SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska




July 21, 2010

Ketchikan, Alaska - I've been taking it easy, the last couple of weeks.

I know, I know, how can anyone really tell when I take it easy?

It's like the story - probably not apocryphal - that when Dorothy Parker heard that former President Calvin Coolidge had died she said 'how can they tell?"

jpg Dave Kiffer

Sure, sure, I tend to trend toward any position that involves the couch.

Unfortunately, now I have a good excuse for watching all 346 hours of television coverage of the British Open this past week.

It all has to do with how much I love public art and how important it is for Ketchikan to have more of it.

Sort of.

I was standing on the dock the evening of the Fourth of July getting ready to give a speech celebrating the unveiling of Dave Rubin's wonderful new statue "The Rock."

If you haven't seen it, you really should. The figures are so lifelike that you would swear that Dave took the real life models and dipped them in bronze. Maybe he did. Has anyone seen any of those folks since the unveiling?

Anyway, I was accusing my good friend Blaine Ashcraft of trying "to kill me" earlier in the day by putting me on an unsafe parade float - actually it was a parade "boat on a trailer" but "float" sounds so much more festive.

At any rate, it was me, Char, Liam, and two other mayors on the float. (actually one other mayor and one deputy mayor, but who's counting?)

And no, Blaine didn't really try to kill me. It wasn't his fault that the trailer axel broke and the boat came to a screeching halt just before the end of the parade (insert your joke about "fat" cat politicians, here).

Hey, it could have been worse. If we had come to grief in the tunnel, the whole parade would have gotten bollixed up. Then we would have been stomped into the pavement by the 6,356 members of the Ketchikan Rainbird Youth Marching Squad. Not that that would have necessarily been a bad thing.

And, besides, no mayors - or family members - were actually hurt in the making of "The Day the Mayor's Float Broke."

Of course, being mayors we just climbed off the broken "float" and quickly scurried into the nearby crowds leaving someone else to take care of the mess.

I think one of the members of the Ketchikan Synchronized Fork Lift Team eventually came along and took care of the broken boat and trailer. Believe me, you don't want any mayors operating a fork lift.

But I was naturally playing up the severity of the situation because it is always fun when you can make your friends feel guiltier than they already are. Therefore, since Blaine put me in that boat, Blaine was "trying to kill me."

Of course, I was punctuating my tale of woe with lots of wild gesticulating.

But then I apparently stepped back with my right foot.

In another somewhat ironic twist (quite literally), I have always been opposed to the "concretification" of the Downtown Docks. Yes, I know that wooden docks are expensive and don't hold up well to the bumpings and nudges of the ever-growing Panamax armadas.

But somehow just being able to bend down and touch the old wooden docks gives me that connection to Ketchikan's history and all the boats and all the people that have used them over the years. I just know that my father-grandfathers-greatgrandfathers have all stumbled across those same docks in the past and that really gives me a warm feeling in the gland that tells me I have had more than enough and it is time to lie down.

The concrete replacements to those wooden docks feel like they could be anywhere in the world. The wooden docks just feel like here.

And not just to me.

Several years ago, I was taking a visiting dignitary on a quick tour of the Downtown and we were walking on the wooden docks and he bent down and touched the wood.

"That's something, that's really something," he said. "That's like nowhere else."

I'm sure there are still wooden docks elsewhere in the world, but I understood what he meant.

So I have - for the past several years - been one of the lone voices opposing the city's various attempts to turn the Downtown docks into Fort Lauderdale North.

And very UNSUCCESSFULLY, I might add.

The last wooden dock is scheduled to go bye-bye in the upcoming Berth 1 and 2 remodel, some $20 million dollars from now.

As usual, I digress.

One of the arguments, the city has always made is that besides the upkeep, the wooden docks are unsafe. Particularly for those who stumble over the uneven surface or trip on the cracks between the planks.

Oh, piffle, I have always replied.

What sort of idiot trips over cracks on the wooden dock?

Anyway, I stepped backwards as I was fulminating at Blaine for his attempt to "kill me" and the next thing I knew I was laying flat on my back and my foot was starting to swell into something of Panamax proportions.

Being a "tough guy" I got back up on my feet and hobbled around sniffling like a weenie for several minutes.

Blaine thought I had pulled an intentional, Chevy Chase sort of pratfall being that I was a politician after all. But actual politicians, especially this politician, don't have to pull pratfalls. They occur with regularity every few minutes anyway.

So I just soldiered on, did my speech, hobbled home and then Charlotte wisely suggested we visit the emergency room when it became obvious that we would have to cut a large hole in the side of the house in order to fit my still swelling foot inside.

Now personally, I like the emergency room. We've spent some quality family time there in the past and generally got pretty good care (although I'm not sure it says much for our family that we are on first name basis with all of the local emergency room doctors and nurses).

I really appreciate the fact that - in the ER - you get to repeat the story of how you came to grief to several different folks (don't they read the charts?) and therefore get to polish your story a bit before taking "on the road" to everyone else in town later.

I also like how they usually wait couple of hours before they administer the necessary pain medication. If they gave it to you right away, you clearly wouldn't appreciate how well it works, I'm certain.

Anyway, the verdict was a little pie shaped wedge out of the fifth metatarsal bone in my right foot. Natch, I was pleased because I - being a generally macho kind of guy - have always appreciated getting injuries that match my persona. It is good to get an injury that frequently only occurs to ultramarathon runners and soldiers quickstepping it into combat.

That was a relief. I would have hated to have caused all that hullabaloo and not actually had something "broken."

At very least, I can wave the X-ray in folks faces when they accuse me of "dogging" it.

I have also started handing out the "two to three weeks" of "keeping the foot elevated" prescription to anyone who questions my need to sit on the couch and watch 346 hours of television coverage of the British Open (I was going to settle in and watch the highlights of the recent World Cup, only there weren't any).

Of course, now I am also subjected every other person consoling me by saying "now that you're older" more things will break. As if I was a 95 year old, with a walker, suffering through my fourth or fifth broken hip!

My favorite reaction thus far was from either the third or fourth person at the ER to ask me what happened. When I started to explain the statue and the dedication, his eyes got really big.

"No," I quickly added. "They did not drop the three ton statue on my foot!"

Another friend has suggested that Dave add another bronze figure to "The Rock."

That of the Borough Mayor pratfalling his way off the back of it.


On the Web:

More Columns by Dave Kiffer

Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


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

Dave Kiffer ©2010

Publish A Letter in SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2010
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska