Recently in the newsroom we got talking about an issue once not a problem in Homer: traffic. OK, we might have had some traffic back when all those horse teams tried to round Bluff Point on an incoming tide. We’re talking modern traffic, like this week, and the ordeals we must endure trying to drive from downtown to the Spit.
Here’s the problem of living in a small town that grows by a few hundred people in the summer. For most of the year we hang out with folks we’ve come to know and sort of tolerate — maybe even love. It’s not that our neighbors are necessarily wonderful human beings, but that over time we have learned all their quirks and foibles.
While driving home to Chez Betster, yours truly passed a caravan of Land Rover campers with French flag decals that looked like they had come from Patagonia. In fact, as the Betster later found out after catching up with the campers on the Spit, one family had driven to Homer from the other end of the world, way down there in South America.
Thursday, June 23
PRE-K PUFFINS EARLY LEARNING PROGRAM
10 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
ESTUARY HIKES AT ISLANDS AND OCEAN
11 a.m.-noon, Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
YOGA FOR KIDS
11 a.m.-noon, Homer Public Library
noon, 8 p.m., Hillas Building
3D PRINTING CLASSES: WEARABLE ART
12:30 p.m., Homer Makerspace
RANGER TALK: ‘BEAR VIEWING-FUN OR FOLLY?’
1-1:30 p.m., Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
SUMMER MAKER CAMP @ HPL
If you lived in Homer on Dec. 21 and wondered where the heck all that daylight had gone, cheer up. You’ve found it. All those photons apparently crawled forward in time and landed on Tuesday, June 21. We’ll get a whopping 18 hours and 44 minutes then, or as they call it in Barrow, “a good start.”
Forget the cruise ship passengers, the foreign adventurers and the production staffs of Alaska’s 47 reality TV shows. As most Alaskans know, the real backbone of the visitor industry can be summed up in three initials: V, F and R. That’s ‘visiting friends and relatives,’ the people you know who live in the Lower 49 who just have to come up and see you.
There might have been the usual kerfuffles, but pat yourselves on the backs, Homerites. You survived the Memorial Day weekend and the traditional opening of the summer tourist season and the temporary occupation by southbound Alaskans and visitors. It looked like most everyone on the Spit found a camping spot. Others weren’t so lucky when it came to finding parking, or at least close-in parking. The Betster felt sad to disappoint one guy who thought the B. would be moving the Betstermobile on Saturday afternoon. Sorry, dude — I was only going to get my rain jacket.
Recently one of our hard working reporters took a vacation to Paris. Sacre bleu! It’s a good thing the International Herald Tribune wasn’t hiring or we would have lost the poor guy to the City of Lights. He’s been talking of sidewalk cafes, awesome museums, incredible monuments, quaint little side streets, and, of course, cheese, wine and chocolate.
The Shorebird Festival goers have come and gone after the weekend, during which they enjoyed temperatures in the mid-60s, bright sunshine and sparkling water in Kachemak Bay. Whether you were out birding or, like the Betster, soaking up the sun and watching the birders get excited over things with wings and funny names, this weekend was a great prequel to a warm, light-filled summer season.
The birds have been back in town for a couple of weeks, surely but surely arriving in time for Homer’s celebration of their existence. Now it’s our turn to show up on the shores, binoculars and cameras in hand, to pay our respects to the many species of incredible wildlife that choose to spend their summer with us. Whether you’re on the hunt for a peek at your first puffin or feel like staring down a crane in a lagoon, the weekend is chock full of great opportunities and lots of wonderful people to share them with.
If it slipped your mind, like it almost did the Betster’s, this serves as an official reminder that Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 8. If mom’s in town, take her to brunch, a walk on the beach, or get nostalgic with the new Jungle Book movie showing at the Homer Theatre. Otherwise, don’t forget to pick up the phone and send some flowers — or even better, some local treat — to show Mom you appreciate that she gave you life.
If you drove out to the Spit this week and happened to see a cluster of people huddled against the wind and staring into spotting scopes, no, you didn’t time travel forward two weeks. We won’t get the big influx of shorebirds until the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival on May 12-15, but the advance wave of shorebirds has arrived.
The Betster admits to being a bird nerd, and even has the sweatshirt to prove it, which is how yours truly wound up doing a bit of peeping at peeps after work on Tuesday. “They’re here!” one bird watcher said with glee.
As the Betster writes this, 93 days have passed and the Alaska Legislature still hasn’t passed a budget or solved the state fiscal crisis. That would be the fiscal crisis everyone has been talking about for the past two years.
Meanwhile, construction workers have been doing external work on the Alaska Capitol. The Legislature faces a real deadline, one to be enforced by burly men and women in hardhats with big tools. Inside work commences on May 2.
You know the rhyme, “April showers bring May flowers?” Not current in this time zone, as television broadcasters used to say back in the days when shows got sent up by tape on a slow barge from Seattle. The better saying might be, “April showers bring May mud.” OK, that doesn’t sound as catchy, but for anyone who has lived in Alaska at least one season, it’s oh-so-true.
Periodically the Homer News gets press releases from Outside media flacks pitching a story. Usually they went us to cover some event happening in Anchorage and we have to explain Alaska geography to them.
As you travel around town on Friday, don’t be surprised if you see some strange things. Holy crocuses! No, we don’t mean the usual variety of weird stuff that happens this time of year, like flowers blooming in toasty planters while 2-feet of snow remains in the hills. That’s just situation normal for a Homer spring. Oh, and the Betster doesn’t mean our everyday colorful characters, like people with lime-green hair and painted XtraTufs. When the Betster says “colorful,” yours truly isn’t using that as a figure of speech.
To seasoned Alaskans it should come as no surprise that spring started with a pleasant little flurry of snow. Winter king fishermen probably weren’t shocked either that Saturday started marvelous and sunny and ended with snow. No one complained, at least those with long memories. One year the Homer Harbor froze solid and the Winter King Tournament had to be postponed. If all you get is some gently falling flakes, well, pfft.
This week has been chock full of important dates. On Monday, 3/14/16, we got Pi Day, because the date is close to the numeral pi, 3.14159. Break out the key lime pies. Yum. On Tuesday it was March 15, the Ides of March, famous for when Julius Caesar discovered that in politics, you can’t even trust your friends and don’t ever want to turn your back on them.
Should you stroll down Pioneer Avenue on Friday night, don’t be surprised if the streets look empty. Unless you’re at the airport or driving north, Homer magically slips into its mid-March slumber. Old men in suspenders sitting on the bench by the Poopdeck Trail will look around and say, “Seems quiet. Too quiet, Hoss.”
When historians look back at March 1, 2016, they will hail it as the day one man overcame obstacles and did what few before him have. One man will have traveled far, risen to heights unimagined, and changed the world.
Holy Spray Tan! Yes, Tuesday marked the day the American astronaut Scott Kelly returned to earth after 340 days in space. Kelly, the twin brother of astronaut Mark Kelly, circled the earth 5,400 times and went 144 million miles. He saw 11,000 sunsets, and has racked up a total of 520 days in space, the record for an American astronaut.