Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back



















  2015 will be remembered by me as a year of trial and tribulation, a year when my patience has been stretched to the breaking point and seemingly beyond. We're half way through the month of June, and I'm still waiting for the remainder of the planks to be installed. A project that began at the end of March and was supposed to be finished over a month ago and has no finish date in sight. I'm pleased that we finally have some planks put back on the boat. It's progress that can be measured; however, the dog salmon are running and I'm not on the water taking advantage of them. The weather for the past six weeks has been hot dry and sunny, with an almost daily dose of wind. While it is nice to wake to sunny days, the unseasonably warm weather has melted almost all the snow on the surrounding mountains, which is a primary source of water for the streams that the salmon rely on to go up and spawn. Another ill effect of all this hot weather is that the wood on the boat is shrinking, so much so that the cement that covers the seams under the water line has dried out and is cracked and falling out, which means I have to go back through and caulk the seams again. I can't really blame the shipwright, he has a full time job that is taking almost all of his spare time. Nonetheless, I'm frustrated at the slow rate of progress and the money that seems to be flowing in the wrong direction. I can only hope that something is going to happen soon that will turn the tide and I'll be able to get back in the water and start fishing and hopefully start making some bucks. In the interim, all I can do is get the boat as ready as I can and pray that things will work out.

Monday, June 8, 2015

No Small Project



















   I know that those of us who write a blog have a lot of competition for readers, and that one sure way to lose readers is to not update the posts regularly. I understand that it's been a while since my last post, but I've been dealing with an uncommon amount of problems this spring, and doing a blog post hasn't been at the top of my priority list. As I write this, I'm in a certain degree of pain, I won't go into the reasons, but suffice it to say, this may not be my most stellar post. As of this moment, the boat is still missing the vast majority of it's planks on the starboard stern. The shipwright was down on Friday and installed some oak frames, and said he couldn't make it back until Sunday. When I went down today to see if he had made any further progress, it appeared that he hadn't come down. Oh Joy! Last week, I needed to get my oil changed, which is usually a fairly minor job, however, because of a back issue, I can't do it myself, so I hired a neighbor who fancies himself a mechanic. He got the drain plug out ok, but couldn't get the filter off. After trying for over an hour, he declared that he would have to return the next day. I can't recall if he came back the next day or not, but the bottom line is, it took five days to change the oil. In the interim, I had to call a friend to drive me up to the clinic, twice in one day to deal with a medical issue. Not having a vehicle was not working out too good. In order to get the filter changed, the guy had to take off the skid plate under the engine, undo the oil cooler lines, and dis- assemble the filter housing. Now it appears that the engine is leaking some oil. Lovely! Last week was exceptionally busy and especially frustrating. I played telephone tag with my doctor in Juneau over the course of a few days, and it wasn't until I took matters into my own hand and made an appointment with a specialist that he called me and informed me that the guy I was going to see had multiple complaints. I cancelled the appointment and now I'm going to go to Anchorage instead. God knows how long I'll have to be there. First, of course, I have to consult with the doctors. Then, hopefully, they can schedule a surgery within a week. I'll be staying with my daughter and her husband while I'm there, for which I'm eternally grateful, but, I don't have the slightest idea what I'll do with my time while I'm waiting for an operation. When you don't feel good, you really just want to be home. However, I can guarantee with 100% certainty, that the specialist isn't going to come to my house to do an exam, and I most definitely don't have the right environment for any kind of surgery, although there is room in my living room to set up a massage table in case I ever want Alexis the Russian neighbor to come back and humiliate me in my own house. I can only hope and pray that the situation will be squared away quickly and completely, and that when I return, the boat will be ready to paint and launch, in time for the Chum salmon run. Now of course none of this history has anything to do with the pictures above, so let me explain. With all that was going on, my son Brian came for a visit. He really is a hands on kind of guy and loves to keep busy. Over a year ago I had been to Home Depot and picked up the necessary supplies to install a french drain in the back yard. With the removal of more and more trees on the hillside, runoff has been a real problem. As we all know, water flows to the point of least resistance, in this case, down hill, into MY yard. I had hoped to get the project done last year, but it just didn't work out. This year all the stars lined up. I had a friend who lent me his John Deere tractor, a son who knows how to use it and has a seemingly unending supply of energy, and I was able to get five yards of what was described as railroad rock dumped close by.  With Brian at the controls of the tractor we got the trench dug in one day and the rest of the project done the next, with help from my daughter Jen. I still have a mess to clean up, but it's not a priority at this point. I hate to lose my lawn for a season, but it's the price you have to pay for progress. Even with the yard in a state of disarray, we still had a tourist come by and take pictures of the house. That baffles me. What is so different about this house that they feel the need to remember it?  I just wish I could capitalize on it somehow, maybe sit out on the front porch with a coon skin cap like Daniel Boone and a rifle across my knees and offer pictures for five bucks a pop. I may not get rich, but at least they wouldn't be getting away scott free.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

System Malfunction



















 For most of April of this year, we had rain. Now, I understand that we live in a rain forest, and that's what it does there-rain. Frankly, I'm glad it does. The Eco-system is set up for that kind of climate. I think we came within a fraction of an inch of setting a record in April for rainfall, so a few weeks  ago when the sun started shining, my spirit was uplifted and I was a happy camper. The boat dried out enough that I could paint it and not fear moisture in the wood underneath. That was great. Like all good things though, after awhile it's nice for a little change. I was starting to wish the rain was back. The snow on the mountain tops is melting at a rapid pace and the hull of the boat is starting to check from being out of the water for so long and the days on end of hot sunshine. I was outside painting or some blasted thing last week in the uncommon heat and even though I was hot, I didn't realize that I was getting dehydrated. Well, I was. That night when I got up in the middle of night to relieve myself I felt like I had been drinking battery acid. Holy Toledo! Talk about that burning sensation, man I was in pain. I spoke to my friend Chris Budke, who is an EMT here in Hoonah and he said I was probably dehydrated and needed to replenish my fluids, which I did. Unfortunately, even though I wasn't under watered anymore, a urinary tract infection had set in. Let me tell you, it doesn't get any better than this! Hell, I didn't even know men could get them. Sounds more like a female disease. Anyway, for the next  three days I vacillated between shuddering under a blanket, even though the temp outside was about 70, and sweltering like I was on a jungle safari. My body ached something fierce and I was dreadfully thirsty. Through it all, Momma Jan, aka Florence Nightingale, kept me going. Fortunately for me, she was off work on day two and did her best to make me comfortable. I remember talking non stop like I was the host on my own radio talk show and her calmly answering all of my questions and making little comments at appropriate times. Frankly, I seem to recall some pretty good ideas that were spawned from one of my fever induced blab sessions. I wish she would have written them down. At one point I felt like my hands were hot enough to cook tortilla shells on. It's probably something that could be invented and advertised on a late night infomercial. NEW FROM RONCO, it's the Thermo- Mitt. No need to go to microwave, just don a of Thermo -Mitt and you can toast your bread, roast your hot dog, heat up your taco shell- even bake a potato! ONLY $19.95, but wait, call now and we'll send you a second Thermo- Mitt free!  Anyway, a couple of days into the infection I was able to get some pretty strong anti- biotic, and almost immediately I started feeling better, except that my ability to pee was severely altered.Some of my man parts were suffering a malfunction! For the past few days sleep has been almost non- existent. Every fifteen or twenty minutes I've felt the need to get up and go pee. The bad part is that I've had relatively little success. I've never experienced anything like this. I stand over the john feeling like the  great flood of Noah is about to spring forth from my loins and after what seems like an eternity I finally get the thimbleful of Tom Thumb. Frankly, it's outright painful. I was breaking into a sweat and having bladder spasms and the whole nine yards. It got so bad that I ended up going into the doctors. Of course he wanted to do the dreaded prostate exam, and even though I've refused entry for the past few years, I relented, hoping that he could discover some reason for my troubles. He put on his miners cap and what looked like a pair of cheap Nitrile gloves. Actually, I think they're special prostate gloves. The minute you turn your back they inflate to the size of Mickey Mouse hands. After a few seconds of probing around in the nether region I had to tell him to leave. It was getting pretty uncomfortable and I thought I heard him speaking over a microphone to a group of tourists. I asked him about it afterwards and he said he'd just been taking a selfie while half his arm was buried up my backside. Yesterday I had to go for an ultra sound of my bladder. The technician sent the results to my doctor, but I never did hear the prognosis. When I came back home yesterday I had a message from both the doctor and the nurse, but the office was closed by the time I returned home. Go figure. They're probably both telling me I need to return to Juneau. Perhaps they have some more tours lined up. One thing is for sure, if I don't start peeing like I should soon, I'm going to install an automatic bilge pump on my bladder with an over ride switch. Then if it's not convenient to take a leak at the time, you just shut if off  and wait until it is. Now that I think I could sell.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Old Men and Young Ladies



  Jan and I enjoyed a delightful time last night with a young lady who is preparing to return to the lower 48 for a job she's really wanting. For the record, this isn't the gal  pictured here- she's a different young lady named Renee who just recently got married. She used to be the school counselor and we developed a friendship that  I cherish. She too left, a pattern I've seen all too often here in Hoonah. We just get to know someone and off they go. Isn't that life though? Anyway, our friend last night, Shannon, mentioned that I reminded her of her grandfather. That's a good thing. If she had said that I reminded her of Harrison Ford or some other equally handsome fellow, I might have felt the need to shave or shower or get dressed up a little before she came for a visit. As it was, because I'm getting to be an old guy, I don't feel any pressure to hold in my gut or stand up straight or anything. She knows I'm an old guy and accepts me as such, thus the four trips I made to bathroom last night during her visit didn't freak her out and I wasn't as embarrassed as I might have been if I'd been ten or twelve years younger. The young gals kind of expect that you'll probably spill something on you or repeat a story that you've told them before. They don't spend too much time looking at the excessive nose or ear hair that is protruding out of your facial orifices.  After all, they're not looking for a romantic adventure, they just want to talk to someone who remembers the old songs or the way it used to be and who can fit the bill as a surrogate grandfather. Another nice thing about being an old codger is that you can get away with saying what's on your mind and not have to worry too much about defending your position. In fact, I think that most folks expect you to state your opinion on everything from birth control to the idiots who are running the country.With any luck you'll be able to remember enough from your past to entertain them for an hour or two with stories of adventures from yesteryear. Even if you can't remember the stories exactly, they weren't around to know if you're telling the truth or not, and if perhaps your memories are jumbled together with stories that you might have heard from a friend, that's OK. Blame it on dementia or something.  That's another benefit of getting old- there's no limit to the excuses you can come up to cover some discrepancy in your character. So, as you age, don't worry so much about how you look or what you can't do anymore. When a young gal comes to visit, enjoy the scenery. As long as you don't drool, fart or fall asleep in mid-sentence, you can consider the evening a success- and if any of the above happens, don't worry about it. By tomorrow you will have forgotten it happened anyway.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Sunset of Our Lives



    If we are lucky enough to enjoy a long life, the chances are that our bodies and minds will gradually deteriorate. Just like any piece of machinery, no matter how well oiled or maintained, time will eventually have an impact on us. I just returned from a whirlwind trip south to assist in getting my mother moved into an assisted living facility. Several months ago she suffered a stroke. It required her going into a rehab program and sharing a room, much like a hospital room, where she could get the help she needed. Unfortunately, the stroke wasn't the worst of the problems she was facing. Over the course of the past year or so, it was becoming increasingly evident that Mom was having problems with her memory. Not just the common forgetting where you put your keys or not being able to pull a word out of your mind to complete a sentence. In the course of a conversation I would often answer the same question five, six, seven or more times. Every day knowledge that she should have known, escaped her. She had no recollection of having asked a question, nor did she remember the answer given. On occasion she would somewhat haltingly recollect that an answer to an inquiry had been given. I think it embarrassed her to think that she wasn't as sharp as she had been. My brother shared a conversation that she had with his wife. She was distressed and asked- "what's wrong with me? Why can't I remember?" It's a frightening place to find yourself in. While Mom was in the rehab facility, she saw a neurologist who confirmed that she was in the final stages of dementia. My family had to make the painful choice of moving her out of her home and into a permanent facility. I can't emphasize how difficult such a decision is. We are taking her basic freedoms from her, the ability to decide where she will live, what she will eat, when to get up or see a doctor. The fact is, she was unable or unwilling to cook anymore, and was living on largely on peanut butter and crackers or a bowl of soup, supplemented by a program that we set up for her to insure that she was eating something healthy at least three days a week. When I left her the other day, it was brought to my attention that Mom was down to a mere 99 pounds. She's under the impression that she weighs fifteen pounds more. On more than one occasion when I called, she would answer the phone upside down, and not hearing anyone, she'd hang up. She tried to make calls on her television remote control, and ended up calling her neighbor to come over this past winter because she had gotten up in the middle of the night to turn up the heat but had accidentally turned it down. In her mind, she believes she can still live on her own. She would hop in the car and drive if she could. but she confided in her neighbor that she had left for a trip to the store and ended up in a town some fourteen miles away without any recollection of how she got there. My mother was always a very sweet woman, and still is, but with many dementia patients, as the day wears on they become increasingly confused and combative. It's a condition called Sundowner's Syndrome. They are scared and tired and Lord knows what else. When I see her like this, I can only pray that God in all his goodness will spare me the same fate. I take a great deal of comfort knowing that we were able to place her in a facility that is the top of the line. She has her own room with two windows that look out on a courtyard, her favorite recliner is in the room, along with multitudes of family pictures, her CD player and favorite songs, TV, dresser full of clothes and many mementos. It's a very comfortable room and we've made it as much like home as we could. Her friends are free to visit, she gets three nutritious meals each day, there are activities to do and a lovely sitting room with beautiful furniture. They even have a soda fountain and popcorn machine. The bottom line is, she is being taken care of in a way that none of us could do. I pray that none of you have to face this situation, but if you do, I hope that you'll be as fortunate as we have been to have a first class facility for your loved one.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Never Ending Story



















   Twenty five years ago, when I first laid eyes on the Bonnie J, I really wasn't impressed. After all, it was a wooden boat,and I knew what that was going to entail. However, when I got closer and looked at the For Sale sign, and the amount that the seller wanted for her, I started to give it some consideration. At the time I still had seven kids at home, and I wasn't exactly raking in the big bucks working at L. Kane Store. I don't know what my reasoning was for buying it; I guess I realized that I'd be hard pressed to find another boat with a basically new engine for that price,and since I wasn't mechanically inclined, a new diesel was a real selling point. I would have liked to have purchased a good used fiberglass boat, but they were going for about twice what we paid for the house, so that wasn't practical either. Sooooo... I bought the Bonnie J and actually, I've been paying for it ever since. I've had her for almost 25 years. In that time I've replaced the forward deck, after deck, deck beams, oil stove,all the electronics, trolling poles, fuel tanks, hay rack, bulwarks, hydraulic gurdies, hydraulic hoses, bow stem, and I don't know how many planks. Now it's time to replace even more planks. I figured there would be three or four, maybe five on the starboard side, but it appears that there will be even more. No doubt if the shipwright didn't stop, when he did, I'd never make it out fishing this year. As it is, it's going to be touch and go. Having a wooden boat is kind of like having a spoiled kid- or a dog like Rigby. Always demanding, always in need of something. I've often wondered if I haven't thrown good money after bad, but at this juncture, it's too late to worry about it. It gets to the point that you can't afford to walk away. It is awfully nice to apply paint to the wood and not have a rust spot show up two days later where an old screw is bleeding through. When I hauled out this time, I was noticing that some of the paint was peeling off pretty badly. I got out my putty knife and started to scrape some off. As I did, entire sections of a rotten plank were dropping to the ground. Fortunately I'd already planned on replacing that plank. A few years ago when I was hauled out, we ran out of time to replace any more. I had a rotten plank under the guard on the port side. I kind of picked at it until I had a pretty good gouge in the wood. Well, I couldn't very well leave it like that, so out came the Bondo body filler. Holy cats , I must have used six pounds of the stuff trying to get it to fill the void. It didn't want to stick too well either because the wood was soaked. What  a fiasco. It finally did dry out enough to hold some paint, but it's not very comforting to know that the only thing holding out the elements is a little bit of putty. I don't really mind  spending the money on these repairs all that much. It's a good feeling to know that you've got something solid under you when the weather kicks up and you're pounding into for mile after mile. In a few more years, if I can keep up with the repairs, most of the wood above the waterline will have been replaced. That doesn't mean that something else won't need fixed though, heaven's no! One of these days, I'll be done fishing and hopefully someone else will look upon her and decide they're up to the challenge. Of course I'll only get a fraction of what I've got invested in her, but the memories will be worth a fortune.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Just like a Timex watch





















     Years ago Timex watches came out with various commercials showing their watches being abused in assorted situations - people skiing down a slope and falling or a guy using a jack hammer or something along that line to show how tough their watches were. The announcer would come on and say - Timex watches, they take a licking and keep on ticking. Well, Jan and I celebrated our forty third wedding anniversary recently and I'm pleased to say, we're still ticking along. I didn't say tickling, I said ticking, like a watch. I didn't include any pictures of us as we look now, the contrast is so great, that you probably wouldn't believe that it was the same two people. It's amazing what time does to a person. I wish I weighed now what I did in these pictures. I think I had a 29 inch waist then. Heck, my head probably wouldn't fit into a 29 inch stocking cap right now. I can't recall when the last time was that my hair was anything but grey... or white. I suppose I was more handsome back then, in an immature, boyish sort of way. They made me shave off my mustache when I went into boot camp, which I guess was just as well, at the time it made me look like I'd been drinking chocolate milk and needed to wipe off my mouth. I didn't waste any time when I got out of boot camp; we were married I think just a few days later. While I was in boot camp I became painfully aware of how lonely a fellow can get, and I didn't want to let someone else scarf up Jan while I was off on a ship somewhere. It was the best decision I've ever made in my life. We've been through a lot; seven children, ten grandchildren, ten years at a religious community in the wilderness of Alaska, assorted illnesses, childhood traumas, lousy fishing seasons, a plane wreck and having nine people crammed together in a one bathroom home to mention just a few.  We have a very dear friend who just got married. She did it right, waited for the right man and didn't compromise her values, even though time was marching on and the desire to be married was great. I'm delighted for her. I believe that she will have a lasting marriage. I would just remind her though, that there is no Camelot. Trouble will find us no matter who we are, but what a blessing to find the right mate to go through life with. With a loving spouse and the blessings of the Lord, there isn't anything that you can't face together. I pray that everyone who is married, whether you're a newly wed or an old couple like Jan and I will take a minute to reflect on what attracted you to that person and will  let them know you love them.