Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Old School Ink

For my latest run of five-board benches I'm using some classic Sailor Jerry tattoo flash for the design work.  I render them in color pencil and seal them in with spar varnish.

I was in the Navy so don't bust my chops about the design.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Staying humble

I'm a Ranger at a National Park, and I give tours and talks explaining the historic event that occurred here and why it remains significant to us nearly a century and a half later.

I really enjoy what I do and I'm good at it;  though I find it never pays to take yourself too seriously.

One afternoon, a couple of years ago I was giving the two-hour battlefield tour and everything was really clicking.   The weather was beautiful, I had a big energetic crowd, they were asking great questions and I was really on a roll.

As their enthusiasm and interest continued to increase, my energy level also began to build, before you knew it, I was giving one of the best talks of that summer.

And man-oh-man did my audience respond.

They were getting more into it and excited by the minute.

It seemed that everyone was taking pictures of me...

lots of enthusiastic pointing...

and smiles all around.  People were really, really, into what I was telling them.

As I wrapped up that part of the tour and headed back to my van to lead them to the next stop, one of the visitors tapped me on the shoulder and asked...

"Did you know that there was a butterfly on your hat for much of the time you were talking to us?"

Humility is a lesson learned daily at your National Parks.



Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wipeout! my Guamanian bicycle adventure

Bicycling on Guam in 1971 was one of the many pleasures of being stationed on that beautiful island. 

 One day, after watch, I set out for the beach that was near the Naval Communications Station.  It was at the foot of a long and winding steep road.  It was fun to coast down that road, gaining great speed only to plunge into the surf at road's end.  I'd done this once before.

Guam is rich in culture and history,

A. the mysterious latte stones, left from earlier cultures on the island, or

B.  The  remaining Japanese holdout who wasn't captured until 1972, the island was, and remains, one of wonder.

C.  I was pedaling, then coasting, then careening down the coral-surfaced road toward...

D. NCS Beach.

E.  Needless to say I was making great headway.  According to the cigar I was using as an air-speed indicator I was going about thirty-five miles per hour, when, quite unexpectedly, I hit...

F.  some minuscule discontinuity in the road surface which turned the bike into a catapult, sending me hurtling over the handlebars and onto the abrasive coral road surface still at a great rate of speed as the bicycle crashed, rolled, bumped, and clattered down hill with me.

I ended up heaped in a ditch as the bike landed on top of me.  I've no idea how long I was in that position, when I heard an approaching car.

A very nice Chamorro lady, driving by, stopped to give me some water and to summon an ambulance from the base.  Within thirty minutes I was at the base dispensary, quite dazed, having a hospital corpsman removing the coral particles from my bleeding road-rashed arms with a laundry scrub brush.

Although the bike was totaled, I was back to work at my regularly scheduled time, arm in a sling for about three weeks.

And that's what I did in the war children.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Have I ever told you about the time I got hit by a car?

It was 1974, I'd been out of the US Navy a scant three months and I was happily enrolled at Delta College outside of Bay City Michigan, collecting my GI Bill college education and having a blast finally being a college kid (after a four-year delay).  

I was the head cartoonist on the student newspaper the Delta Collegiate and everything was going swimmingly.  I was the sage veteran, finally out of the disciplined life of the military and enjoying the company of many fun people, including some really cute girls.

One October night the Collegiate crew decided  to head out to a nearby pizza and beer joint for an evening of fun.  What a treat!  The evening was to take quite an unexpected turn however.

(The staff of the Collegiate.  That's my sister Francie at left with her feet up on the desk.  The beautiful Marsha Ross is at top third from right - I had a crush on her.  I'm represented by a sketch, at right, that was done from my hospital bed.   Hmmmm.   Finally that's me a few months later, lower left, wearing my "spare" glasses.)

This tribe of nearly twenty jolly jokers had just begun the evening, parking across a busy street from the pizza-joint in question.  It was dark, and had been raining.  As we crossed the rain-slicked pavement in a pack little did we, or I, know that a motorist was about to intersect our path.

The motorist in question was a young guy with a clean driving record, and was completely sober.  As he rounded the bend of the blind curve he was presented with the sight of a gaggle of collegians mere feet from his front bumper.  With fate casting its ironic smile upon me, I was the one selected for stardom that memorable evening.

I lost consciousness seconds prior to becoming this airborne.

Later, the police report revealed some fascinating details:

[official photo, Bay County Sheriff's Department]

My glasses and boot were found two days later in a cornfield and returned to the custody of my mother.

From the point of impact, I was able to actually fly, if only for a moment, a distance of 37 feet.  Considering I was unaided by wings, I think that my flight compares very favorably with the 1903 maiden flight of the Wright Flyer which stayed airborne for 120 feet.

My sister got her wrist broken in that same accident, not by being hit by the car, but by the impact of me as I collided with her upon my takeoff to the stars.

Mercifully, I was never able to recall any of this event.  Its all a total blank, save for the vague memory of a very deep pain and someone resting my head upon a spare tire or something.

The result?  A broken pelvis, a broken collarbone, a severe laceration to my left upper thigh (still somewhat misshapen), a concussion, and abrasions too numerous to remember, let alone mention.

I was in the hospital for seventeen days learning about numbness, anxiety, and boredom.

Eventually, I healed, unlike my poor glasses. 

A month later, I limped back in to the office of the Collegiate, too behind in my classwork to continue on that session.  As years went by I finally stopped freezing up at the thought crossing busy streets,  I graduated from college, and I became the superhero that that guards over all of you today.

Sleep well...

and look both ways before crossing streets.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Have I ever told you about my cat?

Actually, it's not my cat.  It's a feral cat that cruises the neighborhood and usually stops by my place a couple times a week and stares at me through my French doors.

 It's a prostitute feral cat.  On its first visit, two years ago, it let me pet it in exchange for a piece of salmon patty.  Over the months I've developed a good enough of a relationship to get "freebies" though an occasional slice of pepperoni helps to keep things on a business standing.

I'm also good friends with a catbird...do you see the conflict coming?

The catbird has its own view of how I should be interacting with the cat.

And the cat has it's own unique perspective -

I'm just the poor guy in the middle trying to get everyone to get along.

The baseball bat's not real, by the way.  It exists in the bird's imagination.  What I'm actually holding is an umbrella, a la Neville Chamberlain.

Still hoping to achieve "peace in our time",