Bring your own fork

May 31, 2004 - Monday

 Bored Dredge No. 8

I’m here to tell you, there’s nothing to do in Fairbanks. Noth. Thing. It’s a small town just like any other that just happens to be in Alaska, which maybe sounds interesting, but in truth there’s fuck-all to do here.

Sigh’ I had to mention truth, didn’t I? Fine, fine, all right. I brought it up, so I’ll tell it: there really are things to do here, they’re just lame and expensive and stupid, and so I ain’t doing them.

The hotel I’m in is somehow affiliated with the Holland America cruise line. How a landlocked hotel 350 miles from the nearest port does that, I don’t know, but it is. And so there’s a ton of vacationing retirees clogging the hallways and gathering areas of the hotel, and the hotel caters to them by offering tours through an apparent Holland subsidiary, Gray Line of Alaska. These tours are faaabulous. Really, honest and true. Here are a few of them, copied verbatim from my in-room ‘Alaska and The Yukon Sightseeing’ guide.

Discover The Gold Tour
Approximately 4 hours
$60

Fairbanks owes its founding to the discovery of gold. Your driver-guide will bring those early days to life explaining the misadventures of one Capt. E.T. Barnette and how a rumor of gold actually panned out. Included are stops at Gold Dredge No. 8, the historic structure that dug the bedrock of Goldstream and Engineer’

Bah, fuck that. You aren’t going to read all that when you’re not even here to do it. Hell, I’m here and I wouldn’t read it until I decided to use it in this entry, so I sure as hell ain’t typing it all. You can go here to read about it if you’re more interested than I was. Suffice it to say that just about every tour out of this place seems to center around the legendary Gold Dredge No. 8, except for the ones that involve either flying or taking a train someplace else.

Yes, you read that correctly: Fairbanks is so dull that they actually organize tours OUT of it. And you thought I was exaggerating when I said there’s fuck-all to do here.

But I tried. I took myself sightseeing today. I hopped in my rental car, plotted my position on the ‘Shopping Guide to Fairbanks’ map I grabbed at the front desk, and headed north.

30 miles out I realized the stupid friggin’ map was drawn friggin’ backwards, with South at the top and North at the bottom and East and West thus reversed, so I was actually going south. Fucking hell. I had headed north so I could get as close to the North Pole as I was ever likely to get in my lifetime, so south clearly didn’t meet that criteria. But at this point I had 30 minutes’ driving invested. Fuck it, I kept going south. Maybe I’ll get to the South Pole some day and I’ll consider this trip a head start.

So I drove. And drove. And drove. And you know what? Alaska looks just like Montana looks like West Virginia looks like Colorado looks like Rhode Island. If you’re looking for a two lane highway cutting through thickly forested rolling hills, then pick a state, any state, because they all pretty much look the same. But if you want spectacular mountain ranges in Alaska, don’t try Fairbanks.

After a while I got bored and pulled off onto one of the small side roads that intersected the highway. And I drove for a while, and then awhile longer, deeper and deeper into the trees. Eventually it turned into a gravel road and I kept driving. And it all looked just like anywhere else I’ve been. So eventually I stopped at the most interesting thing I’d seen: This sign.

Apparently Residentials are out of season, so you can’t hunt them right now. I’m afraid I don’t know when they’re in season, or what the bag limit is. I’m also not clear on whether the lost dog is fair game or not. Sorry.

The most remarkable thing about this picture is so small that you probably can’t even see it: mosquitoes. There are probably a dozen of them perched atop my head, sucking my blood, and dozens more circling getting ready to attack. Big ones, too, probably an inch long. And they were hungry. I took this picture and then sprinted back to the safety of the car before they could eat me alive. Then I turned around and returned to my hotel.

So you see? There’s fuck-all to do in Fairbanks. But I’m not bitter, I’m just bored. On the bright side, at least my little adventure left me with something to do: scratch all my mosquito bites.


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May 29, 2004 - Saturday

 Weekend in Fairbanks

Okay, I’m over it. I fucking hated fucking Fairbanks fucking right fucking then, but I’m fucking over it now. We did what we needed to do and they’re converted to the new software and everybody’s happy now.

Woo.

We celebrated by going sightseeing. Here’s my coworker Kassie and the station’s Business Manager Donna standing next to the Trans Alaska Pipeline.

And here’s me standing in the exact same spot two minutes later!

So, yeah… That’s my wild Friday night here in Fairbanks. Drive half an hour to look at a big pipe. Take pictures of it. Come back to my hotel room to post them in a half-assed blog entry while listening to Morcheeba on my iPod. Truly, I am tearing it up.

So, fine, let’s embrace the photodigital Friday night excitement. Here’s one more View From Here shot. This is from tonight, just past midnight here in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

You can almost taste the excitement here, can’t you?


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May 28, 2004 - Friday

 No Fair

I fucking hate fucking Fairbanks fucking right fucking now.

Friday — today — is the make-or-break day in the software conversions I do when I travel to all these different radio stations. It’s the culmination of a 13-week run-up, the moment when months of work by dozens of people coalesces to produce the new traffic log out of our software. It’s when you find out that (hopefully) everything has been done right and the system works.

It ain’t working here.

I’m finding out now, in the 12th hour, that there are things they didn’t understand that they never asked me about, that there are assumptions they made that are just flat wrong that led them to make mistakes, and that all the checking I’ve done all along that “This is X, right?” and their answers that “Oh yeah, X is X, it’s always been X” has just been wasted breath because they don’t even know what the fuck X is.

13 weeks of work all comes to a head now, today, and I need to get it all straightened out in the next few hours. I’ll get it done, but it’s not going to be pretty.

I quit drinking 17 years ago and smoking 4 years ago. Today, I need a drink and a smoke.


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May 27, 2004 - Thursday

 I Love A Grenade

I love comedy grenades. A comedy grenade is a joke they “get” or a prank that goes off after you’re long gone. A grenade I left in Missoula last month just went off.

Todd, the network administrator out there, and I spent my two weeks there one-upping each other with stupid pranks: taking the wheels off chairs, unplugging keyboards, removing mouse balls; that sort of thing. I left two grenades for him on my way out the door. For the short-fuse one, I rubbed a Chapstick all over the lens of his sunglasses, which gave me much pleasure two days later when he emailed me “You owe me a new pair of Oakleys, you bastard.” The long-fuse one I forgot about … until now.

I also smeared Chapstick all over the earpiece of his telephone handset. He normally uses a headset, so I knew it would be awhile before that grenade went off. Well, I guess today was the day he picked up the phone, because I just received a flood of cursing from him through IM.

Aaaaahhhhh….. I love a good grenade.


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May 26, 2004 - Wednesday

 The View From Fairbanks

I finally made it up here to Fairbanks, AK, land of the midnight sun. And you know what? It really is the land of the midnight sun — I got in at 12:30 a.m. and it wasn’t dark, it was more like dusk. Here’s the ever-popular View From Here photo, taken at 10:15 pm, and it’s still broad daylight out there:

I’m not showing you the original View because the view sucked, hard. This is actually my second hotel here in Fairbanks. The first hotel, where I stayed last night, where the view was of a dirt parking lot and the side of a garage 20 feet from my window, was a dump. How bad was it? There were no knobs on the air conditioner! Apparently the “old maintenance guy” took them off in all the rooms at the beginning of winter, and then they hired a new guy … who doesn’t know where the box of knobs is. End result: I had to have the front desk send someone up to turn my AC on with a pair of pliers. When I asked how I was supposed to control the temperature if it got too cold, the advice was …? “Just unplug it.” Nice. So I’m in a new, real hotel tonight.

And now, at 10:40 pm with full daylight outside, I think maybe I’ll go read a book. I may not need to turn on the light…


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May 25, 2004 - Tuesday

 Greetings From LAX

I’m on the road again, and I’m actually in mid-travel as I write this from the Alaska Airlines Board Room lounge at LAX. I’m on Option C, and counting.

Option A was my original flight out of Burbank this morning to Seattle, where I would take a second flight to Fairbanks, Alaska. When I tried to check in this morning I learned my flight had been cancelled. Ooookay, no problem.

Introducing Option B. They put me on another flight, this time to Portland to catch a second plane to Seattle, where I would catch a third plane (the original second plane) to Fairbanks. We took off, flew for about 10 minutes, and then start circling. After awhile they announced that we had a problem with the front landing gear and that we were going back to Burbank. We circled Burbank for awhile and then they announced that we were going to LAX because it has longer runways. Greeeaaatttt…. Our landing at LAX was quite popular with all the airport’s fire trucks and rescue vehicles, but seemed to go okay. We coasted for a loooong time before the captain let the front wheel drop, but we rolled out just fine. Just how close it was to “not fine,” I don’t know, but the captain’s hands were shaking and he looked veerryy relieved when he came out of the cockpit to “thank us for our patience.”

So now I’m on Option C: a 4 pm flight to Seattle, continuing to Anchorage, connecting to another flight to Fairbanks. I should get in around 11:30 tonight. IF I get there, which the way things are going today is not a done deal.

There is a bright spot in all this, though. Sure, I could have slept in if I’d known I was taking a 4 pm flight, but at least I didn’t have to drive to LAX. It was much more convenient flying the 25 miles from Burbank to here.


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May 24, 2004 - Monday

 Alice’s Restaurant

After reading the sage advice from David, I realized that opening a can of whoop-ass on my cat burglar would also probably open up a can of worms as well. Confrontation would be deeply satisfying, but having events spin out of control in the process would not be. I’ve been on the “W” bench. I don’t need to sit there again. So I opted for the passive-aggressive approach instead.

I drove around the neighborhood until I found his car in an alley a few blocks away. I wrote a note and left it on his windshield:

If any of my cats go missing, I’m coming for you first. There are NO stray cats for you at my house.

Short and sweet and, I think, succinct. He knows I know where he is. He knows what I think he’s up to. He knows he’ll answer to me if he does it. He’s not anonymous now.

We’re still keeping the cats locked up again tonight, but I feel a little bit better now.


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 What The Duck?

Had a freaky-weird experience last night…

I happened to glance out the window while Beth and I were tucking Zoe in bed and I saw a duck in the street. The duck was just standing there, a few feet out from the curb, just loitering in the intersection. I recognized it as our neighbor’s duck (there’s a story for another entry there), but it was still weird to see a duck in the road.

Weirder still, there was a car stopped next to it. Not really parked, more like it was just … stopped … sort of halfway through the intersection. At first I thought the driver side had been caved in in an accident, but then I realized that it was just the driver door standing wide open. So that was double weird: a duck in the road, and parked next to it a car with the door open but no driver.

I looked out the window to see what was going on. Not much, really: just a duck standing around in the street and an empty car stopped partway into the intersection with the driver side door open. Oh, and a grey cat walking by, also in the street. It was surreal. Something was just not right about this situation (obviously), so I went outside to investigate.

I opened the front door and stepped out to find a disheveled middle-aged man on my front lawn, sneaking up on Zoe’s cat Sparkle, who was sitting calmly at the foot of the front steps. My What The Fuck meter pegged itself in the red.

Let me digress for a moment and try to impress upon you just how surreal this scene was.

First, the car stopped in the street. That was just weird. It was just there, parked partway through the intersection, as though someone were driving along and then just suddenly stopped for no reason and got out, leaving the door open. I had the visceral impression that the driver had just disappeared, been called up by The Rapture or something. Weird.

Secondly, the duck. That was fucking weird. It wasn’t weird that there was a duck there in the first place, because our neighbors have ducks in their front yard wading pool (which is weird, but like I said, it’s a story for another entry), what was really weird was that A) the duck was outside their fence and standing in the street, and B) the fucking duck was just standing there in the street. It was standing about five feet away from the curb, on the other side of the car, and about five feet behind it. And it was just standing there, stock-still, almost at attention. Really weird.

Thirdly, the grey cat. Not mine, dunno whose it was, I’ve never seen it before. It ambled into view from behind the car, just sauntering its way across the street, paying no attention to the car or the duck, and the angle from which it appeared made it seem almost as though it had apparated into being in mid-stride. Really, really weird.

So I’ve got all this weirdness going on as I open the front door: Raptured car, at-attention duck, magic cat, all going on in the middle of the intersection in the harsh sodium glare of the streetlamp. And then I’ve got Freak Boy in my front yard.

I stepped out the door and in the same glance noted Sparkle sitting calmly on our walkway, and then Freak Boy on the lawn a few yards away sort of hunched over and creeping up on her.

What’s going on out here? I said.

I don’t remember his exact words, but they added to the surreality of the scene. He said that he lived “down the street,” that “the two black cats were playing with the bird” and that he was “trying to catch the black cat because I’m looking for a cat. I need a cat. Do you know if there are any stray cats around here? Do you know if anyone has any kittens?” I don’t remember his exact words but it was clear that he wanted a cat — why, I don’t know. And maybe don’t want to know.

My mental gears were already grinding from the duck and the car and cat and the surprise of finding this clown in my front yard, and this latest just made my brain short-circuit. My instinctive reaction should have been — under less confusing circumstances would have been — to run this weird motherfucker off with a quickness. I should have frog-marched his ass back to his car, tossed him into it, told him if I ever saw him again I would kick his ass, and that I would track him down if any of my cats ever went missing. Instead I sputtered something about “the black cat is mine, the duck belongs to the neighbors, and there aren’t any stray cats around here.”

He wandered back to his car while I stood there watching him. He got in, made a very sketchy U-turn, and drove slowly back down the street in the direction he’d said he lived. And that was the end of it. Or was it?

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that he didn’t just happen to drive by and stop at random.

Consider this: Let’s imagine he was legitimately driving by when he stopped, maybe he was going to 7-11 for cigarettes. Then he sees two cats “playing” with a duck in the street. He stops, gets out, skulks around and acts like a fucking weirdo until a homeowner confronts him. Busted, he gets back into this car to leave.

The key question: Which way does he go?

He’s getting cigarettes, remember? So wouldn’t he get back in the car, start it up, and continue driving the way he was going when he stopped, keep on going for his smokes? Why the fuck would he make a U-turn that requires him to reverse-drive-reverse-drive his way through a 5-point turn and then go back in the direction of “home”? That just don’t add up.

I think maybe he came to my corner specifically looking for a cat. I think I just happened to come outside and interrupted him in mid-catnap. I also think maybe he’ll be back.

So tonight, when I get home from work, I’m going driving through the neighborhood until I find this clown’s car. And when I do, we’re going to have us a little talk. He’s not going to want a cat when I’m finished with him. At all.


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May 19, 2004 - Wednesday

 Holy Shit

El Steve is back on the air. The web is worth reading again.

Welcome back, buddy. And, uh, we need to talk. Expect a phone call tonight.


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May 18, 2004 - Tuesday

 $tarbuck$

Dear Starbucks Addicts,

Like you, I need my caffeine fix in the morning. Before I leave the house, I brew myself a cup of coffee. I grind a scoop of beans in my coffee grinder and put them in a paper filter suspended over an empty coffee mug. As I’m doing this, I have a kettle of tap water boiling on the stove. When the kettle starts whistling at me I pour hot water over the coffee grounds and allow it to drip through until the cup is filled. Then I drink it. Then I wipe my ass with a five dollar bill and throw it away.

So I’m just like you. But with a freshly wiped ass.


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I'm the guy your mother didn't bother to warn you about.

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