Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Winter’s on the way — Forecasters predict return to normal conditions

By Ben Histand
For the Redoubt Reporter

As temperatures drop, the approach of winter is becoming harder to ignore. In Cooper Landing, snow is descending to ever-lower altitudes, and as quickly as the mountains are turning white, the lowlands are losing the bright colors whose arrival marked the end of summer. Several night frosts have prompted more than a few residents to harvest potatoes from the garden, and fall pumpkins have made their debut at local grocery stores. Winter may not have arrived yet, but it is certainly on its way.

What kind of winter is in store for the Kenai Peninsula? After an anomalous summer that by National Weather Service statistics ranked as one of the coldest on record, residents may be wondering if the out-of-the-ordinary weather will continue. While speculations vary, on the whole, climatological data suggests that abnormal weather will not continue.

Dan Peterson, observation program leader with the National Weather Service’s Anchorage Weather Forecast Office, said that based on 30 years of climate records, his office estimates temperatures for the next three months will be near normal. According to the Western Regional Climate Center’s Web site, that would indicate fall temperatures averaging 34.6 degrees Fahrenheit in Kenai, and winter temperatures averaging 14.9 degrees.
With summer temperatures often struggling to top 60 degrees, however, a typical fall and winter may feel uncomfortably cold to some. Morgan Renney, of Soldotna, isn’t worried.

“I’m hoping for lots of snow,” he said. He said he’s looking forward to snowboarding Redoubt Hill in Soldotna and Mount Alyeska in Girdwood. Normal cumulative snowfall for Southcentral Alaska is 69.5 inches, and the first measurable snowfall typically comes in October. The record for latest measurable snowfall is Nov. 11, according to the National Weather Service Web site.

One possible factor influencing the cold summer temperatures was the La Niña effect, which refers to cooler-than-normal ocean temperatures in the eastern South Pacific that influence weather patterns as far away as Alaska. La Niña dissipated as summer passed, according to the NOAA, but ocean temperatures may still be influencing Alaska’s climate in other ways.

Martha Shulski, a climatologist with the Alaska Climate Research Center in Fairbanks, said temperatures in Alaska are significantly affected by a phenomenon known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which, like La Niña, involves trends in ocean temperatures, but takes place over a much longer period of time. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation refers to cycling phases of warmer and cooler surface temperatures in the North Pacific, and these lead to warmer and cooler air temperatures in Alaska.

Historically, the PDO appears to shift every 20 to 30 years. The most recent observed shift, from a colder phase to a warmer one, was in 1976. Shulski said there is speculation, but no consensus, that the PDO is now shifting or has already shifted back to a colder phase. If it does shift, climatologists would expect mean temperatures in Alaska to drop on the order of a degree or two.

Dwain Gibson, a resident of the Kenai Peninsula since 1957, said he thinks accurate forecasts are difficult to come by.

“We’ve had a wet summer,” he said.

From what he can remember, wet summers are often followed by a severe winter. But he was reluctant to make a prediction about this year.

“You’ve got to just take it a day at a time,” he said.

Fishing buyout talk on tap — Salmon task force to hear permit buyback info

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

When the Joint Cook Inlet Salmon Task Force meets in Anchorage on Thursday, it’s slated to consider an idea that, according to a Kenai senator, won’t get much support from commercial fishermen — permit buybacks.

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, who’s on the task force, said the bipartisan group of lawmakers is scheduled to hear a presentation by the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission on permit buybacks for Cook Inlet.

The task force was formed last spring by the Legislature to address dwindling salmon returns to rivers in the Matanuska and Susitna valleys. One theory for why those runs are faltering is because fish bound for northern district rivers are caught in commercial nets in Cook Inlet. To that way of thinking, limiting commercial fishing in the inlet would increase salmon runs farther north.

“Some members on the task force, I think some of them have this — and several of us warned them — they think there is this silver bullet they can go and find and fix the problem, and one of the silver bullets they can play with is a buyout,” said Roland Maw, executive director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association. “We have a big concerns. Is it going to be voluntary or forced?”

Debra Higgins, a staffer in Rep. Craig Johnson’s office, R-Anchorage, the task force chairman, said it is part of the task force’s mandate to at least hear information about buybacks. Wagoner said he didn’t think a permit buyback program would go anywhere.
“We’ll have to wait and see. There aren’t any provisions made for how that would work in Cook Inlet,” he said

“There’s going to be a resistance, for the most part, by commercial fishermen. They aren’t going to want to sell back their permits. That’s how they make their living.”
Maw said UCIDA hasn’t formed an official position on buybacks.

“At no time during the public hearing process did any commercial fisherman give testimony about a buyout, nor will we ever act about a buyout,” he said. “So if something comes out of this task force, they cooked that one up on their own without involvement of the industry, and we have grave concerns about what they may or may not be doing.”

Typically, permit buyback programs entail just that — buying a permit, and nothing more. Not the boat, nets, gear or investments in fuel and other costs commercial fishing entails.

“Some people seem to think if you buy a permit back you’re out of business. For the most part they’re people making their living off fishing, or a portion of their living, I should say,” Wagoner said. “They aren’t going to sell that for the value of the permit because they see more value in it than that.”

Steve Tvenstrup, with UCIDA, said he hoped the buyback idea had fizzled out.
“I’ve never been an advocate of buybacks, every time they talk about it,” he said. “To me, it’s a livelihood, and at age 51 right now I just can’t see it to be feasible to sell my permit and go find another job. They just want to buy the permit, and not the whole operation.”

Wagoner said it’s premature to consider limiting commercial fishing because science hasn’t settled whether commercial nets are to blame for what’s going on in the Mat-Su region.

“In a few years we’ll be able to see what, if anything, we can do about fish returning to the northern district. Nobody knows what the problem is, but we don’t catch all the fish that they’re complaining we catch in the northern district down here in Cook Inlet,” Wagoner said.

Until more answers are available, Wagoner cautions against making policy changes.
“As a matter of fact, nobody’s even sure there needs to be a buyback right now. It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors still,” he said.

Maw said considering a buyback proposal would be “way premature.”

“They haven’t asked us and we haven’t offered. I think there’s lots of available harvest surplus on the salmon stocks, if they would manage the habitat, especially those pike,” he said.

Northern pike, a voracious invasive species that eats young salmon, have been found in northern district watersheds.

Maw said commercial fishermen play a vital role in preventing overescapament of salmon runs, which can cause future runs to diminish. The state mandates managing fisheries for maximum or sustainable yield. To Maw, that means managing to escapement goals.

“You still have to take those fish down to that escapement value. If there are 500 boats, that dictates one fishing pattern, if there’s 250, that would dictate a much higher level of fishing in order to meet escapement goals,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting what this group comes up with. If they’re taking about throwing escapement goals out, that’s a very fundamental shift away from what we’ve been doing for 50 years and why the state was created. And it’s irresponsible, by the way, too. We’ll just have to wait and see what these folks do.”

Wagoner, a former Cook Inlet commercial fishermen, wanted to be on the task force because he was concerned about legislators stepping into a role that’s already filled by the Board of Fish, he said.

“The best place for that to be fought out is not at a Cook Inlet Salmon Task Force, it’s at the Board of Fish. The task force is trying to interject itself into the management of a fishery. It’s a very dangerous thing to do, have a lot of elected officials inject themselves into a scientific process. Because, number one, they’re not scientists, and number two, they’re not always honest because they’re out to please their constituents,” Wagoner said.
The task force is supposed to bring recommendations to the Legislature at its next session. So far, none have been formed.

“There’s been absolutely nothing come out of that task force,” Wagoner said.

Editor’s note: Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, chair of the task force, was not available to comment on this story, and task force members Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak/Mat-Su, and Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, did not return calls seeking comment.

Watching, not waiting — Neighborhood bands together to form watch program

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

When Amorette Payment decided to organize a neighborhood watch in her subdivision, her experience as a Red Cross volunteer and Community Emergency Response Team trainee prepared her to put some thought into the unthinkable.

What if an earthquake knocks out the Kenai River bridges in Kenai and Soldotna, and residents of the Westbrook Subdivision, off West Poppy Lane from Kalifornsky Beach Road, have to fend for themselves? What if a forest fire breaks out in the area? What if a crime wave develops in the neighborhood?

At the same time, Payment’s experience as a mom and Alaskan got her thinking about more mundane, but likely to happen, reasons for starting a watch, like warning people about an aggressive moose in the neighborhood, having a system for neighbors to keep an eye on each others’ homes when they’re out of town, or establishing safe houses for kids to go to if they need to escape a bully, get away from a scary dog or if they have an emergency at home.

“It’s better to prevent crime before it becomes a problem than try to catch up with it after it’s already plaguing the neighborhood,” Payment said. “And anytime you have a group of citizens agreeing and with a common goal and purpose and for a common good, that’s really powerful. Neighbors working together have a tremendous amount of strength, whether for preventing crime, keeping kids safe or being prepared for natural disasters. And if you can combine those, you’ve really covered your bases well.”

The neighborhood had a few break-ins last winter, which started Payment thinking about a neighborhood watch. In asking around about it, she found there wasn’t an existing program in place the neighborhood could join, so they’d have to create their own. The Kenai Police Department pointed her to a Web site, www.klaaskids.org, which has a downloadable manual for getting started.

There are 55 homes in Westbrook. Thirty-five participate in the watch program. Payment is the coordinator, and one family from each street serves as block captain, which entailed the adults in the home submitting to background checks. Each block captain keeps information about the families on the street, like contact numbers, serious allergies or medical conditions, and who could be useful in an emergency, whether they’re a plumber or EMT, or have a generator in the garage.

Payment maintains all the records for the participating families and set up a phone tree. If someone sees a suspicious car or there’s a bear in the area, a neighbor can call his or her block captain, who then calls Payment, who activates the phone tree.
“Each person has to make one phone call and the whole neighborhood will know if there’s a problem,” Payment said.

Since February, they haven’t activated the full phone tree, but they have mobilized neighbors to respond to a few situations, including an aggressive moose and missing children.

“Once a couple of kids wandered out of their backyard, so we were on it. We had people looking for them right away and were able to locate them,” Payment said.
Even if the emergency aspect of the system is never used, the program still makes a difference in the neighborhood.

“When someone goes out of town, if they call their block captain, they can keep a closer eye on the house. And we’ve had a lot of that, just more communication between the neighbors, which has been really helpful,” Payment said.

Payment and another neighbor went door to door handing out information and asking for donations to buy neighborhood watch signs and decals. They raised $400 and celebrated the installation of the signs with a neighborhoodwide block party Sept. 21.

The party was a way to disseminate information about the watch program, and Payment figured it’d be a good way to spread information about emergency preparedness, as well, especially since September was Natural Disaster Preparedness Month. She invited representatives from Central Emergency Services, Firewise, Alaska State Troopers and the Office of Emergency Management to talk to residents about making their homes, families and neighborhood safer from disasters.

“All of those people were marvelous. They came on their days off, and that was really gracious of them,” Payment said. “We really appreciate it, and they brought the fire truck and the kids loved it.”

Gary Hale, fire marshal with Central Emergency Services, said he appreciates the neighborhood’s motivation and organization in creating the watch program.

“I was very impressed. One, with taking the initiative in that neighborhood, and someone taking the reins and working with OEM about, ‘What do I need to do?’” he said. “And having the resources and gathering all these people, getting 35 out of 55 homes to participate in this activity and make the attempt to come to this — and they had it on a very nice day — was very positive. I was very impressed with the attendance and what they had done up to that point.”

In an emergency, the common assumption is a firetruck, ambulance or police car will come screaming to the rescue in a matter of moments. That’s the goal, but the reality is it may not always happen like that, Hale said.

In Westbrook, for instance, if an earthquake knocked out the Kenai River bridges — and there are 24,000 earthquakes in Alaska a year — CES in Soldotna or the Kenai Fire Department couldn’t get there. The CES stations in Funny River, Kasilof or the one six miles up K-Beach that could send help are only staffed with one person. Even if the bridges were intact, in the event of a major disaster, CES’ first priority would be to Central Peninsula Hospital and fighting fires, then branching out to help residents.

“The availability of manpower and equipment to come to your area may be a low priority,” Hale said. “A lot of people figure in an event that’s going to happen, police and Alaska State Troopers and the fire department are going to show up. What they don’t understand is in a huge disaster, we’re going to have priorities here making sure we can get our equipment out of the station first.”

Hale added: “If something does happen, I happen to feel they’re going to be one of the few areas that are going to be able to bring it together and help one another.”

Payment said that was point of the watch program — to be ready, whether it’s for an earthquake or other major disaster, or a little one, like plants needing to be watered.

“I am really pleased with it. We have a great neighborhood. We have always looked out for our neighbors, but now we have license to do that. It has a sense of purpose. I do think it has probably made our neighborhood safer, although admittedly our crime rate was low, but we want to keep it that way.”

Arts and Entertainment week of Oct. 8

  • Artists Without Borders in the 4D Building in Soldotna has a group show, “The Color of Music,” on display through October.
  • Art Works in Soldotna has watercolors by Sherri Sather on display through October.
  • The Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai has watercolors by Pam Mersch on display through October.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has art by Amy Warfle on display through October.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has artwork by Emily Grossman on display through October.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has “Experimental Exhibit” on display through October.
  • The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center has a group exhibit by the Kenai Photo Guild on display through October.
  • Veronica’s coffee shop in Kenai has photographs of Veronica’s through the seasons by Joe Kashi on display through October.

  • The fourth annual Central Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary Holiday Bazaar will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Denali Conference Room. Call 714-4544.
  • The Crossing in Soldotna has a sake tasting event at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50, with advanced reservations required. Call 262-1906.

  • Central Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary Holiday Bazaar, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Denali Conference Room. See Thursday listing.
  • The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra will hold an Evening of Classics concert at 7 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna. General admission is $10, or $5 for kids 12 and under. Call Susie at 260-3210, Tammy at 283-0781 or Maria at 283-3024.

Oct. 15
  • Peninsula Take-A-Break for women will hold a brunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Solid Rock Conference Center on the Sterling Highway with music by Renee Rysdyk, information by Judith Reese about breast cancer screening, and Anna Jarrett will share her story of “survival and the courage within us.” Contact Cindy at 260-6262 or Susan 335-6789 or e-mail tab-reservations@hotmail.com.

Oct. 16
  • The Kenai Community Library will host a “Reflections on Statehood Reading” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. with 12 community members reflecting on the larger meaning of Alaska’s statehood by sharing an original selection or poem. Call 283-4378.

Oct. 17
  • Triumvirate Theatre will perform “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses,” a locally written political parody poking fun at Sarah Palin, Uncle Ted, John McCain, Barack Obama and more, at 7 p.m. at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Visit www.triumviratetheatre.org.

Oct. 18
  • “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” at 7 p.m. at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall. See Oct. 17 listing.
  • White Lion will perform at Hooligans in Soldotna. Tickets are $23 in advance or $25 at the door, available in advance online at grovetickets.com and koots.com, and by phone at 877-71-Grove.
  • The University of Alaska Anchorage faculty trio Alaska Pro Musica, consisting of pianist Timothy Smith, violinist Walter Olivares and clarinetist Mark Wolbers, will perform at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for students and are available at Sweeney’s, River City Books, Northcountry Fair, Already Read Books, Funky Monkey and at the door. Call 262-4084 or visit www.performingartssociety.org.

Oct. 25
  • The Fraternal Order of Alaska State Troopers will hold a concert with Juice Newton (“Angel of the Morning,” “The Sweetest Thing” and “Break It To Me Gently”) and Gary Puckett (“Young Girl,” “Woman Woman” and “Over You”) at 7:30 p.m. at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School. Tickets are $33, available at Whitey’s Music Shop. Funds raised benefit the Safety Bear, CSI Forensic Science Camp, Children’s DNA Identification Kits and youth sports on the Kenai Peninsula. Call 283-9302.

Coming up
  • The Soldotna Senior Center will accept entries into its 12th annual juried amateur art show, held in conjunction with the center’s fall bazaar, Nov. 7 to 8. Entries can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 4 and 5. Categories are oils, pastels, watercolors, and drawings; needle arts, beading, quilting and sewing; and three-dimensional. The entry fee is $6, with a maximum three entries each person. Call Mary Lane, 262-8839.

  • The Riverside in Soldotna has live DJ music every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m.

Live music
  • The Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch has Three-Legged Mule on Saturday night.
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has folk music on Wednesday night.
  • Hooligans Saloon in Soldotna has rock covers and originals by 9-Spine at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has acoustic classic rock by the Free Beer Band at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has acoustic music by Sonny on Wednesday night and Paul Davis on Friday night.
  • Mykel's in Soldotna has acoustic music by Dave Unruh from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • The Place in Nikiski has bluegrass music by Them Other Shuckers around 7 p.m. Friday.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has rock covers by Tuff-e-Nuff at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic music at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and acoustic music by Chris Pepper and Friends at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

  • 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at the Duck Inn on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
  • 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays at the .406 in Kenai.
  • 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hooligan’s in Soldotna.
  • 8:30 p.m. Friday at the J-Bar-B in Kasilof.
  • 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Maverick in Soldotna.

  • BJ’s in Soldotna has free pool on Wednesdays.
  • Hooligan’s in Soldotna has a nine-ball pool tournament at 9 p.m. Thursdays.
  • The J-Bar-B has free pool on Sundays, a horseshoe pit in the beer garden, and a cash drawing at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has a pool tournament at 8 p.m. Fridays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has a dart tournament at 8 p.m. Thursdays.

Promotions, bar manager brings life to the party

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

It’s a Friday fall night at Hooligans Saloon in Soldotna. Summer crowds have come and gone, and the locals need a little incentive to spend some time, and money, at the bar. It’s up to bar manager Molly Blakeley-Poland to give it to them, by dreaming up contests, themed events and other promotions that make a bar stool far more enticing than the couch at home.

“In the wintertime (you need promotions) because people are tight on money and because it’s not summer anymore. Summer is easy because the tourists are here and it’s just a no-brainer. We don’t do any promotions in the summer because people are coming no matter what. Plus, I think it’s important to keep everything young and fun for the area,” she said.

The weekend before included a wet T-shirt contest. This Friday night would be a foam party, with crowds in swimwear dancing to a live band in a room covered with plastic sheeting and filled with chest-high bubbles from a special foam-making machine Blakeley-Poland ordered for the occasion.

A phone rings. It’s one of the bartenders, asking if he can get into the spirit of the evening by wearing a thong.

“I don’t care. But make sure to shave,” she tells him.

She wasn’t talking about his face.

So it goes for Blakeley-Poland, the life of the party.

“I love doing promotions because it’s just like you’re a party planner constantly,” she said. “The crappy part of the job is when people are down on you, but my new theme in the bar is ‘be happy or be gone,’ for everybody — customers and employees.”

Blakeley-Poland has helped with promotions at Hooligans since she moved back to the area from California in 1996. Her mother, Sal Hoskins, owns Hooligans, so Blakeley-Poland pitched in to help. She’s had her own business ventures in the area, including Sassafras and the roller rink, but these days she’s even more involved at Hooligans, since she accepted a promotion to bar manager at the end of the summer.

It gives her an outlet for the party-planning skills she acquired in California. She worked for Party Land in the Del Mar area, which gets hired to put on parties for the well-to-do, like creating balloon arches for the San Diego Chargers.

“I’m a certified balloonist. That’s something I’m sure I’ll use for the rest of my life,” Blakeley-Poland quipped.

Creativity and an open mind are necessities of the job, and the bar promotions job is a necessary one, since bars in Alaska can’t do drink specials, which is an easy customer draw in the Lower 48.

“We’re not allowed to do specials on drinks unless we do them always, so we just have to be innovative about how to do things,” she said.

“I just research promotions for bars and pick out my favorite stuff. It’s kind of actually really easy, but I don’t want to give away all our tricks,” she said.

When planning a promotion, it’s important to know what will appeal to people. Around here, there are a couple of sure-fire options.

“If it involves skin,” Blakeley-Poland said, which explains the foam party.

“And everybody loves a contest. It doesn’t matter what kind of contest it is,” she said.

She’s got a couple lined up for the winter, including a karaoke contest Wednesday nights where the winner gets $50 and entered into another contest to play and sing with an actual band. There’s an eight-ball pool tournament Thursdays, where the top three finishers get a chance at $10,000 if they make an eight-ball break. On Sundays and Mondays for football season, patrons get a ticket with every drink, even water, with tickets drawn for prizes and the chance at $25,000 on Super Bowl Sunday.
Themed events also do well.

“We had a huge bachelorette party for all women — married women, single women, it didn’t matter. If you were a woman, we had a bachelorette party,” Blakeley-Poland said. “All women, and even some men, were wearing veils and all the accessories that normally go with a bachelorette party. People had a blast.”

Blakeley-Poland said she’s planning some big acts in 2009. Hooligans is now a sister bar to Chilkoot Charlie’s in Anchorage, so Soldotna has a chance to book whatever shows come to Koots. That’s how the bar got the rock band White Lion, which will perform Oct. 18.

There are some challenges to putting on a good bar party. People having too good a time can ruin it, especially if the police have to stop by. Having to coordinate with other bars is important so two aren’t holding an event the same night.

“It’s a small community, but I think if we all work together I think we can do just fine,” Blakeley-Poland said.

Hooligans went through a period of noise complaints from people living in the trailer park behind the bar, but that hasn’t been an issue lately, she said.

And the business of hyping wet T-shirt contests and general drunkenness runs the risks of drawing complaints of another nature.

“I’m on the radio all the time for this stuff, so I’m kind of surprised I don’t run into more of that, but I really don’t. I’m in for this stuff every once in a while and think, ‘OK, I’m going to get in trouble.’ And, nope. It’s a small community. There’s just as many bars and churches, so, you know,” she said.

At the end of the day, or night, it all comes down to having a good time.
“Our customers are faithful, and that’s what’s really cool really. They want to come out every weekend and have fun and not cause problems. They’re awesome.”

Building Braud — Size isn’t only thing that matters in bodybuilding

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

A weekend competition dispelled the myth that bigger is always better in bodybuilding. It’s about more than just bulking up.

“It’s not how big you are, it’s how good you are,” said Scott Griebel, of Soldotna, who placed third in men’s open middleweight class of the 20th annual Natural Pro-Am Anchorage Bodybuilding, Figure and Fitness Championships, held Saturday at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Case in point is the overall winner of the competition, Josh Braud, of Soldotna. Braud expected to compete in the lightweight class, but at weigh-ins he was a pound and a half over the limit, so he ended up a middleweight. Even though he was at the bottom end of that weight class, he still won the division and went on to win the overall championship.
“It’s really cool. I definitely feel I deserved it because I did work so hard, I felt like nobody could do more to prepare for this particular show,” Braud said.

Muscle size matters in bodybuilding, but so do symmetry, muscle definition and leanness. That’s where Braud excelled. He had his body fat down to 3.32 percent, reduced from 15 or 16 percent 14 weeks ago.

“Research and diet made a gigantic difference. If I wasn’t giving my body what I needed, I wouldn’t have done as good,” Braud said.

He got interested in bodybuilding three years ago from friend and now training partner, Geoff Bonin, of Soldotna. Bonin also competes in bodybuilding, placing fourth in the pro division of Saturday’s event.

“I was out of shape and I just started researching pretty much on the Internet and really just realized how much I could change my body with the information that was available,” Braud said. “I started trying the dieting and started changing my body and went from there.

“I don’t know any guy who doesn’t want to get in shape. Anybody wants abs. At least they just want to feel good about something.”

He started seeing results and got hooked from there, logging 45-minute weight lifting workouts followed by intense cardio sessions five days a week.

Gym time is part of the process, but in a way it’s the easiest part, since all you have to do is make the decision once a day to show up and work out. The dieting can be more difficult, because it involves decisions all day, every day, about what you buy at the store, how you cook and what and how often you eat.

Taken to Braud’s level, bodybuilding changes your whole perspective on food and nutrition. Nutrition is paramount in maximizing results, especially with natural bodybuilding, like the Anchorage Bodybuilding, Figure and Fitness Championships, where contestants are tested to make sure there is no drug use.

“The way the population is today, they’re so used to processed food,” Braud said. “They grab it everywhere. It’s not their fault they’re gaining weight — it’s what society brought on them. … Just understanding food and nutrition is the basis of all of it. You are how you look because of what you eat.”

Dieting and workouts become increasingly intense before a show, and it can be difficult to stay motivated, Braud said. But the more you do it, the more you see it as a lifestyle, not as a restriction or burden.

And once it’s showtime, the extra effort pays off.

“It gets stressful, of course, just having to mentally figure out ways to get around that. But the end goal always comes. That day of the competition will get here. It will only last that long, and it’s kind of the light at the end of the tunnel I need,” he said.

With Saturday’s win, Braud can compete in the pro division. He’s already got his sights set on another competition in three weeks. He’s taking this week off to let his body recuperate, and then he’ll be back at his strict pre-show diet and exercise regime.
“I’ll be 28 in less than two weeks. I won’t get any cake on my birthday, but I’ll have some after the second show,” he said.

Bodybuilding has gone beyond a lifestyle for Braud. It’s his passion, shaping how he approaches the rest of his life. He’s attending Kenai Peninsula College studying process instrumentation, but he’s also become a certified personal trainer and would like to open his own gym someday.

“This has given me structure in my life. Everything is scheduled, everything is set, and it has to be that way, but I’m able to accomplish more goals now. I have to be this consistent; otherwise I just won’t do as well in the competition. It just builds upon itself.”
Griebel said bodybuilding is more of a hobby for him, but it’s one that lets him experience the power of setting the bar high and achieving those goals.

“Winning, it’s a nice benefit if you actually achieve that, but actually getting ready for the whole thing and working toward something and having that on your mind as an end goal just keeps me motivated,” Griebel said.

He said he’s lifted weights since he was a teenager, and got into bodybuilding a few years ago as an additional challenge.

“There is so much more to it. I find it really easy to go to the gym and put on weights and lift and build a high amount of strength. With transitioning to this there’s so much more nutrition to it. It’s a body-shaping thing. You have to look at yourself and say, ‘I need to do more here’ and change your whole routine and focus on those areas. It takes a lot more thought than just going to the gym and lifting weights. What you eat makes all the difference in the world.”

This was Griebel’s second time competing in the Anchorage Bodybuilding, Figure and Fitness Championships. Last year he also placed third in the middleweight division. He was hoping to do better this year, but said he lacked knowledge of some of the technical aspects of the competition.

“I’ve gone at this completely independently,” Griebel said. “I just kind of read some things, practiced on my own, I lift on my own. Any resources you can use or anyone you can talk to, take advice. Just knowing all the technical aspects of the show itself, what the judges look for, and all this information you can’t make up for yourself. You need to know from someone who knows.”

Griebel started dieting 14 weeks before the competition by limiting carbohydrates and avoiding other foods on his bad list. The closer to the competition he got, the more structured his regiment became.

“There’s a science to the last two weeks, and I haven’t even figured it out, I’m still learning. Everyone’s different, everyone has to figure it out for themselves,” he said.
He’s got another shot at refining the process in March, when a natural bodybuilding competition will be held in Kenai. Griebel recommends anyone interested in getting into bodybuilding start by asking questions.

“People who are into it, they’re going to be happy to answer your questions. They’re just like anyone else. Most times people are happy to share what they’re passionate about.”
Braud certainly is.

“Everybody who wants to be involved in this might feel it’s too hard or they just don’t have the ability to do it or don’t know somebody to get them into it. There’s a lot of mental strategy they have to overcome,” Braud said. “What I really want to do is I’m trying to get people involved in this.”

Meyered in history — Past is ever-present around Kasilof collector’s property

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

On his kitchen table, Larry Meyer has an 8-by-10 color photograph that, at first glance, appears to be a man frozen in a block of glacier ice. Upon more scrutiny, however, the careful observer will note the name “MEYER” written in black ink on the trapped man’s left leather glove, and then quickly realize that the distorted face behind the blue ice is that of Meyer himself.

A grin breaks out behind his salt-and-pepper whiskers, and Meyer laughs as he explains the joke. But the image — however staged and silly — is still apropos.

At 70, Meyer is anything but “frozen in time.” His Kasilof homestead is a different story.

Scattered across its grassy taiga are hundreds of relics from the past.

A self- acknowl- edged Dumpster-diving, junkyard-scrounging collector of anything useful or interesting — most intriguingly more than a dozen old buildings, most of them labeled and disassembled on their original sites, then carted to Meyer’s place and pieced back together like immense jigsaw puzzles — he has accumulated acres upon acres of other people’s past and given it all a new home.

Meyer frequently employs a common Alaska noun, “seagull,” as a verb to describe his tendency to swoop in and strip away the meaty good parts from whatever he happens to find.

Meyer rescues dilapidated structures, rusting hulks, abandoned machines and rotting crafts. He plucks and saves old fishing gear, old hunting and trapping gear, old farming gear, old homesteading gear— really, anything that has been around awhile and in which he detects some inherent value.

Among the oddities a visitor to the Meyer homestead might find are a bedraggled goat-head mount with one eye missing, several rifles burned beyond usefulness but nailed like trophies above the lintels of doorways, two small birds nests tucked into the empty headlight sockets of an ancient Ford, and an entire wrecked station wagon packed with hubcaps.

Meyer also has more than 60 cars and about 30 snowmachines — most lying in various states of disrepair in an area he fondly refers to as his “junkyard,” basically a semiopen vehicular graveyard in which the trees, weeds and rust are winning.

Some of Meyer’s vehicles are protected by shed roofs or barns. There is his 1931 Model A Ford, his 1963 Pontiac Bonneville, his 1968 Lincoln Continental and several early model Polaris and Ski-Do snowmachines.

Many of these vehicles Meyer had originally meant to restore or to use for parts.

“Got a hell of a pile out there,” he said. “A little bit of it I used, but most of it I didn’t.”

Also on the grounds are half a dozen wooden boats, most of them in some stage of renovation. One — formerly filled with dirt and used as a flower garden — is slowly succumbing to the elements.

But the real prize here is the buildings. Meyer has sheds, barns, homes, a garage, a sauna and even an outhouse rescued from the ravages of time.

A 1929 Alaska Road Commission map of the Kasilof River area displays numerous names — of local historical importance — connected to the buildings on Meyer’s property: H.P. Jensen, Archie McLane, Abram Erickson, J.A. Nylander, Slim Crocker.

Meyer, who came to the Kenai Peninsula in the fall of 1960 to work for big-game guide George Pollard, began collecting these buildings a few years later. He had left Alaska temporarily, but in 1962 he drove his 1953 Mercury (now part of the junkyard) back to Alaska and homesteaded in Kasilof.
With the dream in his head of becoming a guide like Pollard, Meyer rescued what he called “the Peacock Building,” because he got it from Ernie Peacock. Essentially, it was a horse barn, in which Meyer planned to keep the horses he would need for guiding.

He quickly realized, however, that he was “not a good carpenter” and could barely feed himself, let alone a horse. So for nearly the next 40 years, he worked on oil platforms, in commercial salmon fishing and in various other jobs — and kept his seagull eyes peeled for new bargains.

Over the years he collected the McLane Schoolhouse, built in 1912 by Charlie West and used in the 1930s by Kasilof’s first teacher, Enid McLane; the Slim Crocker home, built in 1928 and purchased by Meyer in 1974 for $1,800 to use as his own home; and the Erickson-Lovdahl barn and fox kitchen, which includes several fox houses and a tower for observing the foxes raised on Ed Lovdahl’s farm.

There is also the home of Alex Lind (who had changed his name from J.A. Nylander); a barn that Meyer purchased from Mae Ciechanski; the Holden house, the origins of which are fuzzy but which was probably built in the late 1930s; and a garage formerly owned by Ray McNutt, husband to Sterling’s longtime postmaster, Gloria McNutt.

Perhaps the most peculiar history of all the structures is the outhouse, because it was the site of a suicide, according to Meyer. He said that Christian Jensen, brother of Kasilof’s Pete Jensen, became too ill to take care of himself, moved in with his brother, and then, despondent about his condition, shot himself one day in the outhouse.

Meyer keeps track of the histories of his structures (as well as many of his vehicles, boats and other assorted objects), but his methods are problematical. Although he has written down many facts and stories on a variety of scattered papers, he frequently finds himself saying, “I’ve got that written down somewhere,” without being completely sure where that is. And the facts and stories not yet committed to paper are “written” only in his head.

“When I was in school, when you had to write a 300-word report or somethin’, I just never did it,” he said. “I’m just not very good. I can tell the stories, but writin’ ’em down, I just hate it. I hate it.”

Many people, he said, have urged him to write anyway, or to dictate to someone, and also to organize his many photographs of original buildings and owners and his reconstruction processes, but he has resisted.

Standing over a pile of mainly historical photographs and a scrapbook full of blank pages, he said, “I dug these pictures out, and I was going to put ’em in this book — about five years ago, and here they sit.

“If I kick the bucket, you’ll have a hard time finding all this (stuff).”

Another concern, as far as local historians are concerned, is what will happen to all of Meyer’s stuff after he dies.

“As of now, it’s left to my one son,” he said, acknowledging that he doesn’t know what his son’s intentions will be.

He said, however, that he does plan to consider other options of preserving his treasures.

In the meantime, he is content to look for more bargains and to give tours to the occasional visitors who follow the meandering gravel roads out to his property, where history is alive and well.

Art Seen: Exhibit is new page in art book

When I walked into the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at the Kenai River Campus of Kenai Peninsula College, the lights suddenly turned on. A motion sensor has been installed, probably to help the college save money on electricity. But while I found myself engrossed in the subtle and strangely intense exhibit, the lights quit on me no less than four times. A minor irritation, to be sure, but each time I felt a spell was broken.

Brenna Burns’ delightful Kozo (mulberry) paper installations have the breadth and depth to take viewers outside themselves, or inside themselves, if they are so inclined. Each lightly hanging piece incorporates quirky little drawings of cocoons, pods, creatures and dresses with blocks of writing, only sometimes legible, which serve to create varying textures on the already texture-rich handmade paper.

The words span from statements like, “the body is the garment of the soul,” to, “you’re not ready to know” (which is what I felt when I couldn’t read the words on some of the pieces, like a secret teaching I knew I could gain access to only when I was truly ready). Sometimes the repeated words feel like a mantra, other times more like the frenzied babblings of a manic-depressive. In others yet, like a detached factual statement, repeated in an offhand manner.

These works really seem like an archeological find, delicate transcripts depicting ancient practices, some areas torn, or bunched, or overlaid to varying effect. I found myself wishing I could literally surround myself in this element, in a paper house of sorts, enjoying the way the material responds to only slight movements around the room.

To quote the artist, who is also a writer based in New Haven, Conn., “Mulberry is the preferred food of silkworms, and I enjoyed this connection between the insect nature of the paper and the insect nature of the images I was working into the paper. Kozo also has a sound to it — it rustles and flutters without much provocation – and this struck me as another nice kinship with the insect world.”

The exhibit is called “Paper x3,” because of the three artists represented.Each have been involved in their own type of exploration into paper. Rhoda Rosenberg’s connection with paper was brought to the surface (I think I mean that as an intended pun) while she was learning printmaking in the 1970s.

“In etching, I fell in love with black ink. The surface was seductive. Instead of using the process to make images that I already had in my mind, I began to find images through the process.”

Each is a mono print and the artist has reiterated that point by writing 1/1 in the signature area. Her work is quite sensual and visually strong. I would like to see more of it, and on a grander scale, perhaps.

“Exhale” by Nicole Seisler, her only piece in the exhibit, is a series of chunky handmade papers, displayed so they are set off the wall and create nice shadows. The paper does not seem unlike those created by students in any number of printmaking 101 classes across the country. All of the artists appear primarily process oriented. And while printmaking and papermaking are imbued with seemingly magical properties themselves, it is Brenna Burns’ work that haunts me with its magical, whimsical and inherently thoughtful approach.

At the turn of the millennium, there was a summit called to decide what a time capsule should optimally contain that would not be opened for another thousand years. After much discussion (who knows what operating systems or even electrical/energy systems will in use by then, since metal does weird things in space and is heavy, etc.) it was decided that something on paper would be the best choice.

Paper, even though it can wrinkle, mold, get crispy and yellow from an abundance of tannic acid, fall apart or simply dry out, is a surprisingly long-lasting element when properly cared for. So cheers to paper, times three, in all of its glory and subtlety. Thanks to the curator, Ellen Chambers, who pulled it all together, and a special kudos to Celia Anderson, who makes things like this happen at our local college.

Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works gallery in Soldotna. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.

Students go wild

Photos courtesy of Kristin Mitchell
Students in Mrs. Carter’s class at Soldotna Montessori Charter School rafted the Upper Kenai River on a recent fall day, and enjoyed learning about the river, weather, wildlife and value of teamwork.

Don’t be snowed by false sense of safety

Life is unexpected. Need proof? Look out the window.

Mother Nature seems to have forgotten the Kenai Peninsula doesn’t expect its first shot of snow until the end of October, around Halloween, usually.

Oct. 6 isn’t a record for the earliest measurable snowfall of the year — that’d be in September — but the white was a wake-up call that winter’s on its way.

Are the snow tires out yet? Is the snowblower gassed up? Have the winter boots been dug out of storage?

Now’s the time to get a winter checklist drawn up and start crossing items off. This snowfall won’t stick around for long, but the next one might.

While you’re at it, start preparing for the unexpected in other areas, as well. Around here, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and wildfires aren’t a matter of if they will happen, but when.

If it’s tomorrow, next week, or even next year, will you be ready?

Will your neighbors? That’s a key question often overlooked in emergency preparedness. People plan how to help themselves and their immediate families, but few put thought into what they can do to make sure those around them are safe, as well.

Every man for himself is an unavoidable, at least to some degree, natural response to emergency situations. But the more that’s done to make sure everyone responds in a calm, orderly fashion, the better the situation will be for everyone involved.

The Westbrook Subdivision off Kalifornsky Beach Road is a great example of how a community can come together to be ready for whatever may come its way. They instituted a neighborhood watch program and have a network of communication in place so if there is an emergency, they know who may need extra help, and who may be able to provide it.

It goes somewhat against the Alaska mystique to admit to needing assistance, in an emergency or otherwise, which may create resistance to community preparedness planning. We can shovel our own driveways, haul our own water and split our own firewood, by gum.

If you don’t need any help, that’s great. But maybe someone needs you. That’s the other part of the Alaska idiom: We’re on our own, but we take care of our own.

For that alone it’s worth following Westbrook’s example. Find out what your neighborhood’s needs are and make a plan to meet them.

Snow the first week of October should serve as a reminder that there’s worse in store.

Special delivery — Rural nurse takes life lessons as they come

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

In 1939, actress Butterfly McQueen, as the character Prissy, said famously, “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies” in “Gone With the Wind.”

That story was a work of fiction.

Ten years later, however, when itinerant public health nurse Shirley Denison had thoughts similar to Prissy’s, the situation was real, which could have been unfortunate for the pregnant women of Seldovia, where Denison was stationed.

Denison, now Shirley Henley of Kenai, had just arrived on the Kenai Peninsula in February 1949, following two years of field-nurse work in Birmingham, Ala., near where she was born and raised. Her work in the field had been preceded by studies at Maryville College and then a master’s degree in nursing at Yale.

Her plan, after Yale, had been to go to Alaska as soon as possible. However, to complete her agreement with the Cadet Nurse Corps, which had subsidized her degree, she owed two years’ work. On the day her two years were up, she headed north.

Henley said that she wanted to go to Alaska because it was “as far away as I could get from Alabama.” She said she wanted to escape the crowds and all of the rules and regulations, and she figured the Territory of Alaska offered her the most freedom.

“Up here, the closest any supervision you had was Anchorage, and I only saw my supervisor from Anchorage once a year,” she said.

Talk about autonomy: The Alaska Territorial Department of Nursing hired Henley and stationed her in Seldovia, where an absence of doctors had forced the city’s hospital to close its doors. When Henley arrived, she was the only medical show in town.

With the closest doctors in Seward and Anchorage, she said, “You had to do whatever you had to do.”
One definite drawback to doing it all was Henley’s lack of obstetrics training.

“When I was in Yale, one of the things I very carefully avoided was obstetrics,” said Henley, now 85. “And the first thing I knew I was having to deliver babies.” Three or four women in Seldovia were in the family way.
One of her first pregnant patients was Nelda Calhoun, who was not a first-time mother. Nelda and her husband, Red, had had a poor fishing season, Henley said, and they couldn’t afford to go to Anchorage for the birth. They also refused offers of financial aid because they saw them as charity.

“(Nelda) had had some problems with previous pregnancies, so I wrote to (the supervisor in) Anchorage and said, ‘I will go anywhere and do anything if you’ll just send a midwife down here,’” said Henley, who was only 25 at the time. “And they did have public health nursing midwives available, so I asked to swap places with them until they got these people delivered.

“What they did was send me a huge box of obstetrics books. And the more I read, the more frantic I became because, you know, these obstetrics books told of all these awful things that could go wrong, and I thought, ‘Oh, God!’

“I did some heavy praying.”

And she did the best she could.

“I had done all the prenatal work,” she said. “That was part of my responsibilities, you know — take your blood pressure and make sure your diet’s good and everything. So here Nelda’s in labor, and she says, ‘Well, aren’t you going to do a pelvic exam?’ And I said, ‘Nelda, I’d just as soon stick my finger in my mouth for what I know, so why make you more uncomfortable?”

Soon, though, the spring of 1950 arrived, and with it the inevitable delivery of the Calhoun baby. Henley said she dreaded the thought that any day Red Calhoun would arrive at her door and announce that the time had come.

“I’d lie awake at night and listen to people walk down the boardwalk (below her apartment),” she said. “And I’d think, ‘Oh, God, please don’t let it be Red. Don’t let it be Red Calhoun. I’m not ready for this.’”
Then one night it was Red Calhoun. Full of anxiety, Henley packed her bag and followed him to the Calhoun home.

In the end, everything turned out well — the baby, an 8-pound boy they named Dan, was delivered successfully — but there was one moment of special trepidation.

“When (Nelda) was in the process of delivering, she says, ‘Am I bleeding very much?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And she says, ‘Well, thank God. The last time I hemorrhaged.’ I didn’t want to hear that,” Henley said.

Throughout her short time as an itinerant public health nurse, she had many other adventures — when Yule Kilcher’s dog bit her on the butt the day she came to vaccinate his children, for example — and when she went into public education in Kenai in 1958 she had plenty more.

Henley, who continued as a nurse until her first child, Ruth, was born in 1952, said she never did get comfortable delivering other people’s babies.

“I’d read all those books, and I knew what could happen,” she said.

New InCARnation

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

After sitting idle for more than a year, the Chrysler dealership in Kenai is revving up again.

Although someone new holds the keys, there’s a familiar face at the wheel. Mel and Tony Stanley, based in Anchorage, also own Stanley Ford in Soldotna and have the local Budget Rent-A-Car franchise. Elsewhere in the state, they own Mitsubishi and Kia dealerships in Anchorage, a Nissan dealership in Fairbanks, and most Budget franchises in the state.

When word got out the Stanleys were planning to reopen the Chrysler dealership in Kenai, a former employee of the dealership made it clear he wanted to be part of it.

“I knew that they were interested in becoming the franchise dealer and wanted everyone to know how badly I wanted to get back to Kenai, so I started making phone calls,” said Duane Bannock, general manager of Stanley Chrysler.

Bannock grew up on the Kenai Peninsula and lived here most of his life, serving nine years on the Kenai City Council and working as vice president of Kenai Chrysler when Bob Favretto owned it. He and his family moved to Anchorage in February 2003 when he was appointed head of the state Division of Motor Vehicles by Gov. Frank Murkowski. Gov. Sarah Palin removed Bannock from that post in November 2007.

Bannock was ready to make good on his promise that his Anchorage residency would be temporary.

“When we left Kenai approximately five years ago, our goal was to return to Kenai,” he said. “It’s the only home I’ve ever had, it’s the only home I’ve ever loved. It’s just so exciting to be able to come back here.”

Bannock was a regular participant in community and civic events, often stationing himself in front of a grill for community cookouts.

“I can’t wait to do my first free barbecue here,” he said.

It hasn’t been determined yet whether the Chrysler dealership will continue the community events it participated in before, like hosting the ceremonial start of the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race. And Bannock wouldn’t say definitively whether he planned to run for public office again, but left the door open for politics.

“We’ll be full-fledged members of society,” he said. “You never can tell. I have not given up on all of my future ambitions.”
Stanley Chrysler opened its doors Sept. 15. The service department is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is honoring warranty service contracts.

“We are happy to be back in business, to be able to take care of those customers,” Bannock said.

The dealership portion is still gearing up. Bannock said he hopes to have new inventory on the lot in 60 days. In the meantime, he’s planning on purchasing 2008 model, like-new used cars complete with warranties direct from Chrysler Corp.

“I’m into big inventory. We want to have a great selection of ultimately new and used cars and trucks to choose from,” Bannock said.

Fuel efficiency will drive some inventory choices, but it’s still Alaska, so even smaller vehicles need four-wheel and all-wheel drive, Bannock said.

“With fuel prices the way they are, you need something other than just a big pickup truck,” he said.

Rising gas prices have an impact on budgets, but Bannock said he didn’t think they would make people stop driving or buying vehicles.

“I think fuel prices certainly do affect us, what I’m not sure of is if they’ve affected our driving habits,” he said.

“We haven’t altered driving habits, but we might have altered other spending habits because of the price of fuel,” he said. “Driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle will just free up some money to go somewhere else, I think. People still have to drive to work; they drive to their kids’ sporting events and activities. Those things don’t change.”

Bannock said the Stanleys are familiar with the central Kenai Peninsula and the economic conditions here.

“I know they are up on the Kenai Peninsula. They’ve been extremely successful with Stanley Ford, and they like what they see in the community,” Bannock said. “They’ve been in business in the community before with Budget Rent-A-Car, and they own several parcels of property down here. They’re big on the place, so this has become another opportunity.”

Bannock is confident the dealership can succeed.

“I believe that Kenai’s best days are still in front of it. Obviously I’m not the only one who thinks that. Wal-Mart thinks that, Lowe’s thinks that. When you look at the explosion of retail estate, you look at new houses being built in the area; those are all indications of a good economy.

“Chrysler Corporation has always done well in Alaska, and in the Kenai Peninsula, and I’m just pleased to be a part of that.”