Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Adventures Of Dusty Sourdough

Don't ever let it be said that I am not a sucker for a heaping dose of "cheesy."  Case in point:  An hour or so in a tent city attached to a restaurant in a mine where they serve traditional and authentic Alaskan corn fritters, with honey butter, which as it turns out was not invented by Rainbow Gardens to serve on Mormon Muffins, but by some hapless gold miner whose rations got mixed up together--sort of like the whole chocolate and peanut butter melee...listening to Dusty Sourdough regale us with stories of his Great-great Grampa, a lawman in the days of the great Northern Gold Rush.  Stories that are being translated by Disney into a three-part television mini-series for Halmark channel.  Can you get any cheesier than Disney hanging out with Hallmark?!

But maybe not as hokey as you would think.  I mean, overall.  Forget that they called this little stage a city and the wooden restaurant a gold mine and that it was right across the street from the Alaska Wild Berry Farm and Theater where you could see real reindeer in the petting pen, and the world's largest chocolate fountain flowing hugely and freely right before your eyes.

And that someone needs to work a bit on their spelling.  And anyway, who cares how fudge is spelled.  Spell it like a swear word and I'm still going to show you how it's et. 

Dusty's story was actually so riveting to me that I won a prize at the end of the tale for being the first one to shoot my hand up with an answer to a very obscure fact he casually mentioned in the middle of the tale. Dusty was surprised I was so smart.  I was proud.  How many of you know how far it is from Nome to Dawson?  I'll tell you.  700 miles.  I remember that because I was hanging onto every word about Alex What's His Name and his travels over land, sea and river.  Still not sure what my prize is, though.  A zerox copy of an add for the Bear Paw Something Something where you can ride an animatronic hot air balloon and get your picture taken in a parka and mukluks.  The paper has Dusty's autograph on the back of it and I think that makes it a free ticket to get in. 

What do you think...think Dusty told us he sang back-up with Glen Campbell?  Think he had his own little ditty about his great-great granddaddy as a theme song that sounded very much like Dannel Boone or Old Yeller music?  Think we sang "North to Alaska" more than once that evening?  You bet your sweet little corn fritters we did.

The best part of his story, though, he is holding in his hands in this picture.
That is a real artifact Dusty obtained from some library in Canada.  A treasure map that had only been reported to be in existence all this time.  A little guy in Seattle had boasted that he found gold, lots of gold just lying on top of the ground and he was going to be rich beyond imagination and he had a map of how to get back to his claim but he wasn't going to show it to another soul.  Of course, bragging about it in a saloon is probably not the healthiest thing a gold panner could think of to do.  He was shot and killed and no one saw who did it and there was no map to be found on or near the poor, rich guy.  A saloon girl claimed to have seen a very big man look like he shot and killed the little gold miner, but this very big man suddenly disappeared.  At this point in the story, I imagined that eerie sound you hear in the movie Cat Ballou when Lee Marvin and his evil metal nose-mask make an appearance from out of nowhere and recede again just as abruptly.  Gave me gooseflesh. 

Alex was a very big man, and he was a bad man, but no one could prove anything against him.  He finally got caught for having killed a travel companion (and you'll forgive me for not telling this story in more vivid detail, for it is a good story, but I want to get to the point of the map.)  Alex engineered a lot of the gold rush in Alaska, but because he was such a rapscallion--or murderer, if you will--his likeness is not caste in bronze and immortalized in downtown Anchorage or Juneau or Nome or Dawson.  But this child-like drawing on a piece of leather was among some of his meager belongings, tucked away in the library, now in the possession of Dusty Sourdough to go along with all his research. 

Turn the map upside down and look closely at it and you can see the southwestern outline of Alaska and there at the top is a bullet hole.

Well, maybe you had to be there.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Some Past Pretties

My Alaskan eagle pictures reminded me this statuesque fellow I snapped in southern Utah last year.

Who then reminded me of other birds in other places in Utah.

(There are a couple of people who haven't seen and commented on this picture from the office next door to mine.  A woman I work with rescues birds and these guys came to her teeny-tiny and I think they must have been released by now.  I've been gone a few days and they grow like gang-busters!)

Birds and trees and trees and mountains and birds and rocks and trees...

And mountains.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Business Tripping On Kenai Spur and Kalifornsky Beach Rd.

I took my first "business trip" for my new job this week with a co-worker whose little burden I became while she added showing me the ropes to her list of job duties. We set up a low vision clinic for several days and did some extra travelling down the peninsula.

Encountered some old friends in Homer.  The glets are growing so I hardly recognized them!

Can anyone figure out why I like to take pictures of churches so much? Especially old ones and I also like to take pictures of people dressed in old religious-style garb, but I don't really do that very much because that's kind of rude, I think. It reminds me of when Trish's grandson Kaid was young and we took him to Pioneer Village in Salt Lake City where the docents were dressed in period clothing which caught his eye and he said, "Look at the souvenirs!" I'm like that with religious orders.   Is it the anthropologist in me? What about all the cemeteries I like to visit?

You know Homer is famous for its halibut fishing, right? And a lot of other things like bear viewing adventures, flightseeing trips, volcanoes (new mountains) across the horizon, fa-resh seafood, and bald eagles.  Mostly, though, I think Homer is famous for being Homer and that's why I like it--for it's Homerness.

Back up in Kenai, it must be fishing season or something. My father used to fish a lot. He fished from the bank of a river or from a boat in the lake. I remember some messy back yard fish cleaning and odious tasks of removing bones from supper, and wet, smelly burlap bags in a galvanized tin tub. But it wasn't until I was much older that I finally understood why it took anglers and fly-fishermen so long to cast their lines and land them in the right spots and leave them there. If I had seen these guys all lined up, skillfully, smoothly casting out, pulling up and casting out again I might have understood the whole operation a bit earlier in my life and I'm sure my life would be much better today because of it! I took these pictures on my evening walk last night a little after midnight. We are losing daylight.

I love my little and big road trips and I love taking pictures of them and posting and talking about it all, and who wouldn't?  But I think it all might be a bit empty if I didn't get to do the kind of work we call work but is really just connecting with people.  I would like to tell the stories of the people who use our services, and sometimes I do that, but for the most part, I think the issue of privacy restrains me.  Anyone who works in this field knows though, that I could tell some very inspiring and poignant stories and feel quite honored to be a moment on the page with them.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Russian "Old Believers" On The Kenai Peninsula

It surprised me when we ran across people speaking Russian to each other in the grocery store, the women wearing what I call fundemental garb--long dresses with scarves.  The fabric was sparkly and gossamer and they wore very shiney, dripping earrings.

I didn't even get a clue when I saw the sign for Kalifornsky Beach Road!  I'm always very happy to "discover" such cultural enclaves.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Channelling Pollyanna

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Annoying or not, I just can't get over the "glads."

 I was informed in staff meeting this morning that I had a flat tire I didn't know about, but right after that I was informed I "have to" fly to Soldotna on the Kenai peninsula next week to help out/observe a low vision clinic for a few days. I was surprised that we are flying, since it is only half the way to Homer from Anchorage--the trip the three of us took this weekend by car.

 I was given the keys to the van to drive to a lunch meeting, but when I got out there I discovered the battery was dead.  Two co-workers put my Barbie tire on my car so I could drive it to lunch and to the tire store. 

 I spent way, way, WAAYY too much money on this trip up here, maxxed out every account I have, was down to one bar on my gas gauge and so didn't go anywhere to celebrate the 4th, but it was very uncrowded in the lounge here where I watched a few hours of stupid TV just like old times, and then remembered I had some SPAM I brought with me so I ran to the store a couple of blocks away and bought a loaf of bread and a couple of oranges with my last $7.38 in small change--enough food to last til a Utah payday at the end of this week.  Found some tea, mustard and mayo in the fridge, and Jon had left a couple of snack packs of peanuts and cashews.  THE LIFE OF RILEY, I tell ya.

Today at lunch, I met the woman I will be accompanying to Soldotna and she told me how crazy busy those clinics are, but how rewarded the folks seem to feel for our service and then she bought my BeniHana lunch.

Signed up with payroll today and rather than have to wait til next pay period to get a check, I found out I will be getting a whole week's check this Thursday.  AND, I got my travel check this morning, so after lunch, I went to the bank to open an account and keep some cash, got my flat tire fixed and came back to the office and STILL my boss didn't have time to give me work.  It's the beginning of the fiscal year and she's very busy--also, she's a bird rescuer and she's got a bunch of baby sparrows in her office that she has to feed regularly so the only thing she really had time for today was to give me papers to sign, and tell me about a conference meeting in the morning.

I'm still looking for a place to stay; it's kind of weird in my head to be staying here, getting out of the shower upstairs as people are beginning to come into work downstairs.  Just something sort of too organic about that, so I took a drive out west--a direction I haven't been yet, just to look around for apartments and even before I saw the Frostee Freeze (with a new "healthy" menu) and a street named Flamingo, I knew I wanted to move there.  (It's only about 10-15 minutes from this part of town where there are tons of Korean stores and restaurants, too.) 
Had money tonight to buy a pastrami burger and a diet Mt. Dew.  I'm going back out there tomorrow for lunch to pick up one of their T-shirts for Katy. 
I might also buy some corn fritters for myself, and drive around the neighborhood again looking for that private beach in someone's back yard.

I catch myself wondering if this is really my life--my real life.  And then, as I sit in my car at 9 PM trying to shade my eyes from the sun, I just think it's too strange to try to wrap my head around it all. 
I don't know about tomorrow, but today I don't even care that my office (and hence my own skin) smells like baby sparrows at the end of the day, that I still don't really know what my job description is beyond the words "rural outreach" and "off the system roads," or that the remote control for the lounge TV is bigger than a breadbox and takes two hands to push the buttons.  I don't care if I come out of a bathroom and go the wrong way and set off the SCREAMING alarm, or have to walk up a flight of stairs to the TV room and resident kitchen, back down and up another one to get to the washing machine and the door to go upstairs again to my two bedrooms (one for sleeping and one for my stuff,)  or that I can hear the young woman in the bedroom across from mine singing or skyping at 3 AM when I wake up with too much light in my eyes.  Well, maybe I care a little bit about setting off the alarm.  Yeeeps! 

I just don't know about tomorrow, but today I've got the glads!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Girdwood Forest Fair

Katy and Jon's last day in Alaska--for now, anyway. Not much of a story to tell, as festivals go, and I have gone to a lot of them. Very pleasant weather and we used bug spray to protect ourselves from the smaller flying forest creatures.  Earthy wet plant smell mixed with citronella candles and patchouli oil.  The longest food line was the Southern Style Mac and Cheese which you could get with reindeer sausage.  I think the crushed potato chips on top is what made it southern style.  I couldn't get over how proficient the little kids were with the hoola hoops.  They all did that rather than dance in front of the music stages...like it was really fun to do it right--around and around with little effort, up the arms, around the necks, walking to and fro--just like we did when we were kids.  When I asked how come they were so good at it, because let's face it, kids today don't much get into real hoola-hooping, Jon said, "They aren't allowed to watch t.v."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Sorrow Of Parting--Not So Sweet.

Between this blog and my Facebook posts, there have been plenty of pictures of our trip to Alaska--and plenty of times I've written the words "trip to Alaska," so this post is picture-free and I'm not going to say those words, either.  I'm finding it a bit disconcerting to realize that I have actually relocated so far from anywhere I ever thought I would be.  I'm not unhappy about the move, or about being here, but it kind of wierds me out--how did it really happen?  Did it really happen?  I have a whole new life.  I know the process of getting here was quite real, because it was not an easy thing to do and I felt it being real.  Real hard.  But then again, not hard, really, because I just did things and went to sleep at night and did more things and slept some more and so it went.  And then it was wonderful instead of horrific, which I always knew it would be.

And tonight, it's just kind of strange.  I left Katy and Jon at the hotel and I'm spending my first night in my new temporary abode--a room at the center where I work.  It's almost midnight and I am down in my office typing this and worrying that my clacking on the keyboard might be too loud for the two other people who are here tonight, as well.  One man down the hall from my office who is a resident manager, I guess, for when we have clients staying here.  A woman (a client) upstairs in the room across from the room I will eventually go to sleep in.  I think they gave her the "big" room they said I could use for this first month, and instead have given me two little closet-sized dorm rooms.  I'm keeping "my stuff" in one room and sleeping in another. My office smells like the baby birds my supervisor was tending today in the next office over. Don't tell me I don't live an odd life!

I'm also doing some laundry, because I don't trust that strange bedding is clean enough for me.  This is an old building, the floors creak and I really hope these people don't think a noisy new neighbor has just moved in to disturb their peace!  I am going to be on overdrive, I think, to find my own apartment.  Not that I have any illusions that any part of this experience is in my hands or under my control!

 I think this is going to be a tailor-made experience for me as I think all our experiences in life are, but I mean I think I am going to appreciate it for that.  So, I'm wondering why here, why now and how can I live so far away from my daughter?!  This is Katy and Jon's last night in town before they head back to Utah; I'm putting them on the plane tomorrow at around midnight and I don't think I'm ready for that punch in the gut. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sleep Tight, I'll Be Watching Over You

Something that really fascinates me about eagles is that when their giant aeries house little eaglets, they have to be guarded day and night for a while.  The guardian parent, usually the female, sits and watches over the nest tirelessly, of course feeding the youngsters, as well.  We took these first three pictures in the middle of the day down the street from where we stayed in Homer, and the next ones with a bit of a different hue to them were taken at around 10 at night. 

We spotted several eagles on the Kenai Peninsula this week...some soaring in the expanse as we sat and looked out over the ocean, and others flying overhead and landing on light posts as we toured the Spit.