n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Friday, September 08, 2006

feckin fishin faq #4: the neighborhood

So, superstar, what's the neighborhood like? What's the scene? Where all all those famous Alaskan bars I've heard about?

Kodiak Map with hightlightsWell, hmmmm. The scene is that I wasn't in town, where indeed all of those Alaskan bars tend to get wild and wooly at times, but not so wild that they extend out and meet me where I happened to have landed. Take a look at the map over there. The barely-discernable green dot is the town of Kodiak, whereas the little red dot on the other side of the island approximates where I work. That little red dot happens to be tucked about halfway down inside a bay called Viekoda Bay, which looks out across the Shelikof Straight to the stunning cones of the Katmai National Park on the Alaskan mainland (see the picture below). Our particular spot inside Viekoda is in a cove called Strawberry Cove, and it is, considering that we have one of the bigger picking skiffs with the smallest 50-horse outboard, about thirty minutes to the nearest setnet site--at the tip of the cape--and about forty-five minutes to the second-nearest site--across the bay.

across the Shelikof Straight to the mainland
So, here's my neighborhood:

Directly in front of our cabin, and across Viekoda is Uganik Island, which looks like it's part of Kodiak Island because it's only separated from us by a very narrow passage that leads over to Terror and Uganik Bays. Most of the higher-earning sites for our area are over on Uganik Island, and I believe (although they keep their mouths shut about it) the two sites closest to the passage catch the most fish. The site directly across the way is called Sage Point, and the one tucked a little further in goes by Lutra Lake. The folks who run these two sites are super-nice, and Sage Point's boss even came over once this summer and picked us up on his spiff Cadillac of skiffs, which runs at such high-speeds that a sonic boom echoes across the bay whenever he revs it up good.

looking across to Uganik Island at sunset
The Cadillac pick-up was a little embarrassing; since it really demonstrated how generally sloth-like our motions are that Sage Point could pick us up and bring us back in approximately 1/20th the rate it would have taken us to merely jumpstart our motor. In other words, we wouldn't have gone otherwise. Not to mention that my boss is pretty damn frightened of water in general, and turns into a manic choremaster whenever surprise parties pop up that she hasn't had time to prepare herself for mentally. This isn't to say she doesn't like parties; quite the contrary, she loves to go to parties so that she might horrify us all by recounting all the stupidities we've been a party to and to implicate her crew in their execution. In fact, at this particular party, she retold how I managed to forget to bring gas out to the skiff, so we ran out and it was all my fault.

Well, it was true... BUT, the fact that I drive that boat and deal with its little quibbles with mechanization, and swap out the gas all the time, and take on the storms, and try to make sure nobody dies, well... the fact that I do that on a regular crew share I think entitles me to fuck up every now and then without the boss telling everyone how I managed it. No? This girl holds grudges (other people will attest).

Anyhow, the boss likes parties, but they rattle her mien, which is shaky as is and spends most of its time falling about the boat in retarded little motions that even makes the tendor captain shake his head. So, we are always grateful for the kindnesses of the bay folks who always come to our general rescue (saving us when the boat dies), not to mention my particular rescue (saving the crew from weary endlessness).

So, parties are good... and mostly happen over there, where we can see the sparkle of bonfires and almost hear the wild, drunken whoops of fishermen falling off skiffs and clinging to sea lions as they attempt to hop a dolphin on over to shore.

Cliffside near 50f set

hills near 50f set

On our side of things, we have the cliff. Although the cliff is particularly silent as a neighbor, we have never had need of fences. She tends to commune with nature, grow things, stand immensely tall (so tall she often makes me feel like a neutron hitchhiking across the belly of an atom of dust), and sometimes drop boulders near unsuspecting deer. I have never gone way up to meet her on her own ground, but two of the others did this summer before I arrived and took the following picture off her tippy-top:

Top of Nearby Hill
In between us and The Cliff, under which we put our 50-f net, is the Lagoon (pictured below), where we get a few pink salmon every year, and which seems to be the down-n-out-rowdy hangout for a few of our local bears. The bears... well, are bears.

The Bears can be very naughty and seven years ago bashed in our cabin, broke about 5 windows, sat on top of our table until the legs caved in, knocked over our fridge, splintered a few doors, decimated our kitchen plates, and even seemed to have made themselves comfortable in my bed for a night or two. This was thankfully during the winter when we weren't there, but it did entail massive clean-up efforts that lasted over a month, and showed me how to cut and frame windows in a makeshift sort of way.

Lagoon near Strawberry CoveOh, and it also gave our boss good enough reason to shout over the radio to the tendor that she needed to order a little caulk to help glue things up:

"Cock! I need cock!"
"Could you repeat that order?"
"Cock! I want cock!"
"What's that you want?"
"Cock, I said! I need some COCK to fill in the cracks in the window!"

Yeah, um. So the bears are sometimes not good neighbors, but there's no fencing them out, and since knocking out our smokehouse, also seven years ago, they have left us alone... until this year.

This year, a three-year old bear decided it might like to have a little fun with the smallest, skinniest member of our crew. This was when we were in the wild range of the Lagoon, a down-n-out seedy joint with washed-up carcasses and moldering scat piles. The bear started near-stalking kr and would walk quickly towards her, then pause, then run, then stop and sniff the air. I was further down the beach, got called, turned around and was mentally catapulted into The Grizzly Movie, which is actually one of my earliest memories... I must've watched it with a babysitter, because all I remember is utter terror, greenery, my bankie, and the sensation that I was in the woods, spruces all around, and going to die.

Bad Bad BearI shouted for kr to walk away slowly, facing him, but she seemed welded to the spot, and the Kodiak bear did not. So, then I thought of running away myself. It's natural, right? Kick the smallest member of your party in the knee and run like hell. Cowardly, certainly, but smart, yes.

Anyhow, brains are not my forte and some screwed-up ethical code washed in. After shouting for kr to walk away a few more times to no avail, and after realizing I had no knife even, I succumbed to my innate stupidity, picked up a big rock, and stalked towards the bear like I was finally confronting Mr. Bush and was prepared to cling to his nose while pounding the crap out of him (whether he killed kr or not, I was going to get my piece of flesh). And miraculously, the bear seemed pretty intimidated by the leviathan of my idiocy and ran away.

That's right, I made a big bear flee. Boo! (Like our President, bears are really just great big pussies carting quite a bit of runnaway bulk.)

The truth is my legs almost gave in as soon as he ran, but golly gee I really do like those adrenaline rushes. At least kr got that picture of the bear coming towards her... good to have.

The moral is... bears as neighbors must be kept in their place.

Our Backyard with smokehouseOur Backyard

Anyways, back to the hood. These two pictures above are the backyard. It has a pond in it, the pond we use to fill our spouting tank. There are sometimes kingfishers and ducks back there, and when we first came, it also had a family of land otters who would teach their babies to swim while we cooed over the arch of binoculars. By the way, never mess with a mother otter; I'd sooner take on a bear. But that's another story. Anyhow, I'm fond of the pond because it reflects everything and assundry due to the curve of land surrounding it:

Strawberry Cove Pond
Back behind the pond is a ridge that stretches around our backyard, nestling us in rather like we're sitting the base of a shallow green crater. Along the ridge is a low forest of spruce trees, all impressively large but not old growth by any standards.

left point of Strawberry Cove, spruceActually, all the trees around these parts were born after 1912 because that's when a large eruption on the Alaskan mainland--from Mt. Katmai--blew everything down and covered the island from top to bottom with thick ash (pictures from that time show houses completely buried except for the chimneys and a forlorn and dirty group of frontierspeople holding handkerchiefs to their mouths). But the spruce trees are still tall enough that when you go inside them during a storm and stand directly in the center of some isolated little knoll, it is totally silent but for the creaking sway of their tips. It's rather like being at the very bottom of a boat and hearing the rigging whistle as things rock, and it can give you the same kind of vertigo if you stand still long enough and put yourself inside your ears and nowhere else.

Our front lawnThis is getting pretty long... lots of neighbors and all that. Anyhow, the last neighbor to talk about is the beach, who is by far my favorite... always bringing something over, depositing treasures, talking in lulls or crashes. She shares with the whole block--no lines dividing anything up. We have bonfires sometimes on her land... with plenty of wood all the time... and I tried to take a walk most days and collect any plastic that blew in, or pick over the trinkets, or hug myself into her sand...

She and I are best friends.

So, that's the ghetto: no city utilities, only a mysteriously hidden septic tank, not so near the elevated trains, a few tough neighbors, but you know... not bad.
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