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Archive for the ‘Fairbanks’ Category

After reading a post on Fairbanks girls by fellow Fairbanks blogger subarctic mama, listening to a song by her husband (who I go moose hunting camping with), followed up by an evening spent in Fanchorage, I got inspired to give “non-Fairbanks” girls a bit of press as well. (Please note, I didn’t say good press.)

Yes, non-Fairbanks girls are becoming fairly prominent in Fairbanks, particularly in Fanchorage.

And, in fairness to those men that haven’t settled into a productive life with a Fairbanks girl, I think it is fair to give some clear signs of things to stay away from if you are looking for a true Fairbanks girl. (Believe me, a Fairbanks girl comes in handy when putting up fish.) I’m going to add a few of my own observations here, then open this post up for comments. I’m sure there are plenty of Alaskans out there that can add to it.

Sure signs of a non-Fairbanks girl:

  • Stiletto heals.
  • Butt cleavage. (See Fairbank’s crack epidemic.)
  • Wearing white capris and high heals to a riverboat trip on the Tanana. (The muddy, windy, dirty Tanana River.)
  • Big hair. As one travels south from Fairbanks, as we do to visit my in-laws, the big hair ration goes up. Fairbanks, rare, probably 1 in 100. Anchorage, a bit more, say 10 in 100. Seattle, maybe 40-50 in 100. Dallas, a girl without big hair (and stileto heals) is the exception, 99 in 100. (Disclaimer: Numbers are estimates, big hair makes me sneeze and my eyes water so I can never get an accurate count.)
  • Fake tans. They stand out a mile away.
  • Low cut blouses. (See fake tans above.)

Enough from me, before I get myself in trouble.

Still, there is nothing much funnier than watching a woman in stiletto heals attempting to strut across an icy, gravel covered Fairbanks parking lot when she falls down, staining her white capris on the dirty ice as her hair, roughly the size of Texas, keeps her orange, glowing, freshly fake tanned face from meeting and melting the ice. Unfortunately, the low-cut blouse is not so kind. Any dignity she once had, gone.

Of course, the one thing funnier might be the guy she is with trying to keep his composure as he helps her back up.

Please add your comments, and help those poor, stupid guys out there that still need help knowing what to stay away from, even after memorizing Fairbanks Girls, the song.

Thanks.

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I normally don’t read the editorials offered by our local newspaper, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. I won’t even comment on them, because it has been so long since I read them regularly that it would be unfair to do so. Suffice to say, at one point they were so mundane that they weren’t worth reading. The letters to the editor, on the other hand, are among the best things about the Fairbanks paper, other than its ability to start a fire in our wood stove. And even that is marginal.

On any given day the letters to the editor can bring tears to your eyes, of laughter generally but also of sorrow. It is the pulse of the community. Faster and more accurately than any news articles, you can tell what is on the community’s mind by delving into the letters. It is the home of the well intentioned, the activists, the lunatic fringe. And today I am one with them all.

It all began on Sunday, when I picked up the editorials section and headed for the letters to the editor. The newspapers editorial read “Powerhouse Nation“. I could not figure out what Powerhouse Nation referred or to what location in left field, or quite possibly right, that title have come from. In the end, curiosity killed the cat and I read the opinion.

If you are from Fairbanks, or not, please take the time to read the opinion at the link above. It is a highly regressive look at natural resource development as the cure to all evils, global, local, and economic. Personally I found it highly arrogant and bordering on racist, but mostly just incredibly shortsighted.

The text of my letter, officially joining me with the lunatic fringe of Fairbanks, is below:

I found your opinion “Powerhouse Nation” in Sunday’s paper at the best disturbing, at the worst regressive and possibly even bigoted.

The truth about our oil economy is that we are nearing the end. In my lifetime, we will be heating our homes, transporting our goods, and wrapping our products in something other than petroleum products. The question we should be asking is, will we be adjusting to that life with, or without, the wilderness Alaska is renown for?

As you correctly stated, the United States has reached its position in the world through its abundant resources. However, our natural resources are growing limited, and will continue to decline. We must look to other resources to keep our economy strong, those are our people, our freedom, and our innovation.

The possible 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil you mentioned would last the United States approximately five and a half years based upon current consumption numbers (http://www.eia.doe.gov/basics/quickoil.html). Five and a half years to put off the inevitable. Five and a half more years of SUV’s, over-sized homes and urban sprawl in exchange for the loss of the polar bear and walrus. For forever.

Regarding the remote village, threatened by being washed away but saved by industry, how very ‘white’ of you. Did you consider that the villagers live there to follow tradition, to the extent possible? Is it possible that some places don’t seek to be developed, that they don’t want to be just like everywhere else? I’m sure many Alaska Natives and Native Americans could expand better than I on how their lands and lives have been improved through development by people selling the same bill of goods you offered in your editorial.

Not everybody sees wilderness as a money making opportunity. Do these people deserve a place in our world today? Or are we destined to the same fate as the walrus and the polar bear?

Ultimately we can’t control the end of oil. But we can control whether future generations have the same access to undeveloped wilderness that we have enjoyed. Will our children look back and curse us over the species and wilderness lost, all for a few more years of us enjoying oil fueled luxury?

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Around 5pm yesterday afternoon Ali decided to test the seismograph at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, with her head. Jane and Ali were at a meeting at Ali’s “pretty school” (preschool). Ali was running around in her socks when her feet suddenly exchanged places with her head. The meeting of skull and concrete floor resulted in just what one would expect, screaming and tears, but luckily no broken skin. Jane loaded up the car, meeting over, and headed home.

I arrived home at 6:30 with Jolie meeting me at the door to tell me Ali had just thrown up on our bed. I went ahead, came in, took off my boots (it was -40 something below) and went to find Jane and Ali. They were sitting upstairs, Ali wrapped up in a towel, conscious but listless. Jane explained to me that Ali had hit her head, had fallen asleep in the car, had gotten home and vomited, and was in general pretty much out of it. My first thought was head injury, or concussion. (I guess I watch too many contact sports.)

We went into parental crisis mode following the 2nd Child Rules.

1st Child Rules would have taken us directly to the ER. 2nd Child Rules result in a more seasoned approach. Jane headed to the Internet, to verify concussion symptoms and to confirm when you needed to be alarmed. I held Ali for a while so that I could see her firsthand. During that time she vomited again, and I returned her to the shower to get clean, again, stopping long enough to change a few of my own clothes that had fallen in the line of fire. Jane confirmed our alarm, and we decided a trip to the ER was in order.

Meanwhile, Jolie began to panic. Jolie is pretty sensitive, and can pick up on the tensions from us. As soon as she sensed our concern, and realized that Ali as more than a little sick, she went into tears.

“I’m scared.”

“Ali is so special, I don’t want her to be hurt.”

“I love her.”

We called our friends Laura and Scott, who agreed to watch her so we didn’t need to drag her into the ER with us. Poor girl. And what a great big sister.

We quickly dropped Jolie off, and headed to the hospital. I tried to keep Ali talking to me, but she kept nodding off. Nodding off may be a misnomer, it was more like fading in and out. We got to the hospital relatively quickly, navigating the ice fog and cold temperatures as fast as we could.

Before I go on, let me reflect on our first and only ER experience with one of our children, Jolie. When she was about 2 she had a fever spike, and we rushed her to the ER. The service was terrible, the nurses gruff, the doctor a young rooster that had something to prove (still does, in my opinion). They diagnosed it as an ear infection, then decided to go ahead and check for a bladder or kidney infection just in case. That meant a catheter. Not pleasant. Eventually, the fever broke due to alternating ibuprofen andTylenol , and we went home. But not before Jolie developed a healthy fear of doctors and of hospitals. And I can’t say that I blame her.

This time, the service and treatment were the exact opposite. The receptionist was friendly and helpful, as was the triage nurse. We were checked in quickly and without fuss. Ali was seen by a doctor and ER nurse right away. The diagnosis, concussion. Then the question came down to whether or not to give her a CAT scan to check for any internal bleeding in her skull. The doctor left it up to us.

About this time a billing agent came in. Again, nice, professional, and friendly.

“Do you have insurance?”

Just like 45 million other Americans, I said, “No.”

Meanwhile, a parallel discussion was running through my mind. “Do you want my extra kidney now, or can we take care of that later?” “Later would be fine, we generally don’t like to maim people in front of their children.” Back to reality.

“OK”, and she left to get some paperwork for us. She returned and had us sign a form stating we were financially responsible for the bill. She obviously wasn’t watching me when I signed “George W. Bush”.

We had rolled the dice, hoping to make it a few more months without insurance, trying to get some money built-up to be able to do so. When I left my previous job, I had been paying just under $900 a month for coverage. For a high deductible plan through a private carrier we were looking at $400-$500 a month. I have no idea what this trip to the ER will cost us, maybe $2000-$3000. That’s anywhere between 2 and 4 months of insurance that we’ll be putting off. On the other hand, if we had the insurance we would still be paying everything plus the insurance due to the high deductible. Frankly, you can’t win for losing.

It is sad to say that when we had to decide about the CAT Scan the expense entered our mind. Eventually, we resolved if we went home and something went wrong, we would never forgive ourselves for not having the scan done. So we decided on the CAT scan.

About that time Ali threw up again, and then the x-ray teach walked in to get us. I went with Ali, to hold her hand as they did the scan. She immediately began to perk up, even smiling for the tech. By the time we made it back to our room and Jane, she was almost back to normal.

Which is exactly how the CAT Scan turned out.

With that, we were sent on our way home.

But not before Ali threw up again. Something for the hospital to remember us by, I guess.

We did sleep a little better last night knowing that the CAT scan came out normal. But not much. Between checking on her constantly through the night and trying to relax from the evening’s worries, we didn’t get much rest.

This morning, she was still moving slowly, but during points later in the day had to be reminded to stop chasing the dogs and dancing. It’s hard to keep lighting in a bottle, after all.

All in all, Ali seems to be headed back to normal.

Normal.

What a wonderful thing normal can be.

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Today I had to stop and fill gas. It is one of my least favorite things to do, but I couldn’t put it off any longer. Let’s just say it is a good thing I live up hill from town. We always fill at the east Fairbanks Fred Meyer’s store because we get a 10 cents per gallon discount for being regular shoppers there. I pulled into the gas pumps, just missed getting hit by someone pulling out while looking at their dashboard, and parked at one of the center pumps.

Embarrassingly, despite my environmental leanings and tree hugging credentials, I drive a 96 GMC extended cab sierra pick-up. IE, gas guzzler. But the price was right (thanks Mom and Dad) and it has been a good vehicle for getting around on some of our ventures into the Alaska wilderness. None the less, it leaves me more than a little depressed when I fill it up, and not just because of the hit my bank account takes.

I climbed out of the car and into the brisk 25 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit, air. Depending on which bank thermometer you went with, it could have been as cold as 30 below, or as balmy as 22 below. Personally, I think the banks set their thermometers differently to give us some illusion that they aren’t all in cahoots. I, for one, don’t buy it.

Banks aside, I stood watching as the dollars on the meter quickly outpaced the gallons. It wasn’t much of a race, the dollars had a 3 to 1 advantage over the gallons (with my 10 cents discount).

As I was standing there, in my too light high water carhart pants and my boiled wool slippers, looking pretty much like a doofus (I’m entering my doofus phase), I spied the bundles of wood for sale next to pump attendants shack. Certainly, I’ve seen bundles of wood before. I’ve even seen this same brand. Today, standing in the cold, feeling guilty next to my inefficient truck, burdened by the necessity of having a gas fueled vehicle, the bundles of wood pushed me over the edge.

Let me clarify. Fairbanks sets in the middle of a boreal forest that stretches from Alaska to the Atlantic coast of Canada. We have no shortage of trees locally. Or firewood. But for some reason Fred Meyer is shipping logs in from Washington state. No less, using Oil to ship those logs in from Washington state. Oil that had probably been harvested on Alaska’s north slope, then shipped Seattle in order that it could power a barge to haul wood from Washington back to Fairbanks. (Like God, Football in Oklahoma, Oil gets the big ‘O’ in Alaska.)

Somebody, please explain the economy in that process. I don’t get it.

To top it off, the bundles are wrapped in plastic. PLASTIC. Not the stuff you want to burn in your wood stove, or use to start your fire with when burning your imported logs. (I didn’t check, maybe the logs are stamped with ‘Made in China’ somewhere.) Plastic, a non-renewable resource. Plastic, made of oil, that sometime in prior years may have flowed through Fairbanks heading south, returning now, to go into the landfill to be mined by some future generation in desperate need of petroleum products for things we take for granted, like say, medicine.

So, a wood industry, making a point of their “renewable” resource wood, uses plastic to keep their bundles together. Why not newsprint, or some other low-grade paper that could be used to start those logs on fire? Maybe it isn’t as cheap as plastic, but that may only be a matter of time, unless you figure all the oil making paper uses.

What about invasive species? We have infestations of insects threatening many of our trees and natural habitats in Alaska. Is there any threat from new invasions from these untreated woods being shipped in from the south? Honestly, I don’t know enough about it. But even if the likelihood of the imported wood being infected is minuscule, why expose our natural resources to any risk when we don’t need to?

And Fred Meyers, the store chain that brought re-usable grocery bags to the mainstream in Fairbanks, replacing their old plastic bags at the landfill with plastic wrap for logs. There are certainly sources for firewood locally, I wonder if they were explored? (That would be no.)

When the weight of our human folly comes crashing down upon, cleansing the surface of the earth of our collective stupidity, who do we have to blame besides ourselves?

OK, well maybe God.

And Exxon.

And Conoco-Philips.

And BP, how could I leave out BP?

But mostly just ourselves. Will we leave our children to bear that burden?

One last thing about the pallet of imported firewood bundles, it was almost sold out.

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A phenomenon unique to Fairbanks, at least in my experience, is the hand held street corner sign. It isn’t rare to see the sign bearers out in every Fairbanks’ season; braving the ice fog throughout our 8 months of winter, dodging splashes from passing cars during the 1 soggy week of breakup (commonly referred to as spring by outsiders), basking in the continuous daylight over the next 2 months of our precious summer, and finally waving politely to all the armed hunters during that 1 golden week of fall. (I know, there are least six weeks of the year missing, rumor has it they are hiding out somewhere between fall and spring.) Year after year, the sign bearers are out there, lobbying for car dealerships, furniture stores, or the long overlooked issue of jury rights.

Before I go any further, it is worth noting something about these sign bearers. Local Fairbanksans already know this, but for the benefit of all you outsiders, the summertime sign bearers are certifiable. Insane. Anybody Alaskan that would waste a seconds time during the summer standing on a street corner breathing exhaust fumes from the only people left in town, tourists, has got serious priority issues. Winter sign bearers make more sense. Not much, but some. At 20 below, there isn’t a whole lot to do, so why not stand around on a street corner breathing exhaust fumes, at least they are local.

In recent years, the most prominent sign bearers have been anti-war protesters and their counterparts, the pro-war protesters. Personally, I sympathize with the anti-war movement. It generally makes sense to protest death and destruction. On the other hand, I have a hard time taking on the viewpoint of the pro-war camp.

I mean, what are they yelling at passers-by?

“More casualties, yea!!!”

“10 more dead, yea!!!”

“Children left fatherless (or motherless), yea!!!”

“Saddam hung by the neck until dead, see it on you-tube, yea!!!”

“No end in site, yea!!!”

“Tour extended 6 more months, yea!!!”

Haliburton gets billions more in no-bid contracts, yea!!!”

But they are out there cheering, none the less. Go figure.

This year promises to give us some new signs, and maybe some new sign bearers. Like the hot air that blows in from Juneau and Washington, these signs and their bearers make their most notable appearances during election years. And if you hadn’t noticed, this is one of those years.

Already, we’ve been seeing Ron Paul supporters picketing for months. They’ve been all over the Cushman Street Bridge, before some even knew who Ron Paul was, and those were Republicans. Just for the record, Ron Paul is a perfect fit for the libertarian/Alaska Independence Party mindset of many in Fairbanks. He may even have some sway with the far left, if for no other reason than his anti-war stance.

Personally, I view the political spectrum as more of a circle than a line.  Maybe a sphere, like the earth. You can only go so far west before you end up in the east, and vice versa. If you go far enough to the right, pretty soon you will find yourself hanging out with the far left. So, somewhere between the far west and the far east, you might find Ron Paul. And for those of you looking at a globe, that’s pretty close to Alaska.

Last week, as I was heading home, there was a large group of the sign bearers gathered around the intersection of 3rd and the Steese. There were signs for the constitution re-writing Huckabee, maybe a Romney sign or two, a plethora of Ron Paul signs, children forced to prostate themselves by packing signs for the presidential candidate of their parents’ choice (also Ron Paul), and maybe one or two of those ‘other’ Republican candidates. I didn’t see any McCain, which would probably be the only Republican I would consider (however briefly) a vote for.

The Democratic candidates, oddly enough, weren’t represented at all at this gathering of picketers. This could be a sign of several things. One, Democrats may realize spending time or money promoting a candidate in Alaska is a waste of time. We have too few electoral votes and the likelihood of the state swaying from the recent trend of Republican voting is, well, unlikely. Two, that liberals are smarter than conservatives and know that standing on a street corner in the cold won’t sway any informed voters, and all the uniformed ones are voting Republican anyways. A recent study provides evidence of this difference in intelligence. Of course, it is based on SCIENCE so it undoubtedly has a liberal bias and should, and will, be ignored by the conservative faithful. Thanks to “daranee” for pointing that study out to me.

Oddly enough, if you go back a little ways in Alaska history it was a Democratic state, around the time when the state constitution was written, at least from what I understand of Alaska’s political history. I wonder if that is why the radical conservatives dislike the state’s constitution so much. So far it has worked well, keeping them in their own bed, though often alongside an oilman (or women, I didn’t mean to indicate any same-sex hankypanky going on here by our moral leaders), and out of the private citizens’ beds. But, I do wonder how long that will last.

Which returns me to this post, and how long it will last, given its tendency to stray from the subject. Not much further, I promise.

Despite the jests above, I enjoy most of the sign bearers and their signs. Protest and political activism is alive and well in Fairbanks. They create a lively, interactive, personable street presence that we don’t often have in Fairbanks.

However, I do wonder why we see such a stronger street side presence of conservative picketers than liberal ones. I would venture that, in general, liberals have more of a live and let live attitude. As long as someone is not hurting someone else, literally, then they should be allowed freedom of opinion and action. On the flip side, conservatives are more dogmatic. They believe there is a right and a wrong, and not much gray matter in between (their ears, I say). Sorry, that was uncalled for. But seriously, when an individual or group believes they are right, and that there is only one right choice, it places them in a position where they are more likely to impose their will on others, because, for God’s sake, they are right.

Which takes us back to Ron Paul. By no means am I an expert on his platform, but it would appear his views of the Constitution would be described as constructivist. In Fairbanks, that interprets into the libertarian ideal that the government mind its own business. Which is where I wonder if there isn’t something of a conservative hypocrisy in dealing with constitutional matters, say where property rights are treated as sacred, but a person’s right to privacy in their own life is not. For example, do what you will with your property regardless of what damage it does to the community (safety, property values, aesthetics, environmental damage, etc), but by God don’t think about getting married to your partner if you happen to be of the same sex. (Or the same class of animals we commonly refer to as mammals, as some fear.)

It will be an interesting year to watch the sign bearers, and watch the morphing of the groups and signs as the primaries end and the race heats up. I expect there will be Democrats and Republicans on opposing corners in a few months, likely some of the same anti-war and pro-war people we’ve been experiencing for too many years now will be back. Wouldn’t it be funny to have anti-war Republicans and Democrats bearing signs against the pro-war, well, Republicans.

As to the folly of standing on a corner promoting your candidate, I hope after the debacle of our current president people are taking a better look at the candidates than can be considered in a 5 second drive by, 60 seconds if you catch the light at the wrong time. Hopefully there is a desire from members of both parties to look for a spark of intelligence in a candidates eyes instead of a folksy down home apparition. To that end, we’ll all benefit regardless of what party ends up in the White House.

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Today, while trying to resurrect our paper shredder after I once again fed it too many credit card applications, I recalled a lonely period of passive resistance I engaged in against the credit card industry a few years ago.  I’m convinced all my resistance movement needed to succeed was a way to enlist members, to compile the numbers of members that would make the politicians and companies set up and take notice.

At the time, I didn’t know what a blog was, I don’t know if the word or maybe even the idea existed at that time.  Now that it has, I have the ability to communicate with the masses, preach to the choir, engage the legions, or at least the ten or so people (mostly family) that regularly read my blog.

So, with this post, I officially declare the Credit Card Resistance Movement (CRAM) resurrected.  By reading this far into this post, you are an official member, and are duly sworn to carry out CRAM’s mission at whatever cost.  Guilty by association, that’s what I say.

By this time, you may have begun to wonder exactly what CRAM is, and if you can be arrested for it.  Good question, I’ll get back to you on that.

Did I mention that CRAM was a passive resistance movement?  I did.  That may have been a mistake; I’ll get back to you on the violence too.

The Premise

Each day, almost every American adult, and some juveniles, receive credit card applications in the mail.  It doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, homeless or in the middle of a bankruptcy procedure, if you have an address, you get these applications.  Most say something to the effect that you have been pre-approved for the best card ever, with the best rate ever, so on and so forth.

So, the next reasonable question to ask is what happens to all those applications?  What percentage of the applications actually get sent back in, how many are approved by the predatory credit card companies, and how many just go in the trash?

Since Fairbanks is notorious for the venerable old tradition of dumpster diving, most of which takes place at the borough’s waste transfer sites, many people are scared to toss their applications without destroying them first by shredding or tearing them up.   Perhaps they burn them, ensuring the very envelopes that litter our kitchen tables, counters, and mailboxes also end up in our air.

Personally, my wife and I are hit and miss destroying the applications we get, sometimes as many as 4 a day.  I don’t worry about the divers too much.  If they want to dig through my trash and pull out a credit card application, somewhere around the poopy diaper, under the cat litter and embedded in the moldy tomato sauce, I figure they earned it.  And good luck with that application.

The Solution

So, after destroying application upon application, each one promising eternal financial comfort and security, I asked what would happen if everyone, and I mean everyone, returned his or her applications.  Blank.  Or shredded.

And so I started returning our applications, usually writing, “No thank you, please recycle.” I would open each application, take out the postage paid envelope, fold the old envelope and all the application paperwork together, write “No thank you.” and “Please recycle.” on the application, and then CRAM them back into the prepaid envelope.

Sometimes I would shred the application first, or tear it up violently.  (I promised you violence, what did you expect?)

Did it slow the inflow of applications?  No.

Did it affect my credit score?  I have no idea.

Did it make me feel better?  You bet.

The Proposal

Given the quantity of credit card applications and the manner in which they target people in a predatory manner, I would like to solicit help in returning applications.  Imagine if every time you received a credit card application, you simply opened it, CRAMmed everything into the postage paid return envelope, and dropped it back into the mailbox.

You could preprint return slips to add to each returning envelope.  My new ones are going to say “No thank you.  Since we don’t have paper recycling in Fairbanks, Alaska, I thought I would return this to you so that you could see that it is properly recycled, as all proper corporate citizens do.”

Imagine what could happen if everybody started CRAMming:
•    Millions of postage paid envelopes being added to the mail stream.
•    I’m not sure how companies are charged for prepaid envelopes, but the influx of a large quantity of these would certainly show up at the accounting offices at the post office or at the corporation.  Wouldn’t they?
•    Someone at that hated company, you know, the one you make a payment to every month, has to open that application to find it was returned shredded.  And the company pays for their time.  And to dispose of the application.  And they probably have to take the time to clean the paper shreds off of their desk, the floor and maybe even out of their coffee.

I know, this seems trivial and inconsequential, but only when I’m the only one doing it.

If everybody did, maybe we’d get less of these applications, we could save a few trees, and keep millions from feeling the false hope of “you have been pre-approved for a $100,000 credit limit for 0% apr for life (of a fruit fly held at an undisclosed location).”

And no, I’ve never been arrested.  Not for this anyways.

Join the resistance, and CRAM.

(Please enlist your friends, families, and even enemies.)

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After a busy week, I’ve finally set aside some time to complete my 2007 Nutcracker series of essays. This is the grand finale, my first turn as an audience member for the ballet (after a couple turns behind the scenes), and my chance to watch my “little mouse” perform.

We arrived before the show about a ½ hour early, both to get seats and to get Jolie back stage to get moused up. There was a good crowd, and long lines for tickets, but we were able to slip by (a friend holding our tickets for us) and go straight to the theater doors. My in-laws, Jim and Judy (who have been visiting us), Ali, Jane, and I were attending together. Judy remained by the door, as Jane hadn’t caught up with us after handing over our mouse backstage.

Another friend, Janet, was to catch up and join us as well.

We chose seats about a third of the way up from the bottom of the theater, and, appropriately so, on the left side of the theater. Had we been a bit earlier, we may have gotten into the center seats, but as it was the seats were good- and close enough to the stage to get a good view.

While waiting for Jane and Janet to catch-up, I was privy to best acting performance of the night. A women in a red coat, with a cane, and two sons arrived at the row in front of me, where there was a lady sitting alone next to the aisle in a great seat. The seated lady held a rose, presumably for one of the performers. The acting for this scene was so outstanding; it would be inexcusable for me not to share it with you.

The handicapped lady woman (I’ll call her that because her behavior clearly indicated she is handicapped, though not in the way she wants us to believe) began to ask the seated lady if she would move to allow for her and her sons to sit there on the aisle. The seated lady politely refused, obviously having arrived early and picking a seat to give her a great view.

The h.w. went on to explain how she was handicapped, pleading for the s.l. to move, all the while leaning more heavily on her shortest and presumably youngest son in a show of physical exhaustion. There were three empty seats immediately to the left of the s.l., but it was clear the h.w. wanted the aisle seat and had planned on bullying her way into it, using her cane figuratively (I was worried for a moment she might use it literally) as a prop to get her the seat she wanted. All the while, she leaned more heavily on her son and breathed more heavily, accentuating her frail physical state. Oh, the drama.

Of course, there were lots of empty seats, on the aisle, just further from the stage.

H.w.; ” Please let us sit here, I can’t stand much longer (gasp, wheeze, a small cough then a little shudder for effect, leans heavily on small son whose shoulder is conveniently at her arm’s height). I just want to sit together with my kids.” Again s.l. politely refused.

By this time, it was clear h.w. had tried to bully the wrong person. S.l. was not going to give up her seat despite the commotion being raised by h.w. H.w.’s face turned red, and she stomped back up the aisle, leaving us all with a new Christmas greeting to explain to our kids, ” You f#@%%*# b#@#$!!!, you @@$$@###@$@!$@$#@!$!!!!$!@!$!!$.” All 50 little kids sitting within earshot sat up and took notes.

I fully expect Ali to quote h.w. next time Jolie swipes her seat at the dinner table.

If any of us innocent bystanders had any doubts about h.w.’s tact before this, or any sympathy, it quickly evaporated at her outburst; which was completely inexcusable at a holiday showing of the Nutcracker.

A few minutes later she returned part-way down the aisle with a Nutcracker volunteer. They didn’t make it as far as s.l. before turning around and heading back up the aisle. There were still seats available all over, some of them on the aisle. If she was truly suffering as much as she was showing, I would have expected her to take one of them. Eventually, Jane and Janet arrived so I quit watching to see where she ended up, though later Jane mentioned she had witnessed h.w. accosting a little teenage girl who was a volunteer usher.

Anyways, back to the purpose of our being there at all, the Nutcracker.

Regarding our seating, Janet sat to my right, Jane to my left, with Jim, Judy, and Ali left of that. The seats at the end were empty, at least until our coats landed there. Ali sat on Mimmy’s (Judy’s) lap during the first act. She re-entered the show during the second act, when she decided to move to mine.

Soon the lights went down and the ballet began.

As the curtain rose, the first thing that grabbed me was how good the stage looked. From up close, working on the props, you see all the dust, the frayed canvas, the seams that don’t quite line up. But from the audience, with the lighting, all those inaccuracies aren’t noticeable. In any case, the scene of the house, the window (where I knew someone was sitting, just out of sight), the stairs and the backdrop, all looked wonderful.

The second discovery was that I knew very little of what took place during that first scene until then. The father, the mother, the maid, and the children playing all were unknown to me until I had the chance to see it from the audience. Of course, this is because during the rehearsals I was always ½ of the dead weight on the back of the window prop.

Last, and most surprising, was after having worked backstage is how one-sided my view was. One might say my view was decidedly from the left (most people who know me wouldn’t expect anything less). Having worked only on left stage, and not being able to watch any of the early scenes, there were characters I was completely unaware of. It would be like covering half of the movie screen for a movie. While you might get the overall story, there are going to be events left unknown.

Take the maid for example, she never shows up backstage at stage left, at least behind the window. I didn’t know she existed, or that her role was so significant in providing humor to the early scenes. Likewise, I didn’t expect the dollhouse scene. It enters from stage right, as do the dolls. I had no idea that scene occurred (during my backstage stints I was probably removing snow during this time).

It was to my delight and surprise that I didn’t always know what to expect. It was fun to watch and witness the characters and scenes unfold, some of which came as a complete surprise despite my having been backstage.

The prop removal went off without a hitch, at least from my viewpoint in the audience. The window, stairs, and fireplace all rolled offstage quickly and smoothly. Soon, we were anticipating seeing our little mouse in action. During this time, I was watching stage left, knowing Jolie would come from that direction. Fortunately, Jane caught me and corrected my gaze, because Jolie actually came on stage from the right. During the dress rehearsal, all the mice had come from the left, and during the earlier performance I had been wrapping up my covert snow removal at that time.

Soon, the little mice were taking turns, a couple at a time, roaming the stage. Our little mouse, I can say unequivocally, was the best. (Actually, I had no idea which one she was during most of the performance.) I do think she was the smallest or the small mice, and she had a tendancy to hunch over a little more, making her a little more mouse like than the other rodents on stage. And, given how tired she was, and how her attitude had been deteriorating at home, I suspected she might be a little rabid.

All that aside, the mouse scenes were wonderful, the fight with the nutcracker, the little mice shuttling off presents, the agonizing death of the mouse king, and the mice pulling his carcass off stage. During some of this scene, Jolie lost a heel on a slipper. She was able to nonchalantly pull it back on when they were off to the side of the stage, but still visible, before they had another series of action. She did wonderfully, and we are very proud of her. And watching her made all the volunteer time worthwhile, maybe even her rabid attitude.

The first act wrapped up, and we all took off to stretch our legs and look for restrooms. Jane went and got Jolie, as this was her chance to watch the second act from the audience. I found a rose and bought it, then let Ali give it to Jolie when she got to us.

The second act is primarily dancing, some of which I had witnessed from stage left during the dress rehearsal. It was all wonderfully performed and fun to watch. Given the majority of the dancers are high school students; it is really a privilege to see such a good performance in Fairbanks. The professional dancers, from Atlanta I believe, managed to keep from freezing up (reference to the temperature in Fairbanks in December, not their performance) and wowed us all with their routines. What a great thing for the local community and especially the young dancers to get to witness.

Midway through the second act, Ali began asking me for candy she knew I had in my coat. She pretty much disconnected from the performance, and began putting on her own. Up until that time, she had been watching, clapping and in general keeping up with the story. When I said no, maybe for the 4th or 5th time, she entered her classic Ali pout scowl, lips out, brow furrowed, arms crossed, nose wrinkled up. It was the second or third best act of the day, somewhere right after h.w. and our little rabid mouse.

The show concluded, we wrapped up our tired kids and headed home. I even dug the candy out of my coat and gave it to Ali.

It had been a long week, or weeks. But, to my surprise I’ve discovered a new level of pride in watching a child do new things. As a parent, watching Jolie mature (I know- she is only eight) this year has been a surprising and endearing experience, different from the pride and joy one feels when a baby learns to walk, etc. Perhaps it is that she has chosen to take on something and persevered in doing so, maybe it’s something else.

I can’t quite pin it down, but it threatens to pop the buttons off of my shirt.

This first-time Nutcracker Dad is thankful to have been involved, happy to have learned something new, but also glad it is over. Until next year.

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