Thursday, March 29, 2007

Smoking increases bone density

So. Here I am in Seattle. Nice place. I stayed at friend Lisa's last night and walked all over the city today. Let's see, I went to the aquarium (not that great), the Space Needle (sadly, Dr. Evil doesn't live there), the Pacific Science Centre (too many kids to push out of the way so I could try all the interactive demonstrations), Pike's Market (very cool)...and lots of cool shops. I walked from the market place along the water to Seattle Centre where the needle is. There is a new outdoor sculpture park which is very cool. I also bought some gummy bears. And I got a tarot card reading. Apparently, I'm oppressed and need to make some big decisions in two months to which I need not explain the outcome to anyone. Needless to say it was very vague and quite awkward. She said I need to be more of a warrior and then asked me what I think that means...I said 'isn't that what I'm paying you for?' I liked her sparkly eye shadow. I talked to a lot of random people. The first woman was a seemly nice, older woman with long, white hair. She asked where I was from and we talked idly for a minute. Then, a man walked by us and, well, let's just say I got a little nervous. So, the guy walks by and woman looks at me and says (I'm not kidding here) "F##kin' Mr. Lee Press-on Nails. Who the f##k does he think he is? He thinks his f##kin' s##t don't stink. F##king ugly motherf##ker!' Then the guy came back. They had a little swearing match then both looked at me like they wanted me to weigh in. My mouth still open in shock, I spun on my heel and got the f##k outta there. I went over to the market and asked one of the guys at one of the many fresh fish stands if they could toss a fish so I could take a picture. They did and then played a little trick on me. Long story short, their trick resulted in me spilling my coffee down the front of me, screaming like a child and subsequently being red-faced for about 20 minutes afterward. I made a friend named Debo who offered to be my personal tour guide for the day. (I politely declined and got the F out of there, too.) I got a free espresso from a girl who moved to Seattle recently from Alaska. (She was selling coffee at a shop, not just handing it out on the street.) I didn't buy anything except the gummy bears. I just wasn't in the mood to shop, plus I spent a whack of cash seeing the tourist sights. I didn't get to the zoo or Safeco Field. Next time. I'm looking forward to getting home although I have two articles due by Sunday and I haven't started either least I haven't been sleepless in Seattle so I feel well rested. Peace.

Random girl buying friend. The smells at the market were incredible.
I think I should get this sign for my...nevermind...
A sea otter having breakfast.
Truman, the Spanish-speaking dog. (Apparently he can drive, too)

My favourite kind of fry...salmon!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Home on a wing and straight hair

Well, looks like I'm here for one more day. Planes don't fly (and Jillian doesn't drive) in dense fog. Now I fly out Wednesday at 6 a.m. to Detroit and then on to Seattle where I have a 30-hour layover. Yes, I said 30. I have a friend in Seattle and hopefully we can meet up and inflict some shenanigans. (No Meg, it's not MH.) If not, I'll look forward to exploring the city sans Lisa. Then it's a nonstop to Squarebanks. I'm not sure what I'll do with my extra day here...probably nothing, actually. (Lunch with dad; visit with gramma...who knows?) Unless a certain someone wants to meet me outside Montreal for a coffee. With my driving record on this trip (I also backed across the lawn down into the ditch, got stuck and had to get a passing jogger to help push me out) I'm not up for trying to pilot my little, rented matchbox around Montreal. Plus, I haven't brushed up on my French swearing. Then it's off to airport at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. Barf.
I went to Kingston today and Danny fixed my car. What a guy. Handy, handsome and has a funny accent...not Sam, well, actually Sam has all those attributes too, but Danny's east-coast, sing-song, Cape Breton brogue trumps the down-home Kansas twang. No offense, honey. I spent a couple hours in the mall waiting for the car and got a haircut while I was there. Now, I don't want to gross any of you southerners out, but I don't brush my hair very often and by very often I mean never. It's curly and therefore brushes and/or blow dryers are my enemy. Plus, I tried to give myself dreads but it didn't really work. So anyway, the nice young hair dresser was trying to comb my hair when she commented on the knots and then, with disdain, informed me that I had a couple of mats back there. I snorted. 'Well, that's because I don't brush my hair.'
I realized how weird that must sound to a city gal like her and all of a sudden I was embarrassed.
I put my head down. 'I'm from Alaska,' I mumbled.
She nodded like she understood.
See? It's a good excuse for everything from bad hair to smelly feet to a foul mouth and I'm using it again, god dammit! Then she straightened my hair, pretty much because I told her it couldn't be done. I proceeded to walk around the Cataraqui Centre petting my shiny, straight hair obsessively. I eventually had to go into the washroom so I could pet my new hair and stare at myself at the same time. (Somewhere Barb's head is exploding.) I was so distracted by my new 'do I tripped up the steps trying to find said washroom. I'm over it now, except that I'm not and I'm petting my hair in between sentences.
All right time for bed to get ready for a bonus day in Brockvegas.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Nomad has wandered on

Spent a bit of time with pa up at the sugar farm today. Here are some pics from the adventure. I'm heading to Kingston tomorrow to get my rental car fixed. I guess I should elaborate. Ok, here goes: Once upon a time, as in this morning, I was backing out of the driveway when my mother poked her head out the front door to yell at me not hit her car...which I had full intentions of doing because there's nothing I love more than a rousing game of smash-up derby first thing in the I turned wide in order to miss her car, which I was actually nowhere near, and backed into a tree. Dents and a broken tail light, nothing major. Dana, my sister, has a new man who's a car guy and he's offered to fix it so here I go. I might just buy some ketchup chips and boyfriend trousers while I'm there...if I'm feeling crazy enough.
I head home soon and will go back to minus 30 degree temps.

The sugar shack and buddy.

The way we used to roll, with metal spiles and buckets to collect the sap from the maple trees.

These days, blue pipeline snakes through the property. Plastic spiles are used and two pump houses propel the sap from the lines to the shack where it sits in stainless steel holding tanks until it gets boiled. It takes 20 litres of sap to make one of syrup. Our sap is four percent sugar.

My dad doing something important I'm sure.
Fresh syrup being filtered before its final destination....
Just kidding...

That's a mighty big trunk you have.

We like to name things after ourselves 'round here...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

DNTW: Definitely Not The Waltons

Doris Isabella Molson (nee Gauthier) 1923-2007.
My granny died on Tuesday night in Ottawa. I flew home on Thursday, got here on Friday and attended her funeral service this morning in Pembroke. Though it's sad to come home under these particular circumstances, it is nonetheless good to be home. It was nice to see family that I hadn't for some time at the service and hear stories about my gran that I hadn't heard before. Like the one when gran was young and rode her bike over to a friend's house. She rode the thing in through the back door, through the dining room and into the living room. Her friend just looked at her and said 'Well Doris, I'm glad you didn't come on a horse.' The woman who told the story was my gran's bridesmaid back in 1945. There were a lot of people there and the service was nice; I think she would have liked it.
I'm only here for a few days but have already whizzed around town visiting friends and family. Tomorrow I'll help my pa at the sugar bush. The sap is running and he's already produced several liters of maple syrup. The weather was warm (sunny and 15 degrees Celsius) when I arrived (I was totally bundled up and getting strange looks at the Ottawa airport with all my Alaska gear on) but now it's snowing like crazy. I must have brought it with me. Sorry about that.
Back on the home front, the dogs have been behaving badly for Sam, I hear. Sneaky Pete (I named him that for a reason) has gotten out of the pen at least four times, bringing some of the other dogs with him. Yesterday, Sam arrived home from work to find Sneaky Pete and Raven in the wheelbarrow where I keep their raw meat, gorging themselves on chicken and salmon parts. He says it's all under control now, however.
Tonight I went to Sherwood Park Manor to visit Gramma Rogers (dad's mum). I named Hazel after her because both are full of spunk and vitality. We kicked it for a while and then went for tea when her friend Inger arrived. Inger left and we had a game of mahjong on the computer. I'm constantly amazed by her quick wit and sense of humour...that's where I must get it!
I really miss Canada and being here makes me realize it even more. The Tim Horton's coffee, the 54-40 and Tragically Hip on the radio, the bad drivers on the 416...I miss it all! Photos to follow of tomorrow's adventure at Ye Old Sugar Bush.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

15 and a half minutes of fame

Well, the land is all snatched up in Anderson. I arrived there at 5 a.m. on Monday morning and people were lined up outside at 35 below Celsius and had been out there for two days. Most were from 'Outside,' meaning not from Alaska although there were a few from within the state. Though there were only 26 plots of land, 44 people were in line by 9 a.m. People saw the AP article on Saturday, dropped everything, jumped on planes from Idaho, Oregon, Florida and Wisconsin and got here to stake their claims. It was pretty nuts. While I was there the phones at the city office were ringing non-stop. Calls from Canada, India, South America and Chine plus a whole whack of people calling from the Lower 48. I even got to answer the phone once. It was a retired woman from California asking if we could save her a spot. I said no, that the land was already spoken for by now and that you had to be here in person. She asked if I could let her know when they do this again so she could come, I said 'sure, what the hell.' I met some really cool people from all walks of life who wanted to live the Alaskan dream. I think the Harvard Law student said it best. "This is a brilliant and innovative way to create a neighbourhood," he said. "Because now we all know each other and we've been through this together."
Even Oprah tried to get in on the action. Apparently, she was trying to come to Anderson to do a 'Good things in America' segment for her show. She cancelled at the last minute.
I got a call from the BBC in London asking for more information because they wanted to do a story.
But later that day I got an email from the teacher whose students started this whole land giveaway thing. He said the community enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame but by 4 o'clock that day, it was like nothing had even happened. He said he walked out the front door of the school and streets were empty, except for the moose over by the swingset.
So, to all those who got their land, welcome to Alaska and for those who didn't, try Kansas.

This guy got his plot and his marking his territory on a map of the subdivision.

People slept outside to save their spots in line.

People huddled around fire barrels and propane heaters to stay warm.

Moose are everywhere. Hazel barked and barked and barked at this moose, until the beast got too close and Hazel retreated to her dog house letting out the occasional growl.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Oh Buddy, will you ever change?

Today we had our annual tailgate party for the Open North American Championship. It's a three-day dog sled race that draws mushers from hither and yon to sprint around the trails here. It's pretty exciting and on the final day we get food and beer and park ourselves in a nice spot to watch the teams go out and back. Buddy Steeper from Ft. Nelson, BC, won it this year. CANADA!!! YEAAAAHHHH! Suck on that one Egil Ellis! So, here are some photos I took from the day. Fun was had by all. I have to leave for Anderson at 3 a.m. tomorrow for this land giveaway thing, so I'm going to bed.

On the run. These are dogs on the go, people.
Team on the slough.
A steep downhill corner that teams have been known to biff it at. This guy stayed on.

Erin and Becky laughing at me.Sam watching teams from the bridge. The ever-quiet presence from above. Sam has three letters, god has three letters...can't be a coincidence.

Eric and Becky watching the teams go by.

Greg, JJ and Steve.
Shorty after the race, a woman came by with her two huskies and her pet poodle. They only went few hundred feet but the freakin' poodle was totally into it. Crazy.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I'll call ya, baby, I promise

Poor little Parker is lovesick. And also kind of a slut.
I don't want to get too graphic here, but the little dear has come into her first heat and Strider (who is neutered but still horny) jump her virgin bones as soon as she'd stand still long enough to let him on. Now, a day later, she's all over him and he's giving her the cold shoulder. She tries to get into his house and follows him around and he completely ignores her. It's funny and sad at the same time.
Parker: "But, Strider, you said you loved me."
Strider: "What's your name again? Yeah, I'll call you."
Ahhh, brings back memories, doesn't it girls?
In other dog news, I took Raven and Gus in to get spayed and neutered, respectively. Raven didn't do so well. It turns out she has an immunity to the anesthetic and she woke up in the middle of having her uterus removed. The two vets who were there, and are really amazing, gave her a little more drugs but soon they had given her as much as was safely possible but Raven wouldn't stay under. Needless to say it was traumatic for all involved. I tried to comfort my screaming dog who was paralyzed but could feel everything that was going on. The vets worked quickly to get the operation finished but were visibly shaken as was I. (I couldn't stop crying.) That has never happened to them before, they said. Raven is fine now, she's hopped up on pain pills and is living in the house and loving it. Bull, on the other hand, doesn't like having to share the couch but he's coping. The only funny thing about this is that Gus was huddled in the corner watching the hearing everything that was going on with Raven and was obviously reluctant to let any of us near him. Of course, removing the balls is a much faster, easier process and Gus was running around shortly after we got home. On the drive home, however, they were both knocked out cold and laying on top of each other which was actually kind of cute.
Anyway, here's a pic of Raven all messed up on pain pills and hopefully not remembering anything that happened.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lance is loosening my grip on Bobby Orr

I can only hope that '07 Iditarod AND Yukon Quest champ Lance Mackey remembers the little folk in Fairbanks. I like to think that he would consider me a friend and not just a groupie or an annoying reporter. He did, after all, come to our wedding party this summer. And he, his wife Tonya, and their kids came to our Christmas Eve bonfire and tied one on. I've told him to F-off twice.

Ken Anderson, who I've told to F-off many, many more times than that, came in seventh. They both had great races despite horrid conditions.

Last night I shot one of my assignments for the Tribune. It was an event at the annual conference of the...World Clown Association. Jesus. Creepy? Yes. Actually, it was beyond creepy because I went there expecting the clowns to be all in-my-face-I'm-an-annoying-clown. But instead they were very subdued. A restrained clown is ultra-creepy.

I had another assignment this morning which didn’t go as well, so we won’t talk about it.

We ran out of heating fuel last night. It’s still 30 below here at night. Now the oil stove it broken. I chopped some wood today and started a fire. The wood stove is also kind of wonky. Water is gushing from the chimney as I type this. Cold or watery, those are my choices. I chose water. I waited as long as I could before starting a fire because I know it does this non-stop-drip thing, but then I started to lose dexterity in my fingers because they were so cold, so it was time to light the match. I guess this might be what you call roughing it: no heat and dial-up internet. Sigh. Life goes on, albeit at a cold, slow pace. It might even be the makin’s of a country song. No heat, no high speed…I just need my dogs to run away and voila!


Here’s a pic of Libby interviewing clowns dressed as woman last night. Did I mention it was creepy?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Free land in the last frontier

Thinking of moving to Alaska? On the run from the law? Looking for rogue moose, hungry grizzlies and ravenous coyotes in your backyard? Well, come to Anderson! For free! Sort of. The village of Anderson, Alaska, located between the towns of Nenana and Healy (about 70 or so miles from Fairbanks on the Parks Highway) is giving away 26, 1.3-acre lots. It's a first-come, first-served thing with applications being accepted at 9a.m. on March 19. Applicants must dole out $500, but will get it back. The only stipulation is that if you get a plot of land, you have to build at least a 1,000-sq.ft dwelling within two years. The parcels already have electricity and phone hooked up. I got a call from the Associated Press yesterday, which is doing a big story on this and they need me to head down to Anderson to take photos of the people involved. The idea actually came from a group of students at the local school. They presented their idea of this land give-a-way to the city council that accepted it and will proceed to try and bolster the population of Anderson by giving away property to whoever. Crazy. So I'm heading there on Sunday and maybe Monday as well to photograph the teacher and some of his students. I talked to them on the phone this morning and they are so excited, which always makes my job a lot easier. I also picked up three photo assignments for the Chicago Tribune, one of which I've already done and two for next week. I was so excited that I ordered a couple of new articles of clothing online this morning. Yea!
For more info about the Anderson land, check out the village's website at
Here are a couple of photos of Anderson from my Denali Park trip this fall with Meg and John. Denali's about an hour down the road from Anderson.

This could be you walking in front of the diddlin' bear sign in Anderson.

City Hall. I was actually taking a pic of the News-Miner box because Meg's 'goin' to iraq' photo was on the front. It was actually about a year too late, but whad'ya's Anderson! Oh Anderson, will you ever change? No. That's the great thing about it. It can only get better if (insert your name here) gets a piece of land and moves there.

Random dudes on a scooter in Anderson. This could be you! Look how much fun they're having. Weeeeee!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Warning: News-Miner may cause drowsiness

Note to Rod of Rod's Saw Shop: We need the chainsaws back as we are out of firewood and it's friggin' cold 'round here. P.S. Thanks for the discount on chaps last summer, you should see the scar. Yowza!
Ok. So, I'm officially a News-Miner (News-Minus, News-Moaner (my personal fav)) employee. I'm working three nights a week as a copy editor. I actually really like it (partly because I know it's temporary). My bosses are really nice and the work is such that I get be in a newspaper atmosphere while getting to be a little creative (part of the duties besides editing copy are to layout/design the pages) but unlike being a reporter at the paper, I don't take my work home with me. Once the night is done, it's done. This way, I can still freelance and write about things I like, while having my days free to run dogs AND having the extra cash AND the normalcy of saying things like 'I can't, I have to work.' or 'The funniest thing happened at work last night.' So, it's good all around. Last night the publisher and managing editor brought in dinner and dessert for the night crew. Yeah.

Sam's very professional at work. I call him Mr. Harrel, but I think that just turns him on.
The dogs are great, but I'm really looking forward to summer, mostly because Sam might actually get a break. He hasn't had time off since October and that was when he went to Kentucky or some far-flung place, to, you guessed it, work. I guess he had a little fun, but it certainly wasn't with me. That's why I'm excited for the summer; camping, rafting, canoeing etc.
It seems for the past several months, he's been going non-stop. Someone's always sick, or on leave of some sort or whining about something. Not Sam. He's so dedicated to paper it almost makes me feel a little ill. He has to work today, of course, on his day off. I offered to pick up an assignment, but we'll see. I'm just bitter because we had plans today and now, well, we don't. I'll get over it.
I sold an Iditarod story to the Anchorage Daily News and they put at the top on the front page. I wasn't expecting that. I've got a couple assignments lined up for March but I'm thinking it'll be an enterprise month. There's a lot going on from NCAA rifle shooting to a national clown conference...I'm sure someone will buy something. The big thing now is having audio with a photo slide show so I bought a new digital recorder and might try to put something together at the sled dog races next weekend. We'll see.
Well, Meg told me that I have joined the ranks of Mary H.
Meg had a layover at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago this week and got online whilst waiting in the terminal. She tried to log onto my blog but was denied because apparently my site contains 'questionable material.' (This happened to Mary's cojoin also, that's the connection...)
I guess I've also joined a million other women in their late '20s (I'm not 30 yet, dammit! Remind me to stick my head in the oven on July 5...maybe this is what they mean by questionable material) who say the word 'ass' too much...The Diet Coke of evil, just one calorie, not evil enough...
What else? The Iditarod has begun. Good luck Ken, Lance, Gerry, Sebastian, Hans and Aaron! Also the Canada Winter Games are going on in Whitehorse right now and the Yukon News (my old paper) is doing an amazing job covering it. Fun stories, beautiful
Our friend down south sent some photos of Sam back in the day. I just have to say thank-you. I laughed for days. Sam, cute as he was and is, had some mega mulitude. Oy.

The other day I bought a stuffed monkey for Sister. She likes to bury random things when she's inside so I thought I'd get her a little friend to bury in the straw in her house. She immediately ripped the arms off the monkey, so I took it away from her. That same day I wrote an email to Sam and, joking of course, made some threat that ended with 'do it, or the monkey gets it!' Sam wrote back saying, he wasn't worried because the monkey had been disarmed. Disarmed! Ha! Well done, honey. Very clever.

Well, that's it for now.

Hazel and Sister giving Meg a ride down the driveway. She was too chicken to run in the real sled with a real team...I guess I should mention that the last time I took her for a ride (it was two years ago, I've gotten better since then) I dumped her out on her arse, lost the team and ended up running home...ha!

The moose here have no boundaries. They're always following me around, calling, emailing...enough already!
GUS! I forgot to post my newest dog. He's really sweet but he hates the yearlings and is always trying to hump the ladies...
His first time inside.