Thursday, July 5, 2007

Kids Part II

The kids are alright. They are a smart batch of cookies, lots of questions and ideas on how things should be done. Many of them have been in summer theatre programs before, and they demand a higher level of conversation and game than I was able to offer today, tired and lunchless as I was from my early shift at the radio station. There's a hyperactive little urchin I will call "Tomato", who requires near-constant attention, and several future DDF champions with long, straight pigtails who really want dance numbers and improv exercises, and a bunch of soccerball bouncing boys with squeaky voices who aren't too cool just yet to be a whole lot of fun. A pair of twins I used to nanny for when I was nineteen are in the program-- they are the greatest, one of them tall and calm, a natural leader and caretaker of the younger kids, the other hanging back a bit but quick with a wiseass quip.

Tomato is going to be my big challenge, bigger than managing the stage-- quite enormously huge. He speaks in robot voices and animal grunts, sings a chipmunk-y version of "Hanky the Christmas Poo" during quiet moments, and likes to drop pen caps and little rocks down the back of my jeans when we're doing read-throughs. Sara loved him during her morning shift, relating, as we both do, to his nerdy kingdom of self-alienation; by my afternoon shift (and possibly after something sugary on lunch break)he was as spun as spun could be, wriggling, jumping, leaping, squawking, crying, laughing, pawing...

In other wildlife news, my animal tally is looking up: on top of the three bears Sara and I saw her first week in town and the sea otter that's living under the building next door, dad and I saw a yearling moose 100 yards away on the golf course yesterday. He was big and gawky, all knees and throat; he froze when he spotted us, then sauntered over to the river, where he splashed out to a sand flat and ran down the center kicking up silver spray, looking for all the world like he was walking on water.

I'm composing a special belated 4th of July post with lots of pictures-- I'll put it up next week when dad goes back to work, the school being my only sure means of doing so. Sara's peach of a boyfriend Spike was in town, and we took in as much of the festivities as we possibly could. I hate to admit that we were all too emotionally and physically exhausted from the glory and the pageantry to take in the pie eating contest, but I do have very special pictures of the parade, and of some wee horsies with new wave bangs that have rainbows for eyelashes and hearts made of candy. You'll see.

kids these days

Sneaking in the back door of my blog here, side-stepping the huge piles of things to write about and pictures to post, just to whisper a little aside in the present tense and duck back out...

My job with the youth conservatory starts today, and I've only just received script and syllabus from Director Dan. Sara and I had forgotten how he works: chaos is his medium. His is a fun combination of insanity and blind confidence-- he assumes, per his message yesterday, that I will be able to walk casually into the Chilkat Center this afternoon and whip twenty-eight kids up into an organized froth of creative energies and actorly ability and act as stage manager and Girl Friday with no direction from him at all. Have I worked with kids in the last twelve years? Have I done any theatre work at all in that time? Do I remember any acting exercises? Have I ever managed a stage before in my life?

No to all, of course.

Thank god for google.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

box cars are hanging in the yard/jealous lovin'll make you crazy

Because I just got a phone call accusing me of perhaps glossing over things a bit, maybe being a little heartless and possibly too happy-sounding about being up here, here is a list of things that I miss: crab rangoon from Yum Yum House, candied eggplant from Chef Jia's, the salade de maree and raspberry digestif that tastes like sweet paint thinner at Ti Couz, the part of the BART ride from SF to Oaktown where the train comes soaring up out of the bay tunnel and flies by the derricks (which, of course, remind me of Star Wars) and the box cars (which remind me of a Joni Mitchell song-- see title above), the park bench at Point Lobos, watching the sun set on the Great Highway with a face full of ocean spray and your feet on banks of springy flowered succulents, the various curves and Christmas lights of Lake Merritt, movies (both theaters and Netflix), my adorable and insightful roommate La Sirena and our shared worship of Sparklemotion's tiny face, dinners with my foodie friends, thrifting and watching the busy Thrift Town ladies battle shoplifters and bums, and-- St. Vitus, king of the silly dance, driver of car, bowler supreme, maker of teas, fount of obscure ethnobotanical wisdom, kisser of my apples. I miss you very much. So there.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

I'm writing this from the school, which is not the school anymore. Classrooms are all boxed up and ready to move into the new school at the end of summer. I've been wandering around the halls taking pictures. Somebody should, I feel. I would especially like to preserve for posterity the heinous student-drawn murals from the 1970's that terrified me so back in the day. I should put them all on flickr to avoid bogging down the blog, but here's a taste:

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Please note the mermaid's Farah flip and hot little halter number. Let's not talk about the giant oyster.

I'm in the library at the moment, sitting on a couch in the middle of the room with the ghosts of all the books that were my best friends in adolescence. I have no idea what will happen to the school; it's for sale, but who would buy a block of boxy, weathered old building and a playground with a fault line running through it? Some sort of cult, I imagine.

I just did two consecutive country shows and am finally feeling functional on air. Getting great feedback from listeners-- surprising, because I'm just stabbing wildly in the dark at this beast called country. I get a fair amount of during-show calls, including one from a guy listening on a fishing boat outside of Glacier Bay, which is gratifying but makes queuing up songs and promos harder. Today I discovered Dale Watson, and there's really no turning back now. What a fine, handsome baritone on that man! And I found Roger Miller's "Dang Me" on vinyl and giggled for the duration. Fun.

Things have been busy here. Lots of hiking and walking-- we went up to Paul Swift's cabin at 13 mile with the Scowling Bagels (that is a shout out to you, Huar!) which is a short-ish vertical ascent over the Chilkat River covered in wild calypso orchids.

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The cabin is the very definition of rustic.

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And, although we were born at around the same time, in the same town, the cabin is much more Alaskan than I ever was or will ever be.

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We raced back down to catch the brewery before it closed, and had a sampler of various stouts and ales leaning against the beautiful wooden railing of the brewery bar before retiring to the Scowling house for cold ginger chicken and lots and lots of Kettle chips, which is apparently the staple food of all Haines households these days.

On Sunday we drove out Lutak, which is the shortest of the three directions you can drive out of town, past the ferry terminal and along the Lutak Inlet to Chilkoot Lake.
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There were still banks of snow out at the lake, which is unheard of in June, and the air had a still, potent bite to it. We listened to the Mamas and the Papas and all sang along very loudly. Dad is going to go fishing for trout in the lake soon, which he is now old enough to do without a license from the city! Congratulations, Dwight.

On the way back we saw a juvenile eagle feasting on a dead moose carcass on the beach. I took pictures.

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Similarly grotesque, here's one last school mural shot. This one is from the library; I used to stare in fascination at it all afternoon. You might think her massive, log-like legs were a trick of camera perspective but I am telling you: they are just as hulking and out of proportion in the powder blue flesh. I've always considered her an affront to people, to paint and to libraries. Yet-- I want to have her always, so I had to take this picture.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Looks like I'll be pulling more than a few DJ shifts-- part of my job is filling in blank slots on the volunteer schedule, which means the constant possibility of doing every show from classical to country, as KHNS covers a lot of musical ground in its quest to satisfy the whole town. I'm still intimidated by the board but by the end of summer I should be adjusting levels and pulling levers like a pro.

By the way, I love my job. I can't remember the last time I've been able to say that! Two days in and still training, but I can tell you the things that I love most about it already:

1) It's incredibly, impossibly laidback, even when frenzied. They're understaffed and underfunded, but the general "office" attitude is one of easy humor in the face of constant confusion-- people kicking their rain-booted feet up and shooting the amiable shit, the station dogs (Haylie and Oliver) running amok, DJs scrambling around the stacks pulling vinyl and cds at the last possible minute for their show in five minutes, visitors popping their heads in (totally ignoring the "on air" light) at all hours. The computer system is held together by duct tape and string, as all good office systems are, and crashes constantly. Everyone knows how to do everyone else's job out of necessity, so there is a very fluid dynamic between coworkers. There is not one single shred of office speak to be heard, anywhere, at any time. It's like heaven.

2) The stacks! So much music at my fingertips. One of my job duties is to review new cds whenever I can, take note of any obscenities, recommend favorite tracks for djs to play and afix my typewritten review to the case when I'm done. I get to play music critic!

3) I love working in that neighborhood, historic Fort Seward. The rambling old army houses date from the turn of the century and are a refreshing change from most of the other buildings in town, which usually follow a strict "function over form" aesthetic. The station is a 15 minute walk along Beach Road away from home, on a hill looking out over the Lynn Canal. Again, it's not unlike heaven.

Check back in July when I'm sure to be jaded and frazzled (the pledge drive is going to be nuts), but right now I'm the very picture of contentment:

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That was taken out at Battery Point, on a hike with the parents and Ron & Suzie. First hike of the year, although it's stretching the truth a bit to call B.P. a hike-- it's just a pleasant jog through forest until you hit that first perfect curve of beach,

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where there are usually whales and other sea life (we only saw one seal-- and a beach sprite in a hut).

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We kept going over the initial bluff, past the second beach and what has to be the coolest outhouse in the world.

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We went further than I'd ever been before, to a third beach all covered in driftwood .

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We found some some good sitting rocks on a cliff partially shielded from the wind, and ate trail mix and sausage and passed around a flask of whiskey. And since I can't think of a way to end this post, as it's getting disgustingly smug and "aint life grand"-ish, I'll just close with a picture of mountains.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

I Golf

Indulging in a little wireless spree at the school-- feels awfully luxurious! I've been having a lazy weekend. I don't start work at the radio station 'til Tuesday, so aside from helping out with yardwork (de-mulching mom's daffodils and pulling dandelions) there isn't anything I have to do but play legos with our 10 year-old houseguest, Joel, who is one of those oddball genius home-schooled kids that abound here in Alaska. He gives me great lectures on philosophy and gender bias while launching barrages of spaceship artillery at me, and I build pretty houses with rooftop gardens.

Here's dad restraining the rosehip bushes in our side yard; that's the Haines Harbor behind him.

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I've been hired as production assistant at KHNS, the local radio station. Pretty cool, because I was planning to volunteer again anyway, so this will get me back on air-- with pay! I'll be putting together the weekend news segments and issuing program logs, etc. Look for my bio to appear here:, and I may try to podcast my shows, if I end up picking up some DJ shifts (and if a certain technologically enabled friend sends up the promised cable to run shows from my laptop-- hint).

Dr. Jones, the man who delivered me, has built an amazing golf course on the outskirts of town, between the Chilkat River and the Haines Highway. Nancy & Dwight took me out today, and Dr. Jones and his nicely freckled son Matt gave me a complimentary cart. It was fantastic. For a first-time golfer I kicked a little ass! And had one small temper tantrum along that damned 6th hole, but it was hard to be a sore loser with eagles wheeling close overhead and a different, perfect mountain range to look at in every direction.

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Here I am shortly before the tantrum (you can sense a certain desperation in my eyes under the silly hat):

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Siblings (and Rachel), because I'm pretty sure you are the only people reading at this point: I just wanted to let you know that I told Dwight we'd all gather here for his retirement party, whenever that should be. So count on that!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Raining today! The crows are all complaining. According to dad I'm wrong about the bird population-- ravens all live on the other side of the valley, so the cacophonous flock outside our windows is 100% crows. Freakishly large crows, but crows nonetheless.

I've been helping him out at work the last few days; they're building a new school and Dwight has to clear out the ancient, sooty boiler room and his wasteland of an office by Sunday. Dad's organizational skills are very... creative, not unlike my own. The floors and walls are a familiar clutter of fantasy novels and post-it note work orders with smiley faces and file cabinets so full of architectural plans and instructions that they are permanently agape, and every tool you could ever want or need and many that you'd never use in a million years, and hundreds of tiny drawers full of screws and nuts and bolts, and drills and saws and hammers and clamps, and bits of machines that look fantastically far-fetched out of context. He holds them up for me and says, "guess what this does?" and I say, "it's the world's fanciest cookie cutter!", but it turns out to be part of the motor of a microwave. I don't ask why it's hanging from a loop of copper wiring from his massive 12 ft high workbench; like everything in Dad's many work spaces, it has found its way there through a series of events that makes perfect sense in the bigger picture but might take an hour or so to lay out verbally.

So we've been loading up the old school district van with armloads of heavy metal and dolly loads of cabinetry and shelves, and taking it to the now-deserted Primary School, where we've reclaimed an abandoned classroom as his until the new school is up. I like being busy with a job like this-- it feels very nice to be doing something useful and visceral, as opposed to the ephemeral quality that office work done on computers has. I like being sore and dirty at the end of the day. Really, really sore and smudged with grease and layers of dust from head to toe.

Here's a shot of my arms last night.

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The full effect is lost in this photo, because after our first shift and subsequent de-griming, dad produced some work gloves so now my hands remain fairly clean. You should have seen them, though! Blackest black. Can you tell how pleased with myself I am?

Tomorrow I'll post lots of pictures and fix the background...