Bear Feed Call For Help – Anchorage Curling Club

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Dear Bear Feeders, I come to you asking for to help out a long-standing part of this blog.  Many of you know that a fairly big part of my Alaskan life spun out of the game of curling.  From just a few months after I arrived in Alaska right up until the last month I was in town I was a curler, sliding those rocks up and down the ice with a broom in one hand and a beer in the other.  The whole of which, I did as a member of the Anchorage Curling Club, an organization that existed five years before Alaska had statehood.  Our clubhouse has a long history as well, last seeing a major renovation to repair it after the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964.

But Right Now – The Anchorage Curling Club needs our help!

The game can be simplified as a game of rocks and ice … yes, and brooms and beers, but you can curl without brooms and you I hear you can curl sober.  While rocks are rocks, ice isn’t always ice. In October, just as the season was kicking off the cooling system in club had a major leak.  As a result, there has been no curling in Anchorage since that day; and the 160 members have no place local to curl.

Before you ask, no they can’t just open the doors and let the arctic air freeze water – curling ice requires precise cooling controls.  Temperatures need to be maintained consistently over the entire length or the stones will not act predictably.  The game could be played on lake ice, that is how the game was invented of course, but not when you are playing at a high level in modern curling — and especially when the junior program is developing some of the best young curlers America.

In order to fix the cooling system, the ACC is looking at two options – one is a mat system that will lay over the current rink.  This option would allow for them to use the system if they ever moved out of the current club to a nicer place.  There is a repair option using an epoxy system into the existing cooling tubes – the benefit of which is that once the money is there the job can be done in a week.   Either option is going to cost around $70,000.

Since the leak occurred, they created a GoFundMe site.  A link to that site is here:
GoFundME Anchorage Curling Club
The ACC has also set-up a non-profit organization (Anchorage Curling Foundation), so any donation is tax deductible.

So let’s get down to the guts of this post.  I am asking you to help support the fundraising to help fix the club.  While I know I am not there any longer, my time at ACC will live with me for the rest of my life and fostered some of the best of times in and out of the club.  Part of which is this blog.  If you took any joy from reading this blog, or any specific joy in the curling posts over the years – then I ask you give back to what started it.  Give anything — $5, $10, $69, or one dollar for every game I won in my curling career ($2).  Anything & Everything helps.

You know I love you guys, now please show a little love in return to a place I love as well.

The Answer’s Probably No, So Quit Asking

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I tried my hardest to avoid writing a fifth straight blog post about the weather, but y’all just kept asking me questions.  The problem is that my answer is most likely No … and then thru gritted teeth.  For those of you keeping track (or ready to poke at me that you are somewhere where the weather isn’t that bad), Boston was first hit by Winter Storm Juno last week then had a suckerpunch that showed up Monday of this week.  Suckerpunch … yeah … the storm was supposed to drop 6-12 inches, but Boston’s Logan Airport reported 15.9 inches.

This means in a 7 day period, Boston has had 40.2 inches.  The most in any 7 day period in Bostonian history.

If you are not sure how much snow that may be – here’s a good way to think of it:  ITS ALOT!

We’re not talking about piles 3-1/2 feet high, we are talking an average coverage of 3-1/2 feet – so to pile up snow, you are looking at piles six to seven feet high.

So, people say to me  — this must be common for you, since you lived in Alaska.  WRONG!  The two years I lived in Alaska, Anchorage got around 60-70 inches during the whole year.  That would mean we would have had two-thirds that snowfall in just 7 days. The biggest snowfall I saw when I was up there was about 10 inches, which is nothing to sneeze at – but it is a half a foot shorter than the LESSER of the two storms we go.

Plus I had a garage in Alaska.

Plus the plows could make it down our streets.

Plus there were places to put the snow.  Talking to one of the city workers the other day, that’s the biggest problem, on the main roads they can bring in dump trucks and front end loaders to move the snow – but on most the 800 miles of Boston roads, they can only fit a small plow and push it around a bit..

Now granted, where I went to college in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we got a lot of snow – around 200 inches a year — but when you get that much, you are prepared for that much.  I swear, the whole city of Houghton was designed to funnel snow on the roads down to a point where they can haul it off by 6am everyday.

This mess is nothing short of frustrating.  It takes forever to get out of any parking, just because you are constantly digging, and wedging yourself in and out, and shifting around your spot.  It takes forever to get anywhere, with most the roads .losing a lane or two from snow drifts or pedestrians because sidewalks aren’t cleared.

And then I got y’all saying things like .. You must be used to it!!

Yeah — like Floridians are used to hurricanes.

Holes in the Piles

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While standing around a plant in Worcester yesterday, one of my co-workers grabbed a tape measure and looked like he was randomly playing with it.  Until he held in a way that one end touched the floor and the other came to just above my hips.  He then said “that’s the snow we got this week”.

The winter storm from earlier in the week remains the hot topic in and around Boston; quite simply because you can’t avoid the impact.  Boston was hit with over two feet of snow earlier this week – notching up the 6th largest snowfall in a storm in Boston’s recorded history, and the largest for a January storm.  Worcester, where I was visiting yesterday and where I will be all week, they got their largest snowfall in recorded history — 34.5″.

I got home to Dorchester on Thursday morning to a new level of frozen hell I wasn’t at all prepared for.  Yes I have lived in places where we have seen a lot of snow, yes I should be used to shoveling, you don’t have to pile that on … but what I wasn’t ready to face is ‘where the heck was I going to park?’

Seriously!

My condo didn’t come with parking (the building as a whole has a driveway for two cars, but one each is given to the other two units – and I get the backyard for the pup).  So I am relegated to street parking, which as long as I knew people who live in Boston is as long as I knew that street parking is an adventure.  My street, Edison Green, isn’t big enough for all the people who want to park,.so many of us park ‘kinda illegally’ in a space where two streets merge creating an open road triangle.  Typically, this isn’t a problem because you can fit a lot of cars in there without blocking the road, and there always seems to be enough spaces for everyone.

The storm changed things, A LOT!  Boston has over 800 miles of streets, and while they have a massive fleet of snow removal vehicles, snow removal is a misnomer right now.  Plows can move down the streets, but the snow has to go somewhere – and right now, they can’t get the big shovels or dump trucks in to move the snow.  Even if they did, they would be focusing on the big roads that are still slowly digging out as well.  For Edison Green, this means that snow is piled up on both sides of the street up to five to six feet high.  Digging those cars out must that were here during the storm must have been a massive task.  Not just from the sense that someone had to move feet of snow off of the car, but you have to put it somewhere – meaning you have to get it on top of that five foot pile, with your five foot pile.  Then when you clear the snow, you have to maneuver your car, which is tight enough on Boston streets when there is no snow.  For the cars that were here during the storm that have been dug out, they leave these huge holes in the mass of snow surrounding the patch of curb.

With that much work, the biggest fear would be that after you cleared that massive hole for your car that when you get home – someone else is parked there.  So, each hole is blocked off with either a street cone, or a lawn chair, or a box, or something to mark it as saved.  The city actually allows this. An ordinance saying you can do that for up to 48 hours.

When I came home, I noticed the situation and started to sweat it immediately.  Literally, panicking that I wouldn’t find a spot – and if I did, it would be a ticking timebomb of waiting to get towed.  I actually got really lucky – at first coming across a big big spot cleared completely with no one putting up something to save it.  In fact it was too big.  The entrance had room only for one car, but the space was wide enough for a second if one allowed itself to be blocked in.  There wasn’t a doubt that I was free to take it for when I got home, but there was also no doubt that taking it would be a real ‘dick move’.  My plan B wasn’t that bad.  This space made for two with one car entrance … well, I could make a second entrance.  It mean taking a hole just big enough for someone to walk through and breaking it open for a car to fit.  It’s still nasty difficult to get in and out.  If someone is parked across the street from me, I usually have to do what I call a “Nascar turn”; in other words, turn into the snow drift so my car bounces off of it and whips around.  Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend it if you are trying to maintain the finish on your car – but I don’t see why anyone would bring a nice car down the streets of Dorchester for this exact reason.

Another storm arrives tomorrow, and we will see how much worse this becomes.  Maybe we will see if the overall snow removal plan is to “let it melt” or actually clear things.

Winter Storm Juno – Day 3: Next

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It’s a bright sunny day in Central Connecticut, the day that makes it official – Winter Storm Juno is over.  The sky is blue, the radar is clear, and even the wind has taken a break.  The temperature is up a tad, allowing for easy plowing and road clearing.  In fact, writing this at 2:30pm (on Wednesday), there is no road problems at all.  That’s really the benefit of the travel bans issued before the storm hit.  They weren’t cleared until the snow was pretty much winding down, meaning the plows had the opportunity to get their work done without citizens in the way.

According to Weather Underground, the worst to get it was Worcester (pronounced WOOster), MA which got 34.5″ during the storm – the most in their 120 years of recorded weather taking history.   Boston got pummeled with 24.4″, and the coastal areas saw up to 6 foot storm surges causing coastal flooding.  Power was lost to over 30,000 homes, and damage was reported at over 2,000 homes requiring evacuation.

Yet of course, there are many calling for weather forecaster’s heads for screwing up this prediction — specifically the New York City prediction (God forbid they stock up with 3 day supplies only to find out they get inconvenienced for 6 hours).

For the rest of us, it was a warning well headed – ensuring that we all remain warm, off the roads, and out of harms way.  This could have been a deadly storm, but early reports is that it basically wasn’t.; different warnings may have had different results.

Truth is — I have to give big kudos to the Weather Channel, who after being the center of attention for everyone on the east coast the previous 24 hours decided to change the lead this morning.  They didn’t immediately fall back on the storm that was, but while they had our attention they went to the storm that’s next.  The next few days will see a small warm up, flurries on Friday, a blast of cold on Saturday, then … another big one coming Sunday night and Monday.  It’s going to be 5-8 inches predicted, which is nothing compared to what we just went through, but out of context that would be a very dangerous storm too.

So we all regroup, reprepare, and be aware for what comes next.

As I keep saying at work:  Life is a round of golf, once I get out of one hole I head to the next.

Winter Storm Juno – Day 2: Harkening

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The weather outside is indeed frightful, but dear God don’t make me finish that lyric.  Today is the second day of Winter Storm Juno, and it was the day Juno attacked. Some of the early day reports suggested the storm wasn’t that bad … well, that’s because the news people were sitting in New York City sipping their warmed chai lattes watching the little discomfort of weather pass them by.  Meanwhile, Juno continued on and put in place a smack down to the rest of New England … so far.

The big numbers from Juno initially is going to be snow fall.  Sometimes you can giggle away the early predictions for storms (weatherman says 6″, but I am sure he is only packing 2″).  The predictions they had here were quite ridiculous too – ranging from 12-36″ in small bands of areas.  Early indications are that this storm is showing some numbers that are quite impressive.

Where I am at in Connecticut right outside of Hartford, they started seeing the flurries in late afternoon, but it really started blowing after midnight.  The snow is nearly stopped here at just about 5PM, but the wind is still blowing and is expected to blow until the morning tomorrow.  When measured at 11am this morning by a trained spotter, Manchester, CT had 17.5″.  I haven’t seen more recent numbers, but there is little doubt that it broke 20″ in this area.

Back home in Boston, they are getting the guts of it.  At 2:45PM, South Boston reported 24.0 inches of snow.  The thing is, Juno is still going on back there.  They are reporting blizzard conditions continuing until at least 11PM, and expecting the snow to end as late as 5AM tomorrow.  Winds along the coast have seen up to 50mph winds, including Nantucket Island who saw a 76mph gust.  If that’s not enough, they are seeing storm surges – rushes of sea water coming up over breakers like they would normally see during hurricanes, but in the freezing conditions it is making evacuations harrowing.

The good news is everyone has taken this very very seriously.  Most states along the east coast issued travel bans.  Connecticut lifted their ban just an hour ago, but few are expected to go running out tonight.  Massachusetts hasn’t hinted about lifting the ban any further east than the far western part of the state.  Boston’s T-Line (subway) has been shut down all day.  Nearly no store is open.  And a sign of the shear Snowpocolpyse this is … Dunkin Donuts remains shut down.

As for me … well, if you caught yesterday’s feed, you know I hunkered down in a hotel with the pup.  That keeps proving to be a really good decision.  The hotel, a Marriott Residence Inn in Manchester, CT, has been brilliant on how they dealt with it.  If you stayed at a Residence Inn, you know that it isn’t a fancy hotel, but it does offer snacks for dinner and a continental/hotel waffle free breakfast – not to mention the usual housekeeping services.  The hotel management, knowing that they still had people here knew they need to have staff on hand — so they put the staff up for the duration of the storm.  It’s becoming a little bit of a bonding moment with all of us, like we are all in this together.  They work to keep the doors clear & the parking lot plowed but that’s just for emergencies only — none of us can go anywhere.  The pup has been challenged to do his business, especially when we got up at 5AM and nothing was cleared yet … and the snow went up past his winkie.  I’ve done some work, kept warm, and tried to talk the pup out of going outside whenever he wanted.  There remains no reason for me to leave the hotel, no reason to plan to leave.

Tomorrow will be a different story.  Tomorrow some of our plants should be opening up, and work should be beginning again. I may need to stick my head into a place here or there.  My preference is to make a run home tomorrow, even though my hotel is booked through Friday, it’s that desire to see what has happened to the place and see if I am coming home to trouble.  Then again, if the roads are still shut down and I have no place in Boston to park my car (no I am not being cute) then I better plan to stay here.

We’ll see what Day 3 brings.

Winter Storm Juno – Day 1: Hunkering

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The North East USA is expecting a winter storm to hit starting tonight (as in Monday night, for you Bearfeeders by mail or just too lazy to read it when its posted) and go through most the day tomorrow & Wednesday Morning.  It’s a big storm.  In fact, they named it Winter Storm Juno … or Blizzard Colbey if you live in Connecticut, which matters for some reason.  Up and down the east coast, plows are gassing up, grocery stores are emptying, and salt piles are making national & local news videos.  In a joke that probably only those of you who know what I am talking about will get — this storm is so big, it’s become the first thing to take New Englanders minds off their deflated balls (come to think of it, it’s probably more funny if you don’t know what I am talking about).

Alright, time to stop kidding around.  This is in fact a really bad storm.  It has the potential to be one of the worst winter storms in recorded history for this part of the world.  I know a prediction is only as good as the paper you write it on, but there are few that questioning the power this will bring or the facts that are leading to the story.

I am writing this from Hartford, CT – which expects to see the same impact as Boston, if just a couple hours sooner.  As I write this, at 4PM Eastern, the prediction is that the storm will begin in just a few hours and start hitting it’s peak around midnight.  On the low side, they expect 12 inches of snow – but are predicting around 2 feet along the coast, up to 4 feet around & in Boston.  This storm is also classified as a Nor’Easter, a winter storm which pack high winds from the southwest (and heading to the Northeast .. or Nor’East … get it?).  They expect winds to gust as high as 50-60 mph, leaving visibility to near zero.

Massachusetts has issued a ‘state of emergency’ banning all vehicle traffic starting at midnight tonight.  Connecticut the same, with all vehicle travel banned at 9PM.  This is so bad it’s not 9PM until ‘blah’ … it’s 9PM until we damn well tell you otherwise.

As I mentioned, I am not home.  I was scheduled to be at a plant near Hartford all week working on what was the most critical event I’ve faced since starting my new job down here – but the weather cancelled it.  While I could have risked the weather to make a run home (and by timing of things, I would have made it), I chose the safe route and hunkered down.  The pup is with me, I try to travel with him whenever possible, so he’s safe too.  We are in a hotel with a kitchen in the room, and the hotel has a pantry that I can access — plus they have hotel waffles in the morning.  I have a half-case of dog food with me & a couple chew toys – not to mention my bare leg, which he is going to town right now licking to his heart’s content – so as long we can get outside for doggie business Auggie should be happy.  I’ve also got my personal computer, so as long as I have a battery and WiFi,I have NetFlix.  Oh, I will still have work to do even if most of my plans for the week are off my plate, but that can get done at a hotel just as good as a plant.  So by all rights, we are hunkered down, settled in, and bundled up for the next few days.  I expect by Wednesday things will clear and I can make plans to hit the road home.   Snow or not, we need to get home by the big game on Sunday.  Deflated balls or not.

The World Famous Dorchester

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The city of Boston, with it’s 650,000 people tucked into 48 square miles, is a network of neighborhoods & villages.  Some of these are named after the geography (like Bunker Hill or Back Bay) but others are names of the annexed towns Boston kinda sucked up.  I live in the later, and probably the most famous of the later.

I live in World Famous ‘Dorchester’.  (Pronounced DAH-chest-Ta .. I’m not making fun the accent, that’s really how I’m supposed to say it … seriously … they tell me the short name is ‘the Dah’).  It is one of the largest neighborhoods in Boston, and currently the largest populated neighborhood as well.  It’s big enough, the neighborhood is broken down to smaller neighborhoods, like I am in the Upham Corner/Savin Hill area of Dorchester.

Dorchester was annexed by Boston in 1870, which seems a long time ago, but even up to this date, Dorchester stood as an independent city than an annex neighborhood.  Dorchester was founded in 1630 by Anglicans from Dorset.   They held a town meeting in 1633 & opened an elementary school in 1639, the first of each on American Soil.  They began building the city near the intersection of modern day Mass Ave, Columbia Road, and Boston Street; including the James Blake House built in 1677 which still stands today (the oldest home in Boston still standing).  As it turns out … these places are all within 3 blocks of my home, including the big intersection when my Dunkin Donuts (a modern Boston requirement) stands.

The list of people who are from or have lived in Dorchester is surprising to say the least.  Donna Summer,. Norb Crosby, and the New Kids on the Block are all from here.  The Kennedy’s have their start from Dorchester, and suspiciously the owner of Nevada’s Mustang Ranch.  Dennis Lehane, author of Shutter Island & Mystic River, is from here.  Martin Luther King, Jr lived here while attending Boston University.  Dorchester is well known for one actor, Mark Wahlberg (aka Marky Mark aka Dirk Diggler aka that actor with the Boston accent that doesn’t hang out with Ben Afflack), who hasn’t stopped showing of his history here; but it’s also home of an equally famous actor Leonard Nimoy.

All this aside, there is a pretty dark side to Dorchester.  In the 1800s, most of the immigrants coming to Boston found themselves in South Boston or Dorchester.  Boston’s historically strong public transport, even back when it was horse drawn rail carts, meant the money of financial districts can be separated from the labor to the south.  Through most of the 1900s, organized crime ruled much of neighborhood and became the home of famous mobsters like Whitey Bulger.  The last three or four decades, Dorchester had a reputation where it was generally safe to live there but trouble wasn’t far away especially if you were coming into the area and making trouble.  The “tough” Boston image has Dorchester to thank for most of it’s existence.  In recent years, change has started to come to the neighborhood.  Sometime in the future, I’ll go into that, once I can really think I can say for sure if I see it.  But rest asured, my door isn’t getting busted down by gangsters.  Dorchester’s fame continues to grow in part to the aforementioned Mark Wahlberg who with his family started a burger joint called Wahlburgers – and a reality show filmed in the restaurant plays on their Dorchesterisms (strangely though – the joint is in Hingham, about two towns away).

Say what you want about Dorchester, if you have anything to say at all that is, but it’s a place steeped in history, and there is something about the place that suggests that it will continue to be a melting pot of uniqueness that will keep it creating things to add to its fame.