"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Partying with the Old Folks Like We Were Thirty-Something Again

I went out last night for a rare time on the town.  One of the reasons I drove 50 miles to drink beer was that two of my friends from Maui are in Alaska for a few days and they wanted to go.

Oktoberfest was held in the third incarnation of the Day Lodge.

Anyway, I was with a bunch of old folks who have been friends of mine since the early 1960s.   We used to party together then, too.   I was the youngest of the group last night, just a few heartbeats short of 75, though I admit there were a couple women whose ages I don’t know.  Most of the group hovers on one side or the other of 80.

The eldest, Jerry, is looking 90 straight in the eye with the same disbelief that I feel about my age.

Jerry, almost 90 and still dancing.

Jerry in the red plaid shirt, in front yard of Double Musky at a Sunday afternoon BBQ, 1965.

Yet, there he was on the dance floor, showing his moves in the waltzes.  He joked that his dance partner’s obligation was to keep him from falling.   He left the strenuous polkas to the youngsters—the 80-somethings.

Jerry and Lou

Dancers don't hold still.

Back in the 60s, he was one of my two favorite dance partners at the old Double Musky in Girdwood, where the ski resort town of Alyeska is located.   That’s where we were last night—at the resort for Oktoberfest.   The Musky, as it’s called, is now a world-famous Cajun restaurant.

Skiing brought us all together at first, but a Polish fellow named Dan Zantek kept us together until we bonded like family.   Every Saturday night, polka dancing at the Musky until late at night.   We look back upon those days now and wonder if we were somehow blessed, if other people have years in their lives that were magical, and if more than 50 years later, those same people are still your dearest friends.

The one and only Polka Dan, himself in his 80s.

Polka Dan back in the day

There I was, drinking a lager with my “family” (it was Oktoberfest!), eating bratwurst, pan-fried spaetzle, and braised red cabbage.  The only thing missing, I thought, was one of Chef Werner’s crisp-crust bread rolls.   And some of our friends, either moved away or gone in reality.

Chris Von Imhof, former manager of Alyeska Ski Resort and his wife Brigitte.

We stayed much longer than intended.   It’s hard to break away from a fun “family” gathering.

We were there for Polka Dan’s set.   Soon after he finished for the evening, we watched as another band took the stage.   What kind of polka band includes drums, guitars, and a sax, I wondered?  

Then, they started to play and darned if they didn’t sound like a polka band:

                ♫ In Heaven they have no beer,

                That’s why we drink it here……♫

And then they stopped.    The volume went up into the stratosphere and they started playing ….   Well, I don’t know what kind of music to call it.   It was enjoyable, but way too loud even for folks who are already hearing-impaired.

Bruce and Betsey Ficke, developers of the first hotel at Alyeska as well as the first condominiums in Alaska, also located at Alyeska.   They are visiting from Maui.

We hugged, kissed, and said our goodbyes, then headed for the exit.   Beside us, the entrance stairs were crowded with young folks coming in to see the new band.

As I descended, I thought, “You youngsters have no idea what you missed…..  Either tonight or 50 years ago.”

More Photos:

John, expert photographer and still a Girdwood resident.

Chris in his hat.

The Day Lodge is located right at the bottom of the mountain so we can see only a portion of it.

Food is part of Oktoberfest.

And beer, of course.

Even more beer outside in tents.

Chris and Brigitte's grandson eating chocolate cake.

So is grandpa.

A couple in traditional dress.

Daddy dancing with his son.

Chris and Brigitte dancing with their granddaughter.

Bruce and Betsey kicking up their heels.

A whirling dervish I was trying to get in focus....

Because polka music makes you happy.

There she goes again.

And some not-so-typical dress.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Tern Lake Beauty

Been pretty busy lately and haven't had time  to finish the Fur and Feathers Journals.  

In the meantime, here's a trumpeter swan at Tern Lake, and some autumn scenery.

And I'll leave you for a bit with the resident swans of Tern Lake.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Night Light

When a sunset is lighting up your night.....

Make sure you look behind you.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The 2nd Fur and Feathers Journals, Chapter Eleven: In which we find the feathers in amongst the fur

Chapter Eleven
In which we find the feathers in amongst the fur

Today we board Silver Salmon Lodge's custom made aluminum boat for a trip north to Tuxedni Bay and a chance to photograph horned puffins, with owner David Corey as captain.  Were it not raining and cloudy, we could have seen Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt, both semi-active volcanoes, in this part of Lake Clark National Park.    Today, we use our imaginations.

We stay close to the shore and spot a Coastal Brown bear sow with a young cub.  Someone remarks that she had lost a twin cub earlier this year and is being very careful with the remaining one.

Once we reach Tuxedni Bay, David pulls the boat close to a sheer cliff that is thought to be the largest black-legged kittiwake rookery in Cook Inlet.   There are an estimated 500,000 birds that come to nest in the rocks and seams of this cliff face.

A small gull,the name kittiwake derives from the bird's shrill screech: kittee-wa-aake, kittee-wa-aake.

 And screech they do!   Constantly!   Forever and ever, amen.   Or, at least until the breeding and raising of more screechers is over and they return to the open sea where they spend the winters.

There are kittiwakes in every nook and cranny, every ledge and outcropping, and it takes nothing to disturb the whole bunch of them.   Then hundreds leap from the face of the cliff and fly around in a dither before they land, screeching all the while.

It's impossible to take a photo that shows how many birds are here.  From a distance, they blend in with the gray and white-washed rock.   The cliff seems alive with birds, thousands of whom are in motion at any given time.

For that reason, it's necessary to focus on just a couple birds, or a small group, to get any kind of a meaningful photo.

Unlike the murres, which lay their eggs on bare rocks, the kittiwakes actually have nests.

A small disturbance and a flock takes to flights.   This photo is a small piece of the face of the cliff where the vegetation starts on the left.

A very small part of the rookery cliff face.

The kittiwakes share their space (what's left of it) with common murres, who--like the kittiwakes--come to shore only to nest, then return to the sea.    This past winter of 2015-2016, Alaska experienced an unprecendented die-off or murres, tens of thousands of them.    In late January, an estimated 100,000 murres had died, andit continued on from there.

A common symptom was starvation and research into the reason continues.

Floatillas of murres are in the water and when our boat approaches, the murres burst from the water into a frenzy equaling the screaming kittiwakes's.

Farther up the bay is an historic salmon cannery built in 1911, and now being restored as a tourist attraction.  This is the cannery as seen from the air.

A short distance away is the mis-named Duck Island, a nesting spot for puffins.   Again we photographers are presented with the challenge of trying to get in-focus photos from the deck of a bobbing boat while hand-holding heavy mega-lenses.    Rick gives me tips on how to hold the camera/lens, and tells me not to brace myself against the motion of the boat, but to go with it.   Come to think of it, that's a good way to avoid seasickness, too.

Nonetheless, I get lots and lots of puffin feet photos, like this one:

Occasionally, I get whole puffins and only a couple of cut-off puffins.

The puffins share their rocks with murres, too.

And with several pairs of  black oystercatchers.

Nearby is the most accommodating  sea otter in Cook Inlet.    It is so unconcerned about our presence, it goes back to sleep as we photograph it.

"...and that fish I caught was thiiiiiis big!"

Perched above all the puffins and murres and oystercatchers, a glaucous gull waits for a chance to raid a nest.

And then we're off,  headed south to the lodge and more furry bears.


Where the heck is Tuxedni Bay!!!

This is a map of Cook Inlet.   Silver Salmon Creek and the lodge are located on the western shore just right of the word Iliamna.  

Tuxedni Bay is the water indent north of there.

A little closer.   Duck Island, where the puffins are, is seen just right of Chisik Island at the top right of photo.   The You are Here arrow points to the lodge location.