A blog by Bill Hess

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« At Abby's with Matu and Eileen, I watch young Connor Boskofsky Eskimo dance his way across a living room floor in Atqasuk. I bring logbookwasilla to a close. There will be no Squarespace 6 blog. I will make one additional post during the holiday football season. | Main | This blog is about to drive off into unknown territory - could charge off a cliff and disappear for awhile »

On the day that Nelson Mandela died I drove to Anchorage on icy roads through freezing rain to bring home my beloved

Note: I originally prepared this as the first post in new Squarespace 6 blog I had planned to launch at this same address, to include all the work I have done in this Squarespace 5 blog. But things went wrong. I have asked Squarespace to refund the money I spent on the new blog and am bringing my Squarespace blogging to a permanent end, save for the upcoming holiday post referenced above. I do not want this post to go to waste and so have transferred it from the new Squarespace 6 blog that now never will be to being an archive, at this same address. While much of what it says no longer applies, I leave it just as I prepared it for the new, canceled, blog"

This is the first post I am putting up in the new Squarespace 6 blog. At least, I hope I am putting it up. As regular readers know, I have been running a photo series of school buses under the broad heading of The Daily School Bus - the Squarespace Nightmare. I hope this nightmare is now over, but I am not positive.

At this point, I am not even positive I am going to be able to get this post up today. While I have had the basic skills required to put a simple blog together here in Squarespace 6 for at least three days now, I have encountered a few problems. There is a tech who is helping me, so as these problems developed, I have sent emails to him describing the problem. But, as all solutions seem to do, this always seems to bring on further problems - the biggest one being that it is very difficult to reach him. When I do get to him and he responds, he tends to address the most recent concern I have brought up and he always seems to have the solution.

Trouble is, he does not read nor respond to the questions I had submitted previous to that and over 32 hours have passed by since I last heard from him. I have been ready to leap the final hurdles and launch this blog since yesterday, but there has been a vexing problem with the header. I submitted the question as to how to solve this last night, but here it is, getting late in the afternoon today and I have heard not one word in response. Once that problem is solved, then I must import my old blog into this one and somehow delink it from my url and retarget it to this one.

I have no idea what I am doing, but I will press forward on my own and see if I can get it all figured out. If you are reading this, than I either did or the tech appeared just when it all seemed hopeless and helped me solve the problem. If you are not reading this, then I remain in a dither. 

This bus is from two days ago. I have not seen one today.

Before I get to yesterday's drive to Anchorage through the freezing rain, I will back up and catch up just a little bit, as I have not posted much during this time of transition. So here I am on Wednesday, at the window of Metro Cafe, being waited on by barista Destinee as Carmen observes. Destinee is the newest barista, but she has been here at least a couple of months, maybe three or four, and has served me my Americano a few times. Just as she reached the window, I saw a school bus suddenly appear in my driver's side outdoor mirror. Acting with lightning reflex, I drew my iPhone and snapped a picture before the image of the bus could leave the mirror. But the camera did not have time to focus and it was a complete blur. So I grumbled a bit.

"Do you like to take pictures?" Destinee asked.

As it happened it then became Destinee's destiny to immediately thereafter be photographed by me.

As I drank the coffee Destinee had served me, I drove down and crossed the bridge over the Little Susitna River, just as this fellow walked off the bridge, a rifle slung over his shoulder. Given the low light and the movement, I knew the picture would be all motion blur, but had hoped the rifle would at least be hinted at. No luck. Such a sight might cause alarm in some places, but around here, everybody has guns and the sight of someone carrying one is pretty common.

I am not sure what he had been shooting or hoped to shoot, but down here, by the bridge, the most common target seems to be road and place signs.

I continued on and soon drove past the Mahoney ranch. Black Horse was out. "Hey Bill," he shouted out, "Put that coffee down and come join me. The grass is excellent today, topped with just the right amount of snow to give it that nice, refreshing taste."

"No thanks!" I shouted back. 

"Hmmmmph!" Black Horse snorted as I drove past. He lowered his head and continued to munch his snow-sprinkled grass.

I had missed breakfast at Abby's that day, because I finally really, really, slept in - almost until noon. Abby shuts down the breakfast menu at 11:00. In the evening, I drove over for a bowl of 15 bean soup. It was delicious. When I came out and got into my car, there were Trooper cars all about. I had to back out very carefully so that I wouldn't bump into one. The thought of investigating the matter occurred to me, but you know I like to document life as I see it from the car and one seldom gets anything more than a glance from a car, leaving the story to be implied but never fully told.

As it happened, the story was in the paper the next morning. A lady with a revoked driver's license lost control and drove the car she had been loaned so she could drive to the store into the store wall and bashed it in a bit.

This brings me to the next morning, yesterday, the day of the big drive through the freezing rain, the day Nelson Mandela died. I got up and headed for Abby's. When I walked through the door, Matu was there, without Eileen. He said she had gone to the eye doctor, but would be here soon. She soon came in. She had gone not to the eye doctor but to the clinic. Leslie was very tickled by the way this chain of events unfolded and gave Matu a big hug. 

When I knew Matu in Barrow as a hardcore Iñupiat hunter, a man of the Arctic who I thought would never leave the Slope because it was what he loved and fit into. What I have discovered is Matu fits in wherever he goes. I would say of all the Abby's regular customers, he has become the single most beloved. Everybody at Abby's, from the right wing tea partiers to the left wing liberals, loves Matu.

The interesting thing is, everybody who comes to Abby's, regardless of political and religious leanings, bloodlines or whatever, all get along in peace, harmony and friendship when under her roof.

But none more so than James Matumeak, Iñupiat whaler hunter from Barrow.

Now, finally, I am on the highway, driving through the freezing rain to pick Margie up from her babysitting duties and bring her home. As I stated last night, I had thought I would be able to stay home and work all day, and had planned to finish the leap from Squarespace 5 to Squarespace 6, but it didn't work out that way.

Anyway, so far, so good - I have just left Wasilla, crossed the Hay Flats and drove over the Knik River bridge. I know it will not be long until I see cars that have slid off the road. It is a favorite past time of Alaskans to laugh and joke over news reports of all the cars going off the road in places down south when they get an unusual snow or ice storm, but the truth is, Alaskans slide off the road all the time.

Sure enough, it was not long before I saw a car that had slid of the road into the snow and then more after vehicles after that. I did take a few photos as I crept by these cars, but I will skip past them to this trooper going to help out a motorist. It doesn't look like anything is seriously wrong, but the car that slid off the road slid way off and can't be seen by the camera.

The same scene I posted last night by Eagle River, a few seconds later. Last night's image was more sharp and literal, but this one makes you wonder more. It's a little more frightening. Again, I have searched the news but have found no reports of anyone being critically or seriously injured. I came upon several more mishaps, but how many photos of cars off the road does it take to convey the idea?

What goes better with ice than Coca Cola?

Pepsi, of course.

Earlier, Jacob had drove his Tahoe up onto the driveway to their garage and parked it. It then slid down the driveway and out into the road. Margie called just before I got there and told me to use the electronic garage door opener the kids gave us and drive all the way up and park inside. So I did. Just before I entered the garage the Escape fish-tailed a bit, but I got in okay. Here the Escape is, in the garage, frozen rain spread across the hood.

I had not yet seen any news, but when I stepped into the blue house to get Margie, the death of Nelson Mandela became clear to me. I would like to pay tribute to this man, but any words I could muster would be feeble given what he suffered and endured to do what he did. In my opinion, no greater human being has graced this earth, at least not in my life time. He is right up there with the greatest of the great.

And never arrogant. Kind. Compassionate, even to those who killed his people and imprisoned and tortured him, who, in a past time, he had once led an armed uprising against. But when the tables turned and the power fell into his hands, he could have incited the crowds to torture and kill his enemies, but instead he reached out, wrapped his arms around them, embraced them and included them in the future he saw for a multi-racial South Africa.

This planet has lost a giant, the likes of which seem to come around no more than once in a gernation - if that often.

We left as quickly as we could, but I knew there had been accidents on the highway and I did not want to get stuck on the on ramp if traffic was not moving. So, I drove past the Muldoon entrance to the Glenn Highway onramp and across the overpass to check it out. The outbound traffic had come to a dead standstill.

To kill time while we waited for traffic to clear up enough to go home, we drove to the nearby Red Robin and ordered hamburgers. They were pretty good, but, given the weather, there weren't many diners so they served us real fast. We did not kill as much time as we would have liked.

I drank raspberry limeaide. Margie had hot tea. Margie is smart.

After Red Robin, traffic was moving but at a slow, slow, pace. Still, we entered the on ramp and it took about 15 minutes to reach the highway. From there on it was a long, long, slow, slog to get home. It should have taken about 40-45 minutes, but took over two hours. I got pictures, all right, but I am not ready to wrestle that drive again.

So here is Jim, today. Margie does not like him to rest on the couch back like this, so she puts that little cartoon up there to discourage him from doing so. Jim is not easily discouraged.


Note: It is now 10:30 PM today, today being Friday, December 6. I have been struggling unsuccessfully with the import process and while the tech assigned to my case finally got in touch after more than 33 hours and then opened my case up to any and all technicians on duty so I would not have to wait another 33 hours to get my next questions answered, the techs on duty are responding at the pace of drunken turtles. I have learned that once the old blog is imported into this and both become one blog, this blog could go offline for as long as 72 hours while my address is retargeted to the this new Squarespace 6 blog. 

Hopefully, it will not be anywhere near that long, but the truth is I have absolutely no idea when this process will be complete and this will actually be posted. We leave for Arizona in about 24 hours. I am certain it will not be posted until well after we arrive.

I am disappointed, but there is nothing I can do about it. Of course, if you are reading this, then it has all happened* and the wait is all behind me now and this will appear not as a new blog, but as a historical record.


*As it turned out - no. It did not happen.

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