I spend time in Juneau, Alaska, every year.

I’ve done so for years.

I love Juneau. It’s cloudy and wet, but captivating. There is so much to see: Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska State Museum, Shrine of St. Therese, Mount Roberts and a long list of other breathtaking sights. One of my favorite aphorisms is, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” The author is disputed, so I want you to take the credit for saying it.

I stay in the same hotel every year. Why? Because it’s reasonably priced. I like a hotel room that has a bed and a shower. I also enjoy having walls, floor and ceiling. A door is nice, too. Anything else is fluff.

It isn’t at the corner of broken dreams and failed promises. The hotel is located in a spot where I can get to places I need to get to. It’s not far from the airport. The city and borough has a population of approximately 33,000, but it covers a large area. Being the capital of Alaska makes it a busy place.

The hotel offers a continental breakfast, allowing me to sit quietly in a corner, eating yogurt and cereal, drinking tea and trying not to listen to a blaring TV.

The hotel provides unintentional entertainment. One afternoon, two men wrestled in an argument over who would pay the bill. I sprung into action and took the opportunity to checkout before them.

Another night, two young men who had been over-served, were duking it out in the hotel’s parking lot. They were too inebriated to do much damage. They were being encouraged by their girlfriends who were also sloshed. I tiptoed by to get to a bakery.

When I came back to the hotel, the police had arrived. They warned the combatants to break it up or they would be going to jail. The miscreants were like the comedian Ron White, who said, “I had the right to remain silent, but I didn’t have the ability.”

They lipped off and were handcuffed and put into the squad car.

One of the girlfriends protested, “What are you arresting him for? He didn’t do nothing!”

A police officer recommended that she stifle herself. She was unable to do so and was handcuffed and taken away. The other young woman remained silent, having reached the point where she was unable to form words.

A band was kicked out of the hotel one year, only to have an ex-wife of one member sneak them in the back door.

Entertainment like this would cost an arm, a leg and a pint of blood in Las Vegas.

  Part of the reason I stay where I do is because I’m a creature of habit. It’s not a superpower, but it’s me.

Ravens are smart.

How smart? Had there been a raven in my high school class, we’d have had a class valedictorian. The school had refused to give that award to our leading student who had nearly a C- average.

I watched ravens walking through the drive-through lane of a nearby fast food restaurant. Two of them, checking the ground for fallen French fries and homeless hamburgers, bumped into one another. It was a feather bender.

Humans stop at that eatery and often get bags of grub to go. Some of them walk the short distance to a bakery to get a doughnut or sweet roll to put the finishing touches on a meal. The walk is just long enough that the meals are eaten and the bags deposited in a proper waste receptacle.

 The ravens fly to the trash container and use their big bills to pull the bags out. They shake, rip, tear, slice, dice and maybe even make julienne fries of the bags. They find tasty morsels in forgotten fries and broken buns. They are chronic litterers, but I forgive them.

To the ravens, each bag of fast food is a happy meal.

Happy me.

You see, I go to Juneau to revel with the ravens.

Ears some good news

Birds sang.

I listened.

Echoes From Loafers’ Club

I’m taking a statistics class in night school. I hate it.

Then why are you taking it?

Because it will pay for itself if it keeps me from buying lottery tickets.

The cafe’s complaint department

“Yes, sir, is there something wrong?”

“My soup. Taste it.”

“I can assure you that the soup is excellent.”

“Taste it.”

“Sir, we made the soup this morning out of the finest ingredients.”

“Taste it.”

“OK, I’ll taste it. Where is the spoon?”

“Ah ha!”

There are few things better than ice cream on a cold day

The roads had been icy. The Zamboni went by twice. The mail female had filled the mailbox with important stuff. She’s done a great job after replacing a male mail rural carrier. The weather was disagreeable — cold and windy. I shuffled to the mailbox while dressed in a tattered coat, well-worn sweatpants and an ugly hat with earflaps. Earflaps? I know that many of you believe that any man living here who still has his ears is a sissy. A mailbox’s location determines whether a person can dress like a troubled hermit or not when retrieving the mail in daylight.

The cold, snow and ice triggered a hunger for ice cream.  

“Would you like to hear our flavors?” asked the server in an ice cream shop, later that same day.

“Sure.”

She rattled off about 40 different kinds of ice cream. It was impressive.

I ordered vanilla.

I should have felt guilty, but I didn’t. The ice cream was too good.

Clinic conversations

I spent time at a colossal medical clinic where they worked to solve problems that I didn’t know I had in ways that I couldn’t understand. I’d driven through a multi-leveled parking ramp where many oversized vehicles had corralled two spaces. I had a ticket that permitted me to park, but I needed a hunting license to find a parking spot.

While awaiting appointments, I jotted things in a small notebook, my constant companion. Some of the quotes I wrote down were real, but most were imagined.

“Guess how many stitches you were given. Get it right and you get a free piece of pie in the clinic’s cafeteria.”

“This device that you are hooked up to makes a high-pitched alarm that only a patient can hear.”

“I know that laughter is the best medicine, but I decided on a hip replacement instead.”

Patients are honest with one another, often sharing more than needed.

“I’m going to quit taking these pills,” said the woman.

“Why, do they make you feel poorly?” I responded.

“No, they make me feel too good. I’m being nice to people I don’t even like.”

In local news

Paul Bearer has been a mortician so long, he can’t say anything nice about anyone who is still standing.

Barbershop closes. Butcher shop quartet forms.

Cheese factory explodes, leaving a terrible mess. The brie was everywhere.

Naturally

I saw a rough-legged hawk. As a boy, I called it a Christmas hawk because it appeared during that season. Similar in size to a red-tailed hawk, it has smaller feet that allows the rough-legged to perch on thinner branches than the red-tailed, often called a “tail” by hawk counters.

A northern shrike perched high on a small tree at the edge of a field. A shrike is grey on the head and back, white on the chest and throat, with black patches on wings and tail, and a black mask across the eyes. The shrike is a predatory songbird. Unlike hawks and owls, it doesn’t kill with its talons, but with its sharp beak. It hunts from an exposed perch, darting out swiftly after prey that may be forced to the ground by the shrike’s feet. Prey is sometimes impaled on a thorn to be eaten later. This earned the bird the nickname, “butcherbird.” The shrike resembles a mockingbird. In our warmer seasons, we might see a loggerhead shrike.

Thanks for stopping by

“I take care to appear happy and especially to be so.” — St. Therese of Lisieux

“Traveling makes one modest: one sees what a tiny place one occupies in the world.” — Gustave Flaubert

Meeting adjourned

Kindness isn’t a big thing. It’s countless little things.

DO GOOD.

© Al Batt 2017