I signed my name 21 times today and initialed my name another 22 times.  With all that scribbling I finalized the sale of the house.  It’s Mine now.  I was asked throughout the day if I was excited, and to be honest I am not sure why I wasn’t.

The house buying process is like it is anywhere.  Search a while, put down an offer, go back and forth on details, go back and forth with the bank, sing loads of paperwork, and its all done.  Nothing really to get excited about if you ask me.

I get the keys tomorrow when the sale goes on record.  I don’t think I will be in a hurry to grab it.

Things will probably turn come Friday, when the movers arrive complete with all the stuff that has been in transit or storage for 3 months.  I’ll be able to start setting up the cool stuff I want to do … the wireless internet, the satellite TV, the Brad Barnes Throwdown Emporium (aka guest bedroom) … but then again, I will have time for that.

But with a firm handshake to the son of the previous owner, the house is now mine.  Turns out there is mail waiting on the mantle … my mantle … with my name on it (the mail, not the mantle).  As the guy was telling me, I realized that I didn’t even know what my mailbox looks like.
Meh … all part of the fun.

For the record, if y’all want to google spy on me or just sign me up for spam — my new address (effective immediately):

Mitch Nelson
1350 W 78th Ave
Anchorage, AK  99518

Winter hasn’t Won Yet


Winter isn’t here yet, but its advance team is definitely in town.  Saturday, I had a loaded day of errands to run.  Many had certain appointments, spaced just wide enough that I had to kill time in between each one – so gaps were filled with hikes & geocaches.  In the early afternoon, flakes were starting to move in.  During that time I was on the east side near the Mountain View neighborhood and knowing that it was a bit cooler and a bit more snow likely up there I took that as the source.  As the day continued, there was more and more, and it was getting time for me to head down to the southside.  By late afternoon, it stopped being a nice dusting, and started become a good snowfall.

To be honest, it was one of those snowfalls you don’t mind, and maybe even like.  It was thick, fluffy, and sticking to everything.  There was a consistent layer of it all on all surfaces.  There wasn’t patches of piles, no ice patches, no heavy winds blinding you — it was just the nice coverage you think about when you think of Christmas.

For most of the morning on Sunday, the snow stood its ground – but failed to keep as the day’s sun came out.  The snow in the mountains may stick it out now (the termination dust on the peaks last month we were expecting to stick through the winter fell victim to the heavy rains of the last couple weeks), but it was pretty clear this stuff wasn’t going to stay.  We think there will be a few more flurries this early part of this week, but colder temps later in the week may make that stuff a bit more permanent.

In some ways, I am ready for it, some ways not.  Those errands I ran — a coat that can stand the cold more than the wet and snow tires (I went for the regular snow tires, not convinced the need of studs).  I also picked up the payment I make tomorrow to close on my house.  But this cold that comes later this week?  That’s about when the movers show up to move me into the house.

So as much as I liked the snow on Saturday, I could take the snow holding off just a little longer.


Pagentry, How I Miss Thee


About a week and a half after I accepted the offer to come up here, I had to send an e-mail that was hard to swallow.  There were a lot of things I was willing to give up for the opportunity to live and work in Alaska, but there is a part of my life so important that it has been influencing my decision making since 1997.  The e-mail was sent to the executive team of the Central States Judges Association (CSJA).

Depending on how well you know me, you either know exactly what I am talking about, kinda know what I am talking about, or about to learn more than you ever wanted to know about me.   Ever since 1997, I have worked as a high school marching band competition adjudicator exclusively for the CSJA and have been a proud member since 2002.  For a given show, it would be my job to evaluate a marching band’s performance against a set criteria and give a score, which combined with other judges who for the most part are looking at different things than I, contribute to an overall score.  These competitions are practically nation-wide (not Alaska, but will get to that) and over the years I have judged in 11 different states (not Kansas, which is a whole different story). I had looked for competitions in Alaska, but haven’t found them – but when I go to High School football games I don’t even see a half time show, so not surprising there isn’t a circuit (that and there are only about 30 high schools state wide, which doesn’t help).

I got my start doing this shortly after I stopped touring with Drum Corps — which is a more advanced summer version of your high school marching band competitions.  When I toured with drum corps, I did so for seven (and a half … ish) years, two years as an instructor in Michigan (and half year in Wisconsin … ish),  before marching – three years with the Colts (from DU-BU-QUE, Iowa) and two years with the Cadets (who at the time were the Cadets of Bergen County (NJ) now from Pennsylvania).  Prior to that, sorta, I marched in my high school band back in The Du.  Why do I point out this resume?

Well, the e-mail I sent was to tell the CSJA that I would need to take this year off.  From what I could expect during my first marching band season while in Alaska, I won’t have vacation until February, I didn’t know how I could sneak down to the lower 48 yet, and I needed to be focused on finding a house.  This meant that for the first time since 1984, I would not be involved in the marching band circuit.

It’s really hard to describe to you how difficult this was to come to this conclusion, because its hard to describe to people outside of the activity what the activity means to those of us in it.  When you marched, you became part of something that was truly greater than the some of its parts.  You learned more about yourself than you could ever learn on your own.  It’s effect left me energized every time I see a show.  My heart beats faster, my body can’t stop moving, and I don’t sleep well that night.  I can be a passionate guy, and nothing makes me drip with positive passion like marching band shows (good or bad – they always get me going).  Judging was just the gold speckled super milky chocolate icing on the mint chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cake.  I would sit up in the best seat in the house, have the kids perform to please me, and all I had to do was give them ways to do it better next time.  We got paid, but I never made money doing it, I would even take jobs at reduced rates just so I can work.

The timing of this all was tough too, because last year was easily my best year.  I judged some great bands, judged some great shows, and judged with some great people.  Not only that but I was good.  Let me restate that  … because if you know anything about me, you know I am my worst critic … but I can tell you, last year … I Was Good!  I was feeling it like nothing else and living for each show and each band.  In fact, when I interviewed with BP, my season just finished and I almost walked away to say no just so I didn’t miss a single chance to judge again.

It’s the people too that I miss.  CSJA is a judges guild, intended to be the way schools can get high quality judges for their shows, and we don’t have to worry about finding the gigs to work.  It’s a business, and people make business decisions that cause break-ups and politics, so I can’t mistake it for a family.  But we are quite fraternal.  Some of the people I have judged with are some of great friends – friendships that extend well beyond any other business relationship I have been in and well beyond judging.  These are people I am unafraid to hug, unafraid to check on, unafraid to be there for if I am ever needed.  We went through a bit of a rough year this year, and I am a little happy I missed the politics, but I miss the people dearly.  I can go on forever about those folks – some of you are reading right now — like I am sure Dick Turner is reading this while sitting on a toliet somewhere, and I want to remind Jerry Robertson about that day in Catoosa when we got the show in, and Knapp would probably want to ask if I had a margarita anytime lately like he remembers (but I don’t) me having in Greenfield.  Come tomorrow like many days during this season, I am going to look up on Facebook all those folks out there judging and I will have to miss them — knowing they will be doing what I love to do.

I tell myself every Saturday this last couple months that this is just temporary.  I am going to damn well try to make it temporary.  But if any of you out there get to do a show between now and the end of the year, I ask three things from you:

1) Don’t Suck

2) Make them cry

3) Take a walk down to the 50 yard line, take in a deep breath, raise your hands to the air and call forth:

Countdown to Closing on


Let’s clear one bit of confusion — I asked y’all a few weeks ago to help me name my new house and I suggested I was going to put it to a vote.  But there is enough nonsense about democratic votes on facebook these days, we don’t need people to blow up anymore.  Besides — this ain’t a Democracy, this is a BEARocracy.  So read this whole thing and see what decided upon.

It is that time, thought.  I officially close on the new house on Monday at 4PM AST.  The last of the bureaucratic nonsense cleared today and all that is left is to sign paperwork over and over and over again.

In the meantime, I can’t wait to get into that house.  70 days in an apartment has reminded me why I lived in a house for 11 years.  Living here is noisy, between one neighbor with a 2 year old and another who likes to be loud when hanging out late.  I can’t be loud either, folks get upset when I take a 6am call from the lower 48, or want to do the laundry after 8pm.  I can’t do much in the kitchen except cook eggs, the couch is impossible to sit in, and there is no DVR on the television.  Even sitting here working on this blog, I am on an uncomfortable bar stool straddling a dishwasher.

It’s more than that, its the things that I want to do.

I can’t wait until I can paint a room again.  Or arrange furniture.  Or buy a plant.

Well, there’s lots of things I want to buy again.  I need to get me a new TV, a big one, a MAN’s TV.  I talked to a guy about Dolby 5.1 Surround, with wires going through the crawl space.  I want to get the Brad Barnes Suite set up, complete with Throwdown recovery zone.  I want to see if I can talk myself into brewing beer again (I mean, I hauled half that crap 4000 miles, why not?).   I want to grill, with a gas grill and get halibut to come out with those perfect grill marks.

I mean, I can’t go wild — come Monday I will officially have three residences (the apartment until the end of the month, the house in Kansas that had a showing but no offer, and the new place).    But most importantly, come Monday, I will have my new home!

That’s when I will first lay claim on …. wait for it …


The Bear Den!

A Break in the Clouds


Here’s how awesome I am.  A couple days ago I said “enough with the rain already” and today the clouds broke.  Not immediately of course, and it won’t last of course, but they broke and broke hard today.

The day started with fog, low to the ground and filling everything up.  But that was a sign of something different.  The rains of the last couple of weeks came from clouds about three or four thousand feet up.  Fog meant that it wasn’t humid enough to rain. and that gave the weather a chance.  By about 10am we started noticing the fog break, first moving past the Fred Meyer across the street, then out past Merril Field, then we could see the Air Force Base, and by lunch time … we could see Denali.  Later in the afternoon, we started running around from cubical to cubical to see what we could see.

I should mention, I’m in a pretty cool office to be able to see the world outside the windows.  I work in the BP Tower, a 13 story highrise in Midtown of Anchorage.  Where the tower is at, there isn’t much to block the view for a mile.  They did good with the tower putting windows everywhere from floor to ceiling.  My team sits on the northern point of the tower on the 8th floor, and while the boss has the window seat there is enough room there that whenever I want I can walk to the window and just stare.   Of course, on days like today we bounce from wall to wall to look out at different views, trying to guess what we are looking at.

Had the urge to go for a wander, but I lost the sense of how long the sun is up … that and I needed to get some gym time in.  But the sun was great to see it while it was there.


The Move, The Test


If you were a subscriber to the bear feed for longer than a week, one of two things will be in your inbox this morning:

1) You will get this post (and maybe the other more recent ones from this same website)
2) You will get this post and another post from the old website saying that you won’t see this in the morning.

I never really was happy with my old blog site, it was nice and all  – and it got the job done – but I couldn’t really play with it.  What kept me there was because I thought moving it would be a pain.

Turns out it wasn’t.

Changing the subscriber list was just putting a new web address into a box.  Moving the posts was downloading an export file, then importing the file.  While I made it sound at work that the whole of dealing with the blog took the whole weekend, I maybe spent 30 minutes on it (and most of that was multitasking during uploads and downloads).

I will get to play with this site more too — web galleries, cool logos, cooler looking bunny counts, archives, links, referrals.  I have plans for all that, and a FAQ (more of a ‘what the heck is he talking about’ section), and random stupid polls (Salmon & Chips – wrong or right?) , and I dream of a box with a squirrel you get to tell what to do and it has to listen to you (oh such a great fantasy).

If you do have an e-mail subscription, you should be unaffected – meaning you don’t have to do jack squat and keep the bear feed coming.  But I would highly recommend you get a free subscription to the Word Press and follow me.  Word Press is full of great blogs and other things.  Plus the email will just be posts and not the other cool stuff.  They are pretty spam free, and I did mention it is free free.

Anyway, that’s all I have for tonight.

That and Jeremy Phillips showed his true womanhood by answering correctly last night’s question … yes the reference was to Gilmore Girls.

Oy, With the Puddles Already


Before moving up here, all people wanted to warn me about back in Kansas was cold.  “You know it gets cold up there” is something I heard so many times that I just wanted to yell “Holy Crap!!!!  You’re right, I didn’t think about that, I better stay here where a coolest here in August is 107°.”  I knew about the snow.  I knew about the cold.  I was ready for all of it, and still am when it gets here.

I wasn’t ready for the rain.

It rains here, like, all the time … almost.  I don’t think I have seen in my 70 days up here when the skies were completely blue.  There always seems to have been a cloud at one time or another, which is alright if those clouds kept to themselves.  It seems like the rain has been coming and coming and coming and coming.

This is the rainy season here, and this rainy season is a little more rain then normal.  On average, half of the days of August & September see measurable rainfall.  That’s real science telling me that folks, according to climatezone.com the average days in the Month of August , September, and October seeing 0.01″ of rain or more is 14, 14, and 12 respectfully.  But in actuality its worse than that this year, with 14 days in August, 21 days of rain in September, and we already have had 4 of the 8 days of October.  Typically in that time frame, Anchorage gets about 5 inches of rain; we’ve had 9 inches.  That’s 30% more rain than Wichita got in that same timeframe, and if you remove that crazy day in late August, Kansas saw only a third of the rain Anchorage has in the last 70 days.

I’m griping about this today because, it was actually quite nice out today — from about 9am until 4pm — or more directly from an hour before I went to work until an hour after I left work.  It’s supposed to stay nice through Thursday, then the rains will return just in time for the weekend.  It shouldn’t be so bad though – but when I go into the woods its like everything I touch turns my clothes into a wet rag.  Takes a bit of the fun out of hiking.

But I guess I shouldn’t complain.  I am just a week away from closing on my new house, a couple weeks away from visiting family in Lake Geneva, and just a month away from full fledged winter.


Side bar time:

  1. You can call this the official test post.  I believe I moved all subscribers over to the new site, so I am not posting on the old one just to see if this goes through on the subscription.  But I recommend y’all start up an account on Word Press, and all you have to do is punch the “Follow This” button at the top.  There are alot of cool blogs on this site worth following.
  2. I will give extra cookies for the people who get the reference in the title of this post.  One word was changed, but is a critical line from a show I hate to admit that I really liked.