Stay tuned (patiently) as we occasionally throw updates on here about what steps we're taking to get to our end goals, DIY tricks and life-hacks, child-rearing tactics (strategery), etc.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Malcolm the Captain and the Blustery Cove

Today was an interestin day meteorologically. Big word. Twenty points to me. We had a high tide of nineteen feet this afternoon, which brought all of the boats in the city harbors up to street level. there were flooded parking lots all over the place. According to all of the tide books, Thanksgiving will bring us a nineteen point two foot high tide. It's very neat to see.

Tonight my phone beeped at me to let me know of a weather advisory. We're expecting fifty mile per hour gusts of wind tonight as a front moves through. Some gusts could get into the seventy mile per hour strength, and in channelled areas a few miles north, eighty five miles per hour. If you think about it, that's almost hurricane strength!

I had to come home a few minutes early today to tack some tar paper onto the side of the house that needs siding. It sounds and feels like I did that just in the nick of time. Our kitchen window was just starting to lak a little bit where the wind had previously tore some of the tar paper off. The disadvantage to renting a house is being unable to fix your own stuff. Still, I was glad to get out and put that tar paper up at least. That made me feel productive.

The Political Game

The politics here are unlike politics back home in Colorado. For starters, we're a much smaller state, demographically, with lots of industry. To put this into perspective, because of the revenue the state gets from fishing, oil, and lumber, the state is running a budget surplus, even factoring in the infamous Permanent Fund Dividend, which granted each Alaskan around $1,170 this year. (No, we get it next year. You have to be here a full year to qualify.)

Locally, the closest city is Ketchikan, seat of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Here in Alaska, we have boroughs and census-designated areas instead of counties like most of the lower 48. Alaska doesn't have a lot of boroughs. In fact, a very significant portion of the state is unorganized, meaning it falls directly under state jurisdiction. Some nearby cities, like Sitka, Juneau, and Yakutat (I use nearby in relative terms, they're hundreds of miles away from us here) are consolidated into City-Boroughs, much like Denver is a City-County.

Like cities elsewhere, Ketchikan has a city council and a mayor. The borough, however, has an assembly and a mayor as well, unlike counties down south, which have commissioners. Borough residents here often feel cheated, as so much of their commerce and taxation takes place in cities, regardless of whether or not they actually reside in them, and they can't vote for politicians that make the rules for those taxes. Hence the move nearby to consolidate into City-Boroughs.

It's very intriguing to me how the machine works up here. I hope to elaborate on the state and federal sides of things later. For now, I hope you learned a little bit, and I'll keep writing as often as I can.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Still Going

It's funny to me that, as a process, the blogging has become increasingly difficult. Without internet connection at my house for months and months, it's been hard for me to get excited or even motivated to sit down and hammer out something meaningful or useful on my smart phone, even with a hard keyboard at my disposal. The closest I've come in a while has been documenting my ferry trip on the M/V Columbia, which was a wonderful adventure, but an adventure that has been a tiny ray of light in a world deceptively seeming much darker than it truly is.

With a boy growing every day right before my eyes, a community around me that is compassionate and caring, and friends and family near and far who are constantly doing things to enrich their own lives and mine by proxy, my limited usual focus on those things which would be considered "awe inspiring" has seriously condensed the contents of this blog. This limited scope, conspiring with the self-inflicted unmotivation of actually blogging about anything, have left this blog empty, a shell of what it was when I was actually living in a 1994 GMC Safari and adding thirty posts a month to this.

I like to say that I'll keep writing, that I've had some huge life-changing experience that has me going further in potential blogging, but until the thumbs hit the keys on this tiny phone, I haven't really shown anyone anything of note, other than my own stagnation.

Suffice to say, I've finally managed to produce a blog about nothing, a blog that needs to change for the better, and I can only hope that typing this out and focing myself to read it shocks me into knowing what I'm capable of as a writer, an explorer, a friend, and a seeker of a larger and undefinable personal truth.  Hopefully the few of you still reading this can relate somhow in your own lives to that feeling and cut me a little undeserved slack, and, hopefully, that's rewarded with some head-out-of my-own-ass determination to make this a more interesting blog.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Humility, Gratitude, and the Force

I know sometimes it seems as though I'm beating a dead horse when I have my quaint epiphanies about life, things I've discovered, how much it's changed me, et cetera.  Truth be told, I do feel lots of things, some monumental in their scope and nature, and while it does effect me, I don't take with me the lasting implications of those events nearly as often as I should.  I suppose, in many ways, because of the course my life has taken, I don't believe I've really had the spine for it. It's very hard to take stock of the things you have and apply things you know you should have but push you outside of your comfort zone.

I have been humbled by my own poor decisions more times than I care to meet. Somehow, maybe out of sheer loyalty to my friends and family, I have been graced to have somehow plucked good people out of the world and dropped them into my life for however long. Sometimes they've only been around for a year or two. Sometimes a week or two. Others I still communicate after almost a quarter of a century since we've first met.  The friendships I've found are usually lasting friendships, the kinds that include memories of good and of bad times.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Adventures on the M/V Columbia

Two nights ago, I set out for Ketchikan on the largest ship of the Alaska Marine Highway System Fleet, the M/V Columbia. At over four hundred feet long, she's a large ship, and she seems to have a very thorough crew, including one young man who wears his hear and sideburns in accordance to styles of the early twentieth century. He has the suspenders to boot. He doesn't say much, though, despite more than one attempt to solicit conversation.

At any rate, despite waiting for two hours in Bellingham in the eighty degree muggy heat to board, we still left on time. On our way out of the harbor, Mt. Rainier rose to great prominence over the Washington terrain. We gently motored south, out of the bay, and turned north around a point to starboard, heading for our destination.

I confess, I went to the Columbia's cocktail lounge straight away, mostly out of curiousity, but also to have a drink with my new friend, the ship itself. The lounge, a product of the late nineteen-seventies, was dimly lit, adorned with cherry or mohogony tabletops and red, leather-esqe cushions in the booths. From the ceiling hung hundreds of clustered globe-lights, the sort you would see in bathrooms over a mirror, except dimmed considerably. The centerpiece of the lounge was a large tube television display that showed the same radar readout that was displayed on the bridge.

After the lounge, I returned to the Solarium on Deck Eight, the Bridge Deck, the top of the ship. I set up my bed, and then sat at the rear, putting my feet up on the rail, and enjoying the view. The sun slowly set to our port side, and under the cover of the Solarium roof, the electric heaters came to life. Still tired from my marathon drive (Denver to Bellingham in less than twenty-four hours), I made my bed and fell asleep.

The next morning, I rose with the first hint of sunlight. It was only four-thirty, but the coffee was brewed down in the Snack Bar. I got a hot cup and donned a long sleeve shirt and my favorite hat, a beanie my dad had given me over twenty years ago. Again, I returned to the rear deck, enjoying my black coffee and the view that made the taste as sweet as hot chocolate. After half an hour or so, the sun was showing through, and dolphins of a type unknown to me began surfing the wake off the port bow. They looked similar to the famous bottlenose dolphins you see in movies, but I'm not as familiar as I could be with the dolphins of British Columbia. As people gathered to enjoy the show, I returned to my bed, propping it up to enjoy a book lent to me by a friend back home.

As I began to read, I looked up to notice a thick fog had rolled in. Just as I had done so, the ships fog-horn blew, and I felt confident that the experienced crew, not I, the Chechako, were piloting this heavy metal beast through the narrow passages around the thousands of islands that make up the Alexander Archipelago.

I went to refill my coffee, and then returned to my book. With the fog hiding the wonderous distractions of islands and wildlife, I decided to sit, write some of my experiences here, and then return to my book.

I read for a few hours, and then the fog lifted, and the sun shone brightly in front of blue skies. Humpback whales were lobster-tailing off both sides of the ship. Passengers all flocked to the top decks with their cameras, hoping to catch a glimpse, but the time the word was out, the whales were too far off.

I went to the balcony as we motored slowly, passing Bella Bella and the BC Ferry Northern Exposure. It looked like a cruise ship next to our luxury liner of days past. Still, comparable in size, and sailing in the opposite direction, we waved at our Canadian counterparts.

I proceeded downstairs two deck to the prosser's desk and found our place on the map. Then I went up one deck to relax and take in Gulliver's Travels with Jack Black in the theater lounge. It makes me anxious to see my family.

I went out to the port starboard sie as we passed a tiny lighthouse bearing Canada's flag on it's pole. The captain blew the horn, hoping to solicit the lonesome keeper to the deck for the a wave. After nobody appreared, the captain got on he PA and declaired that he must have gone to CostCo. My theory is that if he took a job with that much isolation, he probably doesn't want cruise ships and ferries blowing his horn every time they sail by. He was probably in his living room avoiding the nonsense.

The sun gently set behind us as the moon rose off the starboard. Being nearly full, the moon was a sight to behold.  This huge, orange orb seemed to hang just oer he mountains, as if ptiently waiting to answer a prayer or light the way for some wayward traveller.

I returned to the Solarium where I promptly fell asleep, though early (only six-thirty). I slept long and hard, and woke up with the sun barely scraping the black of the dawn sky. I shot up, folded my blankets, and went downstairs to check the radar, filling my coffee along the way. I found our location, sailing north past the inside of Mary Island. We had made it back to the United States! I grabbed my stuff, turned my cell phone back on, and quickly updated my Facebook page to "State of Alaska". I had been updating it with every city I had passed through since Rawlings, Wyoming.

Now with only one more update to go, the excitement slowly started to build. I can see Revillagigedo Island, my home, and I can see Gravina and Annette Islands. I was almost there!

The PA sounded, and those disembarking had waited in the stairwell, anxious to get down to the car deck and leave. For many, this was simply a stop on the way to Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, Haines, or Skagway. For those of us from Ketchikan, we were home. I loaded up in my van, and carefully backed it out in the ferry bay and then proceeded up the ramp to dry land. Ketchikan was beautiful. The sun was shining and warming. I was home.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Police!

How long did I live in ny van? Yes, yes, I usually parked in places that were legal parking ares but sometimes I didn't. I never got approached by the police. Even in January, here, I stayed in the same spot and didn't even see a cop.

Tonight was different. I'm sleeping soundly when I wake up to a gentle tap on the window. "Sir, you are aware this an 8 hour parking zone?" "Yssir, I parked here at 10:00 tonight. I was hoping to sleep until the morning.  I have a ferry to catch in the morning." "Are you taking the vehicle with you?" "Are you kidding? My wife would kill me if I left all of our stuff in Bellingham." I proceeded to show him my ferry ticket, which included passage for a vehicle. "Thanks. Just wanted to make sure."

Interesting plce, Bellingham. The finest need to make sure people who have parked for an hour in an 8 hour zone aren't going to abandon their vehicles and tear away to Alaska. The state of things isn't THAT bad is it? Or is it?

He left, and now I'm going back to sleep.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Latest Cross-Country Trek

A few days ago, I flew back to Denver to visit with friends and family, load up some straggling odds and ends, and drive my old BattleWagon 2 back to the Great Wet North. The ominous circumstances that surrounded this trip began early.

For example, in making a trip to pick up some stuff from someone who I've had a sort of falling-out with, I managed to destroy my alternator. It didn't simply stop working as they often do. I destroyed it. My brother and I heard the serpentine belt come off. Then we smelled the burnt, greasy metal. When we pulled over to investigate, smoke seeped out of the engine compartment. Once the hood was unlatched, we noticed flames coming from the molten-metal hole where the alternator used to exist. The core was resting on a hose that belonged to the power steering pump system. It was in disrepair, to say the least. What did I do about it? Walked over to the local general store/cafe and bought myself a beer, of course. It was a nut brown, and it struck me as bitter and hoppy, but it had alcohol and carbonation, which worked for me.

Thanks to the good graces of very noble and generous family members, it was taken care of, reanimated from the realm of junk-yard living spaces for the homeless. I left the next day.

What followed was a whrilwind of friends, meals, video games, chores, playing with my "nephew", holding my "neice -or- future daughter-in-law", calling everyone who wanted a ride somewhere up north, and finally settling on picking up a hitch-hiker as a last ditch effort for some company.

That plan was solid gold. Met an interesting young man named Vincent, a starving 24-year-old artist who spends time wherever he lands. His mission was to get from Boulder to Olympia to see about a girl. He gave me some money and one of his water-colors, called me "wise" after a theological/political/state-of-the-world/late-night-on-caffiene conversation.

The radio was dead, so I listened to several choice items from my phone's tiny database of music, including Radiohead, Caspian, Band of Horses, and The Helium Arch, a one-man band built by Bob Niles, my former production manager at my last straight job before SignPro. Maybe that contributed to my afore-mentioned "wisdom". I don't really know.

Don't drive on sidewalks on college campuses. They have a habit of making you think they're actually roads.  They're not.

I left Denver at 10:15ish yesterday morning, but I mentally checked out the night before in my head to find ride buddies on craigslist. Because of that, I missed tacos with a good friend of mine. Because I had to leave yesterday, I missed a get-together with another good friend of mine.

I got here around 9:00 this morning. That's 15 minutes shy of 24 hours to drive amost 2,000 miles. Last time it took me 21 hours before I passed out, and I still had almost 300 miles to go. I think I established myself as a D.P.B.A.: Driver, Pretty Bad-Ass.

Attention people of Seattle: the left lane is for passing cars in the right lane. In order to pass (or overtake, as some call it), one must drive their car FASTER than the opposing car. Seriously, I drove for miles behind some jerk in an '81 Corvette because he couldn't slow down or speed up for two seconds to move over. All he did was give a thumbs-up to some other guy in a '68 Camaro... at least the Camaro driver was in the slow lane. Sigh.

What else do I have to rant about? Let me think. Oh! People of craigslist: if you commit to going on a trip to Seattle with a stranger, even to the point of spelling out how you're going to pay for your share, asking what beers would help best to ease tensions, saying you're excited for the adveture with a new buddy, maybe... I don't know... DO IT!

Last, but certainly not least, attention all douche-bag kids: you know exactly who you are, and that's what makes you a punk. You parents, while sometimes they may just blow it at parents, they don't suck. They will wind up bailing your tough-guy self into your thirties and then. Some, apparently. Just because they let you take your time in figuring your shit out doesn't mean you have to. Get off your ass and do something hat doesn't involve how awesome you think you are (douche-bag), and when you're done, try, I don't know, maybe letting your parents know that the things they've done for you were noted, appreciated, and returned whe they need to be bailed out...

...

...unless, of course, your parents are douche-bags, too. Then screw them, prove to them that you're better you OR they thought you ever would be.

Wow, what a tangent. Boat times coming up. "It was more of an exposure."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Got the blog back on the mobile justice! It's gonna be a good day!