Independence Day is one of the few American holidays that always falls on the same date — July 4, of course. This year the fourth falls on a Friday. Hurray! That means we actually can get a three-day weekend out of the holiday.
Recently up in Anchorage a wolf ate a small dog running loose on a hiking trail. Some people suggested installing warning signs so hikers would be alert to the presence of wild animals in the backcountry. The Betster thinks this is a marvelous idea because, you know, this is Alaska and apparently some visitors and residents haven’t read the tour guides closely.
Alaska has two seasons, the old joke goes: winter and road construction. We all know about road construction. You can’t go hardly anywhere in the state without running into some sort of repaving, unpaving or widening project. Seasoned summer travelers know to take a big fat book with them on trips around the state. You do remember books, don’t you? A book is like a smart phone, except authors write in complete sentences and your connection doesn’t go down in a power outage.
We’re in a lull right now with the summer tourist season. Although shops and restaurants have opened on the Spit, the big wave of Lower 48 visitors hasn’t yet arrived. Still, we’re seeing some new faces around town. The other day the Betster met a delightful family from Dublin. You could tell right off the teenage guy was from Outside, because he wore skinny jeans. Homer men don’t wear skinny jeans unless they’ve been hipsterized after a few semesters of college in Portland, Ore.
Heat. Frost. An earthquake. Wildfires. Smoke. High winds. Snow. Aren’t you glad to see the end of May? While the weather has been dang nice at times, we sure have been through the wringer as far as what Ma Nature gives.
The Betster is afraid to imagine what else could happen, or at least write it down, because the way this spring has gone, to write it might just be enough to make it be in the touchy corner of the universe we call Homer.
Years ago the Betster visited West Palm Beach, Fla., for a wedding of a friend. A couple of friends from Los Angeles also visited. Bob and Steve had been through a long drought back in Tinsel Town. We were driving around before the wedding when a classic Florida afternoon thunderstorm swept in. We’re talking buckets of rain, not the soft summer rain we have here in Alaska. You would have thought Bob and Steve hadn’t seen rain in decades the way they hung their heads out of the car, drinking in the rain and whooping.
Well, we all knew it couldn’t last. Here we’ve been on an awesome super sunny day roll, and what happens? A big fire flares up 50 miles north of us, and a smoke plume the size of Godzilla rolls over Kachemak Bay. Holy Beijing! Despite all our clean living and responsible environmentalism, this week it was as if we’d lived in Los Angeles circa 1965. You can’t blame polluting cars, smokestacks and wood stoves. Nope, Ma Nature, with a bit of help from some irresponsible humans, got that wildfire going.
Here at the News it takes a Cray supercomputer to keep track of everyone’s summer vacation schedules. We’re guessing a lot of small businesses around town have this problem. Most of you work super hard and can multitask almost as well as a single parent balancing a full-time job, college classes and child rearing — which pretty much describes the 2014 Kachemak Bay Campus graduating class, by the way. That doesn’t mean you can take on the extra duties of your awesome coworkers for more than a week.
Warm weather, soft spring rains, trees turning green, thousands of shorebirds arriving and businesses opening on the Homer Spit. Can anyone doubt that spring has really, truly madly arrived? We’ll see the first wave of visitors this weekend with the 22nd annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival — um, not counting the birds. The birds have been here for weeks.
If we were commissars, we’d be polishing our medals and fluffing up our big fur for the big May Day parade in Red Square. Oh, that is like so Soviet Union. What do you think this is, the People’s Republic of Alaska? Here at latitude 59 degrees and some change, we don’t make a big deal of May 1, what everyone else celebrates as labor day.
Recently our reporters made two separate forays to Portland, Ore. No, this wasn’t a big story investigating the People’s Republic of Portland. We went south because we both have family there. However, we did discover something awesome and amazing in Oregon.
They have spring.
Some have been blaming the Post Office’s long lines of late to “T” time. We’re not talking “tee” time as in golf, as in the 2014 Masters Tournament, which officially gets underway in Augusta, Ga., today. For you history buffs, the Masters has been happening since 1934 — 80 years.
To the Betster, it looks like 2014 has two themes at work: weather and history.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Megahuge Great Alaska Earthquake. Monday marked the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Pop quiz, Betsteroids: What do both events have in common?
Let us suppose you lived in a far northern climate. Let’s say that you expect cold temperatures and have acquired a wardrobe for it — you know, fluffy down jackets, sweaters, hats, gloves and winter boots. Let’s say that for some gosh-darn weird reason, one winter this gear becomes mostly useless, and it sits in the back of your closest month after month as you wear your spring gear, that is, XtraTuf boots and a pile jacket.
Sometimes the Betster isn’t tuned in to all the action going on in the world. On Monday while driving to work, the Betster grew puzzled by the inactivity in town. The school parking lots were empty. Traffic was light. It was like aliens had come down in the mother ship and abducted 500 of our finest Homer citizens. And then it hit the Betster.
Spring break! Duh. This is the week when teachers, school employees, parents of school kids and anyone associated with school escape town. Well, some don’t leave, because what better time to hang around in Homer?
The fun thing about living in Alaska is that it challenges us to get out of our comfort zones and embark on great adventures. Sometimes this happens in our own homes, like when a blizzard dumps 3-feet of snow on us or the power goes out for five days and we’re forced to wash up with bottles of fine French mineral water. Other times we deliberately go out into the wilderness, often to win great prizes. That would explain why dozens of mushers cheerfully batter their sleds into kindling on the Iditarod Trail. Glory! Fame! A new truck! Money!
Thanks to the web, you can now find not just winter jokes, but Alaska winter jokes. One of the Alaska winter jokes going around shows a pie chart of the months, with the line “How Alaskans perceive the calendar.” January and February get big chunks and the summer months little slivers of the chart.
If anyone doubted winter had finally returned to Homer, all you had to do was dance in the snow on Valentine’s Day last week or sing in the cold last Saturday. In warmer states less used to winter, the slightest snowflake might cause people to race back to the comfort of their suburban homes. Uh, that’s assuming they didn’t get caught in 45-mile traffic jam as Sunbelt drivers spin their wheels on an inch of snow.