Jody knew a lot of interesting characters in her life, one of them was Noel Wickman, sculptor, trailblazer, raconteur at-large, whose fascinating story, as much as I know it, I will share with you.
Canadian by birth, Wicky was one of three siblings who early in life watched their mother commit suicide by drinking drain cleaner. Parked by their father in an assortment of brothels until they were adopted (to serve as free farm labor), Wicky had a large repertoire of dirty limericks she learned from the prostitutes who took care of her.
Wicky was a sculptor, she made paper mache figures at half or 2/3 scale. When she died, her partner Susan asked Jody if we wanted Wicky's sculptures. We called her back two days later to arrange to get them, and after a lengthy and very pregnant pause, she informed us she'd thrown them in the garbage. So we never even got to take photos of them. They were quite good. Susan was quite bad.
Wicky was the owner of a music box shop in Seattle's famed Pike Place Market, and was the source for much of the Market material in Death in Seattle.
("The bewildering morass put him in mind of a cannibal-pot, it was so carnal and so mundane; all clamor and tumult with its oyster bars, barbecue, incense and spice, the spiny lobster, the whelk and the prawn side by side with smutty magazines and blatant perishables, the vulgar trinkets of the multitude hawked along sidewalks crammed with bric-a-brac and crawling with loafers, street walkers and dope addicts whose antics Rawlence eyed with scorn; all of this intermixed with steaming cauldrons and smoking grills and always the new faces backdropped by the same old many-colored kites, windsocks, marijuana pipes, tourists in perpetual rejoicing, the strife and babel of polyglot tongues of savage nations (including his own) not to mention drugged teenagers smacking their lips over chili dogs that dripped hotsauce amid the glitter of inconsequential baubles and posters and T-shirts and rings and necklaces and knives of every make, set out on wooden tables open to the wind and the rain, everything permeated by a democratic reek of bakery goods or stir-frying that drifted on the Puget Sound breeze.")
Noel worked in the 60's at The Blind Lemon in Berkeley and once saw Bob Dylan (before he was "Bob Dylan") playing there. Wicky mistook him for a woman and liked the song, commenting, "Not bad, but she can't sing."
They met when Wicky answered Jody's ad for Irondale lots. At the time she was with a woman named Amy. Later when she was no longer with Amy but with Jody, Amy reported them to immigration for being gay. Agents came to the house to investigate, Jody also became freaked out lest that somehow spread to an investigation of her fitness as a parent. You know, because she was a lesbian.
I don't know the details, but Wicky was never deported, and Jody was never investigated. (She was later investigated by the FBI for her involvement in the distribution of an interracial porn film in the south, but that is an unrelated story.)
Wicky was the first female draftsman at Boeing Aerospace Company. Some of the material in I, Vampire about the character Blake Reardon came from Wicky.
("In any big company, a drafting room is a sham. It’s a complete lie! Hypocrisy in motion! You sit and draw pla-pla. Pretend to draw something that might work. Act busy. Then along comes the engineer supervisor. He takes ten minutes and redesigns the whole thing you’ve been working on for six months. Correction: he doesn’t redesign it; he copies it out of the book. Didn’t the old Romans design a thumbscrew pretty much like this one? But the point is, Boeing has got to hire ten thousand bodies, because the government says ten thousand people must work on the project, or else money won’t be funneled into the Seattle plant. It’s a nuthouse!")
Wick was also diabetic. Once when she hospitalized, Jody and I were waiting on bench in Denny's for a land appointment, who was late. We went into a roll of silliness and hilarity while we waited, riffing on anything and everything, cracking ourselves up. After the appointment Jody called the hospital and asked for Noel Wickman's room. "We don't have any patient by that name," she was told.
Turns out Wicky died in the hospital while Jody and I were laughing in Denny's.
We liked to think that Wicky was with us, part of that hilarity, a sort of bon voyage party.
Want to send your name to Mars?
NASA is offering another chance to do so.
New submissions to send names aboard NASA's InSight lander will be accepted online through Nov. 1, 2017.
Jody is going! This is her boarding pass.
Reprint of article from Samantha Mathewson on Space.com
Want to send your name to Mars? NASA is offering another chance to do so.
When the InSight lander launches to the Red Planet next year, it will contain the names of members of the public, and you can submit your name for it to be included.
In 2015, the space agency invited people from around the world to add their names to a silicon chip that will be affixed to the InSight Mars lander. With nearly 827,000 individuals already signed up, NASA is now adding a second microchip, giving members of the public another chance to put their names on Mars.
"Mars continues to excite space enthusiasts of all ages," Bruce Banerdt, the InSight mission's principal investigator, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "This opportunity lets them become a part of the spacecraft that will study the inside of the Red Planet." [NASA Mars InSight Lander Mission Gallery (Images)]
NASA's InSight Mars lander is expected to launch in May 2018 and arrive at the Red Planet in November 2018. The mission, whose name is short for "Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport," will study the planet's deep interior to gain a better understanding of the processes that helped shaped rocky planets like Mars and Earth.
Specifically, the lander will use a seismometer to detect "Marsquakes" (earthquakes on Mars) and meteor strikes, using the seismic energy of these phenomena to study material far below the Martian surface for the first time, according to the statement.
People can submit their names to be etched onto the second microchip. In doing so, they will earn "frequent flier" points, which reflect their participation in NASA exploration missions. Participants can also download a "boarding pass" with information about each mission that flies their names.
NASA's Frequent Fliers program spans multiple missions, including the first test mission of the Orion capsule, in December 2014. For that mission, more than 1.38 million people earned points when their names flew aboard the spacecraft, which is designed to help NASA astronauts travel to asteroids, Mars and other deep-space destinations.
NASA frequent fliers will have another opportunity to rack up points in 2018, when Orion and NASA's Space Launch System megarocket launch together for the first time. That uncrewed flight, known as Exploration Mission 1, will send Orion on a seven-day trip around the moon to test out many of the capsule's critical systems.
New submissions to send names aboard NASA's InSight lander will be accepted online through
Nov. 1, 2017.L
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(Continued in two weeks)
Britannica, Part I of a 3-part series:
Jody Scott, "the greatest writer you've never heard of," (F&SF Mag) and recipient of enough critical praise and peer recognition to choke a small pony, did not make money from her writing! And yet she wrote full time, 5 or 6 hours a day almost every day for 40 years without having also to hold down a job.
How she managed that has been the subject of some speculation. As Jody's spouse and business partner for 30 years I figured I would spill the beans here and now, entre nous as it were, as to exactly what we did to earn a living.
When Jody and I meet in the late '70's she is selling Irondale Lots. This becomes the model for the land business we will found a few years later. But to understand what Irondale was, how it worked and how it came about we need to flashback a couple decades.
Some time after the Leites and Berkeley and Circle Magazine, Jody meets OT Wood, a brilliant painter, but not a model of mental stability. She thinks to herself, 'We should make a baby together, it's bound to be brilliant.' So they do, make a baby together that is, but OT's mom commits suicide in LA and they decide California is for the birds and make the grueling, pre-interstate trek up Highway 99 to Seattle. At that time considered the uncivilized end of the world, just before you tumble off the map.
OT is worthless as a breadwinner and soon gone anyway. With a kid to support, no family or friends in the area, no money, no savings, no welfare state to fall back on, Jody answers an ad in the paper for an Encyclopedia Britannica sales position, gets the job and hires a babysitter- even though she has no money with which to pay the babysitter.
The training and sales routines for the "Sperm-of-the-Month club," in chapter 17 of I, Vampire is based on that Britannica experience.
With her usual determination and skill, Jody is a smashing success! The babysitter gets paid and the checks started rolling in. She even manages to pen a novel during these years, but selling is a job and like all jobs, if you stop doing it, it stops paying you.
There has to be a better way than selling all day, raising a child alone and squeezing in a little writing when time and exhaustion allow.
Enter E.P. Jeff Jaffarian, one time pal of Richard Nixon, sometime photographer and pornographer, recent tax auction purchaser of a platted-into-lots-but-since-reclaimed-by-the-forest town on the banks of Puget Sound called Irondale.
(continued next time)
Part III- Okanogan:
I write about how Jody and I meet in 1977 in the foreword to the 2015 Strange Particle Press edition of Passing For Human. It isn't long before Jody recruits me to help with the Irondale business. I'm young and inexperienced enough to be flattered to be entrusted with the bookkeeping. (Note to young self, "bookkeeping is not a thrilling piece of adult business, it's just an onerous repetitive pain in the ass.") But to be fair, Jody has been doing this alone for a long time and how I handle this will be an indicator as to whether I can be trusted with greater responsibility.
In 1981 we buy our first parcel of land in Okanogan County. By now I have learned how the business operates and how to communicate and sell. Jody is an excellent teacher.
Turns out our skills mesh wonderfully, where Jody is weak I excel; where I am weak she is strong. So while she writes full time, I am tasked with finding a new location where we can replicate the Irondale success.
There's no internet so research is via phone and mail and in person. After months of searching I find the place where county regulations, beautiful terrain, views and price align.
The plan is to buy a large tract of land at a 'wholesale' price, divide it into smaller parcels, and sell those to people in Seattle at a 'retail' price. This "spread," or difference between wholesale and retail, is our profit.
We do everything ourselves. We find the land and buy directly from owners. We sell the land for $99 down and $99 per month on a Real Estate Contract we carry ourselves. We tramp and measure and stake and take photos. We figure out how to divide what we buy and write the legal descriptions that make it so. We advertise in The Little Nickel using inexpensive classified ads and we meet people at the local Denny's Restaurant where rent is the cost of a meal plus generous tip.
We have no competition, no one is doing what we are doing. In later years others begin to offer similar terms, some of them legit and some of them scammers. But we have an advantage because society does not recognize our spousal relationship. For this technical reason we can buy two adjacent tracts of land as separate individuals and each of us divide our parcel into four pieces, giving us eight plots to resell. A married couple can only divide the same whole into four parcels. (And that's how to take a crappy hand dealt you and turn it to advantage!)
We enjoy quite a bit of freedom, but also there is no corporate daddy to fall back on; the bucks stops with us- for good or ill. Nobody funds our retirement account or provides us insurance. We take all the risks, we get all the rewards and we assume all the responsibility. It takes a bit of courage and a whole lot of ethics to pull that off successfully for decades.
So, we begin our Okanogan business in 1981, we model it after the successful Irondale Lots, which is built on Jody's successful Encyclopedia Britannica experience, and the last Okie property we sell is in 2007, just months before Jody dies. (We have a lovely time that summer clearing brush growing up in the road and find a big jade rock (OK probably not jade, but pretty) that takes the both of us to lift into the trunk to bring home.)
Over these 30 years we buy and sell hundreds of acres of land, dozens and dozens of individual parcels. By creating our own unique business model, to supply exactly what Jody needs to write full time (a modest but steady income from a few months part time work each year), she is able to spend her life doing what she loves; producing the body of work that we all are the lucky beneficiaries of.
Part II- Irondale:
It's no surprise Jody is an excellent saleman, because she is an excellent communicator; she can talk to anyone, can understand and acknowledge anyone without judgment. (A very handy ability for a writer.)
So when Jaffarian meets Jody he recognizes the answer as to how to make money with these thousands of Irondale lots. She pitches him a set of encyclopedias; he pitches her a proposal they go into business together.
They soon form Scojaf and craft a direct sales campaign based on Jody's Britannica presentation (phone pitch followed by in-person pitch with sales kit-- in this case many maps, photos, brochures, etc). They place a small classified ad in The Little Nickel Newspaper (a thing made of paper that people used before Craig's list) and soon, with her handy Thompson's Guide (a thing made of paper that people used before GPS) and the street-numbering truism that "east is even," Jody is navigating all over Seattle selling vacation lots for $9 down and $9 per month.
She is a howling success. The checks are pouring in.
Jody has her head down, plowing those furrows like the good Capricorn she is, but poor Jaffarian goes a little nuts with the all the money and success. He trades in his wife for a newer, younger model, buys a sprawling estate in Escondido CA that once belonged to Harold Bell Wright, and eventually trades Scojaf for a boatload of Teletrans stock.
Teletrans, it turns out, is the product of a classic "pump-and-dump" scheme and therefore very soon worthless. (You can still find info about it on the internet with enough searching, because the shell of Teletrans was used again, post-internet, to conduct another "pump-and-dump" before being delisted by the Salt Lake City Exchange.)
To his credit Jaffarian feels bad and deeds the remaining lots to Jody in compensation. She continues to sell them directly, and carries the contracts. The monthly payments are by this time up to $29. And that money coming in steadily every month affords Jody the time to write. She writes Passing For Human which is published in 1977, the year that we meet.
Over the next several years I assist Jody in this enterprise and learn the business (an education worth many times the price of any college tuition), and as the stock of Irondale lots dwindles we begin to search for a new location where we can repeat what she's done with Irondale.
We find it in Okanogan County, which I will tell you all about next week.
the blog of Jody Scott
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