It's always something in Spenard










Rancho Archivo






















September 26, 2006

How I supported the troops this week  

(what have you done lately?)

This week, a young Army PFC wearing camouflage walked into my office. I'd guess he was about 20 years old, give or take a year. He had a cassette tape in his hand that he needed copied.

I told him a copy would cost $2.50 and would be ready in about an hour. He asked if I could put it on CD. I said I could but it would cost a lot more and take longer. He opted for the cheaper cassette-to-cassette duplication.

I rarely listen to the stuff that passes through my office. I usually only hear a small portion of a recording, just long enough to set the levels and make sure everything's working fine.

Within 30 seconds of listening to this kid's tape, I realized it was a recording of his recent hearing for conscientious objector status.

When the cassette copy was finished, I immediately started a cassette-to-CD transfer.

He returned later that afternoon. I handed him the original cassette, the duplicate and the CD copy. I told him I'd heard what was on the tape and that the job was on the house.  I then wished him the best of luck. He just stood there, staring at me. He blinked a couple times and then thanked me.

About 15 minutes later, he walked back into my office. He said he'd gotten a couple miles down the road before realizing he hadn't paid me. I reiterated that I had done the job for free and that I wished him good luck and hoped things worked out for him.

Again, he was speechless.  He stammered out a "Thank You."

I replied "No, thank you."

I guess he doesn't get a lot of positive reinforcement for this decision in his daily routine.

September 22, 2006


Whoo-hoo! That's the size of this year's PFD. For those of you Outside, that's how much free money we Alaskan citizens get this year. Much better than last year's paltry $845.76 but nowhere near as big as 2000's $1963.86. 

Without going into the boring details of how the dividend is calculated, they will be rising over the next few  years. Sadly, I won't be here to reap the rewards of future dividends, but this one will surely help pay for my Alaska-to-Alabama roadtrip. 

I haven't yet picked the exact day of my departure, but it's about 7 weeks away. 


September 20, 2006

It's been 11 days now and I still have a big, wet, gaping hole in my knee that stubbornly refuses to heal. At least I've been able to keep it infection free. And -  contrary to the advice of almost everyone - I have not seen a doctor. (Go ahead and call me an idiot. You won't be the first nor the last.)

On Saturday, the the feeling in my knee dramatically changed from a dull ache to a sharp, stinging pain. I wound up busting into my dead cat's pain meds after all. Fortunately, I also found a small stash of Canadian aspirin (with codeine) that I forgot about.

A few of you know that I'd already injured my right ankle a few days before tearing my right knee open. It's the same ankle I badly sprained years ago in the California mountains when I jumped out of a tree from 15 feet above the ground.  Ever since then, it doesn't take much to trigger swelling and pain in that ankle. Being the klutz that I am, it happens quite frequently.

A couple days after I messed up my knee, I managed to scrape my right foot across a rusty nail - which was a good reminder that I'm overdue for a tetanus shot. That's something I need before I go to Alabama. My first project upon arrival is deconstructing (by hand) the remains of my grandma's house and barn - using the salvaged materials to build my cabin. Being the klutz that I am, I'll surely get hurt a few times before I'm done.


Grandma's house, covered in kudzu


A couple days later, after clearing the kudzu (that's the well to the right) 


What's left of the barn


As if the last few months haven't held enough bad news:

I learned today that my favorite television show is no longer broadcast in Anchorage. Due to massive budget cuts in public broadcasting, the PBS station here has dropped a number of shows - including my beloved McLaughlin Group

It was bad enough they stopped broadcasting between the hours of midnight and 6am (unless you have cable, which I don't), but now they've axed the highlight of my Friday nights. Fortunately, episodes of The McLaughlin group are available online - but it's just not the same.



September 14, 2006

It's been five days now and my knee has almost stopped bleeding. It finally started to form a scab yesterday. Should leave a nice big scar. Hurts like hell, but not bad enough to get into my dead cat's leftover pain meds. 

As an extra kick in the teeth, I renewed our health insurance policy at work this afternoon. The price went up almost 12%. Bastards.



September 11, 2006

Everybody who's seen my gooey, gory knee up close agrees that I should've gotten stitches. Yeah, well...probably. But there's two things they're not taking into account:

1. It was almost closing time on a Saturday night and I was drunk. How many hours do you think I would've waited in the emergency room to get two measly stitches? (Besides, how would I have gotten to the emergency room? Too drunk to drive. Too late to call a friend. I would've had to call a cab - which would've cost about $25 one way.) 

2. Just because I have health insurance doesn't mean I can afford to see a doctor. My coverage costs about $3000 a year (fortunately a big chunk of that is paid my employer) and I have a deductible of $1500. I only have health insurance to cover me in case of something catastrophic. I can't go running to the doctor every time I scrape my damned knee! Now if my leg becomes infected and needs to be amputated, I promise I'll pony up the deductible and go to the  hospital. 

Until then, I will keep it clean and change the bandages frequently. And if the pain gets bad, I still have some of my cat's pain meds leftover from when she died of cancer. It's actually the same medication prescribed to people except the pills are cut up into quarters. 

Health care in this country sucks. 



September 10, 2006


The fat lady has sung. To be specific, the fat lady sang "Caledonia." Yes, that is my former boss, Mr. Whitekeys. 

It was the final night of the Fly By Night Club: The invite-only chance to pay final respects to a Spenard institution. I can't even begin to tell you about the memories that flooded back tonight. So many faces, so many stories....

Don Cosgrove - the saxiest man in Anchorage. I remember when he first walked into the Fly By Night and said to me "I hear you're looking for a sax player."  The rest, as they say, is history.


Look! Two more places my name appears in the bar.



Kurt & MJ (my boss and his wife)                  Jim (who helped build the building)


Don & Kerry

Everything had gone so well until I was walking home. I stumbled and fell on the pavement - ruining my my favorite pants and favorite pair of shoes as well as turning one of my only two knees into hamburger.

Fuckin' ow!

If you see me limping, now you know why.



September 9, 2006

It's starting to sink in that I'm leaving soon. Everytime I see an old friend or visit an old haunt, I can't help but wonder "Is this the last time?" I'm whipping the camera out at every opportunity to record my last couple months in Spenard.

Just the other day, I saw Hobo Jim at work (we're his Alaskan distributor - just in case you're looking for a wholesale deal on Hobo Jim CDs). Thinking it may be the last time I saw him, I asked my boss to take our picture.

Holy crap! Look at the size of my ears!

Turns out Hobo actually goes hunting in Alabama every spring - about 2 hours from where I'll be living - so that's one more Alaskan I'll still get to see once in a while.


Rancho Spenardo was also recently visited by local writer, Jim Sweeney. I know I'll see Jim again before I leave but put this here so he'll find something new the next time he Googles himself.


Wednesday night, about 20 of us old-school poetry slammers went to the third to the last ever show at the Fly By Night Club and partied like it was 1999.

The evening started when Emil showed up at Rancho Spenardo bearing almost a full case of wine left over from a wine tasting. That all but ensured that there would be a party after the show.


Once at the club, I saw so many familiar faces: Former co-workers, customers, poetry slammers and just plain old good friends.


                  Wes the Mess & Zuni                                                          Michele



                Kima, Camille, Pamela & I                         Me & my old boss, Mr. Whitekeys



Yikes! A very unattractive photo of myself pointing at one of the four places my name appears in the Fly By Night Club. I have no idea who those women are. Everybody's your friend in Spenard.


After the show, some of us retreated to Rancho Spenardo - conveniently located two blocks away - for a lovely evening around the campfire as we drank all of Emil's free wine.


C                      Camille & Kima                                                     Emil & Camille

Rob, Bruce & Angela


Bruce plays with fire




September 6, 2006

It's hard to believe, but after 26 years, Mr. Whitekeys is closing the Fly By Night Club. I worked there for a little over three of those years. In fact, the whole reason I moved to Spenard was be close enough to walk to work. That's how I ended up living at Disgraceland with the Ratboy (across the street from Rancho Spenardo).

For years, the Fly By Night was the only venue in town for poetry slams. While it wasn't the first stage I slammed on (that was Alice's Champagne Palace in Homer), it's where I've given what I consider my best performances. 

So many memories in that place. It was there I shook hands with Jessie Helms' proctologist  and met the man who handed  D.B. Cooper the money. The first time I met Ted Stevens was in that bar. I also saw some fabulous bands there: Kotoja, Zeleke, Johnnie Johnson... Ah, I could reminisce for hours and not even scratch the surface of all that's gone on in that sleazy little bar.

Tonight, 20 of us old poetry slammers will descend upon the club to watch the third to the last performance of the Whale Fat Follies. I don't know about the others, but I'm ordering the coconut beer-battered SPAM. Mmmmm.... 


September 1, 2006

Sigh. My life seems to have turned into a pilot for some shitty new sitcom: 

     Single again after learning her boyfriend of over five years already had a wife, Jackie's getting a fresh start. This fall, she's leaving Alaska to try her luck at farming in Alabama. Can a northern city girl find happiness in rural town with a population smaller than most audiences she's played to? How will she handle living in a foreign land devoid of liquor stores, corner taverns and sushi bars? Will she become a prosperous organic farmer or a crazy cat lady? Be sure to tune in this season and find out!

August was rough, but it was better than July. September will be rough too, but hopefully better than August. With each passing day, life seems to get a little bit brighter. Not much, mind you, but a little.

I think it's a good sign that the glass recycling pile now has more wine bottles in it than tequila bottles. At least that seems like a step in the right direction.


























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