Caveat: Cruise Ship #1

Today was in fact a rather historic one, here on this remote Southeast Alaskan island. We were visited by our first cruise ship, ever. Although Jan alleges that in the 40’s or 50’s a cruise ship attempted to visit the island and ran into a rock trying to get into one of the harbors, and because of that the cruise companies became afraid to come back. That story has the feel of urban (rural?) myth, but it’s amusing.

The cruise ship that visited was actually surprisingly quirky. It was not one of your standard 3000-passenger behemoths, such as visit Ketchikan or Juneau each summer. Instead it was a “long-distance” cruise. I met passengers who had been on the boat for 3 months, having boarded in Sydney, Australia.

This unusual long-term aspect of the passenger list was very good for our little island – because unlike the coddled and generally pretty lazy passengers of the mass cruises, these passengers were curious and quite adventurous. During their 8 hour stop at Klawock, many boarded the small circulator buses that the tribal groups were running, and so despite the boat being parked in Klawock, our gift shop in Craig (7 miles away) saw over 50 tourists who we’d never have otherwise seen. So it was good for our business, and the passengers we met were all quite interesting to talk to.

It was an international group, too – as could be expected. I met more British, Australians, Germans and even a few Chinese, than Americans. I even met a posh couple from Mexico City, and impressed them with my Mexico-City-accented Spanish, which, though rusty, still serves me quite well, nearly 40 years after my having lived there. ¡El gringo achilangado habla de nuevo!

Driving north to Klawock after work (I went to pick someone up at the Hollis Ferry), I just happened to be driving by the Klawock harbor channel in the moment when the boat was departing. So I pulled over and took a picture.

A modest-sized long-distance cruise ship departing Klawock through the Klawock channel, with some silhouetted trees on the left and a treed island in the background

If this business of hosting cruise ships is successful, it could transform the island. I’m a bit skeptical that the powers-that-be (the businesses undertaking the enterprise is a consortium of tribal corporations) can pull this off. Our island is a bit too chaotically libertarian, in cultural terms, for such projects. But we shall see.

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Caveat: Tree #1907 “From the north side”

This tree (the one photobombing from the top) was on the north side of the bay.

A rocky beach in the foreground, and the waters of a southeast Alaska fiord, with a steep green shore opposite, in the distance, where some structures can be made out, including a house, a dock (with a boat)

I’ve never managed this view before. There’s a wide spot in the road, where you can stop, and a little trail down to the rocky beach, and you can look across the water at the City of Rockpit, which is my home. Currently the City hosts 4 residents – double its population only a few years ago (which is to say, our neighbors Brandt and Kim moved in next door, about a year ago).

Humorous quote found online:

To all the people that always said I’d never amount to anything because of my procrastination: / Just you wait.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 4km; retailing, 9hr]

Caveat: Tree #1900 “A fashionable address”

This tree has a fashionable address on C Street in suburban Klawock, Alaska.


I took the car to the mechanic today, while Jan watched the store. That went okay – the car needed a seal replaced on the transfer case, and I wanted to check the front wheel bearings and ball joints and such (weird noises sometimes on cornering, and it’s been a problem before). Plus oil change, and switch out winter to summer rims.

But overall it was a horrible day, with the trip to the mechanic being the only pleasant part. The store is stressing me out – ambushed by invoices, bookkeeping problems and overwhelmed by what feels like an impossible “more money out than in” scenario. I’m experiencing “buyer’s remorse” over this project to run the store.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 6km; retailing, 7hr]

Caveat: Tree #1894 “The cowering Jeep”

This tree was towering over my cowering, ill-used Jeep.

Looking downhill at a very tall old conifer, among others, with a snow-covered gravel area in the foreground with a snow-covered 90's Jeep cowering in the lower left corner

Elmer comes in the store. We are talking about who is native, who is not, among locals on the island, here. You can’t always tell who is “native” – there’s been a lot of mixing over the generations, so it mostly has to do with enrollment in a tribal group, appearance doesn’t always tell you a lot about a person’s status as a native. Anyway, somewhat out of the blue, Elmer says, “You know, Richard Nixon was Tlingit.” I said, “Oh really, how’s that?” Elmer, not missing a beat, says, holds his two hands up in the “double peace sign” and says, “I am NOT a crook.” This, somehow, proves that Nixon was a Tlingit.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 4km; retailing, 9hr]

Caveat: Tree #1881 “Pre-house”

This tree noted the lack of progress on the little house thingy (I call it the “pre-house”) on Lot 73. I’m not bothered by this – the neighbor who’s doing this project for me has had other jobs that are much higher priority, involving improvements to his own lot. The pre-house will wait.


The reason I call it the pre-house is because the future actual house will be attached to it – at which point, this structure becomes a kind of previously-existing small appendage to the future house.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 3.5km; retailing, 9hr]

Caveat: Tree #1848 “The east wall”

This tree bore witness to the raising of the eastern wall to the shed project. This was all Brandt’s work.


I was pretty lazy today. There was some work on the map servers that I tried to do, but even that didn’t really progress as hoped.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 1.5km;]

Caveat: Tree #1847 “The west wall”

This tree got to watch as neighbor Brandt and I (mostly Brandt) installed the framing for west wall of my shed project over on Lot 73.


After working in the morning, Brandt needed some help lifting that assembled frame of 2 x 6’s – it was quite heavy. We ended up using a come-along.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5km; retailing, 4hr]

Caveat: Tree #1844 “Sympathy”

This tree was frosty, just like all the others.


A woman came into the gift store this morning, looking for a Valantine’s Day card. Unfortunately, we had some issues with our card supplier, and we don’t have any Valentine’s Day cards this year. She was disappointed, of course. She moped about the store looking at some of the other stuff we have. But then she brightened. “I suppose I could use a sympathy card, instead,” she announced.

She did not, in fact, buy a sympathy card for her Valentine. I think it was a joke. But it was well executed and I was laughing about it all day.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 4km; retailing, 9hr]

Caveat: Tree #1829 “On helium”

This tree is a guest tree from my past. I like this tree. I took this picture in April, 2014, walking near my place of work in Goyang City, South Korea. I was only 6 months out from the end of my radiation treatment after my previous cancer surgery. I remember feeling quite terrible, but slogging along with job and life.


Today was a long, unprofitable day at the gift store. I had to go buy a new tank of helium at Tyler, for our balloon operation. As a side note, a tank of helium is a very heavy thing – not what you’d expect from helium, to be frank.

I learned that our local competitor in helium retailing, the monopoly grocery store, sells their helium at less than half what we do. If they pay the same for a tank of helium that we do (and I’m confident they do – they’re an obvious customer at Tyler, the only place that sells helium on the island), they’re selling at a steep loss. I pondered the economics of being a monopoly grocery store in a small, remote Alaskan town. Maybe there’s some weird philanthropic helium subsidy from some “Keep Rural Alaska Balloony” foundation. Or maybe they’re just incompetent and forgot to raise their prices over the last decade.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5km; retailing, 9hr; helium-tank-loading-unloading, 10min]

Caveat: Tree #1792 “Christmas Adam”

This tree is a guest tree from my past. I do these guest tree pictures when I’m too busy to have taken a picture in a given day.

I took this picture in February, 2010, at 금산사 [Geumsan-sa = Geumsan Temple], in Jeollabuk Province, South Korea. I was doing a “templestay” – where you live for a very short time (a long weekend) at a Buddhist monastery, doing the monk lifestyle thing.


We had a record sales day at the gift store – based on my and Jan’s memories of working with Wayne and Donna when they ran the store, combined with more accurate records over the last few years, our gross sales today were the highest ever. It’s actually typical that it’s December 23rd – that’s the “last minute shopping” day for Christmas. I think we combined that with doing well with stocking good inventory, and the fact that today was the day that Santa visited the store (a tradition at Alaska Gifts for a given Saturday before Christmas).

Here is a picture of Santa with some elves he met at the store (i.e. store staff: Kim, Jan, myself):


We also had one of those typical “gale force” rainstorms in Craig today. So as I went to head home from work, a tree (two trees) had blown down on Port Saint Nicholas Road, meaning that work crews had to get out there and clear the tree – so I was delayed getting home until almost 8. And I got home to darkness, because the power was out. That’s been a quite frequent occurrence this damp Fall.

I learned recently that today is called “Christmas Adam” (meaning, December 23rd). The reasoning: “Christmas Eve” is December 24th. We all know that Adam came before Eve, so… December 23rd is “Christmas Adam.” Call it Patriarchy Remembrance Day.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 6km; retailing, 11hr]

Caveat: Tree #1776 “Broken wrenches”

This tree was there while I decided it was the time of year when I needed to switch to the studded snow-tires – snow is in the forecast for the next few days (though that can be hit-or-miss, here). The lug-nuts were very tight, and I broke not one, but two lug-wrenches, before I got them all loosened.


CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5km; retailing, 1 hr; breaker-bar-banging, 2hr]

Caveat: Tree #1740 “Still surviving”

This tree is my small cherry tree that nearly died in the deerpocalypse last year. This year, safe in its little cage, it seems to have done fine, but it’s strange how the leaves seem uninterested in changing color in the Fall.


CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 4km; retailing, 9hr]

Caveat: Tree #1726 “The fruits of autumn”

This tree is the tallest tree on lot 73. If the sun comes out in the next week or two (that’s asking something unreasonable, to be sure), I’ll get to watch the midday autumn sun’s illumination retreat up this tree over several days and then disappear off the top, as the sun undertakes to hide for the next four months behind the mountain – that is winter’s shadow.


My greenhouse produced this cherry-sized tomato, below – I’m not even sure why. I had a tomato plant. It struggled, as tomato plants do, here – even in greenhouses. This is the sole output of my tomato plant – a desultory nod toward tomatic destiny.


CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 4.5km;]

Caveat: Tree #1725 “Identifying the season”

This tree is the pussy-willow tree I (trans-)planted last year. It seems to have figured out when Fall is.


A customer came in the store, with her child. The woman was speaking Haida with the child. This is what you do when you’re trying to help a child develop some bilingualism – it’s an attempt at some immersion. When she bought her products and was checking out, she said (I’m pretty sure) “Háw’aa” which means thank you. That was the first time I’ve had a customer speaking Haida in the store. The language is close to extinct, but there are strong community efforts being made to resurrect it. I told the woman I thought she was doing a wonderful thing.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 4km; retailing, 9hr]

Caveat: Tree #1715 “The tree that fell down”

This tree is a guest tree from my past. It is a tree that fell across the road between Coffman Cove and Thorne Bay, about 40 miles northeast of here. I photographed the tree in October, 2009. I wonder if I’ve posted this picture as a daily tree, before, but I can’t find it if I have.

A tree fallen across a gravel road, at an angle and somewhat cleared so it is possible to drive underneath

I did a lot of work around the house today – it’s the first day I haven’t gone into work over two weeks – since the big transition to ownership (mentioned in last blog post). I did work on winterizing the plumbing repairs I did earlier this past summer on where the water comes into the house at the west side of the boat shed (basement). I helped neighbor Brandt with his sheetrocking efforts in his new laundry shed. I made a giant batch of spaghetti sauce to eat as leftovers for the coming week.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5km; lifting sheetrock to the ceiling, 2hrs]

Caveat: Gift Shop Tycoon

Over the years, but mostly many years ago when I was younger, I used to enjoy the genre of computer game known as “simulation games”. The king of these games, in my opinion, is the SimCity series – I have enjoyed all of them, from way back in the early 90’s. Also, there’s SimCity’s knockoff, the Cities: Skylines games. There are many other entries in the genre, though. I’ve enjoyed Civilization, of course, and all sorts of minor titles like SimTower, SimEarth, Railroad Tycoon, Capitalism, Shopping Center Tycoon, Theme Park, and many others. The genre, and my experience with it, goes back even further than the PC era, though. I remember playing a game which I know now was called “The Sumerian Game” while tagging along with Arthur up to the computer lab at Humboldt State in the early 1970’s. Arthur was a student at Humboldt, and I was a 7 or 8 year old kid but I spent many hours on the pre-PC mainframe (more likely a “minicomputer” but still a bunch of networked green-screen terminals) playing that Sumerian Game, pretending to be a Sumerian King who had problems with starving peasants and such things, alongside teaching myself BASIC.

All of which is to say, I have long history playing these types of simulation games.

Well, recently, I seem to have started a new game. Without going into too much detail, I was made an offer I found difficult to refuse, and I bought the gift store where I’ve been working for the last 3 1/2 years. This only happened about 3 weeks ago, and the transfer of ownership was last weekend, on the first of the month. The whole thing happened very fast because the previous owners, my former bosses, ended up confronting major life changes and moved back to Michigan somewhat unexpectedly, and were seeking of offload their business commitment here in Alaska.

It’s been a huge amount of work, getting things set up. Setting up accounts, vendors, payroll, making sure all the paperwork is in order. I already more or less know the business – the “customer-facing” side of the business doesn’t feel challenging or overwhelming to me. But the “back end” is hard, and I’m not very good at bureaucracy or paperwork anyway. But as I sit navigating spreadsheets and lists of vendors and charts of accounts in a bookkeeping application, I can’t help but feel I’ve started playing a new type of simulation game – just one with quite real-world consequences, because it’s with real money.

I’ll try to give more updates as things progress, but right now I’m mostly “heads down” and working about 3x more than before trying to get the whole thing working. I’m grateful to my coworker Jan, who knows the business even better than I do and who has stuck around as a continuing employee, and to Arthur, who gave me a “family loan” (against my well-funded but illiquid IRA account) to make it happen.

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Caveat: Tree #1696 “Redwood redux”

This tree is a dawn redwood (metasequoia) that I got in the mail. I had two of these two years ago, but they failed to flourish (which is to say, they went to the great compost heap in the sky). I am going to try again – this time, I think I’ll not put them out in the damp until they’ve had a year to establish themselves as indoor plants first.


CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 3km; retailing, 6hr]

Caveat: Tree #1669 “On edge”

This tree was alarmed by an interloping excavator.

A view down a steep hillside with an excavator at the bottom of a gravel driveway and some tall trees in the background. The excavator has clearly been doing some work, making ditches and such

Richard, the excavatorer, seemed a bit on edge yesterday.

A closer view of the excavator with a grinning operator inside, holding a can of soda, and the excavator is balanced on the front of its tracks as it appears about to descend a steep hillside

Richard does excellent work and is highly competent – he knows the “right way” to do things and works efficiently – but he is difficult to communicate with, because he has very strong opinions which he believes to be facts. Sometimes you just have to let him do it “his way” and adapt to what he’s done afterward, similar to dealing with natural disasters.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5.5km; retailing, 8hr;]

Caveat: Fishing Report #(n + i)

You will have noticed the lack of Fishing Report features on this here blog, this summer. I have avoided going out fishing with Arthur through the last several months – though Arthur, too, has been avoiding, in his spectacularly non-communicative way. But now that Wayne is here visiting, you would think there would be fishing reports.

Actually, Wayne and Arthur have just now gone out fishing in the boat for the third day running. And I’ve avoided going with them. This has forced me to acknowledge a very difficult emotional truth about myself:

I hate fishing.

I didn’t used to hate fishing. I used to rather enjoy it, I think.

But nowadays, Arthur’s spectre hangs over my shoulder and whispers to me, inevitably, that I am doing it wrong. That was Arthur’s habit in the best of times – he’d tell me I was doing it wrong, or worse, just barge in and take over, because he wasn’t always great at explaining how to do it right. He was better at demonstrating. But at least in the past, his telling me that I was doing it wrong was accompanied by an effort to teach me how to do it right.

The last vestiges of that mentoring behavior evaporated last summer. It was in that moment when he announced to me, forlornly, that he’d forgotten how to deploy the downriggers on the boat. That left me doing everything, while he just watched sulkily.

And yet… he still found it in himself, later on that same trip, to tell me that I was doing it wrong. I think it broke something inside me.

So there is just no way I want to go out fishing with Arthur. Nevertheless I have neither the self-confidence in my own ability, nor the cruelty toward Arthur, to somehow go out fishing without him.

So I’ve been miserable. And I’m done fishing, I guess.

That’s too bad.

I’ll be glad when fishing season is over and the boat is back in the barn, and the people around me stop talking about fishing constantly.

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Caveat: Tree #1665 “Not fishing”

This tree was on the shore while Arthur and Wayne went out in the boat to try to catch fish.


It was nice to have a break. As I’ve mentioned before, fishing with Arthur, for me, is not actually fun at all. Arthur has strong feelings about how fishing should happen, and he doesn’t have any confidence in my ability to navigate or assist. I’m still a 12-year-old kid in his eyes, often times. But with his cognitive and physical challenges, these days, he isn’t really equipped to actually be the captain of the boat. So going out in the boat with him is a huge emotional challenge. He gets mad and has tantrums, or he just gives up and sulks. Or he gets obsessed about one issue or another, like the time we spent 40 minutes circling a spot in the water because we’d dropped a bucket in the water and he insisted we try to get it back.

Anyway, I expect the dynamic with him in the boat with Wayne would go differently. Art and Wayne are peers, firstly, and secondly, Wayne is the person who actually taught Arthur much of his fishing skills and boat-craft, many years ago. So Arthur will not distrust Wayne’s suggestions or skills.

Regardless, I could tell Wayne was tired from their half day out on the water together. Simply communicating with Arthur is exhausting – the combination of incipient deafness and difficulty with language processing combine to make it a slog to interact with him.

I haven’t been avoiding going out in the boat with Arthur – if anything, he’s been avoiding going out in the boat at all. He seems vaguely aware of his issues and limitations, at some level, and so he spends a lot of time making up excuses for why we don’t need to go out fishing. And I’ve been happy to enable him. And I was happy, today, to let Wayne take it on. I feel guilty that I was happy about that. Living up here, it’s very hard to explain to the people around me that I have come to actually rather strongly dislike fishing. But that’s what’s happened. I’m sorry.

They caught a few salmon, and a ling-cod.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 4.5km;]

Caveat: Tree #1661 “Cypress”

This tree is about one inch tall. I think I germinated a cypress tree seed in my greenhouse. I’m not completely sure on the identity, but it’s the only thing I planted in that bucket. I will try to grow a cypress tree.


CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 2.5km;]

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