Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Duh duh duh DUUUUUH!

"Alaskiwi Adventures"

Episode Two: The Rescue....Drags On...and on...

Scene: The cabin of Jim and Deirdre Buebner of Squarebanks, Alaska.

10:30 PM [Jim and Gary, Sigmund's teenaged son, burst through the door]

Deirdre: You're back! How did it go?

G: The truck started on the third try. Sandra followed us to Coldcream General Store and filled up the tank. Now she's heading out to Livenbaad.

D: Well, that will take a few hours, but I'm sure we'll see your dad in the morning. What a brave young woman!

[The three share a late supper after which Gary walks back to his cabin for much-needed rest].

[The next morning, 7:30 AM. A crisp, cloudy morning. About 4 inches of fresh snow have fallen overnight. Jim is dusting snow off his trusty Jeep Kaneekwa and Deirdre is making coffee. They see Sigmund's truck pass by down the road.]

D [waving her spotless white apron after the truck]: They're back, hooray!

[A few minutes later, Sandra comes walking up the drive. Her face is pale, she obviously hasn't slept.]

D: Is everyone back?

S [dejectedly]: I drove and drove up and down the road to where I was sure I'd left Sigmund and the dogs, calling and calling. I drove and drove and looked and looked. There was no sign of them anywhere. The roads were so slippery I thought the truck was going to slide right down the mountain. Finally I pulled over and tried to sleep a couple of hours, it was really hard to keep my eyes on the road. I couldn't fall asleep, the diesel fumes of the truck made me think I might pass out, and I was so tired I couldn't think of what else to do, so I just came back.

D & J [in unison]: Oh, dear. Well, you certainly tried, and we're glad you made it back safe and sound. You should get some rest.

[S goes back to Sigmund's to have a couple of hours rest and plug in her car. She is expected at work today and has classes. Gary has meanwhile caught the bus to East Valley High School where he is a sophomore. Jim and Deirdre get in the Jeep and drive off. Deidre has brought her skis with her to ski home from work. Jim has a doctor's appointment and needs to run several errands before work. Their thoughts, however, are with their friend Sigmund, stuck out somewhere beyond the reach of any ordinary cell phone...]

[cut to Sigmund and the dogs, camped out somewhere in the vast snowfields dotted with stunted black spruce near Livenbaad... Staked near the dogsled is a canvas tent, sagging under the weight of fresh snow and bulging with eleven snoring dogs and one snoring man...]

[Later that day, a mild clear evening around 7:00 PM, the sun is still out.]

[Deirdre comes skiing down the trail to the driveway of their cabin. Jim, coincidentally, is just coming home in Kaneekwa. Just then, Gary comes walking over. He reports that he cannot get the truck started. He waits at half hour intervals to try again. Deirdre goes in to prepare dinner, Jim lights his tobacco pipe and puffs thoughtfully on the porch, stroking his long beard and thinking...]

[Later. 8:00 PM. The sun has just set. Deirdre and Jim have just finished dinner and wonder about Gary. They invited him over to eat with them but he hasn't shown. Jim walks over to their place and a few minutes later so does Deirdre, carrying a hot plate of food for Gary.

When she walks into the yard she sees Jim, Gary and their friend Dave, a tall, rugged, take-charge sort of guy who has come to lend his assistance. Dave's white pickup truck is there, engine running. The hoods of both trucks are up, there are jumper cables running between them, and strewn about are bottles and cans of oil and gas and starter fluid.

Dave [waving his hand]: OK, start it!

[Jim tries to to start the truck. The starter churns but the engine doesn't fire. After a few more tries, Dave grabs a large electric heater and Gary plugs it into the porch outlet. The powerful fan blows hot air and a few sparks in the direction of the truck's engine.]

Dave [rolling an empty 50 gallon oil drum over to the truck]: We need to concentrate the heat more. Let's raise er up!

[Dave, Jim and Gary hoist the big heater onto the oil drum. They get an old tree stump and put that on top of the oil drum to raise the heater even higher. Gary gets a plywood board and angles it to concentrate the hot air at the engine's air intake. After several long minutes, Dave signals Jim to turn the ignition key. There is a mighty groan of the starter, but still the engine refuses to fire.]

[Another hour passes as the men try everything they can think of. All this time the phones in Sigmund and Gary's house have been ringing off the hook. Since the accidental Fakebook posting, friends, acquaintances, and well wishers have been calling to offer advice and assistance on how to rescue Sigmund and his eleven sled dogs. Meanwhile, Sigmund has been flagging down passing motorists and giving them his phone number along with messages to pass onto Gary. Some of the messages end up being rather disjointed.]

Gary[on the cell phone]: Ok, Ok, I'll try that. Thank you. Goodbye.

Deirdre: Who was that?

Gary [shrugging]: Some nutjob. Oh, now the landline is ringing!

[He picks up the phone. A passing trucker is giving him a message from his dad.]

Trucker #1: Are you Jerry? OK, I gotta message for you from uh, Steve I think his name was. He say's: "I'm at.."

G: OK, at where?

Trucker #1: Sorry, that's all he gave me.

[the cellphone rings. Another trucker]

Trucker #2: Hi can I speak to Mike? I gotta message from your dad Sidney. Here's the message: "I'm at milepost"

G [irritatedly]: Milepost WHAT?

Trucker #2: Sorry man, that's all he gave me.

[Gary lets out a Kiwi swearword. The phone rings, another passing trucker.]

Trucker #3: Hiya George? This is Don. I gotta message for ya from yer Dad, I think he said his name is Quincy? The message is: "57." [he hangs up]

Gary and Deirdre: "I'M...AT...MILEPOST...57!!!"

[Just then, the truck lets out a mighty roar, indicating that it has started.]

[Gary, Deirdre, Jim and Dave let out a whoop of joy, not realizing it's now 10:30 PM and all the neighbors are really pissed off at them. Deirdre gives Jim a thermos of hot tea for the journey. Jim is going single-handedly to get Sigmund and the dogs. Gary is going to stay by the phone and try to get more than the two hours of sleep he got the night before. Dave yells: GOOD LUCK! and drives off gallantly in his spotless white pickup.]

[3:43 AM. Jim & Deirdre's cabin.]

[Deidre is awakened by Jim coming to bed. Jim groans a little, turns over and falls instantly asleep. Deirdre is worried. Did he find Sigmund?? Or will he remain forever lost in the Arctic, just like Lord Franklin??

As she ponders this, the familiar sound of eleven tired hungry huskies--Pokey, Smorkey, Sassie, Blackie, Blubber, Pig, Foodha, Tubby, Smellsie, Spazzy, and Poo-Boy--howling in unison, floats from the dog yard at Sigmund's house just beyond the tops of the trees. She lets out a sigh of relief, turns over, and instantly falls asleep.]

Sunday, March 27, 2011

[Cue Heroic Music...]

"Alaskiwi Adventures"

Episode One: Fakebook to the Rescue!

Scene: a mild Sunday afternoon in late March in Squarebanks, Alaska.

Jim, an earnest, hardworking and physically fit man, recently come up to Alaska from the Midwest with his aging wife, Deirdre, is chopping wood in his yard, when a young lady in distress comes running up to him].

YLID: Hi, you're Jim,right? You might not remember me, I'm Sandra.

J: Oh, hi, you're my rugged and good-natured Kiwi landlord Sigmund's friend aren't you--so did you guys just get back from your cool mushing weekend adventure to Televana Hot Springs?

S: Well not really. I mean, I did. But he's still out there with the dogs and the sled. You see, blah blah blah trail conditions blah blah, snow blah blah leaky canvas tent blah blah didn't make any reservations at Televana Hot Springs blah blah at the side of the road at Livenbaad blah blah blah I just hitchiked all the way back here to find his son Gary to help me go get the dog truck which is parked somewhere up Murray Dome Road and drive it to Livenbaad to get Sigmund and the dogs.

J: Well I saw Gary go out on his (really cool new!) motorized bicycle and I don't think he's back yet. He might be at his pal Johnny's house.

S: He's not, I just checked.

J [stroking his long beard]: Hmmm. Well why don't you come in for a cup of tea and wait for him?

[a half hour later, Jim, Deirdre, and Sandra are sitting in Jim & Deirdre's kitchen drinking tea and scratching their heads]

D: I'd call Gary on his cellphone but I don't think he has one anymore.

S: Sigmund gave me his cell phone, but it doesn't have a number listed for his son.

J: Why don't we send Gary an email?

D: That kid never responds to email. He only does Fakebook. Sandra, do you have a Fakebook account?

S: Not anymore, on account of Fakebook really S%$#^!

D: I agree, that's why I never use mine. But hey, why don't I try sending him a message? I've actually never done that before.

[She opens her Fakebook account, clicks on Gary's page and begins typing a brief but info-packed message in capital letters]: SOS MAYDAY MAYDAY NEED UR HELP RESCUE SIGMUND STUCK W DOGS AND SANDRA HERE W US--CALL US ASAP!!!

[Seventeen or eighteen minutes Later...]

J [scanning the laptop screen]: We'd better check the Fakebook page for updates--Whoa, what's this??

[a comment is posted by "Chloe," an acquaintance of Sigmund and Gary's]:


[a minute later John Doe posts that he "likes" the previous posting]

J: What in the world did you write, Wife?? It looks like others have heard all about it!

D: What...?? That's why I never use Fakebook--you try to get in touch with someone in an emergency as a last resort and everyone else hears all about it-- WHERE'S THE HUMANITY???? A MAN COULD DIE OUT THERE!!!

S [cheerfully]: Oh, I think Sigmund will be just fine. We accidentally drank moose pee and he just laughed about it. Say, could I have a drink of water??

[several more minutes pass, and Gary finally sends a message directly to Deirdre on Fakebook saying he'll be home soon.]

[7:00 ish. The sound of Gary's (really awesome!!!) motorized bicycle roaring into the driveway. Gary, a lanky, cheerful, blue-eyed Kiwi lad of 16, leaps off the bike, his cheeks flushed with the cold]

G [poking his head in the door]: What happened?

J, D & S: No time to lose boy, time to go save your Paw!

S: We'd better hurry. The beautiful sunny day has turned into a snow squall!

[They turn to look out the window. After weeks and weeks of gorgeous sunny weather it is now snowing like mad]

[7:30 ish.]

[After a hasty cup of tea and sandwich, G and S go tearing up the road in Sigmund's Nissan to Murray Dome Road. Their mission is to try to start Sigmund's ancient and spectacularly crappy Ford pickup, drive it back down Murray Dome Road, fill it with diesel fuel at the gas pump at Coldcream General Store, and drive the 70 or so miles to Livenbaad before darkness and slippery conditions prevail. All this time Sigmund has been waiting patiently by the side of the road with the dog team.]

[cut to Sigmund and the dog team out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by six- foot drifts of rotten old snow and overflow amidst miles and miles stunted black spruce forest]

Sigmund [scratching the dogs' ears and talking in a cheerful Kiwi accent]: Heeeeloooo little Blubber, Heeelooo Sassie, Heeeeloooo Poo-Boy...

[Back at the cabin, Jim and Deirdre watch at their kitchen window as Gary and Sandra drive off. Once the sound of the Nissan has faded, Jim and Deidre sit down to a candlelight dinner.]

J & D [Lifting their glasses]: Godspeed those two brave young people!

J [tasting the wine]: Wow, I don't think we've ever had a rosé together.

D: It's pretty good. Is rosé supposed to go with roast chicken?

[Thirty minutes later they are halfway through the salad course when Gary knocks on the door once again].

D&J [in unison]: What happened?

G [sheepishly]: We tried going up the hill but the car just kept sliding back.

D: I guess Jim will have to take you in our trusty old Jeep which we nicknamed Kaneekwa and which has 4-wheel drive. I will start the Jeep. Jim please put your Carfartts on--the snow is getting worse. I will keep the chicken warm.

[8:00 ish. It is getting dark and the snow continues to fall.]

J [heroically and cheerfully]: It wouldn't be a Sigmund rescue if it wasn't snowing! This may take awhile--goodbye, Dear Wife! [They smooch while the other two are getting rescue supplies.]

[A moment later Deirdre tearfully waves her spotless white apron after Kaneekwa, carrying Jim, Sandra, and Gary passes up the road through the driving snow in the deepening twilight.]


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Most Insane Aurora Ever!

It was predicted to be a big one by the Geophysical Institute. So I went out around 10 PM, to our mushers field across the road from the cabin, and, yeah, it was beautiful. I stayed out for about an hour, it started to fade, then, deciding I'd seen the best show of the year I came in, crawled into bed, and tried to go to sleep. That had only been a warmup. It got so bright at times I could detect flashes of light through my closed eyelids, like lightning. Between 11:30 and 12:30 it was at its best, and I took most of the images from inside the house looking outside the kitchen window. The aurora is usually visible in the northern sky, but this display stretched across the sky from north to south and west to east. It was huge, incredibly bright, and I have to say, a little alarming. I tried videoing it but there is only a brief moment that it captured the image on my little crappy camera. To the naked eye it was an almost white light flashing across the western sky with some hints of red. These images are but dusty sketches compared to the actual display. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep. Even at 4:00 am I got awakened to find yet another set of white streaks dancing in the sky to the west. I can only imagine what I missed while I was sleeping!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It was fun--the trip home

Seeing old friends and family, the old haunts, the new little faces...Eric said when we touched down at Fairbanks International two weeks later we'd know if we were going "home" or not.