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.

 

 

 

 

1986: Road to Moscow

Road to Moscow Art

As I’ve written before when I first started free-lancing  I was just as interested in historical work as science fiction and fantasy, but you go to where the money goes…and as clients tend to order what they see in your portfolio I ended up specializing in genre work. I can’t complain – I could have ended up stranded in romance novels…

Most of my military work happened early on which made this project a real treat when it came about in 11986. It’s a good example of my work at the time, though it would have been nice had it not been so abruptly cropped – the original is almost twice the size and contains a Russian BT7 tank and the barrel to the Panzergrenadier’s submachine gun.

Airbrush, paint & colored pencil on  12″X16″ hot-press water-color board

My Personal Board of Directors: Charles R. Marriott

One of the best moves I made on the 17th of October 1972 – the day I decided to start keeping a journal, and though I’d had several false starts during high school I’ve been able to keep writing ever since that day forty-seven years ago. I started out using a blank book, then switched to typewritten pages during my bicycle penance and eventually made the jump to digital media in 1986. At one time I would write at least weekly but since I started blogging I add to my journal maybe once a quarter. I’ve never begrudged the time and effort in all that writing, my only regret being that I didn’t start and continue when I first got the idea in the fall of 1969; had I done so I would have had more information with which to write about Charles Rodney Marriott.

Thought I only knew him for nine months, Marriott definitely holds a seat in my personal Board of Directors, and by that I mean that group of adult men who advised and coached me through the rough spots and junctures in life and in general made up for the lack of guidance from my own family. I shy away from the word “mentor” as the only Mentor I knew of was a member of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents – a Tower Comics character of minor interest, being one of the second string of heroes ignored in favor of everyone’s favorite Dynamo. I learned the meaning of the word when I reached college but the definition was confusing – the idea of someone actually taking time with me was utterly foreign. It was also a word used overmuch and without a lot of real thought by people that I should have been able to trust, so I’ve adopted the “board of directors” to use instead.

Charles Rodney Marriott was a former Marine hired as an English instructor at Kenai Central High School in the fall of 1969, having served for thirty years and retiring as a warrant officer after having served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. As a service brat I was happy to have him as an instructor but looking back it was an unusual choice on the part of the school district given the unrest over the war in Vietnam and changes in society in general.

It was a time for interesting changes in our own little academic world as well: that fall the English classes were radically re-organized for sophomores, juniors and seniors. Instead of taking one class from one teacher for the entire school year students were to enroll in a different module every nine weeks. There were some guidelines – you had to take a set number of classes in three categories (literature, composition and oral skills) but other than that, students were free to put together their own program. Marriott was my instructor for two classes: Newspapers & Magazines during the second nine week grading period and Motion Pictures for the fourth.

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the Newspapers & Magazines class other than we each would be getting copies of Time magazine and the New York Times national edition each week. I assumed that we’d just be reading articles and making reports on what we read so I was surprised when he showed up for the first class pushing a film projector into the classroom. We then spent the next week watching movies about the production and dissemination of propaganda. The films were ‘50s era productions made by the Department of Defense to counter Communist propaganda but despite the hyperbole they were effective in teaching us about propaganda techniques such as “Glittering Generalities”, “Jumping on The Bandwagon” and “Poisoning the Well” that are found in propaganda from both sides of the political spectrum – but I was truly baffled when the films stopped as I had no idea what we’d be doing for the other eight weeks of the grading period.

That’s when we went back to those issues of Time and the New York Times; we took the propaganda techniques we learned about in the films and tried to find examples in the news stories…and were collectively horrified to find those tricks and techniques in all the stories. We expanded our search to other publications and found that the pattern continued, and Mr. Marriott would have us discuss what we found while managing to stay fairly objective about what we found.

It was at this point in my life that I stopped taking news reports at face value and started to analyze each message as best I could as a sixteen year old from Sterling, Alaska. Even now I mentally filter every new story I watch or read through those analytical tools, tools that eventually got me starting to seriously think about intelligence and security careers in the military.

(OK, OK so it really all started with Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuriyakin from The Man from UNCLE but Marriott’s class was a BIG plus!.)

As he was one of a team teaching the Motions Pictures class took from him later in the spring he didn’t have quite the same impact but he still would take time to talk to me personally about my life and my future plans involving military service – I think my status as a Navy service brat made it a little easier for him to be candid with me. Unfortunately a low grade classroom scandal about R-rated cartoons a student drew on a chalkboard prevented him from gaining tenure and he left KCHS rather precipitously after just one year, not even leaving a photo in the yearbook at his departure.

I saw him just one more time when he stopped by the locker room during two-a-day football practice the following August and for the next almost-50 years I had no idea what happened to him until I started research for this post. It turned out that he married Ruth Kilcher (pop star Jewel’s grandmother) and ended up living less than twenty miles from me when we lived in Knoxville until he passed away in 2005. Finding that out was a little tough to deal with, knowing that as I was teaching my teen-age sons about analyzing news stories for propaganda techniques the guy that taught me literally lived just over the river and through the woods. I would have loved introducing my sons to him.

…and I hope that as he read those local newspapers, magazines and watched local TV coverage he may have seen the stories that were written about our “family of artists”. I hope he was able to connect the dots and figure out who I was, and able to feel a measure of pride and credit for the contribution he made in my life.

     (Special Thanks to Glenn Tauriainen for assistance in research for this story)

Northway Mall Office “Plug”

NorthwayMallChugach

This illustration may have been the first assignment I received from the Anchorage advertising firm Murray, Bradley and Rocky. After I ran the ARCO illustration on the 22nd I got to thinking, which got me to rooting around what tear-sheets and records I still have from that time – and this is what I came up with. I know that I did it in late 1980 but so much was going at the time I can’t be sure which one happened first

…and my records are so spotty. For years I kept meticulous records, hauling at least two (and sometimes more) full file cabinets everywhere we went but after thirty-nine years and seven moves I’ve lost a lot of stuff. It’s the kind of illustration you’d see now only in a specialty publication or used to establish a nostalgic theme and would now be done in Photoshop or purchased from one of the numerous photo houses that flood the Internet.

It’s also of a time before internet commerce lead to the proliferation of ‘dead malls”. While Northway Mall was headed in that direction long before the rise of the Internet, when this advertisement first ran it was the one nicest shopping centers in Anchorage, anchored at each end and the middle with major retailers like Safeway and Pay-n-Save.

…though we were more interested in the Waldenbooks, gaming arcade and Art’s Video Mart stores where a good portion of my lieutenant’s pay was squandered on the 1st and 15th of every month….

Space 1889: Tales of The Ether

1889TalesEther

While I was heavily involved with Space:1889 the bulk of my work involved conceptual design rather than cover paintings, so when I did get a cover it was a real treat.  One bit of trivia – I used myself as a model for the erstwhile Naval Landing Brigade lieutenant, which was kind of neat as at the time I was serving in the U.S.Navy Reserve as a Restricted Line (Intelligence) officer….with the rank of lieutenant!

Technical notes: Acrylic on 16″X24″ Masonite panel. It was my first cover painting rendered without the use of an airbrush. It was pretty much a Christmas vacation produced in Sterling over the late December ’88 /early January ’89 time frame and shown at BOSKONE a month or two before print.

As an ardent Gerry Anderson fan I had to wince a bit at the use of ‘Space: 1889” as a title for the game series – I was never sure what the intent was in the play off the title of Sir Gerry’s Space: 1999 program.

Mayday Cover Art

Mayday

I produced this illustration in and around the kiddie Traveller box art, with both projects getting sent to press just prior to my deployment via C-130 for JRX BRIM FROST 1983. I was glad to have the work but more than a little stressed as I was responsible for both getting the battalion ready to go as well as the running the airfield control group for the entire exercise once we got to the area of operations.

I also wondered why GDW was opting for a second cover so soon after the first printing. Say what you want about style but the original cover art by Rodger MacGowan is definitely an iconic piece in the Traveller mythos.

I have no idea where the original art ended up but I do remember it as measuring about 18″X24″ and was rendered with airbrush, colored pencil, marker and marbilized enamel on cold-press illustration board.

An Old Favorite…

CobraUpdate

As a bullet-proof twenty-six-year-old it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t continue on flight status throughout my entire career so the transition from UH-1 helicopter to M35A2 truck was a little rough. It took almost as long to adjust to the grounding as it took me to work through the loss of my father twenty-three years later, but my grounding would have been much more difficult had there not been some powerful compensations in play

One such compensation was working at the U.S. Army Aviation Digest. Shortly after arriving at FT Rucker I had made contact with the editor Dick and made arrangements to contribute – I knew that I’d eventually end up in the illustration market it seemed prudent to round out my student portfolio with actual printed work. When I was grounded I was able to wangle a staff assignment there which was infinitely better than being assigned to hand out socks at the gym.

The experience and printed work I gained at the Digest was the compensation I needed to help me cope with my vocational loss. Out of the dozen or so pieces I did there this illustration for an article on the AH1 Cobra Up-date program was my favorite. The original is much nicer looking than this printed version – the range of blues and greys just wasn’t reproduced adequately by the two-color system the digest used. The fact that the original hangs in our sitting room is a minor miracle; the Byzantine network of regulations governing pay and compensation for commissioned officers is such that any work I created for the magazine technically belonged to the Army, but as the editor was lecturing me on that matter the staff designer whisked the original out of the office and into my car.

Technical Notes: 21”X28”   Airbrush, pen and Prismacolor pencil on illustration board

Note: There is a significant technical error with this work of art that I was totally oblivious to before a friend and long-time gunship pilot pointed it out to me.

Feel free to comment.

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.

Bladeship Model

bladeship

I designed the bladeship to be Starfleet’s primary Special Operations support vessel – a concept that kicked off a short but brisk discussion that recently spread across WordPress and Facebook.  Essentially an SR-71, an AC-130 and a submarine rolled into one ship, the bladeship was central to an (unfortunately) unpublished special operations supplement I wrote for FASA’s Star Trek role-playing game back in the day. The fact that at the time I was also serving as the battalion S2 (intelligence) for the 1st battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (ABN) UTARNG was most definitely a factor in the whole project

The aforementioned discussion got me thinking about all the work that went into the project and how it could be of enough interest to support a couple of posts. Unfortunately, I started the original bladeship project thirty-four years and seven houses ago, and as I learned in the army “three moves equal one fire” …so I’ve essentially been burned out twice since 1985.

I still have  some “stuff” left, including this Styrene and Bondo ® model built in scale to the original AMT USS Enterprise model. As I think about this I’m pretty sure I’ve already written a post or two  about the bladeship but A) it’s been awhile and B) the pertinent files have proved to be elusive.