Posts Tagged ‘Fanchorage’

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.


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Wednesday night marked the second installment of my Nutcracker volunteerism, this time as a stage hand for a dress rehearsal.  Jolie was in this rehearsal, so she and I would go to Hering Auditorium together.

Before I go into the evening’s events, let me hit a few highlights of Wednesday first.  I got up early, to get some work done.  I got a call for a lunch meeting, so quickly made arrangements for Ali to get to school via another parent.  Then, as Ali and I got into my truck to drive to town, the truck wouldn’t change gears.  I think the clutch went out.  So, I ground it into reverse, backed up out of the driveway, then ground it into 1st and headed to town grinding gears every time I needed to shift.

Fortunately, we made it to town, Ali got to school, and I made it to my meeting.  Immediately afterward, I coaxed the truck to Jane’s workplace, where I left it and drove home (there may be a pattern here).  At home, I took a few minutes to check my e-mail, etc, then collected Jane’s parents and drove back to town so that we could pick Jolie up from school and then attend the Holiday Open House at Jane’s workplace.  From there we took the truck to the mechanic, picked Ali up from creative movement class, ran a couple miscellaneous errands for Jane’s Dad, and finally picked up Jane after 5:00pm.

By this time, I was considering painting the van yellow and putting a meter on it.  Maybe I could pick up some spare passengers and charge them for the ride.

We headed home (do you see the pattern), stopping off at the McDonald’s Drive-thru in Fanchorage for supper so Jolie and I could eat in the van.  At home, Jolie quickly got her dance stuff on, I unloaded stuff from the van, and then she and I piled back in the van and barely made it to the rehearsal on time at 6:30.

At rehearsal, on stage, I ran into two other stage hands.  Chris Todd, who I believe is a doctor whom I met while working on the design for the Interior Neighborhood Health Clinic, and Gary, who was the other stage hand for the night.  One other fellow would show up, but I can’t recall his name.

Eventually beret guy, who once again was wearing the red beret with cargo pants (blue this time), came over and introduced himself.  His name is Scott, and he directed the stage crew during the rehearsal.  From here on out, I will call him Scott, because he was kind enough to explain stage lingo and stage hand responsibilities to me throughout the evening.

First lesson was to understand locations on the stage.  While I had figured out left stage and right stage on Saturday, down and up stage still had me stumped.  But, Scott pointed out down stage is towards the crowd, up is towards the rear of the stage, or away from the crowd.  The terminology has its history for when the seating was flat, or people stood, and the stage was sloped from front to back in order that the crowd could see the whole stage.  After a day of breakdowns and people shuttling, it was nice to learn something that won’t cost me money (unlike learning whatever the truck repair will cost).

Eventually, the stage hands were split up.  Gary and Chris ended up on stage right; name unknown father, Scott, and I on stage left.  Chris appeared disappointed, as his past experience was the covert fake snow sweeping and vacuuming operation which is based out of stage left.

Soon, the rehearsal was underway.  The first task for me and the nameless dad was to lie on the back side of the window prop.  We do this because otherwise the prop will roll when dancer’s step on it.  The tricks to this job are to not cramp up while you sit or lay there, so that you can move when the scene is over, and to keep your head down lest the audience see you.  Characters walk by you, appearing to be “outside” from the audience, and fake snow is falling on them.

I’m considering wearing a nylon stocking over my head for Saturday’s show, so if I stick my head up I look like a burglar.  Better yet, and more appropriate for Alaska, moose antlers attached to my back.  Once the scene is over, a stage hand, in this case it was me, crawls around “outside” the wind sweeping fake snow to the vacuum while keeping out of view.  As I said, it is a covert fake snow removal operation.

If I had moose antlers attached to my back while sweeping snow it would look like a moose browsing outside the window…. How much more Alaskan could it get?

I doubt my sense of humor would get me invited back.  But then again, if you don’t want to be asked to do a job more than once, screw it up, and do a good job of screwing it up.  Take laundry, for example.  I don’t do laundry at our house anymore.  And for good reason; reasons that I won’t go into here lest I reopen old wounds best forgotten.

Following the covert fake snow removal, we had to hide behind props and roll them off of stage as cued.  I’ll just say I hope it goes better during the shows.  If you come, sit back a few rows, it’ll help fuel the illusion.

Jolie showed up during act 1, looking very cute as a rat, oops mouse.  Other than her continually squeaking “Dad, Dad, Dad” she was unrecognizable in the mouse costume due to the darkness at the sides of the stage.  I’ve always warned if she wasn’t careful she would grow a tail, it seems she finally has, and it is a tail to be proud of.

After that, work was pretty light.  We swept up the stage during the intermission and placed a few more props, but the stage is mostly empty for the dancing to take place.

The mice throw the presents to stage left, and we have to catch and stack them out of the way.  This was a period of complete chaos, as presents are flying, mice were running around, tails were getting stepped on, too many people were trying to help.  As I said, sit back from the stage a bit lest you be hit by a flying gift.

During the second act the primary responsibility was to prepare Mother Ginger.  Mother Ginger is…… how can I say this and remain politically correct?  Generously proportioned?  Proportionally challenged?  Flipping huge?  You could take up residence using her for shelter, and it appears some have.  If that doesn’t paint a picture for you, come see the ballet.

During all of this activity, the stage general, who is named John, who technically I think is the stage manager for the performance, sat at a dimly lit podium at stage left talking on a head set to folks controlling the music, lights, and curtains (I assume).  It is possible the stage king was on a headset elsewhere, he was there but I only say him once.  Perhaps that is why John always seems so serious.

Essentially, that was it for the job of stage crew.  Not bad, kind of funny, and certainly interesting to watch the ballet from that side.  Having never seen it, I’m anxious to get through my next stage hand gig and get into the audience for the second performance on Saturday.  Hope to see you there!

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Every spring and sometimes fall, on the fringes of the tourist season, the National Park Service opens the road into Denali Park as far as Teklanika Campground, some thirty miles into the park. During the tourist season one can only drive fifteen miles in, if you want to go further you have to make a reservation to ride one of the buses that cruise the road from late May to early September each summer. Each spring and fall you will find Alaskans populating the open section of road, sometimes bicycling, always watching for wildlife.

So last May when Jane was out of town for a weekend, the two girls and I opted to take advantage of a beautiful spring day to drive down to Denali Park, some 120 miles south-southwest of Fairbanks. Here in Fairbanks it was a sunny day, few clouds in the sky, warm and in the process of what Alaskans call green-up (the 3-4 day period when the birch trees go from brown to green).

We had just gotten on the Parks Highway, headed for Ester, when we arrived along a stretch of road that recently had a swath of trees hydro-axed along one side of the roads. For those unfamiliar with it, a hydro-axe is a huge grinder that attaches to the front of a tractor, and grinds, rather chews up, anything it comes in contact with including trees. It was clear from the width of the swath that the clearing was likely making way for a wider road and bike path- both things needed for this section of road.

Typically, I would accept this wanton destruction of our boreal forest as sad but necessary, but the recent development of Fanchorage on Fairbank’s east side has left me with little tolerance for this practice. This new development resulted in a section of the Steese Expressway, once pleasantly lined by spruce trees on both sides, naked and barren. Now, we have poorly designed vinyl sided (toxic by nature if not appearance) duplexes on the east, poorly designed or not designed at all office buildings and box stores to the west, and very few spruce trees. A consequence that could have been avoided with careful and considerate planning and construction practices.

All of which put me into a funk as we headed out of town. I’ve always enjoyed that section of the Parks Highway, immediately outside of town, that delineated the separation between Fairbanks and Ester. Ester has always felt like a wide spot in the road, a small outpost down the road, rural and inviting. I fear that it may start taking on a suburban feel, connected to Fairbanks by a major road with possibly, god forbid, future development along it. I fear you’ll have to drive for 15 minutes outside west Fairbanks before you feel like you’ve left town, that Ester will become like North Pole to Fairbanks east.

As we got closer to the park, hitting the customary frost heaves in the highway just north of Healy, the weather began to go from sunny to grey.  This isn’t uncommon; as the Alaska Range rises up from the Tanana Valley it quite often seems to conceal itself in the grey underbelly of the sky. This day was no different.

As we moved up into the mountains, the sky came down, until we were almost within reach of the lowered ceiling. The landscape took on a mystical quality, mists moving about the peaks and rocky crags, revealing them one second only to hide them an instant later. Not the best day to see wildlife, but priceless none the less.

Once we got into the park, Jolie almost immediately spotted a moose, one of several she would spot that day. At eight years old, she is developing her eyesight and skill at picking out wildlife, particularly moose. She is a joy to have along, keeping her head up and eyes open, hoping to see something before Dad. Ali still has trouble seeing, but given how she models herself after her big sister, will be out dueling me soon as well.

Ptarmigan were out on the road in mass, likely picking up gravel for their gizzards. They are a striking bird, with their white winter plumage and red headdress. And like all birds, they can be more than a little quirky. At one point, a rooster sat in the road by the front of the car and produced his mating call. He would run ahead a little ways, and then call again. We would follow, allowing Ali to get a good look out of the car window while trying to get by the rooster to continue on our drive.

Denali ptarmigan

All of a sudden, a SUV cruised by doing 40 to 50 mph. Fortunately, the rooster had moved in front of our car and avoided being road kill, so much for being protected in a national park. The funk with modern society I had been feeling earlier in the day briefly resurfaced, once again I drove it down with the beauty and freshness of the park, the optimism and joy of the girls.

Around that time it started to snow, great big wet clumps that quickly turned any exposed ground white, stuck to our windshield and hands when we hung them out the windows, that reasserted winter’s supremacy in these mountains.

We drove perhaps another 5 miles, and then turned around at Teklanika, 30 miles into the park and the end of the open road. By the time we returned to where we had watched the rooster, there were a couple inches of new snow on the ground.

Not much further down the road, we spotted a herd of caribou gathered upon the ice of the Teklanika River. We sat, parked along the edge of the road, watching the caribou circle around. It was hard to tell what they were up too, but it was pleasant watching them mill about. Our day in the park was rapidly coming to an end, the girls were tired and the snow was coming down at such a rate that I wanted to get going. Still, we sat, watching them through the falling snow, attempting to show Ali each one, catching a last breath of snow filtered air before dashing back to Fairbanks and the sun.

Denali caribou

On our way out it was quiet. The kids were napping or resting quietly in their seats. The quiet has allowed the gloom to resurface, and I had finally succumbed to spending some time with it, unchallenged by the children in the back seat, when we came upon the section of the road with Denali Park that was paved, the first 15 miles near the entrance.

The road was in marginal condition, the winter had clearly taken a toll on the pavement. The edges were crumbling, beaten back by the tag team of frost and vegetation.  Next to crumbling mountains the blacktop was nothing, and would be gone in blink of an eye without the continual maintenance of the Park Service.

Suddenly, I was comforted by the power and timelessness of nature. We would kill, destroy habitat and life, but nature would persevere. We may not recognize it in today’s form when it returns, we may lose countless beautiful and meaningful species and places, but nature will remain. Nature doesn’t need mankind, despite our arrogance otherwise.

As we continued on towards Fairbanks, the frost heaves north of Healy took on new meaning, each bump clearing any vestige of funk that was left from earlier that day. Every pothole, willow bush, and crack in the pavement a document of our insignificance, a salve to my fears of consequences poorly planned and equally misunderstood.

As we emerged into the sun on our way north, I knew I was returning home with a better perception of my place in the world, of humanity’s, and more optimism about what the future might bring.

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