1966: Super Ball

(I’m not sure why or how it happened but when I published my book a couple of years back a large number of my autobiographical blog posts were deleted from this blog, so I’m going to go back and republish that missing material…which is just a complicated way of saying: “If you think you’ve seen this before you probably have!)

One unique aspect about growing up in Alaska was the sense of disconnection we had to deal with – a disconnection that was even wider because we didn’t know it was there. I spent my young adulthood thinking that my youth and adolescence were just like everyone else’s – just colder and darker. There were in fact large communication and social gaps that made life on the last Frontier more like life on another planet. For example, there were no same-day network news programs on television until I was a senior in high school and even then they weren’t simultaneous broadcasts. The early evening news was videotaped in Seattle then put on an airliner to Anchorage, where it was broadcast after 10 at night. It made watching the Super Bowl problematic; the game was broadcast live on radio so you were faced with either knowing the score beforehand as you watched the game or spending the early part of the day with card pinned on your lapel that read “Don’t tell me the score!”

Regular television shows were broadcast two weeks late, and pop music got air-time anywhere from a month to six weeks after debuting in the lower 48 – which had something to do with the practice back then of getting music to the stations – demo records went through the mail to radio stations and it just took that much longer to get from Los Angeles to Anchorage than it did from Los Angeles to Portland.

Oddly enough though there were some fads that made it north quicker than others – most likely they were brought up by people flying back and forth for work or vacation. My sister Robin got a copy of “Cherish” by the Association when a suitor mailed her a copy over a month before it was first played by Ron Moore on “The Coke Show” in Anchorage.  My only early jump on a fad was the Super Ball – by Wham-0!

Though Wham-o attributed the super ball’s amazing performance to a miracle substance called Zectron, they were really made from a synthetic rubber called polybutadiene. Invented by chemist Norm Stingley, polybutadiene required a complex process to manufacture, including molding for 15-20 minutes at 320 degrees F while compressed under a pressure of 1000 pounds per square inch .The result was a rubber ball with an extremely good grip that would instantly increase or reverse its spin depending on how hard and at what angle it hit the floor. It also had 92% resiliency which meant it would bounce 75 times for 30 seconds when dropped from 6 feet….and it wouldn’t just bounce over your head – the package said you could bounce it over your house!

…and that’s what got me into trouble.  

It was early in the spring of 1966 – “break-up” as we called it in Alaska. There weren’t many places I could use my new Super-Ball – after several disasters I figured the best place to bounce a ball with 92% resiliency was the concrete basketball court just outside and to the side of Mr. Hall’s eighth grade class room at Sterling Elementary. On the first sunny day after the snow had melted off I went out during lunch-time recess to try out my Super-ball on the concrete.

I threw it down. It bounced back up close to the height of the basketball backboards. Impressive, but not higher than what I estimated the roof of our house to be. I tried throwing the ball down, this time jumping up before releasing the ball on my way down.  There was an even more impressive bounce, but again not high enough to match the rebound as portrayed on the package. As literal as I was it never occurred to me that there may have been a little artistic license in the illustration and I was determined to meet or beat the bounce on the package. I concluded that if the ball were thrown down from a higher point the added distance would increase the velocity of the bounce to the magic house-high altitude so I went back into the school, found a folding chair and brought it out on the concrete basketball court. I then stepped up on it, jumped up off it as high as I could and on the trip down I threw the Super-Ball down as hard as I could.

You know that bit about men never experiencing pain as bad as the pain women go through with labor pains? Well, I beg to differ. In addition to any extra velocity my Super-ball’s “extremely high coefficient of friction came into play” which meant that when it hit the ground the spin was reversed and bounced back up in between my legs.

Wax popped out of my ears.

I couldn’t breathe.

I couldn’t move.

I think I began to see through time….

I don’t remember how I got back into the classroom but the next clear memory is of sitting at my desk with my head laid down on top while I tried to breathe in short shallow gasps. I also remember that for the rest of the day I spoke in a key at least two octaves higher than usual, prompting me to wonder if this was the sort of thing that could halt puberty. I also remember a great deal of pain radiating from my crotch.

That wasn’t the worst pain of the day though. I guess when I went in to “recover” some of the other guys decided to try out my Super-Ball as well. The deepest pain came during that discussion when they all agreed that the Super-Ball “bounced higher than a house” when Ticky Powell tried bouncing it.

Ticky – or more formally Robert Powell. One of my best friends, a dead ringer for actor Andrew Prine and not bigger than a kitten. Seriously – he measured maybe 4’6” and possibly weighed 65 pounds soaking wet but somehow put me to shame with my own Super-Ball.

The pain radiated all that much sharper…..

2021: Generation Gap

As a kid I thought God was a schizophrenic being who toggled between New Testament (Friendly) and Old Testament (Scary) versions. With all His talk about love and forgiveness I really liked New Testament God but Old Testament God literally scared the hell out of me, as in Deuteronomy 5:9 when he says “(I) am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation…” That sounded nothing like the heaven I aspired to and uncomfortably close to life at home with a mom that remembered every real or imagined transgression with crystal clarity…for several decades as it turned out. However, that memory for error wasn’t the only aspect of my family’s genetic heritage that seemed never-ending: personality traits and practices have been repeating through 3rd and 4th generations, no more so than in the case of “mailing off for stuff”

The First Generation: Entertainment for my dad centered on the occasional movie and (more often) radio programs. In a case of life imitating art my dad’s childhood existence centered on a ring much like the decoder ring featured in the classic holiday film A Christmas Story. Dad’s Depression childhood was spent on a ranch in Southeast Idaho which meant money was so tight that Ovaltine was considered a rare luxury so he had to wait much longer than Ralphie did in the aforementioned film.

I think it arrived just as he was leaving for boot camp.

Second Generation: I had a similar experience with plastic army men advertised on the back of comic books, specifically a set comprised of competing yellow and blue armies from the Roman Empire.  Unlike Dad, I had to contend with a visual hook rather than an aural one and the stunning illustration penned by comic stalwart Russ Heath was like crack for a fifth grader. I did a little better than dad as far as fulfillment goes – delivery was promised in “six to eight weeks” but when you tacked on the extra time required for any parcel or letter heading to Alaska I was fortunate indeed that the fratricidal legionnaires got to me before high-school graduation.

My son Conrad had the typical Third Generation experience in that his Holy Grail was not doomed to a lengthy post-office delivery but was offered as a prize in a school fund raising project to be delivered when the campaign was concluded and all the money turned in. The object in question was a wind-up flying bird featured prominently in the prize catalog and annotated with the warning that it was “Not sold in any stores” which made the situation that much more desperate. Unfortunately the threshold for awards in that catalog was so inflated that the sales required for the award for one of those birds could equip Sterling Elementary with its own aircraft carrier so that particular wind-up flying bird never came in for a landing at our house.

…and now we’re at the Fourth Generation and my grandson Jayden. Like most seven-year-olds he is fascinated by cars, with an eclectic taste that runs from Lamborghini to Tesla. He plays with them often, conducting road rallies on every flat surface in the house, so it was inevitable that one of his cars would get trod on and broken. The Bauling Lane axiom “Papa can fix anything!” was immediately put to the test but for once it didn’t hold so like everyone else in COVID-beset America I ordered a replacement on-line. I didn’t think much of the action until I found Jayden sitting on the front porch ten minutes later waiting for the Amazon delivery man and his new “Lammorgeenie!”

…which leads me to wonder what the next development will be. No doubt Jayden’s son will be frustrated that it takes more than three minutes for the replicator to make that decoder ring he just ordered.

Wrestling Day Reverie

Weird day. Pain meds definitely NOT working and my sleep pattern is upside down (laid awake all night then slept today from dawn until mid-afternoon.) I want to grumble at getting my plans up-ended, but as hard as I work at it I can’t get perturbed.

It’s just too nice a day, and definitely the kind of Christmas I’ve come to expect in this stage of my life.

I’m spending time with people I love and we’re all safe, warm and most definitely well-fed. For just a little while the curtains are closed and we’re safely walled away from 2020 with all the magic our favorite quilts and Christmas music can muster.

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

“…let’s give him a big hand!”

Living with an autoimmune disease like ankylosing spondylitis has meant living with chronic pain and impaired mobility, but I was surprised, yea alarmed when the muscles in my hand and forearm started to uncontrollably spasm and twist into a claw-like flex. Dark thoughts of tetanus came to mind and at one less-than-lucid moment I wondered if I’d become mind-controlled by the Skeksis from Dark Crystal but good sense returned and I began to research for a solution to my manual woes. It turns out that the flexing and arching and “owwing” is a real thing – it’s known as a carpal spasm and can be brought on by overwork and/or the lack of sufficient calcium or magnesium in my diet. By limiting my time at the drawing board and knocking back an extra yogurt each day I’ve been able to curtail the attacks to a large extent.

…which is just as well.

Since my childhood there has been a dramatic increase in the use of hand gestures as part of human communication far beyond the sign language between cowboy and Commanche that I witnessed each week on television. Simple movements such as an index finger drawn sharply across a larynx (“killed”) or a hand cupped to an ear (“listening”) have been joined by American Sign Language for use by the deaf, gang signs adopted into general street use, and other communicative gestures borrowed from sports and military. The use of nonverbal communication has increased to the point that it is no longer safe to just idly wave your hands. For example while coming to grips with these carpal spasms I have:

  • Been slapped by a deaf lady for signing an indecent proposal
  • Accidentally called out  a gang member
  • …and I may have inadvertently flipped off ET

The one time I did try to respond to communicating via hand signals it turned out that the lady in question was just trying to dry her nail polish…which is why despite years of conditioning via the military I now walk about with my hands in my pockets.

1969 – or Brother of Friend of Son of Beowulf Junior

Continuing with the preview of my next book I am sharing the introduction of Chapter 1969:

There began to be an odd type of symmetry in current events:

 Spring brought a smile to young men all over the nation as President Nixon initiated “Vietnamization” of the conflict in Southeast Asia. Christmas brought mixed emotions to those same young men as the government replaced the draft with a Draft lottery eliminating deferments and spreading conscription on a more equitable basis across economic classes

  • New York teams managed to book-end the year by the Jets winning the Super Bowl and the Mets “losing last place” in the World Series
  • In July the crew of Apollo 11 rocketed to the Moon over the same weekend that Senator Kennedy dove back under the water three times to rescue Mary Jo Kopechne.
  • The following month the brutal murder of actress Sharon Tate & friends at the direction of Charles Manson in August came close to overwhelming three days of “fun and music” at Woodstock barely a week later

 Even if there hadn’t have been 250,000 people marching on Washington DC it was obvious that Dissatisfaction with the Vietnam conflict was continuing to build…which made Richard Nixon’s secret plan to pull the nation out of the conflict a major factor in his electoral victory over Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace in his election to president the previous fall.

 Local developments included:

  • A late-winter freak build-up of ice in the lower Kenai river caused flooding in lower-lying areas of Soldotna
  • The same dry conditions created Swanson River Kalifornsky beach road and several smaller fires along the highway to Anchorage. For the entire summer There was a yellow cast to the sunlight, and everyone smelled like bacon.
  • The Don’t Make Waves Committee (later Greenpeace) began protesting of nuclear testing in the Aleutian Islands
  • …and according to her account Hilary Clinton spent the summer in a fish cannery in Valdex

·       

 

 

Fans of The Art of David R. Deitrick

https://www.facebook.com/groups/323517331008113/

If it seems like I haven’t been writing as much it’s because I haven’t – I’ve been caught up with fulfilling orders for my Midnight Son Kickstarter campaign and have had little time for proper word-crunching. When I do knock something it out its usually short, and short work is usually put it up on my Facebook fan page.

The page’s proper title is Fans of the Art of David R. Deitrick and it was put together by my dear friend and sometime agent Scott Taylor of Art of the Genre. I know that there is a wide range of opinions when it comes to social media, with most of the distaste brought on by the vicious political infighting that has all but supplanted the usual cute cat and Here’s-What-I-Had-For-Dinner posts but the fan page very pointedly avoids political/contentious posts. I share these blog posts with the fan page, but there is a lot of shorter – and in some instances –“funner” things going on there.

I’m very hesitant to add friends to my regular Facebook page but I’m easy-going about the Fan site, again with the assumption that we’re there to have fun and not argue.

You’re more than welcome to join.

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.