Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What Did You Call Me?



















    Here in Hoonah we recently had a new postmaster assigned to us. Frankly, I didn't see why we needed one. Joyce Skafelstad, a gal who had previously been the magistrate for a number of years here, was filling in and she was doing a spectacular job. However, for reasons I can't comprehend, the powers that be felt that we needed an official postmaster, so we got one. Fortunately, the person they chose was a perfect fit for Hoonah. His name is Mark Smith and he has proven himself to be very well suited for the job and the community. In a relatively short time, he's gotten to know everyone and his been involved in a number of extra- curricular activities around town. He's joined the bird watching group that meets on Saturday, a Tuesday night jazz band, a group that gets together to play canasta at one of the local homes and at least one night a week he's busy carving a Tlingit paddle up at the Hoonah Indian Association building. Apparently he likes to stay busy. He's a very pleasant fellow and has a great sense of humor, something that really comes in handy both in working for the government and with the public. Throw in the fact that we live in a rain forest where it's cloudy, gloomy and stormy so much of the time and being able to laugh readily is an added benefit. I was speaking to him a few weeks ago, and mentioned that I like to collect stamps. Not like a professional or a really avid collector might, but some stamps just stand out, and I like to hang on to them. It was then that he told me that I was a philatelist. Not a fatalist, or a Philistine or feminist, but a philatelist. The word almost sounded obscene. Being a philatelist doesn't sound like something you would want to be associated with. Sounds like something you would be ashamed to admit. "Go hang out with the rest of your pervert buddies you philatelist!" Fortunately, that's the official name given to stamp enthusiasts. I can't really call myself a collector I don't suppose. There isn't any real rhyme or reason to what I collect. I just find certain stamps attractive and want to hang on to them. Some years ago when I went in to the post office to buy stamps, I would ask the counter person if they had anything fancy. I didn't want to send a letter with a stamp that anyone would have, that would be boring, so they started showing me what was available. There are some pretty cool things out there. I ended up having to buy two books of stamps, one to mail letters, and one to save. Over the years I've picked up stamps depicting Star Wars, Harry Potter, comic book super heroes from both the Marvel and DC comic franchises, muscle cars, cars with tail fins, historical stamps and other odds and ends that I found interesting. I recently purchased some stamps with a picture of the moon on them. They're round and are for international postage. Mark mentioned that all international postage utilizes round stamps. He also said that the Batman stamps that I have depict the various stages that Batman was drawn down through the years. There are some round Batman stamps on the sheet that Mark said were the only domestic round ones printed. He's a wealth of information. In looking through the philatelic magazine, which was put out by the USPS, I see a number of other stamps that will be available this year. I hope to be able to grab on to some of them; there are some real beauties. I guess when the stamp has run it's course for the year, that's it. The post office doesn't sell them any more. I suppose I could check out E bay for any that I can't get locally, but I'd prefer to buy them at the original price. My only issue now is who do I give them to when my time is done. I don't want to give them to one of the grand kids and then have them need to send off a payment for the electric bill and not want to go to the post office so they rip off a forever stamp from the collection and go on their happy way. No doubt I would turn over in my grave. In the meantime I guess I'll just keep scarfing up these little wonders of art and let the bidding begin after I'm gone.















Monday, March 21, 2016

Of Titans and Wimps




















Well, it's 10:00PM, the evening news is on; Channel 2, NBC news out of Anchorage. I'd like to be in the living room watching it, resting in my easy chair, but instead here I am, sitting at this stupid computer cranking out a blog post. It's something that I've tried to do for the past week or so, but for reasons unknown, the Internet has been unbelievably unreliable. Thanks Hughes Net. You know, when you pay for something, you should actually receive it. Every month I get a bill from Hughes Net for Internet service, but about half the time I try to get on, there is some kind of problem. What if that happened when you went into the store? You walk through the door, looking to buy a few bananas, a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, for some reason they're out of what you're looking for. However, you still end up having to pay before you leave, even though you don't have anything in your grocery bag. It's the same principal. Something is seriously wrong here. In any event, a few weeks ago, I came into the office to check my email, and I couldn't get any Internet service, so for some unknown reason I decided to see what other options were on my computer. I saw an application for games and came across Chess Titans. I've never played chess, but I thought it would be a good idea to learn- you know, kind of stimulate my mind a little bit. Increasingly as I age I find myself unable to pull words out of my brain. It's quite frustrating, so instead of spending countless hours in front of the TV, I thought I would give this a try. As I mentioned, I never played chess before, but that didn't stop me from trying. I can't recall the number of games I lost. I think I played something like ninety some games before I accidentally won one. For me, chess is kind of like fishing. I can sometimes go hours or even days on end before I finally catch something, but boy when I do, it's just the encouragement I need to keep going for more countless hours. I finally spoke to a friend who gave me an elementary understanding of what each of the pieces was able to do. I finally started to win a few games, although the computer is still giving me a sound beating. Frankly I think its cheating. There are times when it seems like its able to move its pieces wherever it wants, but if I try to do that, it won't let me.What's that about? Frankly, even though playing chess may be marginally good for my brain, the stress of playing and losing so often takes it's toll. I have a stress ball that I keep on the table beside my chair. I like to squeeze it after I'm done playing chess or when I'm watching TV, especially when I'm watching the news. The news is so uplifting that I've managed to break two stress balls so far. I start squeezing them and after a while the ball starts to get a mushy feel and then all of a sudden all the silica starts to spill out. I've noticed an improvement in my grip because of the stress ball workout. I recently shook hands with a friend whom I haven't seen for awhile. He commented on how good my grip was. Granted, he's ninety four years old, but he's still chopping wood, so it wasn't like I had an advantage over him. When it comes to playing chess, I may be a wimp, but come shake my hand and you'll see I'm a real titan. I'm going to close now. My eyes feel like they've been jabbed with hot pokers and I'm developing a hump in my back like Quasimodo from leaning over looking at this stupid computer. I'll try to do another blog post some time in the not too distant future, but it will all depend on whether or not the Internet provider will let me. Oh the joys of modern life. I think I'll go read a book.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Carving the Tlingit Canoes






















 About two years ago, in an empty lot right near the Hoonah City Office, in the middle of town, one of the oddest looking buildings that one could imagine started to take shape. The upper half was narrow and the bottom was wide. It reminded me of a grain silo back in the mid-west. Apparently the steel  beams being used were once something else and had been salvaged. Frankly, it looked like a scab on a Polar Bear's behind, as my friend Uncle Bill used to say. I couldn't imagine why it was being erected right in such a visible part of town. I asked the mayor about it and he said the structure belonged to the Hoonah Indian Association. When I asked what it was for, he said it was for canoe storage. It was so tall we were wondering if they were planning on setting the canoes upright. Even after the outside skin was applied it still doesn't  look like anything that most folks would want in the middle of their town. Nonetheless, it does serve a purpose. As you can see from the pictures, the building is housing a canoe carving project. A gentleman from Haines, I believe his name is Wayne Price, is carving a canoe for the Glacier Bay Tribal House project. I believe that when it's finished that the plan is to paddle it up to Glacier Bay, although I could be mistaken about that. This particular canoe is forty feet long and is made from a spruce log, similar to the one in the picture. At the present, there are at least two, maybe three more spruce logs waiting for his expertise. When I asked if this represented a war canoe, he said no, but he would be carving a war canoe to honor all the vets here in Hoonah. I thought that was kind of cool. Hoonah has provided a large number of vets from World War Two to the present time. I asked  Mr. Price about seats. He mentioned that they would be putting some in once it had been steamed and widened. When I inquired about that he said they would fill the canoe with water and then put in a number of hot rocks to create the steam. The wood will get soft and they will take wooden stakes to spread it apart at the top. When it dries, it will maintain it's shape. One of the more interesting facts he mentioned was how they determine how much wood to take from the inside. He said they drill holes to the depth that they want the thickness to be and insert pegs or dowels. When they are inside carving away the wood, once they reach the peg, they know they need to stop. One of his helpers was working on a much smaller canoe. I asked about it and he said it was the life raft. At first I thought he was serious. You could only save one or two people with it. Then he started laughing and said it was for the town of Skagway, in the northern part of the Panhandle. I guess its for kids to hop in so they can get a picture. I had noticed that the floor was littered with big chips of  wood from the canoe. He said he was going to hang on to them and pass them out so people could put names of loved ones who had succumbed to alcohol or drugs and died. I believe one of the canoes was to be a healing canoe for that reason. Though I'm sure I've heard the sound of chainsaws coming from the building early in the project, hand tools are being used to carve out the inside of the canoes. The tools have been hand made for this purpose and I'm sure there is a great deal of satisfaction in putting something you've made  to use. I didn't spend too much time talking, but the little time I was there was enlightening and I came away with a better understanding of what was happening and a new appreciation for the skill that Mr. Price, his helpers and their ancestors were blessed with.