Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Diplomat Drummer

There are a vast number of videos on YouTube, and each one has its own story. This video, which had been viewed approximately 300 times when I first saw it today, shows a guy playing the drums while two women are making tortillas. The title of the video is "Darrell Jenks Diplomat Drummer."

In the summer of 1979 I received a short letter from a forest ranger outside of Burns, Oregon. This person was not a full-time forest ranger; he was a student at Reed College who was about to begin his senior year, and he was going to be my dorm advisor in the fall. (In Reed College terms, he was a "dorm dad.") He wrote identical (OK, Kaz, nearly identical) letters to the six incoming freshmen who would be in his dorm (at that time, Eastport consisted of two triple rooms, a bathroom, and a single room for the dorm dad).

A month or two later I met my dorm dad, Darrell Jenks, who frankly looked like a forest ranger, with a huge beard. And he played the drums - in fact, a Reed College band, Daryl Jenks, was named after him (although, unlike John McVie who had a band named after him, Darrell Jenks never officially joined Daryl Jenks).

But the guy was brilliant. I've known several people who can speak multiple languages with ease, but with all due respect to my former co-worker Alex and my German daughter Anni, Darrell topped them all. Here's what the New York Times said about Jenks:

Darrell, a brilliant linguist...spoke nine languages including Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. In 2007, Darrell volunteered to serve in Maysan, Iraq, where - largely self-taught - he picked up the basics of his fourth super-hard language, Arabic.

In the spring of 1980, the beard magically disappeared. Jenks was about to graduate, and he had a job interview. He eventually ended up with the U.S. State Department, and spent thirty years serving his country.

Now take another look at that video of the Diplomat Drummer. Notice the medical equipment behind the drums, and the cot over to the side. Jenks was dying. That New York Times article that talked about Jenks was his obituary.

There are a vast number of videos on YouTube, and each one has its own story.

P.S. Thanks to Polly for letting me know.

P.P.S. Here's an obituary video.

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