Saturday, November 21, 2009

East Coast v. Alaska

Recently, Brad started watching Lobstermen. This new show is a riot, mainly because nearly every third word needs bleeping. I chuckle each time I listen to a commercial for it, or the program itself, or at least those portions that I can hear. Nestled into the corner of the couch, he chuckles, lifts his fist and declares, “These are my people!” And you know, in some respects I agree with him. There are many (many) times that we both miss the east coast. This week was not one of them.

Brains. While on the east coast, my IQ decreased, I swear. So many conversations evolved around the hottest news items, as we were just 3 hours south of the beltway. And in those dialogues, I was shocked at the amount of misinformation and how it was presented. Honestly, NPR is headquartered in DC. Listen to it. Learn the facts. Be able to articulate why you feel a certain way about an issue. Waxing poetic is sooooooo 2007. Even James Carville no longer does it. Keep up, people!

Beauty. I am all for the beach hair look: slightly wind blown and waves. It is romantic, goes well with swim suits and casual sundresses. But when paired with my business attire, the poodle-esque coif I sported this week was shameful. I had forgotten what humidity does to my follicles. You know the adage, “Are you having a bad hair day?” Yeah, well, I brought true meaning to that each day. BUT, it is somewhat better than the hat head I will sport for the next few months of colder weather in Kodiak. At least my best poodle impersonation gives my coif body…wow, that was a really shameful attempt at a silver lining, huh?

Spirit. Customer service on the east coast is dead, nonexistent, and needs a serious revival. My return trip to the west coast was a test of my patience. On Thursday, FAA had computer issues, which delayed all Atlanta flights by 2 hrs—my connecting city. Long story short: after speaking with Amex (corporate travel booking agent), I went to the NWA/Delta counter to get my ticket kicked over to another airline that was not impacted- US Air. Two women gave me the biggest drama about the change; and I mean drama: whining about how I was getting them in trouble, how the two hour delay was industry wide (it was not), and how my agent had told me wrong (five minutes after getting off the phone with her). I stood my ground, literally, for 35 minutes (!) to get the flight I wanted and that Amex said was available. By the time I finally got them to agree, the actual transfer was done and printed in 4 minutes! The audacity, the complete disregard to help a traveler far from home was shocking. I handed them both my military ID (afterall, Hampton Roads is a military community) and my Alaskan drivers license (afterall, Palin Palooza is omnipresent), and there was no recognition on either count. For the love. I love AK Airlines and knowing the crew in Kodiak- by name.

Suffice to say, I am heartbroken that I was not far enough north to get a true Dunkin Donuts coffee, or listen in a conversation in which every third word is an explicative, but I could not wait to head west and back to Alaska.

Yes, ladies and gents. I think we have a convert on our hands…

Dive Bars

Okay, I have a confession. I was on the east coast for 65 hours and did not tell anyone. I traveled 40 hours roundtrip to attend the CG Innovation Expo in VA Beach. While there, I connected with some Coastie friends, colleagues, and learned a lot about modernization and a host of other topics. One evening, after a rather large reception, my team and I went out. John shouted out the address and name of his recommended establishment, and we all agreed. We return to our respective hotels and change, and one team leaves earlier than the other. They call me, "Um, is this supposed to be a dive bar?" And then it hits me, "shit, we let John pick the venue, so yes, of course, it's gonna be a dive. Damnit...."

We pull up to a strip mall that contains a china palace, a takeout pizza joint, an Asian grocery store....and South Beach Grill. With the doors wide open and a parking lot full of cars, we roll in and take up residence on the opposite side of the bar. The next five hours was a treat: I watched enough flesh rub up against each other, bad dye jobs, and elvis impersonators dancing to the cover band to have fodder for at least three blog entries, but I will summarize some of the highlights here:

1. There was a dude whose hair, sideburns, and eyeware resembled Elvis. His female companion had an Elvis purse.
2. There was a woman who wore big fake diamond everything: multiple rings on each hand, oversized earrings, large chunky necklace, and rhinestones on her purse and yet wore a tangerine tank top that looked more than a few years old...
3. And then there was Uncle Rico, as we named him. You know the Uncle from Napoleon Dynamite, the one with the football? Yeah, well, fast fwd 15 years, add a collared paisley shirt with a corduroy jacket, and you have the man who gave us the most fodder.

So many times, I turned to my former Army colleague and said just looked at him. And that's all I needed to do. We were on the same wave length, both having lived/been stationed in this part of VA. Wow. We both joked about the "caliber" of the 15 women and 60 men that poured themselves into the bar to listen to a pretty dern good cover band that played everything from Earth Wind and Fire to Kings of Leon. Of course, the older crowd were more attuned to the former rather than the latter, but the other young colleague in the group, Paul, and I enjoyed their rendition of the tune.

For Kodiakians who read the blog, I am sure it was like the Mecca, but I have yet to cross the threshold of that distinguished establishment to find out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holiday Photo Selection

I befriended another photographer in Kodiak, who offered to help us capture a holiday photo for the multitude of cards I send out each season. We have several from which to chose - coming to us on a CD - but our photographer, Amy, loaded some choice photos onto her website.

Log onto the below link to view; BUT return to our blog to reply with your favorite!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dinner Parties- Alaskan style

When stationed in DC amid multitudes of classmates and friends, Brad and I joked about installing a revolving door at our apartment. A mere 2.5 block walk from the metro, our home's dining table became a haven, a free meal, a lamenting conversation, a confessional, and a place a celebration- however minute. Brad adores to cook, I adore to host, and everyone knows our threshold remains open for whomever cares to join us.

In Kodiak, our table has seen a fair share of guests, but let's just say a $1500 plane ticket and 40 hour round trip flight from the east coast has kept some former regulars safely nuzzled inside the beltway, which we completely understand. But, it has turned our focus to locals, and geo-bachelors.
This summer, Brad's fellow shipmate, Kawika (the w is pronounced as a v) asked us to witness his marriage to Elizabeth, who lives on her family-owned farm on Whidbey Island. She flew up a few days before CGC Munro departed for its recent patrol and wed the love of her life on the beach at Monashka Bay.

A short honeymoon ensued, and she departed before the boat left on patrol. Elizabeth called me shortly thereafter and started conspiring with me to return to Kodiak. A few months of planning landed her as my relief driver as I pulled out of Anchorage after two month's of nonstop work. Elizabeth stayed at our home until the boat pulled in on 2 November. She donned her red coat and was immediately spotted on the pier. According to Brad, Kawika leaned over and said, "Elizabeth is on the pier!" Brad, having no clue what I had done replied, "Really? Oooooh, she had a co-conspirator."
We had this lovely couple over for a six hour dinner, which would not be complete without King crab, snow crab, and spicy tomato halibut (e.g., new favorite recipe). As we laughed, told stories about our first apartments as young couples, brewed coffee, and popped corn, I took a moment to step back and reflect on how much our table has seen since we started living together. And it makes me wonder what adventures it awaits as we await our orders, due in early 2010.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Seasonal changes

Brad and I took Tok on one of our favorite, small hikes around Fort Abercrombie. We start the loop at Lake Gertrude and then head around to the Wildflower Trail. The latter trail provided me with some amazing photos this summer, include the one below that showcases the purple explosion of wildflowers during the summer.
And then yesterday, we see the same trail in it's winter glory: brown as far as the eye can see. The area is dotted with some leftover buds from wild roses, marking the distinct bunny trails through the vines (Tok sniffed each and every one we passed). People remark how we "deal" with the winter and the somewhat harsh winter weather.

Simple: we start looking up at those snow covered mountains! Come on, snow!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Screened for Command

I am proud to announce that my husband successfully screened for command! For those non-coastie followers, in lay-man's terms, that means he is worthy of commanding his own vessel (at least those for which he is qualified).

A few months ago, we provided folks with our next steps as we prepare to rotate in Summer 2010:

STEP ONE: File a packet to screen for Command (Done!!!)
STEP TWO: Submit “Dreamsheet” in October (Done!!!)
STEP THREE: Bite fingernails while the Board meets and determine the screening list in November (Done!!!)

As for how I will keep my fingernails turning into nubs until we hear from the detailer (see steps four and five), I have no idea. Thankfully, the holiday "season" is upon us, so the time will fly until the new year.

STEP FOUR: Wait for a call from the detailer time… TBD (hopefully in January or February 2010)
STEP FIVE: Well, that’s a whole bunch of steps that include Brad going to schools, going underway with CGC Munro during Spring 2010, selling our home (wanna buy a great home in Kodiak?), and move from one remote area in Alaska to another.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak

The Anderson household has a new addition: a Subaru. Yes, you read correctly, I now own a four door car. Despite the personal identity crisis I seem to be having- in that I do not want to let go of my coupe lifestyle, I love the new ride. Tok is way more comfortable in the backseat, which is now outfitted with a shield that blocks his ability to get to the front seat, and a hammock that covers the seat.

Having driven the truck (via ferry) to Anchorage, my return trip required an extra driver. I put out an APB to my fellow coastie wives in Kodiak and received a quick reply from Stephanie. With three kids and holiday season soon approaching, she volunteered to fly up on my dime and steal the Sub (pronounced soooob) to shop in a “real” town.

In my super secret world of boat wives, I received a call from a new boat wife, Elizabeth. She lives in Washington, and her beloved lives on Kodiak, and she wanted to surprise him when the boat pulls in from patrol. In a win-win situation, I convinced her to save some money and just fly up to Anchorage instead of Kodiak, and be a relief driver (in case something happened). It worked out perfectly. She rode with me for ½ the drive down the Kenai Peninsula and then finished the drive with Stephanie. Our drive took us down Turnagain Arm, through post-card worthy snow covered peaks in Portage, and then through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. We saw lots of moose and volcanoes!

For our one evening in Homer, we stayed at the Mermaid B&B and dined at Fat Olives. The two glasses of wine that I had with dinner accompanied great conversation and delicious pumpkin cheesecake. At 26 degrees with a gorgeous moon, we walked home to our B&B to catch a few hours of sleep before getting up to load the ferry- bound for Kodiak!

The next morning, as I loaded Tok into his kennel in the bed of the truck, I captured an amazing sunrise over Kachemak Bay. The open water greeted us with 35 knot winds and 10+ foot seas. The two gals took Dramamine and snoozed for most of the trip. I dozed in and out and rose in just enough time to catch our sunset before heading to dinner in the galley.

Flat Top

A few weeks ago, Anchorage experienced an Indian summer. The temperature rose above 50, prompting locals into Tshirts and onto hiking trails. Tok and I tackled Flat Top Mountain, a popular trail that is an easy drive from the sublet we had for Sept and Oct. Many other outdoor enthusiasts joined us that day. People parasailing over our heads, dogs running alongside trail runners, children hopping up and down the stairs, and lots and lots of smiles. Everyone was in a good mood, happy to see one another, easy to forgive a trail etiquette faux pas, and remark about the weather.
As we crested the peak, I started depleting my camelback. I was the idiot who was scrambling over rocks with a dog attached to a 15 foot lead. Thank goodness for voice commands. As I watched my four legged companion near-effortlessly pounce up onto rock faces and make his way north, there was a lot of, “Tok! Sit.” And then mumbling to myself, “Ok, so how does the human get up there?” It was just as, ahem, entertaining, going down, too.

In going down, I beheld one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.