Tag Archives: juneau empire
February 11, 2008

Fisherman’s Bend Tesoro Fire

When I saw this scene developing, I scrambled to frame it tight with the identifying Tesoro sign.

Friday, February 9th, was the day that the social group I’ve been a part of for almost five years sort of imploded. But that was the same night that the gas station next to our apartment almost exploded, so I don’t think my brain will dwell much on the former memory.

It was midnight and the last two people were just about to head out when we heard the sirens. Someone remarked, “Weird. I can’t tell which direction they’re going.” Turns out that was because they started up at the fire station across the street and drove all of 100 feet before stopping alongside the gas station.

It was cold out, hovering around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Our landlord had left a note on the door earlier that evening warning of the 80mph gusts and -30 degree wind chill factor. Inside, we set both sinks to run with their requested “pencil-width” streams to prevent the pipes from freezing.

We crowded out on the deck, watching the fire crews set up. They couldn’t find the fire hydrant that was almost beneath us, because some asshat had parked his car directly in front of it. Only after we got the fireman’s attention were they able to find it, hook up their hose, and snake it around the car. Out in front, they had the street cordoned off, turning back traffic from both directions.

It was far too cold to stay outside, so I placed my video camera on the railing and went back inside. We pulled the sofa out, swiveling it around to face the windows, and watched the show while pointedly disregarding the implications of sitting in front of a plate-glass window while a gas station burned 100 yards away.


January 9, 2007


USGS Earthquake MapI had a fun wake up call this morning.  After falling asleep at about 4:45am — what can I say; I’m on vacation — Oksana ran in at 6:49am and said, “Arlo, wake up!  It’s an earthquake!”

“Holy crap!” I replied.  I bounced out of bed and stood in the doorway just as the trembling faded away.

Wait, that doesn’t do my reaction justice.

“Holy crap!” I said, not understanding what she said, but reacting only to her tone of voice.  I stumbled out of bed, clad only in my undies, and stood in the bedroom doorway desperately trying to keep my eyelids open.  I may have only imagined the last of the rumbling, or perhaps my conscious mind was pulling up memories of the sensation from the previous 10 seconds of being fully asleep.  Oksana left me there and went to the front door.  It was already over.

I suspect that after most earthquakes, people take a few seconds to wonder “Was that really an earthquake?  Might have been thunder, or maybe an explosion.”  We live in an apartment above the post office, so our first reaction was “Did the freight truck run into building?  Again?”

Oksana was sure it’d been an earthquake, though.  She was in the bathroom when everything on the shelves started rattling around.  Her first thought, of course, was the post office truck, but then our notoriously precarious entertainment center started to wobble in the living room.  She heard all the knickknacks on it rocking madly back and forth.  By the time she woke me up, it was pretty much over.  Fortunately, nothing in our house fell over, down, or off anything.

I wanted to check to see if it had been a earthquake, and the first thing I could think of was to get online.  I knew about the USGS earthquake site and I called it up.  Unfortunately, they update in “near real time” and an update 30 seconds after the shaking ended was an unreasonable expectation.  I thought that the Juneau Empire or Google News might eventually verify it for me, but not for awhile yet.

I was still struggling to keep my eyes open when Oksana went back to getting ready for work.  I began to feel nauseated.  All of a sudden my mouth started watering and I was on the verge of throwing up.  I laid down on the couch, pulled a blanket over me, and promptly fell back asleep.  I have no idea why I felt so sick.  Maybe it was the shaking, or more likely the extremely rapid onset of stress (“Holy crap!”)  Or maybe it was just, you know, morning sickness.

At a more reasonable hour, I got up off the couch and checked again online for some news.  Yep, all three sources confirmed it.  5.6 on the Richter scale, roughly 160 miles northwest of Juneau, and 5.9 miles underground (+ or – 5.5 miles, heh).  Bet Haines and Skagway were bumpy this morning.

I thought about calling Oksana to let her know, but then she listens to the radio at work and they were sure to have had that on the news.  Duh.  The radio.  And the TV.  That’s how I could have quickly confirmed it earlier.  No doubt the morning radio hosts would have been fielding calls right away.

Funny how I defaulted into thinking that the internet would be the best way to get information on an earthquake.

June 19, 2003

The Best Garage Sale I'll Ever Have

usaa-check (17k image)Just slightly over a year ago, I had probably half of my worldly possessions go up in flames. I posted an account of it on my web site, but I always meant to follow that up with the (mostly) happy ending.

Barely two months before the fire caught us by surprise, my fiancée and I were engaged in engagement ring shopping. Throwing that whole “two month’s salary” thing right out the window, I had decided (without the DeBeer’s corporations input, thankyouverymuch) that a $1500 to $2000 ring would adequately demonstrate my love for her. We looked at Costco. We looked at over-priced jewelry stores downtown that typically cater to tourists with more money than I. Some rings were cheap, some we wanted to buy, but unfortunately, none of the ones we wanted to buy were cheap.

One day, Oksana was going through her old jewelry and pulled out a gaudy ring that could almost fit on my thumb. It had a gigantic, eight-pronged CLAW holding a diamond that was large enough and clear enough that we decided it just had to be fake. Long story short: It had been a gift her dad had given her mom way back in communist Russia and a $20 appraisal revealed that we really shouldn’t carelessly misplace it.

The choice was obvious: The ring had to go and the diamond had to stay. We laser-inscribed a single facet of the stone with her family name; created a custom, Oksana-original band; and promptly called USAA, my auto insurance company. They informed me that: 1) Yes, they’d insure the ring, 2) but it would be a “rider policy” hence we would first need to pay for renter’s insurance, and 3) we could save a lot of money by switching Oksana’s car insurance — but that’s beside the point.