Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Yachats Gazette, Issue 73, October 1 2017

For a printable copy of Issue 73, please click here.

Interview with Dave Cowden

Dave Cowden is a Yachats-based musician who currently plays with Creighton Horton (TYG Issues 65 and 66).

TYG: So, where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in Kansas City and Johnni, my wife, was as well. We went to high school together. I graduated a couple of years ahead of her, went to college, and then I went in the military. She went to college, and we parted ways and ended up marrying other people. Then we ran into each other being single again back in Kansas City about thirteen years ago. She was living in Eugene, and I was still in Kansas City because I had five kids. So we did the long-distance thing for a while and got sick of that. That got old in a big hurry. She was sort of thinking she could be done with her career—she was the Executive Director of the Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene for quite a few years. She’d reached a point, like I said, where she felt she could be done with her career, so we started seriously talking about getting married, what we would do, where we would live. So I negotiated a deal with her to get married and move back to Kansas City until my youngest one graduated. So we got married in Eugene, and moved back to Kansas City for six years. We thought we were going to move back to Eugene because we had kept her house that she had there. All the time we were vacationing we were coming over to Yachats, to the coast, and we just fell in love with the place. But the last year we vacationed here we saw this house for sale and inquired about it, not having any intention of buying the thing. We were more or less just being nosy—we had no idea what the real estate was like here. So we were going to move back to Eugene, but we found this place and just kind of got a little snooping about it. We talked all the way back to Kansas City—just yak, yak yak yak, you know, doing the pros and cons on it. We finally decided to make an offer on it. It was an estate sale, so there were some motivated sellers, and we happened to hit the market and the interest rates in the right place. So we bought it, and moved here in June of 2013. I work from home, I’m in sales. So I worked out a deal with my employer. I sell industrial metals: aluminum, steel, stainless, that kind of thing. Business has progressed over the years with the advent of the internet and communications and all that. I tell people jokingly, but really it might be possible, that I could work from the moon if I had internet connectivity; it wouldn’t matter. [...] I worked out a deal with my employer to work from home, because I did work from the corporate office in Kansas City. We don’t sell any finished product, it’s all just raw materials: sheets, plates, bars, tubes, that kind of stuff. We sell to machine shops and manufacturers who build anything and everything that’s made out of metal. It’s amazing, if you look around and really pay attention in your world, the things that are made out of metal. It’s unbelievable: door hinges, automotive parts; I sell to just about every industry that’s out there: farm implements; a customer who was the first subcontractor to Lockheed Martin and NASA—I sell him titanium and aerospace aluminum, castings and forgings and that kind of stuff. It’s pretty interesting. I’ve been in the same field for 44 years.

TYG-Graphic Design: Did you get a degree in that?
No, I didn’t! I bounced around with the idea of what my major should be, and I haven’t really graduated from anything. I took music, and I was in art and photography school for a while, and just life got in the way. I went into the military, I got married... Things just drive some of your choices. I’ve got a smattering of knowledge of a whole bunch of stuff that’s not related to each other. It’s been a good career; it’s been ups and downs, with the economy. There have been some really, really good times, and some really slow times. Right now it’s not particularly good, but it’s kind of showing some signs of trying to come back. But moved here, and met Creight—I know you did an article on him. He and his family moved here about three months after we did. Creight and I met at an open mike at Green Salmon—they have one once a month. I played something solo, and he played something solo, and we just kind of chatted afterward and said, “Well, I like what you’re doing, let’s just get together and jam!” And that was the intent. We were just going to get together and enjoy playing a little bit of music together. Over a period of time, we found out that there were some venues around here that hired local musicians, so we thought, “Well, maybe we could work up enough material to maybe play once in a while. Well, “once in a while” has turned into a pretty significant part-time job! [laughs

TYG: Every couple of days, right?
Well, during the summer season it gets crazy! I keep track of it on the calendar—I think in July we played eighteen times. And August, we did like fourteen, and September we’re going to end up with something like sixteen.

TYG: Wow!
TYG-GD: Where do you play most often?
We’re kind of the house musicians for Luna Sea Fish House.

TYG: We’re neighbors with the owners—they’re literally just across the courtyard.
Oh! Well Robert Anthony, who owns Luna Sea Fish House, hired Creight’s daughter Eyrie before she went to college, and she’s come back every summer and worked as a server. She told Robert, “If you build a stage, my Dad and his buddy might come down and play music sometime. He thought that was a good idea, so he built a platform, and the platform year on year has become a platform with walls, and then a platform with walls and a canopy, and then they put a glass wall on one side. So we’ve got almost an enclosed little stage down there, and this is our fourth summer playing. We play kind of a lunch hour set on Saturday, and then an evening set on Saturday; and then on holiday weekends like the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, there’s always a Monday involved and sometimes Sunday too, so we play there pretty regularly. And then we play at the Drift Inn a couple times a month. In fact, I played a solo gig—Creight’s out of town, he went to his fiftieth high school reunion. As much as I dislike it—I don’t like to play solo, because over my musical career, I’ve always played in a band. I never really considered myself to be a lead singer. I played in bands that always had at least one guy, if not a couple guys, who had really good voices, good lead voices. I took vocal music in school and studied harmony and theory in college, and I know the mechanics; I took piano as a kid, so I know the mechanics pretty well, but I was always way more comfortable singing harmony behind somebody who had a really good voice.

TYG-GD: What is your primary instrument?
Guitar. Creight and I both play guitar, and he plays banjo, mandolin, and a little harmonica; and I play piano—I’ve got an electric piano, an 88-key piano that I used to carry around, but for one-nighters, and as I get older, it’s just a little bit more than I want to deal with physically, to haul the piano and set it up along with all the other stuff. 

TYG: I’m not sure, but I think ours may have more than 88 keys. 88 keys is really small, right?
No, it’s a full size.

TYG: Oh, never mind then.
The only piano which is bigger than that is a Bösendorfer, which is about a $100,000 grand piano, and it has an extra octave on the bottom. When you hit those big, crashing low notes, it rattles the walls almost. They’re pretty amazing pianos—I’ve never had my hands on one, but... I wouldn’t know what to do with the extra keys, probably! [laughs] [...] I’m a fan of a bass line. In bands, I’ve played bass off and on. I played stand-up, double bass in a church choir for twenty-some years in Kansas City, just because the transition from a guitar to a bass is not a big step; it’s a pretty easy jump. I enjoy playing bass.

Before that, my musical background... I was in a working band when I was fifteen years old. I couldn’t even drive—I had to have one of the other guys come pick me up. That was really just a once in a while on a weekend kind of thing, whenever we could get a job somewhere. They were pretty small events.

TYG-GD: How do you hook up with a band when you’re a fifteen year old?
School. You know, guys I went to school with. Interestingly, when I was in school—I graduated in 1964. Johnni and I went to school together. It wasn’t a small school; it wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t a small school either. I think in my graduating class there were about 270 something people. At that time, if you think back in the 1960’s, in the early 60’s when I was in high school, I was in the only band in the whole school, the only young guy band that played rock and roll music. My kids all graduated from a different high school in Kansas City, admittedly it was a larger school, but you can’t throw a rock down the hallway and not hit two or three kids who play in bands! They’re just all over the place. And some of these kids are scary good. My daughter plays guitar and sings and writes songs, and she played in a couple of little talent show things at school—they had to audition for it, and they pared it down to like eight or ten acts and she performed at those—some of those kids! I think back to what my skill set was and I look at some of these kids and think, “I’m glad I’m not trying to compete with them!” But having said that, you go back to the internet again. You can go on the internet and find out how to play, note for note, anything. You can just dial it up and there it is, and it’ll show you slow motion, and show you the tablature and everything—leads and chords and everything. It’s a lot easier now. [laughs] I had to keep backing up the needle on the record player, sit there and listen to it. My parents both were farm kids. My mom played piano a little bit; my dad wasn’t musical, but he enjoyed music. In fact, he had a big classical record library and he liked to listen to music. When I was in high school, the Beatles were really just coming out. And I’m backing up the needle and trying to play these lines, and figure them out all on my own, just by listening, playing by ear. We had a combination TV/stereo system in the living room. My dad would be sitting there reading a paper, I’m backing this needle up, and I probably played the same four bars of a guitar part a dozen times, and pretty soon I kind of hit his limit, and the thing that I remember him saying was, “Why don’t you turn that off and let it cool down a little bit?” [laughter] Because I just wore him slick hearing the same thing over and over again, and on top of that, not being music that he could appreciate. But that was the way you learned things back then! I used to go and watch other bands play, and watch other guys, better guitar players than I was at the time, and try to pick up things. I played in high school, I played in college, and right after high school I joined a group that had a full-time, professional manager. They had some good musicians; a couple of them graduated with degrees from the conservatory in the city, so these guys were schooled and smart musicians. One of them had a degree in composing and arranging. He would chart things out, and I would kind of have to try and figure out how to read it. That was good for me, because it kind of forced me to up my game.

TYG: Also to pick up musical notation!
Sure! Like I said, I took vocal music. I can sight read vocal music—two or three passes, and I can pretty much nail it. I’ve just lost my skill at playing piano and reading music. And I wasn’t that successful at piano lessons, because my ear was just too strong. My discipline to read the notes and put them on the keyboard.

TYG-GD: What do you mean exactly by your ear is “too strong”?
Well, I ... you hear it. Right now, if you picked something on the radio and played me a few bars of it, I could probably play it back to you on the guitar in a couple of minutes. Wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be close. It’s just the way my wiring works, and I can hear things. That’s the reason I took piano lessons as a child, because when I was like five years old, we went to an aunt’s birthday party, and there was a cake stand that had a music box in it that played the birthday song, and I’m five years old, and they’re sitting around the dinner table having coffee after dinner, and I’m in there one-finger playing, picking it out on the piano. Of course my parents said, “Oh my god, he’s a prodigy!” So I took piano; my sister and I both did. Being a parent now, I have to really look back at the time when I told my dad, after he had spent a lot of money for a piano, and music lessons... We lived in south Kansas City—there were no shopping centers, there were no suburban music centers that taught lessons: you had to go all the way downtown. So rain, sleet, snow, shine—I remember one time my dad put chains on the car, just so we could get downtown for a music lesson—so between financially and taking care of things, there were some things that my parents went without. I recognize that now. And my dad, he didn’t show a lot of emotion at the time when I told him I didn’t want to take piano anymore, I wanted to play the guitar and play in a rock and roll band. My dad’s a pretty soft-spoken guy, and like I said, my parents were both farm kids and pretty down to earth, and they probably could have been a little tougher on me than they were.

TYG-GD: How old were you when you announced this?
About thirteen, fourteen, something like that. And by fifteen I was in a band, playing jobs.

Our interview with Dave Cowden will continue in Issue 74.

Interview with Gretchen Milhaupt

This is Part 2 of our interview with Gretchen Milhaupt, who has a show currently hanging at Ona Restaurant and Lounge.

Gretchen: I got to art school at age 52, in Portland, and somehow by almost magic got to go to New York City, because there was a program, I found out at PNCA [Pacific Northwest College of Art], that said if there’s room, you can pay your tuition here in Portland, but you can go to this New York studio program, that’s associated with Parsons [School of Design]. I applied for it, I got in, I had my show that fall in 1997. I was only supposed to go for one six-month period. When I knew I was in, then I called my brother, and I was like, “Okay, I’m in, now what?” I mean, his apartment was only a one-bedroom apartment, there was no way I could live with him. But he said, “Well, we’ll see. Let’s just hang in there.” He called me up a couple of weeks later, and said, “You’re not going to believe this. There’s an Italian woman who has a studio apartment down two floors, and she wants to go back to Italy and she doesn’t know what to do. So I rented it for you.”

TYG-Graphic Design: Oh my gosh. How perfect is that? [laughter]
So all those younger—much younger, decades younger—art students, if they found out I was living in a seventeenth-floor beautiful studio apartment with a view of all of New York in Greenwich Village, in walking distance of the school... [grimaces] That’s called being fortunate! I know that, and I know that I’ve experienced that. And I really appreciate that my brother did help me a lot. So I feel that I got a much better art education in terms of art history. The deal about the program in New York was to get into famous artist studios, have artists come—famous artists, even well-known New York artists who have their studios all around there—come to the program, look at our art work, give us critiques. All of that. It was a fanTAStic experience.

Then my brother’s health went way, way, way down, and he didn’t want me to leave, and I didn’t really want to leave, and the people said, “Well, you could just apply to get into Parsons.” There were two girls who walked into Parsons and said, “We want to go to Portland, to PNCA.” So, we exchanged. If there wasn’t that kind of exchange, there wasn’t going to be room for them. [...] So I went to Parsons in the Fine Arts department, and I had painting and drawing teachers there. And it was really a wonderful experience. But it was tempered with the idea that first of all, I was in my fifties, and I had foot pain, and my brother was dying, and it was very, very difficult and stressful. And he did; he died before school got out, and I did everything that I could to keep up with everything. Some of the teachers were very nice to me, and I said, “Well, could you just give me a C, and I won’t take the test?” And they said, “Okay, that’s alright.” I mean, I don’t want to say that they made it real easy for me because I did do my work, but I got through it, and I came back. So then, I finished school at PNCA, and I’ve never forgotten one of the professors there, once I was graduated, I ran into him in the Pearl district—and meanwhile, from the time that I started, they were partly at the Art Museum, and then they went over to the Pearl district, and they were they when I came back from New York. Now, they’ve moved to another building—but the Pearl district, in 1998, when I came back from New York, it was still just kind of starting up, so it was a big deal for them to be there. And it was fun. So I remember this professor saying, after I graduated, he ran into me. And he said, “Well, how are you doing Gretchen?” And I said, “Oh, I’m doing okay.” I really wasn’t, but I didn’t want to say because I was so tired. And he said, “Now, you have to spend the next five years getting us out of your system! Hahaha!”

TYG-GD: You mean, as a school, to break free of their influence?
And one of the things I’d say I learned in art school... I had this one teacher who scoffed, “It just looks like you’re drawing with paint.” Okay. Another one came along, and said, admiringly, “Look! You’re drawing with paint!” So, I think one of my friends said, “Oh, the only thing you’re going to learn in art school is how to do things on a deadline, and how to take criticism.”

TYG-GD: Taking criticism is actually a really good skill.
That is what you want. And you want to respect who is saying this, who is criticizing, or critiquing your work. There’s a lot that is done in art school that does teach you what you are looking for and what you’re supposed to be talking about and saying, not just dissing people or whatever.

I would say that another way I’ve been fortunate is, even though my brother spent all of his money, there was something else that happened. The man he worked for was a billionaire, and there’s a portion of my brother’s estate which helped me to stick with doing art work. I had my house, I had house-mates, I painted in the basement for ten years, even though I said, “I hope I’m not known as one of those women who painted in her basement for ten years!” [laughter] I started selling my work even before art school, while [in] art school, and after. But I have to say that 2001 put a big damper on a lot of that activity for a lot of us, and I was a kind of newbie. But at the same time, I would say that I know that I’m a very fortunate person, because I’m getting to do what I always wanted to do. This is all I ever wanted to do. [Follows an interruption to move cars around in the parking lot.]

Where were we? Okay, so I got out of art school. Had a great time. I also had to have an operation in the middle of my senior year and I almost died with blood clots in my lungs, and after that I was really supposed to finish my thesis work in December, but they said I could let it slip till May. My thesis advisor said, “Oh, if you want to wait till next year, we can do that, that’s okay.” I said, “I’ll go get a gun and shoot myself if I have to do this anymore.” When you’re three and a half years into this, and you have one more half-year, and you’re in the middle of your thesis, you want to get it done! So I managed to get myself up. What I wanted to do, was portraits. Because all along I had been drawing the figure in Phil’s studio—three years of doing that twice a week for three hours at a time, four years always taking drawing classes and always drawing the figure. It’s really partly because of Alice Neel, partly because it’s a real tradition, partly because it’s very hard to do: it’s hard work to learn how to do that. Even if you have a natural ability—maybe I have some of that—I did it. I got carpal tunnel syndrome, I got stress injuries, I got a knobby thing here [points at her hand], shoulder problems... but I really was determined. I took as many painting classes as I could. I took them at night, and I took them during the day. So I kept going.

I eventually got out of my basement, and made a little studio in the back, with a door out to the deck, which was really nice. I showed my work at some places in Portland. Nothing big-time, because [...] you have to create a body of work. So, to me, that’s what’s in Ona [Restaurant & Lounge, in Yachats]: a body of work. And that’s not my first body of work—I’ve done many others. I’ll show you around here, because there’s evidence of that here. I loved going outdoors in the ninety degree summer heat, in the shade of the big beautiful trees in Laurelhurst Park and do figurative drawings and paintings like that. I sold a bunch of those. But then 2008 came, and that was a real tough one for all of us. Everyone, whether you owned property, whether you were an artist—whatever you did, it was like a world-wide crash and it was difficult. And I remember reading a New York article about how galleries were sending out letters to their rich patrons saying, please, buy art! These artists are going to die if you don’t buy art! And we have a $57,000 overhead that we’re not going to be able to pay! This is the moment of truth kind of thing. There’s definitely something about “Why are doing art?” You have to keep that in your mind and heart and in your gut, and say, “Because I have this need to do this. I really can’t not do it.” Of course there’s ego involved, which says, “I want to identify as an artist. I can’t just sit here and not be doing it.”

So, in time, because of my experience living down in Bob Creek, knowing this area—and even in Portland I’d say, “Oh, I’m going down to Yachats!” and they’d go, “What? Where’s that?” “Oh, forget it.” Finally I got to the point where I could sell my house in Portland, and I did, and I didn’t really know exactly what I was going to do so I moved into an apartment. Those were my years of really living irresponsibly, which I was completely into. And then pretty soon I’m turning 70, and going, “Oh, I always wanted to be an old lady back at the coast!” so I started coming back here, over a number of years. And I ran into somebody who used to date my younger brother in Eugene in middle school, who lives in Yachats, and I’ll leave out her name, but she helped me. I said, “I need a house-sitting gig!” so I could maybe try to figure out where is my place here on the Oregon coast. Also, I grew up from age eight to sixteen in Eureka. It’s on the coast—it’s a little bit like Coos Bay or Waldport, but there’s the same kind of weather. I get over here and I just go, “Yes!” [groans emphatically] I lived in Portland for the Portlandia years—it was wonderful! We had a wonderful time, and I lived as an urbanite, which I wanted to do, and I got it all out of my system, and I said, “I can’t take this anymore. I want to move over here.”

So my friend and I were sitting at the Green Salmon looking at The Skinny, and there was a trailer [with an affordable price]. And my friend said, “Oh, but it’s in a beautiful place!” But I came and I really didn’t like it. So I called Charlie Tabasko, and we established that we were in Eugene in the 60’s at the same time. He said, “There’s a nicer one, if you want to see it tomorrow. It’s more, but not so much more.” So I came over here the next day, and there had been a sale fall-through the day before. I was here at eleven, and Charlie said, “I’m showing it to somebody else at one, so you have one hour to make up your mind whether you’re buying this or not.”

Okay, now let me show you around a little bit. [She does so.] I thought it looked like a good idea, and in an hour I made up my mind and said, “Yes, I’m going to do it.” The only way I could make up my mind in one hour that “I’m going to buy this place and move here!” is because I knew that there were people playing ping pong in Yachats, at the Commons, on Monday nights. I didn’t really feel ready to give up my 20 years of playing ping pong in Portland. And two weeks later it was mine, and a month later I moved down. And I’ve been the happiest, happiest, happiest 72-year old now you’ve ever met. [laughter]

[She shows us more of her work inside] That’s one time in Portland where we were doing what’s called “up-cycle”—so that’s old canvas, old materials, and pennies on it.

Up-cycled painting by Gretchen Milhaupt

But here, this one: that was my very first painting. I learned about an artist named Oskar Kokoschka, and I was trying to do a self-portrait in the vein of Kokoshka. But I didn’t do it from looking in the mirror—I was looking at a photograph that somebody had taken of me.

Self-portrait in the vein of Oskar Kokoshka, by Gretchen Milhaupt

TYG: I imagine that’s easier than doing it from a mirror.
No, there’s a whole discussion to be had about that. This is something that I refuse to do, because one thing you’re doing is painting a photograph. It’s just a little object here; it’s flat, and everything is taken out of it. It’s not the real thing. [...] These are older paintings done in oil, done outdoors, Portland scenes. And I’ve done dozens and dozens of them. I like oil paint, I like acrylic paint—the ones at Ona are all acrylic paint—and I like gouache. This is gouache. It’s an original painting, from a drawing that I did. I had a model, I drew the model, then I used that drawing to make a painting. That’s one way that I like to do that. Now this: I was out in the park and there were models there. But there’s also some level of making things up, too. One thing I’m not interested in, is realism. And I say, damn the details. [laughter] I’m not putting in eyelashes. I’m not putting fingernails on the fingers. I’m not even maybe making the fingers. You know that’s a foot! But really, it’s a painting. I’m not interested in tedium.

[To Allen] So, you posed a very interesting question about using a photograph. So, in my [portfolio] album, there’s a picture of two kids that I painted, a girl in a pink blouse and her brother next to it. Right after art school, a friend brought his kids over to my studio basement and said, “Alright, I want you to do their portrait, but you have to do it looking at them—there’s no using photography. And I learned the difference. And I’m very grateful to him. Since I did those portraits, I told people that if they wanted to come in and have me do a portrait, I’d try to do it in five sittings. I remember saying to little Chloe, who was eleven or so, and it was in the summertime and she was all tired-looking in the beginning, and she came back the next week and I said, “Chloe, are you the same person today that you were last week?” And she looked at me [like I was crazy]. “Well, I’m not the same person I was last week. I was really into it last week. Today I’m tired, and I’m not sure I really want to do this, but here we are, we have to do it. So I’m not the same person. Really, I don’t think you are either, because this is a very in-the-moment thing.” And the painting grew, and got better, and I learned that it does get better. By people coming back, and they learn what their pose is, maybe the light changes a little bit, maybe they change a little bit, maybe I change a little bit: it’s a process that builds a full, rounded painting. There are layers of paint. You don’t know that’s what you’re seeing is all that painting. But you are. So it’s a line that I’ve drawn, and it’s probably like shooting yourself in the foot. Because if I could just do portraits from photographs, then maybe I could be doing that. But I don’t want to do that. And guess what? I’m old enough to say that I don’t want to do what I don’t want to do. [laughter]

TYG: Did you have anything else you wanted to say?
Well, when I got here, a friend said, “You know, you should show your work at Ona.” I said okay, and I sent [Michelle Korgan] some pictures, and she said no. So I thought, “Well okay, I guess I’d better re-strategize here.” So, this is how things happened, and it’s how things happen at the coast: I went to the art group, and I met nice people, and I did it more for meeting people than doing the art work. I got here in May, and all that first fall I had to have a bunch of little surgeries that were unpleasant, and I couldn’t really do things. Finally in January I got up the nerve to go Monday night and face those people in Yachats, whatever level of play they had. I would talk to Leon, and he would say, “Just go!” But I was nervous.

TYG-GD: This is the ping pong people?
Yes, the ping pong people. I was nervous first of all that maybe they’d all be really terrible and it would be a big disappointment, or they’d be really good and I wouldn’t be able to keep up. So it’s just something that you worry about, and it’s hard. Anyway, so I faced my fears and went over, and we had a great time. Subsequently, I feel that they are some of the core people that I formed friendships with. That’s how I met Ian [Smith], and that’s how I met Chris [Graamans], his brother-in-law. Last year, I decided that “I need Chris to come over here and take photographs of my artwork, because I have to get more serious about actually doing something.” And then, I met some guys who moved to Yachats, and they bought a house for Airbnb on the ocean. And I said to them, “You need some of my big paintings in there!” And they said, “Yeah!” So they did. And that helped me get them out, out of here. Anything that helps them get out. And then I made a new friend, and she bought a house, and she saw the paintings, and she said, “Oh, I have to have one” but now she has three. And then she said, “Why aren’t your paintings in Ona? So I said something to my other ping pong buddy, “You’ve had your artwork there, would you say something to Michelle?” And so he did, and she came here. My goal was—I thought the best thing I could do for me and my artwork was to be in Ona for three months in the summer. I knew that her basic idea is to change every three months. Every month—that’s a nightmare! You have to deal with artists every month? Oh, my god! [laughter] She came here and liked what she saw, and I had five new paintings. One of them wasn’t even finished; it’s the triptych in the entry. She said, “Well how long will it take you to finish that?” “I don’t know...” Then it was like, “You have to have them there by June 28th.” “Oh, I’ll get it done!” And the other two, I got done too.

Triptych by Gretchen Milhaupt

TYG-GD: [laughter] Sometimes deadlines are not so bad!
So there you go, there’s that story!

TYG: Well thank you so much for your time!
Thank you for coming.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Yachats Gazette, Issue 72, September 1 2017

Click here for a printable version of Issue 72

Interview with Gretchen Milhaupt

Gretchen Milhaupt has a show currently hanging at Ona Restaurant and Lounge. We were delighted to speak with her and learn more about her artistic career.

TYG: What made you decide to become an artist?
Gretchen: Okay, that’s the best question of all. And I don’t know that it’s a decision. I would say, as a child, I was told by my grandmother that I had “it.” She was the daughter of a painter. Her father was a Scotsman, who came from Scotland to British Columbia, and supported his wife and eleven children by his landscape paintings in British Columbia. So, growing up in California—[sotto voce] that dreaded place that everybody loves to hate so much—and getting time to spend with my grandmother was a really good thing for me. I knew that she was artistic and liked to paint, and she really encouraged me. My parents didn’t notice a thing—they had four other kids. Oh. I was lucky. We moved from northern California in Eureka to Eugene, Oregon. I had to go to North Eugene High School, which was not a very happy thing for me because I would have fit in South Eugene a lot better, but at least it was a new school, and they had this fantastic art room. And it had beautiful clerestory windows around, and tables, and equipment—it was 1961, and it was a brand new school, with a terrific art teacher. So really, I loved that, and I just stumbled through chemistry and various other things.

But going to college in those days, a young woman—my father was educated, and my mother didn’t have a whole lot to say about what a young woman should be doing—I finally thought, well, maybe what I could be doing is study architecture. That’s what I think I might like to do. And somebody said, “Oh, go over to Bill so-and-so, over at the School of Architecture at the U of O.” And what did he say? “Oh no! Women can’t be architects!” Well, I was only 17, and it was a time when people said things like that, and I didn’t know how to say “I’m going to do it anyway.” I really didn’t. So, yes. It was expected that I would go to college, and it was expected that I’d find some nice guy to get married to, and then I wouldn’t be a problem anymore for anybody to worry about. So... I dropped out. I was a 1963, early 60’s, drop-out. The other thing I could say about that, which I have learned to say from being here all these years, is, when they go: “Oh. Eugene. The 60’s. Really?” Yes, I was a card-carrying member of the 60’s in Eugene, and all that that implies. Except I didn’t throw any bombs, and I didn’t go to jail. So other than that, yes, I was there.

TYG-Graphic Design: What happened in Eugene in the 60’s?
Gretchen: Eugene was a hotbed in the 60’s of young people doing exactly what I was doing: dropping out, coming from all over the country, saying “I don’t want to be straight; I want to go to San Francisco, but if I can’t go to San Francisco, I want to go to Eugene.” Do you know about the Country Fair?

TYG: No! We’ve never heard about any of this!
Gretchen: You’ve never heard about the Country Fair which has been going on for 48 years?

TYG-GD: Is that the one outside of Veneta or something?
Gretchen: Yes. You would know if you’d been there.

TYG-GD: No, we haven’t been.
Gretchen: I’d recommend it. In the 60’s, I met somebody who later became my husband. He was a very flamboyant and notorious artist, a photographer. He was a lot older than I was. We were all in Eugene together—we managed to get together. But he was so much older than me that I had to say no. But five or six years later we re-found each other and became husband and wife. But he was known as... Oh, I’ll go get a picture.

TYG: What was his name?
Gretchen: Harry I. Gross. [leaves and returns with a photo] Ok, here’s me down at Bob Creek, on Gwynn Knoll. We lived in Eugene, but we had a house at Bob Creek, too. And we were married on that rock. In this picture I was maybe 29, and he was 27 years older, so... 56. So in my marriage, I had a chance to learn a lot about artistic expression, the artistic process, and the idea that a good photograph is... composition is the most important thing. I learned a lot about that from him. And we traveled, and that kind of stuff. So that was during the whole 70’s. So in some ways I could be considered somewhat of an old timer here. It’s funny, because now I play ping pong with Ian Smith, who was growing up around here, and he remembers me from those days. I would say that in those days I wished I could be doing artwork, but I was more the assistant of the photographer-husband.

When he died in 1979, I stopped living there, and I had a chance to go live in Japan, and that’s where all of my kind of interest in other exotic areas, or people, or culture, or any of that, was always going towards Japan. My whole life. And I think it was from growing up in California and being exposed to Japanese culture, too. I was very taken by everything Japanese. I met a young woman who lived there, and I bought kimono from her. I went to the art library at the U of O and took out every book about Japanese art. I combed over it, and studied it. I thought I’d just go for six months or something, but I wound up, over a three year period, spending two years there and making five trips going back and forth. I met wonderful Japanese people.

TYG-GD: What were you doing there? 
Gretchen: Well, I went there in 1980, with the idea that I felt that I—as well as other people, maybe—could learn something from a culture that from the outward appearance, appears to be a successful society. But also, because of being a 35-year old widow, and wanting to go someplace exotic, different, really experience what it was like to live in a different culture, I wanted to be safe. I didn’t want to have to worry about personal safety, which I didn’t have to do in Japan.

TYG: Japan sort of fits that role perfectly.
Gretchen: Absolutely! And I thought, “Oh! They love nightly, wonderful hot baths, and Mozart, I’m going to get along with these people!” [laughs] “And I love their art!” So I had a great experience. Then I came back. I was sort of jokingly referred to as the “Travelling Silk Merchant from the Orient” in those days because I met people who were in the textile business in Kyoto. I would say that because I wasn’t 22 with a back-pack, when I went to Japan, I fell in with people who were more like 35—they were my age, they were successful Kyoto people in the textile business, in the kimono business or some form of that business. One man was in the thread business. Another man had an obi company; he was an obi maker.

TYG: What’s “obi”?
Gretchen: Kimono is the one word that means dress, or apparel, in Japanese. Obi is the sash that goes around and ties in the back, because they believe that the back view is just as important as the front view. This obi-maker, no, he wasn’t sitting weaving at a little loom—he had a factory and a lot of people who were hand-weaving looms for him. And he was a designer, even though he was 78 or something, and became a very good friend. The Japanese people that liked me wanted me to teach them English. Somebody said that that was a good idea, do it, because it’s a good way to know people. And I thought that was good advice, so... My attitude about anything in life is that I keep a date book, and if they say, “Do you want to do this and go there?” I look, and if there’s nothing on it, I say yes! Because why would I go to Japan and say no to something that I don’t even know what I’m saying no to? That’s not me.

Then, I had to come back from Japan, because I knew I wasn’t going to stay there forever. I did realize that if I had been 22, I might have married a Japanese man and stayed there forever. But that wasn’t in the cards for me. So I came back to Eugene, and I went right to South Eugene High School and I said to the principal, “We’ve got to start learning Japanese! They’re going to be coming here!” This was the early 80’s. And everybody thought, “Oh, Gretchen’s gone off her rocker. She thinks we’re all going to learn Japanese.” Well, it wasn’t very long after that, they started an immersion program, and people have been learning Japanese in Eugene ever since those days.

Then, it was kind of like, “Well, I’m back in Eugene and I need to find a way to make a living. I do need to do that. So I think I’ll go into the real estate business.” Because we were at the very end of a long dive, from high prices and a lot of real estate speculation, and suddenly in six months it dropped and went down, down, down. ‘85 was probably the pits. It was the lowest point in real estate terms in Eugene at least. It lasted a little longer in Portland. So I started doing that, and at the same time I was still trying to get rid of some of my Japanese silks that I hadn’t really been successful at doing. I was trying to sell to designers in Los Angeles or San Francisco, or Seattle—there’s a circuit that I learned about in those days of people that are in the kimono business who know something about it, and are involved in it. Second-hand kimono, mostly. But I was dealing with brand new textiles that I got from a friend, who had a wholesale house. And I thought I could maybe find some one or two people, maybe in Los Angeles or San Francisco, that would really take off with it. My Japanese friend in Kyoto helped me form an association of kimono material makers, and he introduced me and said, “She remembers everything.” [laugh] I got the idea that these men, they made these kimono materials, they were traditional, they were not used to working with women in business, period, let alone an American woman who would actually stand up and start talking to them! [mimes panic] And I didn’t have an extra hundred thousand dollars to come back and start a dress-making operation. So I had to give up on all that. But I was kind of known as a kimono-silk-textile expert in Eugene. I gave talks to people at the library, then schools: What the whole thing about kimono is, the art—it is wearable art.

I had plenty of success selling real estate in Eugene, after the end of a terrible depression, and everything was going up and up and up. And then, in the middle of it, some people who were part of the Eugene-Kakegawa Sister City Committee said, “Come on, we need you.” They really insisted they wanted me to be the leader of this group. I was still in the real estate business, and I remember some of my real estate buddies when I would say, “Oh, we’re having a delegation from Japan coming, and I have to close that deal.” “That’s like two jobs!” [laughter] And it kind of was! But it was in a time when there were Japanese coming her, buying things up because they were spending pocket change to buy properties in the US. Kakegawa was a small place. My Kyoto friends would say, “Huh? Where’s that?” Like somebody living in Portland saying “Where’s Cresswell? Never heard of it.”

Towards the end of that I had some big successes, and I sold two of the biggest properties that had ever sold in Lane County to Japanese investors. Sister City people bought this really big farm, because they said “We want to have a farm, and a culture center, and we want to do this and do that.” “Oh, but we have laws here—you can’t do whatever you want just because it’s your property!” So after the farm was sold, the Junction City people who sold the farm to the Japanese people were very happy, because nobody else was going to pay that amount of money, probably, it became a very public situation. I had to learn how to dodge the newspapers, the TV, and when they finally got it down, somebody spray-painted “Go home Japs” in the road. I remember, I had to call Mr. Matsumoto down in California and say, “This is happening.” And he said, “Gretchen, it’s just how people react to that, that’s what matters.” Later, they came back and said, “Well, we want to buy another property.” And I said, “You’d better bring a lawyer who speaks English.” But I knew they would never come again if they didn’t trust what I did for them. And then they bought a big property up on McKenzie River. So the upshot of that was that I was exhausted at that point! I wanted to go to Portland, and get serious about doing artwork!

So in ‘91, I left. I found a teacher. I drew in his studio for three years. I got a job as a real estate appraiser, so that sort of supported my whole thing, there. And then the market went down again, and the bank said, “Well, anybody who hasn’t been here for 10 years, you’re out.” By then I’d been drawing in the studio for several years, and the teacher was encouraging me. I have to say that I feel like an example of somebody who made up her mind to really go for what it is she wanted to do. There’s a lot of talk about how you have to figure out what it is you want to do—and then maybe it’s going to happen. If you don’t know what what it is you want to do, what’s going to happen?

Then the doors started opening. I had a brother who was living in New York City, and I lost my job as a real estate appraiser, and I wanted to draw and do artwork, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a house that I’d bought, because I was being a responsible adult with a real job. I asked my drawing teacher, “If I want to go to art school here in Portland, where should I go?” His name is Phil Sylvester, and he’s still teaching drawing in Portland, and I recommend him to many, many people. He’s just wonderful. What I loved about him in his advertisement, and why I went there, was: His idea was, it’s not about doing it right, it’s not about being correct, it’s about being expressive. And it’s about learning how to get what’s in here [gestures towards her chest] OUT there. Even Picasso said, “It may be correct, but that doesn’t mean it’s good!” [laughter] 

TYG: Yes. There was this whole movement of trying to portray stuff as realistically and as perfectly as possible—I want to say, late 1800’s to early 1900’s? 
Gretchen: Well, but that has been the effort of art... My friend is an artist here, and we were having a little talk about all this, and I said, “I’m not interested in going to churches in Italy and looking at that stuff—I’m not! That’s not what I think is interesting! It’s interesting when artists got freed from the aristocracy and the churches and the rich people. And then they had to go on their own, and do what is truly important to them. That’s when modern art started. And when it started, everyone went, “[shrieks] Oh my god, that’s just awful!” [laughter] And they had to suffer through that, and keep going! Well, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. But I did get a chance, thanks to my brother, who was a Hollywood movie producer and understood that artists need help. He had a friend that hired him and paid him a whole lot of money just to be there in New York City and do interesting things. My brother was a very generous person, and he helped a lot of his friends, and he helped me, and said, “Go ahead and go to art school. I’ll give you a stipend so you can do that.” I was 52 years old when I started going to art school. I think the main point that I feel is really true about my experience, and for lots of people, is that when you start doing the artwork, you have no idea what’s going to happen! You can’t predict where that piece is going to go, or who’s going to see it, who’s going to care about it, who’s not going to care about it—all that, you can’t... you just do it.

I went to Pacific Northwest College of Art, which is THE art school in Oregon. But before I went to art school, I think it was in 1995... My brother was a man who had been HIV positive for a long time, and was slated to die from AIDS, but he was living a kind of life that said he could have everything that he needed, so his life was extended by that. At the same time, his three sisters and his brother, we’re all here, and he’s there in New York, and he was lonely, too. So I went to visit him one time. It was a very difficult time—he was being very difficult. But he was living in a nice apartment on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, with a view of all of New York, and you can’t feel totally sorry for someone like that. But I came home, and I thought, “Okay, I have to do a painting about my experience of spending a week with Charlie in New York City, and he knew ballet dancers and other people all around the world, so he’d be talking on the phone, wandering around in his turquoise robe, and so I did a little painting like that. It was a memory piece. And then I sent it to him. Well, he took it to a woman at a small gallery, and did some framing, and she said, “I want to give your sister a show!”

TYG-GD: And you were still in school?
Gretchen: I was in my freshman year!

TYG-GD: [laughter] That’s wonderful!
Gretchen: And my brother called me up and said, “You’re not going to believe this!” And he even said—to her— “Well, not all her paintings look like this.” And she said, “I don’t care. I’m just sick of people who’ve been painting bull’s eyes for the last twenty years.” [laughter] So I have something I’m going to give to you as a souvenir, because my first year in school, the first year we painted in acrylic paint, and at the end of the first semester the teacher said, “Now alright, I want everybody to do a self-portrait in the manner of an artist that you really admire.” Well, I had learned about a woman named Alice Neel. She was born in 1900, and she was working during the times of abstract expressionism. As a child, it’s kind of what I was exposed to; that’s what American art is. But she never went to abstract expressionism—she stuck with figurative work and doing portraits. She had a hard life in a lot of ways, and a lot of struggles, but she had “it” and she did amazing work. So I did this self-portrait in the first year of art school, in the manner of Alice Neel. That’s the announcement for the show in New York City—this was in the Fall of when I started art school, in 1996. I remember telling my teacher, who was my age, that I was going to have a show in New York City, and his lip... [makes a pouting, trembling kind of lip] “Life isn’t fair...” So, I thought, “What am I going to do?” and we decided that I would put this in the show, and some other, way more abstract things that I had done.

Our interview with Gretchen Milhaupt will continue in Issue 73.

Interview with John W. Thornton

We continue our interview with John from Issue 71.

John: So anywhoo—let’s see what happened next. [...] I got a job with GE, Missile and Space Division, in Philadelphia. That was a big deal, a big operation. And that’s when I first went to work on Minuteman III, and I worked on various other projects. Then in ‘69, I was offered a job in system marketing for GE - Philadelphia. That means you’re dealing with the Air Force, and the Navy, at their sites. So I commuted to Southern California. That was with the Air Force Ballistic Missiles System Division, out in San Bernardino, California, 90 miles east of Los Angeles. As I said, I was basically a commuter. To get to San Bernadino, you either have to rent a car in LA, and drive out, which I did a few times. Most of the time they had a little twin engine aircraft that flew back and forth. I remember one night we were flying out to San Bernardino, and I looked around, and everywhere I looked in the sky there were private aircraft. Anyway, it was enlightening working with the Air Force out there. Most of the things I was involved with were not missile systems, but experimental missile projects to develop new technology. A lot of those flights were out of White Sands, New Mexico. I remember one time flying into Los Angeles—I’d had lunch in San Bernardino first—and it was very bumpy over the airport there. That was the only time I ever got ill on an airplane.

TYG: Must have been pretty rough then!
John: It was very rough! I don’t know what was going on; I guess it was a big cross-wind or something. Anyway, [a couple of years later, in 1971,] that’s when I got the new job. I became a District Sales Manager.

TYG-Graphic Design: Well, how was that—hopping from actually creating to being a sales manager?
John: It was fine. It was good for me.

TYG-GD: You didn’t get bored? I would get so bored!
John: No! I haven’t told you what I did, though—so I got this job in Seattle as a district sales manager, and we handled all kinds of product to do with electronic components, and my territory was Washington, Oregon, and western Idaho. So I went to a lot of places, and so much of my business was in Portland, Oregon, that I was out there almost all week every other week.

TYG-GD: Oh! And where was your family living at this point?
John: In Seattle. The company I was mostly involved with was called Tektronix. At that time Tektronix was at the top of its game, and they had about 18,000 people working there, in Oregon and in sites around the world.

TYG-GD: What were they doing?
John: Electronic instrumentation, primarily oscilloscopes. So at that time that was their primary product, and so I was dealing with designers, design engineers; I was dealing with what they called components, and for every kind of component they bought, I had an engineer who was responsible for getting the parts [...]  and getting them qualified to Tektronix’s internal specifications. So I dealt with a lot of people like that. And mostly nice people. I really enjoyed that part of the job.

TYG-GD: So who were you selling oscilloscopes to?
John: I wasn’t—Tektronix was. They sold to all kinds of people: electronic laboratories, underground nuclear tests. The oscilloscope was destroyed by the explosion, but they got great data before it was destroyed.

TYG: So essentially they had to have a new one each time, I’m guessing.
TYG-GD: That’s convenient.
John: Yes, it didn’t hurt Tektronix any! [laughter] They had quite a few for each test. So it didn’t hurt the component makers either, so we all did well. That went on pretty much from ‘71 to ‘84, I guess. Other major companies I dealt with were Hewlett-Packard in Boise, and in Vancouver, Washington, and a couple other sites. I’m trying to think of anything special that went on... [The job] was good for me, because I like to get things done. If something came up, you could close it off in a day or two, and move on to something new. Whereas with some of those other jobs that I had, you never got on to the next step. And there were years involved. That wasn’t so good for me, because I like to get things done quickly and move on to something new.

So in 1984, they were cutting back on field reps, and my position got cut back. By now I certainly didn’t want to leave GE, and I already had over twenty years on my pension. So I found a job, Marketing Representative. I called on the Air Force Systems Command people in Albuquerque, at the air base there, and also at Los Alamos, where there was engineering for nuclear weapons. That is a beautiful place, Los Alamos, up on the plateau at about 8,000 feet. It’s all real flat, a lot of trees around, and just a great place up there, a research facility, the Los Alamos National Laboratory. They did all the original research for the nuclear bomb. In the development of the first bomb, they were doing research of taking two half-spheres and pushing them together. They once let them get too close, and Wham-o! They had almost a critical mass. [Louis Slotin] got severely radiated; he lasted about four days. He pulled [the two halves] back apart again, and that’s when he really got zapped. But he was a hero, you know. He could have blown up the whole lab.

Anyway, that’s what I did from ‘84 to ‘87. I liked that job. There were a lot of good people I dealt with there, Air Force type people. And I went to labs where we saw unusual things. In fact, I was in a lab there one day. They had a thing that tracked eight different sources, I think. Then what they did was blow a hole in the roof of the building.

TYG-GD: [laughs] On purpose?
John: Well, I don’t think that was the intent. [laughter] But they learned a lot! I was really startled by that one. We were sitting in this room and I was watching, and all of a sudden, Boom! They had six or eight inches of leaded glass between you and what was going on. So I didn’t get irradiated.

TYG-GD: Did they make you wear little counters on your suits?
John: Geiger counters, yes. Anyway, that job went away, but I had one more for GE, aerospace field marketing, in Washington, DC. I was marketing in Philadelphia, and I was responsible for the science and technology programs. And that means, what we’re going to do in the future. So I was calling on places like the Electronics Lab, the Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. So those are some of the places I called on. Oh! I used to go out to the headquarters of NSA, the National Security Administration. I never got clearance to go inside, but one of our facilities, called the GE Electronics Laboratory, in Syracuse, was submitting proposals to them a lot, and I would get the proposals and deliver them to the NSA.

TYG-GD: And was your family still in Seattle at that time?
John: Oh no, we kept moving. We had a pretty nice place outside of Annapolis, Maryland. I didn’t realize when I bought the place that it was 37 miles from downtown—I had to leave by 6:15 in order to get there.

TYG-GD: The traffic is insane around there!
John: Yes! The bad thing was that if I waited till 6:45, it took me two hours to get there!

TYG-GD: So that was your last job with GE?
John: Yes—as I said, I was involuntarily retired. But, I have no complaints. They offered to move us any place in the US we wanted to go.

TYG-GD: Was that when you came to Yachats?
John: No, that was back to the Seattle area, to Redmond. While I was there, I got a job with Boeing, Commercial Aircraft Division.

TYG-GD: Also in marketing?
John: No. I was an engineer working on contract. I liked working on contract—it was great. I did that for two years. My job required me to spend a lot of time in the plant, the big, huge plant there. We’d run into a problem, and I’d have to document the problem, and figure out what we had to do to the drawings to make it work.

TYG-GD: Wow! So how was it jumping from marketing back into the specifics?
John: No problem. One thing that interested me though: A job that would have had one GE guy working through, I had three or four Boeing guys doing the same job. I guess GE was getting every ounce out of people that they could! [laughs]

TYG-GD: And so, how did you come to Yachats?
John: Okay. So we’re living in Redmond, and we’d decided we wanted to live on the Oregon Coast. I guess the first place we went was in Bandon. And we definitely wanted a view, you know. Well in Bandon, the only place you could have a view was on the front row of a housing development. If you’re back, you hardly have any view.

TYG-GD: Yes, it’s kind of flat out there.
John: It’s flat on top. So we didn’t go to Bandon. Bonnie had spent one or two nights here with our daughter, when we still lived in Redmond I guess—I’m not sure. They stayed at the Adobe, and she really liked it. So we spent a good two days here looking at houses, and the third day, we bought a house!

TYG: Nice!
TYG-GD: Do you have a view of the ocean?
John: A little. It’s not as good as it used to be. We live on the uphill side of King Street. Our goal was to downsize, so we bought a two bedroom, one story house. No stairs! I think we were pretty lucky! We have a big picture window that looks out on the ocean. It was pretty wide open originally, but now there are big trees.

TYG-GD: So what do you do with your days, these days?
John: Well, Wednesday afternoons I work at the Little Log Church. I was on the Planning Commission for seven years; I was the Chairman for three years.

TYG: Well thank you so much for your time!
John: Well thank you Allen—thank you for considering interviewing me! I haven’t been interviewed before.

TYG: How was your first time?
John: Fine! [laughter]

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Yachats Gazette, Issue 71, August 2, 2017

For a downloadable, printable version of issue 71, click here.

 Interview with Patty Hodgins
Patty is a former editor, social worker, and a traveler who has recently embraced Yachats as her home.

TYG: So I hear you used to be a social worker?
That is true!

TYG: What was that like?
It was really good. There were a couple of really bad experiences, but it was a big career change for me, because I used to be a book editor. So when I went back and got a social work degree, it was totally different. Ultimately it was a really, really good change, and the last job I had especially, I just loved. It was with older people—of which I am now one myself—it was just really neat.

TYG: How did you get into book editing?
Well, I started out as a proofreader at the Geological Society of America, and they published books and journals. But then I became an editor there at the Geological Society, and then I just kind of morphed into regular, more general books. But mostly I did scholarly publishing kinds of stuff.

TYG: Just something I’ve always been curious about: How do you tell—especially in geology, you’re going to get a lot of abbreviations and stuff—how do you tell what’s a misspelling, and what’s an abbreviation and stuff?
Well, when you’re actually doing the work as an editor, you know what’s an abbreviation.

TYG: Okay, so there’s a list you have, a cross-check.
There’s a style, a whole style.

TYG-Graphic Design: Isn’t that like the MLA (Modern Language Association)?
TYG: Yes, true.
Yes. But it was a really good place to learn editing, actually, because there was a very clear-cut style, and I learned how to hew to that. Then when I got into more general books, I knew what it meant to be a rigorous copy-editor.

TYG: Often, in the fiction I read, you have crazy names!
I didn’t do fiction so much.

TYG: I imagine fiction is a lot harder than non-fiction.
I think it is [from] the few that I’ve done. Especially because—believe it or not—authors sometimes don’t even remember what the name of their main character is, from the first of the book to the last of the book. [laughs] Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but not a whole lot! Like the heroine has blue eyes on page 43, and brown eyes on page 112. If you’re a good editor, you’re picking that up.

TYG: Wow!
Yes. So you have to be always vigilant for the details.

TYG: That’s amazing! I didn’t realize it would be quite that extreme.
Oh, there are all kinds of things that you have to be on the lookout for. There’s a really funny one that I’m remembering: Sometimes you can get a proofreader or an editor that doesn’t know exactly what they’re doing. One time I was working on a book—I was the project manager for it, I guess—and there was the term force de frappe, which means “striking force” in French. But the proofreader had thought that was a mistake, and she made it “force de frappĂ©” (with an acute accent over the “e”). [laughs]

TYG: In other words, something else entirely—I’m not quite sure exactly what that would mean.

TYG: “Force de frappuccino” or something? [laughter] In a thing like that, how do you address the author, or the proofreader?
For the proofreader, they’re working with you, so you can tell them, “This was actually correct the way it was.” But with the author, when you’re editing, you write little [notes]. Back when I was doing it, we weren’t all computerized yet. We actually used little sticky notes, and we’d write questions on little sticky notes and attach them to the pages.

TYG: That’s basically the same way we do it today.
It is, except not so manual.

TYG: Sometimes I’ve used the “track changes” function in Word, and it can be really complex! I’m guessing all the stuff comes from the old, manual way of doing it.
I guess so, yes. I’ve never, ever edited anything digitally, but I’ve seen how that works. And the whole left margin is full of stuff! You know, with the little lines going to where it’s supposed to be referring to. It’s very hard to make out where everything goes and what it all is.

TYG: It’s especially really cool when it’s one or two, which I can manage. [...] What happens if you’re reading [the book] when you’re editing it, and suddenly you notice the plot just starts falling apart and doesn’t make any sense?
You mention it. Tactfully, to the author. You have to kind of say, “Sense, question mark. Not sure if...” something, something, something. You have to be very tactful.

TYG-GD: But wouldn’t that be the work of the person who buys the book for the publisher?
You mean, the person that’s brought the book into the publishing house? That’s the development editor.

TYG-GD: I’d be surprised that they wouldn’t catch something like the plot not making sense.
Well, if it’s a really glaring error, that’s true. Again though, I’m talking about scholarly publishing—fiction, I don’t know how that goes at all. But yes, the development editor in scholarly publishing does that, and the project manager takes the manuscript, looks it over, gets a sense of what’s there to be done, to say to the copy editor, “Look, here’s what I’ve seen that you really want to watch out for, and go light on this thing (or whatever it is)...” You just give the copy editor some general instructions. And then you look it over when the copy editor brings it back and see whether it was done okay or not. And then the proofreader, after it’s been set and typed. It used to be that they would set galleys from the manuscript, galley pages that weren’t numbered. Then, after the editing, the type-setter would then make it into pages, and the proofreader would proofread it.

TYG: Now it’s all condensed into one process.

TYG: So that sounds like a really fun job.
It was. Well, it wasn’t always fun. You’d be pretty amazed at how many boring books there are out there, especially some of the scholarly ones. But there were some interesting ones too. Once, I got to edit a book on the ethnic groups of China, and that was fascinating. But you have to be very, very detail-oriented. And I am very, very detail-oriented, so that was fine, but I got to a point where I went, “Do I really want to be just becoming more and more detail-oriented for the rest of my career? Yes, I’m good at this, but.. so what.” It just wasn’t really feeding my soul anymore. So, there were some things that led up to my choosing social work as a change in career.

TYG: So how did you make the transition from book editing to becoming a social worker?
Uhm. You take a big, flying leap into the unknown. [laughs]

TYG: You just went straight for it, then?
No, actually it was a fairly lengthy process.

TYG-GD: You probably had to go back to school, didn’t you?
Oh I did, yes. But what led up to it was, first of all, being in a job... It wasn’t a book-editing job, it was a magazine job that a lot of people would have killed for, but it just wasn’t ringing my chimes. It didn’t feel like I was doing anything valuable. So I started thinking about, “Okay, what’s missing in this job? What’s missing in general?” And I went into this long, long process of reading career-change books, and then [going to] career-change workshops, deeply inquiring as to what I should do. But then a couple of things happened that made me see that in fact social work was going to be a really good thing, and the first thing was that my brother got ill with cancer. I was with him when he died, and I was able to be there, in that situation. Even though it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, I was also good at it in a sense—I could really sit with him while he was dying, and be present, and be okay. And then my mother was becoming demented, and shortly after my brother died I had to go down to Florida and clear my mother’s house out, and get her into assisted living. I eventually brought her out to Colorado. Both those things were extremely difficult, and I was good at both of them, so I decided that social work would be okay. And it was.

TYG-GD: So where did you go to school for that?
University of Denver.

TYG-GD: You grew up in Florida though, right?
[...] I just went out to Boulder one summer and fell in love with it, and moved out there and finished college. And that was that for 46 years, until I fell in love with Yachats!

TYG: How did you come to Yachats, and how did you find this place?
You know, it was one of those almost-random things, like so many people, so many stories... major serendipity. I had been curious about the Oregon coast for a pretty long time. I’d seen photographs of it, and I thought, “Oh! That looks so beautiful.” And so I finally decided it was time to come out and see it. I didn’t know anything about what was on the coast—I was just Googling around, and I happened to light on the website for Ocean Haven, which is eight miles south of here, is up on a one hundred foot cliff overlooking the ocean, and there was a photograph of the interior of one of the rooms with the ocean spread out before it, and I said to myself, “That’s where I want to be!” Very specifically. So I did get to be there, in that very room. [laughter] And that was sort of the beginning. And then there were several other times when I came out. Other people knew before I did that I was going to be moving here, but I didn’t really consciously know. So I came out one time on a little two-month road trip, and I stayed at Tillicum Beach, and it was wonderful. And then I came back in January/February, and stayed for three and a half weeks at Ocean Haven, to see if I could stand the winter, which everybody had said was so rainy and depressing, and I loved it and it was fine. [laughs]

TYG: The weather is one of the best parts about this place! You can get this kind of summer weather anywhere!
I know! And that’s part of what happened to me, in fact. I didn’t get any winter storms—I just got some warm, beachy weather. But that was really wonderful. And so then I ended up taking a year-long road trip and came back to Yachats, and camped at Tillicum beach again for six weeks. And that’s when I started realizing that I really, really wanted to move here. And then serendipity took hold even more, and I found the perfect house to rent, then I found the perfect house to buy, and yada, yada.

TYG: I guess you like to take road trips, then!
Well, the year-long one was only my second. But after I got done with the two-month one, I really didn’t want to go home, and I realized I wanted to go out a year, and so I did! And it was quite wonderful, absolutely lovely. And that feeling of, “I don’t know where I’m going to spend the night, and that’s okay because I have a roof over my head right now”—it’s wonderful! I had a little RV: a little bed, and a bathroom. [...] At the end of that road trip out here, I caravaned up to Alaska with a friend I had met on the road. That was really fun.

TYG: Woah! What was that like?
It was great! In large part because of this road buddy that I had unintentionally met back in Nevada at the beginning of the road trip. We just had a lot of fun traveling together. And then I got to see the bears, and the Dall sheep, and eagles of course. I got so used to seeing eagles; it was really cool. I realized finally that if you were looking at a tree, evergreen, and you saw some little white dot in it, that would be an eagle. So then you’d look for the rest of the body with binoculars. Sometimes you’d see a couple of white dots, and then you’d look through the binoculars and there would be like seven eagles. That’s one of my wonderful memories of Alaska: all those eagles.

TYG-GD: Did you do any fishing or anything?
No, fishing, heavens! [laughs] No, I went out on a couple of glacier-watching trips, but no fishing.

TYG-GD: I remember reading your book about that. [to the Publisher] She has a book about that.
Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Yes, why I’m glad you asked me about that Allen! I do indeed have a book about that! [laughter]

TYG-GD: Anyway, I remember reading in your book about the roads up there—in particular one long highway, or something.
There’s one highway, I think it’s called Top of the World Highway or something. That was exciting. But in general the roads in Alaska weren’t as bad as they’ve been [portrayed]. I just remember one that was a little hairy. But for the most part they were okay. But yes, while I was on the trip I started writing travelogues, and just e-mailing them to people.

TYG: And you condensed those down into a book?
That’s correct! It was very, very fun to do that, actually. I talked an awful lot about rocks, because I’m a rock hound. [laughter] It was really funny, because I realized that I wasn’t usually writing about people; I was just writing about rocks. I was gathering them up from everywhere. I was carrying I don’t know how many tons of rocks in my RV all around the country.

TYG-GD: Well that makes for good gas mileage...
Patty: [laughter] Y
es. But I still have many, many of those rocks. And then, what’s really interesting is that the house I’m living in now used to belong to Leslie Carter and Nancy. Anyway, Leslie was a big rock hound, and so in the yard there are some of the coolest rocks. I’ve been noticing them even more and more—the big ones that border [the garden]. And then there are the littler ones too—there are terraces in there with gravel, and you’ll be looking around in the gravel and there’s this beautiful little agate right there.

TYG: So, what was social work like for you?
As I said, I had a couple of horrible experiences, but the last job I had, I had a couple of wonderful experiences, where I was really able to be creative, just had a lot of fun. It’s a bit of a long story to tell you.

TYG: Sure, terrific!
Okay... The first job I had gotten out of social work school was with an agency that served older people with vision loss, partial vision, and I learned a lot about that that I had not known before. So when I got to this very last job, which served frail, elderly people, and I worked in a center where people came in for the day sometimes, I was able to start a little vision support group. So I did that for pretty much the whole time I worked there. One day, after I’d been doing it for a couple of years, there were a couple of women in the group who were total live wires, even though they were very, very disabled by vision loss. So one day, we were talking about music, and they were talking about how much they had loved to dance. I had this sudden brainstorm, and I said, “We could dance in our chairs!” And they got all excited by that idea, and so did several of the other people in the vision group, so I knew I had a good thing starting there. 

I left the group and was going back to the office, and I ran into my colleague Patricia, who had a degree in dance therapy. So I dragged her into my office, and I said, “Hey listen, I’ve had this idea.” And she was into it as well. It’s somewhat of a long story, so I won’t go into it, but we did start the chair-dancing group. It was huge fun. Patricia and I applied to make a presentation at an annual meeting at the kind of agency that was where I was working, and our proposal was accepted. So we choreographed three numbers that the group could do—we did a waltz, and a country song, and we did Peggy Lee’s Fever; three different dances with those styles of music. We rehearsed and rehearsed. Then when the time came, they took us into downtown Denver. We did the presentation, and the group did their three dances, and we got a standing ovation! Everybody loved it and was so excited.

TYG: Just because it’s increasing range of movement, and keeping people active?
That’s only part of it. The beauty of it was, beyond [the things you mentioned], it was something they could do to express themselves without it being about them being old, they got to just be themselves, and they could do it safely without having to stand up. They were expressing themselves and making stuff up; we laughed, we had the best times—it was just all about them as people, other than as old people singing You Are My Sunshine with the [waving the arms].

TYG-GD: Yeah, I can see there being a big wall in perception between being old—defined as all the things you can no longer do—versus being seen as a person, yeah, you’re old, but that’s part of you. So you’re doing things because you’re a person, and that’s what you can do—not that you are being restricted from what you used to be able to do. 
TYG: So it’s about viewing the present versus viewing the past.
Yes—and being the whole you. So that was incredibly rewarding.

TYG-GD: So were all of your clients elderly, in all of your jobs?
No, I also worked with developmentally disabled adults. So it was either with people who were disabled in some way, and/or elderly. I was more of a case manager social worker than a therapist. I never did therapy.

TYG: Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?
Why yes, there is! I’m so glad you asked. [laughs] The thing that I’m doing now that is the most fun is: I’m taking photographs of interesting clouds, and I’m sending them out to people who are interested in seeing them. The project is called Cloud du Jour, and I’m just really having a lot of fun with it.

TYG-GD: So it’s kind of like a travelogue, but it’s a travelogue about clouds.
TYG: About the various patterns that created them, and just their inherent beauty?
Yes, it’s more about the beauty than about the science. It’s not really a travelogue except the clouds are travelling—but I’m not. [laughs] But I’m not doing “in the shape of.” [...] There are some amazing clouds out there—when I first got to Oregon I didn’t think there were any great clouds. I started doing this in Colorado, because there are really, really wonderful thunderheads. But there have been a couple of days when I couldn’t get anything done because there have been such amazing clouds all day long. So—what can I tell you.

TYG: Sounds like a fun hobby!
One of the coolest things that’s grown out of that is that [I’ve found] an actual organization called the Cloud Appreciation Society, started by a gentleman in England. It has over 43,000 members now, and they have started organizing trips.

TYG: To see clouds?
Actually, the first ones are to see the aurora. So the first one was last year to Yellowknife, Canada, to see the aurora, and they’re doing it again this year. And I’m going, and Peggy Speer [another Yachatian] is coming with me! It’s actually out in the wilderness, a little plane ride away from Yellowknife. Maybe we see the aurora, and maybe we won’t, because you never know.

TYG-GD: Remind me again where Yellowknife is?
It’s in the Northwest Territories, on the shores of an enormous lake called the Great Slave Lake. And it’s right at the Arctic Circle. That’s going to be so interesting, because all these other cloud-lover people are going to be there.

TYG: Thank you so much for your time!
Thank you so much—it’s been a pleasure!

Interview with John W. Thornton

TYG: You were in the US Naval Reserve. What was that like?
I was on active duty for two years, from 1956 to 1958. I went to school first, in Pomona—guided missile school. My first duty station was at Crane, Indiana: Naval Ammunition Depot. I was in the Guided Missile Service Unit 217. I was there about a year. Nobody had any missiles at the time, so most of the year, they were just getting set up. And then I got orders to the Naval Ammunition Depot in Fall Brook, California, where I was assigned as the guided missile officer, and as the assistant ordinance officer. Since we just had a building, and not much going on in the building, I was mostly the assistant ordinance officer. A couple of things I did besides that job: I was the courier for any kind of classified material that came into the base or left the base—I was the courier for that.

TYG-Graphic Design: Where did you grow up? Why did you get interested in the Navy?
Let’s see. I was born in Boston and lived in the suburbs there. Graduated from high school, a place called Matick. Then I got an academic scholarship to Tufts College, which is in the suburbs of Boston. I majored in electronic engineering. Graduated in ‘56 there, then went to that guided missile school in Pomona.

TYG-GD:  So did you choose that, the missiles?
No! I knew nothing about it. I wanted to be on destroyers. I signed up for Destroyers—Atlantic; second choice Destroyers—Pacific; third choice was Destroyers—Mediterranean. Then I got the guided missile school instead.

TYG: Probably because you had that major in electronics...
Yes, I think so. Let’s see, what else can I tell you about Fall Brook... Oh—the other thing I did: I was assigned as a convoy commander for transporting special weapons up and down the coast of Southern California.

TYG-GD: “Special weapons”? What are those?
Nuclear weapons.

TYG: Wow! And you were the convoy commander?

TYG-GD: So on the ocean, you guys would...
Not on the ocean—we mostly got them down Highway 101. Mostly down to Seal Beach, which was about 80 miles away.

TYG-GD: Why did you have to transport them?
Well, I don’t know. The Navy wanted them in a different place. [laughs] Who knows!

TYG: Something I’ve never quite understood: How big are nuclear weapons?
Well, the ones we had were about like this [gestures with his arms].

TYG-GD: Oh, so they’re small!
Not very big. The first ones... Well, the very first one they detonated down at White Sands was huge, about three feet around because of the type of detonation that they used. In those days, there were two different kinds of detonation. That one was called Fat Man. The full outside of Fat Man was like a sphere, and it had detonators all around. You had to fire them in the right sequence, and then the whole thing would go “Boom!”

TYG: So that’s a less targeted one.
Oh no, it had nothing to do with targeting. It just means what kind of explosion you got. [Fat Man bombs] were made to explode 200 feet above the ground, something like that.

TYG-GD: So they were dropped from an airplane? How could they detonate in sequence when you drop them from an airplane?
Yes. Well, it’s all programmed in. The other kind, what they called a gun, they took two half spheres—you fired the gun, and it shoved the two half-spheres together. A simpler kind of thing.

TYG: So it’s a double detonation, in other words. One, conventional explosive; and the nuclear explosive.
I guess you could say that. It just pushed it down the tube. The two halves come together, and then you have a critical mass. So we tested both of those at White Sands. [...] At the end of the [Second World] War, the US managed to capture a lot of the scientists that were developing the V2 rocket, including Wernher von Braun. So they got them all to move to America. So we had a built-in group of scientists and engineers who helped us very quickly to develop ballistic missiles. That was taking place in Huntsville, Alabama.

TYG-GD: Why Alabama, of all places?
I have no idea. [...] In those days there was so much money being spent on ballistic missiles and all kinds of electronic stuff that there weren’t enough engineers, project engineers, or managers, or anything else. So there was a lot of recruiting going on. In fact, one time I got a call from a recruiter, and he wanted me to take an interview in Huntsville. My wife said, “I’m not moving my kids or me to Alabama.” That’s when all the racial stuff was going on, and she didn’t want any part of that. Anyway, so I didn’t even go for an interview. And there were other reasons—I didn’t really want to work for NASA. Yes, NASA was a madhouse. People were working 70, 80 hours a week. Later on, when I was in Oklahoma City, in the military communications department, that’s when we first started developing a military satellite communication system. I was the electrical system engineer and the project engineer on that job. At one point things weren’t going well, putting together the first system and getting it to work and whatnot, so myself and another guy were both working twelve hours a day, seven days a week. We did that for about seven or eight weeks, and my boss’s boss calls me one day, and said, “I understand you’re thinking about taking vacation.” And I said, “I have to take vacation if I want to keep my wife and family. I also have to have vacation to keep from going crazy.” He never said anything back to that, but about six months later we shut down that business. Most of the people I knew were invited back to work in Utica, New York again. I was not invited.

TYG-GD: Oh! That was your vacation?
I guess! I had to get a new place to work. By that time I had a piece of my pension, and I didn’t want to leave GE [General Electric Co.]. Of course, they treated me very well, and that’s when I got the job in Philadelphia with the missile and space vehicle division. My job there was what they call a subsystem engineer. My first project was for the flight test program for Minuteman-III.

TYG-GD: Huh. What is Minuteman-III?
Minuteman-III, for a long time, was our primary ICBM [inter-continental ballistic missile] program. What was different about it, from Atlas and some of the earlier programs, this one had three, independently-targeted ballistic missiles that separated during re-entry. You could direct where you wanted the missiles to go.

TYG-GD: Wow. I didn’t know you had worked on all this! So, what do you think about North Korea’s recent testing of ICBM’s?
I have no idea what’s going to happen. The Atlantic had a very good article last month about the options we have. And the conclusion was that we have no good options. 

TYG-GD: I understand that. I was just wondering, from a technical point, where you think they are right now.
I really don’t know. I don’t imagine they have multiply independently-targeted missiles, though. That’s a long stretch, and a lot of testing has to be done before you can get close to it. In fact, what I was involved with was what’s called a penetration aid system. This was designed to mask, or otherwise blank out, the radar that the Russians were anticipated to use to spot an RV [re-entry vehicle] coming in, and eventually, the ability to shoot it down.

TYG: So these are space-going missiles, then.
TYG-GD: They don’t go into orbit, do they?
No. They go up about one hundred miles, or something like that. That was some incredible stuff. In fact, we had a control room, where everybody in the whole group met every morning. It was interesting, because one wall was a simulator, showing all the different steps that had to take place, and it was so complicated that they had to have two technicians maintaining the simulator! [laughter] So, a lot of crazy stuff going on. 

TYG-GD: Who was president at the time?
Let’s see—that would have been Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy was shot in ‘63. And Johnson was re-elected for a full term in ‘64, so he would have been president at the time. So we had all this stuff going on, and my job was mostly involved with telemetry with flight test programs. They had system tests going on at Cape Canaveral for the different sub-systems, and they had a problem with my sub-system. There was a lot of noise on the channel—I’m talking about electronic noise, not audible noise—so they rushed me down to Cape Canaveral to solve the noise problem. At the same time, there was a hurricane supposed to come. [laughs] It was a little scary.

TYG: That’s the one thing I’m confused about: why they chose to put one of their greatest assets, their entire launch facility, right in the path of most hurricanes.
Well, they never got into much trouble with it. But I think it was because they wanted to not go over land very much. They wanted it to all be over the ocean in case something went wrong, in case something blew up. That’s my understanding of it. Anyway, I figured out what was the cause of the noise, and I got it fixed, and quickly rushed back to my motel, got ready to go, and headed for the airport as fast as I could—because of the hurricane. I got out of there, but the hurricane stayed out at sea, and we didn’t have a problem. I can’t believe what crazy stuff went on.

We will continue John Thornton’s interview in Issue 72.