|A Mirror into Ken's Past -- 1978|
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Here I was in College at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, having wiped myself out in my first semester, but had a great time doing it, despite everything.
To start off with I changed my major from Music to Theatre. What a difference that made. I was having fun! Unfortunately (this will become more clear I hope as I go) I wasn't really planning things well, and definitely wasn't doing a really balanced class schedule. I was taking fun classes, including a lot of theatre classes, but not really balancing it out with the other ones I needed. I don't have a full transcript available to look at, but ...
I got cast in the first show of the semester in the theatre department in the only romantic lead role I've ever had: Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Granted that in any Shakesperean comedy half or more of the cast are romantic leads in some fashion ... but it was great fun. Unfortunately we only had a month to do the show in, when normal productions got six weeks at he University. This meant rehearsing until well after midnight. Having eight o'clock classes didn't help. I discovered caffeine -- I had never been a coffee drinker until this point. I drank coffee for breakfast, and sometimes with no-doze tablets. I drank coffee for lunch, and usually no-doze tablets. I had dinner with coffee and no-doze tablets. What, me, wired? That was rough. I've been a bit of a coffee junkee since. I suppose one could have worse addictions, although I've toned it down to two cups in the morning, and rarely more in any one day. I honestly don't feel I'm a true "addict", either. I can go without coffee, no headaches, etc. I just have gotten into the habit.
During the time we were rehearsing for this show, I proposed marriage to Courtney. She accepted. We were both delerious, except for her jealousy over the girl who was my counterpart in Midsummer. Oh well, can't have everything. (I mean, shoot, we hugged and kissed a couple of times in character ... that was all it amounted to, although I will say that Paula was cute ...)
While a tough show to do, it went pretty well. I remember the cheesy chiton, half-cloak, and yarn tied around my feet and ankles to simulate sandals. (This was before we had a really good costumer in charge of the costume shop.) I have a poster from the show, I think, but no pictures.
After the Saturday night performance of the first weekend having done a month of rehearsals like that, and trying to keep my grades up, I crashed hard. I think I slept until about 8 in the evening on Sunday. I don't normally sleep like that!
It was a fun semester in a variety of ways. Example: Greg and I were in the makeup class, and had a riot with it. I was taking fencing which I loved. I never got really great at it, but I sure enjoyed it. The makeup class was after the fencing class, so I had to rush back to the dorm, change, clean up as quick as possible, and head off to the theatre with the makeup kit. For that class I trimmed my beard back to just the goatee. Greg and I messed with people ... we sometimes went to dinner in makeup. The weirdest one was when we were doing beards. Most of the folk in the class did a thin (emaciated) face, with a goatee style beard. I already had that look. So, we went the other direction with mine. We overlaid the goatee with crepe hair and put a huge beard on me, then did "fat face" makeup -- and with my still pretty thin body, it looked truly odd. When Greg and I went to the commons for dinner that evening people moved away from us ... we loved that!
Summer/Back to Anchorage
The company Courtney worked for had a job for her in Anchorage for the summer. What a pain. I hate moving, always have. Shortly after we got there, Courtney got fired for reasons I cannot recall.
I couldn't find a job because a lot of companies don't like hiring College Students (for good reason -- you get them all really settled into the job, and they leave to go back to school ...).
We applied for unemployment and welfare. We got both. This was the only time I've ever been on foodstamps, and I sure hope the last. It was too weird for words. (I don't want this to sound like I look down on folk who need welfare, if anything I sympathize. I just don't want to ever find myself in that position again.)
Friends came by and helped out. This is the summer I met Greg's friend Dan and his girlfriend (who's name escapes me -- Shelly?), Dion, and some others. Chuck Hart came by a lot, and helped out. We managed to survive because of these friends. My old friend John McKay graduated from College that year. Figures. Chuck put a jar on the shelf and told friends to drop spare change in there to help us out. That was very sweet. I remember a time when he came by and decided to make dinner for us. He rummaged around in the kitchen, and to this day I have no idea how he did this, because he didn't bring anything with him, but he made a great split-pea soup (I didn't even know we had split peas!); dinner rolls; and cinnamon rolls for dessert (I didn't know we had yeast, either).
We planned on getting married in late August, just before school started, and we couldn't afford rings.
We managed to get through the summer, it was long haul. Courtney went back to Fairbanks ahead of me by a week, and I stayed to clean the apartment out. Somewhere in the spring semester Courtney had gotten me over a fear of the University's computer system, and showed me that the UACN (University of Alaska Computer Network) was a good thing. I am not sure "fear" is the right word, perhaps a strong distaste. My only experience with anything like a computer to that point had been the programmable calculators my father worked with, and having spent too much time around those (including typing in some of dad's assembly code programs for him), I really didn't like them much. I had no idea how much working with the UACN computer was going to influence my life later on. The mail system, which was quite good, made it possible for us to keep in touch during the separation while she was in Fairbanks and I was in Anchorage.
As a side note, I credit the UACN Email system for my typing speed these days. I had friends, some of whom I don't think I ever met face-to-face, all over Alaska that I held long email conversations with. Basically I would get into a run of messages, and while typing my terminal would beep, and a ** MAIL WAITING ** message would appear. In the middle of a reply to one message I might have 4 or 5 others appear. In order to keep up, my typing speed really picked up. I had a lot of fun in those email sessions.
It's interesting flipping through the diary. I wrote a lot in the weeks before the wedding, didn't say anything about the wedding itself, and then there are entries for the summer a year later. Guess I'll have to do some stuff by memory (oh no!).
I haven't talked about my future in-laws yet ... Courtney's mother Andrea Helms was a "force" on the University Campus. To give you an idea of this woman's personality, this is her past as related to me by Courtney: she was married, and got pregnant with Courtney. Her husband freaked, and left. Unfortunately he was her support -- she wasn't working. She moved in with her mother. She then went to school and managed in about four years to go from a high school diploma to getting her Bachelor's, Master's and PHD degrees in Political Science. Talk about a force of nature. She was on several high power committees on campus in Fairbanks, and so on. I was never quite sure what she thought of me ... I am sure I wasn't living up to the potential she felt I ought to. She wore too much makeup and a very intense perfume - I don't know the name, but if I smell it in a mall or store somewhere I usually do a quick look to see if it's her -- it's a distinct scent that I think I've only smelled a couple of times since I divorced Courtney (and I believe only on women that were at least 20 years older than me).
Andrea was still living with her mother who was a pretty intense little old lady. I know she didn't approve of me.
Courtney and I were married in Fairbanks, Alaska, on August 31, 1978, in a nice little Episcopalian church in downtown Fairbanks.
At the last minute (okay, probably about 10 minutes) before the wedding John McKay and Chris Cushman came zipping up in a small sports car and asked where they could change. I think I pointed them to the rectory, they got changed just in time and ran around to the front of the church and we started ...
From an email from John McKay, January 19, 2003:
"Chris and I decided we would go. Neither of us could get out of Anchorage before noon and Chris has never been on time for anything in his life. Consequently it was a little after one before we hit the Glenn Highway. Remember how a lot of our socializing in Anchorage began with movies? We get a gang to go to a movie, drop by the Pizza Plaza (Canadian Bacon pizza and Dr Pepper for everybody), then move on to someone's house for music and puns till after midnight. To get Chris to movies on time we would advance the opening time by fifteen minutes (i.e., tell him that a 6:00 movie started at 5:45).
"Chris had just started a love affair with old Saab Sonnet sports cars. He had three of them. This one was in the best shape and tune. We averaged over 70 mph on the road to Fairbanks. People unfamiliar with Alaskan roads won't realize what a feat that was. The Parks Highway had only been paved for a few years. Most of the length of the road was two-lane, often without shoulders, and deformed by frost heaves. We were airborne a lot of the time, just skipping off the tops of the frost heaves. This was during the national 55 speed limit. In areas patrolled by State Trooper aircraft, I would almost hang out the window looking for small planes, warning Chris to slow down whenever a small plane went over. When we hit Fairbanks we pulled up to light next to a police car and rolled down the window with both of us shouting out the church name and demanding directions. The puzzled cops pointed us in the right direction and we just barely made it.
"Most of the Anchorage crowd spent the night in a big pile on someone's living room floor and headed home the next morning-much slower this time. No bouncing off frost heaves with hangovers."
It was a nice, simple wedding. Greg (Gadberry) was best man. Courtney's friend Shelly was bridesmaid. Greg sang the Peter, Paul and Mary "Wedding Song". We borrowed Courtney's mother's wedding rings, and her grandfather's wedding band for me (when we got divorced the rings were immediately returned).
The reception was on campus because Andrea wasn't making a HUGE amount of money as an instructor in Fairbanks (either that or she wasn't feeling like paying for a bigger reception). The reception included members of the Board of Regents, the Chancellor of Students, and several other high-powered people. We did have some friends there, really. We got some great presents from folk we didn't know personally.
Chuck (Hart) did the cake for us. He had done wedding cakes before, but I think for much larger weddings. Our whole reception had maybe 50 people. Chuck made a huge cake, layered with marzipan and flavored with Ameretto, almonds in the icing ... it was beautiful. Andrea refused to throw any of it away. She froze the rest of the cake that wasn't eaten (and there was a lot of it left). We ended up eating that cake for the two years we were married ... every so often Andrea would give us some. Ack. I still am not fond of Ameretto or marzipan these days. (I'm not blaming Chuck, really ...)
Courtney and I moved into "Married Student Housing" on the campus -- this was a lot cheaper than finding an apartment off campus. This was literally a set of one-bedroom apartments. They included a little tiny study, a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. They weren't much, but they were inexpensive and convenient, as they were still on the campus. We walked a lot, as this housing was not quite as close to the main campus as the dorms.
We didn't have a car, so when we had to shop, we borrowed Andrea's car. It was during one of these trips that Courtney had an acid (LSD) flashback, and she was the one driving. That was disconcerting -- she was trying to dodge the mushrooms in the road that would explode if you hit them (this is what she was telling me). Somehow I talked her down and we were ok, but it was a bit nerve-wracking. Luckily she didn't have a lot of flashbacks. Yet another reason to avoid drugs.
Because we were married we ended up not seeing a lot of our friends (all of whom were single) unless we saw them in passing on campus. We weren't invited to parties or gatherings, that kind of thing. I think that a lot of folk just assume that when you're married you don't need your single friends anymore. It sure seemed that way. That was sort of painful. It got worse for Courtney the next summer.
The SCA ...
From here on out, most of the SCA stuff will be indented to separate the text a bit from the rest of it, for anyone reading this who doesn't care about it. The SCA has had a huge influence on my life, it's a hobby that I put a lot of heart and soul into, which is why it keeps coming up. This section of all of this is not indented, it's important to have some idea what the SCA is to understand part of what makes me who I am ... many of the discussions of the SCA will mention a person's SCA name only, unless I remember their real-world ("mundane") name.
One of the things that has helped keep me going over the years is the Society for Creative Anachronism. Ostensibly it's an educational organization to help people learn about the middle ages. It's more than that. To anyone who's gotten involved, it's a family. Someone once said that the SCA is a family of 30,000 or more people, most of whom you haven't met yet. To a large extent it's true (right down to the annoying members of the family, and the in-fighting, and ..., but it's mostly good).
If you really want to know more about the SCA: http://www.sca.org/.
Toward the end of the summer some of the folk from my fencing class had gotten in touch with the SCA folk in Anchorage, and got enough information together to start a group in Fairbanks. They also met up with Mike Trout (Micheal the Younger of An Alltan), who was in the Air Force, and Sharron Albert (Morgana yr Oerfa) who wasn't a student, but was known in Science Fiction and fantasy gaming circles. They let me know via email. We had an organizational meeting early in the Fall Semester, and worked on getting the Shire of Winter's Gate going and on the map. From that point on, I was hooked. I mean, the year before I went to College I had done a small amount of SCA, but I wasn't involved enough for it to become a big part of my life. Then I then left for College in a town where the SCA hadn't yet arrived, so I had sort of forgotten about it.
At this organizational meeting I volunteered to become the arts officer, a job I did ok at, but I found later I much preferred being a herald. I still have my "warrant" as an Arts Officer from the Principality of An Tir. It's a nice piece of work, and I can't get rid of it. Unfortunately it's too big to put on the scanner. I guess I'll have to try to take photos of some of these things that won't fit on the scanner ...
Courtney and I were both involved in the early parts of the Shire of Winter's Gate. At that point that made three SCA Branches in Alaska -- the one in Anchorage (Eskalya), and the one outside of Anchorage in the Matanuska Valley (Selviergard), and us. Courtney's SCA name was "Diotima Aristar" -- a combination of names from a Science Fiction/Fantasy series of books (Darkover) by Marion Zimmer-Bradley. She was never able to register that, but she dropped out of the SCA awhile after we got divorced, so it wasn't that big of a deal.
We jumped back into school after the wedding. Honeymoon? Naw, that'll have to wait -- at best we might have been able to afford a weekend at a hotel or something. We wanted to do something more special than that, but as you'll see, that wasn't going to happen.
Courtney had already had a couple years of college before I got there. She was also a theatre major. She decided to go for a Computer Science minor. There was no Computer Science department yet at the UAF campus. This meant that she could make up her minor!
That was weird. I took some of the same classes she did, but wasn't ready to declare a minor. If I had declared my minor as Computer Science at that time my last couple of years of College probably wouldn't have been so trying. I was trying to take some education classes in and around the theatre classes, as my goal was still to teach. I was also still fencing.
Fall semester included a class on directing, with five of us putting together a student production of one act plays. I directed Constantinople Smith, by Charles L. Mee, Jr. It was a small cast, short play. I don't remember a lot about this particular show, although I do still have my script with all the notes and everything in it.
I don't remember much about the rest of the year. I can't even remember what plays we did. I just dug up some old posters at the bottom of a footlocker (unfortunately the few I have are too big to fit on my scanner ... oh well). Some of them don't specify the year (pity). We did Hamlet in November of this year. I was Rosencrantz (or Guildenstern - I can never remember -- the parts are too similar). Courtney was the "Player Queen" (one of the actors of the 'play within the play' in Hamlet). This was one of the only other times I cut off my beard (the other was for Equus later) -- the other actor playing the other part (Guildenstern or Rosencrantz) was young and didn't have a beard. They gave him a crepe-hair mustache, and not only did I have to cut off my beard, since his hair was naturally curly, I had to have pin-curls put into my hair -- that wasn't fun. I hate it when directors decide to make Rosencrantz and Guildenstern into the Bobsy Twins ... I remember after cutting off the beard -- I walked out of the bathroom and nearly gave Courtney a heart-attack. She thought someone had gotten into the apartment that wasn't supposed to be there, and she knew I was going to do that -- the change was pretty dramatic.
It was either this year or the next that the Alaska Reperatory Theatre came to Fairbanks for a residency. This meant that they were there for a month or more. (They actually did the residency thing for several years.) I was hired (along with others) to help build the sets for A Christmas Carol, but I also got hired to help run the fly rail (this was important as they relied heavily on flying things in and out). I got paid to work with a professional theatre company. That was pretty cool.
I was on the headsets, and that meant I could hear all the weird-ass conversations these people had. Some of these included comments such as when someone came into the audience, the guy up in the light booth saying "Look at the tits on that one!" The woman running one of the spotlights retorted with "Tits and ass! Tits and ass! That's all you guys talk about! Can we talk about cocks and balls for once?" Since I was backstage, it nearly killed me -- I couldn't laugh!
This was also the first time I dealt with a gay actor. It wasn't a big deal, but one day I was bent over the lock-rail checking the position of one of the ropes. I was given a "Christmas Goose" as the guy went flitting off. Courtney has been sitting on the edge of the stage and saw the whole thing, and nearly fell off, laughing ... I turned beet red, but decided it was best not to think about it. I had had a feeling he was gay before that, but hadn't tried to confirm it. I have no problems with people who are gay. I have known people who were obviously gay, and some who were more subtle. I've had people I'd consider friends who are gay. The "Christmas Goose" was a a big surprise though.
All in all this was a pretty good year for me, although the summer without much money sucked.
As with the other sections of this bio, a bit about the folk who really influenced my life during this time can't hurt. Most of the folk we saw much of were in the SCA, and not even a lot of them yet, as the group was just getting started.
Greg Gadberry -- This year he was my best man at my wedding. After that he pretty much drifted away. We (Courtney and I) didn't see as much of him or the rest of our friends. I think Greg was drifting off from most of his friends anyway. I remembered this as his last school year in Fairbanks (according to Greg's message below, I guess it wasn't, but our paths didn't cross much after Courtney and I got married -- I really missed Greg, although at the time I may not have realized what was wrong). He went stateside, and I didn't know what happened to him. I didn't see him much that year, and after he left I didn't see him again until the year I graduated ...
Recently I heard from Greg in email, and here's some stuff from him about his life. It was nice to hear from him, but it's not too likely we'll meet up anytime soon, unless my finances straighten out, as he's in Maine ... The following is from a message in May of 2002:
"After my inglorious exit from the University of Alaska back in 1980 (!), I bummed around Anchorage for the summer with my then-girlfriend Cam. After earning no money, I decided to go to another university for journalism. I chose the University of Montana in Missoula, which is a very good school and, incidentally, Cam's family home. I had several great years in Missoula (a really good school in many things, including the arts...Carrol O'Connor is one of its journalism/theater alumni). Cam ran off with a forest ranger from Michigan. I got over it and moved back to Anchorage where I lived in my family homestead cabin on O'Malley Road (bootleg power, no water) and worked for the Daily News. Maybe it was the horrible hours. Whatever the reason, I rarely saw my old friends during that time. I regret that.
"Anyway, in late 1985 I decided to go Outside for work. I got lucky and was hired by a not-so-good newspaper in Colorado Springs. Why lucky? Because the first day there, I met a young reporter from Maine named Susan Leonard. She was a feisty little thing, smart, cute, tough and talented. She was an outdoorswoman, a hiker, white-water boater and ski instructor (just my type!). I was smitten. She was wary. A courtship of sorts insued. I begged, pleaded and refused to leave. About six months later, the Los Angeles Daily News offered me a job in a big-city newsroom. I took the job...and took Susan with me. I lasted for another six months. I hated LA. I hated big cities. I decided to move to a place as far as humanly possible from LA. Susan said "Why not Maine?"
"We have been here since 1986. For the first ten years, I worked as a reporter for the Portland Newspapers (Maine's big newspaper group). For most of that time, I wrote about the arts - theater, film, TV, writing. It was a great niche for me, melding my backgrounds of arts and journalism. By 1996, however, it was time to go. On a whim, I called the Maine Film Office, which works to bring film and TV projects to our state and then helps manage them (think of it as the ultimate in stage manager work). I got the job. And that's where I am today. (check out our site at www.filminmaine.com...I built the homepage and the locations page linked to it).
"More importantly, Susan blessed me with sons. Ben just turned 13 in February. He is blond, wiry, bookish, strong as an ox and shy. He loves history books and rock climbing(?). Brian, is 11. He looks like a Hobbit (the Leonards are little folks). Think of Merry from Lord of the Rings without furry feet. Brian is funny, smart and loves video games. Their dad, needless to say, adores them.
"Susan worked for a few years in journalism. But after having kids, she started a publications-design business (www.gadberrycreative.com...I built the site, thank you). The family lives most of the time in the old family camp (Maine-speak for vacation house or cabin) in the western Maine mountains. I commute from our other house near the capitol. Both boys are homeschooled and are loving it. We are still political progressives (I actually registered as a Democrat after years of grumpy Independent status). We are Unitarian Universalists (those crazy liberals), so we know lots of medievalists, neo-Wiccans and SCA folks.
"And by the way, I did offer to join SCA. You wouldn't let me after I threatened to come to the summer gathering as one of the Four Horsemen. I was considering coming as either Pestilence or Death. You figured I would have scared off the jugglers or something. But I still admired your devoting. Like me, history was big for you.
"On a related note, I spent 5 years in part-time graduate school and finally got my degree in American and New England Studies (the new name for history) from the University of Southern Maine. My thesis was on 18th century Quakers and other dissenting English religions of the Enlightenment. I almost chose Dark Age studies, but I remember you trying to bean me with a Quarter-Staff and I changed my mind.
"One other thing ... I do computers, too. I noticed from your resume an impressive background in the digital field. My work is mostly with digital photography and web design. I work mostly with Macintosh computers since that is the computer of choice in the film and TV world. And yes, I have been known to make unkind comments about Windows machines, but I will keep them to myself." -- G.G.
John McKay notes in an email from January 19, 2003:
"In the early eighties when Greg was working for the Daily News I became a political hack and bounced from political campaign to political campaign. Being a liberal in Alaska I never worked for anyone who ever won. Greg would occasionally drop by whatever campaign I was on to try and pump me for inside information. I never had anything very good, but it was nice to sit around drinking coffee and gossiping about politics. I see form his note that history buffs on computers seems to be a common destiny."
Chuck Hart -- Like others we didn't see much of him after the wedding. Of course he lived in Anchorage, so that made a difference as well.
A Few Photos
(These are thumbnails, click on them to see larger versions with text explaining them)
Note: There are other photos from the SCA at the time the photo of Greg was taken above at the West Kingdom History Website: First Fighter's Practice, Winter's Gate -- my SCA name is "Hirsch" if that helps. It was this set of photos that made it possible for Greg to find me, as I am the creator/maintainer of that website ...
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