Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In so far over my head

Day one of the NPPA multimedia immersion program is over. We started at 8 a.m. and it's after 9 p.m. now. I'm pooped. We got so much information, I can't even see straight. Soundslides, video, was a long one. We got our assignments and I've chosen to do an audio slideshow. Video was the other option but I figure audio slideshows would be more useful for me right now. Still photographers are not just still photographers anymore. We are visual storytellers and to keep up with this ever-growing, competitive industry, you have to be savvy in a variety of mediums. My assignment is a day in the life of a local bakery. We have tomorrow afternoon to shoot and gather sound and the next day to process it all, turn it into a stellar presentation and show it the other 39 photojournalists in this workshop, one of whom is Carolyn Cole, a Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer who has been called the best in the world. She's a speaker here but is also taking the same immersion program as Sam and I to learn more about video. I tell you, it's pretty intimidating. Among the other famous photogs are several from Getty Images. I had no idea who would be here and I'm scared shitless to show my stuff. I decided that I will shoot in the afternoon tomorrow but also get up at 4 a.m. Friday to go to the bakery to shoot the morning bread baking rituals. So, I'm going to bed now.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I will precision-kick your ass

Well, we made it to Portland yesterday and here I sit in the hotel room furiously writing two articles that I should've gotten done before I left. Sigh. I'm trying to hurry so we can get out and explore. The National Press Photographers Association conference starts tomorrow for us. We signed on for the extensive four-day multimedia workshop, which I gotta be honest, I'm really, really nervous about. Photojournalists, many that I have admired for years and many that have won Pulitzer Prizes for their photographs, will be teaching us. I'm looking forward to learning and schmoozing and showing my portfolio, but am also freaking out inside. Sam, as always, is the picture of calm. So, to sum up, I'm a nervous boob, Sam is calm, the dogs are being cared for by an experienced musher and the memory of Creepy Irish Geezer at Sunday's annual Bob-o-Que (hosted by Bob Eley) will forever haunt me.
I'll add some updates as the conference gets underway.
Peace and Apricots

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

So I had coffee this morn with Theresa and some ladies to celebrate Theresa's blanky-blankth birthday. And let me tell you, she is one hot mama for blanky-blank. I met some new and interesting girls and inevitably started thinking about my own upcoming birthday. (Can we say narcissist?) This year I'm turning...hold on, I'm choking...30. Mostly I think it's funny to wallow at the thought of lost youth because, really, I'm OK with it, partly because of Theresa. She reiterated to me that 30 is a powerful time in a woman's life and I, god dangit, am going to embrace it. I'm going to climb a mountain in Africa...wait, no that's what Trish did...I'm going to surround myself with good friends and good beer and dance until I feel like I'll never catch my breath again. I hope we go somewhere where dancing is already going on because otherwise I might need some good whiskey, too. There was a book floating around the coffee clatch today loaned by a friend (her name escapes me, but her blog is which featured a detailed chronicle of each day of the year and traits one may possess if born on that day. Does that make sense? For example, my day, July 5 (write it down), says that I am a show-woman who's interesting and exciting and erratic. It goes on and nearly all the descriptions were bang-on. It was so right on that it was creepy. It also said I shouldn't get depressed when I don't get recognition. I need instant feedback and wonder what I did wrong when I don't get that feedback. Then I looked up Sam: Methodical thinker, kind, gentle...I was amazed.
Anyway, back to Theresa. Happy Birthday, sister. You are truly one of the nicest, most generous people I have ever met and no, I can't imagine not knowing you.
Ok, back to me.
A pregnant friend at the Moaner asked if I would take nude photos of her and her glorious baby bump. Of course I accepted and am really looking forward to it. I think, well, all women, but pregnant women especially are so beautiful and when photographed tastefully, it can be a great experience for all involved. Think Demi Moore with an actual personality.
I'm photographing a state track meet Friday and Saturday plus my regular night shift at the paper, then it's the annual Bob-o-Que Sunday and off to Portland Monday morning for the NPPA conference. (I also have two articles due in the next three hours yet here I sit cyber-blathering away.)
We did in fact paddle the Upper Chena River on Sunday with Mark and JJ. It was a beautiful day and, thanks to Mark, every bend in the river was 'beer corner' so we'd stop and drink beer and I'd collect rocks. (I glued them to a table and called it actually looks like shit, but hey, 'art' is subjective, right?)
After Ruffles' tangle with the law on Monday, I went and got inscribed tags for all the dogs with their names and my number on it. Dogs with bling. When we're gone, I'll take the naughty ones (Sneaky Pete and Parker) up north to a friend's kennel and leave the rest here with an experienced (and expensive) dog-sitter/poop scooper who will come over twice daily to feed and care for the rest of the motley crew. This will be the first time we leave the dogs in someone else's care. Think positive.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The return of the Acid Queen

Jesus. You know, I love Ruffles and all, but son of a bitch, she's really becoming a massive pain in my massive ass.
Ruffles has been our resident old biddy with free reign of the yard for the past couple months. I've had her for a year now and have enjoyed having her loose outside. She's about 14 and pretty much blind and deaf, so she doesn't stray far. In fact, neither Sam nor I have seen her wander much further than the house pad. But yesterday she decided to take off on a little 'biddy' adventure. I don't know if she was off looking for a bridge game or what, but I was surprised when she wasn't around yesterday afternoon, evening and night. I decided that because she's so old and frail (and blind and deaf) that she went off into the woods to die. Sad, yes, but that's the reality of having dogs. They don't live forever. And Ruffles has had an interesting life - more on that later.
This morning there was still no Ruffles. I was a little surprised at how sad I was that this old, grumpy fart-machine was gone. I got online to check email and was reading the Alaska Dog Mushers' Association list-serve when one post caught my attention. A woman about three miles down the road found a dog yesterday. This dog was black and white, with a black collar, no tags and stumpy legs. Ruffles? The only thing was the post said the dog was a male, so it couldn't be her, could it? The post said that this woman had tied the dog up at the Musher's Hall for the time being and would take it in to the shelter later. I jumped in the car and drove down the road, but there was no dog there. I realized the post was a day old. Well, I thought, I might as well go to the shelter and see, even though I had pretty much written her off by this point. As soon as I pull in, I noticed a dog through the fence wagging its tail in a quick, halting motion. I recognized the way immediately.
Holy shit, there she is! I walked into the shelter (through the back door, as it was still closed) and announced I was there to bail out my acid queen. Well, with the bullshit red tape in the way, I had to wait 90 minutes to sign and pay and get my dog. Nearly $100 later, Ruffles and I were on the way home. Over the last year, Ruffles, the retired, half-dead old biddy, has cost me more money that all my other nine dogs COMBINED! And she doesn't do anything but eat and poop and grunt and groan. Crazy. Yes, I'm crazy. But, you know, I just couldn't imagine the yard without her barking at the pups to shut-up, or bringing bones, shoes, clothes and garbage to the other dogs in the yard (sorry again about your work boots, honey). She's confused and cantankerous but we love her and are both glad she's back. She still owes me $90, for the bail, however.
Stay tuned for a brief history on Ruffles, the Acid Queen. From winning the Fur Rondy in lead a dozen years ago, to running off into the woods for weeks with her first litter of pups, to a career-ending injury, to life at our place, it's quite a story.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Clinging by its thick, country skin

There is one place to get a really good cup of coffee in Fairbanks. There are two others that one could go for a reasonable cup of coffee, but the first, Lulu's, is by far the best. There are many drive-up coffee huts that proclaim to have good espresso, which is what I'm talking about when I say coffee. The drive-up huts are not good. Somehow, they manage to have weak and burnt coffee all in one luke-warm beverage. But in today's paper is the annual Reader's Choice tab. It's a top-three list of things around Fairbanks chosen by Fairbankans. Things like best cup of coffee. The winner was Mocha Dan's drive-up coffee. Seeing this was pretty damn disappointing for me. I mean, I know the standards here are low regarding a lot of things, but Mocha Dan's? Seriously?
Also on the list were random things like 'best principal' or 'best burger.' I mean there was everything from food, to people, to guns...
Yes, how could we have a list in ol' Fairbanks without including something about guns. Down Under Guns won for the best gun shop. The category was actually 'Best Gun Shop.'
I almost choked on my skinny latte when I read that. This place will never cease to surprise. And if I ever do become complacent with this whole gun-crazy place well, shoot me.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

If you don't like my mood, just wait five minutes

Some might say, and by some I mean me and sometimes Sam, that my mood swings are erratic. Much like the weather in Fairbanks. For example, just a couple short months ago it was 30 below zero here in the Golden Heart City, while today one downtown electronic temperature sign read 30 degrees Celsius (that's 86 Fahrenheit)! But, the heat is bearable because there is vitally no humidity. Just a few days ago it was cool and very windy while today was hot and calm. And while we're all out and about enjoying the warmth, this weather, if it keeps up, will inevitably cause a big problem: forest fires. There have already been a few small spot fires here and there but the fact is, it has been hot, dry and windy with no rain. Danger, Will Robinson. I'm actually not sure what my point is, so I'll change the subject.
The Sens won today which gives them a berth into the Stanley Cup final. Hooray!! It's times like these, and only these, that I wished I still lived close to Ottawa. There are a few hockey fans here, but they don't really care about the Senators. The sports guys here at the News-Miner are excited, but come on, they're sports guys, they love it all. One staff writer, we'll call him Danny, gave me the old knuckle tap when I walked in today and proclaimed 'they're partyin' in Parliament!' At first I thought he was going to tell me the Prime Minister had been assassinated, but no, it was news of the mighty Senators. Let's all pray to the hockey gods that Ottawa wins it all. (A moment of silence, please)
Let's see, what else?
Sam, JJ, Mark and I are talking our canoe, raft and kayak to the upper Chena River for a nice Sunday float tomorrow. Should be fun and I'm really going to try and not worry about all the stuff that needs to get done around the cabin in this, our already-fleeting summer. Sigh. I mean, look at all we did last summer: cleared land, driveway, foundation, cabin...surely we can get a few more things done, including a huge, fenced, hippy commune for my dogs, in the next couple of months, right? Sure.
Next Monday we leave for Portland for the National Press Photographers Association conference and multimedia workshop. We'll be gone for a week. I'm still in the process of interviewing potential candidates for dog-sitting. It takes a special person to scoop up my dogs' shit.
It looks like Ruffles isn't going to have any pups and Sneaky Pete has developed some sort of pancreas problem. Most likely, he'll be on meds for the rest of his life, which sucks, but he's got great potential and is really fun to have around, so I don't mind mixing in powdered enzymes to his food twice a day.
I'm still waiting for pics from John and Meg's wedding (JOHN!) and I'll post some of our river trip tomorrow.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

That outfit would look much better with a pearl necklace

What a week it's been. I went to Whitehorse from Thursday to Monday to say bon voyage to Kelly and Danny who are moving back to Ontario after seven or so years in the Yukon. The drive there was beautiful as usual. I saw three moose, about three dozen Arctic hare, two hawks ( I almost crashed trying to watch them, three porcupine (one was dead), one ground squirrel, eight elk, one caribou and a lynx. The lynx was the coolest. It ran in front of the truck and at first I thought it was a fox until I noticed it had no tail. The huge cat stopped on the other side of the road and I screeched to a halt. We both just sat there for about 10 minutes watching each other. Very cool. The Alaska Highway is in the worst shape I've ever seen. I spoke with a woman in Beaver Creek who has lived there all her life and she too said she'd never seen it that bad. The frost heaves are almost bad enough to lift your vehicle off the ground and the pot holes are big enough to swallow you whole. It was pretty much a bone-jarring ride from start to finish with the worst of it being between the border and Haines Junction...that's about 450 kilometres. I also got caught in a freak blizzard outside Beaver Creek but not before I stopped and ate some rancid caribou sausage that made my stomach gurgle for the next few days. (Sorry about the tooting, everyone) I had beer with some friends and coffee with others, catching up on the latest news and goings on. I met Grant, my friend from Scotland, there and he hung out with us a little. I took him out to meet Frank Turner, a pretty famous musher in the north. We had coffee and chatted and I think Grant was pretty impressed with Frank's stories of the Quest and beyond. (He had to catch the bus down to Homer, so he didn't end up riding back with me, which was a pity because I was pretty knackered on the way home. I had to stop and sleep about eight hours in.)
Saturday morning I helped Kelly with her yard sale. She and Danny are getting rid of most of their possessions before the big move. The sale was hilarious and they made about $1,000. That evening was Kelly's going-away party which started with a scavenger hunt. We were divided into four teams of three and given a list of 61 items or photos that we had to retrieve or take around the city and bring back to the house. We only had two hours. There were random things like: 'a fortune cookie' or 'a take-out menu' or 'blue eyeshadow' or a picture of a team member playing air guitar in front of a certain store. I had a Cheryl, a new CBC reporter in town, and Andrew, a friend's boyfriend, on my team. We were the only team that got a full 50 bonus points for 'mooning' a Yukon mural (thanks again, Andrew) and, god dammit, we still came in last! Last! I couldn't believe it. I demanded a recount, but to no avail. Anyway, I think it was really a great idea and I'm hoping to plan one for someone's birthday in the near future. After the hunt, we sat around, drank beer, ate cake and generally, well, partied, in a low-key sort of way. Oh yeah, Juliann made up T-shirts for everyone to wear (since Kelly and Danny are moving back to Ontario) that said 'Ontario Sucks.' Pretty funny.
I returned to Fairbanks on Monday night with mucho Canadian chocolate and beer (As we all know, American beer is watery by comparison) and lots of crap from Kelly's yard sale including a big, plastic snowman named Gahree that I made her take when I moved from Whitehorse. Gahree has come full circle and is now a beacon of hope for all who enter my yard...actually he's just another thing for my dogs to pee on.
Yesterday I, as the maid of honour for Meg, helped her get ready for the wedding. It took place in a little park by the river last night and was a really nice little ceremony, followed by drinks and cake at Ivory Jack's. Love those Alaska weddings: casual, with dog hair on everything. I wore a dress for the first time in years and, yes, I even shaved my legs for the occasion. That is true friendship.
Here are some photos of the trip to Whitehorse with more of the wedding to come.
PeaceOk. Don't get me wrong. I love the CBC, but the photo of Andrew mooning the mural for the scavenger hunt had to go on the blog. By the way, we all had to wear these paper hats in the pictures.

Juliann's girl Laker.


Juliann's boy Leif (they're twins).

Laker and Leif.

Random dude leaving the yard sale with some booty.

When Superman asks you if want cake, you freakin' take it.

The gang sporting our 'Ontario Sucks' shirts.

I took Grant sightseeing. This is Miles Canyon in Whitehorse.

Kelly workin' it outside the new, freakin' giant Canadian Tire in Whitehorse. This was a new promotion: free skanks.

Random kid trying on some earmuffs at the yard sale. He bought them.

A random lady trying out the 'Six-second Abs' at the yard sale. She bought it. Hilarious.

I made signs for all of us to wear whilst peddling our wares at the yard sale. This was Danny's. Most said 'Staff' except mine said 'Team Leader.' YEAH!

Andrew and Cheryl 'kissing the giant beaver' during the scavenger hunt.

Jules and kiddies saying goodbye to their new fav aunt: Me.

Andrew, me and Cheryl dancing on Main Street....yes, it was part of the scavenger hunt but we might have just done it anyway.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Back in the saddle again...of the White Horse...

Here I go, back to Whitehorse. Here I go again on my own. Goin' down the only road I've ever known. Like a twister I was born to...blow?...rock?...roll?...alone.
I'm getting ready to drive the 12 hours to Whitehorse to say farewell to the Crowe. Kelly Crowe. Sigh. I'm not looking forward to the drive, but I do have a new iPod chock-full of great music.
So, I don't have much to say except that I will be updating from the 'Horse. Dogs are good, Sam's good, life is good.
OH YEAH!!! Margaret and John are getting hitched!!! I'm her maid of honor. It's a small affair down by the river next week. Not in a van, though. We went dress shopping today and I got a dress. Meg didn't. It's not that Meg's wedding is all about me, but I look pretty damn hot in this little number. They're really excited. Rod, the news editor at the Moaner is performing the ceremony. That just cracks me up.
Anyway, I'm on the road. On the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again...
There's a voice that keeps on callin' me. Down the road, that's where I'll always be. Every stop I make, I make a new friend. Can't stay for long, just turn around and I'm gone again...
God, I'm tired.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Tara loves the Yankees...especially Jeter!

Tara left me a message saying that maybe the dogs won't pull me because I was wearing a Yankees hoodie. She is a closet Yankees fan, I just know it.
Well, as some might have noticed, I removed the comment option from my blog. The reasons, my friends, to two-fold. Actually, they're just one-fold. Single-fold? Whatever.
Anyway, besides the occasional asshole (sorry Gran) leaving unprovoked asshole (Sorry G) comments (hopefully we've solved that problem), I love, love, love getting comments from random people. I especially like the ones from my Gran and friends, but even the random comments from people I don't know are pretty cool. And comments that challenge me are also welcome, however, I am a little sensitive to random jerks. Yes, I'll admit that.
However, I have received two comments now from an animal-rights group in Florida, wait it gets better, telling me how the Iditarod is cruel.
First of all, I've never even done the Iditarod, or come close, or really have an ambitions of doing it, but I do have lots of friends who do it every year. They must be bothering me because they did a search for the words musher or sled dog.
Yes, there is cruelty that goes on in the world of dog mushing. There are bad seeds, so to speak. I, however, don't associate myself with those people. I surround myself with mentors who are as in love with their huskies as I am. I don't agree with, or condone mistreatment of animals but I do hunt and eat meat and wear leather and fur. Groups like this one in Florida simply distort and skew facts to the point where no one listens because their just too radical. I know, I know PETA is trendy right now and all the celebrities are members, but slapping a dress on a tiny dog and carrying it around in a Prada bag all day doesn't qualify you as a protector of animal rights. Again, there are bad things that happen to, not just sled dogs, but dogs of all sorts everyday and it's heart-breaking.
I have 10 dogs, two of which I rescued from certain death. If anything, my dogs, which are sled dogs, not pet dogs, are spoiled. Yes, they live outside. Yes, they eat raw meat sometimes. Yes, some are chained up. But, they all run loose every day and are happy, healthy, well-adjusted, hard-working huskies. Anyone who knows me knows I would not be involved in something that would harm anything, especially animals. So, with that being said, on the advice of Libby, I'm putting comments back up and when those radical 'sled-dog advocates' down in Florida (where dog mushing is huge, by the way...NOT!) put up their propagada websites and rhetoric, you all can judge for yourselves. I invite anyone who questions what I'm doing with the dogs to come and see for can sleep on the couch, but you'll have to share it with Bull and Ruffles.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day! May Day!

(Hi Shaun and Christine and dog)

So, I've picked up an extra shift a week at the News-Miner, even though I told myself I would work no more than three days per week so that I would have time to freelance. Oh well. The rationale behind it is that when I work fulltime, I don't feel like doing much writing after that, thus freelancing (what I really want to do) takes a backseat. But, we'll see how this works out; it's just temporary. I just finished an article with photos on spec for the AP, which means I write it and then they decide if they want it. It's definitely a gamble, but it's a good story and it looks like they want to buy it, though it hasn't run yet. If they wait much longer, it won't be timely, but I think they would realize that. I hope, anyway. I got all the stories done (again) that mysteriously disappeared from my laptop.
The weather is great here and dogs are happy bathing in the sunshine.
I tried to bikejor with a couple of the dogs today. It didn't go well.
For those who don't know, bikejoring is when you hook a sled dog up to a mountain bike and pray you don't die. Skijoring is a popular sport here with one, two or three sled dogs that pull cross-country skiers. You have to be very, very good on skis to be good at skijoring.
I am not good on skis, so I thought I'd try bikejoring, as I'm good on a bike.
First, I got out Sam's old mountain bike. It's a Specialized that's at least two decades old.
John asked if I planned on riding it back to the ‘70s. Well done, John. Very clever.
But, it's Sam's so you know it's been well cared-for for all these years.
First I hooked up Gus. He was very confused and just kept jumping up on me whilst I was trying to pedal and tell him 'Ok! Let's go! Hike! Hike!'
Nope. Nothing.
Then I pulled out the big guns: Sister. She did a little better, but the big, metal contraption right on her heels scared her a little and, she too got confused. She got going a little bit, but then I let out a squeal of excitement at the speed and she ducked to the side for cover. It was fun, but I think I'll have to try Bully, or maybe two dogs at a time might work better.
We'll see.
Happy Birthday, Trisha!
I'm going to Whitehorse next weekend to say goodbye to dear, dear Kelly Crowe. She and her hubby are packing up and moving back to Ontario. The girls are having a shaker in her honour and I will be there to raise my beer high with the rest of them. Also, a Scottish friend Grant, whom I worked with in Finland, is coming over to Alaska to work with sled dogs for the summer. I'll meet him in Whitehorse and give him a ride to Fairbanks. Should be fun, but a really short trip with more driving than Whitehorsing. It's a 12-hour drive one way. I'll leave after work Wednesday at midnight and return on Sunday. Crazy, I know, but Kelly's worth it. I'm taking orders from all you Fairbankans for Canadian food, beer or whatever so let me know.

Me trying to tell Sister to go forward. She just wanted some love instead.

She's not pulling, but at least she's moving. This is our driveway down to the dogyard, by the way.

Since Sister and Gus were cut from the bikejor team, I thought I might have to resort to recruiting Ruffles. Maybe not. She's taken to plopping herself right in the doorway. I've stepped on her several times. I have to check if she's still breathing several times a day.

Hazel and I.