Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Splendor


Well, the gloating that I did the other day about not having a white Christmas was short lived. These shots are of Christmas day. My daughter Jen and I went out for a walk because it was too nice to stay inside. Actually, it was cold that day and windy, but the rain  had stopped and it was so nice to see the sunshine,so  we decided to get outside for a bit. When I woke up on the 26th, there was about four inches of snow on the ground and more coming down every second. Let that be a lesson to you folks- it doesn't pay to gloat over your good fortune, at least not if you're me. It always comes back to bite you in the backside. I hope the kids that got bikes for Christmas got out and rode them while they had the chance. The sledders are the happy campers now.  
I hope everyone had a delightful Christmas. When you get to my age there isn't a whole lot that you need as far as gifts go. It would be great if you could ask Santa for a years worth of good health, two months of sleeping all night without having to get up and pee, a pharmaceutical bill that doesn't resemble the national debt, eyebrows that don't need barrettes to keep them out of your eyes, and the strength that you had ten years ago. Maybe he could throw a couple young ladies in my stocking who think I'm cute just to keep my ego going. Ah well, don't think any of that is going to happen, so I better hope I can grow old gracefully. No one wants to hear that your arthritis is kicking in or that your back hurts or that you didn't sleep very well last night; and they especially don't want to hear that you have gas, although it's probably better to give a warning than having them find out on their own. It's kind of funny to watch the progression of a man's life from youth to old age.Most young fellows are obsessed with  sex and how to expand their horizons in that department. In your twenties you feel invincible, you're strong, healthy, ready to conquer the world.  As you get older, jobs, making money and family are priorities. By middle age you're not moving so fast, things are starting to hurt or just not work as good as they used to, and for many guys their family is grown up. At my age grand kids are in the picture, nothing seems to work right in my body, everything hurts, my conversations revolve around what new ailment popped up overnight and I spend half my day looking for my glasses and the other half in the bathroom. I know what is on the horizon for me, if I live that long.The hair in my ears will grow out and bond with my eyebrows so that every time I raise a brow my ears will wiggle.  I'll be sitting in my truck with the window rolled down and the heat on high talking to one of my cronies who is doing the same thing. We'll be discussing something that neither one of us is sure of because we can't hear the other guy above the noise of the engine and the heater fan. The conversation will be something like..."Well I remember one time that I uh, I... oh hell... what was I saying?"  As I age, I've gained a little knowledge and I've picked up a little advice from those who have passed through life before me and I would now like to pass on this bit of wisdom. I can't recall where I heard it, but it would be worth remembering- Never trust a fart if you're over fifty. And there you have it.
 On a personal note... Doug, I hope you keep this bit of wisdom in mind.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fruit Baskets

It's nasty outside again today. I'd kind of like to go out and get some pictures of the area for anyone interested in looking at pictures from Alaska. However, there isn't much to see right now- dirty snow and rain, plus sheets of ice. We were supposed to have gotten six inches of snow in just a few hours today, but it didn't happen. Personally, I'm happy. The way things are going this year, it may be a brown Christmas. If anyone gets a bike they ought to be a happy camper.The poor kids who got sleds will be a little bummed out. Hopefully no one will try sledding down the graveled street. That could play havoc on your plastic sled. Maybe in Bizzaro world that's what they do- run a toboggan down a steep rocky cliff- but I wouldn't recommend it here. The very idea reminds me of Terry Shepard though. He's affectionately known as the Hobbit by his friends. He used to take a plastic sled and load it with groceries and mail and whatever else he had in his car  and pull it down the ramp, across the concrete dock to his boat. He didn't like to use a wagon because if the ramp was steep, like at low tide, he would lose control of it. With a sled it couldn't get away from him. Every so often he'd buy a new one, although I would think it would be hard to come by in August- even in Alaska. Anyway, I opted to do a blog on this fruit basket in lieu of a nice outdoors shot today. Jan's work place generously gave all the employees one. It was a little fuller, but I had to eat several of the mandarins and I used the Granny Smith apples for an apple crisp.  You know, we have about 150 square feet of counter space in the blasted kitchen, but somehow, just about every inch gets covered with something- toaster, coffeemaker, mail, breadbox, salt and pepper shakers(2 sets) canisters, cookbooks, a fruit bowl and now a fruit basket for crying out loud. I was cutting up the apples and something kept poking me in the elbow- it was the consarn pineapple. Why is it that if this fruit is supposed to be eaten it has stickers on it. I understand why nettles have stickers, you aren't supposed to eat them, but things like raspberries, blackberries, pineapples and I'm sure other tasty fruits are armed to the teeth. You can come and get the goodies, but you're going to pay the price. Oh well. I see that there may be a grapefruit in this basket too- yum. There's also a pear so green and hard you'd need the jaws of life to break off a piece. Why do they put those in there? Must be just for color. This particular basket has some almonds, Brazil nuts and a few hazel nuts in the shell too.  I guess they are there to give you something to do while the pear ripens. I think I'll show that pineapple who's boss. I'll cut it up and put it on a skewer for shishkabobs in a few days. I hope you all have a great Christmas. Hopefully I'll have something entertaining to report on my next post. As Tiny Tim said, "God bless us every one."

Friday, December 16, 2011

O Tannenbaum

Since we're only a little over a week away from Christmas, I thought I would do a post about our Christmas tree. O Tannenbaum is a German song about a Fir or Christmas tree. Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, ours isn't real. The down side is that I doubt that anyone would care to compose a song about a plastic Christmas tree. As far as I can tell, that, and maybe the fact that it doesn't have that nice evergreen scent are about the only downfalls I can think of. I don't have to worry at the start of the season about going out and finding the perfect tree, trudging through  knee deep snow, across creeks that are just over the top of your boots, and all the hard work of sawing the poor thing down. I always know where our tree is and pretty much what it's going to look like when we set it up. I never step on any sharp needles that have worked their way into the carpet, hiding in the fabric, waiting for me to walk  by with bare feet. I don't have to water it and so I don't have to worry about it suddenly turning into a torch in my living room. There's no sap on my hands after I set it up and no adjusting the tree stand-it always fits- and  I don't have to find a corner to fit the bad side in. When the kids were little we used to go out and find a tree- which was always a challenge. You would think that in a land that is filled with Spruce and Jack Pines, finding a tree would be no problem... you would think. But NOOOOOO... not in Bottsville. As I recall, everyone had a different idea of what constituted the perfect tree. It usually involved running around until we were all so cold and wet that I was ready to cry, and I finally had to have the last say in what innocent conifer was cut down. There was probably some poor family of Juncos or Wrens off visiting family and when they came to where their home was supposed to be, I was lugging it off. What a jerk! Of course everything is relative. The tree that doesn't look all that large out in the field can hardly fit through the door, much less stand up in an eight foot high living room, so even after you think the hard work is done, it isn't. Surprise! One industrious young fellow up the street decided to cut down my neighbor's Spruce.  Why waste time looking for the perfect tree when it's growing in your neighbor's yard? Surprisingly it grew back, but I must admit, it looks a little goofy now.  When I was a kid my grandmother spent a few Christmas's with us. The old saying that Christmas is for kids is true, but I think it should be expanded to include old folks too. I had a large family and we all bought presents for each other,so in the days leading up to Christmas as we lay our presents under the tree, it started looking pretty impressive- in a way that folks that subscribe to the minimalist philosophy would find obscene. I still remember Grandma sitting on the couch looking at all the gifts. It was more than she could stand and pretty soon she was leaning over picking up each one reading the names and shaking them. After a few minutes she sat back down and started talking to herself in a voice just above a whisper and I heard her say " I guess no one likes me... I didn't get anything." Of course she did get gifts, she just didn't see them at the time. It was quite comical to watch her on Christmas morning. She enjoyed opening those presents as much as my little brothers did. Grandma has long since passed away, but I still have pleasant memories of her.  I hope that all of you make pleasant memories with your family this holiday season, and if you have a real Christmas tree, keep it watered.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lost in the Fog

 I was coming back from the store or some such place a couple of days ago when the sun started to burn off the fog. I like to get pictures when that  happens, it gives the landscape a whole different perspective. Obviously it doesn't do any good to take pictures of the fog before the sun comes out- they would all look the same- kind of like a grey wool navy blanket. In the short time it took for me to get my camera from the house and return, the sun had already dissipated a good deal of what I was trying to capture. Nonetheless, I decided to get a few shots off before it was all gone. Being out on a boat when the fog sets in can be a bit unnerving. I recall one time, before I had a GPS to help guide me, I was in Cross Sound in thick fog. I think I already had the gear in the water before it set in. There were a number of boats in the area and all I had was an old radar that had a hood that you had to look through to see anything. About half the time it didn't work at all, and the other half, I wasn't sure that what it showed was accurate. It was fairly well unnerving to be drifting around like that. One other time I was down near Surge Bay on the outside coast. It was July 4, and I was catching kings at a fairly steady pace. The fog set in and because I was fishing by myself, I had to man the radar. I was watching the tattle-tales- the lines that let me know a fish is on- jumping and bouncing with large king salmon as they struck. Unfortunately I couldn't leave the radar to go pull them in. By the time the fog lifted and I could go out and run the lines, they had all gotten off. To say I was unhappy would be a serious understatement. If Gary Larson, the guy who wrote the comic strip The Far Side had known me personally, he probably could have had an unlimited supply of material to write about. My life reads like one giant comic strip. That's ok though. When my time is up, I want folks to remember me with a smile on their face and laughter in their heart. After all, if you can't laugh at yourself, you're taking life way too seriously. I still remember the bumber sticker that my friend Buffalo Bob Holden had on his little aluminum troller. It was a rather bold statement and could apply to fishing as well as life in general. It said simply- Onward, through the fog. How profound. On the one hand  I found  it rather humorous. I believe it was referring to the state one could find himself in after a night at the bar. On the other hand, it's a declaration of faith. We can't see what's around the bend until we get there. Sooo... whether I'm piloting my boat or navigating through life I guess I'll keep moving onward, through the fog,and hope I don't run aground.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trident

 Down throught the years I attempted to quit smoking on a number of occasions. When we moved to the farm I actually quit for about five months, though at the time I really didn't want to. When the opportunity presented itself to buy cigarettes, I eagerly took advantage of it. Off and on I would quit for various amounts of time. When I finally made up my mind to quit for good, I needed some kind of crutch to replace the tobacco. I turned to chewing gum. I've always chewed gum to one degree or another, but in the past eight or ten years I went whole hog into it. As you can see, I don't buy gum just by the pack, I buy it by the carton. For one thing, it cost about half as much to buy it by the carton at  Costco than to purchase it here in town. Plus, a single pack of gum only used to last me about a day. There are eighteen sticks in one of these Trident packs. Now, unless I'm really stressed over something, I only go through half or three quarters of a pack. When I worked at the school I went through a considerable amount more. I worked with special needs children and it was a good way to calm down a situation or reward good behaviour.
   I did a little research on chewing gum and found out some interesting facts. Apparently, people have been chewing some semblance of gum for hundreds of years. In Greece the ladies used to chew the extract from a Mastic tree, while the natives of North America chewed the resin from Spruce trees. In 1848  John Curtis marketed the first commercial chewing gum under the name Maine Pure Spruce Gum. It sounds like something that would appeal to the environmental, all natural groups we have now. I think I would have to pass on it. He later came up with a flavored paraffin that was popular. The first commercial chewing gum utilizing chicle was made by inventor Thomas Adams.  The Mexican general, Santa Anna who was exiled to New York introduced Adams to chicle.Like many of his fellow countrymen he chewed chicle. Adams  first tried to utilize it as a substitute for rubber in toys, masks and boots but it didn't work. As the story goes he was sitting in his shop discouraged and popped a piece of chicle in his mouth. Shortly thereafter he marketed  Adams New York #1 chewing gum. In 1871 he add flavor to his gum and Black Jack was born. I've chewed many a pack of Black Jack gum. My grandma used to get upset at me for chewing it. She thought it was nasty. For her Beeman's pepsin gum was the only way to go. In 1906 the first bubble gum was invented by Frank Fleer. He called it Blibber Blubber and apparently it was a flop. Hmmm... I can't imagine why. How would you like to go to the counter of your local grocers and ask for a pack of Blibber Blubber. You'd probably get slapped. I believe Franks brother eventually had success with another person coming up with some kind of acceptable bubble gum. Contrary to what my mom believed, I didn't chew a lot of bubble gum. I mean if you only had a penny or two, and you didn't want a pretzel, then bubble gum was a good alternative. If I recall correctly, you used to be able to buy a pack of Chum Gum for three cents. That was pretty good stuff. Probably the best bubble gum was the stuff that came in baseball cards. I was never a sports fan, so I could care less about the cards, but once in a while I would buy a pack of cards just for the gum. The Topps company, the folks who made baseball cards used to include them in packs of cigarettes. That would have been an incentive to buy cards when I was a teenager. I read that the reason that there isn't any chocolate gum is that the cocoa butter breaks down the ingredients in the gum. That's ok with me. If I  want chocolate I'll go grab a candy bar. Once in awhile I forget to clean out my pockets when I'm doing the laundry. It's only happened a few times, but even once is too often. I open the lid of the washing machine and there are all the little sticks of gum interspersed with the socks and underwear. There's no way I'm going to try and salvage that stuff! Somehow I didn't get all the gum out before I put my clothes in the dryer once and now I have  several permanent dark streaks on the drum inside. Fortunately it's seemed to have dried and hasn't transferred to my clothes. It's even better that it hasn't transferred to Jan's clothes or I'd be buying a new dryer. One little oversight and you can be in the dog house forever. I checked the Trident package and see that the manufacturer is Cadbury Adams USA LLC. I think it should be Adams Cadbury. After all, old Thomas came up with the idea.  Before I end this post I would like to point out that one of the long time residents here, Adam Greenwald, has an uncle who, according to Adam invented the first workable gum wrapping machine. He sold the patent to Wrigleys and retired a millionaire. Perhaps I should be investing in the Cadbury Adams  company. Then if I don't retire a millionaire, at least I might be able to trade in my stock for chewing gum.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Feeding Frenzy

    The ground outside is still covered with tons of snow which I don't find very attractive at all- especially when it's starting to melt. It gets dirty and looks really ugly in my opinion. If I didn't know that there will be many more snow days ahead of me I might get excited about the dirty snow-the dirty, dirty snow. It's usually a sign that spring is coming, but I'm not going to fall for that. A couple days ago the wind was whipping and the rain was falling like pouring pee out of a boot. There was even thunder at about 6:30 in the morning. That's a rather unusual occurrence here. In my thirty five years here, I only recall seeing lightning maybe twice, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've heard thunder here. I'm not sure why that is- it may have something to do with all the moisture in the atmosphere here. In any event, I once again am not going to do a blog post on snow. I opted instead to do one on the feeding frenzy going on out front of the Hoonah Cold Storage dock this past summer. Apparently the cold storage just got done grinding some fish parts and the gulls are feasting. It reminds me of the time my daughter Liz came in from the outhouse all distressed. I believe she had gone out to dump the porta-potty and was totally unglued because the flies were in the outhouse feasting. Feasting flies.Where are the frogs when you need them?
  This picture is reminiscent of many of the meals at our house when the kids were growing up. I don't know how we did it. One minute there were bowls full of food on the table and the next everything was gone. Nine people sitting at one table. Though there were times of stress and utter confusion, now that I look back on it, I think it was fun. I still hate it if we don't have very many people eating at our Thanksgiving table. This year we only had eight and it almost seemed quiet. The only thing crazier was in the morning when everyone was trying to get ready for school or work. When we first moved into town there was only one  bathroom. Good Lord- nine toothbrushes to keep track of, I didn't know they made that many different colors.  Fortunately most of  those memories have been pretty well blocked out of my mind. With six females in the house you can imagine the chaos. I suspect we bought as much toilet paper as we did bread.We always had a pretty hefty bill running at the store. It seems like laundry was a bit of a challenge too... "Mom!So and So is wearing my underwear again and she's stretching it out! When I look back on it now, its pretty entertaining- not so much so at the time. For those of you with little children, whether many or few, try to embrace each day. For all the challenges that come your way, they do grow up. I promise. Now I think I will go into the kitchen and start my own feeding frenzy. Bon Appetite!