Monday, September 27, 2010

A Sign of the Times




The sign kind of says it all doesn't it? How many times have you felt this way... the boss is yelling at you, your spouse is being a jerk, the kids are acting up, you just found out the repairs that your car need are going to cost you the next two months salary. Things happen in life and you just wish that they would happen somewhere else to someone else. I don't think that any of that crossed my daughter's mind when she bought this sign for us. Maybe she was thinking about addressing the neighbor's dogs when she picked it up. I think I've mentioned before that Hoonah has a leash law, but it's not always enforced. In fact it's seldom enforced so we get random dogs running through the neighborhood at times and since they don't like to get their butts wet, they prefer to visit a yard that has been groomed. Namely mine. I don't mind picking up after Rigby, but that's where I draw the line. It would be nice if I could train him to use the toilet like a civilized dog, but I don't think he's that smart. I vaguely remember my brother Mark reading a Mad Magazine one time and cracking up, so he decided to share with me the source of his humor. They had written a verse about taking your dog out to relieve itself and put it to the music of The Street Where I Live- at least I think that was the name of the song. It went like this -"I have often walked my Pierre outside, but I didn't like him in the dirty air outside, so now he sits upon, his own private john, that I built for the dog that I love." If I could sing it for you I would, but I can't so I guess I won't.
I had thought about getting a bunch of these signs and placing them outside the porta-potties that dot the landscape here during the tourist season. Unfortunately the humor would be lost on the foreign tourists, unless they could read English.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The F/V Judy Ann



I'm not sure what mountains these are. They may not even have a name, I don't think most of the mountains around here do. They sure are pretty though. They aren't too far from False Bay. Whenever I see them I know we don't have too much further to go. You can see the blue sky in this photo. Totally unlike the a normal September as I mentioned in my last post. Today is more typical- it's blowing about twenty five with rain coming down in sheets. Thank God things are returning to normal. If we kept having all that good weather who knows how many people we'd have living here. On our way out to False Bay a few weeks ago, shortly after we left the pavement, we passed the remains of two more fine old wooden boats. The green one is the Judy Ann. It belonged to Terry Shepard, a little gnome of a man who calls himself the Hobbit. He looks the part. Just over five feet tall with a full grey beard and a walking stick, he called the Judy Ann home for years. When I first met him the boat was purple. I asked him about it and he said it was the result of a compromise. His daughter wanted it to be painted pink. He didn't feel that pink would be a good color for a fishing boat, however, purple was a majestic color and he liked purple, and apparently so did his daughter, so purple it was. It was only in the past eight or so years that he changed the color to John Deere green. I happen to like green and it made it easy to tell where his boat was when you saw him in the distance. He used to have a plastic stork and a lawn chair on the top house. I don't know if he ever sat in it or not. I did an interview with him several years ago for a book that hopefully I can publish soon. He's quite a fascinating fellow. When he was fishing he only hired women for crewhands. He hired one gal who came from a rather aristocratic family and she never had to do any domestic duties. He said when she would make him a tuna fish sandwhich, she just opened a can of tuna and dumped it on the bread. No mayo or butter or anything. Same with soup. She'd open a can of, say, mushroom soup and put it on the stove- no water or milk or anything. I think she's the one whom he said liked to steer the boat all the time. He would come in from pulling or cleaning fish and he had to practically beg her to let him steer his own boat, she didn't want to relenquish the wheel.
The other boat is the Chappy. I remember fishing up in Glacier Bay years ago on the Miss Valerie with Bob Clark. We were catching king salmon like crazy when the Chappy showed up and if I remember correctly he called in some of his friends on the bite. Bob wasn't too happy about that. It had a different owner then. The last owner wasn't so illustrious of a character. He and his father came to town years ago and were always quite a mystery. They were real reclusive and you never really knew what to make of them. His father passed away a few years ago. He lived on the boat until he got into some trouble with the law and moved away suddenly. I guess the boat wasn't in good enough shape to salvage, with the exception of certain parts.

I don't know why the city tows the boats out past the airport now. Probably some environmental regulations in case there is any fuel residue or oil left behind. They used to just run the old boats up on Graveyard Island across from town where they could die a dignified death, decomposing naturally at the hand of the elements. When they take them out the road people throw rocks at the windows and smash the wood or take whatever may be left of any value. It's like overnight what was once a valuable asset is junk. How can that be? One day it's worth something, providing shelter and comfort and the next day it's hauled away to be picked apart like a dead persons estate. I hate to see that. I hope that for as long as I own the Bonnie J I can keep up the maintanence and turn her over to someone who can use her for many more years. I don't want to see her hauled off and dismantled like something of no value. She deserves better than that.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

False Bay







We've been enjoying the most lovely September that I can ever remember in my thirty four years of living here. Typically, you don't need to look at the calender to know that September has arrived. Usually the continuous rain and cold winds leave no doubt in anyone's mind that winter is on the way. Most years, by mid- September the mountains over at Homeshore would have terminaion dust on them. That's the first light dusting of snow that shows on the higher elevations. That's sure not the case this year. The weather has been unseasonably warm...hot even. I don't want to complain, but I probably will anyway. I just worry that all this sunny,dry weather will play havoc with the salmon. We need all the rain we usually receive at this time of year so the creeks will fill up and provide a good place for spawning. Fortunately I never had to worry about whether or not it rained- we had kids in all kinds of weather. Oh well- enough of that. As I was saying, this weather has been so enjoyable that you just can't stay inside. I feel bad for anyone who has an inside job when it's this nice outside. Last Sunday Jan and I decided to take a drive out to False Bay. It's down Chatham Straits aways, between Whitestone Harbor and Freshwater Bay. It would probably take me about five hours to get there in my boat. By car it was almost an hour and a half. The sign says it's only twenty five miles from the city limits, but there are stretches of the road that are so rough, that driving at much beyond twenty miles an hour is almost a guarantee that you'll break something on your vehicle or perhaps something on yourself. Jan made the mistake of taking a half cup of coffee with her on our trip out there. She didn't end up wearing it all, but suffice it to say, if she had been wearing a pair of dining trousers,as I mentioned in my last blog entry, she wouldn't have suffered the discomfort of wet clothes. False Bay is one of my favorite places to go for an outing. Perhaps it's the uncomfortable trip getting there, or just the anticipation of what awaits you, but when you first break out of the woods and get that first glimpse of blue-green water and the tree-lined rocky shore, theres a feeling like when you were a kid on your way to the county fair and see the top of the ferris wheel. You know it's going to be fun- and it was. Jan had the foresight to bring a few plastic chairs and a newspaper. We had the good fortune of having the place all to ourselves and when we set up the chairs in front of the fire pit, there were still hot coals burning from the folks who had just left. I did a little beachcombing for some driftwood and added to the coals, so we were able to keep the fire going while we were there. The beach there is great for searching for driftwood or shells or rocks. Whenever my daughter Jen goes there she always seems to find oyster shells or some other neat thing. I always manage to find bear poop. I don't know why they would like to come close to the beach like that, but they do. Aside from the poop , I also found three sea urchin shells in really good shape and a big barnacle and a pink shell of some kind, possibly a scallop. Jan likes to keep that kind of stuff up in the bathroom upstairs in a basket. My son Brian joined us later. He brought his four-wheeler out. He pulled up a chair next to the fire and almost immediately the smoke started blowing into his face. Usually that's what happens to me. It's really funny when it happens to someone else. It's like that shirt that says-" It's funny until it happens to someone else- then it's hilarious!" There's something about me and campfires, we just don't seem to be compatable. When I was twelve I got in trouble with the cops because of a campfire. Someone called them because they thought we were going to burn down Indian Mounds. It wouldn't have happened, but how would they know. It seems that I must have inadvertantly passed my bad luck on to the kids. That incident with Brian and the wandering smoke is so typical. No matter where you go to try to get away from it, the wind shifts and directs it right into your eyes. Then there's Jen and the dissapearing hot dogs. False Bay is where we were when she lost two weinies to the fire. She had them on a stick and both times the end of the stick burned to the point that the weight of the hot dogs broke it and the whole mess fell in the fire. Two times in a row! We're thinking about going out to Freshwater Bay tomorrow. Jennifer is supposed to come with us. I think I'll ask her to bring hot dogs.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Mitten Diet




I went out fishing on Friday. The season is rapidly coming to a close and I wanted to eleviate any feelings of guilt that I will most certainly experience this winter for not putting enough time or effort into the season. As often happens with me, I go through these long droughts with no fish during the typical day. Sometimes, if I happen to have a good book to read, I can just put the boat on auto-pilot, aim for the deepest part of the bay and start reading, occasionally looking up to see if the lines are jiggling. Depending on how long it's been since my last bite, and how interesting the book is, I'll either jump up and run outside to go pull the fish, or I'll reluctantly put the book down and walk slowly out to the cockpit, put on my wet, stinky gloves and proceed to pull up the fish, cursing it for not biting sooner, before I got so engrossed in my story. If the fish is especially big, to where the tattle -tale springs are really pounding, the adrenaline spikes and I can get pretty excited and charge out the door. On more than one occasion I've walked forcefully into the steel boom that stretches from the mast back to the hayrack. I know that it's there, it's been there since I bought the boat back in 1990, but somehow in my excitement I still forget. I've hit it so hard that I've nearly knocked myself out, but the beautiful ringing sound that bone makes when it connects with hardened steel is almost like a church bell. Most days though, when fishing is slow, I find myself searching for something to eat. Usually finding something isn't all that hard, because I know from experience that there will be at least part of the day when the fish aren't biting and I'm quite certain I will want something to munch on. Lately, my snack of choice has been grahm crackers. I justify buying the large package by saying that they have less calories than, say, fudge striped shortbread cookies or chocolate mint squares. Plus, if I buy the large pack, I don't have to shop quite so often... right? Anyway, I was in the middle of a slow day the other day, so I grabbed a cup of instant coffee and a package of grahms. The better brands are wrapped in cellophane by deviant terrorists who conspire to drive honest Americans mad while they attempt to participate in their favorite pastime, eating. I first ran across this phenomenon some years back with potato chip bags. They cleverly put a picture of the chips on the outside of the bag, thus whetting your appetite. It's only after you've purchased the chips that you realize that they have greased the outside of the bag with a fine coat of invisible oil, making it impossible to get a good grip on the special paper the bag is made of. If for some reason you are finally able to penetrate the bags first defenses, you are then left with the demonic stretchy paper at the top of the bag, where you are led to believe you are supposed to access the contents. You pull and pull, using enough strength to dislodge a "62" Volkswagen from a slime pit. At the last possible moment, right before you pass out from exhaustion, the top separates, causing some of the chips to launch into outerspace and the rest to fall upon the ground, where ravenous dogs challenge you to your right to pick them up. It's all quite wearying. Well, as I was saying, it was after a bout with the package of grahms that I had the idea for the Mitten Diet. By simply donning a pair of soft woolen mittens, you can render the job of opening practically any junk food package almost impossible. The mittens will simply slide over the cellophane or plastic demon stretch paper for almost as long as you care to try to open it. The harder you try, the more calories you burn. If you keep in mind that the simple act of trying to get a snack is in fact causing you to lose weight, you can keep your cool, thus robbing the snack terrorists of their victory. I think this is one of the best things that I've thought of in quite awhile. The last idea I had that was this revolutionary was the Taco Bell dining pants- they're like bib rain pants with a trough around the middle, about stomache height. They would issue them when you placed your order. Then, when the contents of the taco you were eating slid out,as they are prone to do, you simply retrieve them from the trough and continue eating- no waste, no messy clothes. Don't worry, I can almost guarantee I'll have more great ideas like these in the years to come. I have more than my share of slow days- plenty of time to think.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fallen Heroes




I've been wanting to post to this blog about one of the most trying weeks I've ever experienced in my life, but before I could, I had to wait until this evening. On Saturday night, August 28, I was sitting in my living room when I heard a shot ring out.

It's not all that unusual to hear shots here in town, especially around this time of year. Frequently Brown Bears wander in to town in search of food and the police are called to chase them off with rubber bullets. Shortly after the first shot, I heard two other shots. I heard a truck come charging up the road and screech to halt out front of my neighbors house. Haley Tokuoka flew out of the truck and ran into her parents house, screaming "Oh God! Oh God!" A few minutes later my daughter called to let us know that Haley's husband,Matt, and another police officer, Sgt. Tony Wallace had been shot. At the time it wasn't known if the shooter was roaming around the town freely or if he had gone in to his house. Like many uncommonly stressful situations, there was a lot of confusion and rumor flying around. We shut off our lights and I armed myself and waited in the dark with the windows open trying to hear what was going on outside. Jen called periodically with updates. We discovered that John Marvin Jr. had ambushed Sgt. Wallace just after he had made a routine traffic stop in front of Marvin's home. Matt had just returned from a fishing excursion with his family and had his wife and two children in the truck and had stopped to talk with Tony when Marvin opened fire on Tony. Matt got out of the car, yelled for Haley to take the kids and go and proceeded to grab Tony and pull him behind cover. Matt was unarmed and not wearing any manner of protective vest when Marvin opened fire on him as well. Both officers were taken to the clinic. We heard shortly after 1:00 Am that Matt had succumbed to his wounds. We found out later that morning that Tony also passed away. Words aren't sufficient to describe the feeling of numbness that one feels at such a moment. Hoonah is a small town of about 800 or so people. In one fell swoop we were robbed of half our police force, a wife was left a widow and five children were left fatherless. Two sets of parents had their sons stolen from them and the feeling of safety that we've lived with is gone forever. On Sunday morning the town was swarming with over forty police officers and SWAT team members as well as several EMTs from out of town. Front Street, where Marvin was barricaded in his home was closed down, and just getting to my home, which was several blocks away, required me going several blocks out of my way to avoid any chance of stray gunfire. The coast guard stationed a cutter out in the bay in front of town and escorted boats in and out of the harbor because Front Street was parallel to the bay. It wasn't until Monday morning that the stand off was over. The police lobbed teargas into Marvins home and he came out and surrendered. It's my understanding that he'd had previous run-ins with these two officers and I think he was just waiting for the opportunity to extract his revenge, which he did in the most cowardly way possible, with no thought for the families who would be impacted by this terrible act.

Today we had a memorial service for these two fine young men, and what a service it was. The normal state ferry which would usually service Hoonah was too small for all the people who wanted to attend, so they put on a much larger ferry, able to accomodate 500 people as I understand. There was also an additional catamaran or two for the spill over. The new gymnasium was set up with chairs as well as the bleachers on both sides, and the old gym was set up as well in anticipation for the unprecedented crowd. Amongst the guests to attend were Governor Shawn Parnell, U S Senator Lisa Murkowski, various state lawmakers, several judges, and more uniformed police officers than I have ever seen in my life. We had officers attend from Chicago, Minnesota and Washington state, and possibly elesewhere that I'm not aware of. There was a detatchment of Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their red uniforms, as well as dozens of officers from all over this vast state. We also had members of the Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy here. For the first time ever the Honor Flag, which flew over ground zero after 9/11 came to Alaska, and was flown at half mast at the school today. It was almost overwhelming, but I was so pleased to see the way these officers and their families as well as the entire community were honored. The out pouring of support has been gratifying.

During the memorial we discovered that Tony was a tremendous wrestler and was inducted into the wrestling hall of fame at the college he attended in Rochester New York. If I remember correctly, I believe he was the only legally deaf man to graduate from a police academy. He was a favorite of the school kids here and went out of his way to befriend them.

Matthew was a former marine who served honorably. Various people came forth with testimony about his integrity and love for his family. In the book of John, Jesus said, " Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friend." Matthew selflessly sacrificed his life in an attempt to save the life of Tony.

At the end of the ceremony three bagpipes and a drum played Amazing Grace and the people were dismissed by several members of the Alaska State Troopers, row by row. It was a beautiful service and one that I'll never forget, but hope to never experience again.

We are all left with questions. What happened doesn't make sense. Many of us are angry. It shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have happened, but it did. There's no do-overs, no matter how many of us wish we could just go back and change things. We're left with a profound sense of loss and the sadness that the whole town feels is immeasurable. Regardless of our differences, when something of this magnitude happens, we all feel the pain. I hope that I can bring to rememberance the words that our pastor, Chris Budke spoke after the tragedy. For the immediate time being there is a tremendous outpouring of support, but it will be in the weeks and months ahead when it is behind us and not so fresh in our memory that the families will feel the full brunt of their loss. It's then that they will need us the most. God help me to be sensitive to their need and willing to help wherever I can.