Thursday, July 31, 2008

Went back the well last night (Bird Creek) and got a bigger salmon than Sunday. Both are now safely in the freezer. Ahh, Alaska.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The pictures are still in my camera (yes, film) but I did get a nice silver salmon on Sunday at Bird Creek. It was not as big as it could have been, but it was big enough for a great fight and was happily my first Alaskan salmon caught while standing in the middle of a stream in waders. I also caught 4 Pink Salmon (Humpbacks) but let those go – mushy, bland tasting flesh once then hit the freshwater I understand. “I kept these wild salmon over those wild salmon because they taste better” – purely an uptown problem to have. The one Silver is safely frozen and will soon be joined by many more, not to mention some Halibut in a few weeks.

It took about 3 hours to get all of my fish, which is not bad at all. It’s even nicer when you consider the short 25 minute drive from Anchorage gets you a beautiful view of the Turnagain Arm, the Chugach Mountains, and maybe even a bear or 2. They are fairly common on Bird Creek when the salmon run but thankfully I didn’t see any this time (or sadly?), though I had my pepper spray nonetheless. I’m not that bad at filleting salmon, though I’m still too slow and perhaps a bit wasteful. More practice should solve that problem.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I feel my language and vernacular expanding and shifting the more I am here.”They’re seeing Silvers in the Kenai.” “The Eklutna Tailrace had some rollovers last night, but they are looking pretty blush.” In Chicago (and Madison for that matter) I never knew what a minus tide was. I guess I had an idea – it’s when the tide is out – but I never knew what it really meant, how to read a tide table, and how to plan my day around it. On July 4th there was a -5 tide, which is about as great as it gets for razor clamming at Clam Gulch (I know, stunning name. It’s right up there next to Forest Park in St Louis – beautiful park for sure along with a great art museum). The -5 tide was at 11:30 am, which is the apex of the tide if you will, so we planned on getting there around 10. We left Chugiak around 6:45 and zoomed down to Kenai. It was about 60 degrees out and fairly clear. You never know what it will be like when you actually get down to the coast on the peninsula, but in this case it stayed beautiful. The beach was filled with people for as far as the eye could see in each direction, pock marked sand everywhere between them. We had 2 buckets, a small shovel, and a clam tube. Becky’s brother told us to just look for a small dimple and then dig there. Easy. After about 10 minutes of digging at supposed dimples we still were coming up empty. People around us seemed to be tossing something into their buckets every few minutes, so they were having luck. It was starting to sink in that our trip may be a total waste. Once 11:30 comes the clock starts ticking and soon there is very little beach left to dig. Hmmm. I see what looks like a very pronounced dimple, arrogantly force the tube over it, and push down very hard. I placed my index finger over the air hole and slowly draw up the tube of sand, shaking it out onto the beach to find a beautiful razor clam. Such a relief. Soon we were getting a clam every 5-10 minutes, now that our eyes had focused in on what exactly a correct dimple looks like. Pulling up a full tube of sand is no easy task. The suction alone is a beast to wrestle. The muscles involved and the posture make it literally a deadlift – dig your heels in, look up, and pull. It felt about as difficult as a 250lb deadlift at its worst moment, which is just before it starts to break loose from its deepest point. Great workout. We ended up with about 30 razor clams by 1pm and the tide had almost fully come in. Maybe enough for clam chowder? We transferred them into a fresh bucket of saltwater (they’ll sit there for the night as they belch out all of their sand), hiked up in the new 60 degree drizzle to the truck, headed into Soldotna to use the bathroom at the Fred Meyer, and then finally ate our sandwiches in the truck marveling at how amazingly delicious leftover, cold fajita wraps can be when you are dirty, tired, and starving. A perfect 4th. By the time we returned to Chugiak it was sunny and clear and one of the warmest days of the year – 70 degrees. I’d like to go clamming again, but I’ll try next time to be there 3+ hours before the maximum minus tide. Maybe I can get 100+ clams. I ended up cleaning them the next morning and having about 1 cup of meat, which I sautéed in olive oil, and then threw in some pasta with alfredo a few days later. Delicious and extremely fresh.

Housesitting in Chugiak is now done. I liked the space, but I am very happy to be back to a much shorter commute and the lack of full time responsibility for 2 dogs. I love dogs but being the full time herder can wear a little thin, especially with 2 high energy animals. Give me 2 English Setters any day.

I’m legit now. There are Alaska plates on my truck.

Saturday the 19th was a truly beautiful day – mid 60’s and sunny. We accomplished something that was on the list for a long time – dinner at the Double Musky. We tried to go last November, but they were closed for a few weeks – their vacation I understand. I have always heard rumblings that it’s the greatest place to eat in the state, I should expect to wait a while, and I should expect to pay plenty. The middle one is a variable that was only 30 minutes for us, but the others were certainly true. It was an astounding meal – easily one of the top 5 of my meager little life – and it was a little pricey, though completely worth it. Since Becky went for the Filet Mignon I decided to steer towards seafood, which brought me to Shrimp Ettoufee. It was probably the best filet I’ve ever tasted and the shrimp was perfect. The gumbo was tremendous and all I could think about was trying to make it myself. I’m guessing we’ll be back about twice a year, but only for special occasions. It would be the perfect place for visitors to have an evening. All the more appetizers to share.

Playing HeroQuest with 2 people is fun, but not as fun as playing Warhammer Quest with 2 people. Warhammer Quest is a much better system when it comes to randomly generating the scenario, but that game is buried in my storage space for the time being. HeroQuest is a very easy and smooth system, but one that really needs a game master. Digging on the internet I was able to find some solo rules and we gave them a try a few weeks ago. This one was the best. You lose some of the building storyline that a GM will give you, but you still do pretty well. I haven’t tried it literally playing solo, but rather with 2 people that don’t want to switch off being the GM. I could see this being a very easy game for people to get an appetite for Warhammer Quest. No complaints, but I’ll probably not be hunting down game packs on ebay anytime soon.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I am a bit sad that My Winnipeg won’t be coming to Anchorage anytime soon, if at all, which is a more probable case. I’m not sure I completely understand and appreciate Guy Maddin’s films yet (or if I will ever), but I get a great deal from them, am never bored, am always excited to find something new in a subsequent viewing, and eager to digest the new stuff whenever he releases it. He never wastes my time and keeps my mind engaged. Isn’t that high praise?

My initial exposure was at a Saturday matinee at the Music Box in Chicago. I saw The Heart of the World first and was completely blown away. For a sub 10 minute film it offers more to digest and appreciate than most good full length releases. After that short they started the feature, which was appropriately Archangel. It was a bit hard follow, though the sense of the famous Maddin love triangle and the complete submersion in pre WW2 film making was easy to accept. I have not watched that movie a second time, but I strongly remember the theme of memory, how to trust it, when not to, and the way it all meshes into one continuous experience in our minds. I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if another viewing garnered a completely different reaction, but the sense of distrusting memory sticks in my mind right now.

A few years later Holly got me into a screening of The Saddest Music in the World at Facets where wonderfully Guy himself was present to take some questions and give some thoughts. That movie had the omnipresent Maddin love triangle, though its plot was easy to follow. Given his œuvre one would expect a weird cat visually, or at least a personality similar to a stoned Crispin Glover -- Not the case at all. He seemed like an everyday middle aged Canadian, albeit one with a tremendous knowledge of depression era films. I remember him being presented with the giddy and pregnant question of: “What new movies do you seek out?” He kind of shrugged and said something to the effect of “all the new stuff, the blockbusters, whatever. I love movies and being entertained.” I suspect he broke some hipster hearts on that one. Maybe going to the big budget movies is a pallet cleanser for him, maybe he wants to answer a question like that in a general way to keep his contemporary inspirations close to his vest, or maybe he just doesn’t worry too much about modern film beyond what he’s doing himself. Who knows, but he seemed like a regular guy that happens to be an amazing artist.

Living in Wisconsin forced me to miss the Brand Upon the Brain performances. As great as Bear Tooth is, they probably won’t be getting My Winnipeg, but it will be on dvd someday soon and there is a rumor that Anchorage now has a Netflix hub (2 day turnaround on most discs they say!).

Something about the trailer makes me think about the southside…