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.