Friday, March 20, 2009

Special Needs

At Carl's Jr in Eagle River, I met a young man named Joey. I'd guess he's sixteen, and might weigh all of a hundred pounds. He told me that he had cleaned the table where I sat waiting for my take out. He used degreaser, in a spray bottle, and all of the tables on my side of the restaurant were no longer sticky. For some reason they HAD been sticky, but he had used degreaser, and people could now sit at clean tables. I told him he was doing a good job, and he agreed. (He was. He worked the entire time we spoke.) I asked him how long he had worked at the restaurant. He told me he has four paychecks in the bank. He wants to go to college after joining the military. First he has to graduate, and that's hard. He's good at math, but that's all he's good at. I told him we need people who are good at math. He told me he hopes we still need people like him when he gets out of the military. I told him we would always need people who work hard, and are good at math. The girl who brought my order explained that Joey has special needs. "Don't we all," I told her. She thought I didn't understand. He seemed pretty together to me.

Happy Birthday, Mother!

- My mother is eighty seven-today. She's okay with that. She never hid her age, grateful (she says) for waking to see another day. She's never been asked (she says) for the secret to her longevity, but understands that day is coming; the day people around her come to the conclusion she is old. Then, perhaps, she'll realize it herself. Until then, age is irrelevant, unless of course it works in her favor.
- My mom line dances. Not surprisingly, she's the oldest in her class. Not surprisingly, she's never chosen to graduate from the slower newbie class. "Well! I'm not fifty anymore!", she explains.
- When she tires, she sits. When she sits, several others usually drop out, as well. When someone whines about their aches, the savvy instructor usually asks "Lorene? How old are you again?" She puffs out her chest and tells them, and the complaining stops, for a while.
- Mom made a new friend recently. When Mom was asked to remind the class of her age, a spry lady of only eighty one replied "That makes me sick!!" The room broke up. When the instructor restored order and the music started, Mom took her place at the back of the line, and the "new" student fell in behind her. The dance was fresh and Mom messed up the steps and broke from the line, but being the experienced remedial line dancer she is, kept dancing to the side of the room and sat down. The new student, of course, stayed attached and plopped into the chair beside her.
- "What", the instructor asked, "Tired already?"
- "Oh no!" the new lady answered. "It's just, at our age, we don't like being told what to do!"
- The instructor had to restart the music, and the senior van takes Mom and her friend to lunch on Tuesdays.

My Favorite Dessert

Dutch apple pie. Tart Granny Smiths. Crispy nutty pastry with crystal sugar and grains of crushed cinnamon, just enough. Lacey frosting drawn with almond and lemon. One perfectly formed scoop of the richest speckled vanilla ice cream. (Blue Bunny, I asked.) A thick bubble glass mug of straight Kenyan plantation coffee, strong and smooth. The sparkling smile of a Cajun waitress with bottomless azure ocean eyes. Just Desserts in Las Cruces after midnight. A burgundy horizon in the summer desert when the breeze ruffles the mint striped umbrellas and wafts a hint of the Mesilla lilacs onto the flagstone patio. Flickering ocotillo silhouettes in torchlight. The crust of an active day in the heat, the challenge of another. Close friends, banter, laughter, love. The realization that it doesn't get better. Life is like that. Dessert first.

Monday, March 16, 2009


- Mt. Redoubt preburped.
- You know the feeling. You're a little bloated, pretty sure that relief is on the way. You burp just a little, a hiccup really, not obvious to others, just enough to warn of the impending ripper and to leave a bad taste in your mouth.
- The volcano south of Anchorage left a bit of flavor last night. Just some ash and steam, enough to wake the geo-nerds and raise a few eyebrows. Aviators weren't redirected. Nobody has their masks at the ready. The watchers did raise the watch status back to orange, though, and we're all aware that the preburp is just a warning.
- I've been distracted by a dog race and running a pipeline, but perhaps it's time to start checking in on the plume tracks, seismicity graphs, and web cams of the volcano again. It may be feeling ignored...
- Just a quick update on the Iditarod dog that was lost in the wilderness. He's not wolf food after all, but back in the arms of a very relieved lady musher who survived a harrowing race cut short when her equipment fell apart. Lost dogs happen, and the Iditarod Air Force (volunteers) have a very good record finding them. Happy endings. Gotta love em.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Low Can You Go?

- Except for that victim thing, I'm all for creative crime. You can't help but admire the level of risk taking, the gravitas, the occasional genius of some of these criminals. And if you believe you could never be desperate or hungry enough to turn to crime - I bet you could - let's hope we never find out.
- D.B. Cooper lives! But not here. In our state capital this week, thugs threatened and grabbed cash from... girl scouts. Not kidding. Cute cookie sellers. OK, I realize the cash is there, some of those little samoa hawkers are cut-throat business women working for a huge multinational corporation, security is usually sparse, and the idea would not have occurred to people thinking in the box, but...
- There's no road out of Juneau. Somehow, screeching away in your getaway car only to stop at the dock awaiting the ferry; let's just say some of the magic is gone. Also, Juneau is a small town. Somebody will know you, and in a town filled with politicians wishing to distract the populace from legislative crimes of their own, you'll be pillioned in public display. Also, it's Alaska, so you'd better check that nobody at the table is displaying a marksmanship merit badge before you pull a weapon. Kids here can draw and hit a rolling thin mint at forty paces.
- I'm working the night shift and I'm picturing two balding pot-bellied detectives on a sting operation, dressed as girl scouts, the disgusted Walmart greeter looking on....
- Pillion doesn't mean anything near what it sounds like it should. It's not even a verb! Time to change that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More Iditarod

Tonight the TV news reported the death of an Iditarod dog, calling him by name and assuring that an investigation is forthcoming. Interesting. They barely mentioned the musher's name. Most of the mushers and handlers (based on my observations) would mourn the loss of their dog like family. I checked this guy's race schedule, and he's rested more than almost any other team. Vets check the dogs throughout the race. Mushers drop injured and weakened dogs off at the checkpoints, where they are flown back to Anchorage to be cared for at the correctional facility near here until they can be picked up by owners after the race. Rest in peace, Viktor. I suspect you passed doing what you loved. If we could all...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Iditarod Dogs

I watched the Iditarod start in Willow. I focused on the dogs.
-One black and tan wheel dog seemed thrilled to be on camera, until the talking heads said "You are only as fast as your slowest dog." As if he he understood, he snubbed the camera with a closed-eye-nose-high turn of his head, miffed.
- Some dogs sat patiently waiting for the start of the race, staring at the trail, conserving energy. Others strained at their harness, all their weight tensed against bulging haunches, cowed by the crowd, flitting eyes and pasted ears praying for the brake to release and the team to take them out the chute onto the trail. There were goof balls with grins and floppy tongues; criers and singers, bouncers and spinners, bashful brutes and divas who practically princess waved to their audience four deep.
- Each team had a character of it's own; some dashing out of the gate, others deliberate, some in efficient formation, others in chaos. As the trail deteriorated, many of the lead dogs veered from the chewed track and instinctively chose unbroken footing, the rest of the team snapping to the new course and the sled popping out of the ruts onto fresher snow.
- The dogs looked fit and happy. Perhaps, in a thousand miles, I might see where folks might raise the flag of abuse, but here, with the cameras rolling and the mushers fresh, the dogs and masters were respectful and even affectionate. The outfits brimmed with hi-tech gear and high senses of purpose. Insiders, bon-voyaging their families (mushers AND dogs) with hugs, kisses, prayers and tears, watched with chapel reverence as all sixty seven started without incident on what is predicted to be the most difficult trial in years.
- Here's to the great Alaskan race. May we all emerge stronger and richer for the experience.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"U Sweet!"

- Before my father passed, I was fortunate to travel with him across the country to buy an antique car. The trip was pure joy. Dad lived it up, swapping geezer stories at every rest stop and flirting with waitresses in ten states. We were Route 66 freedom flyers, a greyhair and a whitehair, wishing it would never end. At a rib joint in Jackson, Tennessee, a freckled young lady pandered for a better tip and asked about the car. Dad kept her from her tables for a full five minutes, regaling her with a Model T romance story that drew horselaughs from everyone within earshot. The girl patted him on the shoulder and smirked as she wheeled back to work. She flashed an amazing smile when she carefully placed the check near Dad. He looked at the ticket, and sat up. "I think she likes me" he said, and handed me the paper. "U SWEET" was in frilly print under the scribbled order, and a cute dimpled smiley face was drawn to the side. Dad positively glowed. He left a hefty tip, and insisted the tab was his. He presented his prize to the cashier, who read off the items as she entered them into the buzzy register, "Two rib specials, ggiwhizzhit, onion rings, ggiwhizzhit, pie, ggiwhizzhit, two tea, one UNsweetened..."
- I waited for a full thirty minutes, watching Dad sulk in the car with his arms crossed, before I thanked him for dinner. "Oh, Shut Up!" was all he said.

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