Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Little Bit of Artistic Chivalry in Homer, AK

I took a little jaunt down the Kenai Peninsula to Homer one weekend a couple of years ago.  A woman in a restaurant suggested I visit the Norman Lowell Art Gallery, which would be about 12 miles on the way out of Homer back to Anchorage.  Of course, she meant I should visit it during summer or early fall and not in winter conditions, but I was in town, now, at this time.   I knew it would probably not be open for business, but I was very curious to just see the environment of an art gallery off in the Alaska woods.  Who wouldn't be intrigued by that?

I took the turn off and the road seemed passable, in the beginning, so I continued, but with a certain amount of caution.  By caution, I  mean I repeated the mantra "Boy, I hope I don't get stuck up here," several times over in my head.  (Like that redundant sort of sentence?)

I rounded the bend and there was the sign and turnoff for the Norman Lowell Art Gallery.  Of course it was closed.  The snow on part of the parking area was a bit tamped down and because I needed to turn around there, I knew it would be fine.  Necessity equals "do it," don't you know.  It wasn't fine.  I got stuck, spinning my tires on the snow-covered ice. (Stupid mantra!)  I was in a rented car and regretted not having my own car which had stood me very well in Alaska winters!

The place looked completely deserted.  A little cabin a few feet from where I got stuck.  An outhouse across from that.  A larger building behind the trees a little further off.  No signs of current human activity.

Hmmmm. A plan of action was clearly called for.  And I probably would have called for assistance on my cell phone if I had reception up there.  No plan of action was forthcoming, short of traipsing up the road and knocking on a door somewhere, which I was reluctant to do because that would probably have scared the "old couple" residents there.

Then, a door to the little cabin opened, and out walked a dog and an older gentleman who I presumed to be Mr. Lowell, the artist-resident.  He looked in my direction, but didn't seem to take much notice.  How odd that was.  What did he think a strange car was doing parked on his property?  He turned and walked off in the other direction.  Then I remembered the woman in the restaurant told me he was "blind."

So, I waited some minutes more, trying to decide what I should do.  I was far from panicking, because I usually don't panic.  Experience has taught me a lot about keeping calm and waiting for Inspiration to distill or for Destiny to show her hand.

A few moments later the man returned from the big house back towards the cabin.  I figured he really must have seen me and my white car sitting there in the glare of reflected light on snow, so I got out of the car and walked toward him.  He must have been used to strange things happening in his life, because he didn't act as though he was afraid of me.  I assured him, anyway, that I was just a nosy, hapless tourist stuck on the ice in his driveway, and not, as he might imagine, some

This unsuspecting nonagenarian listened to my tale of woe and offered me the use of a snow shovel which leaned up against his shed.  His son, he said, was due to come by a little later and I was welcomed to wait in the cabin for him, if I would rather do that than try to dig myself out.  Well, that sounded like an inspired plan of action to me, so off to the cabin I tra-la-la'd.

The Lowells in the early years:

Mr. Lowell showed me his working studio, but couldn't show me the real gallery because it was still closed for the season.  It was getting later and his son was not there, yet.  It was late winter, so we had some sun, but by 3 or 4 in the afternoon, our sunshine was going to give up on us.  I decided to go try to dig my car out by myself.  I dug and dug, and tried to drive out, but it just wasn't working.  There was too much ice under the snow.  

Eventually, Mr. Lowell came out and wanted to help and we argued vehemently over whether or not I was going to relinquish the shovel.  He got another, but I kept arguing with him, so he put the shovel aside, (AFTER I got a good picture of it.)

Shoveling wasn't working anyway, because it wasn't the snow that made my tires spin.  So then he suggested I get in the car and drive while he pushed!  WHILE HE PUSHED!  Did you hear that?  This 90+ year old blind man wanted to push my car out for me.  Now, I know I'm not so young myself, and I'm "out of shape," as was so diplomatically pointed out last year by a kid I was working with on the steeper than straight-up-hills of Seattle. In higher than 90 degree temperatures.  (Hey, little darlin', what's with that line of sweat beads on your own upper lip, may I ask.  That hill was seriously straight up!)

I convinced my knight to get in the car and drive while I pushed the car from the back.  Who looked at whom with more incredulity?!

So, that's how the story of "Getting Penny's Car Unstuck in Homer, Alaska" played out.  He got in the car (I had to demonstrate, tactily, where the gear shift was and which position was which.)  Then I got behind that behemoth vehicle and pushed, rocking it forward, letting it settle back, rocking it forward, letting it roll back until it got itself into the swing of inching forward without rolling back over my shins.  

Like giving birth, one last concentrated push and that sucker was out of there...being steered by a driver who couldn't tell which direction he needed to turn.  I hustled around to the front of the car to try to flag and direct, but when he almost ran over me, I just jumped aside and let him go for it.  I did have the presence of mind to pull out my camera, by the way.

Here's what I didn't get to see:  The Norman Lowell Gallery of Alaska  
If you visit this site, you will get a treat.

Here's what I did get to see: