March 2012 Newsletter of John Dalmas
After 20 years at one address—1425 Glass Avenue, Spokane WA—I’ve moved four times in seven years, to and in the metropolitan Columbus, Ohio area.
Not so many moves, actually, for me. In the years 1946-60, I had 25 actual mailing addresses, some of them c/o my employers (logging camps, steamships). . . Easier to say I didn’t actually have an address much of the time. In fact I had 9 addresses between birth (1926) and the draft (1944), attending 6 schools in 4 states.
There were millions of such nomads, often termed "drifters,” during the Great Depression, 1929-39, and lots of us had stories to tell about "living around” during The Hard Times, but most of us have since died.
Later, as a middle-aged divorcee, I had 12 addresses in five years, from Arizona to California to Florida to Arizona, then back to California. For much of my time in LA, my day job was as a mover—until Memorial Day 1984, when my back "went out.” After that, no more seriously heavy lifting and carrying; I became strictly a "movee,” not a mover. Jack & Jill did almost all the work in the Ohio moves, most recently with help from granddaughter Kristen.
So when, as a divorcee, I had 11 addresses in 4 years (1977-1981), I was just rehabbing old patterns. Came naturally. Then Gail and I remarried, and spent 20 yrs and 2 weeks in Spokane, in one duplex. Very nice, vey comfortable.
From Jan 31, 2011 to Jan 28, 2012, home was a room in an assisted living home, The Sanctuary. I’d gotten too absent-minded to live alone safely. But it was expensive, and not essential. So in January I announced my decision, Jack & Jill found an apartment just four blocks from Jill’s job, and closer still to grad student/granddaughter Kristen’s condo. So I’m looked in on frequently now, and Jill prepares dishes for me, gets my groceries, and drops off the occasional home-made entree. For safety reasons, I no longer cook except to microwave.
Also I now wear an emergency help button around my neck.
At first, life in my new place was a struggle. For the first two weeks I couldn’t find my butt with both hands, let alone anything else. (Hunt, mutter, curse.) I could look right at something and not see it. Then, right after I got back from RadCon (I’ll report on RadCon in a little bit), my daughter Judy flew in from California and stayed with me a couple of weeks. Fed me, observed me, nudged me, made lists, disappeared on foot for a couple of hours at a time with a shopping cart, to reappear with bags of knock-together shelving etc, and completed the organization Jill had begun. Complete with labels! While keeping me company and going through boxes of family pictures with me, dating back at least to 1912.
And with all that accomplished, flew back to California and Stanley, and their cats and coons. Life is good.
Around age 70 or 80, if not sooner, medical issues are likely to loom large in life, and hearing about them can be wearysome, so you may prefer to skip this part.
My major health problems are emphysema and old age. I’m on supplemental oxygen 24/7. R2D2 (remember him? C3PO’s buddy in Star Wars?) has a small cousin, R2O2, an oxygen concentrator droid, who lives in my living room, concentrating oxygen from the environment and pumping it into my nostrils through a 25-foot tube. (I carry an oxygen flask when I need to go out.)
I have recently been diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s, early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and serious absent-mindedness. Reduced hearing (for 25 years now), reduced balance, reduced sense of touch, seemingly no sense of smell. . . Daughter Judy flew in from California and spent two weeks living with me, observing how I live, and organizing my living situation accordingly. Very helpful indeed—all the young’ns are.
My days are busy: I spend about 75 minutes a day on exercise: physical therapy exercises for flexibility of neck and back; exercises for balance; light-weight strength exercises (12-lb dumbbells), doorway bar. . . sissy pushups; and important for overall health, vigorous cardiovascular exercise. Falling is a frequent problem in old people. My program is to help my balance, retain flexibility, decent bone density to reduce injuries if I do fall, and strength enough that I can get back up. Emphysema has done serious, and supposedly irreversible tissue damage to my lungs. But because of truly strenuous workouts on—at The Sanctuary—a cross-training machine, and now in my living room, a recumbent Schwinn stationary bike, what is left of my lungs works quite well. Also the mild heart murmur of 12-15 years ago is no longer mentioned in examinations. (Recumbency in the bike lessens the stress on the deteriorated spinal columns common in old bodies. Or younger bodies beset by early spinal degeneration.)
My resting pulse is 61; I just now read it. The old-fashioned way: finger on the wrist, eye on the clock. My ticker and aorta seem quite healthy. I should look into making them available for transplants on the event of my death. I wonder if there’d be any takers, for say a 90-year-old heart.)
And my immune system seems quite strong; I haven’t had a cold for many years. Occasionally I feel as if I’m coming down with one, but it disappears overnight (6-hour colds maybe?). Also I have long had chronically high blood cholesterol (though much reduced now), but over time, imaging has shown exceptionally clean arteries. And when a severe, delayed action Norovirus struck at the closing of RadCon last month, my case involved no vomiting, no fever, and very mild brief diarrhea. I’ve read that the (Benton County?) health department estimated 40-70 percent of the 2,000+ attendees were afflicted, many of them severely. Some were hospitalized.
One of the safer bets is, I’ll die someday, and at age 85 I’m content with that. Respiratory infections are very worrisome to emphysemics, so the odds are, I’ll eventually die of pneumonia. Unless Herr Doktor Alzheimer’s sinister syndrome crops me first.
Regarding being content to die: that doesn’t mean eager to die; I have projects I’d like to complete. Out-of-print books to resuscitate, make available again; Armfelt to get published (so near, so near); memoirs to get in the computer, perhaps even published with some specialty house. But after I’m dead, my values seem sure to change, and if it turns out there is no continuation, no "other side,” who’s deprived?
As for "so near, so near”—I recently worked over both versions of Armfelt, one written for the world market using the metric system, the other using the U.S. Customary System. While in both versions, many of the Finnish names I’d used were not legal by the naming protol of the time, so I changed them to names legal in the early 1700s. (Thank you, Tuija Kämppi.) I also tweaked the writing, and reconciled the two versions for consistency in all other respects. In the process, given my computer ignorance, I conspired with Windows to misbehave with the page headers and footers. It took quite a bit of time, but I seem to have fixed that, too. Now for one more look-through for strays. And then...
Then convert them to pdf and send them out for comments useful in marketing. I’d begun that earlier; it’s when I learned of my naming flub.
Meanwhile I have noisy immigrant neighbors: a dozen big old Branta canadensis, Canada geese, that have homesteaded the two-acre pond on the premises here. They fly off at intervals to forage, then return with much honking and gaggling, so verbal, you can almost understand what they say.
Voice-to-Print and My Memoirs
I have a decent VTP "voice to print” app, to dictate my memoirs, but I haven’t mastered it yet. It’ll work quite well for a few paragraphs, then hang up; it can get pretty strange. I need some tutoring—or no, not really; I need more patience. Meanwhile the family thinks I should get on it. Actually I drafted the back story in about 1990—a concise family history back to the mid-1800s, about 15 thousand words, and a sketchy compilation of my own life up to high school graduation, with the good stuff yet to come. Might be I should edit and mark up what I‘ve already done, to stir the memories and build some momentum.
If I can sufficiently master VTP, I’ll dictate my them. Then, if anyone thinks they’re worthwhile, I or someone else can edit them for possible publication. Perhaps as a sample of life in my time. Not many coal heavers (stokers) of the era of hand-fired ships ships, or denizens of shacker camps in the era of hand tools and horses, left a record of their lives. Cowboys got all the attention.
In about 1970, I started reading toward a documentary historical novel, Armfelt. It’s about the last land campaign in the Great Northern War. Right. As one agent explained his disinterest, "a war nobody in America ever heard of, featuring a general nobody in America ever heard of.” Actually two battles of that war are well known in English language literature, Lesnaya and Poltava.* (Yeah, that war!) But not the Trøndelag Campaign, which seems a sort of military after-thought, though it had important after-effects.
If you want to look it over, let me know.
But famous or not, the Trøndelag Campaign has some powerful lessons on history, government, and Scandinavian peasant life during the era when kings ruled by divine right. What’s the market for something like that? We’ll see, won’t we?
There are potential niche markets I’m working on. But replies are slow. If you have ideas, let me know.
The Linn Prentiss Literary Agency has agreed to represent Armfelt.
*Those two battles were part of Karl XII's unsuccessful invasion of Russia, described at some length (pp 287-526) in Peter the Great, His Life and World, by Robert K. Massie, Ballantine Books, 1980, paperback, 929 + xvii pp. A marvelous—a captivating read. The whole book is. It won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
Consider this my book review for this time. I have three more robust reviews in the oven.
And now for a sample of Armfelt: Some readers skip any frontal material in a book: "I want to get right to the story,” they say. Aaargh! Well here’s the Introduction to Armfelt. It is brief. It is sufficient. And it is very very relevant— it is the backstory to the war.
Introduction to Armfelt
In the late 1600s, the political map of Europe was very different from today's. For instance, Germany was a center of political and religious ferment, and consisted of some three hundred (300!) independent states. Foreign relations centered on militarypower (including how many foreign mercenary companies you could afford), and on constantly shifting political, military, and trade alliances. Rule was by monarchs. Diplomacy featured connivery, treachery, the trading of other people's territories, andthe intermarriage of royal families. Wars were frequent, threats of war continuous, andwrongs clamoring to be redressed innumerable. Treaties often lasted just long enough for new armies to be trained or arranged for, and for new alliances to be secretly forged.
In fact, the road to hell was paved not with good intentions, but with broken pledges, which were much more abundant.
What an era!
In the north, where our story takes place, Denmark had ruled Norway for more
than three centuries—since 1397. Finland had become part of Sweden more or lessgradually, beginning in the mid-1100s. A landmark date was 1216, when the pope confirmed the claim of the Swedish king at the expense of the Danish king, who hadclaimed Finland after establishing bases on the south coast. There had never been a Finnish state. Much of what is now Finland was wilderness thinly peopled by Lappreindeer hunters, and Finnish traders, trappers and salmon fishers. What would becomeknown as Finland took shape over the following several centuries, through gradual settlement, and occasional fighting that pitted Finns and Swedes against Russians andterritorials.
In 1618, the complex pattern of German dynastic rivalries and religious conflictserupted into the Thirty Years War. Sweden's military intervention prevented the threatened collapse of the new Protestantism in central Europe, but in the process, Sweden and Finland, poor to begin with, were further impoverished. They also suffereda shocking loss of young men. But when the war was over, Sweden held much of the land along the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, land taken from Danish, German, and Russian rulers.
In 1697, the headstrong 15-year-old Karl XII became King of Sweden and Finland. (The English, of course, called him Charles XII.) To the neighboring royalty, this seemeda good time to strip Sweden of her eastern and southern Baltic possessions, plus thatpart of (now) southern Sweden that had been Danish until 1658. Thus a "secret" pactwas made by neighboring monarchs, who had no reason to imagine that Sweden's teenaged king would prove to be a military genius. In February 1700, Augustus, ruler of Saxony and Poland, marched an army into Swedish Livonia (mainly present-dayLatvia). A month later, Frederick of Denmark attacked his southern neighbor, Holstein- Gottorp, an ally and client state of Sweden defended in part by a Swedish garrison. Andthat autumn, Russia's Peter the Great, newly freed of war with the Turks, attacked the Swedish-ruled, Finnic-speaking provinces of western Karelia, Ingria, and Estonia.
The result was the 21-year Great Northern War. For several years the Swedish- Finnish army prevailed. At one point it occupied Dresden, Saxony’s beautiful capital.
Eventually though, the invading Swedish army got bogged down in the vastness of Russia (actually today's Belarus and Ukraine), and was virtually wiped out in the Battle of Poltava. The sorely wounded king, Karl XII, escaped with several hundred men intoMoldavia, at that time part of the Turkish empire, eventually returning to Sweden, where he at once began to raise a new army.
Karl's original enemies had been joined in 1709 by Prussia, and in 1715 by Hanover. Both were more eager to share in the spoils than in the fighting, however, for if
Sweden's power had been sorely weakened, her king's military genius was now abundantly well-recognized and feared. (Hanover's German monarch was also the newly crowned George I, King of Great Britain and Ireland, but in Britain he had a parliament to deal with, thus Britain's role in the conflict was small and selective.)
Meanwhile, in 1714, a Russian army had overrun Finland. The hard-bitten remainsof the Finnish army, commanded by General Karl Gustaf Armfelt, escaped west acrossthe Torne River into northern Sweden.
I now have signed contracts for two of my out-of-print novels: Soldiers (Baen, which sold extremely well the first time out, and The Second Coming (Baen, 2004, 2005) with disappointing sales in both hardcover and paperback editions. Plus a contract for the sequel to 2dC, The Signature of God, which hasn’t yet been published. Their new publisher is Maggie Bonham’s ambitious venture, Sky Warrior Books, headquartered at Clinton, Montana. They bought the rights for ebooks and for traditional books. www.skywarriorbooks.com/
Why 2dC, if the Baen editions didn’t sell well? One, Maggie liked it, and two, some SF fans were put off by the churchy title. So we’ll promote it for what it is: not the Bible revisited, but a story of its own, in our time. To wit: Book One in the Millennium series. The following provides perspective:
There is a Hindu belief that when humanity slides into decay, threatening us with a return to barbarism, God comes among us as a human, to jump-start us.
Two thousand years ago the Roman Empire ruled western civilization. It improved engineering, administration, even the law, and provided relative peace. But it was corrupt, brutal, and greedy. Thus the Infinite Soul incarnated, among a semitic people whose monotheism suited them to the needs of humanity and history.
Two thousand years later, it's time for a second coming. But the circumstances and potentials are different: this is the information era, the media age...and the time of the terrorist. Thus instead of a Nazarene carpenter, the vessel of the infinite soul is a black Canadian software genius. And instead of fishermen, shepherds and laborers, he surrounds himself with management mavens, media consultants, security specialists. . . and unavoidably enemies, because he doesn't say what the zealots want to hear.
As for The Signature of God? (SIG) First of all, the guru, Ngunda Aran, is adamant about one thing: his staff is not to create a church; they are simply to pass on the teaching; let people make of it what they will. And in SIG, which picks up where 2dC ends, that’s exactly what we do: make of it what we will. But the circumstances are dramatic in the extreme, disrupting an already shaky political/economic/ecological system, and the painful results are widely credited as the Tao’s validation of Ngunda. By the story’s end, the shape of the future is beginning to appear, and it is. . .hopeful. Tentatively promising.
And that’s enough for now; it’s nap time. I’ll be back on this site in a week or so, with a RadCon report, among other things. And a book review (not anything of mine). But hopefully not a health update.