Hello, Little Birdie

Many of you, I’m certain, have your own window-sill menagerie

In our case, a wishbone from a chicken was re-purposed as antlers. HW thought to affix it to our fuzzy ungulate wolf, thus transforming him, or her – female reindeer may also sport antlers – into an Alaskan reindeer. No sooner had we done so and it seems s/he took a fancy to vulnerable birdie, whose expression suggests, may I say, curiosity? As opposed to No-Means-No.

For those of you who were recipients of our annual newsletter, breathlessly wondering if I got the position or not, well, how does the saying go, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” Really, it’s okay. I was never sure it was the right position for me anyway, so I was spared the challenge of having to decide. On the other hand, the ego was hardly amused being denied its first right of refusal.

And so we move forward. Spring is nigh, Summer after that (60% chance say the forecasters!), Fall in tow, and then copy/paste Winter. Another year above ground. Plenty to be thankful for.

Isn’t The Snow Pretty

A pesky avalanche toed out onto the road to our Nest

For those of you who’ve not been to The Nest, this is along the last two miles you have to travel to get to it, looking south. I was on my way back last night after drinks and dinner at Thorns. Yes, I took The Dog with me, as I had promised Happy Wife I would – “What if the road closes from an avalanche, how will we get back to get Chester!” She’s right, there is no other road. Water taxi would be the only alternative. A beautiful drive by day, but it can quickly turn treacherous. Right over that snow berm on the left is Resurrection Bay – deep, cold, brooding, and merciless. On the right, a steep mountain face, from which an avalanche had crept back onto the road. All the while I ate my patty melt and tipped back a few glasses of wine, jawing the whole time with Sean, one of my favorite bartenders in Alaska. That’s how quickly conditions can change. It wasn’t like this earlier when I drove into town. To make it worse, the road was glare ice. I stopped the car and thought about it first. Snapped a picture and texted it to Happy Wife (still in Fairbanks). So she would know, just in case. Glare ice, a single car width to pass through, hmm. What if it decides to sluff a ton more snow the second I pass by? Then I think to myself, that’s the wine talking, Rod, avalanches can’t “decide,” don’t be silly. It’s the kind of situation where you want to close your eyes and go for it. But of course I was driving. Even The Dog shot me a concerned look, “Looks sketchy, Dad.”

I put it in drive and onward we went.

Whale’s Tale

Spin class Wednesday, with Task Master Beth again. All the bikes have saddles, of course, although actually sitting in the saddle while you pedal is evidently a sign of weakness, for Beth anyway. When she rises out of her saddle we’re supposed to as well. And stay like that, pedaling hard, five minutes, ten minutes, whatever she instructs motivates us to do. It’s like that for 45 minutes, with one or two very brief breaks to gulp water and smear the sweat from your face with the towel provided. At about minute 35 we’re told to grab our weights and do with them whatever Beth does with hers – over the head, bicep curls, behind the back, up and down, whatever. After that we put the weights back in the little tray clipped to the bike, and the final two songs are cued up. We’re back to standing in our pedals, pedaling hard and head bobbing to the whomp-whomp of techno pop. By now the room is like a sauna, we’re all sweating like flu victims; the collective odor is like fetid pond water in Louisiana in August. Now you understand why I keep going back!

Monday it’s Jen at the helm, who’s a tad more laid back, though just a tad. Beth returns for Wednesday’s class. Ugh.

Happy Wife’s birthday this month. I asked her for gift ideas. “I want a makeup mirror and a meat grinder.” Went to Amazon and discovered these two items have never been purchased together. You know what I mean, beneath the item you’re looking at there’s always a list of suggested items – “People who purchased this also purchased X, Y, or Z…” While I reviewed a makeup mirror none of the X Y Zs was a meat grinder.

She’s in Fairbanks this weekend for a one day conference. Monday the Iditarod start is in Fairbanks. It’s usually in Willow, AK, just north of Anchorage, but the snow this year is cruddy in certain spots along the normal route, so the course was changed and the race start moved to Fairbanks. Forecasted high in Fairbanks Monday: -1. Low: -31. Thanks, but I’ll take millennial motivators in a sweat box anyday over that cruelty.

I’m going down to our Nest with The Dog to check up on things. Good news is, it’s forecast to be sunny and clear for days, but on the chilly side for Seward, mid-20s, what many of you might call winter. Although, believe it or not, two weekends ago when we were down there we saw a whale in Resurrection Bay, not more than two hundred feet from shore. A whale in February?! We don’t normally see the first ones arrive until May.

There’s something happenin’ here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a whale breaching over there
Showin’ me, I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, look at the whale
Everybody hear what he has to wail

Enough Already

EPIC snow at the Nest! Another berm left by the plow? Yes, but by now we’re used to that. But the snow on the roof over the back porch – Whoa! HW had me on belay with an old dog leash through the bathroom window, fearing I’d be swept away should the snow suddenly avalanche

Pardon the plumber butt.

Purgatory

Turnagain Pass area, on our way to the Nest. I could make out he was wearing skis. A wise choice, given conditions on the ground.

Arrived at the Nest to find the driveway blocked by a new berm of snow. Unlike the one I described a few weeks ago, this one was hardened like rock candy. Before we left Anchorage someone warned us it had snowed days earlier in Seward, about 16″ she’d said, yet we were incredulous. Although, at the last second we did think to throw the ice chopper in the car. Good thing, too. The plastic snow shovel we keep at the Nest was pointless – like chipping concrete with a spatula. Took the two of us about 30 minutes hacking and flinging ice chunks to clear a gap wide enough to get the Subaru through. Meanwhile, the Black Dog had wandered down the Beach Road into someone’s yard, where he’d dug down a foot into an anonymous pile of snow to get at a loaf of stale bread. This did not please Happy Wife.

The Packer’s loss in Atlanta SUCKED. I’m still not entirely over it. But kudos to the Falcons who played REALLY well that day. As they did in the super bowl, if only for three quarters.

Today I went to spin class for first time in like twelve years, probably more. I’m leading another bike tour in Alaska this summer (haha, summer – remember that?!), and I don’t want to wait until May to start getting fit. It’s a nice cycling studio, decent stationary bikes in a comfortable room. The Instructor Motivator was a young millennial gal, ninety pounds (maybe) dripping wet, a body tighter than a snare drum, sporting a cosmic shoulder-tattoo and a preternatural tan, a perky blonde with a ponytail and fake boobs. My fellow spinners were, likewise, mostly millenials with agendas of their own. The lights dimmed and the fun began. The Motivator had us out of our saddles almost immediately, to the deafening whomp-whomp-whomp of rap music she’d turned up to like 120 db. No wonder complimentary ear plugs are available at the front counter.

45 minutes later it was over. I’d survived. Two or three others had left early. At one point during the session, the Motivator, who was mic’d and talking over the music – Pump The Kitty!, Pump The Kitty! – the whole time, motivated us with: Reach deep now. This is where you push yourself. Focus. We’re all different people. Different goals. Different abilities.

At which point I’d had enough and gasped, with what little breath I had left, “And Different ages!”

Don’t know if anyone heard me over the din. Doubt it. But no matter, I’m going back for more. It was a good sweat.

I turned 57 this month. An unremarkable age. Neither old nor young, not wise or still naive. If there’s a purgatory for the middle-aged, this is it.

Happy Wife treated me to dinner at the Pub House. We ate at the bar, as we are wont to do, next to a former mayor of Anchorage, who Happy Wife overheard had voted for Trump. Whatever. Many years ago when he was the sitting mayor of Anchorage, we crashed his (the “Mayor’s”) New Year’s eve party at the Captain Cook hotel. It was late, after midnight if I recall. We just wandered in and belly’d up to the bar like we owned the place. Ordered drinks, tipped ’em back, and hit the dance floor like nobody’s business. What a hoot. This was back when HW and I were in our courtship phase. It was like a fantasy.

The Pub House bartender surprised me with a complimentary birthday desert…

… some super-tasty key-lime concoction HW & I devoured.

The previous weekend we went to Nest, as mentioned, and enjoyed a glorious low-tide walk on the beach

Surprised Happy Wife this week with a half day off from work – Valentines Day. She had no idea. In fact, her staff had her believing her schedule was full the whole day. Meanwhile, I conquered a phone meeting at work, smoked the ribs (Washington St. baby backs!), walked The Dog, bought the roses, prepared a nice caprese salad plate – with Burrata, HW’s fav! – set the table, primped myself and waited for her to walk in the door.

The rest is left to your imagination. Let’s just say Purgatory ain’t so bad.

Zowie

An epic snowfall at our Nest last night. We woke to 18 inches, possibly more, and it was still falling. Pretty, yes – who doesn’t delight in a winter wonderland – but 75′ of driveway covered in thigh-high drifts between the Subaru and the road did not counsel merriment. After three coffees and a hearty breakfast I got after it. The one shovel we keep down there was like a child’s toy against the berm the plow had left us. We’d heard it earlier, lumbering down the beach road while we were still in bed. Must’ve been 8 AM or so. Happy Wife jumped up and threw on a light to let the plow guy know we were there, so that he might lift his shovel as a courtesy as he passed by our driveway? Wah wah wah….

Like many things, shoveling seems futile at first, yet if you keep plugging away eventually you realize, “I can do this.” Or throw a hernia, or suffer a heart attack.

When we’d arrived the day before we found the water lines frozen, except one. A roaring fire in the wood stove, a space heater in the crawl space, and a couple hours later all was forgotten. I’d promised Happy Wife she’d have a hot shower before bed, and made good on that with minutes to spare. The Black Dog was unmoved by the snow avalanching off the metal roof. About every hour or so we heard it, a thunderous slide of a few hundred pounds or more. Didn’t keep us from sleeping like dead people through the night, though.

After shoveling, we we’re on the road early back to Anchorage. Around Moose Pass it was hard to make out where the road was. The snow was falling really hard there and the few plows out couldn’t keep up. We pressed on, albeit slowly. About five miles north of Moose Pass the snow had stopped but the road was still sketchy. To make it worse, blowing snow, low clouds, and intermittent ice fog reduced visibility. Some fun! We’d be driving along and all of sudden, Blam!, there’d be a car or truck right in front us. Couldn’t see it, of course, being the entire back of the car was plastered thick with snow.

Finally, we made it back to Anchorage and what’s this? – it’s snowing! And not softly. Pulled into the driveway (barely) to find 12-18″! Happy Wife grabbed the shovel this time and said, “I got this.” “Don’t you dare try to shovel all that yourself young lady,” I said. She wasn’t out there ten minutes when our neighbor rolled over on his four-wheeler with attached plow and did us right. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s getting a handsome gift certificate to Butcher Block 9.

Go Packers!

Go Cheese!

Over 50 holiday newsletter recipients victims this year. For those of you not on the list, here was the parting glam shot

Just so you know it’s not glam 24/7 around here

That was taken seconds before the start of the Packer’s evisceration of the Giants, or was the Lions? Whatev. On to Dallas!

Merry Christmas

Forty degrees, gray, and raining. Not the Christmas in Seward we’d hoped for. Between here and Anchorage it’s another story, biblical inches of snow with howling wind, not expected to clear until tomorrow, so we’re staying put down here, even though a simple walk down the beach this morning was thwarted by ice. Even The Dog was doing The Penguin walk.

Inside, we enjoyed a more traditional Christmas, a tree with a modest apron of modest gifts and a not-too-spicy Alaskan shrimp cocktail

I got a super comfy acrylic knit hat, cycling accouterments, a gift card to spin classes (have I mentioned I’m leading another bike tour in Alaska in ’17?), a coffee mug to remind me I’m the youngest of three children, a bottle of my favorite wine from Chateau St. Jean, Cinq Cepages (thank you Sistah!), and a box of Queen Anne cherries, these last two ostensibly to share with Happy Wife. Emphasis on ostensibly. She got slippers, a dress (one she likes!), a pastry piping bag with an assortment of tips, a recipe hook, and shoes (she needs).

Almost forgot, I also got a bottle of wicked good gin. We arrived at Our Nest Friday night to find the gin bottle nearly empty. Sensing my lament, and to lift my spirits (ha ha) HW said, “You want one of your gifts early?”

“Under the circumstances I’m hardly feeling cheery right now, Dear.”

Voila – Lament Crusher!