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.
As has now become apparent, the Betster has only been posing as a smart-aleck social adviser and in reality works as a secret instigator of weather. How else to explain why when the B. writes about weather, any weather, shazam! the whole world turns upside down?
Just when you thought our winter weather couldn’t get any weirder, along comes a new twist. We’re in a fire weather watch. “Winter” is used here in the Florida sense, to describe a time of the year and not the actual weather normally experienced in Alaska because, well, abnormal is the new normal.
The Betster would like to call back last week’s Best Bets in which yours truly said it appeared parts of Alaska had drifted down into Washington and Oregon. That now seems not to be the case. What actually has happened is that Alaska has swapped places with the Pacific Northwest. Not only did we drift south, but many of the Lower 48 states have drifted north.
A quick glance at the weather forecast for a Pacific Northwest city calls for a chance of rain, and temperatures in the high 40s and mid 30s. And at another Pacific Northwest city, the forecast is for rain, highs in the high 40s and lows in the mid 40s. Betsteroids, here’s a quiz: Which one is for Seattle and which for Homer?
Pretty nifty — guess who’s 50? That would be us, of course, as we celebrate 50 years of reporting on this wild, wacky and wonderful town. Holy Mimeograph! Fifty years doesn’t seem like that long a time, not if you can remember 1964 and stuff like the Beatles first performing on the Ed Sullivan Show. Uh, the Beatles was the group Paul McCartney performed in before Wings.
Ya know, it just doesn’t seem right that while we’re enjoying balmy weather here in Alaska, subzero cold has descended upon our southern neighbors. Holy Polar Vortex! On Tuesday, it was colder (19 degrees) in Pensacola, Fla., than Homer (34 degrees). The temperatures plunged 50 degrees, from 55 to 5, inside of a day in New York City. If you looked at a weather map of the Lower 48 states earlier this week, it had a big purple-blue blob showing cold temperatures extending over all but the most southern regions of the country.
So, Betsteroids, how many New Year’s resolutions have you broken already? Here it is day two of a bright, shiny year and already the B. has broken six, including “thou shalt not be snarky.” Being a hardened, cynical journalist, the Betster really has trouble with that one.
Time sure does fly up here in the dark north. After weeks of anticipation, a little stress and some foul weather now and then, the big day will finally arrive. Holy Axial Tilt! That’s right: On Dec. 23, we finally start gaining some daylight hours. Oh, it will be a minute or two a day, but our long slide out of darkness starts next Monday.
One of Alaskans’ favorite sports these days is making fun of how woefully unprepared cities in the Lower 48 can be when snow falls. We’re not talking respectable amounts of snow, like your average Buffalo, N.Y., blizzard of 5 feet. We’re talking 5 inches in downtown Portland, Ore. Apparently our neighbors to the south got a bit more snow than they’re used to. An ex-pat Alaska friend on Facebook has been whining about the pathetic response in Corvallis, Ore. “School’s canceled for the fourth day in a row!” she wrote. “Are they just going to wait until it melts in the spring?”
Now’s the time when our social calendars fill up like a bath tub at the bottom of Niagara Falls. Everyone wants to have open houses, office parties and fancy social affairs where men might even have to wear ties. OK, put on a pair of clean blue jeans without holes and maybe even a button-up shirt.
In a 1784 letter to his daughter, Sally, Benjamin Franklin observed that the bald eagle should not be the symbol of the United States. “He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly,” Franklin wrote. A better bird symbol would be the turkey, Franklin wrote: “For the truth the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original Native of America.”
The other night while driving home from the word mines, the Betster stopped by Beluga Lake to gaze at the rising full moon. With a new sheen of ice, the moon shimmered on the lake in one of those only-in-Alaska moments.
While the B. stood there watching the moon, a guy pulled up in a pickup truck with his son, got out, tromped on the ice, and said, “Three inches! We can skate!”