TT with HD: Patrick Cardiff
Readers may want to inspect a
zoomed-in view of the mermaid boomerang Patrick is holding before diving into the
conversation below. There are many more of Patrick's critter boomerangs on
Ted Bailey's flight-toys.com]
HD: Will this work? You've got some extra weight with the boomerangs. Yeah! Let's pause now, and let me get this [camera] fired up.
PC: You want the boomerangs in hand?
HD: That would be super, actually.
PC: Give me a moment while I dig these monkeys out. There we go. [Ed. note: Photography ensues.]
HD: And maybe a couple wielding them in a throwing motion?
PC: That's easy enough.
HD: That should be plenty to choose from, I think! Wow. So first of all, welcome to the teeter totter!
PC: It's an honor to be invited! Thank you, sir!
HD: [laugh] Alright now let's get this going again. We were doing very well before. So you're quite good at this. Holy cow, you're leaning back in a precarious position!
PC: No, I've got the legs locked.
HD: So you said the last time you were on one of these was ...
PC: ... thirty-seven years ago. Yeah, with my brother, Mike.
HD: So you have a precise memory of this, or are you just estimating?
PC: You know I can't give you an exact situation, but I have a pretty good memory for visuals. Normally, I could pull it out of the hat, if I had a precise memory. But no, it's approximate.
HD: So with your brother?
PC: Yep, my twin brother, Mike.
HD: Okay, so does he live around here as well?
PC: No, he's over in Virginia somewhere.
HD: It sounds like you've lost track of him?
PC: Oh, no, no. We keep in touch.
HD: Alright, so right to the boomerangs. When I ran into you--what was it, a year and a half ago?
PC: Roughly that.
HD: You were carrying this--I think I might have been the same bag that you have now ...
PC: ... probably, yeah.
HD: I remember they were sticking out of the bag, and I just accosted you and said, Hey are those boomerangs? You were on your way to test them, as I recall.
HD: My recollection was that you said you were going to go test them at Allmendinger Park.
HD: Is that your favorite test ground?
PC: It's the best situation out here within a reasonable distance, because it doesn't have wind interference from trees or odd topography.
HD: What about West Park?
PC: West Park is not real good, because it has a funnel shape entrance, where the wind is diverted by the trees. The trees push the wind into almost a vortex situation. It comes in and the wind is actually moving in about four different directions within about 20 yards, so it's almost impossible to get a good return in there. The wind's always going to bollix it.
HD: So you work exclusively with returning boomerangs?
PC: Yeah. Well, every now and then, I get a non-returner, but I don't like to admit that!
HD: Okay, but the goal is to make them returning?
PC: It's funny you should say that about non-returning boomerangs. Actually boomerangs seem to have developed from non-returning boomerangs. The one-way hunting boomerang, which is an Australian artifact, is made to travel pretty much in a straight line, like an Aerobie or a Frisbee. And its gyroscopic lift of each arm carries it: each time the wing turns, it's creating lift, which keeps it up in the air, and its gyroscopic spin is giving it stability. So every time it's turning, it's creating lift. So what happens is, you have an object that's moving forward--so all its inertial thrust is all being transferred in forward motion. If it's a parabolic weapon--an arrow or a thrown stone--energy is given, and then it falls down again. So you've got to aim somewhat high with an arrow, to achieve apogee of flight, and then it'll descend somewhat.
PC: The boomerang, because it's creating lift with each turn, can go a really remarkable distance--500 or more feet--straight out. Now, the beauty of a weapon like a boomerang is, you've got a three-foot wide missile--relatively light, but it's spinning about 10 times per second--so if this thing weighs eight to sixteen ounces, it has an incredibly heavy wallop when it hits something.
HD: You could put an eye out with one!
PC: You could certainly do that. You could maim or even kill. So if you're hunting say, an emu or a wallaby on the Great Nullarbor Plain, it'll see you, but it knows it can outrun you. So you're 500 feet away, it doesn't panic yet: Hah, I can outrun him at 20 feet, no problem! It stays there. You throw the boomerang and it spins out--now, it's spinning so fast it's essentially almost invisible--the critter looks up, and maybe sees a blur, maybe not, hears something coming, but doesn't really see anything, so is in a cameo position to be hit. It's kind of peering forward, and [slap] it's either wounded, stunned, or killed. So you go out and catch your prey. The returning boomerang is a variant on the hunting boomerang. A hunting boomerang will tend to turn one way or another. You have to tune it to get it to go straight. So they tend to want to turn in the direction ...
HD: ... that they're spinning?
PC: Yeah, exactly, in the direction of spin. That gyroscopic action tends to bring it around in a circle. If you increase the angle of the wings from 150 degrees to more like 110 or 90 degrees, then you get something where as each wing turns, it's creating a pull, and as it's spinning around, again it's creating pull. So as each wing rotates, it's creating pull, and turns it in a circle--it brings it around. And the aerodynamic shape--the airplane wing shape--gives it the lift to come around and do that trip.
HD: Now your boomerangs though, my sense is that while they do fly, that you're perhaps at least as interested--besides making them fly--in creating an interesting artistic object--a piece of art?
PC: Pretty good take on it, yeah. And thank you for saying that! That's nice to hear. Well, the first thing, of course, is that it's a boomerang, so it's got to work as a boomerang. Now the fun thing is that with boomerangs--watch yourself [Ed. note: PC retrieves his bag of boomerangs from the ground, pausing the totter momentarily, and produces an antelopey-looking critter in profile--antlers forming a single wing, and each pair of front and back legs forming a wing, for a total of three.]--they have an immense range of potential shapes. You might not think that was a boomerang ...
HD: ... no, especially if you flip it over, with the art ...
PC: ... the decoration, yeah. The decoration will draw your eye more, but even just looking at the rough shape, you don't see 'boomerang'. However, if you just saw what was below my hand there [the legs of the critter], you would think, Okay, yeah, it's kind of a squared-off boomerang.
PC: That extra shape in there, what you get is essentially an extra wing. Now, it's placed far enough away from the central point that it doesn't create drag ...
HD: ... so the antler part, that you're holding there, does it have the airfoil shape, just like the legs?
PC: Exactly. So as it rotates outward--this is blunted, and this is the trailing edge. Here's blunt, and here's the trailing edge. As it rotates, the blunt edge strikes first, the trailing edge follows, and that gives the traditional airflow that you're familiar with from airplane wings: blunt edge, trailing edge. So as each wing turns, it's also moving in space. Now, this wing is striking clean air, it's moving forward. This hits clean air and this hits clean air. They're not so close together that they're actually hitting the backwash--as it moves in space, it's got to be able to hit clean air. If it hits washed out air, of course, that will be a vacuum and it will essentially pull it downward. [Ed. note: PC switches to a different boomerang.] This is your basic traditional two-blader, where people look at it and go, Yeah, Boomerang! Nice piece of walnut.
HD: Where did you get the walnut?
PC: The original branch was from our neighbor's tree, which they were taking down. The original branch was as big around as I am around my middle. In fact, bigger. So I took an ax and I cut it down to a nice sweet central piece ...
HD: ... so this came right out of the middle?
PC: Yeah, well from a large branch that had grown with a bow, a nice 90-degree bow in it.
HD: Oh, so the bend there, it matches what the bend of the branch was?
PC: Yeah, it's what you would call a 'continuous grain'. So let's see if I can actually do this [Ed. note: PC slides the boomerang down the totter to HD. It almost reaches him before falling off the side. Readers who wonder why PC doesn't just throw it to HD, well, they're just not paying attention.]
HD: Pretty close. Wait a second, maybe I can grab it. Uggggh. Got it.
PC: Good job, you made it.
HD: Wow. You know what, I want to take a close up picture of this.
PC: Now in the center, what you see are those nice little sort of glowy lines in the center--what we would call 'fiddleback'. That's where the active growth of the branch compressed the grain and it creates a different texture in the wood. When you polish that down, you get these nice, almost opalescent lines of grain there. Adds to the beauty of the piece. [Ed. note: HD spends some time futzing with close-up photograph of the walnut boomerang.]
HD: You were saying?
PC: Where was I? Oh yes, that was from a branch, a huge branch. The neighbors had this tree cut down and the branch ...
HD: ... so when you saw it, did you just immediately visualize, Ah, Boomerang!
PC: Yeah. First thought was, Heh, WALNUT! Heh, BOOMERANG WALNUT! Oooh, BIG BRANCH! SURE TO BE GOOD WOOD IN MIDDLE! Not, Oh, Jesus Christ, that thing is way too big, I'll never get to the middle! Oh, no: BOOMERANG!
HD: So you actually used a hand ax??
PC: Yeah, toong, toong, toong, toong. Wood cuts amazingly quickly. In this day and age, our fat-ass laziness tends to make us think we can't do things physically. Oh, shhh, it'll work, no problem.
HD: So you knocked that out in what, like an afternoon? I mean, not the finished piece, but the rough shape?
PC: About 40 minutes, just chop, chop, chop, you know? The big work with a sledge hammer and a couple of wedges--split, split, split, split. So you get this nice big piece. I wound up with a piece about six inches wide throughout that bend. And of course it was still yay big around. I didn't want to take any chances splitting that grain--because it's continuous grain--so I took the ax and cut it down to about four inches wide that way, so four inches this way, and about six inches when looking at it end-on, this way. Then once I had that, I wrapped it up in some plastic and let it dry.
HD: For how long?
PC: About a year. Maybe longer than that. Then got it out and used a coping saw to cut blanks out of that.
HD: So you got more than one boomerang out of that.
PC: About six of those.
HD: So how much patience and self-discipline did it require to just really let it dry for a year?
PC: Nothing. I dreaded carving it. 'I'm gonna screwit up! It's gonna split! I'm gonna screwit up! It's gonna split!'
HD: Okay, you used a coping saw--another hand tool--to cut the blanks, and then from there?
PC: Wood rasp. Shaped it with a wood rasp. Take it out for a test fly, catch-throw, catch-throw, looks good, sandpaper it nice and smooth--first with a 60 grit, 80 grit, 120, 220, up to about something like a 400 grit. Real nice glassy finish. Canvas cloth for final polish and then polyurethane.
PC: It's just a sweet boomerang.
HD: It looks sweet.
PC: They can break. I was throwing one of its brothers in a park with some neighbors and just crashed it right smack head-on into a tree. I was throwing it at full power. Just boom!
HD: Did that just break your heart?
PC: No, it broke the boomerang. A boomerang's just a piece of wood. It was a pretty piece of wood. I felt a little bad about it.
HD: Did you save the pieces?
PC: In fact, I did save the pieces. Because I may eventually polish it back up, and glue it back together and use it as a lid for a boomerang box. You know a hinged box--here's the boomerang on the top--you open it up, you've got one inside.
HD: So is it fractured in dramatic way? I mean, if you arranged the pieces, not exactly fit together, but close ...
PC: ... that's a nice thought actually, except that would make me feel a little paranoid ...
HD: ... like as an assemblage, just hang it on the wall in its fractured state, with the pieces not perfectly close together, but with enough space to show where they would go, you know what I'm saying?
PC: Yeah, it's an interesting thought, it's an intriguing thought. Except it'd be almost like the death's head hanging around the place--you know like a reminder of what could happen. It's almost like having a skull around the place. A broken boomerang: yes, you know, it could always happen! A skull: oh yeah, I'm going to check out eventually.
HD: So you feel like it may be bad luck to have it around like that?
PC: I'm a superstitious kind of guy--raised Roman Catholic, can't help it, you know? Actually, it was kind of fun being raised Roman Catholic, because that makes Halloween so much more fun. It was completely verboten: Oh, no, don't go trick-or-treating! Well, you gotta go trick or treating now.
HD: So the six blanks that you had, you described this process, did you do them as a batch? So did you go test fly all six of them and take notes about each one and what you needed to fiddle with, or was it one at a time?
PC: One at a time. There's four more blanks sitting there. This is number two.
HD: Oh, really!
PC: And I'm not carving any more until that one breaks.
HD: Seriously? Well, if someone came and said, I'd like one of those blanks, I'd like to buy it off you, it that something you'd be willing to entertain, or?
PC: Nope. No way. I might give it to someone, but I'm not going to sell it.
HD: Not for any price?
PC: Nah. No. I'll give it to someone. If I think that it's someone who would really benefit from it, who would really do a nice job with it.
HD: So, who would learn how to throw it properly?
PC: Who could carve it properly, who could throw it properly, who would show other people how to throw it. Yeah, I'd give it to them.
HD: So in other words, somebody who'd be a good ambassador for the boomerang?
PC: Basically. Who would use the time I've put into it well. Selling it, I wouldn't be getting my money's worth out of it in any way shape or form. No one would pay that much for an unfinished boomerang. Unless they were nuts.
HD: But I meant to be asking if someone were to offer you some amount of money to finish one of the blanks.
PC: Still too much work. No, natural wood boomerangs are a helluva thing to make. Well, at least for me, I'm using all hand tools. If you're using power tools and are knocking them out, then you can probably sell them for 20 bucks.
HD: Now the other non-natural wood boomerangs, the ones with the decoration, the animal figures?
PC: Aircraft grade plywood. Micro-laminate. 10 plys to the quarter-inch. Beautiful stuff. Each ply faces 90 degrees to the ply above and below. Incredibly strong. No voids. And as 'aircraft' suggests, it's lightweight. Birch is the second best gluing wood. Mahogany is the number one for gluing, for laminating. Mahogany is good for marine work because it tends to resist rot and glues so well, but birch is better for boomerangs because it's lighter. Sorry, you were going to say?
HD: The name 'aircraft' that suggests that its usual application is not boomerangs, but rather gliders, or?
PC: Used in interior for aircraft and for home-build craft--where you want something that's going to be very strong but lightweight. It might be referred to as 'veneer plywood' in some cases, too, because it's very thin--again 'micro- laminate'. There's no gaps, no voids, so it's structurally extremely strong. Each piece is very, very strong.
HD: So where do you get stuff like that?
PC: I used to get it from a nice couple in Texas--a mom-and-pop operation. They used to sell aircraft supply, but they've since closed down. And having caught rumor that they were going to close down, I bought up as much plywood as they had in stock. So I should be a little old man, or a little older man, before I'm through with it.
HD: So the decorated ones, are those boomerangs for sale in any way shape or form?
PC: Oh, yeah! Yeah, I do these custom all the time.
HD: On that website, my favorite is the Easter Bunny--maybe it's just the time of year--the rabbit with the boomerang arms as legs, you remember that one?
PC: Yeah, that was a real nice one. It was in profile, he's got a basket in one arm, he's got a waistcoat, a little vest. That was fun it was a nice Victorian image I worked from.
HD: So is that the kind of thing where if someone said, I like that bunny, Can you make me one like that? You'd be willing to do that?
PC: Oh yeah! I do that stuff all the time. Unfortunately, they're expensive. They're a hundred bucks apiece for custom work. And if you don't want to spend a hundred bucks and you want to take your chances on an auction, pretty much twice a year, I give boomerangs to Ted Baily for his website auction of boomerangs [www.flight-toys.com]. He's got a twice-a-year auction, so I usually throw in four or five boomerangs for that and I don't put any reserve on it. So if someone gets it for ten bucks, they get it for ten bucks. If someone gets it for 120, they get it for 120. But I want to give people a chance to snag something.
HD: So this auction, do the proceeds go to the people who made the boomerangs or to Ted, or?
PC: Split between me and Ted. But it's a nice way to give people a chance to grab something.
HD: So do you ever exhibit them just as an art exhibit?
PC: Yeah, there was a nice show over at Sweetwaters just a couple of weeks back.
HD: Sweetwaters, the coffee shop just down the street??
HD: Wow. I should go there more often.
PC: You called just after I took the show down.
HD: I missed it.
PC: Yeah, I had mad cows and all sorts of other paintings up there as well--landscapes, and mad cows and all that.
HD: So what's the medium you work in for the boomerangs? Is it some sort of acrylic, I assume?
PC: Bingo. Excellent! And it's a perfect choice, because the wood itself is very hydrophilic ...
HD: ... which means?
PC: Which means it'll absorb water and moisture--it pulls it right into the grain. Now that's ideal, because I'm not thinning with acrylic medium, I'm thinning with water. So I get this very thin, almost a wash medium with the acrylic. And it soaks right into the wood, right into the surface, it's not just sitting on the surface. It is sitting on the surface, but it's also locked into the grain. Now that means that when I put the polyurethane on top of the final painting, it grabs that and further pulls it into the grain, it's LOCKED right on as if it was enamel-baked on! WONDERFUL! So it'll take scratching, beating, the whole works, and you've got to actually grind off that top layer of polyurethane to even touch the color. I love that part of it! Sorry. I get savage in my enthusiasm for this! It's such a marvelous medium. You can take these things and throw'em and catch'em and throw'em and catch'em and they still look okay on the wall!
HD: So when you're painting these things, do you have them on a modified easel, so that you don't have to bend over a counter, or how does that work?
PC: Oh, my weight bench in the basement is the right height for my desk, so I sit on the weight bench and just paint away. Flat, you know? So I put the music on and start painting.
HD: So the boomerang itself is lying flat.
PC: Well, I don't want any angling or any tilt, because it's a very aqueous medium. I've got to be able to lay it right on where it'll be pulled in. It's just as thin as it can be without bleeding. But it's got to be able to be dropped on in an extremely fine line.
HD: So you've got steady hands, I take it.
PC: So far. A little tremble there, but, yeah. Coffee hits about this time of day.
HD: So in terms of the artistic process, these things have to fly and you've got to get an animal design onto it. So is it a matter of saying, Okay, let me sketch out an animal design that I think will work! and then trying to see if the shape will fly? Or do you try out some shapes you know will fly--without even thinking about what animal might go on them--and then sort of at that point start thinking about fitting an animal image on there?
PC: Pretty much what I do is, I'm intrigued by an image of an animal--I'll see a picture, a photograph of something, usually an action image of a critter of some sort. And of course the things that will come immediately to mind will be bats, birds, occasionally long-bodied fish, snakes, things like that, that would naturally have the potential to find themselves in a gestalt that would immediately bring to mind a boomerang. And if I see something like that, say a macaw in full flight with the wings out at just the right angle, so that it's not too massive in its appearance, I'll say, Ooh, that looks pretty good! and I'll draw that out and do whatever removal of mass I need to do of the image to get a boomerang out of it. And I'll look at the drawing and decide, Does this bring across the image of a macaw effectively? Is it thinned down too much? Is it abstracted too far so that people will look at that and say, Gee that macaw has really skinny wings! or something. You know, I don't want that. In the case of, let me think, let's see, um, Name a critter!
PC: Okay, squirrels are great. I've seen several images where a squirrel has just got its forelegs out, he's on his belly, and his back legs are out and his tail is up: a perfect shape for a boomerang. So if I see a picture like that, I'll draw that out, distribute the weight of the image. The tail is about the same mass as the body itself, so immediately I've got a great shape. And I use the profile, because that is what you would immediately gestalt: the silhouette of the squirrel. You might see a squirrel sitting up. But sitting up, straight forward, at first you say, Is it a small groundhog or is it a squirrel? When it's in profile, that long tail tells you immediately it's a squirrel. So profiles are good. Because one thing, I want something that will give me two wings or more for the boomerang. And second, profiles are, in most cases, what we recognize a critter by.
HD: So is it exclusively critters? Or do you ever go for geometric, abstract designs? Or just commissioned color combinations? I mean, in this town, I would think there's bound to be some U of M football fans who'd want a winged helmet design. You could market that, actually, as like a Go Blue-merang!
PC: That's a nice thought! I stay away from production, because I'm not geared for mass production. That would be good for someone who was geared for mass production. And the other part is that I don't go near anything that is copyright of somebody else's work. Unless, of course I was subcontracting for them directly, which would, of course, be the way to do that. But I'm not set up for mass production. It could be done. As an exercise, I might do the design up just out of curiosity. Neil Kalmanson back in Swainsboro, Georgia, does a lot of abstract forms with boomerangs and does a nice job with that. He's good with that, and that seems to be his forte. He doesn't do much with animals or anything. I don't do that much with abstraction. It's just not a field that I'm particularly interested in, nor do I think that I have any kind of a knack for. So I stick with what I know. So I like the representational aspect of the critter-rangs and working with the animal images is always fun for me. So I'll go to the library and pull out various books. I'll pull out a reptile book, look til I find something that looks really good, take that image, draw it up, adapt it to whatever is needed to create the right aerodynamic balance of wings--whether it's two, three, four, five. And then as I'm doing the drawing, I'll have to decide whether there'll be finistrations, windows in the boomerangs that allow air to pass ...
HD: ... yeah, I noticed that there's a turtle, that has a removable insert.
PC: Right. I just couldn't abstract it down to a flying boomerang ...
HD: ... without having a turtle with stupidly spindly legs?
PC: Right, it just wouldn't look right. Again, I keep using the word 'gestalt', but the signature look of a turtle is that massive round shape, that shell. That tells you: turtle! So I said, Okay, I've heard of flying rings being made--other boomerang makers have made flying rings that come back in a circle. Alright, I'm not so good that I can make just a plain ring, but I can have extensions on the circle, creating the aerodynamic, gyroscopic effect that I need. So flippers, head: turtle. Sea turtles have long enough appendages--now I've exaggerated their flippers out even further--but they are long enough that you don't immediately say, Jeez, that's a long-flipperd turtle there.
HD: So it's not just totally out of scale.
PC: Right, right. Exactly. If it's way out of scale, it's not believable. Or if it immediately jars the sensibility of the viewer, then I've failed, it's just not right. And I'm pretty critical, so.
HD: You have any polar bears at all?
PC: You know, I'm working on those.
HD: Are you really??
PC: I am working on those. I've got a couple of nice images--a couple of bears wrestling. I was thinking about doing basically their four quarters-- meeting at the elbow, where they're sort of chewing at each other as bears do. Four paws meet about there, and then just bleed out bluish white away to the wings--you've got just these two wing tips at the end and about right here up near the elbow, you start to get their backs, their necks and their faces, right in the middle, wrestling there. That was one way to do it. Another way was have it interacting with something--smacking the brains out of a seal or something.
HD: [laugh] 'Interacting' with a seal?
PC: Precisely. Interacting with its environment!
HD: Oh man. Okay. Well, these typical critter boomerangs, they have a flight path, that I assume is--what is the right term, the flight radius? Or the turning radius is small enough so that Allmendinger Park is plenty big?
PC: Yeah, Allmendinger is real good, because I'm not working with long-distance boomerangs. Some people specialize in what's called long-distance boomerangs. They use a variety of mediums, including paxolin and other carbon fiber materials--very heavy--and by adjusting their aerodynamic and shapes in such a way, they create a boomerang that can go out, jeez, uh ...
HD: ... I read something like 200 yards ...
PC: ... yeah, better than 200 yards and come back. Now that's not a big circle. Usually what you get is a very long, almost straight, flight and then it loops at the very end--not much of a loop--and comes flying back straight. It's a very strange-looking flight. That long-looped flight is what you see with the distance boomerangs. What I've got are usually 20- to 40-yard circular flights. Some of them do a tear drop flight--a teardrop shape starts out, loops, then comes back in so that the point of the teardrop is the thrower. And in some cases some of the boomerangs are made in such a way that they do a double: they go out and go out, come back twice and then hover down.
HD: So Allmendinger Park is not a problem as far as people wandering into the area where you want to ...
PC: ... oh, always! But you always keep you eyes open at all times. Boomerangs are very capable of creating havoc, so whenever anyone is within what I call a 'circle of havoc'--say within 200 feet--I don't throw.
HD: So do you ever negotiate with neighbors over there, like, Hey, I'm throwin' over here, so if you keep running back and forth, it's kinda screwin' me up, so how about ...
PC: ... I'm the one invading a space with a potentially dangerous missile, so I wait until the coast is clear. You know, if people are wandering back and forth and wandering back and forth, I just sit and wait.
HD: I would imagine that some people would be curious and take up a position where they intend to be watching, so they say, Oh that guy's throwing a boomerang, let me go over here and watch! and just by watching there they cause you to stop.
PC: No, what happens is, when someone is, say, out there in the distance and they're watching, I'll say, Hey, come on over this way! If you're right by me, you're safe, if you're out there, it could hit you. So they'll come on over and I'll actually show them how to throw the boomerang, if they're interested. If they're actually stopped and watching they're probably interested in learning how to throw, or have thrown or are interested in the boomerang in some way. And teaching someone to throw a boomerang is only a matter of about five minutes in most cases.
HD: So you don't need any special coordination, you don't have to be particularly talented in that area?
PC: No, normally though, boomerangs are right-handed. So I usually keep a few left-handed ones. It's like golf clubs--there's right- and left-handed. So the boomerang has an airfoil that when you look at a right-handed one, if you hold the boomerang up to the mirror, you'll see what a left-handed airfoil looks like. That's how it works. The right-hander is thrown and travels counterclockwise, wind, if any, is striking the thrower's left cheek. With a left-handed thrower, wind, if any, strikes at their right cheek-- they're throwing clockwise.
HD: So have you ever participated in sport throwing competitions?
PC: I'm not much of a competitor. I have, in fact, competed a couple of times and won a couple of events.
HD: Were those events distance throwing, or there's a--I forget the name of the event--'endurance'? Where you have to see how many times in a row you can throw and catch it?
PC: No. I've done a few of those, but I never could beat those other guys. No, what I won on in some local event was 'time aloft'. I happened to catch a good thermal. It stayed in the air, and stayed in the air, and stayed in the air. But it had nothing to do with skill, it was just dumb luck.
HD: You say a 'local event'. There's boomerang events around here locally?
PC: Yeah, Ted Bailey would be the one to contact on that. There are occasionally events around here. Down in Ohio, particularly there's events. The one that I was at was in Georgia when I was down that way. But I don't know of any Ann Arbor actual events, although maybe they do them occasionally here nearby.
HD: Alright, so do you have anything else on your mind today. Besides boomerangs?
PC: Well, the only thing of note about me, other than the boomerangs is that I'm a crazed comic book collector. I'd better clarify that: my area of expertise is DC Comics from the years 1957 through 1974. After that I have no knowledge of anything. Although during that tiny period of time, I've got a pretty huge collection, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the writers and the artists. I was a comic book artist-wannabe, so I was collecting and studying for years and years and years. Then the market changed so radically and distinctly that it just wasn't the same sort of thing that I wanted to work with or do.
HD: So what specific change are you talking about? The way the labor was farmed out for the art?
PC: Any number of things. I was raised in a time when the Comics Code was in place. I actually kind of liked the kind of constraints that it imposed on story ...
HD: ... I'm not even familiar with this Code.
PC: The Comics Code Authority came into place after comics were given a bad rap by Senator Kefauver and Dr. Wertham back in 1953, 1954. They tried to get comics banned completely from the U.S. market, and almost succeeded. And this was because the infamous EC Comics at the time were producing comics that were extremely grotesque and gory. Now, by today's standards, they are almost laughably tame, but they had pretty graphic horror and such things. The Code toned everything down, so that you couldn't have deaths on panel, you couldn't have characters being injured, you couldn't have policemen being injured--there were various don't-s you couldn't do. You couldn't have zombies--the living dead were not allowed, specifically. So they had to get around these things in several different ways. In the 60's DC came up with several different strategies for getting around that. Joe Orlando, who used to work at EC comics, began working with DC. EC was William Gaines' comic company, and basically after he wound up being forced out of the market, he then concentrated on MAD magazine, which was his way of getting past the censorship--because it was then a magazine rather than a comic. So he could do what he wanted to do with that. Didn't have to be wholesome. DC kept things pretty calm and quiet throughout, so they never really had much trouble with the Comics Code, and actually they thrived during that period of time. In the 60's Joe Orlando came in and started to opening up the horror lines in DC Comics. They were still pretty tame, but they were entertaining. They were fun. So these were the periods of time I was interested in, because I liked the style of art and the style of the story being told and things like that. I may as well also confess freely that I just don't have the capacity for torture and lack of pay that the average comic book artist has to endure.
HD: Fair enough.
PC: Eighteen days awake and not getting paid for three years? No. Sorry. That's kind of a basic template for being a comic artist.
HD: Well, I noticed you rode your bike up the Mulholland hill to get here. Is that generally how you get around?
PC: Well, I hate to use the car for anything under four miles. The bike will get you there as fast. Parking and all the other stuff will slow you down. So yeah, the bike's pretty good. Here in Ann Arbor, it's great. Everything's pretty close.
HD: So are you following any of the Downtown Development Authority's parking study and the parking plan initiative? I mean, this past week they've had a serious of focus groups. I actually went to one of them on Monday night. The target focus group was the alternative transportation crowd--people who are more inclined to use the bus, to walk, to bicycle, they invited people who are pretty disposed towards that kind of transportation for that particular focus group. So I went to that, it was pretty interesting.
PC: Oh, I see, so you're a kindred spirit!
HD: I am somewhat of a kindred spirit, yeah, sure.
PC: No, I hate to use the car if I don't have to. I use the car for ten-hour trips and things like that. But jeez, the bike! I'm getting old, I need as much exercise as I can get. If I ever stop, I'll never get back on!
HD: [laugh] That's probably pretty true for a lot of people, I think.
PC: I can still eat as much as I want. I don't want to give up that luxury.
HD: So do you go weeks at a time without ever driving a car?
PC: Yeah, usually.
HD: Do you do anything maintenance-wise to make sure that--I don't know, I guess bad things can happen to cars if you don't drive them and do certain things ...
PC: ... yeah, we keep the maintenance up on it. We check its fluids, we drive it now and then--groceries and such things, so it gets out now and then. But we do a weekly or an every-other-weekly grocery trip and that's about it. Why use the car if you don't have to? What's entertaining about sitting in traffic?
HD: Umm, you can listen to the radio?
PC: I can do that at home!
HD: I don't know, I'm just saying. I'm trying to find a bright spot.
PC: A bright spot. Arggh. Traffic! Huge SUV's?! People with no sense of space!!! Argh! Excuse me.
HD: What about the bus, do you ever use the bus here in Ann Arbor?
PC: I have nothing against it, but never felt the need for it. I can pretty much walk and pretty much beat it to where it's going. I walk pretty fast. If it's horrendous weather, I might take the bus. The winters are pretty rough.
HD: They are pretty rough. I've cycled through some winters and ...
PC: ... when snow is this deep and you're cycling? Yeah, I've done that. It's hard to maintain balance, and those nice icy patches when you hit the brakes and you go sliding ...
HD: ... so have you ever had an accident with a car on your bike?
PC: Ah, yeah, I've had a few.
HD: Like enough to leave you lying in the middle of the road and have to be scooped up by an ambulance?
PC: No, I've been lucky each time. Each time. I hit a slick spot and went under--I literally went between the wheels of a panel truck. And it just started to move.
HD: Wow. Did your life pass before your eyes?
PC: I was too busy. I was riding the thing sideways, you know? Way back, went under. Or someone was opening their car door while I was cycling and then: full-gainer over the car door. Didn't hurt their door, didn't hurt me. Yeah, I've been lucky so far. All those years of gymnastics have come in handy.
HD: So were you a gymnast in high school and college?
PC: Yeah, that was nice.
HD: Did you specialize in a particular event, or were you an all-rounder?
PC: Pretty much an all-rounder. Crummy on the horse, but I still tried it.
HD: I'm trying to remember when Kurt Thomas introduced the flair ...
PC: ... yeah ...
HD: ... was he before or after your time?
PC: He was a guy I admired. He had unusually long arms.
HD: Could you do the Thomas Flair?
PC: No, I could never quite do that. I could never do a full plange, I couldn't do the flair. I wasn't quite strong enough for those. Kurt Thomas, he was fun. He was in Gymkata, one of the most horrible movies you could ever see.
HD: They had to give him a movie, though. He won the gold medal in the Olympics right? So they had to let him make a movie.
PC: It was horrible, it was the worst movie. I actually rented it on tape just to see it. It was like a porno movie--you had to fast forward through it, and even then it was unwatchable. It was terrible.
HD: So what was your single best event?
HD: Parallel bars?
PC: Yeah, that was good. I was pretty good at that.
HD: I'm trying to remember the names of parallel bar moves.
PC: Oh it was just the basic stuff. I wasn't much at competition, you know? I can't even remember the names of them myself.
HD: There's like a stalter?
PC: Round offs and kips ...
HD: ... kips, yes!
PC: The names have gone!
HD: You could do the high bar, too, though right?
PC: Yeah, I wasn't very good at that, either.
HD: Could you do eagle giants?
PC: You mean the giant swings?
HD: Yeah, but with the hands in the 'eagle' position? Inverted?
PC: No, just giant swings, just the basic, just this position. Why? Were you able to do those, or?
HD: No! I didn't do gymnastics, but some friends of mine were on the high school gymnastics team, and I remember them talking about the difference between regular giant-swings and eagle giant-swings. My recollection was that giant swings were kind of a big deal. And it involved an inverted hand position.
PC: No, no. I could do basic stuff and did it for the fun of it, but competition? Bah, no. They'd have laughed me out of the place.
HD: But you could do stuff like press a handstand, right?
PC: Oh, yeah.
HD: Can you still do that?
HD: When's the last time you tried?
PC: About a month ago.
HD: [laugh] So I'd say you can.
PC: Probably, yeah. Yeah, I'm sure I can.
HD: Well, that's pretty impressive. Well, listen, I'd like to thank you for coming over and spending part of this glorious day riding a teeter totter, when you could be out throwing a boomerang.
PC: Well, actually right now there's a pizza on my mind, I've got the dough rising even as we teeter and totter. And my fears of losing my lunch were unfounded, thank you!
HD: Okay, great!
PC: Last time, like I said, was memorable. For motion sickness was the case!
HD: Really?! Well, I'm glad you didn't puke on the teeter totter. Saves me hosing it down.