Zippy and I just returned from a skate-skiing trip to the mountains. He’s currently soaking in an epsom salt bath to alleviate the aches and pains associated with two days of skate-skiing after YEARS away from the activity.
I’d like to write more about my skate-skiing experiences in Anchorage plus this most recent outing, but am too tired to tackle it today. I’ll just put a photo from this morning’s session right here as a placeholder.
It was a glorious day at Snow Mountain Ranch.
When I lived in Alaska I went to Denali National Park a number of times. You can ride one of the old school buses through the entire park (80+ miles) to the end point which is Wonder Lake. The vistas are magnificent and there’s lots of wildlife to be seen along the way. Moose and Dall’s sheep, maybe a lone wolf galloping along or a brown bear with a cub or two. Ground squirrels and scolding marmots. One of my first rides on the bumpy dirt road was in the company of another visitor who became quite animated at the sight of some moose. There was also a group of park workers on the bus and one of them scoffed at the visitor’s excitement and said something like “You’ve seen one moose, you’ve seen them all.”
I remember feeling bad for that worker and hoping I’d never become bored by what I saw. And so it was in that spirit that I photographed these two squirrels in Kapok Park earlier this month.
I watched in delight as they chased each other around a tree trunk before jumping to the ground where they began to forage. There are certainly more “exotic” creatures in the park such as alligators and anhingas, but these feisty squirrels also caught my attention.
I hereby declare “mundane” be reserved for chores like dirty dishes and suggest that squirrels be viewed as Great Fun! Who’s with me?
The only two things you can truly depend upon are gravity and greed.
~ Jack Palance
Zippy has started the task of scanning photo negatives from long ago. Right now he’s revisiting July of 1992 when we lived in Alaska and one of his sisters was visiting. We did a boat tour in Kenai Fjords National Park where we saw this handsome sea lion:
Because we have approximately one metric shit-ton of negatives we haven’t looked at in years, I’m guessing we’ll unearth more sea lion photos from our time in Alaska. That means there’s a very good chance I could begin posting one every Saturday, and #SeaLionSaturday could become a real thing. (Especially if 50 people started joining me in posting sea lion photos each Saturday. Friends, they might think it’s a movement!)
All I’m saying is that #Caturday isn’t the only catchy hashtag.
Zippy and I got married on Hatcher Pass in Alaska on August 15, 1992. My childhood friend, my best friend, Scott, served as our marriage commissioner and performed our ceremony.
Anne, whom we’d we met in a black and white photography class at UAA, was our close friend who acted as the hardworking wedding photographer. Bob and Liz were adventurous friends Zippy called a week in advance to ask to be our witnesses.
It was a bit chilly up there on the pass, but the day’s emotions kept me warm. Here we are with Scott and Anne when she got a brief respite from photography duties.
And here we are with Scott who’d traveled from Colorado to Alaska to officiate at our wedding despite serious health issues. He died in late December of that year.
I miss him so. But twenty-four years ago today, he helped bring a whole lotta love and laughter. All our friends made it a truly wonderful day.
Happy Anniversary, Zippy.
I love you.
When Zippy and I lived in Anchorage, we took a black and white photography class at UAA. Our instructor (hey, Bob!), learned I was originally from Wisconsin and asked if I’d ever read WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP. I had not. But I filed the title away in the dim recesses of my brain until a couple weeks ago when I came across the book while doing research.
From Wikipedia: “[Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy] is based on a collection of late 19th century photographs by Jackson County, Wisconsin photographer Charles Van Schaick, mostly in the city of Black River Falls, and local news reports from the same period. It emphasizes the harsh aspects of Midwestern rural life under the pressures of crime, disease, mental illness, and urbanization.”
This book dispels any notions about “the good old days,” with its pages of matter-of-fact newspaper accounts of death and insanity. It boggles the mind to contemplate living in that time and place, and the grim expressions in the photographs make me ache for everything those people endured. It’s not easy to read, yet the book is incredibly compelling; I feel almost obligated to finish it as a sort of tribute to them and their monumentally difficult lives. (One newspaper excerpt mentioned the small town where I grew up. A grave was excavated — the article didn’t say why — and when the coffin was opened, it was discovered the woman had shifted position inside because she’d been accidentally buried alive. As if life above ground wasn’t horrible enough during that time . . .)
What’s the takeaway from all this? I’m very grateful I did not live in Wisconsin in the late 1800s because I’m quite sure there’d be a notice in the newspaper about my admittance to the state psychiatric hospital. Unless I took the attitude of Mary “The Window Smasher” Sweeny, and broke plate glass windows wherever and whenever I had the chance.
In light of all I’ve read about life back then, smashing glass seems like a relatively healthy coping mechanism.
Years ago, my mother bought me a multi-colored wool sweater from L.L. Bean. I wore it often when substitute teaching in Anchorage, and sometimes felt too warm but still loved it because wool seems to provide a psychological barrier against cold and dark. At least, that’s how I see it.
A year or two later, I purchased a longer/larger wool sweater while at the Alaska State Fair. It was made with different shades of blue and purple yarn, and every time I put it on, remembered that day at the fair. Specifically, riding the Scrambler with Zippy, laughing while our friends Anne and Jim (who I hoped to make a couple) rode in another car and blushingly struggled to maintain some distance between them as the laws of physics smushed them together.
About ten years ago I went to the People’s Fair in Denver on a hot, hot summer day and, in a fit of counter-intuitive behavior, tried on wool sweaters. I ended up buying a black and white one that was handmade in Ecuador, a stunning sweater that came with a jaunty little hat. I couldn’t wait for the temperatures to drop. Later that winter I wore my new sweater across the street to my neighbors’ house where a bunch of people shouted SURPRISE! and squirted me with silly string to help celebrate my 40th birthday.
Beautiful sweaters, all.
I kept them in my closet in Anchorage and then here in Colorado, up on a shelf for easy access. Then one day I decided to put them in a zippered bag and store that bag in a bin beneath my bed. Last weekend I got cold and went to the storage bin for my large made-in-Alaska sweater. I pulled it out and put it on, thinking something felt different. As I walked back down the hallway, a wooden button dropped from the sweater. I ran my hands over the wool and realized it’d changed.
MOTHS! CATERPILLARS! DESTRUCTION! EWW!
Apparently I’d sealed my sweaters away for safekeeping with a moth who got very lucky. And very busy.
I said goodbye to those glorious wool sweaters and threw them in the garbage, encased in their zipper bag. However, I’m still having difficulty getting that imagery and tactile sensation out of my mind, and it doesn’t help that I found a caterpillar in my cleavage a few minutes after putting on the sweater. (Like I said, EWW!)
All that’s left is my little hat. Still out on the deck because I’ve been afraid to bring it back inside. Here it is in all it’s Ecuadoran wool glory:
Today marks 20 years of marriage for Zippy and me
and I wanted to share photos of that day on Hatcher Pass in Alaska.
It was an intimate ceremony: Zippy and me, Witnesses Bob and Liz,
Photographer Anne, and Marriage Commissioner Scott.
Polaroid shot of preparations in the chilly weather (rain coats necessary).
Scott performing the ceremony in his role as Marriage Commissioner.
(He and I were forever-friends, next to each other in our kindergarten class photo).
Scott surprised us with a gift of seed beads and additional words of love.
We were blissfully unaware of the tourists in the background watching and photographing us.
Photographer Anne took a break from her camera and joined us for some pics.
It was a wonderful day and I thank our friends again for being there for us,
especially Scott who died of AIDS complications four months later. He traveled
all that way in poor health to perform our ceremony (and despite his threats to
the contrary, did not pronounce us “man and wife,” but “husband and wife.” Thank
It’s hard to believe so many years have already flown past.
Happy Anniversary, Zippy.
May there always be love.
1) Zebu was born in Anchorage, Alaska, fourteen years ago today
after twenty-six hours of labor from which I went temporarily AWOL.
2) I’d planned a home birth but since Zebu was early, law dictated I had to be in the hospital,
which is one of my least favorite places on the planet.
3) But I coped by going out on the grounds with my friend, A, who coached me through
contractions as we watched a moose ramble around.
4) We found out later the nurses were paging me over and over, but I eventually returned to my room
and they didn’t yell all that much.
5) After many more hours of labor, my beautiful Zebu was born, and today we celebrate him.
One constant over the years is Zebu’s robust dislike for having his picture taken.
Back when I lived in Alaska, a guy named Mike Doogan wrote a column for the Anchorage Daily News. He was funny and took swipes at most everyone and everything. I liked reading his column. Then one day he announced his "I Want to Write Like Mike" contest in which readers were encouraged to write and submit columns of their own. He chose three winners and mine was one of them. My column, something to do with litter found along hiking trails, ran below the fold in the Sunday edition of the paper. I was very excited and grateful to Mike for the opportunity. Soon after, I landed a guest columnist slot at the paper. I’ve always thought of my little "Mike" victory as the confidence booster I needed to write and submit my work.
Some time after we left Alaska, Mike Doogan was elected to the Alaskan legislature. He’s now a Democratic house representative for people in Anchorage. When Zippy and I found out, we laughed but weren’t too surprised; the Alaska political scene has always been strange.
This past weekend Alaska politics took another bizarre twist.
Representative Mike Doogan decided to out an anonymous political blogger.
AKMuckraker via The Mudflats: Tiptoeing Through the Muck of Alaskan Politics, came to national attention during the 2008 campaign when John McCain selected AK governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. AKMuckraker wrote about Gov Palin’s job performance and the many sticky ethical issues surrounding Palin and her family. The Mudflats educated voters in a way no other media did.
It seems Rep Mike Doogan didn’t have a problem with AKMuckraker going after Palin (in fact, he penned his own column on the subject.) Doogan got his knickers in a knot when AKMuckraker wrote about Rep Doogan’s rude, dismissive emails to constituents. That’s when Doogan made it his duty to figure out the identify of the person behind The Mudflats. Even though, as AKMuckraker stated in a post this weekend:
It said in my “About” page that I choose to remain anonymous. I didn’t tell anyone why. I might be a state employee. I might not want my children to get grief at school. I might be fleeing from an ex-partner who was abusive and would rather he not know where I am. My family might not want to talk to me anymore. I might alienate my best friend. Maybe I don’t feel like having a brick thrown through my window. My spouse might work for the Palin administration. Maybe I’d just rather people not know where I live or where I work. Or none of those things may be true. None of my readers, nor Mike Doogan had any idea what my personal circumstances might be. But that didn’t seem to matter.
Doogan didn’t care about AKMuckraker’s privacy. Doogan decided it was more important to use his resources as an elected official to play private eye and then broadcast his findings in a legislative newsletter.
I don’t know what happened to the Mike Doogan who gave me a huge boost. I don’t know the source of his anger and bitterness. But I do know that in launching an assault against free speech and the first amendment, Doogan changed my mind: I no longer want to write like Mike.
During last night’s vice-presidential debate, Gov Palin gave a folksy (gag) shout-out to her brother who teaches at Gladys Wood Elementary.
Gladys Wood Elementary?
I just checked my file and yes, indeed, when living in Anchorage I subbed there. Not only that, the school’s principal called me at home and asked me not to come back the next day after the out-of-control kids complained to their parents about me saying I’d rather take my dog to an assembly than them.
Palin keeps reminding me of so many fond memories of Alaska: yearly oil bribe (Permanent Fund Dividend check), machine gunning wolves from airplanes, whack-job politicians, driving around in the icy dark trying to locate the school for that day’s sub assignment, “hunters” demanding they be allowed to shoot moose from the side of the highways, whack-job politicians, gun racks in every truck . . .
I’m hunkered down in the revision cave but am poking out my head to offer this extremely heartening link:
Having lived in Alaska and done my share of political work outside the Loussac Library in Anchorage, I was thrilled to see photographic proof of the profusion of anti-Palin/anti-McCain signs! Alaska doesn’t rally in big numbers. Ever.
Since this story isn’t getting much coverage, please feel free to post and forward this information so people understand that the supposed groundswell of support for Governor Palin is a myth.
(Am cross-posting so apologies to those who get this twice)
I stayed true to my writing plan today and did not turn on my desk top computer (aka internet connection) until I’d written 1000 words. And what was my reward?
Oh, happy day!
Ted and I go way back.
When I lived in Anchorage I worked hard to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling. One cold, winter day I stood in front of the library with another volunteer and gathered signatures on a petition calling for protection of the Arctic Refuge. For those of you who have petitioned, you know how it is: you launch into your spiel as soon as someone comes close and if that person isn’t interested, you turn to the next and start over. You don’t pause to think because you’re on automatic pilot. Zippy could’ve walked up and I would have been halfway through my pitch before realizing who I was talking to.
You can guess where this is headed.
I was just turning away from another person when an angry little white man in a suit came walking up. I said, “Hello, would you like to sign a petition to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling?”
Angry Little White Man In a Suit replied, “I’m Senator Ted Stevens. Stop wasting my time.”
As he stalked away, I contemplated shouting “You look taller on television!”
I’ve always regretted that temporary lapse into maturity. But that wasn’t my only regret. The Anchorage Daily News refused to print my letter to the editor about the encounter with “my” representative. The editor said I would hurt my “cause” by admitting I hadn’t recognized the legendary Senator Stevens. (I didn’t even try the other paper – the Anchorage Times because it was owned by oil patch executive Bill Allen. If you read today’s indictment article, you’ll see Bill’s name mentioned a few times. Ahem.)
Anyway, I know it’s bad form to gloat, but that’s what I’m doing. In this era, it’s especially gratifying when the arrogant greed-heads get what’s coming to them.