Monday, August 29, 2011

Elvis has re-entered the building

Your life is marked by firsts.  Some of these milestones occur while young, and you may know about them solely because you've heard the stories from those who were there and old enough to remember: your first steps, your first words, the first time you made it through a dinner party without taking off your pants and running around naked.  Some happen much later in life and are lodged safely in your own memories, albeit perhaps with details fading on the margins: your first time driving a car alone, a first kiss, the first time you made it through a dinner party without taking off your pants and running around naked (for some people, that particular milestone comes a little later).  But for all of us, there is one moment greater than all the rest.  An event we each expect and anticipate with quickened pulse, but can never predict.  For me, that day came last Sunday.  Of course, I'm talking about my first Elvis impersonator.

And where else, but the Alaska State Fair?  The faux-King appeared before us, karaoke machine in tow, with the glory of the Chugach range rising behind and a sixty (?) year old woman in a poodle skirt just losing her head as she twisted, turned, and flat rocked to the three or so songs we managed to sit through.  Then it was time to go home.

(Not the Elvis impersonator)

Who knew there would be an Elvis impersonator?  In comparison, Garrison Keillor was predictable.  After all, we had tickets in advance for that.  He and his cast of many made an appearance at our fair Fair and we dutifully went to see the action.  However, thanks largely to the failings of general admission seating at the Alaska State Fair Grounds Borealis Theater, we weren't actually able to see any action at all.  The show was entertaining, but as an event it was kind of disappointing.  It was no different than hearing him on the radio, except we were uncomfortably sitting on the ground, cheek to jowl with neighbors, and there was no way to turn up the sound like you would on a home radio.  Ah well.  Interestingly enough, the parts we could hear were quite a bit more racy than the radio show.  (This was part of the "Summer of Love" tour and is not scheduled for broadcast.)

Comfort and sight-lines notwithstanding, it turned into the kind of day I thought was gone for the year.  Sunny and hot.  Real t-shirt weather.  Farmer tans.  Just like you read about in books.  Good books about happy people.  And I was happiest looking at the baby pigs.  All fairs have them, I am sure.  But Alaska's are probably cuter.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Touchy Throttle

Clearly, August has arrived.  Gray, rainy, and wet.  The rain was preceded by a large red salmon run in the Kenai River.  As part of my office's annual summer fishing trip, we went down to try and catch some with fly rods from a position thigh deep in the current, shoulder to shoulder with other wanna-bes trying to push in to the good spot.  Four of us (two co-workers, C, and myself) loaded into a boat to reach our spot with a caricature of an Alaska  fishing guide.  He looked like hard living: hooked nose, stringy hair pouring from beneath a hat that was more seam-grip than hat, long beard, and plenty of arrest stories.

Of course, any commercial guiding operation takes safety very seriously.  Caricature Guide ("CG") was no exception.  A quarter mile up river, he looked up.  "You guys know how to work this motor, don't you?"

"Uh, not really..."

"Alright.  We'll the throttle is pretty touchy.  If I go over board, just be careful."

So briefed, we all settled in for the ride.  Once at the fishing hole, we went about casting and hooking fish.  We hauled in much fewer than we hooked.  This led to lots of subtle coaching by CG.

"You've got to let the fish run!  Let it run!"

"What are you doing?  Why'd you let the fish run?  Reel it in, man, reel it in!"

We went on like this for the whole day.  If I let the fish run, I was supposed to reel.  If I reeled, I was supposed to let the fish run.  I suppose you find the art of fishing somewhere in the middle.

Coaching aside, it was a hot day on the river and we had a good time.  Heading back to Copper Landing, though, the day took a turn.  Two fatal crashes on the Sterling Highway shut the road down.  Four of us and CG are sitting in CG's van when a state trooper walks up to pass on the news: the highway is closed until tomorrow morning.  We're trapped on the wrong side of Copper Landing, feet in hip waders, no wallet, no food, and no particular idea of how or when we're getting home.  Long story short, and some seven hours later, we did make it as far as Copper Landing and the cars (and shoes).  Tragic accidents and long day.  As CG pulled into the guide's lot he was on the phone to a friend who was sitting in the only bar in Copper Landing, yelling, "You tell him he better stay open at least until I get a beer, or I'm going to tear the fucking door off the place."  I guess he had earned it by that time.

Follow up to the McCarthy post, a few pictures: