Bonding Over Alaska

Fishing Boats, June 1963

Tonight was a great event in gear head history.

The History Channel ran the first new episode of Top Gear USA, which is an American version of the hit British show that has been on the air for some time. David and I watched it together, taking an opportunity to hang out with me while his little brother Jack was zonked out on Grandma’s bed upstairs.

Great show, if you love cars (and we all do in The Clark House).

About halfway through, an advert came on for the show coming up the next hour – IRT Deadliest Roads. Since David is a longtime fan of Ice Road Truckers and the newer Deadliest Roads series, I was surprised when he said that he didn’t want to watch that tonight.

“I’m going to switch it over to Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

So at 8:00pm we switched to TLC for the show. I don’t watch a lot of TV, usually movies on DVD or VHS. But this show hooked me from the start because of the colors and the camera work. I sat back in the big chair and got more comfy.

David sat between my legs. “Do you know why I wanted this on?”

“No mister,” I said. “Why?”

“Because of you.”

I started to tear up.

David knows I love Alaska. I was born in Anchorage in 1964. My Mom’s family history there predates its 1959 statehood. For the first five years of my life I lived on a windswept island in the Aleutians. While my time in Alaska was brief in terms of my overall life, I carry memories from those years that have never ever faded. To this day, if I close my eyes on a Washington beach, I can transport myself back to Sand Point AK with a smile.

It was a wonderful moment, not only because my son wanted me to enjoy and reminisce about my time there, but because with every passing minute of the show I could remember more and more of those days. The colors in the show were suddenly brighter. The trees, the constant wind and overcast conditions, and even the color of the water brought me back to the days when our family would head out to “The Spit” for some beach time – at 40 degrees. By the end of the show I could even smell the island. David drifted off and curled up next to me.

Best TV Time. Ever.


The Surly Silk Screener


Jan 28, 1986 8:39 AM / 51-73 S Hinds St, Seattle, WA 98134, USA

On the morning of the Challenger space shuttle flight, I was starting my work day at THE Graphics Company on Hinds Street in Seattle’s SODO district. By that point the Challenger had been grounded for weeks; the shuttle flight had been delayed so many times that I lost count. If it wasn’t the weather, it was a possible mechanical threat to the shuttle that kept it on the ground. Like many, I was ready to hear that it had finally taken off and headed into orbit.

The silk screener at THE Graphics Company worked alone, in a room up the stairs and away from the general work area. He was a Seattle native, union-waged, and really good at what he did. He was also a surly guy, negative as negative could be. There was nothing good to say about anything, or anyone. Despite that he had the only TV in the shop, so that morning a couple of us headed upstairs to watch the launch at 8:35am Pacific Time. A minute later it lifted off. “Finally,” I said to the coworkers. “I’m so happy to see that thing get off the ground.”

“Yeah, but it’ll probably blow up now,” said the surly silk screener.

The other worker and I just rolled our eyes and left. We were accustomed to his “half-empty” view on life, so we moved on and started working on the day’s signage. Almost two minutes later the surly silk screener came barreling down the stairs.

“See? I told you it would happen! It just blew up! I’m not kidding.”

My first thought – briefly – was that he was full of it. We headed upstairs to see what happened on the TV. Not long after that we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. There, in full color on KING 5, was white smoke in the sky. Lots of it. There was confusion among the announcers as they described what we were already seeing, while they refrained from telling the world what we already knew.

We had just lost an entire shuttle crew to an explosion, and even if the surly silk screener was only kidding, he had predicted their end. It was sick that he was right.

And a day I will never ever forget.

Story originally posted on Intersect – 7 November 2010