Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Portraits in Fatigues

Walmart. A foot of new snow, six below, and I'm buying ice. The guy in fatigues (real, not redneck), is next to be cashed out, and he's looking nervously back into the store. His eyes light up, and he puts his fingers to his lips and whistles. Beautiful timber and tone. Impressive critical life skill I never could learn. I see a shadow from the corner of my vision, and with a sweep of the ponytail, the man's wife skids up to the register like a ski jumper finishing a successful run. She drops a tiny jar of something on the counter, and punches him on the arm.
"You did NOT just whistle for me like a DOG!"
He didn't flinch. "You shouldn't run off like one."
Hands went to hips. Gawd she's energetic. "WE don't do that!"
"Mmm hmm", he mumbled as he dug out his card.
"Seriously", she said the way people say in that less-than-serious distracted way to indicate they are ending this part of the conversation, moving on.
The cashier is a cute teenager with about three pounds of makeup, and she's loving this exchange.
From the ponytail, "I want something."
Another "Mmm hmm."
"Seriously!", she said in the way the term is used to bring focus, intensity to the dialogue.
From the uniform, "I'm calling your Dad."
"Seriously?", she said disbelievingly.
"Mmm hmm."
She punches him in the arm again, playfully.
"Seriously (dismissive), when we get the money, I want something."
"What?", he asked as they walked out, bumping shoulders.
I didn't hear what something she wanted.
"Geez", the cashier asked me. "I wonder how long THAT marriage will last."
"Seriously!", I said just to say something.
But I saw the look in his eye when he spotted her across the store, and I'm guessing they have a better start than most.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Few Smiles in the Dentist's Lobby

Waiting in the dentist's lobby while Vikki gets a cleaning. Took hours. Musta been pretty nasty. - A gaggle of rowdy kids took the place over. When one would come out with their goody bag, the whole herd destroyed it. Little parachutes were flying everywhere, toothbrushes were on the carpet, and a flossing pick was shared, everybody trying to decide what flavor it was. The oldest decided it was mint, but I doubt there was any flavor left when she tasted it. A distraught mom just saved a sample tube of toothpaste before it was stomped. The staff were glassy-eyed, still working at their customer service persona, but you could tell it was wearing them down. A three year old was quietly driving a toy truck through the whole building, and decided my chair was it's garage. He held the truck up to me, I took it and said thank you, and he started to bawl. Evidently, I was only supposed to look, not touch. "English", I said, and handed it back. He wiped his tears and chose a different road, occasionally giving me a suspicious glance. A girl about seven had targeted another about her age from a different family. She was chanting "WHAT AN ANNOYING LITTLE GIRL!", getting louder with every verse. The whole place was getting uncomfortable. The other girl was trying to respond, but was shouted down. People were looking up from their cell phones. The staff was out of their chairs, investigating. The mother of the screamer continued her paperwork at the desk, and the mother of the victim just watched, letting things play out. I, stupidly, got involved. I gave the noisy one my meanest stare and most authoritative voice.
"Stop that!"
She crossed her arms and humpffed into her chair.
I turned to the other girl. "Are you annoying?".
"Sometimes", she said.
"Aren't we all."
I wish that had been the end of the story. But the other girl started the "annoying" chant again, the "sometimes" annoying girl hissed "Ridiculous!" at her accuser as she was escorted to the exam rooms. Somebody near the door said something to the mother of the "ridiculous" clan and she responded loud enough for everybody to hear.
"What I AM, is a mother of five foster children, some of whom are just learning to control their behavior, and some who NEVER will. They still require health care, and going out into public. All I can hope is that people will at least try to understand if not help." Then she left.
I guess the village let the kids down.
I was feeling smaller than when I came in, so I tried to get the gal in the business office to smile.
"I brushed my teeth once..."
"So", to Vikki, "I could hear you in the lobby bragging about the grandchild that's not even born yet!"
Just a smirk.
I looked at the bill, looked at the lady handing it to me, and said "What an annoying girl!"
She has beautiful teeth. Go figure.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Troll Kings

The sign said "Troll Kings are in!!".  I pulled in to the parking lot of the fish market.  Winter king salmon are rich and white fleshed, oozing fat and flavor.  I picked out some scallops, cod, rockfish, and halibut, but didn't see the kings, so I asked.  The Mongerman is always there, and he offered fresh, or frozen and vaccuum packed for a dollar less.  i wanted cold and cheap.  He scaled it and priced it, and I almost fainted. He laughed and put the fish back.  If I want thirty dollars per pound fish, I'll drive somewhere beautiful, pay for fuel and a guide, work myself all sweaty, pose for pictures, and smell like fish guts for a week.  Can't wait.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Raven Talk

I'm exiting WalMart, and the freighter raven is strutting near the entrance again. We've had dealings before. He'll respond when you speak to him. So I lean up against the the fakestone pillar and wait for an appropriate audience. it doesn't take long. She's about six, has curly hair and gummy worms, very christmassy and sophisticated, put together, fashion-wise. Soft brown eyes and wrinkled brow, suspicious.

"No. I didn't bring you anything."
Brrrup Brrrap.

"I know it's Christmas eve. and I knew you'd play that angle."
Burrup, Caarrrrrr.

"The best gift I could give you is nothing."  I look away, "You're too fat as it is."

Brrack braack Burrup.

"Now that's just rude! I've lost three pounds."

Bbruk buk.

The little girl's mother called to her, but before she left, I got a dirty look, and the raven got two gummy worms; a red and a green.

"Merry Christmas!", I said to both, as they flitted away.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Write, Right?

I'll be writing here again.  OK?

Surprise Houseguests - Three Years Later

The truth is there are no sane hermits. Forgive me, then, if I occasionally long for a more spartan existence. Mortgages and relationships require maintenence, and I've been in a place where there was no harassing phone, no media blast, no internet, and no dry erase "to do" board. I wasn't entirely miserable there. Cat Stevens caught grief for reasonably dumping the clutter of his life, and walkabouts are an accepted practice in some cultures. I was ready for a break in May when the phone call came.

Two people I didn't know needed a hand. They were relatives of the second or third distant kind, young brothers coming to Alaska to work. The younger one I'd met for the first time in his father's shop several years ago when he was a sneering preteen, critically watching (not helping) while I replaced a U-joint in my stranded vehicle. He'd been surly and disrespectful, and I wrote him off as someone with few prospects for a productive life. His brother I had only heard of because my mother rambles on about family, neighbors, and friends that are importantly connected to her, whether or not they have relevance to her conversation target. I knew he was just back from Iraq, but had no inkling or interest in where he was headed.

When they arrived unannounced in Alaska, I was in a remote place, corraled with a group of men that had spent too much time together, just wanting to finish the current job and move into the next phase of our lives. Cell service was nil, so I didn't get the message for two days, when I stepped onto the Anchorage tarmac, and switched the phone on.

"Um, Hi. I don't know if you know me, but this is..."

Damn. Understand I didn't have a choice. Long ago my father accepted several troubled nephews, put them to work at the trading post, turned almost all of them around. I had been taken in by a friend's family in Ketchikan when I had first come north, spending a wonderful week in a spectacular author's home until I steadied my stance. The grandfather of these boys had salvaged my arse from a dilemma when I was nineteen and needed five gallons of gas at three a.m.

"Where are you now?"

"We couldn't find you, so we got a motel and rented a car."

The Marriott summer rates are two-and-a-quarter per night in Anchorage. They'd shelled over two hundred for the ride. I'll bet sticker shock kills more Alaska tourists than bears do, and I don't blame relatives, even distant ones, for searching out a space on the floor for a sleeping bag. I make sure they understand, though, that the hospitality industry only has a few months to cover the cost of operations, and the folks that live here have limited time to enjoy their own summer activities. I had plans for fishing and extended motorcycle trips, with no plans to change those plans because others hadn't planned.

"The first thing we need to do is get you out of that motel. Then we'll return your car. I've got room and a car you can use temporarily. I'll be there in twenty minutes."

I remember a saying my mother repeats, about fish and house guests getting old after three days. "If they last that long, I'll be amazed," I thought. They've got Alaska at their fingertips, a young man's dream.

As it turns out I didn't know anything about their dreams.

Update: Three years later, and they still live in town with a gaggle of friends and their mother, who came up last year.  The younger cousin joined the Alaska Air National Guard, and deployed to Afghanistan, soon to return.  The older attended the college and works steadily, hoping to soon land a job he can call a career so he can pursue flying and the other items on his checklist of things to do while living in Alaska.

Good on 'em.

Are You Ogling?

Standing in line at the multi-mart, the acned cashier waiting on the flouncy flirt, when the husband storms into the young man's face and yells "Are you ogling my wife?"  The poor kid does the exact wrong thing; in his terror, he glances down at her chest while he shakes his head no.  The frozen moment lasts too long, so I step in.

"Why wouldn't he? She's a beautiful woman."  Hubby looks at me and scowls.  Wifey hits him with a paper towel, and says "Yeah!  Why wouldn't he.  You never say nice things like that to me!" 

Hubby's smile says the whole thing was a joke and the cashier recovers enough to finish their order.   Scanning my single item, the poor kid thanks me.  "I didn't know what to say!  He was mad!"

On the way out of the store, the couple is emptying their cart, still laughing about the facial expression on the kid's face.  As I pass, he nods, she winks.

Alaskan Spring - Past edition

The harbingers of spring in Alaska are the the first wave of mosquitoes; the big, slow kind with the "Five o-clock Charley" engine noises, bugs capable of carrying small animals away, too large for a nostril or ear canal, too slow and clumsy to actually bite a living person, unless that person is exhausted unconscious from fourteen hour yard work stints. I have three bites. I've lost seven pounds. The bites must contribute to muscle soreness as well, because no body part isn't complaining after lazing through a long cold winter, then mustering of a sudden to rake, prune, bag and build well into the sunny night.

- We set heat records this weekend. Wag tongued dogs and rake-blistered old guys were sweating to the sixties. Laugh, you desert rats, but after thirty below zero just weeks back, upper sixty temps are downright balmy. My skin is, well, not tan, but a less sickly shade of pale. Perhaps because last year summer was a damp dreary disappointment, or because this spring sprung so quickly, it seems to me Alaskans are frenetic this year pursuing summer. The streets aren't swept of pea gravel, yet motorcycles are everywhere. I saw a young man in the service commuting to his job on a new red Ducati, his buzz cut peeking from beneath his tapered shades and doo-rag, a high visibility lime green vest worn over camouflage fatigues. Neighborhoodlums are skateboarding in fat shorts, neon crocs, and tank tops after midnight. Boats are out of storage, polished and ready for the last of the river ice to disappear. Mountain bikes, roller blades, convertibles, and thatch-filled bags litter lawns that were only days ago covered with snow. The ground was too frozen to dig just two weeks ago when I wanted to repair a section of fence. Today my grass is exploding into green. The birch buds are popping and the gray willow pillows adorn the trees. My cute neighbor lady has bought her spectacular flower baskets, but still takes them in at night. The small birds are flittering their mating songs and dances. The large migrations of geese and eagles are just starting to appear. The swallows are swooping and feasting. The bears are already destroying the bird feeders of those slow to bring them in.

- Spring is the time of youth and energy, growth and fertility. Spring is like this post; shooting off in a hundred tangents, full of hope, full of promise. But Spring is also when I most miss my kids. I miss the portraits in Easter dresses under the blooming fruit trees. I miss the first outdoor swimsuits of the season. I miss the little dirty hand prints over just planted seeds in the black soil. I remember children and dogs rolling in the fine new grass, and the

Good Lord! Was I working graveyards when I wrote this or what?


If you stay in the lodge at Kennicott, your room is so close to the glacier you can hear the deep rumble of it's movement as it grinds the mountain into a U-shaped canyon like a thousand others formed over geologic time in this part of the world. A man can't see the glacier move except across time. Photographs of Valdez Glacier taken a century ago showed a twenty story tongue of ice protruding from the valley mouth for several hundred yards. Today, the glacier has retreated and thinned, and you have to venture into the glacier valley to find solid ice. But the evidence of the power of the frozen river is carved into the terrain everywhere you look. Moraines (mounds of broken stone) mark the boundaries, advances, and retreats. Shelves on the canyon walls track the various heights of ice, and the sharp stones that make up the gravel you walk on are striated, gouged by the movement of other rocks dragged under the pressure of a thousand feet of ice.

The stories these glaciers could tell. The ages when there was just one huge ice field. The animals, some now extinct, that died trying to cross them and became preserved for a time in their icy crevasses. The early men who managed to scrape an existence from the difficult terrain and climate. The grubstakers and settlers who tried to use the glaciers as highways, losing many in the process. The miners and drillers who bustled for a time, then left ghost towns that melt into the landscape a little each year.

Today tourists flock to the tidewater glaciers to watch the ice calve, and kayak the waters milky with rock flour that tumble out of the icy canyons. For two months of the year they see the spectacular "remnants" of the glacier, but few travel onto or very near the glacier, able to "feel" the power of the glacier; to listen to it.

Gun Control and the "User Agreement"

     I've got a friend who doesn't want to give up his assault weapon.  Never mind that he can't afford to shoot it for fun anymore at over a dollar per round. Never mind that he has better weapons for close quarters self defense and hunting. That zombies aren't real and the revolt against a tyrannical government isn't practical don't come into the argument, either.  He knows that the 2nd amendment was designed for musket bearers, and that there are too many crazy people in the world with access to guns.  His first line of defense for the hunger wars is a stock of rice and beans, not ammo.  He would prefer to leave crime fighting to the folks his taxes train.  He is as disgusted by people who attack schools, bomb federal buildings, and spread paranoia as any of the rest of us.
     I've suggested to him that gun control already exists, and should.  Its hard to argue that  folks with even the best intentions should be allowed to collect or carry nuclear or chemical weapons.  Accidents happen.  It irks my friend that fully automatic weapons require such stringent "collectors" permits, not only because that allows them to be tracked, but because it prices them out of his range as toys.  None of the existing laws bother him all that much, though. Neither does the fact that assault weapons actually WERE banned for a decade quite recently.  "The line in the sand shifts", I tell him, "whichever direction the wind blows."
     But my friend has decided, along with millions of others, that he will keep his unregistered assault weapon, whether laws forbid it or not.  The risk, he says, of fines and prison are worth it.
     "Seriously?", I ask.
     "I'm tired of living like this.  Allowing arrogant assholes to watch and control every part my life.  There's a camera on every corner.  Cops can see you in your house with thermal imaging.  They chase folks with drones and satellites.  My employer can legally draw my blood and take hair to decide if I'm fit for duty.  Gathering my DNA for a national database is easy and acceptable.  My health records will soon be easily shared among unsecured providers.  My vehicle has a black box recording my driving habits that nobody thought it important to mention when I bought it.  Cops can force you out of your car and onto the ground without cause.  Being named a "person of interest" is the same as being convicted of the crime.  Anybody can be tracked and found on the internet.  All of your website history and purchase records are in databases. TSA habitually dehumanizes travelers. The only folks doing well in our society are those with enough assets they're exempt, or those on welfare.  IRAs, insurance, and social security are scams.  Traffic engineers, homeowners associations, media..., its all about controlling others."
     "You sound like one of those old angry guys I hear so much about."
     "I guess I am.   Maybe that's something to be proud of.  Don't get me wrong, I love this country, but every day I see it turning into something different, and I hope that more people will read the 'Living in America' user agreement and not just check the box."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

White Guys!

Just read a post on a sports site that saddens.  A highly ranked basketball prospect plead guilty to assaulting his girlfriend, and was sentenced to three years in prison.  He collapsed when the sentence was pronounced. 
Most of the comments on the article ranged from "What did he expect?" to "Sad waste." 
Then someone had to launch a preemptive racial assault - "White guys are more often child abusers, mass murderers, theater shooters, pornographers, white collar criminals..."
There were plenty of band wagoners - "White guys put us in this economic mess!", "I'll bet the judge was white!" (she is),  "A white guy would never have been treated so severely", "White guy crimes have had double the economic impact of minority crimes!", "White guys have held women and minorities down for long enough!"
Nobody blamed this young man's color for the behavior that may have ruined his future.  Perhaps some would speculate that he would expect special treatment (either direction) because of his basketball prowess, but no race comments led to the white guy rant, though I'm sure some out there would readily offer them.
Let me tell you about the white guys I know.  They go to work at a job they feel they've earned over time with hard work, for which they're grateful.  They pay taxes and care deeply about their families and their country and it's future.  They often don't agree on politics, religion, or a hundred other topics which they debate, sometimes heatedly, and then they get over it, sometimes changing their minds.  For the most part, they would impose on others only as a last resort, but would sacrifice a lot to help YOU in your time of need.  Most of the guys I know celebrate minorities and women who achieve, but have seen the damage affirmative action (and good ol' boys) can do to an organization.  They are too proud for welfare, even when justified, because they have put plenty into a system where everybody pays if one takes from the govt or an insurance company.  The white guys I know have made mistakes, and are saddened hearing of a young man with promise losing opportunities.  The white guys I know are regular people, just like the black guys I know, and the hispanic, and native, and...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weather Responses.

Jan 2012 - We've had 165" so far. Schools closed, Glenn Highway is down to one lane, commutes from the valley may be two hours. But we've got it easy. Valdez is up to 326". Their schools are closed for the first time in over 10 years, because the snow load is 96 pounds per sq foot, over the structural rating of the roof. Cordova has the National Guard in, and they had to take the ferry because avalanches closed the road to the airport. Thirty bucks an hour for anyone wanting to shovel snow in either place. The locals are exhausted, and more snow is expected tonight. My walk is clean, the fire is stoked, and we're curled up with mutts and a movie.

Fall 2012 - Schools closed in Anchorage because of warm temps and slick conditions. Only here.

Ryan and Ben

We had a some young folks over yesterday. Some hadn't accumulated many years, some were just young in spirit. The puppy found Ryan, a four year old, much to his liking. Frisbee, hide and seek, and a little sprinkler time... with no more damage than a bandaid, a change of clothes, and a nap could handle. A boy and a dog need the other. But Ryan's mom seems unconvinced that they need a dog yet, and good kids are seldom loaned or sold outright, so I guess they'll have to text and skype, which is the direction most relationships seem to be heading.

One Little Kindness

Vik saved another one tonight. Caught a scared little gal bulldog out of traffic, checked craigslist (big in AK), found the ad the desperate owners had put in just a few hours before, arranged the reunion, and went to bed happy she makes a difference in the world.

Sandy Hook Somber

Nine a.m. and not a hint of sunshine. I guess that's not the end of the world. Gonna have to venture into the belowzero for firewood because the dog's too smart to do it. That's not the end of the world either. Our finances took a bit of a hit, Christmas seems to have lost some magic, and the news seems to drag us down. Not world ending. But tomorrow, the days will get longer. The fire feels twice as warm after a jaunt 'al fresco'. Good things will happen to deserving folks, and holiday cheer will wrap us up like it always does. Tonight I'm holding someone close with a glass of champagne in front of a fire to celebrate the world as we know it; which is a pretty wonderful place after all.

A 4x4 Answer

A math problem has been posted some lately. Solve: 4x4+4x4+4-4x4=?

My answer is - "The other couple must ride in the back seat of the unwrecked Jeep."

Explanation - A jeep (4x4) and another jeep (4x4) plus four folks lose one of the jeeps -(4x4). They are left with just one 4x4 plus four; twenty, if you will.

Laugh if you must, but I'm thinking it's okay for math to tell a story, or a story to be used as a memory key to teach things like operations order to folks like me, who learn a little differently.

Laundry on the Road

I did laundry. I know. I'm as surprised as you are. But we jet setters also run out of clean clothes, and little kids wrinkle their noses at you when shorts get re-re-recycled. I know this.

No good deed goes unpunished. Somebody left their wet laundry in the motel washers keeping the rest of us from using them. I put their stuff in dryers on low heat, fed in quarters and dryer sheets I couldn't use, and started it up, placing the green basket they'd left marking the appropriate machines. A young couple and I started our own wash loads in the free washers. When our wet clothes were ready to transfer, the dryer loads still hadn't been picked up, so I emptied the warm stuff into the green basket and fired off the dryers again. I walked into the laundry an hour later just as my dryers spun down. The green basket was gone, and the young couple was already folding. I threw open the dryer doors and grabbed the plastic bag I use to haul laundry, slinging the twelve quarters the green basket people had hidden as repayment, peppering the folks who still shared the room. She barely flinched, going right back to folding in an eye blink, but he turned with a practiced stink eye. "We'll isn't that special?", I said, and smirked. He hoomphed and turned his back. That quarter flipping off his shoulder must have hurt pretty bad. I recovered my clothes and most of the quarters, and left.
Funny. The folks I'd never met, who might have been offended by my handling of their possessions or the implication they were delaying the laundry parade, were kind enough to arrange repayment though I hadn't expected it, and the people I'd spent time with, clearing the way for thei

Facebook killed the post. Isn't that special.

TMI Sick

Death, slightly warmed. That's how I feel. It's been so long since I've been sick I've forgotten how. I faded and fell in the airport. I suffered through a twenty hour travel day. I slept fitfully on a towel and sipped broth all day upon my return. And then they called and said they're sending me back to Kansas City in two weeks. Mercy.

YOLO defined.

Sad. I had to look up the acronym YOLO. It's kind of like when folks my age say "Watch This!" right before the funniest video moment that's only funny if you're not IN the video. YOLO, according to the urban dictionary, is most often muttered in proximity to acts of extreme stupidity, which begs the question as to why I was unaware of it. My dictionary search, though, explains what Smudge (the clawless cat) might be yowling when he tackles the dog that outweighs him ten times; YOLNT!! (You only live nine times!) Anyway, I now know YOLO, and I'll never be pop culture savvy. It's too much work.

I'm picturing a robed Hindu priest flying off a ski jump yelling YOLO!! and, moments later, a small snail muttering "Dammit."

Dead Horse Kicking

Nine very competent, accomplished, educated professionals and me were gathered to test a software package in a vendor facility. Six of the group were lifelong Alaskans, and four grew up with outhouses and hauled water. The shared stories of heated seats, Wards catalogs, honey buckets, broken ice and bears; all left me feeling like I'd missed out somehow, sort of, not really. But my favorite story was about the horse that jimmied the cabin door and died on the kitchen floor while the family was shopping in town. The heater was blasting and the aroma was less than enticing when the family returned. Try as they might, there was no budging the heavy animal out of the corner where he was wedged, even with a winch. In a unique Alaskan solution, the family allowed the cabin to freeze with the dead horse inside so they could simply chainsaw the animal into pieces easily removed and burned outside. Yup.

Ice Carvings

We walked among the diminished (droopy) ice sculptures in town square. Eerie shapes (dangerous looking). What was melt is fifteen below (serious brrr), and we dropped into a new wine store to warm up (not partake). We were educated about aerators (not buying one), and learned that New Belgium products will be available in Alaska March 18th (confetti, balloons). In the depths of winter (now), we need activity, positivity, and lots of parentheses just to survive. (((")))

A Collection of Randoms

SHE said, "Since I made breakfast, the LEAST you can do is ...". She's wrong. I'm capable of much less.

"I've used my sleeve to dust the fresh snow off the car windows, but never my chest." Wrong thing to say when Vik comes in after being avalanched getting in the car.

I'd have continued my journey just fine not knowing there are many ways to make fried pickles.

Margarita Truffle?

Not everything labeled "truffle" is worthy. Responsible giftees will at least sample the Christmas gift paks as soon as the year's resolutions have withered, and thusly duty bound, I tested a chocomarshmagraham cookie from LA, and shared it with my lady. Prettygoodallright. Then I took a truffle from the little gift box advertising a new chocolatier here in Anchorage, deftly split it, and took the larger half. The first flavor impact was a potent bittertang sea salt, followed by dark unsweetened cacao. Understanding that part of the unpleasantness was due to the contrast with the oversweet Nestle-ness of the cookie, I allowed the flavors to mingle and swirl a bit, but then, the filling made a showy entrance. Imagine untamed pomegranate and orange liqueur mixed with syrup in a shot of mezcal. There is a pedal that operates our garbage can, and it almost wasn't quick enough. Scope makes a strong mouthwash that nearly wasn't potent enough. Inspection revealed the box had a box that was checked "Margarita". I'll try to remember, should tequila ever tempt me, to leave the powdered baking chocolate out of the mix.

And so, understanding that negative experiences enhance the good, and that one should always verify any test, I shared the other half, with similar results. I think she's ready for me to go back to work.

This Dog Will Hunt

Dear carrier of the Daily Times:

I can't tell you how impressed we are with the service you provide. When you first took the route, and began laying the paper at our door, I wondered how long the phase might last, but my doubts were unfounded. You never fail to trek up the steep icy driveway, turn onto the concrete steps, across the porch, and set the paper right next to the storm door in any weather. Quite honorable in our era, but I have a special request: DON'T DO THAT!
You see, we have a dog who feels that his job, looking after a boring older couple, is threatened. The look of disappointment when he's denied the opportunity to search for the paper is heart rending. You may have noticed that he has begun a pattern of threatening growling when you arrive every morning at three, hoping, I believe, for you to give him some room to roam and credit for a job well done, sniffing out his hidden prize as left by the last deliverer of the bad news.
So, if you don't mind, just toss the paper way out there in a drift by the street on your way by. We'll never complain, even if it's not found 'til spring, because we have an online subscription and mostly use the paper to line the parrot cage anyway. I'll sleep a lot better knowing your route is safer and more efficient, and Benson will start to feel better about himself too. Thanks!

Grandma in a Box

Don't know if the people who skyped Vikki into the baby shower with both of her favorite daughters understand how wonderful and important that was for her.


Snooshy tonight, mostly to partly mixed tomorrow. Eighty percent chance of something into the evening with seasonal variances overnight. Disturbances in the gulf will swirl high and low pressure conflicts into isobars of full frontal onslaughts. Weather, not climate, will be evidenced in the short term, with trends, not snapshots, allowing us to believe we have even the slightest hint at what mother nature has planned. TV meteorology in Alaska is a crapshoot but weatherspeak is fun!

Little Valentine

Don't tell, but I was one of the pathetic procrastinators picking through the dregs of the valentine cards at WalMart. There were no matching envelopes, and most of the cards were pictures of old hillbillies, Justin Bieber, Peanuts characters, and puppy/kittens. A little girl was sorting through the cards at her level, found one, held it to her chest, and told her dad she had found "the one".
"Oh no", he said without looking away from the card he was holding. "You don't get to pick your own card. That's my job." She looked hurt.
I said, "I love that idea! I wish MY girl would pick a card she wanted."
Daddy looked at his daughter. She looked hopeful. "Are you sure?", then (meant for me), "I'm supposed to take the time, pick something that comes from me that has special meaning just for us."
I just smiled and waited for him to end his dramatic pause, and of course he came through.
"If that's the one you want." She wiggled and bounced.
I had assumed that he was looking for a card for the little girl's mother, but he might not have been. He replaced the one he'd been holding.
I said to her, "That IS a beautiful valentine. Maybe you could help ME choose one?"
She hesitated for just a second before she held out her prized valentine to me.
All I could do was tell her she was a wonderful person, shake her father's hand, and walk around the corner to recover.

Eyes on the Road

On the road to town yesterday, I saw seven eagles, a blackhawk helicopter, ravens playing in the steam plume, the sun streaming under dark clouds onto rugged snowy peaks, and a large jet with markings I'd never seen before using a runway direction I didn't know existed. One of my friends rolled his rig a few days ago on the slippery roads. Wonder how that happens.


You've know the joke about the guy wearing tennis shoes on the bear hunt, right? Well, I heard a true version involving my coworker and his ex walking the Gold Creek trail near Valdez. That trail, if you remember, is cut through thick alder brush and winds along the base of a cliff ten miles to scenic and birdy Shoup Bay. I've hiked it, and its a tangly, rocky, narrow mess. If the kittiwake rookery is something you NEED to see, take a boat. So this couple was doing almost everything right, with good boots, layers, cell phone, and armed (Alaska style) with a large bore pistol purchased for just such outings, carried conveniently in her backpack next to the wine, cheese, and crackers. You see this coming, right? Well, they didn't. The big black boar had evidently already seen the glacier and wasn't impressed because he was headed back toward town in a grumpy mood along the same wet cut the humans were walking only a mile from the trailhead. They saw the bear before he saw them, and the partners whispered "BEAR" in what they thought was a whisper but was "probably more of a whimper" (his words). The bear perked it's ears, and the lady reached into the side pocket of her backpack and pulled... her camera. It occurred to him at the time (he says), that it was funny that they whispered in stereo, and that they whispered at all, in that, by all accounts, bears prefer to KNOW you are near, and are very difficult to hide from in close quarters. The bear stopped, sniffed, and huffed once before starting toward them again. My friend, well versed in anti-bear tactics (intimidate, negotiate, play dead), held his ground, tried to look large, and spoke in a calm, clear voice to "Mr. Bear", suggesting one or both parties could vacate the trail to avoid the use of the deadly weapons they both were packing. But Yogi (looking large naturally), had evidently missed the "dealing with deadly humans" symposium, because he flattened his ears, bared his teeth, and shook his head as he continued forward. "OK. Hand me the gun." He stretched his arm back, but stayed facing the bear, who wasn't charging, but wasn't slowing either, now just a few yards away. Nothing. He glanced back. His wife was gone... Ten yards into his sprint, he jumped across their expensive camera, lying in the mud. He could hear and feel the bear in a lope, one huff for each landing of his five hundred pounds. Around a quick bend, and there was the backpack, and a decision to be made. "I swear I could feel his breath on the back of my head!", he describes as he flew past the pack and down the trail. What had been difficult, slow hiking was surprisingly easy sprinting, pumping terrified in the other direction. He passed his wife on the meadow where they had, just an hour earlier, casually taken a hundred pictures of wildflowers and bear scat. They hissed verbal labels at each other on the trail, and when safe in the car they just breathed, until they recovered enough to argue. I'd like to report that their bond was strong enough they could look back fondly and laugh, but she is now living somewhere with gangs and no bears, and he has a new Russian wife. A day after the great bear fight, my buddy returned with a shotgun-toting posse to try and recover his expensive things. Nothing remained. The whole area was so tracked up he couldn't tell if the bear had veered into the brush or stopped chasing because he smelled the brie and fancy crackers. Perhaps he'd been satisfied just to clear the trail of pesty people. And it's understandable why he'd want the pack full of goodies, but you wonder if he got into the wine, and what use he might have for the camera.

Test, Rest, and Repeat

Bygolly, I was lost, but now am found. Gripers in another format decided I am inappropriate for that forum.(too wordy)  And since nobody reads either, and I can't quit, here we are.  Call it a journal, call it an exercise in futility, or call it a hoarder's collection of thoughts that meant something at the time. Wherever you go, there you are.