Wakdjunkaga?

I did take some effort to look through the page for The Book of Seasons and make some much-needed corrections of computer-misheard words and phrases. If any of you read through it and noticed errors I have not fixed, please let me know. With that page in existence, I think I’ll leave the original posts for the last two weekends of that story’s first two chapters as they originally appeared. After all, it is good to be reminded of one’s foolishness, laziness or excessive haste: I did a couple of weekend posts on self-humiliation and its value to oneself back in January (here and here).

However, reading through the saga of Wakdjunkaga’s arrival in room 430 of the Hotel Allison, I started thinking about that character, how he — imagined in the mid-70s — compares to or parallels with me today, as he is supposed to be the future self of that pompous little narrator. I do remember (vaguely by now) that it was in my head to try to predict my own future self in the description of Wakdjunkaga. Doing makeup in high school, community theater and especially college (when I took an interim course during either my sophomore or junior year for three or four weeks on makeup) and having to play characters considerably older than your actual (teen) age interestingly focuses your attention on the issues of aging. There’s nothing like drawing smile lines and facial creases to make you consider the actual, future swipes of the scythe of time (thanks for that image, Will Shakespeare).

I had been made aware by the time I left Fort Madison of my impending balditude. It was an incident I have used in another story — not one, thanks to its vulgar language, that is likely to appear here — when I and two friends had driven up to Minneapolis to attend the Minnesota Renaissance Fair. As we were barely out of college and I had yet to meet my future travel agent/wife, we didn’t make much in the way of preparations and arrived on a Friday evening — no, make that pretty late at night — with no hotel reservation. And it was not only the Renaissance Fair but the Minnesota State Fair that weekend. We visited many hotels before we finally found some rooms. Then having driven for six straight hours and searched for several more, we needed to eat and went to some all-night place like Country Kitchen. While in the restaurant my companions, a male and female — a couple at that time, began giggling at each other as I bent over to slurp soup or eat something that lowered my head at them. They wouldn’t confess what was so funny for a while, but it was my incipient bald spot. I was probably 22 or 23. A crushing blow in those days of long, hippie hair (regardless how unruly, scraggly and unattractive my own hair was; and I had even cut my hair to go off for student teaching — a hugely transitional action).

Naturally, in the story’s “prediction,” I clearly have underestimated the extent of my actual hair loss. And I am currently many years from turning 70. Still another example of imagination outrunning reality to one’s personal frustration.

Unfortunately, at least at present, I also underestimated “his” appearance in other ways, particularly in weight. I’ve been working on the issue I raised January 31, and my running routine has recommenced, but I’m afraid this Wakdjunkaga (meaning the genuine me) in this particular actual reality among the potentially infinite variations of the multiverse is not the svelte and scrawny fellow from the story.

Durwood Wakdjunkaga (?) in the portrait infamously not by Rembrandt van Rijn

Of course, I was also misleading myself, suckered by the all-powerful allure of Art. (And I don’t mean someone nicknamed from Arthur.) Also in my head while writing those vastly dated chapters about the Hotel Allison was the first image of actual Art I had ever acquired (and which, to Janet’s chagrin and amusement, I still possess). One day after my family had moved to Mt. Pleasant, while I was still in high school, maybe even in the first year we lived in that community, my sophomore year, I was sent to the grocery store. I don’t remember at all what I was sent buy, but on display were certain “art prints” available at a discount to customers. There had to be more than just one such print, but I only remember the one that hypnotized my utter being: Rembrandt’s The Man in a Golden Helmet. I don’t remember if it came home with me that day or if it took a while, but fairly soon I was the proud possessor of the cardboard print, to be held in its very own “genuine wooden” frame.

The print held a place of honor in many of my residences, beginning with my own rooms in our family home on Green Street. Since our marriage, Janet has consigned it to less important locations than I had preferred. And it spent the last 20 years or more in various places around my room and the drama storage at Andrew Community School, once I brought it there, later to be copied by art instructor Steve Lucke as the portrait of Sir Simon de Canterville for our production of The Canterville Ghost (and Lucke made an excellent copy that looked just like actor Drew Goettler). Now it lives in our garage, alongside my favorite heirloom from high school drama, a photograph of V. I Lenin, which I was altogether too abashed to ever take to school.

Of course, Man in a Golden Helmet is the most famous painting to be infamously not by Rembrandt. Don’t believe me? Click the link in the title of the picture above. Time Magazine explains it all very well. That damned Rembrandt authentication committee! I’m afraid that Janet took great glee (and still does), reminding me the picture has long been discredited, however much I may yet love it.

That old man in that golden helmet, I know, was meant to be Durwood Wakdjunkaga in The Book of Seasons. So if you read those posts or the page, don’t imagine the hairless, chubby author in that role but the well-known non-Rembrandt figure, dressed in modern clothes.

Clearly, if I meant Wakdjunkaga to be a kind of imagined future self portrait, I failed. On the other hand, some elements of my personal taste in clothing seem to have been set earlier than I had recalled. I’m thinking of that vest Wakdjunkaga is wearing. I had thought that at the time I wrote these chapters of The Book of Seasons, the vest was just imaginary. Or at best it was a modification of the blue denim chore coats I had started wearing about the time I settled down in Maquoketa.

—But this particular post may have run on long enough for today. We’ll discuss vests and pockets another time.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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