Thursday, November 27, 2008

Older Ramblings

Monday, August 11, 2008
The little jeep did just fine on a trip to Hope, thank you. Hope is fascinating. I'll go back there when exploration is an option. But we had another experience that left me with adrenaline residue. A pod of beluga whales was cruising into Turnagain Arm with the tide, and we got to watch them for a good twenty minutes. Scratch white whale off the list.
Posted by Thornyissue at 4:27 PM 2 comments
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Alaska Cockroaches
Several old time Alaskans deny that cockroaches exist here. We were a bit taken aback when we visited an iconic restaurant in Anchorage and noticed a mini hotel (few vacancies) under the table. The university doesn't deny the bugs exist, even distributing an extermination guide, but most locals can't get behind the facts. Do they know what a roach looks like? Are they a recent addition? Do they just not care about any critter not represented on the hunting proclamation? If you ignore them, will they just bug off? The first time I visited Alaska, eons ago, we partied in a place we called Rat View, where the drunk owner fired a 357 round at a rat in the smoky crowded basement of his home. I've yet to hear of any rat infestation, though, or reports of cockroaches for that matter. Maybe the industrial-sized mosquitoes carried them off. I'll get back to you with the results of the investigation...
Posted by Thornyissue at 7:45 PM 0 comments
Friday, August 8, 2008
The Auction
He went to a service at nearly every church in town while he lived there. He didn't find what HE was looking for, but met lots of folks who'd seemed to. At First Baptist, the preacher asked that everyone gather at the fellowship hall following the service, where the youth group would be conducting a cake auction to help fund their way to camp. He didn't need cake, but the fellowship was something he did need, so he attended. About twenty cakes sat on the folding table. He looked over the gathering of families glowing over the cakes. He guessed the prospective number of bidders at slightly more than a dozen. The auction progressed about as he expected, with proud parents and grandparents rewarding their little bakers by taking home the cakes most likely baked by the parents themselves. One young man bid the entire four dollars in his pocket to impress a girl of twelve who owned a pineapple upside down looking concoction, only to have her glowering father get the cake for five. The suitor seemed disappointed at first, then relieved. The girl had noticed, though.- One finely dressed older lady started with twenty dollars for her granddaughter's very beautiful double tiered white cake. She was exasperated when others caused her to bid up a couple of times, but she took it home for twenty six.- The fellowship numbers were waning as the last few cakes went for just a couple of dollars, until one last cake remained, baked by a girl of about seven with thick glasses and a Hawaiian floral dress several sizes too large.-He had played a game with himself, trying to match child and cake, but there was no question which was hers, because she hovered over it, turning and adjusting to show it to advantage. He heard her bubbling to anyone who would listen about her accomplishment and the work involved. She had used her aunt's kitchen and she had borrowed a couple of ingredients from the neighbor, but she and her aunt had followed Betty Crocker to the letter, making the icing and coloring it themselves. She had left the kitchen clean (except for one little green spot she couldn't get off the rug), she had put toothpicks in to hold the saran wrap cover, had almost tipped the cake over in the church bus on the way over, and after arriving, had disassembled the covering and added fourteen candy stars from the church kitchen cabinet. He tried to choose which woman at the gathering might be the aunt, but, as it turned out, she wasn't among the congregation.-The cake itself was a simple, large sheet cake with runny icing. It had the look of a watercolor painting with all the colors of the palette run together into a purple-black gooey mess. Some slashes had been cut into the top, and fourteen bright white stars were pressed deeply in. The girl seemed sad as the last cake before hers was a pity purchase from a family who already had a cake, and paid a dollar for an unwanted second. He'd received a few looks as the crowd waned and the auction continued with few adults left cakeless. The announcement of the last cake was greeted with weak applause. The preacher sighed, and asked for bids, and the little girl looked up at HIM, adjusted her glasses, and barely spoke. "Don't you like cake?"- "Damn", he thought.- "Of course I do!", he whispered. "I was waiting for THIS one."- "FIVE DOLLARS!, he boomed, loud enough for those still milling outside to hear.- The little girl was dumbstruck. The preacher smiled. There were no competing bids.- He turned to the little girl, stooped down, and asked "What flavor do you suppose it is?"- "Devil's food", she beamed. The preacher shook his head.- "Eight dollars" the man shouted. "But I won't go any higher." Heads were poking back into the door. "How about the icing?" he asked, "what flavor is that?"- "It's mostly sugar and stuff, but I ate some with my finger, and it's really GOOOD", she giggled.- "Twelve dollars! One for every star on this beautiful cake!"- "FOURTEEN!" she almost screamed. The preacher put his elbows on the podium, his chin on his hands. The room was filling with buzz of the curious.- "FIFTEEN!" he countered. "I'm getting this cake if it takes every penny I've got." The girl spun a full circle, and just looked at him, her hands on her hips and eyes sparkling. The preacher just waited for things to play out.- He pulled out a twenty dollar bill and snapped it. He glared at the little girl and challenged, "Do you have twenty dollars?". She shook her head. "That's it then! I win! Twenty dollars!", and he did a little celebration jig as he pointed to the preacher, who tapped the podium with his hammer and smirked. "Sold. Twenty Dollars!" said the preacher, to a small applause.- "I have a problem, though.", he told the little girl as he handed her the note. "I can't take the cake on my motorcycle. Could we eat it here?"- "That I can arrange", came a female voice from the kitchen. Soon several cakes were sliced; and served with ice cream, plates, flimsy silverware, folding chairs, and fellowship.- "You're silly", was all the little girl offered as she served him a big wedge of devils food with TWO stale candy stars and a huge scoop of double vanilla with cherries.
Posted by Thornyissue at 2:44 AM 1 comments
Labels: children, church
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I was a firefighter in the wayback. A new female firefighter was sent to a substation where our shift consisted of stable married guys. She was single and attractive, and I suppose the administration thought there would be fewer problems in the sub than the main station, though both had shared bathrooms and sleeping facilities. We lost touch after we both left the department, but I was glad to hear she met and married another old aquaintance of mine. (small town) I ran across them while shopping and was thrilled to see them both, and they seemed happy as well. But they were BOTH surprised that I knew their spouse. "You know HIM?", he asked. "Well yes!", she responded. "We slept together for three years!"
Posted by Thornyissue at 9:58 PM 0 comments
Labels: firefighting, humor
The Barista
The owner of the "Blue House" restaurant hired my niece. That was a risk. It turns out it was also a gift. At thirteen, (to steal a line from Ron White), that girl had a lot of quit in her. However, it seems she has found a niche. (Her last visit was wonderful as well.) She's on time at 6 a.m. (Whaa?) She's reportly working hard and smiling through her whole day. She's learned the coffee side quickly, and is getting in on the pastry bakery and decorating end. Her boss says she finds work when business is slow, and is a joy to be around; to the point she asked if school AND work might be possible. She's going for it. She's got more than pocket cash. And from what I hear several handed, she's got a plan. Yea!Her boss was concerned the other day when a young man came in, possibly a little old to be interested, and was awfully familiar with my niece. He put his elbows on the counter while he waited for his latte, and they smiled a lot together. It appeared she might even have delayed one of their regular customers so she might spend a bit more time. Then, just before passing the drink across the the counter, she did something that shocked the owner and the lady next in line. She took a sip of his drink, leaving a lipstick smudge on the sippy-top of his cup. They both laughed, then he paid and left, without tipping a cent.- The restaurant owner, a protective motherish sort, pretty sure my niece didn't USUALLY sample customer's drinks, spent the rest of the day hinting, trying to wrangle some info on the guy in her life. Finally, she tried the direct approach, teasing that a health inspector might have an issue with her smudging a customer's cup. She had also noticed, she said, that he was a lousy tipper.- My niece had a good laugh before she told her boss that the good looking young man is not her type... he is her brother home from college... and he IS in fact a lousy tipper.- It is unbelievable how quickly the babies we knew become the adults we couldn't have predicted. May their journeys be blessed.
Posted by Thornyissue at 10:57 AM 1 comments
Labels: coffee, teenager
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
5, 2008
Place Names
There's an oft quoted story about the naming of Chicken, Alaska. "They couldn't spell Ptarmigan" the tale goes. Valdez was named for a Spanish explorer, but lost it's latin pronunciation in a barfight, the winner claiming the naming. Another version suggests the Spanish-American war played a role, the townsfolk wishing to distance themselves from all things Spanish, as if there was confusion. I'd love to hear the stories behind Red Head, Cape Suckling, or Nichole's Knob. There are obvious names; Round Top, Burnt Mountain, Woodchopper, Coldfoot. Moose Creek appears thirty two times in the atlas. Twelvemile is actually closer to Twentytwo mile than Seventeenmile but still nearly fifty miles away as the raven flies. Old Grouchtop has no "New Grouchtop" counterpart. A sign near the famous Turtle Club (no turtles in AK) reads "First Left Road" from one direction, and "Last Right Road" from the other. Bullfrog Island (no bullfrogs in AK) divides the mighty Yukon River, which starts just a few miles from the ocean but circles over a thousand to get back there. Yukon must mean "Confused River" in Athabaskan. Did you hear of the man who bicycled the Yukon... with no roads (of course)... in winter (makes sense)... in 1900? True story. He did it on a big wheel. Took three months. His name was Max Hirshberg, and there is no place named after him. No Name Creek could use his moniker, or we could just pick any of a thousand peaks and creeks in places not popular or trafficked enough to be named. There's a little moraine just up the river from our house that I'm pretty sure doesn't have a name... I dub thee Max. And your twin across the river? Min.
Posted by Thornyissue at 10:35 PM 0 comments

Beyond Combat Fishing
- As I commute over the tall Ship Creek bridge at 05:00 most mornings, the view in both stream directions is pretty amazing. Ship creek flows right past the center of a large, modern city. A rail yard, a harbor, lots of touristy hotels and parks, and even a dog sled expo line its shores. But the real draw to Ship Creek is the fishing. The salmon runs were reestablished decades ago when a hatchery was built, and the returns are consistently plentiful. If the fish can run the gauntlet of hundreds of thrashing humans, they spawn in relative peace in clearer riffles upstream, where a military reservation and protected lands hold sway. I say "relative peace" because the real subsistance hunters (bears) fish there.- For the life of me, I can't understand what enjoyment folks get from flinging chrome pixies into milky water from slippery tidal shores while standing ten feet apart along a stream five paces across. I imagine many get hurt, more become annoyed, and very few actually hook into the fish of their dreams. Something draws them, though, and I've been wondering what it is.- There is the possibility that some of the anglers along Ship Creek are attempting to put food on their table. Bless them. It's getting harder to survive, so fuel and grocery prices could make combat fishing more alluring.- There are "sportsmen" who enjoy sharing memories more than making them. They enjoy company and lots of it. The more listeners available for their "war" stories, the happier they are. Good on them, too.- There are the tourists, who have seen the guide brochures with huge Kings and crystal waters, and like the prospective gold rushers, oil gushers, and dog mushers before them, were drawn to the idea rather than the reality of the place. Don't get me wrong, there is great fishing here. But you cannot step off the cruise ship, rod in hand, walk to the nearest rivulet, and land a 50lb salmon... except at Ship creek, where there is a price to be paid. I wonder how many men (predominantly) stubbornly insist on fishing while their families shop and dine a few minutes away, just to have "fished" in Alaska. I wonder how many folks drive hard on the Alcan past all those pretty lakes and trout streams, push to make their reservation dates at an Anchorage hotel, arrive too exhausted to arrange a side trip to fish, and end up on Ship Creek. I feel sad when I see what seems to me an increasingly predatory tour industry bent on wringing the last dollar from their "guests".- Surely there are fishermen, locals possibly, who may only have a few hours, possibly needing a fishing "fix", who zip down to Ship creek in spite of the crowd. I understand. I returned to a restaurant (highly recommended) three times because I just couldn't believe my bad experiences were the norm.- But you won't see me on Ship Creek. Bush Alaskans (rural, not republican) have a phrase for Anchorage, "A decent city, and only half an hour in any direction from Alaska!" I'm certainly not bushy, but I work here, and it took me forty minutes last night just to reach the city limits, a trip of four miles. I'll travel the half hour plus to find some solitude to fish and explore. But any of YOU who might enjoy combat fishing, I know just the place!-- Minutes from my house in Eagle River, a young man had a throwdown with a brown bear this morning and did pretty well. (They both lived!) Perhaps my next 'Why people do stuff' essay will cover hiking and biking along salmon streams at night.
Posted by Thornyissue at 12:15 PM 0 comments
Labels: fishing
Friday, August 1, 2008
Moose Vision
The motorcycle was still warming up as I crossed the Eagle River bridge and the little Toyota hybrid ahead slowed to a stop. The big moose in the road startled and scrambled for footing, and then ambled into the brush, but not before I got a good look from 50 yards or so away. A quick line of sight showed the belly of the beast was taller than the highest point of the bike. They are seriously large animals. More people die hitting moose and insulting moose calves than die at the hands of bears, but bears get all the press, perhaps because they eat what they kill. It occurred to me that if I ever round a bend into a herd of moose, I might just duck and accelerate... or not.
Posted by Thornyissue at 2:34 PM 0 comments
Labels: moose, motorcycles
More Geezerage
A co-codger at work was diagnosed with diabetes, and will have to radically alter his diet. "I used to tell people that if I ever get to the stage I can't eat or live the way I choose, shoot me", he says. "Now I'm kinda hopin' nobody was listening." I told him that most who might have heard are long dead, and the others don't remember. He's safe unless he keeps reminding folks...
Posted by Thornyissue at 1:44 PM 0 comments
Shadow of the Volcano
This land is new. I live where continents bump hips. Earthquake faults and rumbling mountains are a stones throw away if you have a good arm. The volcanos have very good arms and occasionally launch debris into the lithostratomegasphere (way-up). Part of my work routine is to check the daily seismic and volcanic reports from the folks we pay to watch such things. They are concerned for ash clouds that can drop airplanes, earthquakes that change surveys, and tsunamis that cleanse and refresh large coastal areas. Also of concern are avalanches, rockfalls, and flooding, since the terrain is more vertical than most. Folks closer to hurricanes and tornados wonder why anyone would want to live or work in Alaska. I can only offer that of the places I've experienced, there is a freshness here. It seems every day that some exciting change is happening. The scenery, politics, industry, technology, and the very ground you walk on; it's all in transition. As a young adult I made the conscious decision that I would focus on the stable things in life, a fixed career and a tight and connected family in a place where I knew all the smells and trails. I was broken when it didn't work out. But it made me realize that while I still may not be a mover and shaker, I now want to be where the moving and shaking is going on, if only as an enthusiastic spectator. There are some amazing projects developing here, with two huge pipelines and a tunnel under the Bering Straight among them. At work, I get to play every day with some of the largest toys ever built by man. There was a big quake in 2002 that would have created some real problems for a populated area. Two volcanos in the Aleutians have indigestion right now, and the three napping near Anchorage act up about every twenty years. Wildlife uses the highways, the glacial streams won't make their beds, hanging cornices wait for any loud excuse to cut loose, and we don't even want to discuss extreme cold. If you're into fear, you can drum up plenty in Alaska. But if you are looking for opportunity, I can't imagine a better place. The economy is growing, and folks who will work are at a premium. When I don't have to show up at work any more, I think I'd like to be the guy who sits on the island with the lava gods, a paid volcano watcher. I'd be providing a valuable service to mankind, surrounded by overwhelming beauty, and in the case of a disconcerting event, I'd like to think I would be more help than hindrance. Or on the day when nature claimed me, folks who cared could claim I'd died with a purpose in a beautiful setting. But in the real world, I'll probably drift south with the person I drift with, we'll live vicariously through energetic others, and I'll fondly remember our time in the shadow of the volcano.- While I'm watching volcanos, I'll try to remember to fish occasionally...
Posted by Thornyissue at 9:42 AM 1 comments
Labels: Alaska
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Matched Ears
She's got a bad ear from years on a rock and roll stage back in the day. I'm slightly deaf on one side from working on fire engines, motors and compressors. If you know us well, you can tell when we're getting along because we'll be walking with our good ears toward each other. On those other days, well, I'm just happy we're still walking together.
Posted by Thornyissue at 4:00 PM 2 comments
Cast Iron On My Mind
We keep a deep cast iron skillet high in the cabinet over the stove. Occasionally we cook in it, because nothing lends proper flavor like a heavy old seasoned iron pan. In our house, though, it does double duty. When my tongue outruns my brain, and I utter something that causes her eyes to narrow and her lips to purse, she reminds me that she has a cast iron skillet and knows where I sleep. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure the day will come when I have to get the pan down for her and take the lumps I deserve.
Posted by Thornyissue at 3:41 PM 1 comments
Three Things
Over three items, and I need a list. I used to be able to remember ten digit phone numbers, plan four chess moves ahead, and hit all the updated passwords on the first try. I'm ready to leave for the store, and I'm wondering if I should get the silly frog shaped post-it pad, even though so far I'm wasting fuel for only three items. I seldom make it out the door without at least one "Oh yeah! While you're there..." I slip on my boots, wait... rattle the keys..wait, creak open the screen, wait, crank the garage door.... and sure enough, she pops out. "Hey, could you get some sticky notes?"- It's creepy how your mind changes. Last night I wrote a fun little piece arguing with myself about practicality and whimsy. In another decade I could have left it there, and enjoyed it for what it was, moving on to some other project. But no, the mind I have now wasn't satisfied, and had to throw in some extra imagery and a little color. As the night and the rewrites went on, the cute, funny little paragraph morphed into something bigger, moodier and more serious. In other words, I ruined it. The original idea was lost several times and fatigue writing is never good. So, I've another remnant for the truth pile; Understand that when you get older, you can't focus like you did. If you start something, keep it short and to the point you began with. Finish. Then call it finished. And never try to carry more than three things in your head. Make a list.
Build a Fire
- It makes no sense to build a fire this evening. This winter we'll need the fuel. Sure, it's a little damp and chilly out but the house is reasonably warm, and Vik's already cozy in a bed crowded with animals I'll have to discharge when I join her. It's late, but still light enough to see the trees wiggling off the raindrops. I should have accomplished more today, but my moods were like the weather, and I dragged my moods around like stones, making everything difficult. A fire may delay my rest, but will surely help shed the weight of the day.- I've built a thousand fires, and this one I'll build the same easy way, with a little different result. Each fire has it's own character, no matter how routinely you start them. I still get that sense of creating a fleeting piece of art , but it's late, and my romantic side is dominating the practical.- I always rub the door with a damp towel dipped in ash before laying in the fire. If you open the view every time, you'll save some serious elbow grease later. If the ash has built up, I remove all but about a fluffy half inch, and spread it evenly across the stove floor. I think of the ash like sourdough starter, and have forgotten the very good reason for leaving a bit that I read in some manual long lost.- Next I place two sticks of kindling angled from the back corners of the stove to the middle front and locate a gap of two fingers or so. Then I place two quarter rounds and set one nearly along the back wall across the kindling with the rough side to the middle of the fire. The other log I place with the rounded edge toward the glass, framing the flame that will soon rise behind it. I prepare the firebox slowly, savoring the almost clinical process almost as much as the fire.- Now if survival skills in the wild were on display, one would force a single match and dry grass with tented brush, but tonight is about comfort and aesthetics, not just quick heat, so I take a handful of preserved identity (paper) from the shredder and tickle it into the space between the logs. I apply kindlings on the paper pile, mound some piecework above that, some more kindling, and space a crown of two exposed half round. Massage the spacings of the smaller bits to assure air flow so the sensitive tender will start when touched by the rising flame.- MY single match is butane and easily struck. I move a starter stick into the gap at the fire's front, tongue the flame along it's length until fully lit, then insert it deep past the quarter round under the shred pile. Now it's a matter of adjusting the slide and watching the flame spread.- It creaks as it heats, and the waves of flame roll across the ceiling of the stove, sometimes bursting into the starved voids. Here is where fire is most beautiful, with it's color and personality fully displayed, building and leaping like it won't be contained, settling into a flickering rhythm, and waiting until the switch softly ticks and the fan comes on like the stove releasing it's held breath.- I draw the bar controlling the air, and settle into the gentle glow. The animals have migrated to the warmth, and I'm tempted to go slip under Vik's quilt again.- It makes no sense to make coffee, now. I'd be up all night.
Posted by Thornyissue at 12:01 AM 1 comments
Labels: writing
Sunday, July 27, 2008
A Bathroom in Gangland
I don't usually share my experiences in tiled rooms, so I hope you realize what a privileged and trusting relationship we have here, you and I. ---The BOSS dragged me along to the city diner where I just couldn't say no to the blue plate mushroom omelet which always demands an early exit which is usually no problem but today SHE needed jeans (which takes hours) and the easy place to shop on a Sunday was gangland (that's what they call the Northway Mall) so even though I don't know Senator Craig foot-tap lingo it became imperative that I visit the public loo which was empty.., whew.--What happened next was important to me at the time, but I'll spare you the details. Almost all of the details. Upon fait accompli, I hiked and adjusted and buckled, then pushed the chrome "victory" lever. A roar unlike any appliance I'd ever heard shook the room. It sounded painful, a low loud gutteral AAACCCKKK!! that slowly changed to a higher pitched scream RREEEKKK!! which must have lasted twenty seconds. I stood open mouthed (bad practice) as the roar faded, then it began to flow again with a ssshhhh sound as if it were scolding itself for making such a ruckus. When done, a moment of shocked silence, then there was a distinct little giggle from the women's side of the paper thin graffiti'd walls. Nonplussed (I was raised in the Candid Camera days, and don't pluss easily), I hustled back to the search for the holy grail (perfect butt covers) which was ongoing with two pair purchased that were close, but not exactly what "we" were looking for.-- Thought #1: Would the mall build noises into their toilets to discourage use, much the way fast food restaurants flash bright colors and lights to hurry customers on their way?-- Thought #2: Did Candid Camera PAY the folks who peed themselves on national TV when Alan Funt in a gorilla suit jumped from the mailbox?-- Thought #3: I ENJOY gangland. The most interesting things and people are happening there. From teen angst to toilets, I've yet to leave without a story. Someday I'll tell you about the day I asked for directions and had four sets of simultaneous but dissimilar answerers drawing and pointing...-- Dear writing critic: Run-on sentences are just another style to play with. Quit beating me up (OW!) with rules.
Posted by Thornyissue at 3:58 PM 2 comments
Labels: bathroom, humor
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Word "Fixes"
What a strange language we've developed. I think a lot of the word "fixes" (pre-fixes and suf-fixes) are confusing and unnecessary. If a word needs fixing, lets come up with a word that stands alone and means the same thing. For example, the verb 'befriend' could drop the "be" fix and hold it's own just fine. What's wrong with one person friending another? But, if you traditionalists insist on keeping befriend, then at least standardize the "be' fix. To be-friend is to bring near, to be-devil is confuse by possession or join into one, and to be-head is to head in a different direction entirely!! I'll be fuddled why fuddle needs any clarification. But I won't 'grudge anyone who'd brate me for 'lieving as I do. Change is difficult, even when it's the right thing, or just 'cause. -------- A little silliness soothes the soul, and nobody reads this crap anyway.
Posted by Thornyissue at 1:43 AM 2 comments
An early campaign against the Picts proved Constantine's talent for military strategy. The man charged with designing defenses for one community was confident in the ability of the water currents surrounding their embattlements to thwart any attack from the Romans. Constantine's army waited until the night of an annual Pict celebration, diverted the river, and marched under the walls for a bloodless victory. When the town woke from their stupor, they'd been conquered. You have to wonder what happened that day, to the fellow who'd built the fort. At the very least, he was "demoated".
Posted by Thornyissue at 12:27 AM 0 comments
Labels: puns
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Golf used to be important to me. I had a library, I had a "home" course, I had carefully chosen and fitted equipment, and a low handicap. Golf is a thinking man's game, but requires some coordination, as well. A perfectionist will die a slow death playing golf, because it's not a game of perfect. Precision and routine are important, as are control of one's emotions and muscles. You can overthink a golf swing, and you can neglect it's development. A golf swing, in certain circles, defines it's owner. Something changed in my life, and golf became such a low priority that my clubs gathered dust and deposits for five years. I miss it. I watch an occasional tournament on TV, but ignore it otherwise.Last week a coworker came pleading. He could find nobody to fill the last spot in a company sponsored scramble tournament at one of the nicer courses in Alaska. He was aware many years and pounds had been gained since I'd been a player, but he really needed that last spot filled from within the company. I told him that if no other possibility presented itself, I'd play. And I played.I went out to the driving range three days ago, and was surprised that my body still remembered a golf swing of sorts. I was less flexible, of course, and hit plenty of bad shots from a mat, but was generally confident that I could make my way around the course, aware that the scramble format would save my arse. In a scramble, your bad shots don't count, and your team mates can cover each other's screwups. It's not really golf, but I'm no longer a real player of the game.Two days ago, I took my life partner out to the rainy practice range and showed off. I hit plenty of drivers, and put a smooth swing on quite a few short shots, even drawing a "Nice Swing!" from a pro giving a lesson down the line. I hit some putts, chipped a little, and decided that I might even contribute a bit when my team attacked the course. She has no knowledge of the game, and therefore was duly impressed. I whined a bit at the muscle aches yesterday, and she smiled that knowing smile she has, half sympathy, and half "You dumbass..."Now here's the way I had it pictured. I would be the "old guy' that every good scramble team requires. I would pull out my magic five wood on every tee and float the ball into a playable position in the short grass. The "studs" could then try to crush the ball 300 yards, trying to win those longest drive prizes, usually providing (among the three of them) a playable ball much closer to the green than my pitiful offering. I would play an approach to the middle of the green, again allowing the guys who play every day to attack the impossible pins and heroically stick one of their three shots close enough for easy birdie putts, allowing me to provide the read or even nail a putt or two. I was confident in my plan. My five wood and my Ping sand wedge felt pretty darn good. My putting touch was iffy, but the direction was great. With four of us hitting approach shots, the need for chipping and a real pitch shot shouldn't come into play. The tournament director knew that I don't play, and would surely place me as a "D" player on one of the better teams. I went to sleep with some real hope of my name on the trophy, maybe a little sandbagger guilt, but nothing I couldn't get over.You probably figured things didn't play out quite like I thought. Yup. Turns out the team already HAD an old guy. A REAL old guy. A sixty four year old who hit his driver about 210 yards right down the middle every time. He had a short game, too. But wait, it gets better. The other two guys were old guys, as well. Not much older than me, but with developed games and developed paunches, and well into their third beers. We all had gray hair, knew our way around a golf course, knew what we wanted from our shots, and more often than not, couldn't quite execute them.Golf clubs have changed in the ten years since I bought mine. My driver is a "mid-sized" from a good manufacturer, but has no resemblance to the huge square boxes swung by every player I saw on the course today. Evidently, size matters. I had hoped to leave mine in the bag, because not having used them, the long irons and driver were a bit daunting. But use them I did. I was the "crusher", the guy we depended on to get the extra distance from the back tees that would allow us easier approach shots. I hit the driver on nearly every hole. About one in three worked out. When they didn't, one of my companions would put a reasonable drive out past the old guy, but we hit a good number of long approach shots that left us with longer putts than we should have had to deal with. Our putting, though, was decent, not great, and we managed to make it through the day without a bogie. My magic five wood never came out of the bag. I flipped one little sand wedge pitch over a ridge in the green, but never used it for a full approach shot. I hit a couple of medium length putts based on the read from our old guy, and we used more of my shots in the first nine holes than I thought possible. Then the other players took over and we started to score. We birdied five of the last nine holes and still didn't win, but finished respectably. As my team mates warmed up, though, my game fell apart. On the fifteenth, what should have been expected, happened. The muscles I hadn't used in years, but had abused for the last hours, locked up. I had been swinging hard, too hard, asking too much from a brittle frame and unlimber joints. I knew on my backswing that the shot was doomed. Of course a crowd was gathered and there was no shortage of hecklers when I topped the shot and it dribbled past the ladies tee (thank God) and sputtered just short of the sign announcing the shortest drive of the day. I hurriedly scribbled my name and skulked up to where my partners had placed a perfect middle length drive. I couldn't get loosened up and didn't hit another good shot all day, but my partners picked up the slack and seemed to understand.Lessons learned: What you learn in life can stay with you, but what you don't use, you'll begin to lose. Muscle memory fades like other memories, and muscle power fades with brain power. Best laid plans often aren't. I still love golf. There is no feeling like a crisp golf shot. Once you've felt, seen, and heard it, you're hooked, whether you pursue it actively, or only once every five years. And now my dilemma: My prize for the shortest drive of the day? A new King Cobra driver with a huge head worth $350, exchangable at the pro shop for anything of equal value. I could get some nice apparel or an umbrella, rain gear that would work for the motorcycle.... Or, as soon as this soreness wears off, I could take this monster out to the range and see what it's capable of. Hmmm.
Posted by Thornyissue at 9:34 PM 1 comments
Labels: golf
Aw, fer cryin' out loud! The peaks had snow this morning. The pass we drove over last week is snowed in, and the river valley here was dense fog. I know. It's Alaska, What did I expect? Not snow late in July. But the sun DID come out today. Now I know why the natives worshipped it. Now I know why so many elderly sit in front of the weather station all day. Now I know why Alaskans (in general) have more important summer things to do than lawn care or golf.
Posted by Thornyissue at 9:18 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Landmark Spot
There is a featureless road in New Mexico that leads to the old gas plant where I used to work. A big dog, sadly abandoned or lost, wandered onto the highway and died. For whatever reason, neither high speed commuters nor coyotes bothered to remove the furry pile from the road, but it melted instead, from a furry lump into a black and white pancake, and finally a greasy darkness on the pavement. People began to refer to locations on the road in reference to where the dog had died. "I saw a big rattler on the road about three miles this side of Spot!" I'm sure people still use that reference, and I'm sure many have no knowledge of the sacrifice made to create it. And I'm sure one day a paramedic will be toned out to an accident with directions to a location nearby, and wonder "What the hell?"
Posted by Thornyissue at 6:06 AM 2 comments
A little joy on the journey.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
An Alaskan Solution
The cheechako (newcomer) gal from outside (lower 48) couldn't stand it when their old horse coughed and leaned against the cabin. She let him in. Her partner came home from his stint on the slope and found a bloated, stinking 1200 pound carcass near the wood stove. He packed their bags, turned off the heat, went to Hawaii for a few days, returned and fired up the chain saw...
Posted by Thornyissue at 5:29 AM 0 comments
Labels: Alaska, humor
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Hatcher Pass
We had to drive a bit, but we found some sunshine. We drove up to Eklutna Lake, and it was glorious. Toward Anchorage the clouds were't burning off, so we headed north, and soaked in the rays as we crossed the rocky road across Hatcher Pass. Crags, flowers, wildlife, tumbling streams, crystal lakes, tundra hummocks, beaver ponds replete with beaver, and sun... glorious sun. You see, we've been two weeks with barely a glimpse of Sol. Sure it's still light well into the night, but the with the clouds never burning off, it's been a gloomy light. Winter here is long enough, without burning the wood stove all summer, too. Barely 60 deg, it hasn't felt like summer, even an Alaska summer. The paper said we should all chill out (ha), that the temps haven't been that much below average, but the fact they wrote the article speaks to the fact folks are grumbly. SO, our day trip was special. Of course, most of them are, here.
Posted by Thornyissue at 8:22 PM 0 comments
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Woodpecker Ghost
The lens is adjusted, the camera placed next to the door. The bird/cat feeder is baited. The redpolls are scrappily feeding, the chickadees and nuthatches fill the trees. Daily, we get a visit from the Downey woodpeckers. The female and the little ones are wary, but not nearly as shy as the big male with his red fez. I'll get you, my pretty.... aahhahahaha!
Posted by Thornyissue at 5:31 PM 0 comments
Outhouse Races
We went to the Bear Paw festival yesterday. The carnival was fun. (We stood outside the vomit zone.) The street performers were talented. (mostly) The gardens that weren't beaten down were gorgeous. The fire dept ladder truck sprinkled the street with few shower takers. (60deg) The food vendors were out of food (mostly) and the grease smelled well used. The motorcyle show left melted rubber all over the road, and the pumpkin carriage horse is ready for a new gig. The cutest kid turned into a monster when they took her off the pony ride, and the melodrama was too cheesy for even a melodrama. (tough to do) Worst of all, we were late for the outhouse races. S**t! Obviously, we missed the festival at it's energy high, but it was fascinating to watch it wind down, all the tired smiles and smeared facepaint, dragging feet and heartburn. Next time, we'll go watch as the parade lines up, the tents are erected, the funnel cakes are doughy, and the fire truck is being polished. Then we'll go home to avoid the bulk of the crowd and probably miss the outhouse races again. S**t!
Posted by Thornyissue at 3:23 PM 0 comments
Zits to be proud of.
A pompous coworker on his skills vs another; "He's not a pimple on my ass!"I couldn't help but remember a couple of really impressive zits on my sitting place....
Posted by Thornyissue at 3:17 PM 0 comments
I ride the Queen of England. She's a Triumph Trophy, and I love her. She's not loud enough, fast enough, or slinky enough to associate with the Power Rangers. She's not loud enough, chromed enough, or accessorized enough to hang with a gang. She's a little top heavy, and a little outdated. She's got some size, and some power, and plenty of character. She's paid for. She's comfortable. She's dependable. And she's unique. For four months of the year we are inseparable, the Queen and I. The Queen satisfies my need for speed and provides the best platform I've found to enjoy the most incredible country yet seen from a road. I've never been much of a formation rider, so she suits my style. They say she'll do 140mph, but I'll never know. Once in a while we'll touch a peg, but mostly we commute or putter every side road, stopping for pictures or gathering stories. When we find ourselves in the company of other riders, the Queen always seems welcome, often drawing wistful tales of the old Triumph the geezer should never have sold. When we're alone, she seems to settle in for a long ride just above the speed limit, and has enough kid left in her to really enjoy the twisties, just like me.
Posted by Thornyissue at 1:59 PM 0 comments
Saturday, July 12, 2008
We made fun of the comm tech when he blamed sunspots for intermittent radio failures. Sunspot became the euphemism for any problem you couldn't explain logically or fix. Then, sure enough, NOAA came out with a sunspot monitoring system to predict satellite problems. Damn. Another perfectly good paradigm blasted. Happens all the time. Truth as we know it gets a twist. It's best to foster a bit of doubt for even the truths you hold most dear are subject to change, and it's less painful if you are open to the possibility. My dogs believe in sunspots of a different sort. They travel the sun's path across the carpet to soak up the heat. The rat terrier prefers not to share, but doesn't consume enough area to keep the big dog out. He is polite, but just as fond of the sun. The furnace and the fireplace rate, but when the sunspot is available it's prime real estate. I've told them about global warming, insisting that the science is solid, and suggesting they find ways be careful and to conserve, but I suspect neither has much confidence in their ability to make much difference, preferring to deal with the effects as they occur and celebrating the possible benefits.
Posted by Thornyissue at 7:03 PM 0 comments