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Soaking up the sun while it lasts

Thinking Out Loud

Posted: Thursday, May 01, 2003

If I write about the wonderful weather, will it change for the worse? If it does, will you be mad? Yeah, I would be too if some other amateur practitioner of the obscure laws of physics made good weather disappear by writing about it.

Thinking Out Loud

Steve Reed is managing editor of the Empire. He can be reached at streed@juneauempire.com.

I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has said to me during the past week some version of, "This is our summer," or, "Enjoy it while it lasts," or, "Isn't this what happened last spring before everything turned to ....."

It's OK to be confused about which season has been happening out there. This is neither spring nor summer, which were abrogated in perpetuity as a condition of statehood in 1959. Some pioneers, the ones who collect raingevity and icegevity bonuses, claim spring and summer went south even earlier than statehood.

What we get is the too-short absorbent season that falls irregularly between the too-common repellent season.

Absorbent began on Thursday, April 24 at whatever time each of us awakened. I put it all at risk by beginning to write this column at 5:48 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30. Another example of the liberal media's callous disregard for the warmth? You'll let me know, I'm sure.

"This is why we live here!" exulted my friend, Mike, on the first day of absorbency.

Yeah, but it's not just the sunshine and record-breaking temperatures against a backdrop of forested and snow-capped mountains perched on the edge of an ocean. No. McDonald's has added premium salads! Just kidding. (As will be revealed in a future edition of the health and science journals to which we all subscribe, the "lettuce" in the new McSalads will turn out to be farm-raised in British Columbia and injected with green dye No. 2.)

But I digress. Why stop now?

Yeah, it's not all those wonderful things. It's those wonderful things and the boatload of freshly caught halibut my wife and I watched being unloaded at the Taku Smokeries dock early Wednesday.

"The average fish in the average catch is around 40 pounds," explained the friendly federal marine biologist-monitor as my wife and I soaked up the action above the F.V. Ida Lee. "But the fish in this catch average about 80 pounds. This skipper may not have to go out again this season."

Our commentator earned a master's degree in marine sciences. My expertise is limited to this principle of marine science: Halibut taste as good as they are ugly. But I'm thinking the average fish was way more than 80 pounds.

"That one probably weighs 250," the biologist said, nodding toward an eviscerated halibut.

A few minutes later an even larger fish got away from the two dockhands who were trying to lift it into one of the huge plastic tubs that awaited the catch. How big was the fish? So big that with one man at the fish's head and another at its tail, it could be lifted no more than a few inches off the planks of the dock.

They waved for the forklift driver, who directed two industrial-strength tines under the belly of the halibut and raised it chest high, from whence the dock workers pushed and pulled it into the tub.

Near the water's surface below us, a loose formation of thousands of salmon smolts, or so we believe the species to have been, met and merged with a similar formation of fish. They formed a swirl of protein of the type we have observed most days for more than two weeks. Absent today, though, were the tens of thousands of hooligan who recently visited the protected waters beneath the cruise ship docks.

It was low tide. Three overweight starfish, among several dozen, were stranded on the rocks inches above the waterline. One appeared to have been pecked to death. Nearby, ravens squawked unconvincing alibis.

On a lamppost near a tourist bench, a bald eagle with chest feathers more brown than black surveyed the unsuspecting sea- gulls floating on and flapping just above the channel.

Yes, 'tis the absorbent season. Get outside and soak it up for as long as it lasts.

Steve Reed can be reached at streed@juneauempire.com.



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