Caveat: toda de púrpura y nieve

Los Espinos

Verdor nuevo los espinos
tienen ya por la colina,
toda de púrpura y nieve
en el aire estremecida.

Cuántos cielos florecidos
les has visto; aunque a la cita
ellos serán siempre fieles,
tú no lo serás un día.

Antes que la sombra caiga,
aprende cómo es la dicha
ante los espinos blancos
y rojos en flor. Vé. Mira.
– Luis Cernuda (poeta español, 1902-1963)

Caveat: a blog post in which Arthur is retrieved from the airport but no pictures are given

I went and got Arthur from the airport. Our friend Jan was generous in this. I have tire chains attached to the Blueberry, because the 6-Mile Hill on our road is a treacherous skating rink of ice. But driving the 10 miles each way from Craig to the Klawock airport with chains on the car would be quite tedious – that’s plowed and paved highway with a speed limit of 50mph, while chains limit the vehicle to 20mph or so. And removing and re-adding the chains is of course a bit onerous. Jan let me park my car at her house in town in Craig and then borrow her car to get to the airport. I got Arthur at about 6pm (his flight arrived early), we drove back to Craig in her car, and then switched to the Blueberry for the slow drive out the Port Saint Nicholas Expressway to home.

So Arthur is home. He said, “I’m glad to be home.” He paused 3 beats. “I think.” He’s referring to the cold, I believe. He’s had a somewhat ambivalent feeling about having selected this Alaskan getaway as his retirement abode ever since his accident. He feels that his body’s interior thermostat isn’t as tolerant of cold as it was before. And indeed it’s possible that was one of the aspects of his brain-body interface that may have been scrambled by the stroke.


Caveat: юу вэ юу вэ юув

There’s nothing like a bit of Mongolian nationalist heavy metal music to set the mood on a chilly January day.

What I’m listening to right now.

The Hu, “Yuve Yuve Yu.”


Их л удаан идэж уугаад наргиж цэнгээд хачин юм бэ юу вэ юу вэ юув
Эцэг өвгөд Монгол гээд л цээжээ
дэлдэн худлаа орилох нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Эргэж буцаад хэлсэн үгэндээ эзэн
болдоггүй андгай өргөдөг нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Эцэг эхийн захиж хэлсэн үнэт сургааль
үнэгүй болдог нь юу вэ юу вэ юув, юу вэ юу вэ юув
Ээ дүлзэн сөгд сөгд
Ээ лүндэн бууг бууг, бууг бууг
Дээдсийн заяаг удамлаж төрчихөөд унтаж
хэвтээд сэрдэггүй юм бэ юу вэ юу вэ юув
Дэлхийд ганцхан Монгол гээд л амаа
хаттал худлаа ярьдаг нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Дээдсээр амьдрах заяанд төрсөн Монгол
түмэн нэгдэж чаддаггүй нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Дархан Монгол улсаа мандуулж өөд нь татаж
сэргээж чаддаггүй нь юу вэ юу вэ юув, юу вэ юу вэ юув
Ээ дүлзэн сөгд сөгд
Ээ лүндэн бууг бууг, бууг бууг
Өвөг дээдсийн өвлөж өгсөн газар
шороог хайрлаж чаддаггүй нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Өтгөс буурлын захиж хэлсэн үнэт
сургааль худлаа болдог нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Өнө л мөнхөд мандан бадрах чонон
сүлдэт Монгол түмэн тэнгэрийн тамгатай
Хөвчин дэлхийд нэрээ дуурсгах хүмүүн
тахилгат эзэн Чингис нартад залрана, нартад залрана
Ээ хар сүлд сэр сэр
Ээ хаан төр мөнх манд, мөнх манд
Юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Хачин юм бэ
юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Хачин юм бэ
юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Ээ хар сүлд сэр сэр
Ээ хаан төр мөнх манд, мөнх манд


Caveat: A bitter taste

The doctors said that I might regain some nerve-endings over time. They do grow back, sometimes.

Many of you know that I lost 90% or so of my taste buds, with my cancer surgery and tongue reconstruction. For these past years, the main taste I can experience has been “salt.” The others are almost non-existent. It doesn’t quite impair my ability to enjoy “taste” in the broader sense – at least half of what we think of as taste is not related to the taste buds at all but rather to things like smell and what is called “mouthfeel” – texture, I guess.

A few years ago I suddenly regained feeling on the back of my hand where it had been lost when they extracted nerve and muscle tissue for my surgery. Those nerves grew back.

Recently, over the past few months, everything I eat has begun tasting bitter. I don’t think I’ve suddenly become a bad cook for myself. I think what’s more likely is that some of the “bitter” taste buds in my tongue have somehow reactivated. And so things are tasting bitter.

I see karmic irony in this, given I’ve been in an emotionally bitter state since the disappointing news about my residency status with respect to the University of Alaska’s teacher certification program. Which bitterness drives the other?

Perhaps I’ll mull the question over a nice bitter cup of coffee.

Caveat: Unchained

It turns out that my adventure last Friday with the Blueberry in the driveway involved one of the snow chains (on the tires) actually breaking. So today, having decided to re-attempt my journey to town, I ended up having to do an emergency repair to the tire chains. I used a hammer and the bench vice in the shop.


The tire chains seem to be of low quality, frankly. I like the old-fashioned kind that have actual chain links. Our neighbor-down-the-road Joe came by as I was working on this, and assured me I was smart to be intending to use chains to get into town. He had chains on his much heavier-duty truck, and he’s an experienced truck driver. Indeed, as I later headed into town, the road at the 6 mile hill was like an ice rink but tilted 10°. It felt quite treacherous.

I had very little confidence in my repair job. I decided to ask around and see if anyone was selling chains in town – with the recent weather, they’d be making a killing. I got lucky – it turned out the single gas station / auto shop in town, Schaub-Ellison, in fact was not only selling chains but had the Tahoe’s wheel size in stock. I shelled out 150 bucks and got a new set of chains. Hopefully they will be of better quality.

Caveat: Kerosene

One of my periodic tasks here is to keep the kerosene heater in the boathouse (the lowest level of the house – it’s integrated to the “shop” which is the house’s basement) filled so that it can keep the boathouse’s interior temperature above freezing. This is important because the house’s water supply (and the main filters for it) run through the boathouse, given it’s the oldest part of the house. It is also uninsulated and has metal siding, meaning it loses heat rapidly when unheated and is likely quite inefficient to keep warm.

The kerosene heater has a 1 or 2 gallon tank, that needs to be removed and filled once a day when it’s not too cold. But as it gets colder (it’s 15° F / -10° C as I write this) this needs to be refilled more frequently. There is a 5 gallon plastic container for the kerosene, stored near the heater in the shop, which is in turn filled from the large outdoor storage tank. So I sometimes go to the storage tank and get a refill.

The kerosene heater is efficient, but it strikes me as impractical in this setting because although it burns kerosene, it has an electrical control that renders it useless if there is no power. In an extended power outage, it could not be used to heat the boathouse.


If I were to propose any single major project to Arthur to improve his house, it would be to figure out how to get the boathouse insulated. The spray-on insulation he used on the similar “kitchen shed” works well, but it was a nightmare to apply originally and for many years it was outgassing hazardous chemicals. The latter is not something Arthur ever cared about, but I’d rather not repeat that. I reckon the best insulation strategy for the boathouse would be some kind if inner frame (of wood or plastic) built within the boathouse walls, which could hold foam insulation or fiberglass and have some kind of outside layer – plywood or sheetrock, etc.

Caveat: adventures not even leaving the driveway

I had a quite difficult and disappointing day. No major disaster. But a lot of work, and farther behind than when the day started.

As background – we have received a great deal of snow over the past week.

I had decided to go to town this morning. Somehow since coming back up here after Thanksgiving, I moved “go to town day” from Thursday to Friday. The reason Arthur goes on Thursday is because there is a senior discount at the grocery on Thursdays. The store is often a bit crowded. Since I’m not eligible for the discount, I don’t feel constrained to Thursday. Thus Friday became the day.

I was out the door early, by 8 AM. But that’s because a lot of snow has fallen since I last drove to town. At least a foot, perhaps more.

I spent time shoveling the stairs to the driveway and parts of the driveway.

I felt smart, because I decided to just go ahead and put the chains on. That’s a big hassle, but the road hadn’t been well plowed. I shoveled some of the way in front of the car. But I figured with the chains and a running start I could make it up the rest of the driveway through the snow to the road.

That might have worked, except apparently I did a lousy job putting on the chains – they both got off the tires and next thing I know I was going sideways.

Arthur has a pile of scrap sheet metal (really leftover steel siding from his quonset-style sheds he built) piled alongside the east side of the driveway. And the car ended up more or less on top of that. I was good and stuck.

I had to jack up the car to take off the chains – they were trapped under the tires.

I had to dig out and move all the sheet metal from under the car, as well as some plastic culvert – which fortunately wasn’t damaged.

And I was working on how to get the chains back on when an angel driving a road grader (to plow the road) came by. Pat, who lives at around 10.5 mile, in every way an archetypal sweet grandma, happens to drive a road grader, and does so of her own sweet goodwill to support the south-of-the-inlet community.

Pat had some chains on the grader, which we attached to the front of the Blueberry to extract it from its dilemma. It took a few tries to get the right angle to pull it onto the road rather than throw it down Dean’s driveway – the snow was very slippery and the driveway is steeper than it looks.

Once the Blueberry was on the road – now just graded (plowed) – Pat went on her way and I made the decision to not try to clear the driveway to Art’s place – it was steep with mud and snow now pushed up in banks by the spinning wheels. It was a mess. Instead, I went over to the west lot (73) – the new driveway Richard made last spring – and shoveled out a nice, flat, road-level parking space for the Blueberry. And there she will stay, until I get super ambitious and shovel out the existing driveway, or until some of the snow melts. But at the moment, it’s snowing more.

It was almost noon by the time I got the Blueberry parked in its new spot. I decided not to go into town. Pat was grading the road, but it was still snowing. I expected the road to be treacherous at points into town. And I’m not in dire straights.

An adventure. But not good for my sense of self-confidence or self-sufficiency.

Some pictures.

Stuck against the pile of sheet metal.


Chains trapped under the tire.


Retrieving the chains using the jack.


Angel with a road grader.


The aftermath.


A new parking spot excavated on the west lot.