Sunday, February 21, 2010

Famous Relatives

A common denominator between Brad and I is our love for our bachelor uncles. His Uncle Carl is no longer with us, but instead, is fondly remembered as the big teddy bear that he was: always available, always there, always straight forward, and offered unconditional love.

My Uncle George is one of the people I truly, madly, deeply miss [on the east coast]. Uncle George gets me. His NPR-listening, nature-appreciating, love to experiment in the kitchen, good natured attitude beckoned me to drive from the beltway to Hagerstown, MD, often. We'd walk, we'd talk, we'd visit farms, thriftstores, and fruit stands galore. His home is a haven for me, and I miss the wave of nostalgia that overcomes me each time I entered his door. Still, to this day, I keep a key-- just in case.

My beloved uncle takes photos, beautiful photos. Photos that get noticed. Recently a marketing firm in Michigan contacted him about using a photo they found on his flickr account. He asked that he retain the rights and expressed a wish that the photo only be used for the label; and then he asked that the firm send him a few labels. The first two requests were granted; but, the firm was only able to provide a picture of the label, as they were printed off-site.

My dear uncle opened the password protected ADOBE and realized he would be able to "pick up a few" locally! Go to Walmart's Home and Garden Department to pick up some Bearded Iris, or "Blueberry Bliss" to see Uncle George's picture!


Moving from a town of 6,000 to 3,000 is going to be fun. I am in Anchorage for a few weeks, and the past two weekends, I drove through Turnagain Pass and Moose Pass to find a new home for the flamingo lawn ornaments.

It's a small world, I tell ya. In a town of two agents, I picked the one who happens to have a son in the USCG. After we first shake hands, we start building our relationship. We started making the connections among our small family. His son was a year behind Brad at USCGA, which narrowed our playing field. And then I made the connection that baffled me: his son, Luke, was one of my mother in law's sponsor kids. He stayed at her home for a few weeks while at the Academy. So, there you have it: a town of 3,000, over 4,000 miles from my mother in law's abode, and I find the father of one her sponsor kids.

Needless to say, it helped build a great bond.

A great bond that gave him quick insight into who I am, what I was looking for, and what I would not stand for. In my first weekend, we viewed 12 homes in 3.5 hours. There were some that I drove into the driveway, glanced at the home, placed the sooby in reverse, and backed out of the driveway. Yeah, if you are loking for a project home: Seward has plenty.

As I climbed the stairs of an adorable A Frame and saw that the stove was placed under the sloping ceiling, I noted that Brad would not be able to stand and cook for me, so that one was out, too. And the day continued. The realtor crawled over snowmounds to inspect foundations for me, gave me an honest assessment of the quality of the well, and answered all my questions about price, resale value, the works. Even better: he loves Tok and invites both me and the furball into his office when we regroup to chat about our finds, inspections, and prospects.

Each visit enabled me to tour around town, sampling the local coffee shop, and eat lunch at the sea life center. In a vacant parking lot outside this Seward establishment, I munch on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and watch otters swim around the bay. I am looking forward to kayaking around that bay and capturing these adorable animals on film.

Stay tuned to find out about the flamingo lawn ornaments' potential new home...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


You can tell it is mushing season in Alaska. Fur Rendez-vous ads are all over the radio and television, and local coverage of the Yukon Quest is updated as each musher and team pass a check point.

As I read this article on this morning, I learned a new word, "cheechako." According to the urban dictionary, it means, "A new-comer to Alaska, ignorant of the terrain, the weather, the animals, the culture, the necessary driving skills in the winter, etc. "

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I am in the Anchorage office, and our local moose stopped in to say "hello" during a recent meeting.

(Picture taken through an office window via camera phone.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dutch Harbor Eagles

While in Dutch, Brad and shipmate, Jeff, spotted a large gathering of eagles who took the liberty of pilfering the contents of a net that was being mended. Brad recounted that as the repairers began to retract the repaired net, and it scooted along the shore, the eagles moved with it- some with the talons still clutching their "catch." None were tangled, but none gave up their hold on thei morsels.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Alaska Marine Highway System

Ah, the only way to travel in Alaska: the ferry. Marine Vessel (MV) Tustamena (aka Rusty Tusty) took Tok, the subaru, and me from Kodiak to Homer. The ferry has a distinct aspect to its travel:

As you find a spot to park your vehicle, you settle in for the next hour or so until the pursor checks you in. And just like an airport waiting area: the people watching begins. As vehicles disembark, you spy minivans filled with new Coastie families, work trucks filled with laborers to work on our public systems or the canneries, tourists in their RVs, and the fisherman- national and foreign alike- carrying large duffels, walking off the pier. And then there are the people next to you, casting side glances into your vehicle, checking out what you packed/what you are hauling, and then making obvious gestures and comments to their fellow passengers about what they have seen.

The pursor comes out, checks your ID and ticket, and asks if you are carrying weapons, ammo, or anything flammable. And then the loading begins. You watch the dock workers load cargo first, and then the vehicles proceed down the pier, onto a two vehicle lift that drops you into the bowels of the ship. You pivot on a turnstyle and a guide greets you at your rear view mirror. From there, you back up down the ramp and along rows of cars to your car's new home for the voyage. You patiently work the clutch, easing the steering wheel back and forth to the guide's directions and back into the space.

Once in my space, I secured our calm puppy (ah, the joy of natural calming treats) in the back seat, tape a sign onto the window, crack the windows, and lock the doors. The sign reads, "Hi, my name is Tok. I am a good dog that does not bark and am very friendly. If something is wrong with me, my mom is ____ and is in Room ___."

After introducing myself and the pup to the worker who will monitor the cars that evening, I head upstairs and to my room. I curl up under the bleached sheets and wool blanket for a cozy evening of being rocked to sleep. As soon as we hit ocean water, I was out. Ironically, I woke when we hit the calm waters of Cook Inlet. It was still dark as we pulled into Homer and offloaded. The drive up the Sterling Highway gave me a glimpse of the moon and an amazing sunrise, rosey glow of the volcanoes that line the Inlet.

Yes, this is a cloud over the Cook Inlet, with the mountain range in the background.

Isn't that rosey glow amazing?

The only way to get around in Moose Pass.


Thanks to a call from a friend, my camera and I rushed to the harbor this past week. Situated on the beach near St. Herman's Harbor, I joined fellow photogs poised to capture the small pod circulating around the harbor and channel. According to the locals, this is the pod we see every winter, including a bull with a collapsed dorsal fin, a couple of smaller orcas, and a new baby calf.

Our sea lions who hang out in St. Herman's Harbor did not feel safe on their platform and dove into the shallow water abutting Near Island. They swam around to cross the channel and into the safety of the shallow small boat harbor on the cannery side of town. As they made a break for it [across the channel], the orcas were heading their direction into the channel. On shore, we all sucked our teeth as the orcas surfaced to breathe and made an exaggarated dive, signaling that they were going to make a run at the pack crossing the channel.

We stood, each wishing we had an underwater view, or at least a topside view to see down into the channel. Each rooting, inherently, for our beloved sea lions, but secretly each hoping to see some carnage, a la National Geographic or Planet Earth. Alas, all sea lions surfaced near the breakwater and slowly made their way along the large barrier and into the refuge of the harbor, away from the orcas who turned and started back toward the buoys.