Saturday, June 23, 2012

What were they thinking?

~The golden heart that greets visitors to Fairbanks ~

OK - it's no secret that the Fairbanks North Star Borough is hurting for money; after all they have had to reduce hours at the Shelter, and cut back on Parks and Recreation. And certainly, the tab to fill the Fairbanks Golden Heart with marigolds, as they used to do, must run upwards of $700 or $800.

But really....filling the heart with rocks painted yellow??? There's a word for that.

It's "Ghetto".

Maybe next year they will add in a few of these.....

~ Basic tire planter~ complete the look.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Game change... for a mere 12 bucks

Above: The best birthday gift I've bought the spouse in several years.
Of late, we here at the far west branch of FBH have been being the best ants we can be. 

In many a previous summer, it was the opposite...  We were happy grasshoppers, drinking beer, fishing, grilling, and merrily playing with nary a thought to the shortness of the season and the rapid approach of winter. 

Deep, dark, long, firewood-requiring winter. 

For those of you unfortunate enough to live elsewhere, getting in firewood is a given part of  warm months in Alaska, on par with salmon fishing, weeding the garden, and playing out wildly in a bit of seasonally-induced mania. (Granted the first is only true if you live in a place with trees. We do.) Oh, and beer-drinking. 

We generally procrastinated on the firewood-getting and focused enthusiastically on the playing outside and beer-drinking. 

This translated to a fall spent frantically locating already downed spruce or standing dead trees -- and a real push to cut and split it. It wasn't green wood, mind you, but this was not an optimal situation. If it had rained a lot, getting it dry was kind of a pain in the ass. And some years we hit wood stove season without enough.

But no more!  It is June, JUNE, and we've already got quite the stack of split wood in the shed with a pile of rounds waiting to be split. Is it maturity? It is common sense? "What gives this year," you ask?

After years of 'we oughta', I finally bought the S.O. the chainsaw chain sharpening attachment for the Dremel tool.  Instead of having to sit there and sharpen the chain(s) by hand, you just plug in the Dremel and go to town.  It's quick, easy to angle properly, and the end result is you never keep cutting wood with a somewhat dull chain again because you don't feel like stopping to sharpen the chain and haven't sharpened any of them yet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Interior Barbies

Can’t help it.  ‘Dweller’s sartorial post of a couple of days ago that included the very funny (at least to this blogger) list of Alaskan Barbie types set me to thinking of a few more that are particular to Squarebanks, its environs, and the Interior in general.

Compound Barbie:  This drab Barbie comes with bad teeth, lank hair and a sallow complexion.  Wardrobe consists exclusively of ankle-length denim skirts and plaid shirts.  Comes with a passel of kids so as to provide boyfriend End-of-the-Roader Ken with sufficient PFDs for yearly income.  Accessories include a drafty, dark squatter’s cabin illegally built on state land, or a retro-fitted miner’s cabin left over from the gold rush of 1908.   Special Edition Compound Barbie includes Little Sister Skipper as a two-fer for End-of-the-Roader Ken. 

Militia Midge:  Barbie’s cousin, Midge  has two blind eyes and a special audio feature.  Press the button on her back, and  Militia Midge will help you experience those  exciting moments when the FBI comes knocking, or put you through the paces of a prison visit.   Accessories include a trailer full of pineapple grenades and other weapons, plus a special AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle to give to boyfriend Wingnut Brad for his birthday. 

Dog-handler Barbie:  Petite, pert and fit, this Barbie comes with blonde, brunette or red hair and hails from somewhere in the Lower 48.  Accessories include Carhartt overalls with several dog necklines strung through the carpenter’s loop and dog-shit caked bunny boots.  Comes with an attraction for 50-something men with a string of failed marriages and 150 dogs.  Can be found most often in Two Rivers doing an amazing amount of scut work  for free in the hopes that boyfriend Former-Iditarod-Champion Ken will let her drive the C-team in the next Iditarod. 

Ester Barbie:  This granola-crunchy Barbie proudly flaunts her aversion to showers, bras, and razors.  Equipped with Dial-a-Length arm pit hair, accessories include a personalized bar stool at the Golden Eagle, a much-worn library card for the John Trigg Ester Library and a lifetime subscription to the Ester Republic.  She and boyfriend Ken cohabitate in an artfully funky waterless cabin constructed from  an old bus, a wooden miner’s shack scrounged from Ester Creek, and assorted windows, doors and scrap metal scavenged from the dump (sold separately). 

Ski-doo Summer:  This big-haired Barbie gal-pal comes with tattooed eyeliner,  French nails and a variety of  outfits perfect for spending a spring afternoon in the Hoo-doos.  Accessories include an RV towing a trailer with 6 full-sized snow machines and four kitty-cats, a gas grill and a plywood condo at Summit Lake.  During summer months she is most often found at Pike’s cheering on Sledneck Ken as he races Arctic Cats across the open Chena River. 

Missionary Barbie:  Available only during the summer, this Barbie comes with  an assortment of poorly-fitting pant suits and other modest casual gear.  Missionary Barbie sports  wide eyes with a slightly glazed, crazed look and an audio feature that endlessly repeats “Praise Jesus” with a southern drawl.  Accessories include a well-worn Bible, a john boat, candy and Jesus trinkets.  Helpmeet to Pastor Ken, she can be most often found proselytizing in a remote Native village along the Yukon.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sometimes it's fun to be a tourist

~Typical Denali View

Just wrapping up two weeks of squiring dad around Interior.  To say that dad is spry would be an understatement of Denali-sized proportions.  Although 86, he gets around; not quite up to hiking the tundra,  nor scaling down the cliffs at Chitna as we did 11 years ago, but still - there was not much sofa-lounging here.

Yup.  He pretty much kept to the same schedule he maintains at home.  Within short order, he institutionalized himself at College Coffeehouse, worked out daily at Mary Siah and prided himself on learning all of the short cuts around town (including how to evade the overzealous campus cops).

And while we didn't do all of the tour-bus touristy things around here (to wit: Gold Dredge # 8 and the Riverboat Discovery), we did complete much of the liberalish, Valley-crowd punch list of Must-dos while in town, at least those that can be accomplished without a gun, hiking boots or dip net.

Thusly, the not-quite bucket list:

  • The Big Kahuna, of course.  The sky was blue-bird blue, the mountain was mostly out, and there were so many grizzlies and Dall sheep grazing along the road (not together, obviously) that soon such sightings became ho-hum.   The only drawback was losing the bus lottery and landing on a bus with that bane of the Park trip:  the chatty,  mis-informed bus driver who has a pathological urge to wow the captive bus audience with ever-escalating Alaskana tales.   I actually envied my father's near total deafness on this one, but still the 8-hour round trip to Eielson Visitor Center and back was a trip of a lifetime for my dad as well as close to near perfect as one will ever get in the Park.  
  • The Lodge at Black Rapids: Alaskan-elegant (if you have to ask, you wouldn't get it), homey, and altogether a great destination.  We drove down one rainy afternoon (and what afternoon hasn't been around here lately?), spent the afternoon drinking wine and kibitzing with the caretakers, and had some of the best meatloaf and mac & cheese around (a shout out to Casey).  Slept like logs under thick down comforters and enjoyed a sunny morning driving on down the Rich to Fielding Lake.
  • Lunch at  Lil Richards AKA the Farthest North True Diner.  My dad is a diner-freak (he has asked that his memorial service be at Bob's Diner, his hangout at home), so stopping off there on our way home from Black Rapids was a given.  Decent (i.e. greasy and salty) diner food, and a good photo op for him (to show the waitresses back at Bob's).
  • Chena Hot Springs (naturally).  This time I didnt fall off the bar stool, although my dad did nearly succumb to the heat of the rock pool.  A veteran of the turkish baths in Budapest, he didnt take the heat quite seriously enough.  When he started babbling about the "current" in the rock pool and how he couldn't move against it,  I along with a couple of Norwegians hustled him up and out into a lounge chair.  No apparent lasting damage that a cold Alaskan Amber didnt later fix.
  • The Musk Ox Farm, where we saw the twins.
  • Northland Wood - how can a two-storey pile of split wood not be a tourist attraction for anyone burning wood??? - where my dad helped fill my PU truck, managed not to get hit on the head by the occasional logs that bounce down the pile from the log splitter.  When I told him I needed four cords stored in the wood shed before August, he commented "no wonder women look sporty here".  (Sporty being the adjective he routinely applied to all of us out in the Valley).
  • The Farmers Market, where we bought yet more pottery for my house and some cool painted rocks in the shape of chickadees (there is virtually nothing someone cant sell you when you are on vacation).
  • Morris Thompson Cultural Center: my dad liked this one so much he went back twice.  The one thing that TCC actually has managed not to fuck up.  
  • The UAF Campus and museum.  As an architect, he had sort of a sick fascination with the Museum - trying to figure out just exactly what it reminded him of.  None of my suggestions of whale, iceberg, monstrosity, ark,  and giant-white-thing resonated, so we just left it alone.
Fred Meyers was another favorite of my father's - I think he found some excuse to go there daily.  The chaos induced by the store gremlins responsible for the continually shifting aisles did not seem to faze him in the least; he was able to find items (such as Czech wafer cookies that we eat in Hungary) that I never knew even existed in Fred's.  

And there was of course, much wining and dining  at places likes Lavelle's, Lulu's, Sourdough Sam's, and at the homes of many friends - more invites than we could fulfill in too-short a time.  We even managed to stay home a few nights - and to spend a few afternoons doing yard work.  

It's been awhile since I played tourist in the Banks - and I have to say it was a blast.  Will have to try and do that more often.  Its always fun to see the place through a different set of eyes.

Monday, June 04, 2012

The end of the road for fashion, as well

I've been following the online conversation about Anchorage's lack of sartorial splendor with a great deal of amusement. Most the response seems to fall into the reverse snobbery of "We're Alaskan, hunting, fishing, practical, cold, mud, better-than-Lower 48, blah blah blah..."  I know the conversation, of course, having occasionally drifted into that tone of superiority, particularly when somewhat intoxicated and standing next to a bonfire.

If you've spent any time here out in Goldstream Valley, you'll notice a strange phenomenon that occurs (primarily to college age people) when they move in to our fair neck of the woods. The guys sprout beards and we're not talking neatly groomed ones -- more like a permanent napkin. Carhartt's and ripped lined flannel shirts flourish in the closet. Folks begin to look like they are living in a waterless cabin, or mushing dogs, or both, whether they are doing so or not. I guess you might call it shabby chic. But suddenly, if you're not dressed in our own particular brand of the Alaska Uniform, well, you are just uncool, dude. You probably don't know what biodiesel is. It's a lot like my teenage years, oh so many moons ago, when all the defiantly 'alternative' kids dressed exactly the same way in response to the overwhelming conformity of the suburban mall kids.

I found Andrew Halcro's blog over at Alaska Dispatch the most interesting of the recent bunch, because he was born here, grew up when it was a lot less, well, let's just say civilized, and he doesn't feel the need to conform to the strange idea of what "Real Alaskans" wear.  As he points out, marvelously:
The bottom-line: for a state that screams, preaches and promotes individualism, why do we insist on all looking the same?
Frankly, it's a good thing that Squarebanks was not one of the cities included in Travel+Leisure poll. When I go to Anchorage, I actually break out my nicer clothes and do what passes for dressing up:  The nice, shined pair of Fluevogs, jeans with no stains or rips, and shirts that button up (or at the least t-shirts that don't have a political statement or a liquor logo on them.) If it's a meeting I'm attending, I break out the khakis and the fleece jacket without dog hair on it. Let's call it "Fairbanks Smart Casual." Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. On occasion I see very well-dressed women in makeup, nylons and dresses. They are usually Russian.

All of this, however, brings to mind an old gem featuring stereotypes in Barbie form. It first made its way forwarded through the Series of Tubes and ended up on Alaskan blogs. Originally, it had about five entries, but it has since been adapted, tinkered with, and reposted (without attribution, natch, so I have no idea as to origin or who to credit.) The following differs slightly here and here. 
Anchorage Barbie:
This fit Barbie has a graduate degree in science, resources management, and/or is an environmental lawyer.
Comes with brand new Range Rover with roof rack holding skate skis and a kayak. Accessories include running tights, cross-trainer shoes, a husky named Kobuk, and a cell phone. Boyfriend Ken comes in seasonally employed climbing guide, fishing guide, or Girdwood bartender models. Sold at New Sagaya.

Wasilla Barbie:
This Barbie comes with big hair, country music CDs, a .44 Magnum and a
Weekender Kit includes snow machine, 4-wheeler, and fishing boat. Brand new duplex dream house and lake cabin are also available (sold separately). Ken comes with a Ford F-350 Diesel pick-u truck with gun rack
and trailer, his own snow machine, 4-wheeler, boat, and .44 Magnum. Ken is available every other two weeks when he is not working on the Slope. Alternative Military Ken available by special order. Sold at Wasilla Wal-Mart.

Fairbanks Barbie:

This graduate school Barbie kit includes a tiny cabin with detached outhouse. This Barbie has hairy legs, hat hair, and a fleece jacket covered with dog fur. Accessories include extra long johns, shower bag, head lamp, case of Ramen noodles, and bug dope. Also available is a beater, 1979 model Subaru, complete with plug-in, ice scraper, shovel, and set of studded tires. Ken is either at the Marlin, the Howling Dog, the Loon, out hunting, doing field work, or is long gone. Sold at Big Rays.

Ketchikan Barbie:

K-town Barbie lives in an old leaky sailboat that is moored down in Thomas Basin -- in a slip that is conveniently located just off the ramp directly below the Potlatch Bar. For basic transport, she runs a beat up old 18' skiff that has a rundown Johnson 30 hp outboard that leaks oil. She can out fish most any old Norwegian bachelor fisherman; can cut down old growth cedars faster than most any drunken old Swede logger; and can shoot and skin black tail deer that foolishly wander down to beach at sunset faster than any alcohol fueled Finn bushwhacker. Her Ken can be found anytime, day or night, on the deck of the Alaskan Bar pontificating -- often with wild, exaggerated arm waiving and finger pointing -- as to exactly where the Bridge to Nowhere is going to land over on Pennock Island

Sitka Barbie:

Sitka Barbie has most of the same endearments as K-town Barbie except she recently shot her Ken in what is colloquially known as a Sitka divorce. She took the life insurance money and purchased a brand new 26' Hewescraft "Alaskan" with enclosed heated cabin and a 200 hp Honda outboard. Sold only at a kiosk on the cruise ship dock during June, July & August.

Barrow Barbie:

This Barbie comes with blonde hair with dark roots, kuspuk and parka. Accessories include a 650cc Skidoo snow machine, tiny ulu and baleen carving kit. Ken alternates between being a whaling captain and working
for the North Slope Borough. Available at the northern most KFC store.

Juneau Barbie:

This Barbie comes with membership cards for the Alaska Democratic Party, AFSME/AFL-CIO and Alaska Conservation Voters, little red X-tra Tuff boots and an un-used fishing outfit. She lives in tiny apartment above an obscure bar and works as a secretary in the State Office Building. Drives rusty Subaru Forester, but has peeled the "Forester" lettering off because she feels that logging is evil.  Ken claims to be a fisherman, but actually he is also a secretary in the State Office Building. Available in gift shop at the Baranof.

Valdez Barbie:

This Barbie was not born here, comes with an Alyeska modular or a brand new cookie cutter house by Stan Peterson. This Barbie is best accessorized with an Alyeska husband. She drives a brand new Chevy Suburban, or other large 4x4 vehicle, needs it to get her over Thompson Pass when it has snowed 5' overnight. Has 2.5 children and runs all over town shuttling them from event to event. She typically does not mind the snow or rain, but is always complaining about the weather regardless.Valdez Barbie also spends her weekends shopping in Anchorage although she could get the same thing at the Prospector or so the ad says.

Kenai Barbie

Kenai Barbie is just a weekend Anchorage Barbie that fishes.

Homer Barbie

Homer Barbie spends summers on the Spit and winters going from protest to protest, also hears voices in her head.

Friday, June 01, 2012

In the event of a complete economic collapse...

I will not be trusting any armed, paranoid, religious fundamentalists (of any stripe) to protect my rights.

Lest you think I am ungrateful, consider the track record of our would-be saviors:
  • Organizing "open carry" events so that everyone could see them prancing about with their guns on their hips
  • Cox showing up while police searched a house due to hang up 911 call, armed and wearing a vest, and walking in to the search area without informing the police he was carrying
  • Domestic violence
  • Convening a 'trial" at the local Denny's
Even for Fairbanks, where last week I sat in traffic behind a Subaru sporting an NRA sticker, this is pretty out there. 

Following the progress of the Schaeffer Cox trial has been fascinating in a "rubber-necking at the sheer nuttery of it all" kind of way. The ideology he and his followers have been spouting, while shocking, has a familiar ring to it, as one of my uncles used to spout similar nonsense years ago. I mean, this crap has been around for years, particularly amongst folks who don't like to pay taxes. More troubling is the link to some of the grandaddies of militant right-wing nuttery, Norm Olson for instance, formerly of the Michigan Militia. And lucky us, he now lives down on the Kenai Peninsula.

But while my uncle believed the U.S. Post Office to be unconstitutional, the IRS to be unconstitutional, and wanted the U.S. to get back on the gold standard, he was a gentle kind of crazy.  He didn't stockpile a bunch of weapons (although it was a point of disagreement on our part about whether anyone should be able to own an anti-aircraft gun.) Most of the family just kind of worked around the crazy, cutting off any political talk before it got burdensome for the non-sovereign citizen in the conversation. My aunt surreptiously worked out an arrangement with the postman to get mail delivered to their house.

Once, when I tried to pay him back for buying something we needed at the house, I made the mistake of referring to the amount owed as 50 dollars.  This prompted a lengthy bit of exposition on his part on how the cash I was offering was not, in fact, dollars.  The conversation did not end well. "Look, just please shut and take these green pieces of paper meant to represent the value of a dollar, already," I asked. He took the cash. 

Frankly, I doubt that a group of armed thugs in uniforms with the unintentionally Orwellian moniker of "Peacemakers", and hewing to a particularly rigid interpretation of Christianity, will take too kindly to my liberal, leftie, libertarianish gay self. I don't suspect their impromptu civil government will be very concerned with my rights, property or otherwise. I wonder, in the society they imagine, will they let people like myself who don't agree with them hold on to our guns?

I doubt it.