Ah Hawaii. The place where white on the ground means sand, not snow. The place where you can walk outside without fourteen layers of clothes even in the winter. Hawaii… Alaska’s other paradise.
I’m going to Hawaii for my godchild’s college graduation. I’ll be there four days. This information usually causes people to look at me as though I’m slightly deranged, and ask why only four days when I could stay ever so much longer. The truth is that as much as I try otherwise, I simply don’t want to spend any length of time in a warm paradise. Give me my cold paradise every time.
This might have something to do with the fact that I grew up in Atlantic City about two blocks from the beach and ocean. So for me, these elements of nature are simply not as foreign and exotic as they might be to someone who grew up in the mid west or the Alaskan Arctic.
I spent my summers on the beach until I got old enough for my mother to get me a job at Bell Telephone. For all you kids reading this on your iPhones, there was a time when you needed a long distance operator to place anything other than a local call. And you actually spoke to a live person when you dialed information, a person who sat with telephone books in front of her and looked up your number by hand.
This was one of the more popular places to get a summer job to help pay for your winter’s education. Ma Bell offered a variety of shifts to cover their busy periods. One of these was called a split shift. You came in early in the morning and left by noon. Then you returned in the evening for another four hours. This was obviously not a shift that most permanent employees wanted. But for college students in the summer, it was perfect. You worked the morning, went to the beach in the afternoon, and then returned to work in the evening. Being young and energetic, you were able to keep this pace up long after your older colleagues would have collapsed. Sleep was for winter. The beach was for summer.
I never opted for that shift. I did the total opposite. I volunteered for a night shift so that I had an excuse to sleep all day while that pesky hot yellow ball was high in the sky. I got up as it went down. I slept as it went up. For me, it was perfect timing.
To this day I am puzzled by just when the change occurred, when I went from looking forward to the beach to avoiding it at all costs. It might have been when I got too old to haul a bucket and shovel down the beach to build sand castles. It might have been when I grew old enough to be self-conscious about my body. It might stem from the time a boy I was just starting to notice as a boy told me I looked like a boat in my bathing suit. Whatever, the cumulative effect was that I woke up one day and realized that having sand in my shoes and hair was not fun; that salt water made me feel dry and icky; that eating a popsicle on a windy beach made for a very grainy texture and taste; and finally, that I simply was no longer amused by a hot sun burning down on the pages of the book I was trying to read.
So I gave up on sand and ocean unless it was in the Arctic and cold, windy and challenging. But I love my godchild very much. I’m so very, very proud that despite being a military wife and mother of two she has been able to complete her college education that I’m willing to overlook my negative feelings about the joys of sun and surf and head to Hawaii. But only for four days. Any more than that and I start to feel weird in ways I can’t explain but that definitely has something to do with being able to go out with very few clothes on and not risk freezing to death.
Call me crazy. Call me Alaskan. But that’s just not right.
Let them bury the Boston Marathon bomber Tamarlan wherever the hell they want. American soil is stronger than his decaying body. Soon the site will be forgot but the bravery and valor of those who helped the wounded that day will live in our memories forever.
The explanations I’m getting from Alaska’s senators about their no vote on something as simple as background checks before gun purchases simply hold no water. They are merely playing to the NRA on the assumption that the NRA can fire up its base and get the votes out more strongly than the people who support common sense gun legislation. So I can only hope that those groups supporting this sane legislation will get out and vote with even more fervor than the NRA and show our scared and chicken shit little congress people that they are very, very wrong and will pay at the polls for their scared little vote.
Went down to Park Square here in Anchorage last Wednesday to help show Bird TLC education birds to all the sailors and marines on leave from the USS Anchorage. There was a time in my youth when, during fleet week, I would not have had to pay for a drink all night. Now I looked at all the beautiful young men and women in uniform and they all looked like they could be my grandchildren. I couldn’t have worked up the energy to flirt with them even if I wasn’t aware that I would just look like a wrinkled old lady with clearly unachievable aspirations. So depressing. Had to come home and watch an NCIS rerun to get my balance back.
Find a headline in the paper that states that the Alaska Republican Party has been accused of trying to kill all Christians in its ranks by members of its own party. See, life can have its fun moments.
One year ago today these two sweet dogs came into my life… ok, maybe sweet isn’t the right adjective here. After all, I just found out that Bubba has apparently be using the corner of my living room carpet to relieve herself at night so she doesn’t have to walk all the way to the dining room five feet away to pee on the pads I’ve put down for her. And Carm spends most of the night trying to shove a particularly smelly and questionable Santa Claus doll under my pillow so all those other dogs won’t get it. But they are my little loves.
We’ll be celebrating with a barbecue. Their cake will be made of hamburger. People attending will received grilled food of some kind even if it’s snowing out… it’s May, damn it! I am using my grill!… and a people cake. It will be a smart dinner party to celebrate one of the smartest things I ever did - adopting these two dogs from Friends of Pets. Rescue dogs are simply the best.
I’m sitting in my office getting some work done. It’s nice out so I have my office door open so that the dogs can run in and out of the yard at will. Suddenly I hear hysterical yipping interspersed with hysterical barking. I run into the yard to find Bubba has stuck her head between the metal fence and the house and is now stuck. Her butt is wagging frantically as she screams. Carm, every helpful, is alternately barking and licking her butt as though that will grease her head enough to get her out. I grab her and try to twist her head sideways but she screams even louder and now she’s dangling halfway up the fence with her butt in the air. So I take to screaming 911 and help to no avail. No one is around here during the day. I manage to slide her head back down to the ground and run to get help. My first call goes to our dogwalker Karie. Why I thought that was the first thing to do is of no consequence. She was twenty minutes away and could only drive so fast. I finally went to my neighbor’s house and pounded on the door. He was, thankfully, home. And so very kind and gracious. Came right over and managed, with the help of some tools, some strength, and Bubba’s constant wiggling, to pull the fence back enough to get her head out.
Now ask me why she needed to have her head there in the first place? No really good reason. There are at least three other places in the fence where she could have shoved her head through without any difficulty and gotten it back out just as easily. But then, if she did that, I would not have had the cardio workout I got today.
I grew up watching westerns on TV. Maverick. Bonanza. Have Gun Will Travel. Rawhide. Gunsmoke. The Rifleman. They presented Americans with a fantastical view of our past in which the silent stranger with a gun solved all the town’s problems. Shootouts at high noon always ended with the bad guy dead and the good guy walking away – tall, proud, a loner who brought justice to town and then moved on to the next one that needed it.
Then westerns disappeared. You can’t find one on TV now that Deadwood is gone. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to swallow that myth anymore.
The Wild West was not tamed by a lone gunman who rode into town, shot the bad guys and left. And, quite frankly, more than one Native American group would probably be happy to argue that the west was not so wild and untamed given that they’d been living there and surviving off the land for thousands of years before that lone gunman arrived. The Old West storyline simply no longer holds water.
Whether you believe those days ever existed exactly as Hollywood portrayed them, the reality is that they are gone. People no longer stroll through towns on wooden walkways with six guns strapped to their waist or rifles held at the ready. They don’t do this because they no longer need to. Law and order has been established by a civilized society that created rules of conduct and agencies responsible for enforcing those rules. This means that we can unstrap the old six-shooter and enter a bar or grocery store with nothing more than our smiles and credit cards.
I was apparently mistaken in believing that society would continue to move forward in time and not backwards, because suddenly I am again in the land of Bret Maverick and Marshall Dillon. People – ok, mostly men – demand the right to strut through commercial establishments, churches, city halls, schools and every other venue you can imagine with six guns strapped to their sides.
I imagine on some level this makes these men feel like real men, their virility visible to all. Perhaps they are under the impression that women will look at the size of their gun and swoon in anticipation of what it might portend. Maybe without those guns they don’t feel as safe and secure as they do with them. Maybe these men simply don’t trust their ability to care for themselves and their families without an instant means of visiting death on anyone who seems to threaten them.
I feel as though we are backtracking through time with the latest trend of pushing for guns laws that allow everyone to carry a gun everywhere, concealed or not. This tends to make me very nervous, especially now that background checks have been shot down by our frightened little congress. Because the argument that passing laws will not stop people intent on breaking them is so transparently inane as to be almost beyond laughable. Based on that theory, why pass laws that make murder or theft a crime. Murderers are going to murder whether or not there is a law. Thieves intent on stealing will steal no matter how many laws we pass saying its illegal to do so. If we only passed laws that we thought everyone would follow, we’d have precious few laws and general chaos in society.
Background checks will weed out some who should not have guns. It will not weed them all out. Neither will a law against rape stop rapists. But we still find value in that law.
I loved watching those old westerns. I loved the idea of the loner in the white hate who rode into town, cleaned it up and rode out again leaving peace and justice behind him. But that concept has always been a myth. What one person may see as justice, another sees as vigilante action.
I don’t want random individuals with guns strapped to their waist shopping next to me in the grocery store. That does no make me feel safer. It mostly makes me feel as though Pa and Hoss should be one aisle over buying flour for winter.
Surely America can find a way to move forward towards an even more civilized society and not backwards to a world that never was.
I take back what I wrote yesterday. I just saw some of the stuff emerging from under the melting snow. It’s scary. So please, god, feel free to cover it back up until I am strong enough to deal with whatever it was before it spent 9 months covered by snow.
May starts tomorrow. So could we please have the snow all melt overnight so I can at least dream of the flowers I want to buy without feeling totally foolish.
Why is it that some people feel our laws should only be followed when it’s the easy choice to make? But when the choice is difficult.... putting Japanese Americans in camps, pulling American terrorists out of the very legal system that was created to handle crimes by citizens, deciding how long we can keep people in an island prison with no access to justice and no proven charges against them… some Americans, perhaps the same who thump their chests and declare that no one steps on America, are the first to decide the laws should not apply and that we should become no better than a police state in dealing with the difficult because that’s the only way they feel safe. Way to go. John Wayne would be so very proud.
Surely Alaska can come up with better senators than those we currently have. You know, people who would not be in the pocket of special interests. People who would vote their conscience and not vote based on their overwhelming need to be re-elected so that they can continue to fatten up at the public trough while denying everyday citizens even a small piece of that pie. People who would not let the NRA rule them like they were just little bitches.
Democratic former President Bill Clinton… goes on to found a global initiative to deal with world problems
Democratic former President Jimmy Carter… goes on to work for world peace and build homes for people
Republican former President George HW Bush… retired to his rich compound and played golf
Republican former President George W Bush… paints pictures of himself in his bathtub
Democrat former vice president Al Gore… works on issues of global warming
Republican former vice president Dick Cheney.... continues to scare the crap out of anyone with an ounce of sense or decency.
Why doesn’t Begich just admit he’s a Republican and stop pretending he’s a Dem? I mean, how much further up the ass of the Republican elephant can he possibly squeeze his head before admitting the obvious?
Sometimes our world is filled with so much ugliness and pain that it’s hard to remember that the overwhelming majority of people are good. Most go about their daily lives, whether in America, Gabon, Iraq or China, trying to do their best to get through the day and get back to their families at night. We want a secure roof over our heads, safe streets outside our doors and good food and water on our tables. Most of us just want to make it from morning to night in peace.
Unfortunately, there are people who live to create chaos, horror and tragedy. Most of us find it hard to even imagine the dark soul that must exist inside someone who wantonly kills, especially when they do so in the name of their god. Anyone who can twist their beliefs into such a knot and then believe that knot is the truth is beyond my comprehension.
There is little we can really do to stop people for whom causing pain is the ultimate goal. All the police and security in the world can’t stop someone who wants to drop a bag of explosives in the middle of a crowd or open fire with a semi-automatic in a crowded theater. Even living in a police state is no guarantee of safety. Ask the people killed in that movie theater in Russia if a police state saved them. All we can do is get up each morning and go about our business in the belief that no horror will visit us on that particular day.
I work with volunteers at Bird TLC every week. They are the people I need to remember when the news makes me just want to burrow deeper under the covers of my bed. Every week they come in on their day off and wallow in bird poop and debris. They do it with smiles and joy… ok, maybe not always joy on the day that one of the eagles chooses to evacuate all that was ugly inside him in one major moment, but most of the time.
People like this are found all over our community, good people with a passion to help that makes our world a little gentler, a little nicer, a little easier to bear. Some can be found at the Red Cross, some at the blood bank, some at domestic violence shelters, some at animal shelters, some showing us down the aisles at the Pac. They are dotted throughout our town, serving so quietly that often we don’t even realize they’re there. They are the people who restore your faith in humanity each time a backpack explodes.
This past Saturday a golden eagle was set free out on the Palmer Flats. He’d been a guest of Bird TLC all winter because golden eagles migrate out of the state in the fall and, even though he’d healed from his initial injuries, he couldn’t go free until his compatriots had started migrating back. Volunteers spent the winter braving freezing temperatures to clear snow out of his enclosure and feed him regularly while making all kinds of horrible sounds and noises so that he would not view them favorably. His survival in the wild depends on his continued fear of people.
So when I hear about the bombing in Boston and I read about the twisted hatred of the shooter in Colorado or the bizarre logic of the alleged ricin mailer in Mississippi, I can only be thankful that my world is filled with people who will give equal love, care and compassion to a nuthatch and an eagle; people who will get up early on their day off to run screaming through an eagle cage and feel as though they are privileged to be able to do so. They fill my world with joy and laughter.
In Anchorage in the spring we seem to have two things in abundance… mud and charity auctions. This Saturday, Bird TLC will celebrate its 25th anniversary at the Egan Center with its auction. All your favorite birds will be there – eagles, owls, ravens and, of course, Kodi the Cache Crow. Come celebrate twenty-five years of volunteer power. Come meet the people who make our community a better place for their presence. It’s the best way to keep the haters from winning.