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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Enquiring Mind Wants to Know

I have a question for you, but first some background:

During those moments when I want to veg out in front of the TV and there isn't anything I want to watch, I flip through the satellite TV guide and sometimes come across a program that sucks me in and compels me to watch.

It’s much like watching a train wreck, as the clichĂ© goes.  It’s too close for comfort, but I can’t turn away.

That program is called Hoarders.

Can't walk through here anymore.

If you haven’t watched it, it’s about people whose homes are so stuffed with stuff they are imperiled physically.  Usually the impetus for cleaning up the stuff comes from a government agency that is threatening condemnation.  At other times, family intervenes.  There are all kinds reasons.  Rarely does the hoarder initiate the action.  Instead, after the initial tossing of stuff, he/she frequently attempts to halt the process.

I understand the hoarders are dealing with emotional issues or illnesses that cause the hoarding.  Still, saving garbage for years—and I do mean garbage—is beyond me. 

On the other hand, as I watch the program, an avalanche of guilt buries me as I think of all the stuff around here.  It is much the same feeling I had on the few occasions I found myself at a garage/yard/whatever sale.

Time to clean this up.

“What am I doing here?”  I ask myself.  “I should be at home getting rid of my own stuff.”  I NEVER go to those things anymore.

Anyway, my introduction to Hoarders has impelled me to get rid of even more stuff.  I spent an hour last night purging my kitchen cabinets, tossing anything that was far out of date.  Would you believe I found stuff that expired in 2002?  Out of sight, out of mind.

A month ago, I spent three days under my house, crawling around in the crawl space.  Actually, it’s more of an almost-stand-up place, because I can between the floor joists.  Some shelving from WalMart and Costco was set up.

Shelving helps.

This crawl space is a far-too-convenient place to toss stuff I want out of sight, rather like someone's hall closet.  I straighten it up every once in a while when it gets difficult to walk through it.   But still...

Much better.

I threw away a lot and organized what was left.  It’s still too much.  I might have to have one of those things that I never go to any more.

But, here’s my question:  Is it still hoarding if it’s all neatly organized on shelves?

Seriously, is this hoarding?

(A confession:  the "before" pictures were taken AFTER I'd started sorting and tossing.  My crawl space really wasnt' that bad.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Baba Kaps on Board

I have a friend who receives messages.  He sees them, hears them, feels them. 

They might come in the form of a sign painted on the side of a bus, or the next train leaving the station when he looks at the board, or simply a thought that invades his mind and won't go away.  We’ve all received messages like this.  The difference is that he acts on them.

Thus, he is leaving soon for his umpteenth trip to India.  The last time he was there, he wrote long e-mails detailing his adventures.  I and others were spellbound and looked forward to the next chapter.

This time, at my suggestion, he started a blog.  You’ll find a link to it over there on the right, under “come visit my friends.”  His is called Bobakaps Doxology.  He has set up his blog somewhat differently than the rest of us, so it's link is shown as Posts: Bobakaps Doxology.  For the same reason, I'm not sure if the link will update when he posts a new chapter.   Too technical for me.

When I first met Cap, he told a long and convoluted story of being “led” in India by messages, signs, and instructions.   Against his plans and free will, he was guided to Calcutta, a horridly impoverished and filthy city that he had no intention of visiting.

The short version of this story is that a stranger sat down at Cap’s cafĂ© table and said, “When you get to Calcutta…”

“I’m not going to Calcutta,” said Caps, recovering nicely from a total stranger seating himself at his table.

“When you get to Calcutta,” persisted the stranger, “call this number.”

Remember the first train leaving the station that I mentioned above?  Through that and a series of messages, Cap found himself in Calcutta. 

When Cap called the number and went to the home of the woman he’d called, he was taken to a different building and into a private room, where he was told to wait.  Soon a very small woman known as Mother Theresa entered and the two were introduced. 

There’s more, much more.  Let’s hope his messages lead him to more adventures.  I’ll follow his blog, just in case.

You might want to do that, too.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scratch One Project off the List

 I've had a project on my "to do" list for several years.  Unfortunately, it required the cooperation of my Clark Y-40 forklift, the last piece of heavy equipment left in my arsenal.

Unfortunately also, the forklift required more TLC than I was capable of giving it, that TLC requiring stronger hands than mine to reattach a hose and mend a fuel leak.  The spark plugs I could change, but I know better than to mess with carburetors, so that meant someone else had to be involved.

This corner is the sled dog whelping pen where many generations of moms and pups learned how to escape this kennel.  Plus, Old Ed backed his snowplow into the corner post.

Enter my cousin Bud, whom I've seen twice since my family left Detroit in 1948.  Bud came to visit for a few days and Bud knows how to make recalcitrant machinery behave.  Machinery doesn't confound him, as it does me.  Nor does he take it personally when something won't start, as do I.

Another view of the no longer used sled dog pen.  The six foot high fence meant I never had porcupine problems, but how one of my dogs caught a snowshoe hare in there is beyond me.  The fence is pulled aside so I could mow in the pen with my John Deere riding mower, rather than do it with a push mower.

Bud put a new cord on the wood splitter's recoil starter, and started my ancient MTD push mower and DR weed whacker with one pull each.  I won't go into how many times I'd pulled the starter cords on those two!  I will say, in my defense, that I put new spark plugs in those machines BEFORE Bud pulled each rope ONCE.

And then, God bless him, Bud got the forklift running.  I was ecstatic.  The forklift used to be my best friend.  It's almost as old as I am, and I love it to death. 

Pulling one of the cemented-in fence posts.

 So Tuesday, I gathered up a handful of wrenches, hoping that somewhere in the pile were the sizes I needed, and started my long-delayed project:  removing the front ten feet of the 50x40 foot pen.  Not only would that clean up what had become a junky looking pen, but it will make snow-plowing and grass-mowing easier.

Hopefully, the right size is in this pile.

 Then, after I'd finally located wrenches in the correct sizes, Eric came home from fishing and helped me.  Eric is the young fellow who lives on my property and helps get me out of the messes I cause myself.  He is also tall enough to reach over the fence; I am not. 

Eric removing the fencing.

With Eric's help...   Wait.  By this time I was helping Eric.  Anyway, a couple hours later, the fence was down and the posts were pulled.

The DR weed whacker started (after Eric pulled the starter rope) and I cut down the tall grass that had grown up along the fence line. 

 Once we got that far, we called it quits for the day.  Wednesday I removed some miscellaneous things from the pen, did some mowing, and hauled off the fencing.  I worked ten hours on this project that day.

Off to the dump.

The final touch was to cut down a lot of willows that had grown up and through the back of the fence.  That meant starting a chain saw.  My Easy-Start Stihl wouldn't.  I finally got my almost-worn-out 024 running and cut down a pile of brush.

Transfer this to a road legal trailer and off to the brush dump.

And the almost-final project:

The scars in the grass will heal soon.  Already it looks hundred percent better.

Next, my neighbor will come over with a BIG fork lift and move my gas tank.  Then, if it ever stops raining, I will pressure-wash the wood shed and repaint it.

Today though,  it's raining and I'm tired.

Guess I'll stay inside and clean windows.

(NOTE TO BUD:  If you're reading this, fall silver salmon fishing is terrific.  And by the way, I have this Easy-Start Stihl that won't.)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

You Say Tomato and I Say Tomahto

You like potato and I like potahto, You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto, Let's call the whole thing off.

--Louis Armstrong lyrics, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off


(Evening.  Commercial zone outside entrance to Denali National Park.  Dark rain clouds threaten to drench customers waiting to order food from “Chinese Food Express.”   Large poster on side of trailer displays photos of various dishes, most of which have dark brown sweet sauce on them.  Gullible waits her turn, then steps up to the window.  Pretty Asian woman is taking orders.)

Pretty Asian Woman (PAW):  Yehs, wha you want?

Gullible (G):  What kind of sauce is on the Almond Chicken?  (Please don’t let it be sweet brown sauce.)

PAW:  Wha?

G:  The Almond Chicken?  What kind of sauce in on it?  (Please don’t let it be sweet brown sauce.)

PAW:  Sau’?  Number 8?  Chicken?  Oh.  (speaks in foreign language to unseen cook.)  Bowel.

G:  Wha...?  What?

PAW:  Bowel.  Number 8, ri?  (Speaks to cook again.)  Bowel.

G:  Uh, okay, I want the Almond Chicken with egg rolls.  (Please don’t let it have sweet brown sauce on it.)

PAW:  Hokay.  A few min, hokay?

G:  Yes, fine.  Thanks.

(Fifteen or twenty minutes pass as previous orders are filled, placed in Styrofoam containers, then in plastic bags.  Misty rain starts to fall.)

(PAW smiles at G; G smiles back.)

PAW:  One min…  (Big smile.  Raining harder.)

(Unseen cook extends fry pan and ladles contents into Styrofoam container.  Gullible wonders about the orange slices in the Almond Chicken, but what the heck, everyone makes it differently.)

PAW:  This yours.  Fifteen ninety-five, please.

(Gullible walks back to the RV park and into her trailer just as heavy rain starts to fall.  She promises Pablo a great dinner as she unwraps the Styrofoam container and opens it.

The Almond Chicken does not have a sweet brown sauce on it.  It has a sweet orange sauce because it is not Almond Chicken.  It is Orange Chicken.  Who knew Almond sounded so much like Orange?

 Raining too hard to call the whole thing off.) 

Friday, August 19, 2011

You Run into the Darndest People in the Darndest Places

So there I was, bouncing over rocks and ruts, splashing through mud puddles, eating dust, and all the while I was (obliviously) in the company of a celebrity.  And her girlfriends.

This latest activity was a spur-of-the-moment decision.  I have a 7 AM appointment in Anchorage at the RV doctor to get the electrical system in my travel trailer knocked back into shape, so I stayed another day at Denali park.  I'll leave Saturday and lollygag my way to Anchorage.

Anyway, I signed up for an ATV trip into the foothills a dozen miles north of here.  Where I come from, they're called four-wheelers.  I signed the "no-fun" form that relieves everyone and anyone from any liability and places the blame squarely on me for any mayhem and catastrophes, and paid my money.

At the appointed hour, we piled into a van and Mike drove us north to Healy.  We were assigned our machines, given helmets to wear, and saddled up.  Soon we were roaring off onto a series of gravel "roads" and bouncing over the afore-mentioned rocks.

At one overlook, we picked blueberries.

Brian, our guide, led us down onto a riverbed to a huge sand bank that is slowly being eroded by the river.

We took a long break here while two teenagers ran for the fissures in the face of this bank, then drove back to our starting point.

It was there that I overheard the words "published my book" and "in production with FOX for a reality show."

A book, huh?  That got my attention, so I asked.

Once I saw the name written on her business card, bells started ringing--and not the ones in my head still clanging from bouncing over boulders.

Casey, center, and travel friends.
Poor Casey must have the worst job in the world.  She has to travel.  With friends.  And write about it.  And talk about it on TV and radio.  And get paid for it.

What's so awful about that?

She has to do it all on a schedule.

She's in Alaska for a week.  A week! That's hardly enough to time to get your luggage off the carousel and get out of the airport.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gobsmacked and Speechless

Now I know why:

a.  I chose this week to visit Denali;
b.  I chose Thursday to take the bus into the Park, even though I've been here since Tuesday;
c.  I chose the last bus departure for Wonder Lake.

Denali, the shy one, starting to peek through.

Cross fox.

Wonder Lake.


Golden eagle.

Grizzly sow with almost grown cubs.

Dall sheep.



Bull caribou.

Denali in evening.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Birthday in Denali

I celebrated a friend’s birthday today by climbing a mountain.  It’s certainly NOT the way he would choose to mark his birthday or any other anniversary, for a number of reasons, even though it was a small mountain.

One is that he died twenty-six years ago.  The second is that, were he still alive, he’d be ninety-eight.  And third, his ideas of celebrating were decidedly more worldly.

What I’m doing right now as I write this, sipping on a Long Island Iced Tea and eating mixed nuts and listening to rain on the roof, would be closer to his liking, though I’m sure he wouldn’t choose an LIIT. 

I want to explain about that LIIT.  It’s one of those individual cocktails that come in little cans.  I opened it a couple days before I left on this trip to Denali National Park.   I took one sip from the can then poured part into a glass filled with ice cubes and watered it down with sweet and sour mix.

I drank a bit and stuck it in the refrigerator.  The ice cubes melted.  I poured it into a plastic container and brought it with me.

Now about that mountain.  I went through all the hikes listed in the park’s brochure until I found one that would get the heart pumping, the Mount Healy overlook trail.  Two to two and a half miles one way with a gain in elevation of 1,700 feet, with some 25% grades.   Twelve hundred feet of that gain in elevation comes in the second mile. 

That’s the one, I decided, completely forgetting that my feet really, really don’t like walking downhill.
Mount Healy.  Not.  Just an overlook.  On second hand, I'll have to consult a map.

About a mile into the hike, a young man pushing a bike came up behind me.  “I thought you were supposed to ride those things,” I teased.

“Too steep,” he said.

We talked for a while and shortly afterwards some hikers coming down recommended he leave the bike behind.  He did, and that very nice young man from Bulgaria whose name is Simon, accompanied me all the way to the top of the mountain, despite my very frequent breaks while I waited for my wind to catch up with me.

The heart was willing, the legs were strong, but I kept losing my wind. 

We summited Mount Healy, looked at the scenery, rested up, and started down.  I kept telling Simon he didn’t need to wait for me and after assuring him that I would be perfectly fine, he raced off down the trail, springing from boulder to boulder on legs fifty years younger than mine.

And this wasn't even a steep part of the trail.  I think they lied about that 25% grade.
My feet were reminding me what happened the last time I made them hike downhill, so I was choosing my footing carefully and stopping frequently to take pictures.

  In that manner, I made it back to my truck in slightly more than the estimated four hour time.  I had lots of time to commune with my birthday friend.

Now I am sitting in my RV trailer, drinking watered down Long Island Iced Tea, cursing this little netbook for doing whatever IT wants to do, and thinking about my friend from long ago.

A birch tree sprinkles the trail with golden coins.

Happy birthday to you, Sweetie.  I miss you.