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.

Friday, March 20, 2015

True Confessions

   Years ago, when I was still a kid and my interest in fishing was starting to rev up, I would go to the Super X drug store at least once a month to see if the latest copy of Field and Stream or Outdoor Life  or Sports Afield had come out. I devoured them, hoping to glean some secret to catching more fish. No doubt fishing someplace other than the local mud filled streams and ponds would have been a good first step to catching more, but you have to do the best  you can with what you have. Anyway, while I was perusing the magazine isle, I always passed by the ladies section of magazines- Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies Home Journal,  Fashion, stuff like that. Then, at the end of the section would be the more risque publications, Cosmopolitan and True Confessions and whatever other titles there were. These magazines were designed to titillate their readers with scandalous articles about illicit affairs or whatever other shameful or disreputable goings on the reader might find entertaining. Speaking of true confessions,I was speaking to my son Ben yesterday, and he too had a true confession. When I mentioned that the house in the above picture had been sold, he told me about a childhood situation involving the house. Apparently, he and Brian and Gabe Baylous were climbing the rather steep hill up behind the green house when Ben stepped on a fairly good sized  rock in the side of the hill and it got dislodged. They watched it as it tumbled down, picking up speed as it went, bouncing over roots  and off of trees like the steel marble in a pinball machine as it made its way to the bottom. Soon enough it became apparent that it would hit the back of the house, which is built right up against the side of the hill. It's not all that unusual for rocks and dirt to slough off, and after days of heavy rain, even trees have been known to tumble down. As it was,  there was a small window located in the rear, and true to the Botts luck, which obviously has been passed down, the rock found the only window in the back and launched through it. Of course the boys finished charging up the hill and out of sight, never even considering accepting responsibility for the accident. That's exactly what I would have done- and unfortunately did on more than one occasion growing up. Since we're on the subject of confessions, I have several that I suppose I should get off my chest. I well remember being a paper boy when I was about twelve or so. I had finished the route and was walking down an alley when I passed by a garage that had a window facing the alleyway. The window was covered in hardware cloth. For those who don't know, hardware cloth is like a really heavy duty chicken wire with more mesh- much stronger. The hardware cloth was over the window to protect it from flying stones and sticks, such as might be thrown by a passing car. However, it was not meant to protect the window from idiot boys. For whatever reason, lets call it a science experiment, I wondered if the mesh would protect it from a bigger rock, so I picked up about an eight pound hunk of granite and tossed it square at the window. Needless to say, steel bars would have been a better bet for protection with me running around town. Of course I hightailed it out of there and the thought of confession never entered my mind. Then there was the matter of the collectible coins in my older brother's room. Years ago he dabbled a little in collecting coins. He worked at Mac's Trading Post long before I did, and frequently ran across Mercury Head dimes and older pennies and Indian Head nickles, all of which were becoming increasingly rare. He had several folding blue coin books which had holes with  dates printed under them for the corresponding coins.  Well, being the wonderful brother I was, periodically I would find myself in need of a pop or candy bar, and unable, or possibly too lazy to try to find, a few pop bottles lying around, I would go to my brother's room and just punch out a few coins. I may have intended to replace them, though I don't know where I would have run across any such coins aside from the ones I found in his room. In any event, I did it. Sorry Mark. While I'm at it, I may as well admit that I took your Righteous Brothers 45 RPM record- You've  Lost That Loving Feeling. Teresa Nolan had broken up with me in 7th grade and I was devastated, so I sent it to her. She never did get back with me, and I don't know what she did with the record. If you like I'll send you a CD with the song on it. Also, I imagine by now that the combined value of those semi- rare coins might be worth at least $50.00 or somewhere thereabouts. Guess I'll send along a few silver Maple Leafs somewhere down the pike to compensate you. Whew, I feel so much better. Especially since I don't think my brother reads this blog.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Tunnel


  A few years ago I was working at the boat haul out getting some plank work done, when the shipwright, John Kveum, mentioned the location of an outhouse across from the haul out. It was tucked away in a little bit of an alcove under the towering rock wall of what we here in Hoonah know as the tunnel. There were rocks all around the base of the outhouse, and of course I had to do a blog post about it. The idea that people would get beaned while on the way to a porta-potty kind of tickled me. I have a strange sense of humor. Anyway, the next year, they moved the potties. Probably wisdom to do so. I spotted some fairly good rocks where it had been residing, and if one of those had hit the outhouse when you were in there, if you didn't have to crap when you got there, you'd probably have to afterwards. I guess last year there was a few more rocks falling off the face of the tunnel and there was a fear that a tourist might get hit by one and of course that would be bad for business. Apparently it's OK if a resident gets hit- we don't count. In typical fashion, when someone else is footing the bill it's easier to go with the deluxe version of something than if you had to fork out all the money yourself. As you can see, the bottom picture is what the tunnel looked like before the blasting, scraping and hauling started. Instead of just taking off some of the loose stuff, or taking the rock back a few feet, they've totally overhauled the whole blasted tunnel. I'd say its just a bit of overkill. It reminds me of a time when I was stationed in Charleston South Carolina. I was out hunting squirrels at the Old Tail Race Canal. There was a stretch of woods there with big oak trees and plenty of squirrels, to say nothing of mass numbers of poisonous snakes, fire ants and spiders. I'm sure there were plenty of other things that nightmares are made of, but I didn't want to look too close. I never would have gone hunting otherwise. Anyway, I was sitting on a log on a fine fall afternoon waiting for the squirrels to start moving. They always came out of the trees late in the day and scampered around the ground looking for acorns. There were years worth of dry leaves on the ground and I could always pinpoint where the squirrels were by the scuffling sound of the leaves. The day was warm and as I sat on the log, I was getting a little sleepy. I was right on the verge of dozing off when I heard a noise in leaves close by. It wasn't a squirrel though- not big enough. Not a lizard either, it was moving too slow, but there was definitely something moving over the leaves. I decided  to investigate. I had only gone a few yards when I saw the largest spider I've ever seen walking across those dry leaves. It was big enough to make noise when it walked. To say the least, I freaked out. I didn't want that monster sneaking up on me when I was all engrossed in shooting some game, or snoozing, so I did the only logical thing I could do- I shot it. I had a twelve gauge shot gun loaded with number six shot and I unleashed it on that sapsucker. Was it overkill? Probably so. Did I have any regrets though? Certainly not! Back to the work on the tunnel. Was it really  necessary to take off half the mountain to keep a few rocks from coming down? I don't think so. Is it overkill? Undoubtedly.  Will it even be done before the first ships arrive? Can't say, don't really care. It would actually be kind of nice if it wasn't. It would be fairly peaceful in town in the summer for a change. Maybe I could start a new business for the days when fishing was slow- Tom's Tours and Water Taxi. In any event, I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here. You don't need a howitzer to kill a spider- even a big one. A twelve gauge will do... or even a big stick; and you don't need dynamite to remove a few rocks, but what the hell, if someone else is paying, why not go for the gold?