Saturday, October 30, 2010

The first dusting and the birth of a meadow.

                 A secret pumpkin patch in Alaska.....we're not talkin....

                                            Some nice melons!

With the fall being almost as fickle as summer....we finally got our first dusting of snow!  This will reinforce the local saying of  "it has to snow on Halloween"!  The lake is slowly transforming into a meadow, of which it will be for the next 6 months or so.  Studded tires are on the trucks, the plows are lubed.  Wait, he said "plow(s)"....plural....  John decided that this winter, being semi retired and going to school part time, that he wanted to join the ranks of the nocturnal plow crazies.  So, with his hard earned cash, he found himself a 91 Dodge Cummings Diesel, plow included, and has worked diligently the past several weeks restoring the ragged interior, tuning it up, a getting it set for the snow season.  The kid is amazing really.  He is 19 and already owns 3 trucks....and they all run, which is uncommon for a typical Northroader!  He helped his friend rebuild a Toyota engine a couple weeks back and as payment, his friend gave him the interior of a Dodge, the same year as his, that was broke down and growing weed on his property...see what I mean!?  Amazingly it was the same color as his and he was able to take out all the ripped up and ruined seat, carpet, and door panels and replace it all with the same in better condition!  It looks great, and  now a guy could stand to actually sit in it!!  He and his friend welded a new battery tray so he could double up on his batteries, which will be helpful in running the rig and plow as it gets colder.  Did some re-wiring and other mechanical fixes and has transformed the truck into something workable, and is ready to  make money with it now.  As we wait for serious snow!  Meantime, Jennifer is experiencing buyers remorse.  She took an engine rebuilding class at the college and just spent $1000.00 of her hard earned cash to buy pistons, bearings, crankshaft, cam, ect for her rebuild project!  That is some expensive homework...  I am so proud of our kids!  They do well at everything that they set out to do.

I am pretty stoked, as last week I started a new paid position as a freelance writer!  Mind you it is not so much the pay so much as it is continued advancement towards one of my goals.  I have been given the position as an Editor for Stage Of Life, the site I have been a featured writer on for the past year and a half.  I get paid quarterly for my assigned stage as Editor of the Empty Nest/Retirement stage.  It is my responsibility to edit and moderate posts submitted, and to provide a weekly 'Editor's piece' to set the tone for the stage.  Another task is to find talented writers to contribute stories and posts to the, if you like to write and would like to be a part of a growing site that is informative and offers discounts and deals through all kinds of national merchants, check out the site and I will point you in the right direction!  It is very exciting and so far has opened up a new outlook and experience for me.

I am also pumping out the pottery this past month getting ready for several shows I will do in November.  I am excited about some new pieces I will be trying out this run, and the overall enjoyment of selling pottery.  In fact, I need to get on it now to start glazing a kiln load that needs to be fired by tomorrow night.  One of several I will be doing over the course of the next two weeks!  Hoping this finds you in goods spirits, with a tub full of candy for all the little ghouls and goblins....that is old school....I mean, the vampires,  Lady Gaga's and Snooki's...  which seems pretty scary in itself!  Remember to get out and vote!  People have died to secure this right!  Our future depends on this.  Oh, and click on the link to see what I think....
Parental influence to get out and vote. - Retirement Blog - Stage of Life - Stage of Life - Rewards for Life's Journey > Stage - Retirement > Posts

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"There's no place like home" we click the Ruby slippers....

As fun as it was to get out and vacation, it sure is great to be home!  Mr. Winter made no effort to hold off for a few days before casting his cold and blustery allure upon us.  With the night time temperatures down to 20F most of the past week and daytime temps trying in vain to reach the 50's, there is a definite change abounding us!  The lake began to freeze last Sunday, with all of the water fowl and lake life all but gone.  A lone straggling tundra swan showed up very briefly today.  Until he realized that the lake was about 80% frozen, in which he was quick to move on!

Back tracking by a week, we were coming home from Anchorage last Saturday morning about 1:30AM from a concert and witnessed a spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis!  It filled the northern sky, an amazing green and blue iridescent curtain, flowing across the sky like drapes gently being blown by a crisp winter breeze through an open window.  We were both awestruck, as this was the best we have personally seen since our arrival almost 4 years ago.  It lasted for about 15 minutes before it gently faded into the starry night sky as mysteriously as it emanated.  How mysterious is that you ask?

Our experiences have been, generally, the Aurora initially appearing as a slight misty cloud that appears in  the night sky.  This night I thought I was seeing a cloud of smoke in the sky, figuring it was someone burning a debris pile late at night.  I realized within less than a minute that this cloud was turning green and beginning to slightly glow, and was not as low in the sky as I originally thought it was.  As I told Maryann to check it out, before I could finish my sentence, this glowing cloud burst into a colorful array which filled the length of the sky and began to dance at will amongst the stars, ruffling, and furrowing about like a skater elegantly flowing across the ice.  No words can describe!  They are saying that this year, unlike the past couple, will be a good year for the Northern Lights.  Being such a brilliant display so early in the can only hope!

In the late 60's and early 70's, many bands and music which shaped a generation as well as the future of music arose out of the California Bay Area.  Bands such as the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin....the Jefferson Airplane, played the local scene, there,on a consistent and regular basis.  Jorma Kaukonen, lead guitarist and Jack Cassidy, bass guitarist for the Airplane, both founding members, spread their wings and started their own band, Hot Tuna in the early 70's, while still playing shows with the Jefferson Airplane.  The duo's music, a fusion jam of rock n blues became popular with fans and over the years has grown into a following.  Often playing as an acoustic trio, the band busts out periodically and tours with a full ensemble in what is deemed an "electric" performance that will almost always set the venue smoking!  As was the case Friday October 8th at the University of Alaska Anchorage.  Their first "electric" performance in Alaska in 40 years was sure to be one not to be missed.  Coming off of two weeks at Love Fest, it was definitely a superb way to send off summer, and call in the winter!

There was a time, only for a moment....about an hour to be exact, that we thought we wouldn't make it to the show that day.  After a conundrum with the rental agency at the Kenai airport over a rental car, something we wanted to take up to Anchorage this trip, and a near bru-haha with the idiot behind the counter, we found it best suited, 'in the name of the music' to just take our rig up to Anchorage.  We arrived to the campus early.  Now, being well rehearsed in the concert circuit over the years, 'early' is the choice for those who want the best seats for a General Admission concert, such as was this.  We arrived so early, that we got front row parking just feet from the door.  In fact, we were the first at the door!  This made us the first to be let into the lobby....which made us first into the theater.  This of course gave us first choice of seats, which put us front row center stage at the show!!

We got 7th row seats at a Grateful Dead show in 1993.  I got within 30 feet of the stage at a Heart concert in 1989.  But I....we, have never been front row center stage until this night at electric Hot Tuna!  And what a hot show it was!  Punching out some old favorites and classics from over the years, as well as a few new songs from their soon to be released new album, it was a performance to behold.  As the band left the stage for the night, a standing ovation and powerful applause brought them back out for an absolutely amazing encore of "Water Song", for those who know the music.  This was a very appropriate and pleasant way to end a great night!  Then, to see the Aurora later that early morning on the way I said, words cannot describe!

This time of year has always been our favorite.  This is when the temps are cool to cold, the fall breezes open to winter winds.  The ground and grass begins to freeze indicating that the rush to do all that needs to be done before winter sets done!  If you haven't done it by now, it won't be done until the spring thaw!  There is a weird romance to me with the lessening daylight and the encroaching darkness.  The moonlit and starry night sky, the brisk mornings of waking dogs doing the morning potty potty in the frozen air and human nipples pert to the late rising sun.  I wish I could put it into understandable terms.  Fall was my favorite time of year in Dorrington, and is most definitely my favorite here, only with different perimeters and a more tangible presence.  Tonight finds us with the wind wildly blowing in off of the bay, and snow imminent in the next few days.  We both are loving it and enjoying our 2nd winter with the 'empty nest'!  As I said, it was divine to get out and vacation ourselves with no boundary's or responsibilities, but "there is no place like home".  And the magic around us during this season bears witness to this simple fact!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


There is definitely something to be said of the airline industry these days.  I have yet to understand why the government hasn’t taken that over ….yet.  Sarcasm.  Today marked the end of  Love Fest 2010.  That can only mean one thing….a day of flying!  Oh boy!!  Our flight out was just loaded with delays, grumpy  and cranky people and heat happy flight attendants, when we flew out to Love Fest.   Lets start there, shall we?! 

What is with flight attendants that feel so compelled to always have their flanges on the upward position of the heater knob in the cabin?  It seems like every single flight I have ever been on is hot and muggy.  Why in today’s world do the cold and chilly people always seem to prevail over the heat intolerant?  To these human heat seekers, I say this, “layer, man!”  It is easier to layer on the clothes when you get cold.  Here is why:  Stripping down equates to  public nudity.  To achieve a comfortable body temperature in this fashion is socially unacceptable, and furthermore would create a scenario for an Air Marshall takedown in the aisle of a crowded plane, 38,000 miles in the air.  So, for those of us who like to be cool and comfortable and who for obvious reasons like to consider ourselves law abiding citizens during flight, we just have to be hot, uncomfortable and deal with those who just can’t handle anything less than sitting in an easy bake oven.

I won’t even begin to get into the price of air fares, because that is a given.  I suppose there may possibly be an acceptable reason for higher fares these days.  Not that I am happy about it, but taking into honest consideration the cost of doing business, I will give them that one.  For now.  However, I find it continually irritating for a few reasons.  You would think that for the cost of a ticket, you would at very least get free Wi-Fi.  No, it costs $4.95!  The cost of one checked bag has gone from $15.00 to $20.00 just in the year that this program has been in operation.  Hey, I have an idea, lets just cut through the chase and raise the fee to $50.00 per checked bag!  This way you greedy bastards get your dollar and your CEO’s can get their bonuses and all of the other things that the increase could buy you, and maybe if you have an ounce of decency you can stop the increase for 5 years so at least we don’t feel so misused when you throw us over the fence post with no petroleum jelly available!  Sound harsh?!  How is this for fiber.  I thought I had seen the day when they stopped serving real food for in-flight snacks, and started handing out packaged tablespoons of  Red #40 with cinnamon flavoring, bicarbonate sodium, Yellow Lake #20, ect.   Whaaat?!  Have you ever really read what they are trying to pass off as a snack?!  When it comes down to it, do me a favor and keep my packet for someone who feels adventurous enough to chew it themselves.  Funny, you never see any of the flight crew munching on it!

Now, we apparently have a real live Chef that makes the in flight meals you can purchase, for a fee.  Chef Clifton Lyles creates only the finest dishes for us flight customers with Alaska Air!  You can even email him to let him know what you think or give him suggestions!  He wants to hear from you!!  Which, by the way, I would gladly do, while I am scrunched up hot, uncomfortable in these crammed seats, dieing of thirst from the chemical sodium treats in a bag they serve you. if I felt like paying the $4.95 to go online in the first place to do that right now!  I would rather just write an airing of grievances for free on Microsoft Works, to be posted when I arrive at the airport and get Wi-Fi at no charge!  Today’s special is a Chicken Teriyaki sandwich with swiss cheese….for only $6.00!  Cash is an unacceptable form of in-flight currency anymore, which is cool, because I never really have any cash on me anyways!  But hey, that is 6 air miles for that delectable sandwich for those who are counting!

But despite all of this and more, the pilot informs us this will be a short trip home to Alaska today.  Due to some good tail winds, we will fly less than 3 hours.  Woo-hoo man!  This simply makes up for it all!  Alaska Air always tells me how important I am to them, and they continually thank me for flying with them, so I actually do feel special.  That is why I was in shock when during the first leg of our flight before the lay over, that I was mistreated by an overwrought flight attendant.  I think he honestly thought I was a terrorist getting ready to storm the cockpit the way he blocked me from the first class commode and pointedly directed me to the rear of the plane facility.  Come to find out later when I literally pulled him down to a more earthly level to let him know he bites, that there was a member of the flight crew….a pilot or co-pilot…using the head in first class at the moment I wanted to.  Funny, I watched a woman come out and I began to make my way up the isle the entire time, my eyes affixed on the prize….the commode door….and never saw anyone else walk in, much less a pilot.  I just think that there are ways to inform an allegedly important customer , as I have been repeatedly told I am, that he is going to have to use another toilet closet to relieve himself than the way this guy did.  I let him know this!  I think it was about the time in the conversation that he began to tell me that there was no need for me to get belligerent about it, that I realized, “ok…here we go….now your going to tell me to “calm down, sir….“  I have seen this in movies; the conversation escalates now because the customer is having a contest of wits with authority, who has a problem with portly men to begin with, and the next thing you know, some large pumped Air Marshall is coming down on you to see if there is a problem, tasers you in your seat, then cuffs you to the back of the plane, you are blacklisted from future flying on the ‘No Fly’ list, and your lucky if you make it out the cabin door  without Homeland Security waiting to escort you to the body cavity search facility.  No, I just put on my headphones, smiled and gently told him that I understood, and just wanted to point out my opinion to possibly help him in the future.  I think that  he just wasn’t happy with the eyeful he had coming towards him…my ’junk’ wasn’t impressive enough… and he discriminated against me for being straight.  Just a thought!  The whole scene offended me! (snicker)  Anyways, I suspect that they are giving me a line when they try to tell me how important I am, after that episode.

      ~ Minutes go by as I entertain the food and beverage service.~

Ok, I changed my mind just now.  Chef Clifton impressed me to no end with his gourmet Teriyaki Chicken sandwich with swiss cheese, and a little bonus…..a one time fresh piece of pineapple!  Not fresh as in ‘one time only’, but rather, as in at ‘one time many weeks ago’ it was fresh.  Couple this with the exemplary beverage service I just had….no joke…friendliest plastic cup of water I have ever had the opportunity to drink….I am bought again!  I feel important once again, just like they tell me I am.  Joy!  Oh, and Carrie, was quick to make sure I received the bag of, Hawaiian Kettle Style Potato Chips: Luau BBQ, which the food service attendant forgot to give me with my sandwich!  Carrie, you are the sizzle!

Then there are the prisoner transports.  This is always a cause for concern.  I watched this huge dude, who made most linebackers look like patsies, come on board with a full suit, and briefcase complete with trademark bulge on his right hip signifying the concealed weapon he was carrying,  lead some guy in cuffs and shackles to the back of the plane….most likely where I almost ended up….and cause a bit of a commotion for a while trying to fit himself into the seat along side his prisoner.  Don’t forget the many times he needed to get into his overhead bag, drawing continuous attention to the matter, and the several rounds of musical chairs they played, he and the prisoner!

I suppose it could be easy to sit here and find all of the things that burn most of us out about flying these days.  I haven’t even tapped the Security Checkpoint scene yet.  Trust me, I got time as we still have a couple of hours of flight before we land, but as to not bore anyone with the obvious.  I guess when you want to get somewhere fast, flying is still the best way to go….and the flight industry knows this!  That is why they have you trapped in their web! I figure that if they ever burn me out enough, I will start giving my hard earned coin to the Canadian’s and tour Canada when I want to get away.  For now I have developed some skills to help aid my experience while flying.
- You don’t have to be a member of the ‘Mile High’ club to be important….they have repeatedly told me so and I truly believe it!  Wriiiight!
- A smile begets a smile, so pack patience.
- They don’t let you bring Vaseline on board, since it doesn’t come factory in a 3 ounce container, so take a few Valium before you get to the airport if you don’t like the fence …
- Window seats are nice, but the roomiest seat is the isle.  More room to spread.  But take note, and this is very important.  Elbows and ass don’t mix!  And invariably your elbow will almost always seek out some poor unsuspecting ass.  Good thing is most people are tolerant of this!  Some may even sickly enjoy it….
- Remember that old bumper sticker that read, “question authority”…don’t!  As Adonis most  agitatedly pointed out, “when a flight attendant instructs you to do something….do it!!”  This is important for the safety of everyone.  If we all behaved, who would need TSA?!
- Bring nose drops….it will help!
- Avoid the ‘soilent green’ in a sack, which they serve you for free….it will only make you thirsty, which will invariably lead to the urge to drink water, which will make you have to pee, which could cause you to be incarcerated for 'out of control behavior on board an airplane', while trying to dash to the head to relieve yourself!

All said, it was a great trip and I...we, will be so glad to finally get off this plane and be home, in Alaska, the one place we truly love, and so miss.  For those most recent comments, thanks for your support!  We both love to hear from our friends... new and old, and those who leave comments!  At least the good ones!!  (wink)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Phun, calamity, and bending the sliding scale of "normal".

It is hard to believe that we are nearing the final leg of the Love Fest 2010 tour.  But it’s true.  The lights are dimming, the finale and the encore is on the horizon, but the love….still alive!  To say that this has been an exciting trip would be an understatement.  To state, ‘what a long strange trip it’s been’ would be oh so true!  The bottom line is that it has been very relaxing and very spiritual.  We had no commitments or obligations really to speak of other than our home and dog sitting gig here in paradise….like this is a real obligation especially considering that people pay to be able to vacation where we’ve lived virtually for free the past 14 days….I aint complaining!  We were truly blessed!!  There is a story behind it all and it will all be in the book.  Which brings me to a point.  How many of you think that this is just a coined phrase, this “in the book” thing?  Uh huh, this is what I thought.  Truth is that the book is being written already as we speak!  No deadline or publishing date.  No worries.  But there will be a book some day down the road be it sooner or later.  The names will be changed to protect the innocent and as not to screw the guilty, but the content is real, and hopefully it will sell.  Fact is there is a lot on my plate in general, so I have to try and manage time the best I can, therefore it sometimes seems to take the back seat.  But this vacation has been an inspiration to say the least, and I have been blessed the opportunity to find my mind silent for a change.  Reflection is a good thing!  I have been able to do some writing this trip which has been fulfilling for me.

I could detail some highlights to this trip but in the true “undisclosed” nature of it all, this would be too much information, or at very least could give up the secret location!  I can say to you this much though.  It has been like going from B block to General Pop being outside of Alaska!  It seems the longer we are living in Alaska, the more difficult it is to adjust when we go outside.  Alaska is so low keyed and in general most people are ….normal!  Life in general is somewhat of a testimony or set back, to like 25, 30 years ago.  Simple and basic! 

People on the outside in general seem so much different and there is so much that is….for lack of words, annoying here; outside!  I mean people can just flat out be freaky!  I haven’t figured out if the dope their on is legal or not, but whatever the case they may find some light out if they get off whatever they are on, man!

I thought that in Alaska, I have seen some things that were odd….or at least that is what I used to think until I realized that Alaskans are just resourceful.  Take for instance the time I was pumping gas out on northroad and this worn and worked over Honda Civic comes pulling in, with the front windshield completely missing.  Enough in itself to turn heads, especially when you consider that it was about 15 degrees outside on this particular afternoon.  But what amazed me was the resourcefulness that the driver and what I presume his girlfriend, the passenger, were geared with.  Most people would go out and spend the money to either get a car that actually had a fully functional windshield intact or go out and pay the bucks to have a new one installed.  Instead, in the true nature of ‘resourcefulness’, these two improvised with what they already had at home, more than likely for their 4-wheelers.  She jumps’ out of the passenger door, takes off her padded down jacket and scarf just to reveal her other big jacket underneath, pulls off her motorcycle helmet complete with tinted full-on face glass, and runs into the mini mart to get milk, while dude sits in the car, engine still running with the heater on….and no windshield… pulls off his helmet and has a smoke!  Minutes later she returns… all the while me still pumping gas in utter amazement at what has been unfolding before me… suits back up into her billowy down jacket, zips up, they both put their motorcycle helmets back on, put it into gear and take off, out the parking lot and flying down the highway!  But I mean, this is resourcefulness, man!  They saved money by not buying a vehicle equipped with the standard equipment (a windshield) and utilized what they had at home for off trail riding, to second for the missing front windshield!

Today we saw something that takes the whole “I thought that in Alaska, I have seen some things that were odd” theory and just tips the scale of ‘normal’!  We come around the corner cruising in our vehicle at like impulse speed, windows down, morning dew in our hair, shaking our heads tapping our toes, listening to the Grateful Dead on XM radio (a huge caveat to Love Fest this year) with nothing left to do but smile, smile , smile… and along comes this guy doing like warp 5 in a small pick-up truck, about on our side of the road, his entire head out the drivers door window with some kind of lost and spaced look on his face, completely unphased at the fact that he nearly is running us off the road, without so much of an expression, other than his blank stare into…nowhere!  Mind you, we were never in any danger other than being bewildered and beside ourselves on just what was going through his mind at the time….if anything at all, and I seriously wonder about that!  Remember the two guppies we are sitting which I remarked earlier in the week that are smarter than some humans I know….?!  Now with every kind of lifestyle drug available on the market from capsules that can give you a 4 hour bionic woody, or pills that can make one so happy that even a catastrophe such as world war III couldn’t wipe the smile from your face, all the way to legal marijuana that can be delivered to your front door within an hour, with a pretty bow wrapped around the labeled sack, complete with a receipt and a smile….it is no frigging wonder that people on the outside can sometimes be just out there, and man, I am here to tell you that we have almost seen it all this past 14 days, and there is still 3 more days to go…. and we haven’t even gotten to Bozo’s big top yet!

But all the same, despite the antics that seem to gravitate towards us at times, like for example the woman  that was doing 5 mph down a main road which the speed limit was 35, constantly stopping her vehicle, backing it up for absolutely no reason before she would put it into drive and resume her 5 mile an hour romp….and she was wearing rubber gloves…. Or the mindless man that bumped himself in front of a little old lady in line at the local market, to purchase his 1 good, only to go back out into his minivan parked outside with the headlights on and the engine shut off, just to sit there combing his hair in the rear view mirror for what amounted to almost 3 minutes…. No, despite all of this and so much more in the way of weirdom, we have had a blast!  The time at the beach, the time at our little bungalow, hitting the sidewalk cafĂ©’s and coffeehouses, the street markets, our time together every single day…everything we have done has been so relaxing and so very recharging for us.

Take for example the game of miniature golf at the local indoor miniature golf  house.  A calming sport to say the least.  Check this out, it was not only indoors, but the entire experience from the minute you walked in the door was under black lights, with everything….and I mean every single thing, glowing fluorescent….even your balls…. (wink) so you could see them!  It was the first time in probably 20 years or more that we played miniature golf.  This was made painfully apparent as I, the first to putt at the course of the1st hole, got a little too happy with my swing and sent my peach glowing  ball flying past the sign in front of us that said in big, bold…fluorescent letters… “This Is Not A Driving Range!"… only to ricochet what I recall to be four times, us, only seeing  a peach streak rocketing about the 1st and 2nd courses, before it safely landed behind some blue glowing dolphin, standing in the middle of the 3rd hole.  Maryann and the other person playing through with us, covered their faces with their hands and silently walked away trying hard to contain their laughter and from losing control all over themselves….at my expense…but despite it all it was fun!  After I toned down my swing a few or more notches and got the feel for it, we all golfed our asses off but had a hell of a time doing it!

Tomorrow marks Maryann’s birthday, and our 15th wedding anniversary.  And for those of you smart ones that think you have that figured this one out by thinking to yourselves, “what a clever little jackass he is….marrying her on her birthday so he will never forget the date of their anniversary”.  All I have to say to this nonsense is, “now we know what ‘your’ story is”!  At the risk of sounding mushy, she never really felt too much importance with her birthdays growing up through the years.  I wanted every birthday for the rest of her life to be special for her, because she is so special to me…that is why I married her on her birthday.  ….and yes, she does get two presents!  This years’ birthday is actually a very special one for her, as she actually will turn one year younger….in her mind.  She thought…no, she feared, that this year she was going to be __.  But, one night about a couple months back when she was sulking about turning __ this year, I pointed out to her that she really was only going to be__, not__!  She sat there in denial until we started with 19__, the year she was born, and counted up to this year, 2010.  That is when she had this huge sigh of relief, her facial look of remorse shifted and she has been happy again ever since!

There it is in a nutshell.  True stories from the road, as we begin to wind down 14 days of fun, music, complete irresponsibility, and….LOVE… with 3 more days to go!  I wouldn’t change anything about Love Fest 2010, but I cannot wait to walk out the door of the airport in Anchorage and kiss the ground below my feet.  I miss home, I miss the kids, I miss the dogs, and surely, I miss Alaska, our one true home!  There is more to come though…but not in this post, only because I am to tired to write it tonight, hasn‘t happened yet!  Signing off for now, live from the undisclosed location of Love Fest 2010.…with a time lapse of 12 hours from this posts completion until press….due to no internet connection…. we bid you good night!