A Mirror into Ken's Past -- 1980

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Spring Semester
Things started off about like usual, except I think that the pressure was getting to Courtney. We had some fairly large blowups, as I can see by reading my diary. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) I found in a couple of these a trait that I really didn't like in myself. My father's anger was always violent (I remember very few times when he was angry that someone didn't get smacked around a bit ...). There were a couple of arguments with Courtney in this time where dad's violent tendencies started to re-appear (note that this wasn't the same case of rage that I had in '76 -- "the Dairy Queen Incident", but it was still rather frightening). In one case I almost hit her. In the other she threw a book at me, and I grabbed the nearest thing (a frying pan) and threw it at her (luckily the pan didn't connect! It did leave a nice divit in the wall, though ...). That last one scared the crap out of me. I think that ever since that day I have done everything in my power to avoid letting my anger get the best of me that way. I do want to make it clear, the last time I hit someone in anger was one of my brothers when I was living at home. I've never struck anyone in anger since, and I hope to never reach that point again. That's a trait of my father's I really wish I hadn't picked up.

That spring, I stage-managed California Suite for the Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre (FLOT), and had a ball doing it. Courtney did makeup for the show. From the makeup point of view it wasn't really challenging (like Show Boat had been), but this was what Courtney loved best about the theatre, and she was good at it.

I directed a show, which also helped kick start the Student Run productions. Some unspecified amount of time before I started in the Theatre department, there had been a regular set of student productions (all student -- from design to cast to directing to technical). That had somehow stopped -- probably an inertia thing. The normal shows run by the department had open auditions, so people came in from all over town to audition -- the students usually did all the tech stuff, although the set, sound and lighting designs, casting, costuming, directing, and such were done by the instructors.

I chose to do this as my senior project and I got a grade for it. The play I chose was A Thurber Carnival, by James Thurber. The show was a success for the one performance we had. One of my two male actors had a motorcycle accident the Saturday of the second performance, landed on his face, and we didn't get to do the second show. Sigh. This was a great ego-boost for me. The review (scanned and added to the photo section below) was great, from a reviewer who had panned everything she had seen to date that season. I got a B for my grade, due to the fact that "the show didn't go on" on Saturday ... sheesh. Oh well. What can you say?

Anyway, the next year, the students in the theatre department (I was backing off that next school year and working on the required classes I hadn't taken, working on my education minor, etc.) got things going again, and there were more student-only productions from that point on. So, I made some contribution in that area as well.

Courtney and I were still together, we hadn't killed each other, and she graduated. Toward the beginning of the semester, we had started making plans for her to go to Grad School. We looked at a variety of schools, and settled on Cal State in Sacramento. We applied, and both of us were accepted. She was going to get her Master's Degree in Theatrical Makeup, and I was going to complete my Theatre degree, get my Education certificate, and become a teacher. We chose Cal State because they had a huge theatre department, and everything we could see looked really good. Courtney's plans included, after she got her Master's degree, to work at Fox Studios in Hollywood in the makeup department there. Apparently a friend of the family had told her to contact him/her when Courtney had graduated. This never happened, but ...

After graduation we packed up most of our stuff and mailed it to San Jose to my Aunt Priscilla and Uncle Hollis (little did we know how far San Jose was from Sacramento -- I'm guessing, but it's 75 miles from where I live now to Sacramento, and San Jose is another approx. 40 or so south ... so figure somewhere between 100 to 125 miles).

Anyway, the stress started cracking our little "idylic" life together around the edges.

I have several entries in the diary about arguments (the fun part is that she wrote in reply to things I wrote, so both sides of these things are represented). The big thing was communication. We weren't really doing it ... sigh.


Summer -- Job Foo, Divorce Foo ...
This was probably the hardest summer I think I ever had (at least, to date, knock on silicon).

Courtney and I got out of married student housing for the summer, and were house-sitting for someone her mother knew, who were out of town all summer.

I decided to try to train to be a tour bus driver -- the tour companies don't mind college students as employees, as their big season is during the normal breaks in college schedules. Courtney decided to do the same. We trained for different companies, figuring that it was probably a bad idea to do that for the same one.

I got some really good training on the big busses (but I swear double-clutching is a pain in the ass, and you shouldn't have to do it with something like that!), but didn't actually get to tour with that company (Westtours?). I did a training trip to Anchorage and back, but never actually got to do a tour.

However, I got hired on later with the company Courtney worked for (TravAlaska). I did a couple of trips for them, one to Valdez and back, and one long one all the way to Skagway and back, which meant going through the Yukon Territories and on the Alcan highway. That was a fun and absolutely beautiful trip.

The one problem is that before I left for the second trip Courtney asked for a divorce. She just didn't feel it was working, or so she told me.

Unfortunately, Courtney had an accident while driving. The accident was caused by a fault in the bus's breaks that had been reported previously several times, she couldn't stop, there was oncoming traffic, she put the bus in the ditch rather than crash. A customer's arm got broken. She got fired. Never mind that if the brakes had worked properly, none of this would have happened.

When I got back I got laid off because I was married to someone who had been fired by the company. (Add to it the sting that she had asked for a divorce before she'd had the accident ...)

Back to the divorce ... I asked if we could try counselling, but she had already made up her mind. We did do a session of counselling. Unfortunately, I think she had some valid points, but she wasn't listening to any of my points, either. What I hadn't realized because I was being blind, was that she was dating someone else. And he didn't mind if she did drugs ...

After several attempts to salvage the marriage, I gave up. We went in and filed for a dissolutionment, which is basically a "friendly" divorce. We didn't have enough stuff to argue about it in court. No car, no kids ... the most expensive stuff we had were stereo components and text books. (We did actually fight over some of the theatre text books ...) She later married Bob.

We filed the paperwork on August 4, nearly two years after we had gotten married (married on August 31). The court date was a month after that, and the copies of the paperwork came through a couple weeks later. So, I was married for just a bit over two years. Divorced at 23 ...

I don't want to make light of this, the divorce was emotionally wrenching. I felt I had failed in a very important part of adult life. I wasn't working (I'd been laid off), I was getting divorced, and just felt miserable. However, oddly enough I came back from that faster than I expected.

I honestly think that Courtney's mother took it all harder than either of us did. One of our friends who came to visit after the divorce, at one point, asked Andrea where she could find Courtney. The response was "Try fourth street" -- this is the red-light district in Fairbanks. Not a nice thing to say about your daughter, but she was truly upset about it, and I think she believed that it was all Courtney's fault (at the time I know I believed that, but hindsight is a good thing, even if painful, and I realize that a large part of it was my fault). I hardly ever saw Andrea again, except in passing ... Note that I am not saying that Andrea ever took my side in the divorce process. I don't recall that I actually really saw anything of her during that painful time.

Then of course we had to ask my aunt to mail all that stuff back to us from San Jose. That was bad, because we didn't have much money, and she (wisely, really) mailed it COD. After we got the stuff, noticed the Post Awful had destroyed some of it (the good dishes, that kind of thing). We split it up, but I really gave most of it to Courtney rather than argue. Besides, I was moving back to the dorms and she'd need the kitchen stuff more than I would. I gave her the stereo (components), if she would buy me a not-horribly-expensive combined unit. She agreed, and I got a decent unit that I had for several years. The only thing we really argued about was the theatre text books since both of us planned on continuing in our studies of theatre. I think I kept a yarn comforter (that I had for many years), a caraffe and some nice liquor glasses, and not much else.

I ended up staying in the house we had been house-sitting until the end of the summer, and Courtney got an apartment. John Andrews (his SCA name was John St. Andrew) was a life-saver here, because he came along and made sure during the weeks after we decided to go for the disollution (my diary says July 30 is when we decided ...) that I didn't crack up. His method of doing this? He took me out for coffee after he got off work, every evening for weeks, at a coffee shop (pay a buck for coffee and get free refills all night), and we talked. We didn't really talk all that much about Courtney or the divorce. We just talked. I don't think I can ever thank John enough for that. It's amazing what just having someone to talk to can do for a person. (John had been through a really ugly divorce, so had a good idea what I was going through.)

SCA
After the separation, and due to some odd foo with the folk who were supposed to be running the SCA war between the group in Anchorage and the one in Fairbanks, I got sucked into helping run things. I also ended up hosting the Anchorage visitors at the house we were house-sitting (or I should say that I was housesitting, since Courtney had moved out). That was weird, but it's where I first met Jeanne (see below).

This war was a bit odd, as I ended up with all these people in this house that I was house-sitting, and then going out to a gravel pit nearby to do the war. People trudged back to the house for the evening part, cleaned up, and someone (probably Sharane de Kondrack (mka Mary Helms)) took over the kitchen, and fed everyone. We did a bardic circle and all that in the house. It was very strange, but oh well. It was fun. Cleaning up the next day was a bit hard, but that's the way it goes.

I had to figure out what to do as far as school went -- I hadn't reupped school for Fairbanks! Luckily, that worked out, I was able to pick up where I'd left off at UAF, and I got the student loan paperwork worked out. However, they tried to put me into a double-room with a roommate.

I walked into the Chancellor of Student's office (he had been at the wedding two years earlier), and told him that since I had just gotten divorced, I would kill a roommate. I got reassigned to a single room. Claiming to be an almost psychotic I suppose has it's good side.

July 27, 2011 -- Received an email from a school friend of Courtney's today. He told me she had passed away November 10, 1998, about a month before her 40th birthday. I just wanted to note this. I have no real emotional investment anymore, and haven't for a long time. He didn't say how she died, and I don't really need to know how ... She was living in Montana at the time. I really only ever wanted her to be happy after our divorce, I hope at least part of the time she was.


Fall/Winter

SCA
For the SCA tournament held in Anchorage that fall the King and Queen came up and visited. Among all the cool things that happened there, I got my Award of Arms -- this is an award in the SCA that is one that tells you that people think you're doing good things. It grants you the right to a "coat of arms", and so on.

During that event, the King (Radnor) had been looking at a bracer (large bracelet) I had made for myself, that had my stag's head on it, and a couple of stars of six points (Courtney and I had been working on a household badge with that star on it before we broke up). I had made it in the jewelry class earlier that year, and wore it to this event. He liked it so much that during the evening court (where awards were given), I gave it to him.

Well, this made an impression (more than I knew, because 12 years later he still had it, and wore it for my Pelican ceremony!), and at a Kingdom event in California a month or so later, he gave me the Rose Leaf (mid-level Kingdom of the West Arts award). I wasn't there, mind you. I didn't realize it, but one member of our local group was there, Micheal, and he picked up the token for me (long story-short, he got transferred by the Air Force before he could give me the token for the award). At this point in time, I didn't know I had been given this award, and didn't find out until January. All of this, and my getting involved with Jeanne (see below) ... I can't remember much of school during this time.

There were some issues in the dorms. They put me on a floor in the dorm with a bunch of hockey jocks. I didn't fit in with this group, and they were not pleasant (you couldn't study well in your room, and if you didn't party with them you were "bad"). I eventually moved up a couple of floors after some jerk set off some bottle rockets under my door at some gawdawful hour of the night ... sheesh.


Jeanne C. Stapleton
During all this I did something that made all the sense in the world at the time, but was really stupid -- I rebounded. Hard. Of course, I had no idea that this was the case at the time. This isn't the only rebound to occur in my life ... sigh.

During the time after Courtney and I had decided to try separation, an SCA event was being held in Fairbanks -- a war between the Anchorage and Fairbanks chapters (this is mentioned above). Due to some major screwups in communication, the person running the event didn't have a site, didn't have a lot worked out. Someone from the Anchorage group had contacted me through email, and I tried to sort it out. (I don't remember who the autocrat of the event was, but I seem to recall they dropped out of the SCA shortly after this.)

We ended up hosting the event at the house I was house-sitting at (bad idea, but it seems to have worked out). The war was held in a nearby gravel pit (about two blocks away). Most of the Anchorage folks slept in the den at the house, which was weird -- I didn't even try to go down there until after the weekend was over -- and didn't want to know what was happening between some of these folk ...

Well, during all the pre-event stuff I had been talking with Jeanne in Anchorage in email -- some people are very easy to talk to, and email makes it even easier to talk to folk as it's nearly anonymous. Did a bit of flirting, but didn't expect anything to happen. Jeanne came up with her friends (Tania and Chris Opland), along with the rest of the Anchorage group.

We had some fun, and I flirted outrageously with Jeanne. After the event was over, we spent huge amounts of time emailing back and forth. We started "falling in love" -- long distance relationships are weird that way. It's real easy to think you're in love.

I travelled to Anchorage a bit during that school year, ostensibly for SCA events. It was mostly to see Jeanne. I had a friend with a car who was willing to drive (Eric Rude), so that worked out well - he was visiting his family, I was visiting Jeanne. If Eric wasn't going, than someone else probably was. I am sure I went with Sharron Albert (Morgana) a couple of times to events. I remember one deep, dark winter, in Sharron's old yellow ... Toyota? I think. Can't remember ... the ice was so bad on the windshield that she dumped a coke (Coca Cola) on it to thaw it out. That was even stranger, as we had coke "ice" on the windshield. Usually when she and I drove down to Anchorage we talked about fantasy gaming.

Within just a few short months of meeting Jeanne, I proposed to her (in early November, according to the diary). She was ecstatic, although she didn't tell her mother and step-father. (Marrying a DIVORCED man? What's WRONG with you? She didn't want to deal with that issue.) She went out and bought an engagement ring (saphire) with the matching wedding band, which I paid her back for.

When Christmas came around I stayed at Jeanne's mom's place ... that was weird. Her mother didn't know she was engaged, and she didn't wear the ring around her mother. We were in separate rooms. In addition, Jeanne didn't have a car, neither did I. Getting around was ... weird. I remember that her step-father gave me a shaving kit -- shaving cream, after-shave, the works -- "Old Spice". It was a LOUD hint. While I wear a beard, it's a "trimmed" beard -- which means that I trim it, but I also shave parts of my face. I think he was hinting loudly to shave it all off. I was nice, thanked him, and that was that. However, I still use Old Spice after shave. I like the scent, and so does Carolyn (my wife).


The SCA and Gaming
The SCA really became my refuge at this point. I spent more and more time doing SCA related stuff than I did any other past time. The SCA has made up a good portion of my social life, which I think I mentioned elsewhere in this bio. From this point on most of my girlfriends/dates/relationships have come from meeting them in the SCA, most of my friends have been involved in the SCA in some fashion.

I also started running a Dungeons and Dragons based gaming campaign that lasted the rest of my time in College (four more years!), running nearly every Sunday, held on campus. I advertised somewhere, I'm not even sure where at this point, for gamers, and got a set of about 6, then 8 ...

These games started in the dorms, and moved to the Student Union Building (which had better lighting, and white boards, conference tables ... and the cafeteria upstairs). I say the game was based on DnD - it had it's roots there, but had a lot of additions from a variety of gaming systems (for those in the know, I borrowed liberally from Arduin, Runequest, Iron Crown Enterprises' gaming system -- Arms Law, and a variety of other systems). I was taking Advanced DnD gaming modules and plunking them into my own gaming world, and then coming up with plausible reasons for the characters to get sucked into those adventures. I had a ball. I didn't have time to write my own adventures, and some of the "canned" adventures were pretty good. The gamers seemed to enjoy it or we wouldn't have continued for four years. I think toward the end I actually started to get a waiting list of people who wanted in. That was weird. I know I had the conference table full of people most Sundays.

In probably the second year of this one of my gamers brought in my Psych 101 professor, Charles Geist. I was stunned! They sat there for the whole afternoon going over the Player's Guide. I thought that he was going to be writing an article on gamers or something. Instead he became the only person I ever saw who understood the Druid character class. He was also one of the best gamers there. He took to heart the "Role-Playing" part of the game, and got everyone else trying to role-play, rather than just stating "My character does x". Instead it was "I do x, and when I swing my sword ...". This was pretty cool, and I started doing the same for the encounters that were intelligent characters (I'd try to come up with a character for them, do a voice, etc.). Not everyone did it as well as Charles, but he sure added to the depth of those games. He helped with some charts, making them more realistic ...

I also decided to try to revive the gaming convention that had been called "Alascon", and hold the new one as a fund-raiser for the SCA group (thinking back a bit, I actually believe the first one of these I did was when I was still with Courtney -- it must have been in '79) ... I don't know if that's still happening, but the ones I ran seemed to have gone pretty well. I did four of them (Alascon II through V), before I moved to Anchorage after I (finally) graduated. I still have a few posters from Alascon IV, the design was so cool we did tshirts that year (mine died a long time ago). The tournament gaming modules were interesting. We did a couple that were collaborative, but the best of them (which I still use) was done by Rob Mailander, who also did the poster (and tshirt) design for at least one of them. Rob's adventures were tough (high kill factor), but if you used your brains and worked collaboratively with others on your team you could (at least most of the party could) survive, and usually attain the goal. I managed for a couple of years to destroy whole parties of adventurers at the gaming convention in the South Bay here in California (DunDraCon) using that module.


School, Work and Other Stuff
Money was a bit tight. I tried various things. I actually modelled for a bit for the life classes in the art department. That was unnerving. Even more so was that someone I knew in the SCA was in one of the classes. Last time I saw her (which was years ago now) she said she still had one of the drawings she did of me ... (nude). How embarassing.

In relation to the gaming, I got a business license in order to sell gaming "stuff" to friends. I wasn't very good at that, though. I did get to buy things that I would use, and sometimes that helped sell some of the items. I didn't make much money at it, but it was fun.

I took a jewelry class when Courtney and I were together, and that helped me out a bit, as it gave me a creative outlet. I made a dragon pendant for Courtney that was pretty spiffy. Too bad I didn't photograph that one. After the first class I audited the class for awhile, which gave me access to the lab, for just the cost of the lab fee (you had to pay for your materials, but could use the tools, equipment and chemicals, because you paid the lab fees to audit the class). In a way I am sorry I didn't take the class a second time as a regular student, as the first time was with a substitute instructor while the regular one was on sabitical. They taught very different techniques, and I might have learned casting if I'd taken it with the usual teacher of the class.

These jewelry classes were where I ended up earning the Laurel in the SCA -- I made jewelry for the SCA - I wasn't interested in modern art type stuff. I was making things like tokens for offices, and award tokens. I wasn't making money off of the jewelry, although at one point I was offered $75 or more for a piece I was wearing. That blew my fuzzy brain. I should have taken the guy up on it!

I started looking at the Computer Science minor, as I had discovered I couldn't get an education certificate in theatre (ack!).

I fenced on and off throughout most of my college career, and was in the advanced class, which meant I was learning not just foil, but epee, and saber. That was fun. (I was in the advanced class when Courtney and I were together, because I remember her playing with the saber that second summer, and REALLY liking it ...) The "off" parts were usually because classes that I had to take were scheduled against fencing, which was definitely an elective class. I remember having fun with one guy. He thought "that doesn't look so hard", so he took the class. I knew him for some time, and I know I complained about how tired I was after the class was over. I saw him the day of his first fencing class class and he said something like "I didn't even break a sweat!". I told him "Next time do the exercises exactly the way the instructor tells you to." He did, and immediately dropped the class after that ...

I hung around with an old friend of Greg's -- Dan (Swoboda), and his girlfriend, Robin (Minard) and a friend of theirs, named Kathy. Kathy was Dion's girlfriend, Dion was a mechanic in Anchorage. She was cute, but had an image problem (she didn't have huge tracts of land, as they say, and Dan's girlfriend sort of over-compensated for Kathy -- on the other hand, she had great legs, which I certainly appreciated).

When I got the final divorce papers I broke out a bottle of Mumms champagne that I'd been given when stage managing You Can't Take It With You, and shared it with Dan and company. I felt I had to party with someone after that!

At one point after I started seeing Jeanne, I slept with Kathy once ... the guilt factor was too high, though, and I never did again, although she was a lovely girl who I enjoyed seeing. Heck, it might have gone better for me to start dating Kathy, rather than the whole fiasco with Jeanne, but that's with 20/20 hindsight again ...

At one point Dan's girlfriend and Kathy (who shared a dorm room) had a "massage" party -- that was ... fun. Everyone wore shorts/cutoffs and tshirts or for the ladies they wore bikini tops. I don't know that any relationships started because of that little party, but I know I was sorely tempted by Kathy ...

April 14, 2008: I heard from Robin briefly in email. She gave me some names, Kathy is now married and running her father's insurance company, I assume in Anchorage. Robin says that she and Dan broke up in 1981. The last time she saw Dan he was bartending a party at the Capt. Cook hotel in Anchorage in 2001.

In addition, living in the dorms, I ate at the Commons. I ended up meeting up with, and I cannot recall how or why, maybe completely by accident, a couple of people who became really important to me there. Lee Anne Wood and her boyfriend Rob Endicott were a blast to hang out with. They both smoked like chimneys, and had great senses of humor. Most dinners we managed to meet up at the commons, and our table was always full of laughter. We sometime met for other meals, but dinner was the one we tried to make every day. Various folk came and went at that table, but the three of us and one or two others were almost always there. After I moved off the campus in 1983, they did the same, got their own apartment. I didn't see them much after that.

I was still trying to sort out my life. And I wasn't doing it very well, unfortunately. I kept finding ways to escape from things. The gaming, the SCA ...

I wasn't spending as much time on the stage, although I kept my hand in, with at least one theatre class ... but I was trying to think about what I had to do to graduate. Again, I wasn't doing that very well ...


Friends:
Most of the friends I had in this period were SCA folk. There were some exceptions:

John Andrews -- In the SCA he was John St. Andrew. I was sorry to hear when he died a few years ago. He was great during that first week after Courtney and I decided to get divorced ...

Jeanne Stapleton -- Well, I was engaged to her for good or for ill. With 20-20 hindsight, I'm glad we didn't rush any further into things.

Dan Swoboda -- Dan was an old friend of Greg's I think. I'm pretty sure I met him through Greg anyway. Nice guy, an odd duck. He and his girlfriend Robin were at the University for a couple of years, along with Kathy. I don't know what ever happened to any of them. I know that I knew Dan and Robin while Courtney and I were still together, because I remember partying with them a couple of times, and Courtney was there.

Lee Anne Wood and Rob Endicott: I don't really say a lot about them, but they were really great friends.

John McKay notes the following in an email on January 19, 2003:
"All Alaska is a small town. Alaska is such a huge place that most people do not realize how small the population base is. And because the whole place is isolated, everyone knows each other. When most people hear that there are a half million people in the state, they compare that to a medium size city somewhere. That is wrong. Those medium sized cities have small cities around them and other medium sized cities near by. Someone living in Tacoma (a city of about half million) actually has over ten million people living within day-trip distance. In Alaska, that half million is it. The point is that in Alaska the old six points of separation is rarely more than three points. Why am I being so pedantic about this? Let me explain.
     "Lee Anne Woods' boyfriend was Robert Brandon Endicott. We went to high school together. Rob used to protect me from Sid at the bus stop. The version of our meeting that he always told was, that was that he had a hangover one morning and my screaming as Sid beat me up was giving him a headache, so he picked up a board and threatened to stave in Sid's skull if he didn't knock it off. We weren't real close then. We ran into each other off and on for a few years after school and made small talk. When I went into my political hack phase we met on a campaign (Clark Gruening for Senate in 1980). We became inseparable for about two years till he went to Fairbanks for college. He was the best intellectual companion I ever had. We shared all the same interests. Rob was without question my best friend in the eighties even though it was a long distance friendship most of the time. He was the smartest person I ever met. You may not remember, but he was working on five simultaneous degrees at UAF. I believe they posthumously gave him a couple of the degrees. The last time I saw him was just a week before he died, he had a doctor appointment in Anchorage and we spent most of the day together. I was badly broken up by his death. The following day Lee and some of friends took his ashes down to the place where he used to prospect, Ingram Creek by Portage, and scattered them. I left for Seattle soon after that and haven't heard from most of that crowd since. I think of Rob a lot because I think he would have gotten a big kick out of most of the social and political trends of the nineties."

Theatre Department -- There were various friends in the theatre department, of course, including Shelly Reed, who I had a bit of a crush on (she was funny, smart, cute, and probably one of the finest actresses the University in Fairbanks ever saw -- what's not to like?), and the folk who helped with the play I did. Folk I worked with outside of the University theatre department (Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre) as well ... but I wasn't that close to most of them at this point.


A Few Photos
(These are thumbnails, click on them to see larger versions with text explaining them)


Jeanne

Lee Anne
Wood

Ken

Cast/Crew of
California Suite

Show Poster

Newspaper
Preview
A Thurber Carnival

Review of
A Thurber Carnival


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