Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cardboard Condo

But what will happen when the rain comes?

A few weekends back, on one of the first truly warm and sunny ones of this spring, I happened to swing by our local thrift store the dumpsters across from the University. There was a full scrum in progress as people rooted and poked and ferreted out treasures from the bins, which were piled sky high with a winter's worth of refuse and goodies.

My first hint that I should not have left the digital camera home came when I approached the transfer station on University Avenue only to find traffic slowed to a crawl in the right hand lane as cars and trucks queued to make the turn. Within, all was madness - dumpster divers mobbing loaded trucks even before their wheels ceased turning. Heads were bobbing around deep within the towering piles of junk, and clothes, cushions, and what all were being flung with wild abandon at the recycle platform (I use the word recycle loosely, because more and more the platform is just a plein air trash heap).

In the midst of all this chaos, parked over to the side, was the Cardboard Condo - the latest creation of one of the transfer station's more colorful, persistent and creative characters. The Prophet, as some call him, was comfortably sitting under an awning of cardboard, much as one often sees retirees resting in the shade of their scroll-out awning at the end of a long day of navigating the 35-foot land yacht.

This was the first time I encountered the Prophet's latest construction project. Since then, I have watched with interest, as no doubt many Squarebanksans have, as the Cardboard Condo develops into the Cardboard Train: a series of shopping carts filled with cardboard boxes and pieces that he wheels up and down University Avenue. The train appears to be getting longer and longer, but its longevity, either as art or as shelter, is tied to the current dry spell we are enjoying.

Certainly more durable was the willow wicket period he went through several years back. Then he fashioned a quite elaborate bent willow receptacle that he put on wheels and used to collect the odd bits and pieces with which he furnishes his digs in the woods behind the transfer station.

My personal moniker for him is Burlap Man, born of a time, oh, about 10 years ago, when he wore a burlap serape-like affair and burlap boots - even in the coldest weather. He is given to Biblical utterances and rantings - and can become agitated and aggressive if one approaches a dumpster that he has claimed as his own.

As in any place, there are untold stories in the woods of Fairbanks. Once upon a time a young child froze to death in a tent. It wasn't madness nor poverty that drove the parents to live in a tent on the edge of the city within a stone's throw of shelter, food and warmth. It was arrogance, hubris and self-aggrandizement - the conviction of a particular man that he had the skills and wherewithal to live off the land in a canvas tent through a harsh Fairbanks winter.

The irony is that, of course, now he does, and has been doing so for well over a decade.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Notes from the Lower 48

Subaru count thus far: 3 in 7 days
Palin free days: 0

I'm still not back in Squarebanks, but finally found a wireless connection to piggy back from my parents' house. (Their home being computer-less and internet-less.)

After so many years living in a part of the world where Subarus comprise at least one-third of the vehicles on the road, it has been strange not to see ANY. Of course, imports are a rarity here in the mausoleum of the U.S. auto industry (Detroit-area), but sheesh. It was something like 3 days before I saw the first one, and that was in Ohio.

I thought to have a Palin-free vacation. But no, thanks to the wonder of cable news, that hope went out the door. You know those scrolling headlines at the bottom of the screen? (Yes, I'm hopelessly ignorant of teevee terms - no cable at the Squarebanks dwelling.) Well, something happened, I dunno, Palin changed her hairstyle or something, and there were headlines.

There is no escape.

That, and the fact that after confirming that I still live in the AK, all my relatives at the family reunion deep in the heart of Appalachia had to know what I thought of Her. I tried to confine my rant to a few coherent sentences for a few reasons:

1) I was sincere in my hope to avoid political discussions with the assorted family members who ranged in outlook from mildly to jaw-droppingly right wing caricature
2) Most of them actually voted for John McCain BECAUSE of her
3) The possibility that the rant might derail into other topics; having ignored a raft of racist commentary for several hours previous

So, if the SarahPAC has a goal of appealing to absolute fringe of the Republican party, well, as Dubyah might say if he was anywhere to be found, mission accomplished. My hillbilly family members, who range from well educated to backwoods old-school South, love her.

I can't get back to the Goldstream Valley quick enough.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Out for A Fairly Long Smoke Break

Except that I gave that habit up several years ago. No, this is a metaphorical smoke break from the blog, my peoples, while I get the obligatory trip to the Lower 48 out of the way.

I mean, who in their right mind would want to leave Alaska in the summer time? Bueller? Exactly. So, I'm off to other places before the summer actually begins here. We've been stalled out on the whole 'green up' thing for weeks now, so I got to get while the getting is good.

See you when the leaves are green.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Greatest Letter to the Editor. Ever.

At least until someone one ups him. Gentlefolk, I give you the "Magic Truck" letter to the editor posted on the FDNM's website.

Thanks to KC at Geneflow for pointing this one out:
"Now the magic part comes into play. I, like almost all other pick-up truck owners, use the bed of the truck to “store” my trash. I put petrochemical based perforated carrying devices, (those are plastic bags with handles), that I acquire from Freddies, WallyWorld and all the other retail outlets in town into the bed of the truck. I put Styrofoam cups in the bed of the truck, I put paper sacks from the fast food joints into the bed of my truck."
I'll let you read the letter in its entirety and not spoil the pay off. I'd like to add that the truck fairies that are drawn to 'magic trucks' really render tarps over a load of treasure completely unnecessary.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Support Your Local Business, At Least Until It Does't Support You

Goodbye, Goldstream Store

My attempts to support local businesses and waste less time and money driving to town to buy groceries just got derailed by the actuality of to whom I'd be giving my money.

When the ownership of the local store in my neck of the woods, the Goldstream Store, changed hands last year, it did so quietly. At least so much so that I didn't really notice. The same employees worked there, the same woman was managing it ... there continued to be great beer specials and that neighborhood feel.

In fact, I hadn't given it much thought at all until last weekend, when I took a short jaunt down the road to pick up some cold beer and some groceries and a bunch of employees were out front by the road, holding signs urging us to boycott the store.

Now, I'm not much more than friendly acquaintances with the people who work there, but they do not strike me as layabouts, or unfriendly, or bad at their job. Quite the opposite. Meaning, I'm inclined to trust them. And they'd walked out Friday night, finally, after months of crappo behavior from the new owner.

Apparently, said owner doesn't want any gays, tattooed people or Catholics working at his store. He has been vocal about it in the months of his ownership, so much so that the employees finally walked out.

This explains why when I had last been to the store, a bunch of guys who didn't know what the hell they were doing were waiting on people to considerable delay. They didn't even know they had to charge us tax until one of the customers pointed it out. Not knowing how to do that, I got my beer tax free that night, as I imagine everybody else did. There were to be no cash purchases of gas, since they couldn't do that either.

If said new owner doesn't want the tattooed, or the Catholics, or the gay people, or whatever type of person doesn't conform to his narrow understanding of what a human being is working for him in in the Goldstream Valley - his business is going to go downhill real quick. Because we might look like a bunch of hyper conservative rednecks, but he bought a business in a notably progressive neighborhood.