Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Road Trip











    I know that it's been a few weeks since I posted anything here, but I was off looking around America, or at least a small part of it. It's become increasingly evident that it's time for us to look for another place to light in our old age. The cost of taking the truck to Juneau to buy groceries has risen, as has the cost of a round trip ticket on the local airlines. Recently I ran out of my prescription meds, and the doctor won't refill them after this last time until I come in for a physical. I understand; he's just doing his job. The problem is that it's going to cost a bundle just to get to Juneau from here so that I can go see him. It would be nice to be able to hop in the car and drive to the doctors or vets or dentist office. It would be great to know that regardless of the weather, you'd still get your mail, and your bills won't be delinquent because the mail couldn't get through. Hoonah has a lot to offer, but it's experiencing  a lot of change that I'm not comfortable with. On the plus side, there is no property tax, and thus far, Alaska doesn't have a state income tax, although that could change. It's gorgeous here, and if you like hunting and fishing, it's a great place to live. Unfortunately the town was discovered about nine years ago and now the  cruise ship industry has turned it into a tourist destination, complete with all the problems that come with that. This year alone there have an additional twenty five ships added to the already crowded schedule. The town is overrun with tour buses, vans, and people every time a ship shows up. At this juncture of my life, it's a hassle that I just don't want to deal with anymore, so we took a road trip to go look around. We returned to Idaho, and looked around the western part of the state. We spent time there last year as well. One thing that really stood out to me was how friendly the people were. Now if I'd said I was from California, I might not have had such a friendly reception, but as it was, we were treated very well everywhere we went. We spent about five days in Lewiston, which was our favorite place. Right now it's very comfortable, around 50 degrees or so. I understand that July and August the temps can soar into the nineties and above. I'm not so sure how I'll handle that. Maybe I won't. Perhaps I'll melt like the wicked witch of the East in the Wizard of Oz. I'll step outside one hot August day and end up a steaming pile of ooze on the sidewalk that people will have to step around. As it was, the Dogwoods were blooming, and there were daffodils and hyacinths in a lot of the yards. The tulips hadn't started to bloom yet, but it won't be long. We checked out the hospital, some of the many local stores, and quite a few of the restaurants. In fact we got sick to death of eating out every night. When we arrived on a Friday evening, the main drag was filled with cars,as were all the restaurants. I felt like I was in L A or some such thing. I guess we got there just as people were getting off work, so it was pretty busy. Obviously I'll have to get used to that. The nice part is that because we're retired, we don't have to go out and around when everyone else is on the road. We stayed at a delightful B&B for three nights in the older part of town, which I'll probably write about at a later date. We checked out several of the parks, drove to some of the smaller outlying towns, drove across the Snake River to Clarkson Washington where we could get a cheap lunch of a hot dog and soda at the local Costco, and spent time looking at the houses for sale. Until we sell our house, we won't really know what we can afford down there. It's going to be a big change, but if we don't do it soon, we may not do it at all, and I'll have to live the rest of my life wondering what might have been.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Wedding Like No Other










  This past Tuesday, the 26th of March,2019, Jan and I were invited to attend a most unconventional wedding for two very good friends. I don't mean that it was unconventional in a bad way, it was just different. The only tuxedo in the room was worn by the bride's dog, Robinau. I'm not quite sure how to spell his name. Sarah, the bride, says that his name means radish in Spanish. I've never bothered to ask why radish. Why not green pepper or tomato or pickled beet. However, radish is his name, and it seems to fit. He's a very pleasant dog, and he was on his best behavior while his owners were exchanging their vows. Now about the vows... they weren't what you would ordinarily find in a wedding either. In fact those of us who were invited actually came up with some of the wording. I know this sounds a little unusual, and it was, but the vows came out of a book of Mad Libs. It's a book that has pages that are making a statement with blank spots to fill in. There are spots for verbs, and adverbs and nouns and names and action verbs and things ending in "ing". It was all totally legal, and there was a magistrate to help administer the legal part of the proceedings. What I remember the most, aside from the feeling of joy and love that every one in the room was feeling for our friends Mark and Sarah, was the laughter. It was by far the most fun wedding that I've ever attended. I'm not a big wedding kind of guy. All the hoopla and dressing up and pomp and ceremony kind of turn me off, but this wedding wasn't like that. It was just fun for everyone. It was held in Mark and Sarah's home, and as I mentioned the dog had the only tux, so I guess he was the best man. Afterward there were snacks to eat and several cakes. Not a conventional wedding cake, but a cake nonetheless. Actually there were two. One had a kind of smorgasbord of veggies or fruits or both in it. Sarah called it a salad cake. I'm not real sure what the other cake was composed of, but it seemed to have German Chocolate icing, or at least that's what it tasted like to me, and it was very good. I should mention here that Sarah is a vegetarian. She eats fish and eggs, but no meat, so there was a "salami" roll that I believe she said was made out of figs. I had to decline on that. I have to admit though, a few weeks ago I had what I thought was a delightful burger made out of seasoned black beans and a few other vegetable and fruit concoctions that I was quite enamored with. There was also some Beechers Flagship cheese- mmmmm... delightfully sharp and tasty. They had also ordered in for this occasion a selection of nut butters. I don't believe there was any peanut butter on the table, but there was pecan butter and sesame butter, macadamia nut butter, hazelnut butter, almond butter I believe and a few others I can't recall. After the vows were taken, the rings were exchanged and it came time to kiss the bride, Mark kissed Sarah like he'd been off to war for a year. I finally told him to save some for later, lest they forget they had company. I don't know what the future holds for these two, but Mark is a much happier person with Sarah in his life, and he has apparently filled a void in hers, and if the wedding is any indication of what the future will be like for them, they're in for a good time indeed.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Uncommon Talent






For an isolated fishing village in Southeast Alaska, Hoonah has attracted quite a number of people down through the years. In the forty three years I've lived here I've seen a pretty diverse group. Some have come to give, some to take and some to try and hide out. There has been no shortage of transient folks, people who've come to take jobs at the cold storage or on fishing boats and in recent years filling the jobs at the cannery in the tourist industry. Once in blue moon we are graced with an individual of uncommon talent, such as the young lady pictured above. Her name is Christina Baal and she's a professional artist. She has a strong interest in birds and a desire to paint all ten thousand species. I hope that she lives long enough to see her passion fulfilled. I first saw an exhibit of her talent when I was working in the Forest Service building. The top photo of the Sockeye Salmon shows an example of her work. I was immediately drawn to it, in part because I love fish and fishing, and in part because of the vibrant colors.It's my understanding the she whipped it out in about two hours in response to a request for a design for the annual fishing derby. That she could do it that quickly is incredible, but what is truly amazing is that she's able to pull off such a work of art on a piece of plywood located under the stairs at her apartment. What I find even more fascinating, is that she sells her work for so little. I can't say here what she gets for each piece she does, but I do know that anyone, even a tourist looking for a bargain can easily afford to buy a print from her. I believe she's hoping to set up a little sidewalk stand this summer to pedal her goods,and she's agreed to carry my books as well, which I'm delighted about. Because of her talent, I fully expect to see an increase in sales. When I dropped by to see her today, she was almost done with the print in the middle. She's taking it with her to Philadelphia,I believe to display in an Audubon show. Her talents aren't limited to drawings or paintings.  When she found out that I loved hoochies, she got on line  and downloaded some pictures of them and put them on a button for me. At the time she had no idea what hoochies were. Frankly, I used to think that people with a degree in art were pretty much wasting their time. You always hear about starving artists, but Christina has managed to carve a niche in the art world that allows her to follow her dreams and put her talent to work. I recently checked out her web site and was blown away by her paintings. Her passion is birds, and she's able to capture them in an exciting and unique way. I hope you'll take a look at her web site. It's -drawingtenthousandbirds.com 
If you find something you like, or just want to say  hi, please contact her at 
drawing10000birds@gmail.com
I think you'll be glad you did.



Sunday, March 3, 2019

That None Shall Perish



This sign is hanging on the wall in our church. I see it every Sunday, but much like looking at the scenery around me, I don't give it a lot of thought. I should though. It's a powerful message. I'm sorry that the picture didn't come out so good. Today was sunny and the light coming from the window was reflected on the poster. The scripture is 2 Peter 3:9-What it says on the poster is - The Lord is not willing that any should perish. The whole scripture,starting at 2 Peter 3:8 is- Beloved, do not let this one thing escape your notice. With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise, as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. Thank God for his patience. If he were anything like me, the judgment would have come down mightily a long time ago, after I had been saved of course. I'm often amazed at myself, how judgmental I am, how very critical I can be of others. It's no wonder that so many people don't want to come to church.With jerks like me in the church, why would they? Fortunately, God is merciful and when I ask for forgiveness, he gives it.  As the very popular Christian author, Max Lucado mentions in one of his books, many people whom we look down upon would find a warmer welcome at the corner bar than in many churches. That's not to say that we should condone ungodly behavior. There is a very strong push in this country to say that any kind of behavior is acceptable, regardless of how offensive, rude or immoral it may be. In an effort to be politically correct many people have accepted ideas that they know aren't right. They don't want to be labeled as intolerant though, so they go along to get along. Somehow, as Christians we have to be able to separate the sin from the sinner. As the saying goes, God loves the sinner, but hates the sin. He's gone out of his way to draw us to him. The apostle Paul states in Romans 2:4- Do you show contempt for God's kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? If you're reading this post, and you haven't already committed your life to Christ, I hope that you'll consider what has been written. God is certainly long-suffering, and as He says in his word, He gets no pleasure in the death of the wicked. I've mentioned my favorite scripture in this blog before, and as it was relevant then, so it's relevant now. Jeremiah 29:11 states- " I know the plans I have for you" says the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." The Lord is your biggest fan. He wants what is the very best for you. He loves you and wants you to spend eternity with Him. It's the best choice you could ever make. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll choose life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Vernor's








 Jan and I were having dinner with my friends, Mark Smith and his fiance' Sarah Quiggly a few weeks ago.They spend a good bit of time figuring out new and exciting dishes to try out and they like to share what they've discovered. Because they experiment with new recipes, our conversations often revolve around food. During the course of our discussion,the subject of Cream of Wheat came up. I'm not sure why, but it did. Well, one thing led to another, and I think I commented on the old fellow on the box. We discovered that his name was Frank L. White. He was a chef who was originally from Barbados. He has a very pleasant appearance and I guess whoever was in charge of marketing at the company thought he would be a good representative. I did a little research and discovered that he lived in Michigan and passed on in I believe, 1938. For a number of years he didn't have a proper grave marker, but a few years back his story was told on one of the major news networks and he was given a granite stone with his name and I believe his affiliation with Cream of Wheat. Then the conversation turned to Uncle Ben's rice. The guy on that box looks like a friendly sort as well. As it turns out, his name was Frank also. Frank Brown. He was a Maitre d' at a Chicago restaurant. I asked about Aunt Jemima also, but she was just a figment of someones imagination apparently. While we were on the subject of food and drink, I happened to mention one of my favorite soft drinks, Vernor's Ginger Ale.  I guess it's called ginger soda now. In any event, we can't seem to get it up here. For awhile the Northern Sales Company in Juneau distributed it, but I haven't seen it for years. However, that didn't hamper Mark. He discovered that he could get a case sent up from Target, with free shipping, and ordered a case before the end of dinner. Well, it arrived the other day, and Mark and Sarah made a special trip to the house to deliver me a few cans. I know that Sarah had never had it, and I don't believe Mark had either, so to celebrate, we took out some frosted wine glasses from the freezer and poured ourselves a few drafts. It's really bubbly, and both Mark and Sarah, as well as Jan  all started coughing when they first brought the glasses up to drink. I knew what to expect and was spared. It was funny to watch though. Vernor's is described as  deliciously different, and the taste is declared both bold and bracing. When I was a kid I was attracted to the bottle originally because it had a green and gold label that was eye- catching. However, once I tasted it, I was sold on the flavor. It was very hard to get, even in my home town in Ohio, though it was manufactured in Michigan. However, whenever I could find it, I made sure to stock up. Vernor's  was created by James Vernor, a pharmacist in Detroit. He sold it in his soda fountain. If I recall correctly, he was called up during World War I and stored the ingredients in oak barrels for four years. When he returned, he tried some and found the aging in the barrels enhanced the flavor. For a number of years it was advertised as being aged in oak barrels, now I believe is may say it's aged in wood, but there isn't a specific time mentioned as I recall. Apparently the drink was so popular that he sold the pharmacy and just opened a soda fountain. He eventually sold the formula to other soda fountains with strict orders that the formula had to be followed carefully. In time it was sold to a bottling company and now I think it's owned by the folks at Dr. Pepper.  It's said that it can be used for cooking, and according to an article I read, the late, great Aretha Franklin used to make a glaze for her Christmas ham with it. So there you have it. Personally, I highly recommend you give it a try. It's caffine free, and as they say, it's deliciously different. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Mechanical Hell




 Have you ever noticed that some guys are just naturally gifted handymen.  I'm not one of those guys. I rely on the integrity of the gifted ones to help me out.You take your car in because it's not running right and they can look at it and know right away what the problem is. "Well Mr. Botts, it's obvious that the bungflogger here has become disengaged with the hornwiller, so the flipstopper isn't going around." That's all very entertaining, but I haven't got a clue what they're talking about.  I can only hope I don't have to take out a second mortgage on the house to pay to fix it. A few weeks ago our Samsung TV crapped the bed. It started off with not wanting to turn on with the remote control. I'd always heard that you do the simplest thing first, so I replaced the batteries with a fresh pair. It didn't help.I was standing in front of the TV pushing the on button like my life depended on it, but to no avail. I felt like I was a contestant on Jeopardy trying desparitely to answer the question, but the button doesn't work.So then I got online and read that sometimes if you unplug the TV from the back, it will fix it. So I tried that and, miracle of miracles, it did work. At least for a few days. After that was no longer effective,  I tried unplugging the TV from the wall outlet, and that worked for a few days as well, but eventually that also failed, so we sat like a couple of  monkeys staring at the blank screen willing it to come on until we finally acknowledged that it was dead.  I spoke to a friend who said it was probably the mother board, and to contact a place called Shop Jimmy. They claim to have hundreds of thousands of parts for televisions in stock. I looked them up and It certainly appeared that they had tons of parts- just not the one I needed. Not only did they not have it, but there isn't even a remote chance that they'll get it. Go figure. They did have a little black chip with metal tabs on the ends that they emphasize MAY fix the problem, so for twenty bucks I bought it. On line it looked like the size of a bread box, but when I received it in the mail, I thought the package was empty. The part was so small I needed a magnifying glass to see the little metal tips. I ended up taking the back off the TV but I couldn't even find a part that looked anything like the one they sent me, and if I'd had, soldering it would have required the skills of a robot in a factory. Of course because it's electrical, there's no sending it back for a refund, which is just as well, because by the time you've paid for shipping both ways, even though it weighs less than a gnat, it ends up costing more than the part itself. Lovely. I procrastinated for awhile and finally decided to order a TV from Best Buy up in Anchorage. I thought they would send it to me from there, but nooooooooo... its coming from Oklahoma somewhere. It flew UPS and made every stop from Oklahoma City to Pacific Washington where they finally pawned it off to the U.S. Postal Service in Federal Way Washington, where I can only assume it's on it's way on the barge. I'm not a big fan of the Federal Way distribution center. We've had more than a few problems with getting stuff that comes through there.The local postmaster assures me that it should be here in another nine days. By the time I get it, assuming it's in working condition after being manhandled like a hooker at a longshoreman convention, it will probably be a relic. But that's not all! Oh no, no, no, there's more. I was making a CD on my  computer for a friend the other day when the machine started making a squirelly noise and all of a sudden there was loud POP. I managed to kind of get the CD drawer open and I could see dozens of pieces of CD hanging out inside. Thinking it was a minor fix I grabbed my little shop vac and tried to vacuum them all out.  Well, that worked about as well as anything else I attempt, so I ended up turning the computer upside down trying to shake out the little shards. There was quite a pile of them on the desk, but the drawer still won't close. All the shaking apparently shook something loose and I ended up having to go to the hardware store and buy a new ether cable. That didn't fix the CD, that just made the Internet work again.  My son-in-law, up in Wasilla said I probably need to get a new CD drive. Right now I'm waiting on another person to come and take apart the drive so I can see what I need to get to replace it. I wish I could say that that's all the mechanical issues I'm having, but it's not. Last spring I had a local mechanic rebuild the parts in my 1992 Chevy Silvarado truck transmission. It ran fine until he left for Missouri, now it's giving me problems again. The reverse doesn't want to engage and it revs up in low gear before finally finding second. Of course he won't be back until April, so I have to keep babying it, pouring five dollar a quart tranny fluid into it, hoping I don't get stuck somewhere. I know that in the grand scale of life, these problems are pretty minor, but there are times when I wish I had been born handy instead of so darn handsome.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Happy Birthday to Me!










  I was rummaging around in one of my dresser drawers the other day looking for a small screwdriver or some such thing for the crew who was working on the bathroom. I don't usually keep tools in my dresser, but this screwdriver was made for eyeglasses, and I didn't want to lose it in the mess that I call my tool room. Anyway, I came across a card that I got for my birthday last year. When I opened it, there was money inside! Woo Hoo! I'd forgotten all about it, which was fine, because otherwise it would have been spent already. Well, it just so happens that my favorite store, Tideland Tackle, started carrying a line of Ray Troll t-shirts. For those of you who may not know Ray Troll, he's a famous Alaskan artist who made fish art really cool. He does some other things too. I've seen t-shirts with dinosaurs on them and I can't recall what else. My interest is mainly in fish, so I don't pay attention to anything else. He came up with a design for the under appreciated and often times cursed pink salmon or humpy. It's the smallest of the salmon and unless you're fishing for them specifically, they're a nuisance, They aren't worth much, and they are voracious feeders, so you can load up your fishing lines with them and the money fish can't bite because all the hooks are full. Anyway, Ray came up with a design with a bunch of angry looking humpies with huge teeth and the slogan, Humpies From Hell. It was pretty popular. There was also a shirt that mentioned Creek Street down in Ketchikan where he has his studio. Apparently Creek Street was the red light district some time back. The slogan on the shirt was-Creek Street, where both men and salmon go to spawn. I haven't seen that one in awhile either. I can't begin to remember what all he carries. There are a number of really interesting slogans with corresponding drawings. If you get on the Ray Troll web site, you can see for yourself what's available. I happened to love the one I'm wearing. The colors are so vibrant and the message is spot on. Commercial fishermen, especially Alaska fishermen, are feeding the world.  Now a note about my picture. Jan has a habit of cutting my head off when she takes my pictures, although in her defense, I guess if the whole t-shirt was going to be shown, something had to go, why not the top of my head? I always look like I'm angry in all my photos.I'm not sure why that is. I think it's those blasted bushy eyebrows. I trim them almost daily, and overnight they grow like dandelions. I don't understand it. It looks like I'm getting a mug shot taken. Actually, that wouldn't be so bad if I could wear my Ray Troll. That gives me an idea. States could get sponsors from various companies, you know, Coca Cola, Frito Lay, Budweiser. Then when a person gets a mug shot, the corrections officers could give them a shirt for the photo shoot thus advertising for the company.Of course the down side would be if people looked at the sponsors shirts and equated them with criminals. The upside would be that It would give the tax payers a break, and maybe provide some money for the prison recreational fund. A new ping-pong table or Foos ball might be appreciated. I suspect that a dart board wouldn't be considered, unless it was covered in felt and the darts were those flat faced Velcro things. Anyway, something to think about. So, if you're at a loss for what to buy a friend or family member, consider a Ray Troll t-shirt. They're colorful, fun and neat to look at; or just give them some money and they can go buy their own.