8.22.2007

Nate's Lodge (Now With Pictures!)

Nate's Lodge

My friend Nate owns a lodge out in the Alaskan wilderness. Describing it as a lodge has caused some confusion. The term "lodge" conjures up certain images, but Nate's place does not have the stereotypical lodge accoutrements (bearskin rugs, animal heads hanging on the walls). It is decked out with pergo flooring and straight-from-Afghanistan carpets. [fn1] Still, it is definitely a lodge. I'm not going to bother checking the "official" definition of a lodge; for purposes of this blog, a lodge is a big, fancy cabin.

Nate's is, in fact, two cabins--a large one with two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, and a deck overlooking the lake; and a smaller one with bunk beds and a loft that is used mainly for sleeping. There is also a shed/workshop, two outhouses (though one was not operational on this trip--I'm still not sure how an outhouse can be broken) and a dock.

Regardless of whether you call it a lodge, cabin, or a couple of cabins, it is a very special place. It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and there are only two ways to get there in the Summer: a harrowing ride up the Susitna and Yentna rivers, or flying in a floatplane (you can take a snowmachine [fn2] overland in the Winter). We drove about two hours north of Anchorage to Willow and took a 30 minute floatplane flight, landing on the lake right in front of the lodge.

The lodge is hard to get to, but once you are out there you realize the effort (and cost of the flight) was well worth it. It is quiet, isolated, there is no running water, no indoor plumbing, and no electricity. [fn3] There is plenty of opportunity to be at one with your thoughts, to write, to read, to lay in the sun, to paddle around in a canoe, to swim. Also, you can shoot things.

This was my third trip out there, and like the others, the planning was complicated--this one a little bit more so than the previous trips given the need to coordinate food and flights for 11 people and 4 dogs around various work schedules. It all worked out in the end--two flights out to the lodge of Friday (Nate was already out there), one flight back to Willow on Sunday, two flights back on Monday. As for food, Jody, Viv, Hank, and I handled breakfast and lunch (breakfast burritos, bagels/croissants with cheeses and jam, pancakes; a variety of sandwich meats and cheeses for lunch: salami, roast beef, turkey, horseradish cheddar, swiss, smoked gruyere, havarti). Scott and Triple-P did dinners (smoked goose with a port-wine reduction sauce (so good) and roasted potatoes on Friday night; rib eye steak with asparagus (and more of the port sauce) on Saturday, pesto pasta and garlic bread on Sunday). Rob and T were in charge of snacks and wine and beer (Rob put his sommelier skills to work and paired about 30 bottles of wine with our three-day dinner menu. We also went through about 10 bottles of port (the highlight of which was a Ramos Pinto 20 year tawny--Nate picked up this nice bottle after winning a poker tournament during a layover in Phoenix on his way up to Alaska), a case of the champagne of beer (Miller High Life), a case of Tecate for Marlo, and two mini Heineken kegs.). We took the food and drink very seriously.

The weekend was a four-day blur of good friends, great conversation, lots of jokes, lots of drinking, lots of eating, lots of poker, lots of fishing. Fortunately for me and my possibly broken and/or sprained hand, Jody has promised to tell some stories, so I can stop typing for now. I put a link to her blog on the sidebar, so if you check it in a couple of days, I'm sure she will have something funny to share.
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[fn1] Acquiring a large carpet collection is one of the side benefits of building schools for girls Afghanistan (and acquiring a small carpet collection is a side benefit of being a board member of an organization that builds schools for girls in Afghanistan).

[fn2] In Alaska, a snowmachine is what us East Coasters call a snowmobile. I was very confused when I moved here and people talked about their snowmachines: "Why do you need a need a machine to make snow in Alaska?" I wondered.

[fn3] There is a gas generator that provides electricity, but it is seldom used. On this trip we only turned it on at the very end so we could vacuum.

Updating

Just got back from: Nate's lodge

Reading: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Listening to: Rachel Yamagata

Moving to: Asmara, Eritrea

8.15.2007

Alaskasized

When someone who has known you since you were a child meets your friends for the first time, what can you expect? They will join forces and make fun of you (in both the past and present tense), for sure, but some things you cannot quite anticipate. For instance:
  • Creekside Emergency Surgery: During a fishing trip, Lea got a hook caught in her leg. Dr. Meghan was with us, but because of a broken wrist, she could only provide directions as I tried to remove it. When Lea stopped trusting me, she tried to do it herself. It quickly became clear that additional supplies were needed. Dr. Meghan and Hank eventually returned with painkillers and a pair of scissors. I assumed the role of anesthesiologist, plying Lea with glass after glass of wine, as Dr. Meghan, broken wrist and all, got down to business and cut out the hook. Lea was very brave. There is video of the procedure, but it's not uploaded yet. In the meantime, here are some pictures:
Lea trying to remove the hook

close-up

anesthesia

surgery

the offending hook
  • Rage Therapy: Hank caught a salmon. Without a rock handy, I bludgeoned it to death with an empty wine bottle. I enjoyed it a little too much. There was blood smeared all over the label. It was cool.

My cousin Jody is visiting from Miami. It had been about two years since we last saw each other. We always have a lot of fun together, and this week has been no different. In between Jody and my friends ganging up to pick on me, performing surgery on the side of a creek, and Jody witnessing me beat a salmon to death, we have squeezed in some other stuff:
  • Wildlife Viewing: We have run into a moose, a beaver, lots of salmon, an otter, eagles, and (possibly) a whale.
  • Attack of the Killer Bees: I sort of wandered into a bee hive and got stung somewhere between two and six times (depending on who is counting) on my head. As soon as the bees showed up, Jody dropped everything and ran. She's allergic, which is a good excuse, but she left me for dead. Thanks.
  • Homer: A quick four-hour jaunt to Homer made me wonder why I never made it down there before. I've had plans to go two or three times in the past, but they always fell through. I'm glad I finally went. The views are stunning--the turquoise water of the bay, mountains, volcanoes, glaciers. It was a fun trip, the highlight being an afternoon spent across Kachemak Bay in Halibut Cove. The boat we took over was ably captained by my friend Mera--lawyer in the Winter, skipper in the Summer; She's got quite a nice gig ironed out for herself. Halibut cove is a sleepy, quirky, small artist community. Jody provides a good play-by-play of the whole adventure on her blog, so I will just relay an exchange I had with Diana Tilliom, a painter who works mostly with octopus ink:
Diana: I'm surprised the art community hasn't embraced octopus ink more; I wish more artists would use it.
Me: Is it expensive?
Diana: Yes.
Me: Is it hard to get?
Diana: Yes.
Me: (Thinking, "That explains it.") Um...
Diana: But you don't even have to kill the octopus. You can remove the ink with a hypodermic needle.
Me: Do you catch them yourself?
Diana: Yes.
Me: Are they hard to catch?
Diana: Yes.
Me: Is it hard to extract the ink?
Diana: Yes.
Me: Um, well, maybe all of those reasons are why more people don't use it.
Diana: Yeah, and I'm kind of crazy.
Me: Well, you do live in Halibut Cove and paint with octopus ink...
Diana: (smiles and laughs) Yeah.
Homer Spit Rd.

Not a bad view from Michael's B&B.

Captain Mera

Mera let Jody drive the boat

Halibut Cove's answer to the Painted Ladies

Homer, looking east

In addition to the aforementioned Homer post, Jody is chronicling all of her Alaska adventure on her blog. So far, there is just one other Alaska entry, but I am sure she will have a lot more to write about after next weekend's trip out to Nate's lodge near Denali with Nate, Marlo, The Chairman, Triple-P, Rob, T, Em, Hank, Viv, and three dogs.

8.08.2007

Shenanigans

It's official: Ian Sheshunoff's middle name is Shenanigan. Let that sink in for a minute.

I had absolutely nothing to do with it, his parents picked this one on their own. I did win the Ebay auction for the rights to choose his middle name (with a high bid of $26), but Alex and Sarah didn't hold up their end of the bargain.

My final top three middle name choices were:

1. Ian
1a. Ian (pronounced "een")
2. Paris
3. Danger

Now I have to decide what to do. Do I try to force them to comply with the terms of the Ebay buyer/seller agreement? It's not an easy answer; such a path is fraught with complication.

First, there is an open question as to whether I am the true winner of the auction. The listing contained a disclaimer that in the event of an early birth (i.e., before the bidding ended), the high bid at the time he popped out would win the naming rights. But I don't think that jives with Ebay's rules, and Alex and Sarah were a little bit too busy with the birthing thing to log on and end the auction early. So, as the high bidder when the bidding officially ended, I think I could prevail on this front.

Second, by not allowing me to choose the middle name, Alex and Sarah broke the terms of our Ebay contract. But there is nothing Ebay can do to force them to let me choose the middle name (even if they hadn't already picked one), leaving me with two choices: (1) leave negative feedback on Alex's Ebay profile; or (2) sue.

Filing a lawsuit is a bad idea. I think that I could win based on the plain terms of the contract, but there is no way in hell a jury would award me the right to choose the little guy's middle name. Plus, there's the issue of suing your friends--not a good idea if you want to keep them. And I can't afford a lawyer. So that's out.

But what if they did let me pick the name? I wouldn't want the responsibility. Think about it: who would the kid be more mad at--his parents, for selling his middle name on Ebay, or the idiot who named him Ian Ian Sheshunoff? [fn1] My plan was to either donate the naming rights to a good cause (Ian Alaskan Aids Assistance Association Sheshunoff? Ian Alaska Community Mental Health Services Association Sheshunoff?) or give the rights back to Alex and Sarah as a gift, turning the tables on the two of them because they think they are so fucking clever.

But now that he has a name that his parents thought long and hard about, I will do nothing. Not because it's not worth the effort, and not because I don't want to fight with Alex and Sarah. But because I never paid the $26.
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[fn1] No disrespect to my friend Stanfill Marcus Stanfill. (Yes, that really is his name).

8.05.2007

Weekend Ups and Downs

Up: Bela Fleck and The Flecktones live at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Just a brilliant live band. Bela Fleck is a magician with the banjo as well as a "certified banjo astronaut." How does he find the time?

Up: They sold Port at the show!

Down: Despite a run-in at a bar before the show, and despite sitting directly in front of them during the Bela Fleck concert, we were unable to make any progress in the "Is The Silver Fox Cheating On His Wife?" Investigation.

Up: Discovered a new-ish bar.

Up, Then Down, Then Up Again: Jake Brown nails a 720, flies through the air, falls 50 feet, slams onto the ground, and somehow walks away.

Down: The weekend weather. It was rainy and cold, and I skipped out on a trip to Nancy Lake.

Down: I spent most of the weekend writing a brief.

Up: Tina, Clint, and Gisa came to visit.

Up: Clint's outfit for a wedding in Soldotna: Jacket, tie, and his "dress" Carhartts.

Up: Horoscope (though, it looks like I have some work to do):
Here are a few of the improvements I expect you to have accomplished by the end of August: a panoramic view of what's beneath the tip of the iceberg; a more useful relationship with obsession; the cutting of a knot that has tied you up for far too long; the resurrection of a seemingly extinct dream; the beginning of the end of what you love to hate; and hot discussions about the Three Things That Have Rarely or Never Been Talked About.
Up: I discovered several Top Chef blogs (in addition to the official Top Chef Blogs)

Down: Productivity (because of the Top Chef blogs).

Up: The Deciders. We won our final game of the season, finishing the Anchorage Park Strip Coed E League softball season in second place with a 9-3 record.

Down: Softball season is over.

Up: Poker season is about to start.

Up: I have an upcoming speaking engagement, and someone came up to me at a coffee shop today to tell me they heard about it.

8.03.2007

Hitting The Nail On The Head

Bill Simmons shoots down the latest "soccer will take off in America now" prediction. He makes two compelling arguments:

(1) Americans don't want to watch anything less than the best possible athletes competing, so, as long as the top soccer players play overseas, pro soccer will not become a major American sport, even with David Beckham playing in LA. This is why, according to Simmons, the USFL and Arena Football leagues failed as TV sports, and why CBA and minor league baseball games aren't televised. "The fact remains: Americans will never care that Beckham is playing soccer in a league of half-decent guys, just like English people wouldn't care if they had a mediocre baseball league and the London team signed A-Rod."

(2) The "every kid grows up playing soccer -- those are the kids who become adults and who might buy tickets" theory fails. Soccer's long-term popularity among kids hasn't made Major League Soccer popular yet, so what evidence is there that it will do so in the future? Some interests just don't endure beyond childhood. As Simmons explained, "You know what else I did as a kid? I gave myself a Muslim name. I ate my own boogers. I seethed because Tom never caught Jerry. I checked my closet every night to make sure an evil clown wasn't there. I left my baby teeth under my pillow because a fairy gave me money for them. None of these things has any correlation to my life now."

8.02.2007

Fontrum Sighting

Remember when we learned about fontrum? [fn1] Here's one that was witnessed tonight: A drunk woman hitting on her son-in-law. A more classic fontrumic event I cannot imagine.
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[fn1] See [fn2] of this post.

8.01.2007

Tidbits

Money: Bank of America called because a suspicious charge showed up on my credit card-- $30 to Blizzard Entertainment. Recently, lots of people have had unauthorized charges to "Blizzard Ent." It appears that someone stole some credit card numbers and is running the numbers through Blizzard. The good news is that BoA sent me a new card, and its updated design allows me to easily distinguish between my personal and work cards--their heretofore similar appearances having lead to several non-work related purchases on the company card and my boss repeatedly acting like my dad and threatening to take the card away "if I couldn't be more responsible with it."

Money, Part II: I have three credit cards with the same bank. Last week I received a letter explaining that because I am such a good consumer and because I pay my bills on time, they are increasing my credit limit on one of the cards. That same day I received a notice that the same bank is canceling one of the other cards because a review of my credit report indicates "serious delinquency." Great. Good thing those credit review professionals at the same bank are on top of things and talk to each other. This is worrisome--these are the people controlling credit scores, which pretty much serve as a numerical indicator of one's worthiness as a human being--kind of like an SAT score for adults.

Shady: Federal law requires the three big credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Experian, Equifax) to provide everyone with one free copy of their credit report per year. But even when forced by the feds to do something fair, they still try to screw you. If you search for information about free credit reports, or if you see the commercials on TV, you might head to freecreditreport.com. This is Experian's website and it promises a free credit report, but it's not the one you are legally entitled to. Rather, as the fine print reveals, you get the free credit report as part of signing up for Experian's monthly credit monitoring service, which costs $12.95/month. So, if you request your free credit report from that site, you will will get a credit report, but you will also be automatically enrolled in their program. The real free credit report site is annualcreditreport.com.

The Boy Who Prevented Me From Getting Anything Done Last Week: That would be one Harry J. Potter. I'm still recovering from the emotional roller coaster. Thanks, J.K.

Work: A prisoner claims that a guard planted gay porn in his cell in order to get him in trouble. To prove his case, he sent us the materials in question: pages and pages of hardcore man-on-man action. This is not the first time, however, that we have looked at porn in the office--Renee and I once spent 2 hours searching for naked pictures of Debbie Gibson online (We found them. She was in Playboy. She seemed a lot hotter when I was 12.).

Deep Thought: Addiction is only a problem if you can't get any of whatever it is you are addicted to.

Overheard in Anchorage: "He broke up with her at the Gumbo House. Classy, I know."

Scott on the iPhone: "I held it. It feels so nice."

Viv, to Me: "I want to hang out with you tonight. And by 'hang out' I mean I want you to put my new license plates on for me."

Viv, on Sarah's labor: "13 hours? I can't imagine doing anything for 13 hours."

Quote of the Week (courtesy of Nat): "Want to talk about a rough childhood? Try growing up like I did--being (American) Indian with a lesbian mother."

Lewis Black, on Barry Bonds: "He IS being persecuted, but for the right reasons. People hated Jackie Robinson because he was black. People hate Barry Bonds because he's a cheating douchebag. It's the content of his character!"

In The Middle

As of this writing, I am the high bidder for the right to pick the middle name for Ian Sheshunoff. With the assistance of some of my brilliant and funny friends, these are the leading choices so far, in no particular order:

Ian Danger Sheshunoff
Ian Ian Sheshunoff
Ian Justinroberts Sheshunoff
Ian Bong Hits 4 Sheshunoff
Ian Barnes & Noble Sheshunoff
Ian Ted Stevens Sheshunoff
Ian Paris Sheshunoff
Ian All-in Sheshunoff
Ian Shesh Sheshunoff
Ian Gumbo House Sheshunoff
Ian Slobodan Sheshunoff
Ian Bacon Sheshunoff
Ian Someone Bought My Middle Name on Ebay Sheshunoff

Myster is intrigued and sent me the following e-mail:

Really? I mean, obviously really, because I looked at the eBay link... but really? Is it as a commentary on the crass commercialism of our corporate-sponsored society, or is Alex just hoping to get a Best American Nonrequired Reading-worthy essay out of it?
. . .
I'm looking forward to the piece he writes fifteen years from now, after this conversation:

Ian [3Com?] Sheshunoff: Hey, Dad? You know how you always tell the story of how you sold my naming rights on eBay, and how special that made me?
Alex: Yes, son. Your naming was a sign of the times.
Ian [Vilsack In 2012?] Sheshunoff: Yeah, well, I always thought that was pretty cool. But now I've been doing some research, and I need to ask you about something.
Alex: What is it, son?
Ian [OMG Chad Michael Murray Is Totally Hott?] Sheshunoff: You sold my middle name for 23 bucks? I have three words for you, Dad: Reserve. Not. Met.