|A Mirror into Ken's Past -- 1976|
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Sidney (Makar) and I had become good friends despite a myriad of differences.
Sometime in the spring or summer, Sid and I went out and bought 10-speed bikes. This was great for getting around in Anchorage, as there are a lot of bike trails (in the winter they're usually used by cross-country skiers), including bridges and tunnels to get over/under a lot of the main streets. They were maintained well. We used to just go out and ride. I really enjoyed that.
That summer I saw a lot of Chuck (Hart). As noted previously, he was one of those folk who had to stay busy, even if it was odd things. I remember one phone call on a Friday or Saturday evening, where he decided we should drive out to Thunderbird Falls and watch the sunrise. This was Anchorage in the summer -- Sunrise was something like four in the morning. The phone call was around eleven at night. The sun hadn't really gone down yet. He came over and got me. We drove over to John's (McKay) house (he was back from College), woke him up by driving right up to the window at his house and shone the headlights through (he had a basement bedroom). He came out and asked what the F*CK we wanted, and when we told him, he grabbed some things, including some munchies, and hopped into the car and we took off. That was a strange but fun evening. And it's not something at the age of 44 I'd probably try, but at the age of 19, it was a riot.
I think that summer Chuck had a job as a cook for some railroad workers. This meant he was working down the Seward highway some gawdawful way, but it was a job that was something like a week on and a week off, or maybe larger amounts (two or three weeks on, etc.). I ended up driving him to his job, then driving his car back to Anchorage, and had the use of it when he wasn't in town. That was pretty cool.
There was also a point where I was invited to Chuck's parent's cabin down across the Katchimak (sp?) Bay from Homer. There's a man-made spit (McDonald Spit) across the bay that goes out into the water, and is big enough to have several cabins on it. We took their boat across the bay in some nice choppy water -- I think Chuck's dad was waiting for me to get sea-sick -- I surprised him by enjoying the ride. We had a great weekend out there. I spent some time at the end of the spit at one point, under a tree with an eagle's nest (found a couple of nice feathers!) and watched some dolphins frolicing in the bay. It's too bad I didn't bring a camera. That afternoon someone dropped off a bucket of live crabs which Chuck cooked up for dinner. I discovered I was quite squeamish about gutting crabs and let Chuck do it ... The next morning we had the rest of the crab meat in some omlets. His father's taste was pretty plebian -- he didn't notice the crab meat, and said to Chuck (something like) "It would be kind of nice to have crab meat omlets, wouldn't it?". Chuck was rather annoyed at that, as you can imagine. It was a really good weekend, even though I wasn't all that comfortable around Chuck's parents.
To be fair, Chuck's parents were really nice people. At this point I didn't know them well. At one point when our folk group had gotten together (see below), we were allowed to rehearse at their home, and I remember his parents waltzing to pretty much anything we sang. It was kind of fun ...
I also remember a point after John had gone to Russia for vacation that when he came back we had a "borscht" party at his place. His parents were pretty cool about it, and let us take over the kitchen, the works. Nancy made black bread (she was a good baker). John made the borscht using a recipe he got while in Russia -- basically the recipe was to take some beets, take a soup bone, and then all the vegetables you have in your refrigerator, and chop all the vegies up. Cook until done. Fill a bowl with borscht, add a "dollop" of sour cream, and a pinch of dill, serve. It was pretty darn good. Being philistines (actually none of us drank alcohol at this point, at least not really), we had Dr. Pepper with it. We didn't care. We watched "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming" -- a really silly movie which was on TV that evening. (The movie being scheduled for that evening was probably the reason John decided to have that particular party ... this was before people had VCRs.) Then we cleaned up and went downstairs to John's room, and sat around telling puns all night. When his parents came back from whatever they were doing, and found out we were punning downstairs they ran away (well, upstairs) screaming. Pretty cool as parents go.
My diary got really weird. I'm not even going to try to quote from it. Suffice it to say I was trying to "discover myself" and doing it badly ... <Grin> I suppose that's a process we all go through in one way or another. Unfortunately I wrote it down, and it's painful to read sometimes because much of it seems so trite.
Sidney and I worked at a couple of jobs together in here. We worked at Dairy Queen (in the first half or so of the year -- it was a few miles from the house ... when we could we rode our bikes). And we worked at Fred Meyers in the warehouse from sometime in the late summer through to the winter. "Freddies" was great because it was 2+ blocks from our house. Even in winter it was easy to get to work.
Weird and not all that pleasant memory from working at Dairy Queen:
Sidney and I were both assistant managers. We had an odd variety of folk working there, which you would expect from any fast-food place. There were this one couple -- he was in the Air Force, and she was married to him. She was annoyed, frustrated, or whatever at the fact that this couple of puppies (which in a way we were) and goofballs (which we really were) were managers, and she wasn't, and complained to the manager/owner of the store.
John - the manager - (not John McKay), talked with us, and we were cool -- she was given a day to do the job as an assistant manager and see what it was like. This was done on a day that Sid had off, or was coming in later than I was, or something, because he wasn't there when it all came down.
NONE of us knew she was pregnant (perhaps her husband did, but he was out at the Air Force base), which is important.
She decided if she was going to do this, she'd do everything that Sid and I did. This included mopping (not an easy chore), and doing such really fun things as hauling cases of syrup upstairs from the storage area downstairs. I offered to do that for her, because those things are freaking heavy, but she refused -- she was going to do everything that we did.
She got ill after hauling a case of syrup upstairs. We sent her home ... what we didn't know was that she miscarried because of doing this.
Later that afternoon/early evening, her husband came storming into the restaurant and demanded to talk to me downstairs in the office. So, we went downstairs. He then accused me of causing her miscarriage. He got in my face and tried to start a fight. Seriously. (By military law, if I threw the first punch, he would have been justified in beating me to a bloody pulp!)
I yelled back, tried to explain that it was all her idea, and I didn't make her do anything, that I'd volunteered to haul that case of syrup upstairs, etc. He wasn't listening.
I stormed out of the building, slamming the door so hard the walls shook. I walked home the 2 or 3 miles (or whatever the distance was), down Northern Lights avenue in a really foul mood. I recall that I walked through a small street gang and didn't even notice, and I remember them getting out of my way. Small satisfaction there, but ... <g>.
The only thing that was really going through my mind at that point was that I wanted to kill that son of a bitch. Seriously. Now -- please note that I have never been a violent guy. I wouldn't have had any idea where to start on such a proposition. I did have a small hunting knife, and that's all that was going through my head. I was going to get that and go back to the Dairy Queen. I doubt that even if I had left the apartment with it that I would have done anything -- heck, I probably would've gotten seriously hurt in a fight ...
I was storming around in the apartment, the knife was out, but still in it's sheath. Somewhere in here Sidney, Nancy, Anna, and at least one other person rushed into the apartment having heard what happened from the folk at the Dairy Queen. They managed to calm me down, I think partially because I freaked out Nancy and Anna so bad that they were crying.
Awhile later, the manager of the DQ came over, and he wanted to hear my side of the story, having heard it from the husband ...
He went back and tore the guy a new one. John told him that if he didn't apologize to me for this, that he was fired. So, even later, I had a visit from this guy. I remember him apologizing, on his knees in front of me, crying ... it was pretty weird. He basically told me that he always believed his wife blindly, and had gotten himself into trouble before because of it, and so on. It was really hard to stay mad at that point.
The whole point of this is that I really scared not only some of my friends, but myself. This was the first time I'd ever had that kind of a rage hit me, and to the best of my knowledge, it's never happened since. I've gotten angry since, but nothing like that. I realized I was seeing an attribute of my father in myself that I really didn't like, and I vowed that I would try to avoid it if at all possible. I think I have over the years.
There were some points here where we weren't working. My mother was great, though, in that she would quietly raid the kitchen and bring us bags of groceries. Every so often we'd get up in the morning and find a couple bags. Sid would call out "You're mom's been here! We can eat!" It was usually an interesting mix of food, but you can get pretty creative when you're hungry. She did this because when I left home, dad swore I would never get any help from him for anything, so she was quiet about it, and dad never knew. I think we paid rent because we were always able to scrape enough together (unemployment insurance, among other things). Rent wasn't horrible at the time.
Some of the folk in our group of friends (Nancy, et al) went off to College that fall.
I knew Sid smoked pot, and was willing to deal with that. (Actually, when he was really stoned he was a lot of fun to mess with, but there's no need to get into that here.) He also smoked cigarettes. What threw me was I heard some odd noises from his room one night -- he was having an acid (LSD) flashback, and was freaked out. Somehow I figured out that the best thing to do was to just calmly and quietly talk to him, and slowly talk him down so he could sleep it off. That was a strange experience ... and it also made me really realize just how bad an idea getting involved in drugs was. I really avoided drugs from that point on. Before this, I'd not been interested in drugs, now I was actively disinterested.
In October Barbara and I started a folk group that included Greg (he became our leader because he had ideas of what to do, and honestly was a much better musician than either of us). Sid and his girlfriend Sam (short for Samantha -- a lovely girl, long black hair ...) hung out and listened, and Chuck Hart as our manager (as it were). Eventually we added Jane Jonas (my ex-girlfriend). She had a helluva singing voice, and was still a lot of fun. It was a bit weird around the edges at first having her there, but it worked.
We were pretty good as amateur folk groups go. We had three guitars -- Jane, Greg and myself. Greg also played mandolin, mouth harp ... all of us sang. We did a range of stuff from sea-chanties to folk and pop (Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle, and so on). After a couple of tries at names (including the short lived "Alaskan Jam"), Greg came up with "Songbrook", and that's what we used for our short career.
Shortly after we started we went to a poetry reading/open-mike night. That was where I first heard of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) -- people who would later be Baron Hugh McGlammoraga, Sir Ragnar Blackspruce, and others, were talking about it as their "performance". I didn't actually get involved in the SCA until the next summer (1977) ...
My father had some microphones, stands and a pre-amplifier that he used to use for recording church choir stuff. Somehow or other I was allowed to borrow these. That was kinda weird. I bought a small pickup for my guitar that I could plug into the amplifier.
Chuck got us a couple of paying gigs for Christmas -- one for his father's company (one of the big lumber and tool companies in town) and the other for the Lion's Club. Except for the open-mike night mentioned above, those were our only performances and definitely our only paid performances (I think we got a total of $200 for the two shows, which were done back to back the same evening). The first performance was not great because we were hooked into the sound system at the hotel and it was horrid (not because of our performance, but the sound quality). But the folk there were polite. Our second show (for the Lion's Club) was really good. Chuck took the instruments and the music stands, and had everything set up, and then we came in doing an acapella sea chanty, people who were still eating dinner dropped their forks. We got a standing ovation when we were done, which was one of the coolest feelings in the world. After that show we went back to the other location, because the band that was playing later invited us to come back and hang out (this was a local rock band called "Forest" -- they were quite good). We found out after we came back and chatted a bit that if we'd talked to them before our show (which they enjoyed!!) we could have borrowed their sound system ... oh well. I have NO photos of Songbrook, which somehow figures.
My parents wanted to do a family portrait (see photos below). I was trying out contact lenses (hard lenses -- I gave up ... they irritated my eyes too much). So somewhere in here we did that. It was a bit awkward as you might imagine, and I think this is really something mom wanted more than dad.
Sidney broke up with Sam toward the end of the year here, or perhaps early in 1977, and started seeing Jane (that was really weird for me). I had a couple of one-nighters in there with some girls that I honestly don't remember well, but no real relationships happened.
One day during the Christmas season I was wandering through the Northern Lights Mall, and Greg and I met up totally by accident (he didn't live anywhere near us). We wandered into the record store (one of my favorite haunts) and discovered a new-age jazz group called Oregon (which features an oboe among other things). A few days later he presented me with this poem:
You walk down the street
Stare down the faces that you meet
Faces meant today for Christmas Dawn
And you stop to wonder why
as the folks continue by
how the love is washed asunder
and is gone ...
So you walk a little taller
thinking of the people that are gone.
And you ride on down the street
with your life around your feet
Staring at the cold out on the street.
Oh the cold out on the street
With the people that you meet
And all around you greet
The cold out on the street.
So your heart it takes you home
With all warmth that you know
Where the time falls around
you like the snow.
And you warm your soul
with the silence only home would know,
With the sound of an oboe
on the stereo ...
Okay, maybe not the best poetry in the world, but it spoke to us both at the time.
My diary skips a lot of stuff, and it looks like there's not much else of importance in there ...
I think during this year it was largely the same crowd. I cannot remember anyone I didn't talk about in the "1975" page ...
A Few Photos
(These are thumbnails, click on them to see larger versions with text explaining them)
At the Airport
At the Airport
Ken (me) and Sidney
Honkey and Stomper
The 'Dark Side'
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