / 1977 Mistaken Identity

Shelly and I were like two ships passing in the night1 – whenever our paths coincided there was always something to prevent any sort of relationship from happening. She was a friend of one of my younger sisters so I’d already known her for a few years when we dated in May of 1974, but when June rolled around I was off for my bicycle penance in New England. When I came home two years later she was one of the first people I looked up…but she was in a steady relationship. That relationship had fizzled by the next summer and when I came home from school in May of 1977 she was very glad to see me until she realized that the young lady she assumed was my “really cute cousin” was in fact my Beautiful Saxon Princess, whom I’d wed three weeks earlier. Shelly was embarrassed…until I told her about an even more awkward case of mistaken identity five years earlier.

August 1972

I’d arrived in Rexburg with little more than the clothes on my back, having worked out at Swanson River until the very last minute. After a sleepless night shivering on a mattress with no sheets, blankets or pillow I went downtown shopping for some bedding, accompanied by my Best Friend to keep me on task and make sure I didn’t get sidetracked by bookshops or record stores.

JC Penny’s was our first stop and I was able to get most of what I needed there but as we’d set aside the entire afternoon for shopping we decided to visit a few more stores – having travelled so light I also needed some shirts as well. I soon became apparent that I wasn’t going to find clothing as quickly as I found bedding because the next two places we went through carried nothing but Western-styled clothing. I had just about resigned myself to playing mail-order roulette when we came on a decorated doorway and stairs leading down to lower-level shop which blessedly sold clothing that didn’t look like it had been designed/manufactured in 1957.

I was in the process of selecting a few shirts to try on when a sales clerk came up to help. After a short discussion about styles and prices he stood, smiled and said “Well – I can see what’s going on here!” Struggling to determine which sin was so obvious I turned red-faced and cleverly replied “Urrkk!” to which the clerk laughed softly and continued “No – it’s obvious you’re here to help your younger sister get set up at school!”

Even more confused I glanced around looking for the little sister who’d somehow stowed away on my flight down from Alaska … then stopped and looked closely at My Best Friend, then looked at the both of us in the mirror. For the first time I noticed that with her sharp nose, hooded eyes and full lips there was a slight familial resemblance, made even closer by my collar-length hair, parted in the middle and sun-bleached from a summer working out on the lease. I’d also put on a couple of pounds so my features were a little more rounded…

He’d been talking about us.

We looked at each other, shuddered then quickly paid for the shirts and left for our respective apartments and when we met up again later than day I had my Ricks-approved short haircut and My Best Friend had applied just a touch-more makeup than she usually did for day-time.

…and we must have been equally creeped-out by the subtle incestuous overtones because the incident was never discussed afterwards.

May 1977

There was a soft group-chuckle at Shelly’s “misidentication”, but as we stood there I glanced over at our reflection in the glass windows in the Nordstrom’s storefront and wondered for the first time if perhaps something subconscious had been at work when I’d first met my wife.

  • I was twenty-five pounds lighter than I’d been five years earlier and with a military haircut my features looked sharp as a hatchet.
  • On the other hand: With her gentle cascade of light brown hair, cute snub nose and water-color blue eyes with the slightly sad tilt My Beautiful Saxon Princess’ features were markedly different from mine – or any member of my family for that matter.

…no one would ever, ever confuse us as siblings.


 

Notes:

 

  1. If Barry Manilow can hork the phrase from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow I can hork it from Barry Manilow.

BINGO!

Mornings are rarely my friend but this morning I woke up to a pleasant surprise as sometime during the night the project pledge count had been reached! Reaching this milestone means we will definitely be going forward and getting the books published which will be happy thing for you readers as well as myself.

Thank you all so much.

I also want to extend special thanks to two people who’ve lent special support to me – often literally propping me up – as I’ve gone through the process of writing and sharing my work:

  • My Beautiful Saxon Princess AKA my wife Lori Deitrick. For more than 42 years she has been my inspiration, motivation and better half.
  • Marc Miller (of Traveller Fame). Marc and I have conferred, conspired and co-created over the last 37 years but for this project he has been the Obi-wan to my Luke. If it wasn’t for Marc my efforts at getting this book published would have ended up with peddling stapled-together ink-jet copies down at the mall.

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

1981: Alaska Cable Television Association Brochure Cover

ACTVBrochure 1982

In late 1974 vocalist Mac Davis did a cover of the Kevin Johnson tune “Rock and Roll I Gave You All the Best Years of My Life” . It was a catchy but bittersweet tune about unrequited love, not for a person but for a music genre and career field. I’ve always felt the message to be valid in my own creative career  as I was drawn to fannish subjects and clients but rarely got the recognition or success I could get in other fields.

This brochure cover is a case in point: I produced it at about the same time as I was painting a cover for a role-playing game company, but while this piece earned me a sizeable chunk of cash and a BONNIE (Best of the North//ADDY award) the cover paid a much smaller chunk and was barely acknowledged.

2019: Found Words

Art Appreciation was the class I was least interested in teaching when I first took on college art instruction in the fall of 1988, but as luck would have it was the class I taught most often and eventually my favorite subject to teach. Looking back it should have been no surprise as the course combined two of my academic loves (history and art) but I also enjoyed it for all the new information I picked up on technique and philosophy.

One concept especially interesting to me was the use of found objects – everyday consumer goods, packaging and cast-off items – in work by creators such as proto-Pop artist Joseph C. Cornel. I adapted a modified version of this idea in my own work by recreating combinations of everyday objects from wood, paper and resin and the general idea continues in my work to this day, but since I am more prone now to word-crunching than paint-sloshing I look for found words instead of found objects to use in artistic expression.

Many of these found words I’ve borrowed from foreign languages. While my two sons have been blessed with the gift of tongues, my own foray into linguistics has been tentative at best. I started with German in fifth grade after listening to Wehrmacht troops growl their Teutonic lines on Combat!  and college entrance requirements herded me into Spanish and Spanish II classes in high school. In 1974 my pride earned me a borderline B- in a university Japanese class but for the most part my use of other languages was an occasional word or phrase that added emphasis or humor when needed.

As a teenager and young adult most of those individual words were swear words, and not surprisingly many of them were bogus words that someone had invented1 then passed off as part of another culture’s lexicon. However in the last few years through the debatable miracle of FaceBook I have learned a couple of colorful terms so useful that if not actually part of another language should be declared to be so.

One is kintsukuroi,  a Japanese term that translates as “to repair with gold” and refers to the art or repairing pottery with precious metals with the understanding that the piece is more beautiful for being broken and repaired.  Growing up on a frontier meant using things until they wore out and fixing them when they broke and that mindset has stayed with me throughout my life. When we were first married My Beautiful Saxon Princess could never understand why I prized my patched Levi 501’s over my $502 designer Hash jeans with the star embroidered on the butt pocket. It wasn’t until we went through lean times of our own that she began to understand the concept when she saw how I treasured the cut-off jeans I wore every summer in the late 1990s, shorts that I wore not for comfort but for economy  when I took the money I would have otherwise spent on new trousers and used it in getting our sons launched in life.

Hiraeth is a term I’ve just recently discovered and as I understand it comes from the Welsh or one of the other Celtic tongues. It refers to homesickness for a place that you cannot return to, a place that no longer exists or perhaps never was. As we cope with a heat wave that is excessive even for Tennessee while our current society  warps more and more into a condition that I struggle to understand, this word comes to mind quite often, and I long for a place and time that is much cooler in both temperature and temperament.

As for crapulent; yes it is an English word, but is has a Latin root so I include it with my list of found words. I first heard it years ago on a Simpsons episode and while technically it refers to physical suffering from excessive eating or drinking it’s much too useful in describing a general dissatisfaction with daily life – when I wake up to find the last bit of milk left for my Trix has gone sour, my shoelace breaks when tying my shoes and there is a tax audit notice in the mail nothing describes my situation better than to say I’m having a perfectly crapulent day.

Unfortunately one found word that I wish I could un-find is cultural appropriation, a term used in a pejorative manner when referring to the use of words of items normally associated with another group, as in “only a Japanese person should wear a kimono”  or “only a Native American should do voice-over work for an animated Comanche warrior.” While I understand the importance for respect for all cultures I came of an age when more effort was put into being inclusive  rather than divisive – if certain current social trends continue I wonder if there will come a day when I’m judged too melatonin-deficient to love old school R& B or in possession of one too many Y chromosomes to be a true Joni Mitchell fan.

Whatever.

Until that day comes I will continue to borrow and tailor words from all sources to better communicate with and sometimes bring a smile to those around me.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Notes:

  1. When I was in fifth grade I was convinced that my sister Robin had invented the word “barf” while my best friend Mark was convinced his older brother had coined the word.

 

  1. …which was serious money in 1977

Guerilla Marketing

(I’m not sure if this is an actual re-run or an overlooked draft. I found it on one of my laptops while working on my next book but it didn’t have a title accurate enough to use in searching  past posts. All I can determine is that I wrote it at least five years ago and it still holds true)

My Beautiful Saxon Princess shared a shaggy dog story with me today about an outraged computer user who returned a “defective” laptop after trying in vain to open the screen/lid . The punch line ? A sales clerk in the store took the laptop, rotated it 180 degrees and opened it right up, the user have mistakenly identified the hinge for the opening because the manufacturers logo was positioned to appear upright (and more identifiable ) to other people when the screen is open .

At first I took it as another one of those wacky user stories, like the person mistaking a CD drive tray for a cup holder, but then I got to thinking: Opening a lap-top is a patterned motion almost identical to opening a book, and in the Western world that motion starts getting ingrained to the point of intuitive motion from time we picked up our first Dr. Seuss book. I would have made the same mistake.

It’s sad – rather than a story about  a whacky impatient user I saw it as an example of a company much more concerned with branding than providing for the user. Yes, I am a geezer, but I do remember a time when building a trusting relationship with your customer base was more important than charging your account as quickly as possible and avoiding customer service as a revenue drain.

Standing In The Creative Door.

There’s a point in airborne operations where the operation itself takes over reality and you become an element instead of an individual. It happens when:

  • The aircraft is orbiting the drop-zone
  • The jumpmaster has opened the door
  • Jumpers have hooked up
  • Equipment is checked and the sound-off made.

At that point you’ve become a round in belt of machine-gun ammunition and you are going out the door. Oh, you’ve been taught the procedure for refusing to jump but believe me – you’re going out that door…but it’s OK.

…that’s because it has transformed into a Zen feeling/experience – it’s out of your hands.

I’m hitting that point with Midnight Son. We’ve gone through the final edit and the cover art is done, needing just a bit of digital juju to get it ready for the press, so I figured I’d give you all a  sneak peak of that art:

Midnnight Son Cover Art