Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image


Jeff&NanKress500Wide.jpgI’m preparing a writer’s autobiography for Gale Research, and they requested photos of me at various points in my career. One of the most interesting–and one I haven’t seen in a while–was taken by Peter Frisch back in 1983, when we lived in Rochester, NY. Nancy Kress and I had just finished “Borovsky’s Hollow Woman,” and I was in my Chester A. Arthur stage. I want to say it was in connection with a TV interview that she and I gave, but I’ve forgotten most of the details. It did occur to me that the facial hair/leather vest thing had a certain steampunkish air about it, but steampunk itself wouldn’t exist for another fifteen years or so, and once again I was too far ahead of the curve for it to do me any good.

ChesterAArthur.jpgPresident Arthur was an interesting guy in his own right, an unelected one-term, one-issue president hell-bent on reforming the civil service system, otherwise mostly famous for his linear facial hair and serving between James A. Garfield and Grover Cleveland. He appeared on what I believe is our nation’s only 21 cent stamp, issued because we had many more past presidents than postal rates back in 1938. I commemorated him by naming the President of Valinor (of my Drumlins saga) Chester A. Arthur Harczak mostly after him, but also after a well-known Chicago sausage factory. This fairly represents my opinion of most politics.

The other excitement in recent days is that we have a daytime bear here. Four times since Tuesday I’ve been driving through the neighborhood and seen him sitting nonchalantly in front of an overturned garbage can in broad daylight, feasting. Bears are generally nocturnal but this one didn’t read the manual, and he’s been raiding dog food bins in people’s garages and scaring the crap out of the unwary. I actually stayed in the garage yesterday tidying up, from 8 AM, when I put the cans out, until about 11 when the trash guys came by, to make sure he wouldn’t make a mess in our driveway as he’s made in so many others. Now, precisely what I was going to do if he decided to raid the can is unclear. Per my entry for September 8, 2010, I do have a hacksaw here, but not a pistol that a bear would understand. (And bears have been known to open freezers all by themselves.)

ForkAndStraightener.jpgNo bear action, alas (or whew) but I did get the garage about as tidy as it’s been since the day before we moved in back in 2004. Our rear wall full of brand-new Elfa shelving system absorbed a boggling amount of clutter, allowing me to get my tool shelves in order and compacted (I now have empty shelf space!) and actually schedule time to wipe down, oil, and maybe even use my lathe.

Given that we never saw the bear, yesterday’s highlights included finding my tube pin straightener and my father’s tuning fork (stamped “A”) neither of which I’d seen since the last century. I’m out of Diet Mountain Dew and my back hurts, but overall I still consider it a win.


  1. Terry says:

    Oh my god I love that picture of you! Amazing!

  2. Bernie Sidor says:

    Jeff, why did your dad have a tuning fork?

    1. Don’t know. He was utterly lacking in music, and grew up in a house without musical instruments of any kind. (His mother had a beautiful voice, which he did not inherit.) Where he got it is a mystery; why he kept it may simply be because it’s a cool gadget: Tap it on the edge of the table, hold the point against the bottom of a tumbler, and the glass makes a very pure tone.

      It’s a keepsake that I’d gotten careless and misplaced. It’s now back in a place of honor on my bookshelves, beside his slide rule.

  3. Rich Rostrom says:

    Here is a little-known sidelight on Chester A. Arthur.

    In 1855, Arthur was the 24-year-old junior partner of the New York law firm of Culver, Parker, and Arthur. In that year he represented Miss Elizabeth Jennings in her suit against the Third Avenue Railroad Company.

    Miss Jennings was a young “colored” woman who had tried to board a Third Avenue horse-car and was forcibly expelled by the conductor.

    Arthur won the suit for Miss Jennings; she received damages in the amount of $225.00, and the Third Avenue line opened its cars to black passengers.

  4. […] The other day I mentioned to Carol that, with “Drumlin Circus” taking on a certain steampunk flavor (it’s certainly nothing like “Drumlin Boiler”) I would probably have to buy a top hat. Her reply: “Um…you already have a top hat.” I looked on the high shelf in the closet, and shore ’nuff! I bought it for the 1999 Coriolis Millennium Christmas Party at the Biltmore Hotel in Scottsdale. I wore it exactly once, and then forgot about it. So what’s next? Spats? Or my seriously ahead-of-the-curve Chester A. Arthur facial hair? […]

  5. […] I’m a steampunker. (I’ve even had a top hat since 1999, and you’ve seen this. And this.) I’ll deal with […]

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