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 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

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

Kickstarter Update 7: Superhero Support!

It looks like pledges have leveled off a bit but that’s to be expected at this point in time. We’re not quite halfway through the campaign and I know several people (most of them family members!) that still intend on making pledges so there are still good things to come.

You may have noticed that whenever the dollar amount reaches an odd number it will shortly round up to the next five-increment (as in 122 mysteriously becoming 125). Well, I’m here to tell you that we have a superhero in our midst, a would-be X-man named 5ive whose mutant power it to transform numerical totals to the afore-mentioned five-increment. He’s registered under his secret identity’s name but out of respect for his privacy I’m using his code-name.

…and I’m also sharing an image of him out of my sketch-book.

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,

d –

5ive

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.

An Indirect Route to Cartoons-ville

Conventions were never a big money-maker for us. When we’d go to cons as a family ini the 1990s we’d run a table in the dealers room in addition to hanging work in the art show – and between the two we would normally cover at least our expenses – and sometimes more. One notable exception was DRAGONCON 1993 when we went $500 in the hole even though I swept the art show in three-dimensional work.  However in spite that loss I was glad we went to the con because it was there I got to meet Duck Edwing.

Edwing worked for MAD magazine for 49 years, contributing his own cartoons as well as writing for Don Martin and Paul J. Coker. I loved his work and was fortunate enough to spend thirty minutes talking to him in the dealer’s room, but when we traded portfolios he got a little edgy when I started gushing over his work – I suspect that after seeing my polished cover illustrations Duck may have thought I was being condescending and it took most of that half-hour to convince him that I was sincere – I loved his cartoons because it was something I could not do.

Yes, you read correctly – I am not very good at cartoons. While it is true that the graphic nature of my work can often resemble a cartoonists’ style there is something about the economy of line and conceptual precision that I’ve never been able to master and I usually end up overworking any such attempt, but last week I decided to try again – not with cartoons per se, but with a cartoon style I’ve found in a line of toys.

In the mid 00’s superhero merchandizing was overcome with an epidemic of cuteness. Marvel came out with a line of whimsical versions of their heroes called Superhero Squad while DC came out with a similar line of figures in a tie-in with the animated series Batman: The Brave and The Bold. That connection along with a more stylized look had me favoring the DC figures over Marvel line and I was quite pleased when Mattel continued the line under the Action League banner.

A non-functioning knee has in effect exiled from my second-story studio for almost a month now so my creative work has been limited to drawing tools and designer’s markers. I was putting the finishing touches on a postcard for my granddaughter Heron when I happened to glance at one of the aforementioned DC figures sitting on a shelf next to my Big Papa Chair.

BINGO!

I ended up drawing three figures – and while I used existing figures for reference I drew characters that have NOT been manufactured as part of the toy line:

  • Adam Strange
  • Blackhawk
  • Blue Beetle

In each case I went “retro”: Adam Strange is wearing his original Murphy Anderson designed rocket suit, Blackhawk is wear the short-lived mid-60s red-jacketed uniform and Blue Beetle is my favorite Ted Kord incarnation…which I’ve subsequently discovered had actually been created but never actually released as a part of the Action League series. I don’t know if anything will ever come of these drawings, but it was a good exercise in developing a more stylized “cartoony” look without getting too cutesy.

2019-09-02 DC Action League 1

Walter Mitty as Starship Captain

Image

This image brings to mind a meme I saw on Facebook – the one about “Remember when you were younger and thought you were so fat only you wished you looked that way now?” Well, this is one of those pictures – it was 1985 and I was constantly dieting and working out, trying to shed that illusive last twenty pounds…

David R. Deitrick, Designer

Walter Mitty as Starship Captain

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I posed for the cover painting of “One Doomsday Deserves Another” so when I found this image earlier today I felt compelled to post it.

As mentioned Lori made the uniform and because I used it for several of the FASA Trek covers I was able to deduct the expenses involved as a business expense. It was a BIG deduction too – Lori is a reluctant seamstress but when she does sew, she does a professional job and expects to use professional materials. This was made of a very nice wool which made it drape nicely. It also happened to be the only cloth in this specific shade of red in the state of Utah – and it wasn’t cheap.

I got all the hardware at LA CON II – while this was long before Trek popularity peaked and props became affordable…

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One Week Down!

(…the latest update for my Kickstarter campaign)

It’s been a great first week in the campaign. We’re funded 201% which means the project is a go which means:

  1. a) I have to start planning for fulfillment
  2. b) I can start thinking about a second volume.

Once again I want to thank you for support – and also ask you continue to spread the word about Midnight Son both in person and on line. Advertising is effective to an extent but no communication is more effective or convincing than personal communication.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Thanks again.

 

david

Why I Write (Part Three)

“We’re not your classic heroes. We’re not the favorites.  We’re the other guys – the ones nobody bets on!”

The quote above is a line from the 1999 superhero comedy Mystery Men, a film which tells the story of the Shoveller, Mr. Furious and other lesser superheroes with unimpressive powers who are called on to save the day. It also happens to be one of my favorite films that I rank above other metahuman fare such as Tim Burton’s 1989 version of Batman and Paramount’s 2011 action flick Captain America: The First Avenger. I prefer Mystery Men because I can more readily relate to the everyday nature of the group, because it’s everyday people that I am interested in.

In my life I’ve seen a noticeable change in the quality of life and social mobility which has morphed our society into a very uncomfortable pyramid where the people at the top made a LOT more than the people at the bottom – or even the middle. I’ve heard countless debates over how that situation came about, but at the end of the day I’m pulling for the little guys; the people that do the actual work. It’s because of that preference that (in the words of my fellow paratrooper John Taylor) “I speak to the common man”. I’d much rather read about a lineman than a quarterback, a sergeant instead of a general and a paramedic over a surgeon.

I think there’s something special about stories from everyone’s life and that the “special” has as much to do with the way the story as the story itself. Midnight Son is basically a collection of vignettes from the life of a lonely boy coping with the vagaries of childhood set against changing locales and living conditions – it’s only through the addition of pacing, description, and a sense of both humor and drama that changes “What I Did at Summer Camp” to “Billy and the Bear”. It is my hope that as you read my stories you’ll think about your own experiences in the same way.

Why I Write (Part Two)

I always thought actress Marilu Henner to be something special, but prior to December 19th 2010 my opinion had more to do with her role as Elaine in late Seventies sitcom TAXI, but on the episode of 60 Minutes that night Ms. Henner revealed that she had hyperthymesia or total recall memory and can remember details from every day of her life. That announcement had me sit up and notice because my memory is fairly close to that level of recall – it may not be total comprehensive details of every single day that come to mind but I can come pretty close when I stop and concentrate.

I call it my razor/laser memory and it’s a trait that runs in my mother’s family, through my sisters and me, and on to my children. Like most talents can have either a positive or negative factor in life: It’s endearing that my younger sister can still remember the army card that I swiped from her hand that made it possible for me to win our marathon RISK game on the evening of March 22d 1970, but when that razor/laser prevents a person from “forgiving and forgetting” it can be quite devastating.

Unfortunately the “rememberee” that gets a false impression or skewed perception is in for real trouble because those mistaken memories can just as persistent as was the case when I spent fifty years trying to correct my mother’s take on a cheating incident I was accused of in sixth grade. Faulty perceptions are a major hazard because a person’s frame of reference can change so many times, especially in youth and adolescence and with family members as individualistic as mine total agreement on past events is a rare thing.

…so what does this have to do with my writing? I was in my mid-forties before I learned that not everyone had the same pretty-close-to-total recall when I happened to speak about a sketchy incident from school that an old friend had thought (hoped?) to be forgotten. Fortunately the vast majority of people that I share these memories respond in positive manner in much the same manner they’d react if I’d pulled out a photo album, especially when I stress that what I remember was influenced by my perceptions at the time.

Writing was the next logical step – I’ve always been a fan of what they now call “non-fiction creative writing” as penned by the likes of Tom Bodett, Bob Green, Garrison Keillor and Jean Shephard and I was an early fan of observational comics like Robert Klein and Dave Steinberg so it is no surprise that I took this path when I started seriously word-crunching again.

(more to follow)