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20 June 2007

Our inaugural fish came through the machines yesterday with much fanfare and many problems. Given the brand new status of the plant and machines, problems were expected, but the crazy running around panic of the day made for some extreme stress. The entire time I have been here has been manic.

We were all working a pretty solid 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule, but the nearer the first opening (there is a set schedule when the fisherman can catch fish), the longer hours to get everything ready. Late last week, the Europeans came in. Sixty or so Russians, Poles and a few Turks and Ukrainians to add to our assorted American posse.

With the certificate of occupancy for the new bunkhouse cleared, we picked up most of the Europeans from the airport and moved them to the plant with the help of a local tour group’s converted school bus and luggage van. Mid-herding, the luggage van rolls up, driven by none other than Moscow’s bastard son, J. Horn. I saw him walking that afternoon then later at the (Pioneer) P Bar that night, then at the airport the next morning where he took me on the hotel/airport shuttle run….then later at the P Bar again. I also saw an Alaskan girl named Carrie who I remember from Moscow and who worked at this plant in the winter construction phase.

I have met a shit load of people here. Unlike the remote plants, I now live in a thriving little community. Because of the construction, I know a good cross-section of the townspeople: plumbers, electricians, drywallers, supply store employees; because of my position with the company, I meet the UPS, Fed-Ex and AML drivers; and because of the nature of the industry, I know a couple boatloads of fishermen. The other night, we showed up to the P Bar for an Alaskan Amber or two, and the boat boys who had unloaded some of our first fish were there and all had freshly-shorn mohawks. They were Jason, Joe, Josh and Jay; we were Jessie and Joey. J shots for all!

Sitka is a relatively small town (less than 10,000 residents), and the airport has a set schedule with a couple of flights a day. When people fly in on the night flight, Sarah has to go pick them up, and I went with her one night. The arrivals were getting in the way of our after-work beers, and she’s in the office all day, so I had to spend time with her somehow. We left at 10:30 p.m. and got back to our Presbyterian dorms about 12:45. Strange work hours.

This last weekend, I finally made it to more than just the P Bar. A few of us met at the Westmark for a couple beers. It was a nice place for a sit-down drink, but I can imagine it’s probably filled with a lot of geriatric tourists in the day. From there, we walked to the Victoria Pour House, small but fun; half hotel; no smoking. It’s nice, but there’s just nothing that beats the Pioneer and its thick smoke haze, salty old patrons and walls covered in pictures of boats. Both Friday and Saturday I made it to bed about 2 or 3 a.m. which is not enough time to sleep before 6:20 wake-up. Not surprisingly I have a wicked cold I have been battling since the weekend’s end.

But…tonight is the summer solstice, and it’s just a little bit cooler in Alaska. We’re fairly far southeast, so it’s not extreme midnight sun like Fairbanks, but when I was trying to get to sleep last night at 11, the light was bothersome. I would estimate about 5 hours of darkness right now. Anyway, that’s reason to celebrate until the sun goes down.