Tuesday, September 15, 2020

How I got myself to Sandpoint, Alaska.-1982

OM - Lead us from the unreal to the real,

          Lead us from the Darkness to light,

          Lead us from death to immortality.


My friend Robert Sergei and I left Green Bay, Wisconsin on the First of May and we made a pit stop at a small town called Little Suamico where Robert had some friends who were setting about to plant some 500 pine trees as an ecological venture. From there we set our journey West towards Seattle Washington which took us three days. We traveled in Rob's car a beat up Chevy Nova that had leaky fuel tank that had to be refilled every 60 miles or so; it was long and arduous journey where we slept by the roadside parks all the way when nights fell. I hardly knew Rob whom I met a month or so before the trip where we had a two man art exhibition at the Belin Hospital in Green Bay; Rob was a photographer and I was very impressed by his works which were mostly taken in, the Aleutians, Alaska. The pictures were so out of this world in nature that I became obsessed making a trip to the places they were taken even if theyw ould take me to Alaska and that was how I persuaded myself into buying a one way ticket North to Alaska.



I met Ms.Judy Pennini on the fourth of July 1982 after out fishing for Halibuts for ten days out in the Bering Sea along with four other crew members including the Captain. We had a good catch and had headed for the only restaurant in town, the Windward Cafe ran by two young ladies, Ms. Judy and Ms.Brenda, both from the 'Lower 48s'. How i made my acquaintance with Judy was perhaps one episode that the fishing community including the Boat owners and crew of most of those present for the Halibut season at Sandpoint, would forever cherish as a story worth laughing over as a fish tale. It being the 4th of July, the Windward Cafe was jam packed with customers who most had returned for the occasion; it was a mixed bunch of rough tough fishermen and well mannered lords and ladies of the small fishing community and most were two sheets to the wind. Being the last to enter the place, the crew of the Iceland led by her Captain Donald Bark sat at the first table closest to the door. When we entered I got the feeling like what was going through everyone's mind as they turned to notice our entry, the saying,"Look what the cat dragged in!" never rang more true in my mind; we were a filthy mess fresh from the sea, with no time to shit shower or shave. I might have been the only colored guy among the Aleuts and their spouses and the red necks from down south. To help celebrate the occasion and our bountiful catch, the crew of the Iceland had also just emptied a whole bottle of Jack Daniels, so much of what happened was like in a daze to me and beyond my control, pretty much

As we sat facing the whole crowd of rumbling conversations of fishermen recapping their tales of the first halibut run which lasted for ten days, I noticed one of the ladies making  pizza delivery with two large pizzas in her hands walking and I felt all my senses came alive. Her view from behind especially her long curly hair reminded me of  someone I had left behind me in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Before I knew it I blurted out loud,"I am in love!" The whole room fell dead silenced and even the dog that was lying close to the door asleep raised uup her head to see what was happening. The waitress/owner of the cafe stopped dead in her track and turned around slowly to face me from the distance and seeing her looks I blurted out again and this time even louder, "I am, in Love!" I felt the Captain's hand grabbing mine under the table and he leaned close to my ear and whispered quite tersely, "Shut the fuck up!" That was how I came to let myself be known to the Sandpoint community and the rough tough fishermen and especially to Judy Pennini of who I was. We ended up living together in her trailer home for the next two years or so. Of all the members of the FV Iceland I might have made the best catch of the season.
Mr. Phil Rowe, a former Biker for the Hell's Angels in LA, Calfornia was a crew member of the Iceland, he was also an artist. We almost went head to toe while in the midst of hauling in the lines one dark windy night on the Iceland and was stopped short by the Captain who stood by the galley door with a gun in his hand. We became good friends after that.


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