The events relayed here took place in the 1970’s in Bush Alaska. 
This was prior to the wide incorporation and acceptance of political correctness in our society. It was also prior to much of anything resembling refinement in Alaska. Please remember this as you read. If you are easily offended skip this entry. Honestly. Skip it.
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When I was about five years old my father decided he wanted to be able to watch television in his own home.
The problem was, as we established in  Ironing Money, that we lived in the bushes. Deep in the bushes. We lived so far in the bushes that not only was there no television reception, there was no radio reception either. And newspapers and magazines arrived via the Post Office and were weeks old by the time we saw them. I suppose it kept anyone from worrying too much about the state of the world.
Anyway, the closest thing to television reception at the time came to us from Fairbanks via a repeater in Tok. By the time it reached our airspace the signal had been bounced off at least two repeaters. What this meant is that we had lovely pictures of snow to watch. We didn’t need that on our TVs. We had enough of that out our windows eight and a half months of the year.
So my father got together with my uncle, an a/v guru living in Anchorage, who did a bunch of research and figured out what was needed to bring the glory of television into our home. These early efforts resulted in me learning to thread a reel-to-reel recorder at the age of five so my brother and I could watch The Sound of Music in black and white.
My uncle recorded movies in Anchorage that were broadcast via antenna with that clear big city picture and sent us the reels. He always took the time to edit out the commercials. This meant that my brother and I managed to survive our American childhood without having watched the requisite 5000 hours of commercials by the age of 10.
Of course my father wasn’t satisfied with just us being able to enjoy a movie or television show once in a while. He wanted to share the experience.
So he and my uncle strung cable to the lodge and bar my father owned. They strung two cables actually, one for picture and one for sound. The cable was run on the telephone poles. It was no short distance and no simple feat.  Then when we played a movie anyone in either of those buildings with access to a TV could watch it at the same time. It was good business for my father to rent hotels rooms with in-room television. In Bush Alaska in the 1970’s this was very, very cool.
And then along came the VCR and videocassette tapes. And with them . . . color recordings.
About once a month a box would magically appear in our lives filled with videocassette tapes. I vividly remember the brown cardboard box with red and black lettering . . . opening it and seeing all those black cassette sleeves lined up in perfect little rows with their little white piece of tape on the spine – my uncle’s neat handwriting telling us what treasure lay inside. Eagerly I would search for Mr. Rogers and anything labeled Disney®. Later it was CHiPs and Emergency. Ah, Larry Wilcox (Officer Baker, be still my heart) was delivered to me monthly in a little box from town. After we had watched the shows to death we’d send the tapes back to my uncle to be reused.
And then along came satellite television. That gave the world channels like HBO and Showtime. Of course at that time practically no one had a satellite on their roof. They were reserved for people with acres of land and boatloads of money. Anchorage reaped the benefit of satellite television via a local company called Visions.
Visions captured programs streaming via satellite one show at a time and then built their own programming. They sold subscriptions and installed equipment at each customer’s house and sent out a monthly schedule. By capturing and rebroadcasting Visions allowed people in Anchorage to watch those all time classics like Smokey and the Bandit at 7:00 p.m. instead of 4:00 a.m. Living in a state with its own time zone does have its challenges.
Well, my father subscribed to this service for my uncle and from then on our little care packages from Anchorage contained full length feature movies like the aforementioned Burt Reynolds classic and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (I’m still paying for that – serves me right for sneaking into the living room, hiding behind the couch and watching it unbeknownst to any adult in the vicinity.)
Somewhere in the midst of all this my uncle and father figured out how to ditch the cable and push the television signal out to a four mile radius. This was achieved by running the VCR through a “fringe area” antenna amplifier into a channel 3-tuned antenna on the telephone pole outside our house. This gave TV signal access to people at the FAA compound, the village and even up toward the highway. Thus was born KORT. Low power, short distance but just like a real TV station.
Operating a “television station,” as it were, changed our lives a bit. It was a little weird knowing that what you put in your VCR people down the road were watching in their homes too.
It meant that every day my exit from the school bus was accompanied by a cacophony of voices submitting requests for at least a dozen different movies. “Wait twenty minutes and then put in such and such!” and “I want Witch Mountain!” and “Don’t start it yet!” I think we watched the Shaggy D.A. (“the shaggy dog movie” as the kids called it) no less than 112 times that year.
Of course my father was a businessman and not being one to miss a good business opportunity he also started selling TVs in his store around this time.
Generally speaking programming was a little sporadic. The station was off the air much of the day but my parents usually tried to have a movie in around 7:00 each night. For awhile I understand they were posting a bulletin listing the evening’s movie at the store so folks would know what would be available for their viewing pleasure that night.
Tapes were sometimes put in and set to run when we weren’t home. People would call and request specific shows. If possible one of us would run up to the house and pop in the movie to oblige their request. Occasionally the request was, “Play it again!” And often we did.
Of course, setting the VCR to play and then leaving the house caused problems on occasion. Sometimes when tapes were reused a G rated show would be taped over a longer running but . . . uh. . . less than family friendly movie. The G rated movie would end and . . . oops! . . .  something entirely inappropriate for a young viewing audience would appear onscreen. This generally resulted in a phone call to the lodge from someone in the village and one of my parents running madly to the house to shut off the VCR. A tad embarrassing, I’m sure.
Of course there were times when my parents played less than family friendly movies intentionally. One evening a woman from the village called and asked my father if he had any idea what he was showing. Being who he was his response was, “Yeah and if you don’t like it you can turn off your TV and you don’t have to watch.” Her response was, “I can’t! My house is full of people . . . but I think I will make my husband wait out in the yard until it is over.”
Now don’t think that some of those ladies didn’t enjoy those adult shows. There was a local lunch program for elders over 65. The elders would come into the café as a group at noon for a warm meal several days a week. My parents agreed to try to give them some entertainment with their food. Well the regular entertainment pool in a town of 300 doesn’t run particularly deep so TV served as entertainment. So what did they pop into the ol’ VCR on occasion?
A burlesque show.
I mean really . . . lunch and half-naked ladies. They brought Las Vegas right there into the village. There was no plot so the show didn’t have to be followed particularly closely. The visual factor was high. This helped those who were a bit hard of hearing or for whom English was a second language. The old women in particular would get a bang out of them . . . they would just sit there and giggle and giggle. Evidently it was fun to watch the ladies watch the burlesque shows.
I am compelled to report that my father undertook the entire KORT adventure because he liked to build and create things . . . and because he could. He did it entirely at his own cost and never charged anyone for the service. Technically KORT probably should have been licensed.  But as I mentioned, this was the 1970’s and it was Bush Alaska. Assuming anyone at the FCC could even find us on a map I’m sure they had much bigger fish to fry. In my father’s words, “We never bothered with a license but we had a lot of satisfied customers.”

Pink & Coolness

I was hip for approximately 20 seconds this week. For 20 whole seconds I was 40 and up to speed with recent  popular culture.

Thursday night we went out to dinner as a family – which has happened about twice since our house was populated with children.

The restaurant’s background music was from this decade and I didn’t recognize any of it.

Until this song came on . . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaz5tGl5Yho . . . So What by Pink.

“I know this song!” I said to my husband. I didn’t know how I knew it but I was all proud. I felt good. I know a song that plays on an FM station and was recorded within the last five years!

My husband raised his eyebrows and looked appropriately impressed.

But we have children. And they speak the truth even when you don’t want them to.

Says my Roo, “It’s from Alvin and the Chipmunks!”

And with that my husband got a really, really good laugh and my brief fling with coolness came to and end.

Is coolness a word?

Adapting to 40,

Pop Quiz

Red shoes, red pants, orange shirt.

How is it that these two children, from different homes, wound up with nearly the same outfit today? Was it . . .

a) planned days in advance? They discussed their current wardrobe options and made arrangements last Thursday when they saw each other and then stashed away the appropriate items so they would have them ready today.

b) planned yesterday? After their parents were in bed they learned how to read, looked up phone numbers, figured out how to use the phone and planned the whole thing unbeknownst to any parental units anywhere?

c) a reflection of their mothers’ deep concern with current fashion? The orange / red color combination is very popular with the “going into kindergarten this Fall” crowd.

d) sheer coincidence? It just so happens that they both have mothers who would rather do things besides laundry and the only clean clothes either of them could find this morning were these.

Clearly the answer is b. They are both brilliant you know.

Hope – Day 1

I’ve been promising to upload the pictures from our 4th of July trek out to Hope for – well – What day is it today? – twelve days. I’m finally getting started. Part of the challenge was that I took 285 pictures during that 48 hour trip. Really. 285 pictures. I’ll try to spare you the delight torture of having to view them all.

This trip to Hope had been planned since forever ago by my friend J who had the brains to plan ahead and reserve a cabin for the holiday weekend some time last winter.

We like to camp with J and her family because their kids are the same ages as ours. (Read: totally understand meltdowns, insane numbers of pit stops, a reasonable bedtime, time outs, quiet time, etc., etc.) You might remember J’s son G from the post about the wedding.

After meeting up at the Ranger Station on the edge of town and making sure we were all really going the same place we loaded up and headed on down the road.

I took this picture about 5 minutes into our drive. Our destination is across this water there at the base of the mountains.  


See those itty bitty white dots on the far shoreline in this picture? Probably not. Trust me, they are there. Those dots are buildings in Hope. It would be a quick 10 minute jaunt over the bridge from town if there were one. But there isn’t. Of course, Hope wouldn’t be Hope if it were just a quick 10 minute jaunt over the bridge. It would lose its . . . uh . . . um . . . unique Alaska charm . . . and become a suburb of Anchorage.

Anyway, so it isn’t a quick ten minute jaunt. It is more like an 80 mile 1.5 hour drive or something like that. We have to drive up around all this water . . .   

and back down the other side.

So we did.

The scenery was beautiful. You’ll have to trust me on that. I had to cut something. If you want to look at great pictures of Turnagain Arm I guarantee you that you can find better ones out there than those I took.

We eventually arrived at our destination . . .

. . . this charming little cabin in a neighborhood in Hope. I use the word neighborhood loosely. Picture an assortment of dwellings in various stages of development built from every imaginable type of material (building and otherwise) scattered through the woods and connected by gravel roads.

We then fed the starving little children. (Our good deed for the day.)

Then we strolled.

I have to say strolled because look at our footwear. If I told people we were hiking we’d get accused of being naïve unprepared tourists.


See what I mean?

Generally speaking I don’t recommend strolling through the woods in Alaska in flip-flops (or Crocs™ or Tevas® for that matter). But as they say, you can take the boy off of the Gulf of Texas but you can’t take his flip-flops from him

It was a beautiful evening for a hike stroll . .

Lush and green.

And very, very prickly.

This stuff is wicked. It’s called Devil’s Club by those of us who don’t know our Latin from our genus. Devil’s Club is everywhere and there is no bushwhacking here because it is evil. It’s covered in thorns that don’t just poke you. They can make you itch and blister.

We saw cool stuff on our stroll . . .

and made a new friend . . .

I don’t know where this sweet little thing lives . . . if any place specific. She was so skinny her hip bones were protruding from her body. She followed us back to the cabin and spent the evening coveting (and sharing) our food. She was dear and gentle and trained (which makes me think someone is lovin’ on her somewhere . . . I hope). And it took all of my self-control and some threatening words from my husband to keep me from taking her home with me.

That evening we hung out at the cabin. Some of us quite literally.

“I’m done now,” says the cute little redhead.

We smoked out all the mosquitos.

Ate S’mores.

Some of us gave in to the pressure of being out of touch for nine whole hours and checked our email.

We put the kids to bed.

 And I have to stop now. I’ve reached my self-imposed per post picture limit.

We’ll chat about day two later this week.


Tent Zippers

Is it wrong to laugh hysterically when your children are in distress?

Laugh until you cry?

Laugh so hard you all but pee your pants?

Laugh so hard that you are physically unable to help them for a full three minutes?

And then make them sit there while you run fetch a camera to document their predicament?

Is that wrong?

If so I am a bad, bad mama.

This afternoon I rounded my kids up from the backyard to send them off for quiet time. They had been playing in a tent their father set up for them. After they both were in the house it started to rain so I sent Roo back out to close up the tent.

Thirty seconds later I heard, “Mama! Maaaaaammmmmmaaaaa!”

When I peeked under the vestibule, this is what I found . . .

Yup. She sure did. Zipped her hair right up in the zipper.

That was when I started laughing.

And trying not to pee my pants.

And went to fetch the camera.

I made her sit there while I took eleven pictures.

She maintained a very good sense of humor even with her twisted mother laughing hysterically at her and repeating, “Hold still! Just one more!” while snapping away, setting changes and all.

And then I set her loose. Without the aid of scissors.

Laughing hysterically,

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