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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

We gotta get out of this.....

(with apologies to the Animals and their song...)


In this chilly old month at this place...

(Highest temp today.)

Where the septic system refuses to work...

(Ack, the manhole that hides all...)

Breaker tells me there ain't no use in trying...

(See the recalcitrant devil, fourth from the left)

And one thing I know is true....


I really don't want to mess with this stuff....



We gotta get out of this month...
(snow, snow, everywhere.)

If it's the last thing that we do...

(Gigantic piles of it.)

'Cause I'm sure there's a better life...

(The last blooms of the Christmas cactus.)

For me and you....


In this dirty old part of this place...

(Volcanic ash on my pretty little truck.)

Where Redoubt sends ash my way...

(oh, ugh, ick.)

People tell me there ain't no use in trying....

(Sticky, icky, coarse and gritty.)

To keep things clean and pretty...

And one thing I know is true...

I'm gonna die before my time is due...


We gotta get out of this place...

If it's the last thing we ever do....

Pablo knows there's a better life....

For me and you.....

Oh, baby.....
(lullabye, and goodnight..... this is what a sleepy parrot looks like.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

more pix from 1964 earthquake

Before I put this disaster away for another year, I thought I'd post some more pictures from the 1964 Southcentral Alaska earthquake. Many of these I don't recognize, but I'll label the ones I can. This is a shot of some of the stores on the main street of Anchorage that sank into a fault. I think this photo might also be of the main street, Fourth Avenue.
No idea on this one.

Or this.

No go on this one, too.

Another shot of Fourth Avenue, where two or three blocks of businesses on the bnorth side of the street sank when the land gave way.

More destruction along L Street.

Same vicinity.


Same. That big sqaure thing is the toppled elevator shaft of the Four Seasons Apartment building. The rest of the newly constructed building is a pile of ribble on the ground around the shaft.

L Street again.

Unknown business.

This one is something that used to be in the Alaska Railroad yards.

I am pretty sure this scene is of what happened to the air control tower at Merill Field, an airport for small planes at the east end of Anchorage proper.

This photo shows fault lines and land sinking.

A small crevasse.
More L Street wreckage. Note the fault that sank between the white house and the beige building on the right. This was typical on the fault that roughly paralleled L Street. It varied in width, and ran for a number of blocks.
At the time, I lived in a small apartment on the second floor of an older home on Fifth Avenue between K and L Streets. The house sat right in the middle of the fault, and sank with the ground. Access to my apartment was by an exterior staircase, which was wrenched away from the building and clinging by nails that were partly pulled out. I had to climb those stairs and retrieve all my belongings, which consisted of a number of boxes of books. I have looked everywhere and cannot find a picture of the building. It was later moved intact to another location.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

and I nominate....

....Another Inevitable

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Familiar quotation, but author unknown. So, with the aid of my dear friend Google, I went searching for the name of the brilliant, somewhat cynical, person who first mouthed those immortal words. Lots of people credited “Unknown” with being the author. There were also a few nods to “Anonymous,” as well as “the fellow.” Those guys get lots of credit where it isn’t earned. Many others simply skirted the whole issue of attribution.

After due diligence, I found the answer right where I should have looked in the first place: Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. The author? None other than that rascally Renaissance man Benjamin Franklin. Should have known. The fact that so many didn’t know, and credited Unknown and Anonymous instead, serves to give credence to Ben’s adage, because while his words have survived a couple centuries and are familiar to many, though they are plagiarized endlessly in numerous variations and with uncountable additions and pretenders to be the third inevitable, his authorship is lost in oblivion and certainly not certain..

So, after the past few days, I find it incumbent upon myself to add my selection for the third inevitable: “You can never truly get away with anything.” The following recounting of the past ten days are the bona fides to support my selection.

But first, I must explain a theory I developed last winter. That’s last winter, as opposed to this winter, because here in Alaska it’s still winter. I was absent from home last winter so many times that winter went by with scarcely a notice. I went to Mexico. I went to Arizona. I spent the month of February house-sitting in Halibut Cove, which is in Alaska. I drove north into the heart of the Alaskan Interior to Fairbanks, Manley Hot Springs, Chena Hot Springs, and places in between. I think there were a few other times that I was away from home during the seven months we call winter (those being October through April), but I don’t remember them now.

All in all, I was home in Moose Pass only nine weeks total, with many breaks in between. I was also gone in May, but May is considered Springsummer, so that doesn’t count. After so many absences, so little snow shoveled, and so few days of below zero temperatures, I reached a startling observation: It doesn’t count as winter if you aren’t at home.

This winter, the one still in progress, is a different story. I stayed home until mid-January, when I once again drove to Homer and rode the mail boat over to Halibut Cove. This time, though, I was there almost nine weeks, and I considered that nine weeks of winter I missed because I wasn’t at home. Never mind that it snowed and froze and thawed and got cold in the cove. I wasn’t home and it didn’t count.

When my friends came back, I left the cove and drove home to Moose Pass, anxious to see how much the earth had tipped to allow sunshine into the valley where I live. By the way, because I’m surrounded by mountains, there is no direct sunshine from mid-November until mid-February. Then, in bits and spurts, our sun quota is lengthened as that orb clears peaks and ridgelines.

It was snowing and overcast when I got home. The next day, however, was nice and clear and sunny, and I was delighted that the sun had cleared the south mountain for all but a couple hours in late afternoon. A day later, Saturday, the sky became obscured and a half inch of snow fell before I went to bed. By Sunday morning there were at least sixteen inches of new snow, and the guy who plows my very long driveway made his first appearance since before I went to Halibut Cove.

He was back to finish up the next day because he’d only had time to make sure I could get in and out of the drive on Sunday. Wednesday I went to Anchorage to deliver the data for one of Ben’s inevitables—taxes—and to visit Costco for the first time in over two months. I drove home, almost a hundred miles, flirting with Ben’s other inevitable, in high winds, blowing snow, and obscured visibility. The worst weather was in my home valley, a flat-out snarling blizzard. It’s a good thing my bedroom is on the lee side of the house, or I wouldn’t have been able to sleep because of all the noise.

The next day found the snowplow guy in my driveway again. This was the day I also discovered that my entire septic system—drain pipe, sewer tank, and lift station—was frozen solid. I knew it because all the water that had been going down that drain pipe for a week was backing up into my house. I called the guy with the steam cleaner, and he got that problem fixed, but the lift station continues throwing the breaker for the pump. That problem remains to be deciphered, but by six o’clock, we were cold and wet and discouraged, and quit for the day.

Friday night it snowed again. Today the snowplow guy was back—for the fourth time this week.

I still think my theory is valid, that it doesn’t count as winter if you aren’t at home. But, the caveat to that is this: you can never truly get away with anything. I’m thinking of calling my friends in Halibut Cove and asking if I can come back until, say, the Fourth of July, maybe.


Friday, March 27, 2009

lasting images of disaster...

The following photos are from a private collection of pictures taken shortly after the 1964 earthquake in Southcentral Alaska. While images similar to these have been published, these pictures have never before been seen in print or online.

The photo below, as well as the many taken of the same structure, is an iconic image of the earthquake damage in Anchorage. This is the fairly new J.C Penney building on Fifth Avenue in Anchorage. The pre-fabricated concrete slabs that made up the exterior of the several story building peeled away during the quake, crashing to the sidewalk and street below. At least one casualty occurred as a slab crushed an occupied vehicle. This photo was taken several days after the quake, when cranes had been moved in and a safety wall built around the ruined structure.

Another damaged storefront.

N0 more Saturday afternoon matinees at this theater. The marquee now sits at the same level as the main street of Anchorage, Fourth Avenue, as do the rest of the buildings. This also is an iconic image of the damage in Anchorage.

This is a view of the same block, from the other direction. Notice that the fault took a big bite out of the street here. I was down in some of those buildings after the quake, just looking around.

Below is what was left of the Four Seasons apartment building at Ninth Ave. and L St. Construction had just been completed on this upscale building, and tenants were to move in soon. That's the elevator shaft still intact, while the rest of the building lies in ruins.

Fault lines ran crazily through Anchorage. Some buildings weren't damaged at all, though they ended up a number of feet below street level. The fresh gravel on the left appears to be emergency fill brought in to make the street passable.

On the other hand, some homes didn't fare too well. Note the sidewalk to the front porch suspended in air--nothing below it.

This is what happened to Government Hill School. It used to be all on the same level. The quake occurred near 5:30 on Good Friday afternoon. It was a school holiday, and most people were in their vehicles heading home after work. That is one of the reasons only thirteen people died in Anchorage, even thought the physical devastation was immense.

This is the front view of the Hillside apartments at 16th Avenue and H St. I had friends who lived in this building. The interior walls between apartments were concrete. When the walls began to crumble, a block fell into their new baby's crib, but missed the infant.

And here's the back side.

This is one of the two 14 story buildings in Anchorage. Notice the "X" cracks. This building is in use today. It has been known by various names, including the McKinley Apartments and the Denali Building, if memory serves correctly. After the quake it was purchased by an attorney named Neil Mackay and "enjoyed" a long run as the eyesore of the city. In recent years it was repaired and reopened as an apartment/office building.
It's sister building, located across the city proper on L Street, was quickly repaired and reinhabited. I had a girlfriend who rode out the quake in her tenth floor apartment as the building swayed back and forth. She said the water in the toilet was sloshing out of the bowl. This is one of the reasons I don't care for multi-story buildings and elevators.

These pictures don't begin to do justice to the devastation a five and a half minute earthquake reaching 9.2 moment magnitude can do. But, they might be enough to give me nightmares tonight. It's only been in the past few years that I don't jump out of bed and run during earthquakes. I do, however, still hold my breath....