Monthly Archives: August 2011

A Bad Day on Fairbanks Roads

I was driving on Airport Road yesterday near downtown. I never drive Airport, because the road has stop lights. I live in Fairbanks, why would I seek out stop lights? There are options.
Unfortunately, there was a wreck at the intersection with Cushman. The police were already there, and traffic cones were put out to vear traffic. One of Fairbanks’ Finest was throwing a temper tantrum over a cone that was knocked over. That was a tad embarrassing: Acting like a two year old in public may reflect well on North Pole, but not on Fairbanks. I wasn’t impressed.

Then I saw the motorcycle. It was fairly messed up after getting hit by a full size pickup, but I was hoping not enough to cause any serious injuries. The rider, it turns out, was from Japan. He was riding the Pan-American with a companion, who was on a separate bike. They had just returned from riding the Haul Road down from Deadhorse, and were going to the Visitor Center to find camping info when the second rider through the intersection was hit. He died on the way to the hospital. Damn. We get quite a few motorcycle fatalities in Alaska, so I’m never surprised by them. I guess it’s the fact that he just completed the Pan-American and was headed back south that makes it worse than usual. Damn.
As of this writing, the police have not stated how the accident happened, or who…if anyone…was at fault.

Earlier in the day, an 11 year old kid walking to school, was also hit by a car. He was actually in the cross walk with an attendent one block from school when a car ran a stop sign, ran up over the curb and at some point even drove through a hedge and hit the kid. He also died at the hospital. There is no doubt, in this case, who was at fault. Honestly folks, can we at least make some effort at paying attention here? There is no excuse for this in Fairbanks, Alaska. We have no traffic, there is no reason to be in a hurry, and the cell coverage sucks anyway, so just put that damn phone away while you are driving.
This isn’t rocket science.

Update: The driver of the truck was not at fault in the motorcycle death. Both vehicles had a green or yellow light.


The World Don’t Owe Me Nothin’

Honeyboy Edwards – Gamblin\' Man

Honeyboy Edwards, the Last of the Great Delta Bluesmen, died Monday in Chicago at the age of 96.

“You could play the blues like it was a lonesome thing – it was a feeling. The blues is nothing but a story. … The verses which are sung in the blues is a true story, what people are doing … what they all went through. It’s not just a song, see?” Honeyboy Edwards in 1998


New Camera Cause Trails To Call

Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.
— Yousuf Karsh

Rain again today.

A paint job that was scheduled for Monday, was canceled completely, because the customers freaked out over the stock market and the economy. I never asked who they worked for, since the economy in Fairbanks is quite strong, but the worry up here in Alaska is that the problems in the Lower 48 will eventually mess with us up here. Still, backing out three days before the start of a job, is a tad inconsiderate.

So I suddenly have a week off. Which may not be such a bad thing in the grand scheme of my sanity.

I picked up the above Kodak a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been anxious to get it out on a trail anyway. It’s the last bellows camera made by Kodak, and a 120 shooter. One has to “cock” the shutter before pulling the trigger, which is an odd fact in a camera, that I simply find cool as hell. It’s almost as good as driving an old Rover.

Levers add character.

So I have a bunch of 120 film for the old Rollei, which has developed shutter issues of its own, and I have a week off, and a full tank of gas in the Beetle. All signs point to me wandering down a trail or two.

Now if we could only get a break from this rain.


Where’s Mama?

Driving the Bug up to the cabin, I spotted two ears sticking up above the fireweed. I slowed to a stop, the Beetle puttering as only an old VeeDub can, and found two dark eyes peering at me through the green leaves. Moose. I moved the car forward, and the gangly youngster ran out in front of the Bug’s bumper, with a willow branch still hanging from its mouth.

I parked the car, climbed out, and looked around for the mother. “I know you’re around here somewhere,” I said aloud as I walked up the path. I could hear the calf up ahead and figured the cow must be up there as well.

She was.

I took a few pics with the cellphone, and as you can see, the calf was a bit camera shy. To be fair, the little moose was still shorter than the fireweed. Both moose went back to eating once they realized that I was not a threat, so I watched them for a while. I was going to go for a better camera, but it quickly became obvious that they were not going to give me a better shot anyway. So I went about my business, and they went about theirs: Eating everything green in sight.


I’m in a Squirrelly Mood…

…and nothing good can come of it either.


John Haines

“The physical domain of the country had its counterpart in me. The trails I made led outward into the hills and swamps, but they led inward also. And from the study of things underfoot, and from reading and thinking, came a kind of exploration, myself and the land. In time the two became one in my mind. With the gathering force of an essential thing realizing itself out of early ground, I faced in myself a passionate and tenacious longing—to put away all thought forever, and all the trouble it brings, all but the nearest desire, direct and searching. To take the trail and not look back. Whether on foot, on snowshoes or by sled, into the summer hills and their late freezing shadows—a high blaze, a runner track in the snow would show where I had gone. Let the rest of mankind find me if it could.”
— John Haines

John Haines died in Fairbanks this spring when I was off traveling. I had no idea until today. I had heard of Haines ever since I landed in Alaska, but I hadn’t read his work until a good friend gave me a copy of “The Stars, The Snow, The Fire”. I’ve been searching out his work ever since. The man, more than any other writer I have read, captured the essence of Alaska.
Haines drove up to Alaska in 1947 and bought a homestead out towards Delta Junction. He built his cabin by hand out of salvaged lumber and homesteaded. According to Haines, he came to Alaska as a painter, but when his paint kept freezing, he started to write instead. He hunted, trapped, , mushed dogs, chopped firewood, observed and wrote. Man, did he ever write. Another Alaska writer, Dan O’Neill has called Haines, “the best poet, writer, and author Alaska has ever produced.”

Former college professor John Kooistra, a longtime friend of Haines, stated that Jack London and Robert Service “were essentially tourists” compared with Haines. “This is poetry of a different level. He was a cantankerous, insufferable, unbendable old bastard but he was a damn good writer. He is Alaska’s best writer. He was a standout.” He was an Alaskan.

John Haines was 86. He will be deeply missed.

“By candle or firelight
your face still holds
a mystery that once
filled caves with the color
of unforgettable beasts.”
–“Winter Light” by John Haines


Get Behind The Mule in The Morning to Plow

It was demolition day, as I tore down two old decks. The first one was not bad at all, just tedious as I reversed the screws to take it apart. The second was a living, squirming hell. It had been covered in carpet, which was completely soaked from last night’s downpour. I had to cut the carpet in half just to drag it outside the gate. Under the carpet was particle board: The sawdust & glue concoction that is used in cheap furniture. It has swelled to twice it’s normal thickness from the moisture. I’m always amazed by how people “build” up here. The particle board came apart like a giant jigsaw puzzle. I hauled it away in a wheel barrow… load after load. There was a nest of ants under the particle board. They swarmed in alarm every time I removed a piece of the jigsaw puzzle, racing over to grab a white egg sack and then racing off with the sack held up high, although it was clear that the ants had no idea where to run off to. I kept exposing them one small puzzle piece at a time; extending their hell until all the “decking” was finally removed. It seemed like there were millions of ants, but I’m sure the number was only in the hundreds of thousands. The job made me itchy.

It was a beautiful & sunny day with a 70 degree high and absolutely no clouds. I was looking forward to going home, putting on a pair of shorts, opening up an Alaska White, and going onto my own deck… made of treated lumber.

After a shower, I did just that.

Outside, the voice of John Hammond sneaked through the cracks of the cabin; the sound of the Blues guitar tumbled out of the small, home-made window. I had a book, but my mind was speeding off towards tomorrow. I tried to concentrate on the large raven that was perched on the very top of the immense black spruce that dominates my “yard”. The raven was squawking at the sled dogs next door, because it knows that the lone male dog hates ravens, and he goes absolutely postal when a raven flies overhead, which causes the rest of the dogs to get all riled up. It’s pure hate too; I’ve heard it in the lead dog’s bark. I think a raven once stole his dog food when he was a puppy. I’ve also suspected for a while, that the raven does all of this on purpose, simply because he enjoys tormenting the sled dog. They really are brilliant birds. Fortunately, for me, it is hot for the dogs, and they are in their houses oblivious to the raven.

I’m relaxed and immersed in Blues when I hear car tires on loose gravel, followed by the sound of a car door, and then a second door being slammed shut. I swear out loud and the raven flies off. Someone out on the driveway says, “He must be home, both his cars are here.”

I swear again, and wait for the intruders.

Choppity chop goes the axe in the woods

You gotta meet me by the fall down tree

Shovel of dirt upon a coffin lid

And I know they’ll come lookin’ for me, boys

I know they’ll come lookin’ for me