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How The World Wags

Vox Populi #4
  By Dave Kiffer

June 24, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - For those of you all playing along at home, the PBY on EBAY ("Going Once..") didn't get a high enough bid to meet its unkstated reserve, but I received a lot of feedback on that column. If we all chip in a buck we might be able to get it after all. Some internet research indicates that there are quite a few old PBYs sitting in Moses Lake after all. It seems that someone was trying to corner the world market in the old amphibians. Go figure.

jpg Dave Kiffer

As an aside, someone has been selling reproduction PBY flight manuals on EBAY recently. The perfect gift for armchair travelers who don't want to get wet when the bubble leaks.

There was also a lot of interest in my column about teaching Latin in the local schools ("Progress"). My statement that it hadn't been in my lifetime was not correct. Respondents indicated that Latin in some form was still alive and sort of well at Kayhi into the early 1970s. I was also reminded that in the late 1960s a high school student came into one of my classes at Houghtaling Elementary and taught us Latin for a few weeks. I don't remember any of the Latin, but I remember the high school student had long dark hair and was very, very, very pretty. I also remember her name, but I won't embarrass her!

Several folks took me to task for implying that life would be better if we all studied Latin. I never said better, I said different. The last thing I want to do it pull up to the drive thru and have to say "Da mihi sis bubulae frustrum assae, solana tuberosa in modo gallico fricta, ac quassum lactatum coagulatum crassum." (my spell check is going ballistic right now).

I have also had a few folks inquire how the "License Plate Bingo" is going thus far this summer. I just saw a Quebec plate (je me souviens!) last week, so that was pretty cool and relatively rare. Thus far, I have "collected" all but six American states (Georgia, Maine, Delaware, Kentucky, North Dakota, West Virginia). Georgia and Maine will likely be spotted, but the others are definitely rare in these here parts. As a reminder that the higher power has a sense of humor, I was in Sitka a few weeks ago and almost immediately spotted a North Dakota plate, but it doesn't count as "Ketchikan" license plate bingo. If you could do that then I'd hop a plane to Denali National Park and get all 50 states in about 10 minutes.

At least two people asked me why my Dad's trolling boat ("The Beginning") was called the Gony. We really don't know. The little (32 feet) black and white double ender was built in Metlakatla long before my Dad got it in the late 1940s. We suspect someone wanted to name it the "Gooney" as in Gooney-bird and just misspelled it, but who knows? The column also brought forth several remembrances of the cruise ships in the dawn of "big tourism" in the 1970s and 1980s. It's amazing how quaint those early "Love Boats" seemed compared to today's leviathans.

There remain a few stalwart "spell checkers" out there who take great joy in pointing out whenever a misspelling or typo creeps into the column. A couple of weeks ago, someone called me "incompetent" for not running spell-check on the column each week. For your information, I just did run one on this column (so far). It recommends that I change
"PBY" to "pubis" and "Houghtaling" to "Highballing." It would be a decidedly different column then.

A longtime friend emailed in to dispute my characterization of my Little League "career" ("Hits and Misses"). He said it was unqualified success. The fact that I couldn't hit the ball meant that he got to play more. That's nice. After all "I'm just here to help the team."

My former teammate also quibbles when it comes to the efficacy of Larry Settje's fastball. He says it wasn't that fast or that hard to hit. I remember him crying for about an hour after one of those
"no so" fastballs tagged him on the thigh. Meum partum dictum!

There were about a million responses to the columns about what we hear from and tell the tourists each summer. Suffice to say that truth remains stranger than fiction on both fronts. I'm saving the best of those for a future column on "Unanswerable Questions."

In "Jury of Peers" I noted that someone claimed "Post traumatic stress disorder" after a bumpy plane flight. A reader wrote in this week to note that medicinal marijuana is used to fight the symptoms of PTSD. Perhaps the airlines should look into a little "self-medicating" prior to each flight. At the very least, it would cut down on the stress engendered when planes are late or kept on the tarmac for unwieldy delays. No "flight rage" when everyone is "cool" and has completely lost all track of time.  But the skimpy pretzel snacks (oh, where have you gone oh "Golden Samovar" service?) would be a non-starter. I guess the airlines would have to weigh the cost/benefit ratio of "cooler" heads versus serious "munchies." As they say, no good turn goes unstoned.

And with that.Absum! Me transmitte sursum, caledoni!

(I'm finished, beam me up, Scotty!)


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2005

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