Pockets, part five

Yes, yes, this series is getting too long. I should realize that I am the only person in the world as interested in pockets as I am. However, with one more post we can bring it all up-to-date and cease (for now).

Bright and early in the 21st century, as the Banana Republic vest that I showed you earlier begin to die, I went on the Internet to see what was available when you searched “photojournalist’s vest.” I was delighted to discover a variety of options. A little searching, a little thinking, and I came up with a possible alternative to my old standby. And they ran about half or even one-third the price!

the original gray Fox Outdoor vest — I hope you all enjoy the various bookshelves I hung these vests upon, or that I will, looking back in future years, enjoy peering at the books

Several Internet sales sites featured vests that turned out to come from a manufacturer called Fox Outdoor and varied in price from $29-$45 (while the Banana Republic vests cost about $100). These even came in various colors, not just khaki (which is a color, younger generation, not a description or style!). Naturally, I went for the cheap end, choosing some cornily named Texas vendor (First Army?)—of probably deviously deep right-wing, gun-toting sympathies, as most of these outdoorsy joints are (and I am not exaggerating: I have shopped around in my PocketQuest where I was clearly unwelcome—that bullyingly violent, KKK-standard in-group exclusivity being one of the truly less endearing, omnipresent qualities of the neo-Right myrmidons of moral doom). However, being relatively anonymous on the internet, I ordered First Army’s photojournalist’s vest in gray. (Creating the link, I remember why they hadn’t gotten my business most recently—prices have hiked.)

I felt nervous about this Internet order, although I don’t know why I should have. Unlike my Banana Republic catalog days, I was looking at a photograph of the vest, not a drawing. The little JPEG from the website was nowhere near as clear as the catalog pictures from TravelSmith, but it still showed what I was after, and the description sounded a lot like a traditional photojournalist’s vest.

When it arrived, although the vest looked a bit olive-green to my eye (rather than true gray), Janet to the contrary to this day after many washings in the meantime, it was wonderful—just what I wanted. All the pockets were there, every one of them! It fit a little smaller (or shorter, really) than the Banana Republic version, but that actually made it feel more lightweight in the summertime. I wore it nonstop for five years, and it’s still in pretty good shape (the rear inside pocket has ripped out the “waterproof” lining long since, but that is the worst problem). I still wear it often.

black Fox Outdoor vest (the first of two) — note the expected sagging left pocket for books and notebook

Pretty quickly after getting that first one, I saved and followed up with two more—one in black and one in khaki. I was a little disappointed to discover that the pocket sizing had something to do with the dye batches, as both the black and khaki vests had various inadequacies in their smaller pockets (the three “shotgun-shell” pockets on the lower left and the pen pocket on the left bellows pocket above) so my Swiss Army knife no longer fit easily in place beside the highlighter and the Chapstick. But I adjusted.

And these babies are pretty sturdy. Both the black and original gray ones are still going (so is the khaki; I just don’t choose it as often). I wore the gray one pretty exclusively through 2006, keeping the black mostly for “dress” (Janet is writhing at that notion) until about 2004-05, since when it has become my everyday wear. I like the black (and the gray) because the colors seems less thoroughly geeky (I am wrong about that, I realize, but it’s how I feel). Both colors show wear, and for Prague I dragged out a stockpiled black vest I had bought since (summertime 2009) so I would look a little nicer. I still try to restrict the Prague vest for “good” although right now that newer one is the vest with the stuff actually stuffed into it (I must have thought I was dressing up sometime a while back, or at least decided to wash the older black one).

Thus, wherever I go, not only do I embarrass my wife (actually Janet has accustomed herself to my oddities pretty well for the most part) in public, but I can carry just about everything I want or should acquire while out and about. Pockets: they’re a splendid invention (and exploring that history might be the one last “pockets” post I have in me to present, especially since the Wikipedia article on the subject is so poor).

And that brings the history of pockets, with appropriate digressions and rants on the side, up to date. Tomorrow’s April Fool’s Day, and we shall have to see what I come up with for that holy day.

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

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.

Why Wakdjunkaga

First, before we explore today’s topic—the title of this blog—I should acknowledge that last night was the first of two performances of Peace Pipe Players’ production of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Tonight will be the closing performance (at 7:00 PM at the Ohnward Fine Arts Center in Maquoketa.). I play one of the crazies in the insane asylum, Scanlon, the bomb nut. I’ll talk about the show is a future post, but you’re all welcome to come…

Furthermore, we topped 2000 hits on the blog yesterday—an inconsiderable amount in the world of big-time blogging, but I was pleased. I hope you all keep reading—and tell your friends (or enemies).

But back on topic: why do I call it “Wakdjunkaga’s Blog?”

Why indeed?

My friend Sharon asked in a comment about the name of the blog. Was it some local thing? Local, if you live in northern Wisconsin, maybe. But that element has only a little to do with me and this blog.

Wakdjunkaga is a kind of alter-ego for me, a false identity on no occasion but a pen name for most of my plays in their original productions at Andrew Community School. Many of those plays, and most of the choral reading and readers theatre pieces we developed ourselves were presented as “by Durwood Wakdjunkaga.” I think the first official use of that name happened at a district individual events speech contest when a girl of great talent received an unfair rating (aren’t all the judgments with which we disagree unfair?) and would have been unable to advance to state. However, in my youthful ineptitude, we had an open spot for a poetry reader, scheduled to perform later in the afternoon (or at least an hour or so after the maltreated girl had received her II rating). We had just one problem (other than no performer, but of course this girl was going to be the substitute)—no poem to read. So I wrote one (fortunately, I believe it may only exist in the poetry files at the school or you might be reading it in one of these posts, and I have an otherwise embarrassing poem slated for tomorrow). Needing an author’s name for her to announce as she read the thing (and she did receive a I this time), I quickly settled on “Durwood Wakdjunkaga.”

Not as catchy as “George Orwell,” probably, certainly less memorable than “Mark Twain.” But my own.

So where did it come from? That’s where the story gets going…

In college one semester, I took a creative writing class, taught by the president of Iowa Wesleyan and former head of the English department. His was not the normal career path for an English professor, but Dr. Louis A. Haselmayer seemed to me then everything a college president should be (and, as I would later find out, then some). Naturally, everyone in the class wrote poems, including me (at least for the first couple of sessions). But I grew bored with uncritical reception of my verse (most of us were also members of Sigma Tau Delta, the English fraternity, at meetings for which we also exchanged writing—usually poetry—for discussion and critique as well as publishing a magazine every spring). So I decided to try writing a novel (I’d tried that several times previously in junior high and high school—all very incomplete), working up a chapter for each class session. I haven’t seen any of those pages, for which I was too ignorant to create carbons, in many years, so I assumed they’re long lost (we worked on typewriters in those days, a manual for me).

However, the story was titled The Book of Seasons, with reference to a pretended magical grimoire Liber Tempestatum (“The Book of Seasons” in Latin—me showing off my high school language study), in emulation of H.P. Lovecraft and his circle’s many hideous volumes of eldritch lore, particularly the nefarious Necronomicon. In what I wrote, a young person has inherited an old manse in which he finds this eerie ancient tome (straight copying of more than one Lovecraftian plot). I don’t think the actual story got much further than his discovery of the book. Evidently, not Dr. Haselmayer nor anyone in the class was familiar with Lovecraft, who was still pretty obscure and disrespected as a pulpster in those ancient days of 1971-75 (I don’t now recall in which year of my college career I took this class). I was unaware of the derivative nature of my story, so even after the class ended, I kept plugging away desultorily at it.

I own such a photojournalist’s vest

Actually, I jettisoned everything I had done for the class and started fresh. After my student-teaching stays at the antiquated, rundown, now-demolished, but beloved Hotel Allison in Cedar Rapids—first for a week in August and then during the longer second stay when I actually student-taught in November and December 1974—I came up with a more original plot. A character (as always, much like myself) was staying in the Hotel Allison (I don’t think I ever specified a reason), when one day literally out of thin air, a strange older man, dressed in strange clothing, popped into existence in the young man’s room and promptly passed out. I remember (the text is lost, I am pretty sure) the young man was cooking a can of beans in the can on a hotplate, contrary to all the regulations for residents at the Allison Hotel—as I had frequently done myself. Almost immediately, the young man went through the bald, old guy’s pockets (and he had many, wearing some strange kind of a multipocketed vest—all this written at the latest during my years in Ft. Madison, therefore long before I ever purchased a photojournalist’s vest, regardless how well-known I am for wearing them always now). Young man found several things of interest—some rods of various woods, powders and containers of other substances, and a strange book—not exactly a paperback because both the cover and pages seem to be either made of or encased in plastic.The book was poetry entitled A Book of Seasons by…

—I needed a name, and after a long process of calculation (which I will discuss in much greater detail later), I devised Durwood Wakdjunkaga.

When he had revived and received some food, the older man revealed he had come from the future, and was here to rewrite his own history. He was the author of the book of poems, so he was Durwood Wakdjunkaga. I think I intended for him to be a magician or wizard, having acquired the other Book of Seasons (the magic book from the earlier version of the story) in his youth, probably in the same way that I had developed for the creative writing class (I never got much past the old guy’s arrival and eventual introduction of himself). I intended these two to hang around Cedar Rapids and do various things the old guy wanted accomplished, with the youngster acquiring experience and wisdom from this future-elder, until the young man had to return to… well, I never had a good reason for him to be at the Hotel Allison, and I wasn’t sure I wanted him student teaching, so we have a hole in the plot outline here.

The old guy helps the young man meet a woman, prevents him from receiving a letter, and then vanishes, having left behind a message for the young man, who falls in love with the young woman and eventually marries her. The message reveals that Durwood and the young man are the same person: Durwood is the young man’s older self from the future, who regrets the path his life had taken (mostly because he received the mysterious letter, acquired the Liber Tempestatum, became interested in black magic or whatever, and never properly fell in love with the young woman—or perhaps he viciously sacrificed her, a virgin, to acquire his thaumaturgical powers; I liked the second version better, and I never did write any of this, just imagined it, so it’s all open-ended). As an old, lonely man, he realized that love would have been preferable to magic, so he used the magic powers he had acquired (by killing this young woman so many years before) to travel back in time and prevent himself from ever becoming a wizard (and her from dying). By succeeding, he extinguished himself.

Ta-daaah! There’s never been anything like that plot before. Not.

The book never got further than chapter two, as the old guy wakes up in the Hotel Allison, but the name and the sense of Durwood Wakdjunkaga being a kind of alter ego for me (after all, who else was the youngster in the Hotel Allison but my surrogate?) have never gone away. In fact, I am going to play with the older-looks-at-younger-looks-at-older self for tomorrow’s post.

So it’s “Wakdjunkaga’s Blog” because it’s my blog, and pseudonymously I am Durwood Wakdjunkaga. In fact, if the students who have asked did as I suggested, I have even foisted the pen name on my replacement to use as the author of their choral reading piece, performed today at the Iowa High School Speech Association district large group contest in Monticello. (I hope they did well, especially since everyone was probably as excited—or more excited—about the Andrew Homecoming Dance tonight.)

I hope that explains why this is “Wakdjunkaga’s Blog.”

However, we still don’t know where or how I came up with Durwood Wakdjunkaga as a name. As this post is definitely long enough, you will just have to wait for the rest of the story (along with waiting for the rest of “Details, Details”). Both will be forthcoming…

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