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The year Alaskan summer never ended

We’ve all dreamed about it: Never having to face mortality. It’s an incredible fantasy which can only end in sadness and loss. The same with a never-ending summer. An Alaska without winter is what? Texas?

We have had two full months of sunshine, day and night. Tomatoes grew. The grass turned yellow. Berries were harvested in July. Fans and blow up water toys sold out. It’s still not over, but we trust winter is coming because if it does not then all the ice will melt and we will die. Even with winter we will die, but until then, we enjoy and consider how we wound up in the Alaskan Riviera.

Today I celebrated summer with my own tiny parade. It consisted of a dog with wings, a friend with horns, a redhead, a comrade bearing peppermint shortbread and me, in a blow up T-Rex costume with parasol. I didn’t ask to be the star. I asked for other people with T-Rex or lively costumes but perhaps these items are not as popular or useful as fans and pool toys.

IMG_20190811_205800

This is a photo sent by my devilish friend of me and the redhead walking through a tunnel on the Chester Creek Trail. I like how I appear to be her pet. We may not have been mighty in numbers but we were very cheerful and were met by tourists and children alike with smiles, waves and hugs. Except for a couple of children on the playground who punched and threw rocks. I was able to defend myself with my parasol and the dreaded words “I’m going to tell your mother!” You may guess their gender.

I had a unicycle and stilts which I gave away this year because I am getting to old to enjoy falling over. But a T-Rex costume is ageless. It can come in handy for a protest with a “Make America Great Again – Jurassic Style” poster or to create awareness of ice melt/fossils/global warming/extinction – “It’s getting hot and I’m back.” But today we got high fives from people who spoke different languages and offers of chicken wings from teenagers.

At almost 80 degrees F, I was quite hot in my second skin despite the fan recirculating my warm breath. You might wonder why I was walking in front of my friend if I was so oppressed? Because my oppression was overcome by the excitement of bringing joy, of not knowing who we would meet and rejoicing in goofiness, a quality that is extremely underrated. Perhaps there is a line to walk with silliness, but each time I’ve sensed that line, I ‘ve crossed it and lived to tell the tale. Needless to say I will never be The President of The United States or similarly responsible. That would require a person to be highly sensitive to how one was perceived and far less egocentric than I am. Or not.

The Redhead and I sat down afterwards enjoying peppermint shortbread. We shared this and tales of Alaska with some folks from Denmark. Their country will be receiving a visit from our President shortly. He will meet with their Queen who they assured us will be speaking “between the lines” to him. She is no pool toy. The gentleman found our leader humorous and wondered how much harm he could do in 4 or 8 years. The woman found our President dangerous. I would agree with both assessments because Trump is a bit like a T-Rex: A relic of an age where fear and size ruled the world instead of cooperation and introspection. We all hoped the inflatable Baby Trump will be visiting Denmark as well.

Here are a couple of photos which capture a bit summer in Anchorage.

crane


The redhead, the provider of shortbread and I agreed to take a trip to Chena Hot Springs this winter. I will not wear the T-Rex suit as surely the batteries will fail in the cold. But before that, I will be taking a trip to France. I may have a fossilly friend packed away in my luggage.

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Anxiety Woman celebrates 4th of July

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4th girl

Yes! That’s me. I don’t look anxious! I am a gorgeous American woman on the French Riviera, not a person who worked all day eating just an apple and several cookies then arrived at a BBQ and proceeded to eat three hamburgers.

4th boy

Yes, That’s me too!  I made these cutouts for work and brought them to the BBQ. My 4th of July leggings look like coordinated knee braces! See the hula hoop in the background? I had fun with this after the three hamburgers and wound up running to the restroom three times as well. Also I had a Klondike bar, rhubarb cake, sticky rice treat and homemade lemonade. I might have overdone it.

I am very enthusiastic about the 4th. I blew up a wading pool by hand at work. We rolled people under the sprinkler, (not like burritos but in their wheelchairs). We had a parade.  Eventually my body gave in and I had an allergy attack. No big deal. I took a Benadryl which my nurse friend informed me is Diphenhydramine. I seriously thought Benadryl was the generic name for the last 40 years or so. But then Southerners call every soda a Coke. I’m just another marcher in the long parade of American consumers of brand names.

Luckily, my difficulty breathing resulted in a retreat to my friends’ very cool basement to watch Team America: World Police. I highly recommend this as a 4th of July activity. Who doesn’t love fighting marionettes and singing  along with the theme song “America Fuck Ya!”

team america

It is a surprisingly timeless film. One could almost imagine this particular gentleman taking over a revolutionary era airport. In the movie he just destroys the Eiffel Tower and maybe The Louvre.

I went to a garage sale and got this painting that was kind of dark and stained but I spruced it up with a dose of anxiety.

IMG_20190708_243436927.jpg

My fear about blinking, or not keeping an eye out at all times, is that I will miss something fun. I like fun, but it’s no use being anxious about fun because that defeats the point, kind of like Team America defeating the world, even if the world does include Matt Damon.

I also chose the book for book club this weekend. I hoped everyone liked it as much as I did. I found it so entertaining I am going to start reading it again right after I write this. As I feared, no one else found it quite as amusing and they collectively wondered how it won the Pulitzer Prize. A book addressing anxiety about aging, love and artistic success in America not worthy?  They considered it lightweight but that was what they  asked me for “Please Joan – This time no holocaust or books containing torture.”  I highly recommend “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer for an well written laugh inducing read that you can finish in a weekend if you wish. Feel under no obligation to award it a prize.

less

From a review by Patrick Gale in The Guardian:

Novels about novelists are always a risk, but Less is about anyone who has allowed their calling to define them at the expense of their humanity. Writers may blush in the mirror it holds up to them, but many readers will find it as endearing as the very best of Armistead Maupin.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/01/less-andrew-sean-greer-review

Please don’t be jealous of my fun filled weekend as I have no children and plenty of time to amuse myself. I can only hope that you ate as much as I did and sneezed a bit less.

 

 

 

Burning up in the Arctic

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fire

This photo was taken in the living room of my apartment, just across from the window around 9 pm. The sun was nowhere near setting. The rosy glow is from a fire about a hundred miles away.  It is also HOT here again, 83 degrees F., which is a bit too much for we Nursing home workers although the people who live there don’t complain as much.

The problem is not the fact that there is no air conditioning. The problem is moving so fast like we usually do when it’s cold out. I had to channel my childhood self and slow down like it was summer in New England. Perhaps you don’t remember it that way but I never saw a runner look forward to an 85 degree race day with smoke. So when visiting Alaska, consider this. We have much, much more forest than California. No one needs to set a fire. The trees get fed up with the heat and decide amongst themselves to burst into flames. As you may know, fires are nature’s way of burning out the deadwood to make way for new growth.  Remember this next time you decide between engaging in life versus vegging out on the computer.

You probably weren’t expecting to burst into flames in Alaska. You will bring your long coats and boots and then be caught sweating and wishing your hotel had a pool which it WILL NOT! Okay, the Captain Cook and The Hilton have pools but most don’t. We do have lots of lakes. I blew up my tiny rubber raft last night and joined all the friends I do not know at Delong Lake. There were swimmers and paddlers, BBQers, also a sign on the dock which said NO SWIMMING. I have been swimming here for years and that is the first time I saw that sign. I swam anyway. Only as I was writing this did it occur to me it was probably because the lack of Elodea weed. Most of our other lakes are clogged with it.  Westchester Lagoon is full of it. I just looked it up and here is what I found under Elodea mitigation Anchorage:

1.4 Proposed Action Eradicate Elodea from infested lakes in the Municipality of Anchorage using a systemic herbicide. Fluridone in both liquid and pellet form will be used. Eradicating Elodea will allow native aquatic plants to repopulate, return habitats toward their natural state, and reduce the threat of this highly invasive species from spreading to other water bodies in the state. Eradicating Elodea will also reduce potential damage to native fish species resulting from habitat degradation or loss.

The expected time for the initial herbicide treatments to occur is June 2015. This will ensure maximum effectiveness in controlling Elodea by applying the herbicide early in the season when Elodea plants are actively growing and taking up the herbicide throughout the plant.

1.5 Location of Project The three lakes located in Anchorage that currently have Elodea are DeLong Lake, Little Campbell Lake, and Sand Lake. DeLong Lake is located at S3, T12N, R4W (Seward Meridian, Anchorage) in the Campbell Creek watershed. Little Campbell Lake is located at S5, T12N, R4W (Seward Meridian, Anchorage) in the Municipality of Anchorage Frontal Cook Inlet drainage basin in Kincaid Park. Sand Lake is located at S10 and 3, T12N, R4W (Seward Meridian, Anchorage) in the Municipality of Anchorage Frontal Cook Inlet drainage basin (Figure 2).

http://plants.alaska.gov/invasives/pdf/FINAL_EA_Anchorage2015.pdf

So maybe we had all better go swim in the gummy murky lakes or burst into flames rather than get poisoned. If this info had been posted I probably would not have swam but it is too late now and it is too hot to worry about as I sweat through my tank top in my kitchen hot from boiling rhubarb.

Here are some safer alternative ways to cool down.There are about 100 tee shirt shops downtown so don’t worry about finding a cool shirt if you only brought plaid flannel. There are only two ice cream shops downtown although it looks like we may be getting our very first gelato shop within the year. The line at the gourmet ice cream shop, Wild Scoops, is hardly worth it. I mean there’s a store which sells Haagen-Daz Bailey’s Cream & Brownie which is a 10 minute walk away and you can eat it and be back before you get in the door at Wild Scoops. That being said, you should try the fresh rhubarb or Spruce tip ice cream at Wild Scoops. I saw no less than 10 locals bringing in bags of rhubarb from their gardens the other day. They get a coupon for a free cone. If you are lactose intolerant, you can just hang around the freezer section of any supermarket. I find this is also good for Mitigating pollen allergies without having to ingest potentially harmful chemicals.

I’ve been making lots of rhubarb syrup. I add it to sparkling water which makes it just as bad as drinking Orange Crush. Except the garish color of Crush is due to some unknown, unnatural additive as we all know there is no orange in Orange Crush. Rhubarb syrup is a brilliant pink like Hawaiian Punch but a bit thicker, gummier.When the syrup is added to bubbly water it becomes a pretty pale pink and tastes so delicious even I will concede to boiling 4 cups of sugar, 8 cups of water and 8 stalks of rhubarb as the evening cools to 75 degrees. The gumminess is probably from the leftover rhubarb fiber as well as the simple syrup. Some people like gummier foods, like a work friend who made a stew from a bear paw which thickened itself with the melting of the tendons and ligament.

Alaska is all about harvesting your own food as the food in the stores is second in expense only to Hawaii. The exception here being junk food. If you buy 4 two liter bottles of Coke, they are only  $1.29 each! It might be good to have a bunch of these on hand as well in case you burst into flames.

Summer in Anchorage!!!!

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sky

9:30 pm, Weds 6/6/19 on Anchorage’s Coastal Trail.

Yes it’s finally here.

Everyone is sweating. It was 68 degrees today. People were cranky. Why don’t we have air conditioning?  Why are there so many bugs?

It’s raining now. That’s what happens when you get out of work. It’s 730 pm so the sun could come out at 9 pm like it did last night and people will pop out of their houses  with their dogs, their babies, their cigarettes, bicycles and dancing/drinking clothes.

I was just out walking in the rain and passed a man BBQing chicken wings in the downpour. I complimented him on the smell and was hoping for a taste but his lady friend appeared and I moved on.

The streets clear out in the rain. People run, bike, walk, in the snow but they hide in the rain even after they have been complaining about the heat all day. I was incredibly grateful for the smell and the thunder. I had wanted to go swimming in a lake but the water has not warmed up to the high 40’s yet. I prefer the low 60’s for swimming water but will jump in just about anything that hasn’t crystallized. Also there is lightening.

I haven’t blogged recently because I’ve been obsessing about the possible shortage of avocados.  I grew up avocado-less in Ye olde New England and have been frightened of returning to that state of tasteless ignorance. You could say the potato is the Irish equivalent of an avocado. It tastes good with butter and you can incorporate it into almost any meal. But whereas a potato famine could actually cause death, an avocado shortage causes only an awareness of entitlement which is miserable in a completely different way.  Young people might revolt as they do in hot summer weather but no one will die over an avocado . At least I don’t think so.

We fight about oil, racism, immigration, water, and money but I hope it doesn’t come down to avocados.  There are substitutes for avocados just as there are substitutes for petroleum but no one is really pursuing them. Pureed peas or asparagus make a passing guacamole.  Hummus is good on toast. Ice cream tastes as rich if not as warm.

We white people will live through this, as we have lived through our cold winters and too hot summers, using our wits and our privilege to keep ourselves supplied with food that other people pick for us until those other people decide we are not worth it. Perhaps Trumps tariffs might be a good thing after all.

I have been thinking for a long time that life in Alaska is not environmentally responsible unless one has the skills and time to produce/hunt/fish/pick their own food.  Just the cost of shipping up avocados, cashew milk and ice cream that I consume in bulk makes me an abuser of resources. Then there are my trips of enormous distances by plane.  Maybe I will leave, but not yet. Not while I can have the streets to myself in a summer rain.  We shall see what happens on June 10th!

 

 

Rites of Spring

I arrived in Alaska, like many people do, in the spring. It was April 29, 1997. My roommate Fred and I got off the plane sometime between 10 and 11 pm. It was not dark, but not light. It was weird. Today it feels less weird.

After twenty odd years I am getting the hang of it. Spring begins with snow. Last week, it snowed everyday, for most of the day. Then it melts and there is trash and dirt followed by neighborhood clean up days. Neighborhood clean up days are followed by the arrival of the pirate regatta. No boats, just tents of men from somewhere else set up in the city greenbelt.

They are indeed pirates. They steal anything that isn’t nailed down. They’re mostly snowbirds, taking advantage of the warmer weather to live the wild rule free life afforded by stolen bikes, cars and the checks from unlocked mailboxes. Your trip to Anchorage would not be complete without a visit to the unsanitary dwellings of these scallywags which are conveniently located right off the Chester Creek trail, only 10 minutes walk from the myriad of downtown gift shops also waiting to rip you off.

But besides the arrival of flocks of humans we have the birds. First come the gulls, ducks, geese, swans, and grebes. I saw my first arctic terns of the season today. I have not seen a bear yet but they have been seen by others. They are probably watching me right now.

No green. In case you are wondering. Tiny buds on trees, but the bloom will happen soon. Maybe in a couple of weeks and it will be overnight, instant spring. Dandelions will pop up along with rhubarb. Perhaps the pebbles which kept my car from skidding in the winter will finally wash away instead of spitting tiny stars onto my windshield. One can only hope.

On the subject of rites, tomorrow is Walpurgis night. You may pray to St. Walpurgis to protect you from the partiers who build bonfires to keep away scary folks who gathered at The Brocken. Why gather at the Brocken? Why at Chester Creek? Who knows? Here is a photo of The Brocken Spectre, a optical illusion which surely had something to do with the fears surrounding it. Apparently the shadow of a climber can cause this.

800px-Solar_glory_and_Spectre_of_the_Brocken_from_GGB_on_07-05-2011

By Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15799557

I have yet to see a Chester Greenbelt spectre but I will keep my eyes peeled.

I have my rituals to keep away the spectre of the spring blues, different from the winter blues in that they are more agitated and hateful instead of hopeless and sleepy, I walk, attempting to see the tiniest bit of spring. I ride my bike. I try to do theatre in the spring to remind myself of joy, art, and that I am not dead yet. I will be performing a small part in Anchorage Community Theatre’s production of The Giver starting this week. The pay as you can preview is this Thursday at 7 pm. We play Thursdays through Saturdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 3 pm for three weeks. All the actors are talented and committed, the crew is extraordinarily creative and it’s a very meaningful show. You can purchase tickets here:

https://www.actalaska.org/tickets

If you are not familiar with the play, it looks like Anchorage in the spring – very gray. The Giver is a thoughtful examination of rules, sameness, safety and the erasure of history for the greater good, or not so good. There was a movie made of it with Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges. Here’s a trailer.

The play is simpler but that makes it even more frightening. One doesn’t need an orchestral score and movie stars to be shocked at how close we are to a dystopian future. Just like I don’t need to be bowled over by flowers and warmth to know it’s spring. Come by and check it out. You won’t be disappointed. Happy spring!

Survival Guide to The Anchorage Fur Rondy Experience

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Unfortunately, Fur Rondy has nothing to do with this:

fabulous furries

https://lifehacker.com/all-hotel-guests-should-behave-like-these-furries-1820990478

These particular “furries” left a large tip at the hotel where their furry convention was held.  “Fur Rondy”, alas, is about dead pelts and 2000 people running with 20 reindeer. Oh also there are many dogs pulling sleds with people on them. It’s a two week season of  sunny spring madness which forces all Anchorage residents to change the way they drive to work as well as to attend at least one officially sanctioned “Fur Rondy Event.” If you don’t wear a Fur Rondy Pin downtown, (where you will find it impossible to drive anyway), a “cop”, usually someone from The Lion’s Club, will falsely imprison you until you buy a button for bail. I have only been arrested in this way once and it was by a friend. It does not go on your record unless you are publicly drinking or smoking pot at the time.

This year I attended several Fur Rondy events which explains my current state of exhaustion. We get 5 minutes more sunshine each day and the sun no longer cruises the horizon but sits about 45 degrees above the edge of the earth bringing us a dose of solar energy similar to a niacin rush. If you have bipolar disorder you may want to take out some trip insurance.

I cross country skied over to Campbell Airstrip to watch dog teams zip by, attended a skating party with  hip hop remixes of all the pop songs of my youth. I crammed our company van onto a skinny path parallel to the Iditarod dog trail to make sure the older and less physically snow- able folks we care for had a chance to take part in the fun. My backing out of the parking space got the most (nervous) laughs.

I’ve blogged about Fur Rondy before. At first I took the event at face value, as a winter carnival.  It’s actually a spring fever/Mardi Gras/Equinox, anti-suicide intervention thing. Fur Rondy screams, “Get out of the house you the people who have chosen to live in unfriendly climes!”  Folks wear over-the- top fur hats and coats because they’re going to have to put them away pretty soon. It’s a time for outhouse races, blanket toss, ice bowling and Duck Tape costume balls.  This is Anchorage at its goofiest and least costly as many events are free or at least free to watch. It’s not cold enough to kill you and there aren’t enough tourists for the locals to want to kill you. Reminder: everyone is carrying a firearm except for you and maybe those Keystone cops.

I tend to stay out too long and have too much fun which means I suffer sunburn in the summer and near hypothermia each winter.  It’s probably safer for someone like me to live in a town that serves wine and cheese at indoor events instead of hot chocolate and cookies by a trash barrel full of flaming logs on an icy wind ridden lagoon. But we all find places we feel at home whether wearing real or fake fur. I keep trying to escape but I just can’t seem to find a weirder place. I do hope there is someone clever enough to schedule a Furry Convention during the Rondy next year. Just think how comfortable your  Fursuits will be!

 

Advice from Alaska on how to deal with a Polar Vortex

 

It is generally colder here in Alaska than in your backyard so we would like to help you survive the next few days of POLAR VORTEX. We don’t have POLAR VORTEX here but we do have The Arctic Circle and the record for the coldest temperature in the United States, (-80 degrees F in the 1970’s.)

Chances are you SHOULD NOT GO SWIMMING TOMORROW, EVEN AT THE POOL.  Your hair, if not dried completely, will get all frozen when you walk out and you will look like Doc Brown. At some point, dry thirsty hair will bite back by shocking  you with static electricity which could kill you, when and if it is the form of lightening, so LOOK OUT!

Your lips will get incredibly chapped. DON’T LICK THEM! Your tongue may stick to them, no just kidding. Slather on the lip balm which your grocery and drug store will run out of in 35 minutes from this posting. Also your legs will itch uncontrollably and you WILL break out in a weird rash of red bumps on your torso. I would show you a picture of my cold weather rash but it is all gone because it is a balmy 32 degrees and snowing here in Anchorage. Slather on the moisturizer or shortening or lard if necessary.  Do not go to the emergency room. This is not Shingles.

The freezing point is  the weather we prefer here. It is perfect. You will soon agree.  Although 20 degrees is better for ice skating which is only done outdoors here. If you go ice skating in minus 20 degrees F, as I have done on occasion, you may find your nose is running and wipe it on your mitten. Only you will find blood all over you as your nasal membranes may burst. This is not a medical emergency, just poor judgement.

I saw this  headline posted online

Experts Are Warning People Not To Breathe Deeply Or Talk Outside Ahead Of The Polar Vortex

I traced it down to this website:

Experts Are Warning People Not To Breathe Deeply Or Talk Outside Ahead Of The Polar Vortex

Uproxx

who in term attributed it to The National Weather Service in Des Moines, Iowa.  I combed through the NWS Iowa site and saw no mention of silence or walking backwards while throwing salt over your shoulder in order that the POLAR VORTEX shall not strike you dead with its Mighty Ice Scythe.

Truth be that this map was also featured on the Uproxx site:

I’m not so sure I can take this site seriously as Alaska and Hawaii are not even accounted for. Hawaii and Alaska might just say, ” Yo! You want those Smallpox blankets back?”

As far as not breathing deeply outside, you can accomplish that easily by inducing a panic attack which involves shallow breathing.  Start thinking about Trump or your retirement account, what’s left of it, or your diet before going outside.  Panic is your friend. Remember if you turn blue, faint and break your head open it probably isn’t from the cold but from your lack of breathing. God forbid you wear a scarf or face mask. JUST DON’T TALK. THE POLAR VORTEX STALKS PEOPLE WHO TALK! JUST SHUT UP FOR GODSAKES AND LIVE TO TALK ABOUT IT!

Here’s some more unsolicited advice from Alaska. DO GO OUTSIDE! IF YOU DO NOT, EVERYONE FROM WORK WILL HAVE A STORY ABOUT HOW COLD IT WAS BUT YOU AND YOU WILL HAVE NOTHING TO TELL YOUR KIDS WHEN THEY COMPLAIN ABOUT HOW HOT IT IS THIS SUMMER.  Best to walk to the store and buy some ice cream. That is something to be able to write on your tombstone.

Also there will be things you want to purchase for this event such as Touchscreen gloves. Do not even think of it. These do not work in Alaska, maybe because we have sketchy internet service or maybe because IT’S TOO COLD!!  Your fingers will fall off in those wimpy gloves. Touch screen mittens would be a better idea but then you would need a phone like this:

phone 2

which is traditionally used indoors.

In Alaska we do tend to wave conversations inside when it gets too cold. We wear layers or if you are pretentious you buy high tech polar clothing even if you don’t work outside.  We plug in our cars and the people with the high tech polar clothing have remote car starters and seat warmers. Most adults go outside each day no matter how cold it is because we are insane but recess is cancelled because little children don’t know how to slow down in the cold. We don’t do marathon training in that kind of weather but we also don’t call in sick from work or people will laugh at us. People have been know to go camping in minus twenty and sleep in snow shelters for fun.

Enjoy your POLAR VORTEX. Don’t die. Don’t stop breathing and remember that silence won’t save you. THE POLAR VORTEX CAN READ YOUR MIND! Alsoif you do happen to get the day off, consider pairing with a co-worker and driving to the store or foodbank or just to a local bus stop and offering folks a ride home or wherever. It will warm your heart if nothing else.