Thursday, April 17, 2014

Coffee Anyone?



  Jan and I celebrated our forty- second anniversary last month. It was fairly uneventful for the most part. There was only one restaurant open in town and I don't like the owner so we didn't go out to eat. We have to go to Juneau soon, so we'll do something there. She wants to have breakfast at the Sandpiper restaurant downtown. She has her heart set on having the french toast with marscapone or some such thing. I've eaten there a few times and I can attest to the fact that they put out a darn tasty breakfast. Anyway, when my daughter Autumn called to wish us a happy anniversary,she said to keep a lookout for a box. She has somewhat strange tastes in gifts at times, and her sense of humor sometimes drives her gift buying, so I wasn't sure what to expect.She once sent a card that showed a guy in some kind of strange contraption like a diving suit with a hose connected between his backside and his face. The caption was -so and so liked the smell of his own farts so well that he invented a special suit or some such thing. Of course she thought it was hilarious- I wasn't real sure what to make of it.She sent an anniversary card that shows an older couple looking out over the water and the wife says something semi-romantic like " Can  you believe we're still married after all these years" and the husband says " Yeah, I could sure go for a beer."  Hmmm... as the apostle Paul says- to communicate forget not.  Anyway, the box she sent arrived and to my surprise it was stuffed full of assorted bags of coffee. I'm really not much of a gourmet  coffee kind of guy- mainly because I'm so blasted cheap! Consequently, we drink lots of Folgers here. What the heck, it tastes good to me, and if I buy it at Costco, it doesn't cost all that much. But there is also the fact that my daughter Jennifer lives in town, and on a regular basis comes to the house and makes herself at home, which of course is fine, but if she is here any length of time she has to have two or three or four cups of coffee. I don't want to get too graphic here, but coffee has a tendency to rush through the kidneys and into the bladder, at least around this house, so then we're not only providing refreshing beverages, but toilet paper for the inevitable drainage that's going to occur. It starts to get  expensive. Anyway, I looked through the various and sundry bags of coffee she sent. There are several bags from the Island Trader Coffee company.  French Vanilla and Hazelnut Creme. Before I had my glasses on I thought it said Hazelnut Crime. I thought, what the heck kind of coffee is Hazelnut Crime? The bag claims that it makes one perfect pot. Guess we'll find out. I wish I had that kind of confidence. I catch only perfect fish. I write only perfect books. I'm the perfect man. Oh yeah, I could get into this!  We just finished off the bag of Outhouse Blend from the Alaska Coffee Roastery. As bad as it may sound, it was pretty darn tasty. We're in the process of going through a bag of Starbucks Dark French Roast, also pretty good. We've still to try the KIVU French Vanilla or the Cafe' Godiva from Godiva Chocolatiers. I don't know if it's chocolate flavored or not, but it has a drawing, somewhat crudely done, of Lady Godiva on a horse. In contrast, I have a bag of coffee from the Raven's Brew Coffee company. It features a goat with three times the number of male members that other Billy goats would have and is appropriately named and the drawing is fairly accurate. It's twelve ounces of dark roast that they describe as having a "velvety mouthfeel, superb body. Uncanny high notes of fruity sweetness hover over a dry chocolate base."  We may save that for last, or try it out on Jen first to see how it tastes. The name is somewhat offsetting, but it might be great. In any event, we've got enough coffee to keep a buzz on for the next month or so. If you're in the neighborhood, drop by; we'll brew up a pot and see how long the toilet paper lasts.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Close but no cigar


















  I went fishing last Friday. It was my first trip for the season and actually, the first time in years when the boat was ready to leave the dock so soon. It seems that normally I'm waiting on something to be fixed or finished or some such thing and never make it out this early. Last year I was waiting on the mast to be done. The year before I was hauled out for months while the bow stem and some planks were replaced. I can't remember what the problem was in other years, but it's always something. I was speaking to my friend and fellow fisherman, Fagan Skafelstad. He had gone up into Port Frederick the day before and reported seeing a lot of feed and whales and fish on the screen, but he didn't catch anything. If he didn't get a fish, I was quite certain I wouldn't, but I needed to try out the gear anyway, so I ran on up. Always, in the back of my mind there is that fantasy that somehow, against all odds I'll do what countless others before me have failed at- I'll catch the mother load of King Salmon. I'll be all by myself, pulling fish after fish- and not just little guys either, they'll be what my friend Bunny used to describe as Slabs! I'll be circling on the school, smiling from ear to ear, giddy as I think of how I will describe in detail how I happened to stumble upon the school, and how, no matter what I put before them, they bit ferociously. Of course it didn't happen. I dumped in the gear on the other side of Midway Island and spent the next four or five hours trolling aimlessly around the bay looking for signs of feed or fish. Obviously there was feed around. There were probably eight or ten Humpback whales and dozens of porpoises, plus seagulls and other fish eating birds, but I didn't get a strike. The most excitement I got was when I was trying to get a picture of one of the whales and another one made a beeline for the boat. I had to gun it to keep from tangling my float bags on him. God knows what kind of damage that would have created. I tried to get some pictures of the porpoises as they dived in front of the bow, but they were too quick. By the time they surfaced and took in a puff of air and I got the camera focused, they had already disappeared. The best I could do was to get a shot of the wake  left as they rocketed down below. I've been fishing for so long, and with much of the same results, that nothing that happens is a surprise. This time was no different. When I was still tied up to the dock there wasn't a breath of wind. In front of town the water was a smooth as a mill pond. When it's like that I always get sucked in to going out and drowning a herring or two. Once I made up my mind to go drag around for awhile, there was no stopping me. I took off and started up the bay. About half way up a little breeze started in. The farther I got the windier it was and it wasn't like a nice tropical breeze. It was more like an approaching arctic front. Of course I had to go outside to set the gear, and since it was my first trip of the year I needed to get everything set out, so it took quite a bit longer. I was standing in the cockpit untangling lines with my frosty breath polluting the air and hands the color of tomato soup. Lordy be it was cold! It was then that it hit me- there's a very good reason I don't go fishing this time of year, I'm too much of a whimp. While in years gone by I might have beat myself up for being so fragile, now I can just use my age as an excuse. Who says there's nothing good about getting old?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN



  I was very angry last night. I was watching The Kelly Files on the Fox news channel. I know, I know, some people will say " Well no wonder, you're watching Fox news." Unfortunately the regular news channels don't bother to give the news as it is. If any news is given, it's bathed in whatever liberal light can be shed upon it. So much of what passes as news nowadays is nothing more than a feel good story. I'm all for feeling good. I wish the whole world was full of feel good stories. I'm not saying that there is nothing good happening in the world, there is, and it's nice to bring it to light, but unfortunately, there's an awful lot of crap going on out there too and it also needs to be reported on. The story that got me so upset last night was the CEO of Mozilla being fired for supporting an amendment a number of years ago in California banning gay marriage. As was pointed out, when Barrack Obama was running for president he was opposed to gay  marriage too. Didn't keep him from getting elected- twice. It might not have bothered me so much if it weren't for the ongoing dishonesty, deceit, lying and outright sinful nature of not only this administration, but most if not all of congress. The people who were elected to run this country are leading us into a pit of moral decay such as  has never been seen before, and we are embracing it and even encouraging more. America is on a downward spiral and I'm scared for this country. We used to be the standard that other countries aspired to be like, now we're an example of how not to be. What is being passed off as enlightenment and freedom is nothing more than an excuse to abandon our moral bonds and do whatever we want because it feels good and consequences be damned. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. I've said it before and I'll say it again- there is a law of sewing and reaping. Just as you can't plant potatoes and grow cucumbers, neither can you plant the seeds of sin and reap God's blessing. As the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville said, "America is great because America is good. When America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." Ask around. Is America still great? I'm having a hard time believing it is.
    MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN - Those familiar with the book of Daniel will recognize those words. They were written on the plaster wall by the hand of God while the grandson of the great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was drinking wine from the goblets taken from the temple in Jerusalem in an act of defiance against God Almighty.  When the king saw the hand, his face turned pale and his knees started knocking together. Everything was fun and games up to that point. Everything was fine until it wasn't. Daniel was called in to read the words because all the wise men and soothsayers in Babylon couldn't. This is what the words meant- God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. You have been weighed on the balance and found wanting. Your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and the Persians.  That night, the king was killed and his kingdom was taken over. God is patient beyond what we can imagine, but he won't be mocked. Increasingly in America those who want nothing to do with the Lord are demanding that any mention of him in public places be removed. For the sake of political correctness people are not speaking out against what historically has been an abomination, be it gay marriage, abortion or lying for the sake of an election. For crying out loud,  half of all marriages in this country end in divorce! At what point will God say to us, "You've been weighed on the balance and found wanting."
   I've shown the pamphlet in the second picture which depicts a Christian church in Africa which was bombed. Not because of anything that the people did wrong, but because they were Christians. We haven't gotten to that point in America yet, but we're on the way. We don't want to hear bad news. We don't want to believe that what we're doing is wrong. We don't want to listen when someone  points the finger and says what you're doing is immoral. Like the frog in the pan of  water on the stove, we don't notice the heat until it's too late. God says," Woe to him who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness." We're entering into some pretty scary times. We can turn things around if we want to. We don't have to go the way of the Babylonian empire. God doesn't want us to. In the book of Ezekiel he states " For I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, therefore repent and live."
  As those who know me can attest, I'm not a preacher, a teacher, an apostle or a righteous man. I'm just an American man who is scared for this country and the direction we're headed. Lets get back on the right path and see America blessed again.

Monday, March 31, 2014

So Long Jack


  Several days ago, Hoonah lost yet another one of it's residents. With all that's going on in the world, Ukraine, Obamacare, Flight 370, it didn't get the slightest bit of national attention, but here in Hoonah, the word spread like wildfire that Jack Brewer had passed away. We've had any number of folks die here, just like anywhere else, but when some people pass on, their passing leaves a void and a sadness that seems to impact the whole town. Jack was one of the good guys, and in an era when there seems to be less and less of them, his absence is noticeable. He worked at the school as a janitor, but not because he didn't have talent to spare. He was a world class welder and could do any number of hands on projects with a degree of skill that was greatly admired. He was one of those guys that every town needs and is glad to have. You don't think about them much until you have a project that needs done and then you're damn glad they're around. Jack was popular with all the kids and staff at the school. He always had a smile and a good word for everyone. He was from North Carolina, I guess from way back in the woods somewhere. Having a conversation with him was a little challenging, he had a pretty strong accent and I often wished a caption would show up over his head after he spoke like they have on Swamp Men so I could understand what he was saying. Jack had some kind of heart problem and if I recall was waiting for a heart transplant. When the folks here in town found out that he was having health problems, the word went out and there was a hugely successful bake sale with people buying cakes and pies and muffins for absurd amounts of money because they wanted to support someone they cared for. I don't recall the exact amount of money that was raised, but it was in the thousands. One thing I'm certain of, as Jack was laying in that hospital bed, he knew that the residents of the town he had adopted as his own loved him. We'll sure miss you Jack. Our prayers go out to the family and all those who loved him so much.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bacon Tongs

















  Jan had to work last Friday evening, so it was left up to me to come up with dinner for the two of us. As I've mentioned before, I'm a terrific cook. There may not be a whole range of things I'm good at, but I can certainly cook good when I have to cook. I was a little tired, so I looked in the fridge to see what my options were. Actually, they were somewhat limited. Hmmm... a Costco sized jar of dill pickles, a three pound can of Crisco, a bottle of all natural, raw, unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar- I didn't buy that stuff, a friend gave it to us to try- some wilted carrots, a few stalks of limp celery, assorted jars of condiments in various stages of fullness, a half head of lettuce with the end all brown and some bacon. On the counter I had a tomato and an onion. Wellll... looks like I have the raw ingredients for a BLT, one of my favorite sandwiches. I started preparing the other ingredients and finally put the bacon in the frying pan. That's when the fun started. The aroma of frying bacon filled the house and the smoke started filling the kitchen, so before the smoke alarm began blaring, I turned on the overhead fan. One problem solved. I went to turn over the bacon and promptly got into a confrontation with it. I felt like I was in a sword fight, dancing around the stove, parrying, jabbing, trying to flip the pork belly delight before it could spatter me again with hot grease. Had I been thinking properly I would have worn my golden goggles and grabbed a pan lid to use as a shield like one of the Knights of the Round Table. I saw that the kitchen utensil I had, a pair of tongs, was literally, painfully too small to do battle with that bacon. Fortunately I was wearing a long sleeved shirt and after a few unsuccessful attempts at turning over my increasingly crispy, nitrate filled, salt cured, fatty meat I remembered the Ov Glove that was in the drawer and I donned it. It gave me the added protection that I needed against my belligerent dinner. Fortunately I happen to like really crispy bacon. I'm not real fond of carbon, but I do like pretty well cooked bacon. Which is a good thing, because it was. Frankly for a while there I was afraid to get close to the stove to turn it off. It was after this unpleasant ordeal that I realized that Tomco Industries should come out with Bacon Tongs. With Bacon Tongs, which would be about two feet long and have shields much like the ones that are on the handle of swords, you'd be able to safely grab any manner of fried, spattering, sputtering meat from even the hottest frying pan. Think about it. No more rushing in to try and turn the bacon before it was reduced to black marbles, no guessing at when the next volcanic eruption in the pan will occur, and you wouldn't need to put on a bee-keeping outfit just to cook your supper. I would think that just about everyone who likes bacon would love a pair of these Bacon Tongs. Those all natural folks who live in nudist colonies would probably flock to the stores to get a set of these tongs. After all, a lot more than your hands or arms would be in danger of getting burned. Guess I better get started on production.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day


       I'm wearing all blue today- at least my shirt and jeans are blue. The other day I had green on, just because I happened to grab a green shirt out of the closet. I guess if I were to go out in public today I might be scrutinized for my apparel, perhaps even pinched for not  wearing a bit of green . After all, it is St. Patrick's Day and green is the color of the day, although I read that ol' St. Patrick's colors were originally blue. It was changed to green to celebrate Ireland's independence if I recall correctly. Either way, it doesn't much matter to me, although I love the color green and I truly enjoy Celtic music and Irish dancing. I've got several Michael Flattley videos that I really like and if I had a glass of green beer I'd probably imbibe, although it's not yet noon. This day is memorable for me not because of an Irish saint, but because today is the day my dad died seven years ago. I was thinking about it last night when I went to bed. I didn't attend my father's funeral, he'd died several months after I had visited him and mom down in Florida. Aside from the obvious expense, I wanted to remember him the way he was the last time I'd seen him. Of course he'd aged considerably, as we all do if we live long enough. He still maintained a fairly disciplined life in some respects; going to bed early, and rising early. He enjoyed reading the paper in the morning first thing and had a ritual of going to a gas station on the corner and buying a couple of doughnuts and some coffee and heading down to a park near the marina where he could look out in the bay and watch the pelicans dive and the boats go sailing by on the breeze. The last time I visited I took part in the ritual, sitting on his favorite bench and drinking coffee and just enjoying the morning. We took a walk around the park and he pointed out a nest  an osprey had frequented. He was suffering from COPD and couldn't walk too fast or too long without stopping to rest, but at every rest stop there was something to see and enjoy. He loved beautiful things, flowers and sunsets and nature in general. He never made it up to see us in Alaska, though I know that if he had come he would have loved it. Like many older people he had developed a sweet tooth, although it wasn't especially a new thing. When I was still living at home I remember sitting at the table after dinner and dad asked if we had any cookies or other sweet treats. When my mom replied no, he was disappointed and said, "what's the point of eating supper if there isn't any dessert?" I felt like it was a valid argument. On my last visit I opened the refrigerator and discovered six or eight partially opened containers of ice cream. I don't know if he just forgot that they were there or he was afraid the store would run out during some emergency and he would be caught short. If you're stuck inside during a hurricane, no doubt ice cream is a great comfort food. Dad was always a very capable man. He owned a construction business back in Ohio, as well a concrete company. In his forties he decided he wanted to learn how to fly and liked it so much he bought an airplane. In his younger years he built a sailboat and helped start an archery club and was a very good artist. When he moved to Florida he again started a construction business, then a garage door business and finally a business installing gates on fancy homes. He worked until he was seventy two and only reluctantly retired. I think it bothered him that as he aged he couldn't do things he used to. He confessed that he had been in a minor car accident that was his fault- he just didn't see the other car coming. He was angry at himself and embarrassed.  I wish that I had done an interview with him before he passed on. Of course I knew him growing up, but the dad you know as a kid and the one you know when you have kids of your own is very different. Like all people, we go through a change as we approach different stages of our life. Anyway, I'm glad for the time we did have; I wish there had been more, but we each had to go down the paths of our lives. Perhaps tonight I'll raise a glass in Dad's honor, or maybe I'll go get a half gallon of ice cream and raise a spoon instead.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Southeast Sneakers

X-tra Tuff Boots and high heels
Shelly
Kaz




















































    I figured I'd do a blog post now, while it's still daylight and I'm semi-able to think. If I wait until this evening I don't know what will result. I'm usually pretty tired by the end of the day. Of course if I screw this up and it comes out crappy, I won't have any excuse I guess. Although in my defense, I would like to mention that I'm kind of tired right now; kind of feeling a little wimpy actually. I should probably go take a nap. However, I guess I'll persevere. The other day my friend Shelly Yandell showed me a post card that her daughter had sent her and she wanted me to do a blog post on it. It's a pretty nice post card, but I usually don't do blogs from what other people suggest. For some reason she's under the impression that I can pull a post out of my ear or other parts of my anatomy on a whim. It doesn't work that way, but because I like Shelly so much, I figured I'd give it a try.
  As you can see in the top picture, we have a pair of rubber boots and a pair of high heels or pumps or whatever ladies call them. The boots are X-tra Tuffs made by the Goodyear corporation- or they were until recently anyway. I think some outfit in China bought them out, and frankly, the quality took a dump. I've heard of a number of people complaining that  the Chinese model, we'll call them Commie- tuffs or Reds, start falling apart almost from the minute you walk out of the store with them- and you don't even have to be wearing them! Not exactly the kind of thing you want to have on your feet when you live and work in a rain forest. X-tra Tuffs were given the nick-name Southeast Sneakers because they're so prevalent here in Southeast Alaska. Not only does it rain and snow a lot here, but quite a number of people are employed in the fishing industry and industries related to fishing where your feet are constantly being immersed in water. A pair of Nikes just won't cut it out on a troller, no matter how cool you want to look. Aside from the obvious soaking that your feet would take, there's the fact that fish slime and blood would work its way into the fabric so that you'd be ready to cut off your own toes just to escape the stench. It might be something to keep in mind if you ever wanted to enter a Odor Eater's contest though.
   I can't say for certain what the post card is depicting. If the boots belong to a man, it's kind of like a Lady and the Tramp type of deal. No doubt there are a number of ladies who seem to be attracted to the tough Alaskan kind of guy. Of course I wear boots all the time and live in Alaska, and I'm not the least bit tough. Good thing Jan married me before we moved up here, or she might have been in for an unpleasant surprise.  Now, if those high heels belong to a man, well.... I don't really want to go fishing with him. However, if the boots and the shoes belong to a lady, which may well be the case, then it goes to show that our Alaskan women are all around gals, capable of wooing a man as well as shooting a deer or catching a fish. Shelly goes hunting and fishing and clam digging and then cans what she harvests. I've witnessed Kaz- Kazmataaz as I call her, out back chopping firewood, and I'm still enjoying some smoked salmon that she canned last year. They both have children and I know that Kaz has some training in the culinary arts. When you live in Alaska, there's room to be feminine, but you better be tough also. That goes for you ladies too.