Rocking Petersburg Alaska

Sons of Norway Hall

Late last week I traveled with my band, Fire On McGinnis to Petersburg, Alaska. We were invited out to Petersburg to rocked their annual Oktoberfest Celebration. It was a challenge for us getting all five members of the band and our musical gear to the town of around 2,800 people. But seeing all the happy people of Petersburg as we took the stage at the Sons of Norway Hall made our adventure of playing outside of Juneau totally worth it.

Wednesday even several of us loaded up an old musty orange van with all of our musical gear. We were being careful to load things in a way that would not damage anything during the transport. After the van was loaded Mark, one of our guitar players, would drive the van down to the ferry docks and the rest of us would meet up with  him there before loading up on the ferry for our eight hour boat trip to Petersburg.

On the ferry we all gathered in the galley. With a guitar and fiddle we played music for most of the whole eight hour trip. It was a lot like this.

It was after dark when we landed in Petersburg and that did not stop the mayor of the town from meeting us at the dock. He along with his wife took us to the Sons of Norway Hall where we unloaded all our gear and setup most of everything. When we finished that evening we headed to the Tides Inn to crash for the night. We would be staying at the Tides Inn for the next two nights.

When we woke up the next morning we all got some breakfast/lunch before heading back to the Sons of Norway Hall to finish setting up the sound system and performing a sound check. Sound check ran a little longer than normally, but we where in a new place with different acoustics. I was also testing out for the first time a pair of wireless monitors which are just expensive ear buds that act as my monitors so I can hear the rest of the band. They where working pretty well during the sound check.

We finished our sound check just as the people of Petersburg starting bringing in their home made chili and beer to be judged at the Oktoberfest Celebration. I had some really fantastic corn bread.

There was some time to kill before we where scheduled to play so Mike, another guitar player in the band, and I headed to the local radio station. We wanted to stop in and thank them for advertising the show and for playing our band’s CD on the air the last several days.

When we returned from the radio station the winners of the chili cook off and home beer brewing contests where bring announced. Once that was finished we took the stage to a packed hall. Our set started off with the normal ‘Bells of Dunblane’ which leads directly into the high energy of ‘Paddy’s’. Not one minute into ‘Paddy’s’ and my earbud monitors slipped out of my ears because I was sweating. They would be useless to me for the rest of the show which was not good because this ment I could not hear the band well. To compensate for this I had to play quieter than I normally do and really follow the visual queues and body language of the rest of the band. This worked out well enough that I made it through the whole show with out making to many mistakes.

We played two sets that night and the high energy of the people of Petersburg kept us all going. They all cheered and danced as we played our music. It was amazing.

We ended our second set with a song I had not played live before called ‘Snow Light’. At the end of the song each member of the band takes their turn putting down their instrument and walking off the stage leaving only me on stage playing the basic beat to the song on my drums. One limb at a time I stop playing the song. First my left hand which I use to play the Snare drum. Than my right leg stopped hitting the bass drum and finally my right hand stop playing the shakers. I stood up and waved good night to everyone, but before I could get off stage everyone in the hall was chanting “One More Song!” over and over again.

We could not leave like that so we all took the stage one more time to play one of my favorite ‘Fire On McGinnis’ songs, ‘Charlie And The Wheelbarrow’.

At the end of the night we where all thanked heavily by everyone in the hall. They where so happy that we came out to play and put on such a good show. After the fact I heard that the event raised twice as much money as they did the year prior.

We packed our equipment back up into the old orange van and hung out by the docks. Mike, picked up some cigars and we all had a celebratory smoke as we talked about how amazing the night was. Its not a night, or a gig for that matter, that I will soon forget.

With the van packed up and everything ready for the ferry ride to Juneau the next day we all walked over to a local bar called, ‘Kito’s Kave’. When we walked in we where greeted by everyone in the bar hollering “Hey, it’s the band!” Several people came up to us and shook our hands and said ‘Hi’ and thanked us for coming out. It was clear to me that Petersburg was very grateful to have a night of great food and music.

The next morning Mike and Martha decided to get up early and fly back home to Juneau. Three of us, including myself, stayed back with the gear to catch the ferry home that afternoon. We met up at Seaside House Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant, which was over the water atop pilots, made me quite nervous as it seemed to sway back and forth randomly. The ferry was supposed to leave sometime around 1PM. Mark said that on his way over to lunch he stopped by the ferry and saw that the departure time was pushed back a couple of hours and we all just assumed that the ferry was running late. So we had a long lunch and spent the time talking mostly about how well the show went.

When we got to the ferry we were told that the boat left just after 1PM. Mark said “But the sign?”. The guys in the ferry house came out to look at the sign and admitted that they changed the times on the sign, but failed to update the date. The later ferry date was for next week. So as a result we missed our ferry ride home. Shocked and a little upset we changed our tickets to the next day. Luckily there was a ferry leaving the next day late in the afternoon. The eight hour trip means we would not be back in Juneau till 5:15 Monday morning.

Facing the fact that we where going to have to spend another night in Petersburg we checked back into the Tides Inn for another night. The nice people at the Inn gave us a discounted rate after hearing our tale of missing the ferry.

After we got settled back into our rooms Mat, the bass player, and myself decided to go catch a movie. Petersburg does not have a movie theater. Rather the high school students of Petersburg run a program where they bring a movie into town and play it in the high school auditorium. So sitting in the auditorium the two of us watch ‘Contagion‘.

Before calling it a night we also went back to ‘Kito’s Kave’ where the bar was having an 80s themed night with 80s music and most people dressed in 80s garb. It was pretty fun.

The next morning was a slow and lazy one which we spent loitering around town till it was dark. Than we made our way to the ferry dock and hung out till after 8PM when the ferry finally loaded.

We all had a lot of fun in Petersburg. I have never come into a community and felt so welcomed in all my life. Thank you people of Petersburg for inviting us out and letting us play some music for you all. I hope you will have us out again.

License Plate Punch

My wife and I play this little game whenever we go out called the ‘License Plate Punch’ game. I am sure this game goes by other names through out the verse, but this is what we call it here. I think I started playing it with her shortly after moving to Alaska. I remember seeing a Hawaiian license plate in town and thinking to myself that getting a car from Hawaii to Juneau can’t be the easiest thing in the world to do. I was reminded of playing the ‘License Plate Punch’ game with my friends back in Washington state so when I saw it I reached over and punched my wife on the shoulder. It was not a hard punch mind you. Not the kind that Ralph Kramden would threaten Alice with that would send her to the moon. No, this was more of a tap on the shoulder than punch.

My wife quickly picked up on the simple rules. You see an out of state license plate while driving around and you gently punch the person next to you.

That was all fine and good, but now the problem is my wife keeps making additions to the rules without telling me. Its become a game for me just to figure out what these new rules are since the only way I find out about them is by getting punched. Just recently I learned that I can get punched via cell phone text message. Who knew?

I have figured out some of these new rules. They are:

  • You can get punched if the other person sees an instate plate, but only once a day.
  • You no longer need to be in the car to get punched.
  • If the car just happens to be really cool you will get punched.
  • You can now get punch via cell phone.

4th of July Music

My band, Fire on McGinnis played a show at a local bar in downtown Juneau. Starting at around 10:15PM on July 3rd and finishing up at 2:30AM on July 4th (I have written before about how Juneau, AK celebrates the holiday by doing its fire work show the morning of the 4th) I was quite sore and tired after all was said and done, but I had such a good time playing for so many awesome people. Check out the couple of YouTube videos below from our performance.

Thanks goes to Bo Anderson for making these recordings. I really appreciate buddy!

Playing A Show July 3rd For Independence Day

I am pretty excited about this. My band, Fire on McGinnis will be playing a 4th of July show on July 3rd at the Rendezvous bar.

Some of you who are not from Juneau Alaska might be scratching your heads and wondering; why on earth should he be excited about playing a show the day before the 4th of July? Well the answer is this. Because in Juneau its light out most of the day this time of year. The only time it gets dark enough to celebrate Independence Day in Juneau is at 12:01 AM on the morning of the 4th.

I have always had a good time playing shows at the Rendezvous and I am looking forward to this one. So if you happen to find yourself on Franklin street celebrating the holiday come on over to the bar and celebrate with us!

Roof Top Gig

Silver Bow
Silver Bow

The band I drum for Fire On Mcginnis, has an opportunity to play a roof top gig above the Silver Bow in Juneau this Friday, July 1st. This last Sunday a couple of members of the band and myself headed over to the Silver Bow to check out the roof and to start figuring out the logistics of getting all our equipment up all the stair cases as well as how we where going to get power for all the amps.

My breath was taken away as I saw the view looking over the capital city. I snapped some pictures with my iPhone to share with everyone. If something happens with the weather or whatever that might prevent us from playing I am really glad I had the opportunity to see all this. I don’t know how many people get to look out over roof tops and see what I saw, but it was beautiful.

The band and I now have a mental plan of how we are going to get everything setup and we will be spending the next couple of weeks working with the owner the business so we can make it all happen. Lets just hope the weather works with us. I can’t imagine doing anything cooler right now than playing a roof top gig in downtown Juneau Alaska.

Opting Out Of TSA Body Imaging Scanners

On Saturday, April 23rd 2011 My wife and I where traveling home to Juneau, Alaska from Seattle. We had come to Washington State two weeks prior to have our wedding together surrounded by our family and friends. The end of our trip was punctuated by having to submit to an embarrassing full body pat-down by a TSA agent.

As Hannah and I arrived at Seattle’s international airport the afternoon of Saturday, Aril 23rd everything was going pretty normally. We received our boarding passes and checked our bags than proceeded to the north security check point. A tattooed TSA agent (I feel safe already) checked both of our IDs and Tickets before waving us on. Hannah and I proceeded to the first available line to remove our laptops, shoes, jackets and anything metal into the white plastic bins for X-Raying. My wife was directed to a normal metal scanner on the left and I was directed to go through the body imaging scanner on the right. I looked at the TSA agent who directed me down this path and pointed at the body imaging scanner and said “I don’t want to go through this. I opt out”

“You don’t want to go through this?” she asked

“No I don’t”.

“Ok, wait here on the side.”

The TSA agent than called for someone to perform a pat-down for a male. I waited for a short moment and was than directed by another TSA agent to the end of the security line where all my belongings where being carried to. I was then told by the agent that he would be performing a full body pat-down. It was at this time I requested a police officer to observe the pat-down.

“You want a police officer?”

“Yes”, I said “To observe the pat-down”

The TSA officer looked shocked as if no one ever asked for a police officer to observe them doing a pat-down. The agent then hollered across to his supervisor who appeared to be setting at a computer terminal “This person is requesting a police officer to observe his pat-down”.

The supervising TSA officer came down and asked “You are refusing to be patted-down”?

When on earth did I ever say I refused? Are they just looking for a reason to keep me out of the air port? “No”, I said “I am asking that a police officer be present for my pat-down”

This TSA agent looked just ask shocked at my request as the first one. I can’t be the only person here who feels that this procedure is a violation of my rights and my privacy. I find it so hard to believe that I am the only person who has asked that the police observe this at Seattle’s international airport.

“Hang on”, he said and walked back over to his computer terminal and picked up a phone. When he came back he told me that I could take my belongings and step back out of security, back to where I got my boarding pass and contact the police to have them observe my pat down.

I looked at him with a strange look on my face and asked “When I came into the airport I saw two police officers on Segways. I have to now step out of security and call them? Can’t you just radio them over here?” I was started to get frustrated.

“No” He said “If you want an officer to view your pat-down it is your responsibility to request them. You can gather up your items and proceed back out of security and this agent will follow you.”

It was at that moment the mobile phone in his hand rang. As he answered it the other TSA agent who was going to give me my special touches moments before instructed me to start gathering my things. I proceeded to put on my belt and jacket when the TSA agent on the phone motioned for me stop. He finished his conversation and hung up.

“You will not have to go back outside of security. You can contact 911 from here. Do you have a mobile phone?”

“Yes” I answered.

“You can use it to call 911 and request an officer”. he said

I grabbed my phone from one of the white bins and started to enter 911 when I asked “Is 911 the appropriate number for this situation”?

“Yes” he responded

I entered 911 from my phone and hit send.

“Hello, 911 emergency”.

“Hi, Yes”. I said a little nervously. “I am currently at Seattle’s International airport and I would like to request an officer to observe my TSA pat-down.”

“Please stay on the line”, said the 911 operator. I could hear the line click and ring once before another a new person answered.

“Hello, 911 emergency”.

“Yes, I am currently at Seattle’s International airport and I would like to request an officer to observe my TSA pat-down.”

“Oh, yeah, sure not a problem” said the 911 operator. “Which security gate are you at”?

“I am at the north security gate”.

“I will have someone there shortly. Thank you”.

“Thank you”, I said and hung up. “An officer will be here shortly he said.” I told this to the TSA agents waiting.

We all waited for the Police officer to show up. When he did appear the TSA supervisor agent greeted him and stated “He wants an officer to observe his pat-down”. Again saying this like it was the oddest request he had ever heard.

The officer came up to me and shook my hand and introduced himself. He then proceeded to stand-off to the side and “Observe” my pat-down. I say “observe” because the officer’s eyes were glued to his cell phone the entire time of my pat-down.

At this point the TSA agent who was waiting around to give me my pat-down started to explain the process. He would be going over my body with the back of his hands. Starting with my back to him he would rub the back of his hands from the back of my neck all the way down to my heels. Then I would turn around and he would do the same down my front avoiding my genitals. He also explain that he would be checking the waist of my pants.

The agent started by having me turn my back to him while he rubbed what I have to assume was the back of his hands down my back side. I Looked over my shoulder at the police officer who was glued to his cell phone. The TSA agent rubbed what I have to assume where the back of his hands over my ass in a down word motion several times. He did this over my cloths. He spent more time on my ass than any other part of my body. I was feeling that this was very inappropriate and became even more nervous.

He then put what felt like two fingers from each hand inside the waist of my pants a felt all the way around. I should have jumped. I should have said something. I should have indicated that I was not comfortable with this. I should have voiced something to make this agent stop. The fact was that I was just to nervous at the time. I was shaking and scared. This is just not right.

He eventually continued down to my legs. He felt down my legs and the sides of my legs. He asked me to turn around and he proceeded to do the same thing down the front of my body, but avoided my genitals, but only by an inch or two. When he got to my legs he would wrap his hands around my legs and from just below my genitals and slide his hands down each leg. The whole time he did this I watched as Seattle’s finest stay glued to his mobile phone. Thanks for the help big guy.

I have been reading a lot about the TSA fully body scanners and the advanced pat-downs users are having to submit to if they opt out. Users experiences of opting out of the body scanners have been scary. Some people are being told they can no longer opt out. Others are being touched inappropriately (Do you think children should be submitted to this?). If you have been reading the same information I have your next question might be; did I feel that my privacy was violated? Did I feel embarrassed? Do I feel I was touched in ways only my wife should ever be allowed to touch me? That answer to all of these is a very strong HELL YES!

The irony of this is that I had my cigar cutter in my pocket the whole time and the TSA agent didn’t find it.

Hannah managed to catch a small portion of my pat-down on video. In the video you can see myself being patted-down and the police officer looking down at his cell phone. I am doing my best to not show how upset I am.

In hindsight I should have written down the police officers name and badge number. I will just have to chalk that one up to lack of experience and try and do better next time. I hope their will never be a next time. This is seriously not right.

As the two of use left the security screening area and proceeded to the elevator we shared our ride down with a custodian. I asked her “Do you have to submit to these full body imagine scanners?”

“Nope” She said “We all refuse to use them”.

How interesting I thought to myself.

Hannah and I both have a friend who is also a pilot for a major airline. He has told us a couple of times that none of the airline pilots will let TSA use the full body scanners on them. I do find it funny that a government trying to implement a system that not even the pilots of the planes that fly in and out of these airports will par take in.

Where does one go from here? Well I have already contacted the airline I flew with and expressed my displeasure in what occurred.  As someone who flew first class and is upset I hope that my voice will carry a little weight with them. I have also contacted TSA and let them know I felt violated. What, if anything will come of my action I don’t know. I just know I am not the only person that feels this way. If we make our voices heard we can enact change.

A Wedding And The Lower 48

I really look forward to my trips down south. I love Alaska and Juneau. It’s beautiful in a way that words can not describe. I just find myself missing so many things about Washington State and the lower 48 states in general. Things like walking through a mall and being able to drive longer than 15 minutes.

In just over a week Hannah and I will be coming down to Washington state to get married. So this trip is really going to mean a lot to me. I am going to get to spend time with family and friends I have not seen in years. All these people I love and miss will be all close by for a couple of days as Hannah and I get married. I can’t imagen a more perfect trip.

Before family starts showing up for the wedding Hannah and I will get a chance to spend some time in Seattle and I also hope Bellingham, because Bellingham rocks! Will have a few last-minute wedding purchases to make and just get a chance to get out and see the real world for a change.