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Off to see the 'Wizard'

One of the Glendale Union High School District's treasured teachers is retiring after 30 years of casting, directing and producing - and sometimes holding sets together with duct tape and a prayer.

But before she leaves, 54-year-old Esta Rosevear and her Greenway High School students are putting on the production of a lifetime: The Wizard of Oz. One of the original "Munchkins" who appeared in the 1939 movie, Margaret Pelligrini, will be the guest of honor for opening night on Tuesday. Pelligrini has been invited to take the stage 15 minutes before curtain and tell tales of life in the Technicolor world of Munchkin Land.

Follow the yellow brick road.

"One of my lifelong dreams has been to really see this country," Rosevear said. "I have glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, and there's no way to know when life might become difficult. I want to eat lobster in Maine, watch a Florida sunset, visit Yosemite Valley and see a bit of Canada."

February 27, 2004 in people | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawmakers Write to 'West Wing' Character

People, it's just a television show.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. John McHugh are picking a fight with the fictional "West Wing" over a scene aired Wednesday night in which an aide discussed closing a real-life New York military base.

And remember, the President doesn't really have MS, although that could explain the cognitive problems.

More here.

February 27, 2004 in entertainment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cabin life isn't for everyone

Big Ray is gone now. He left about a month ago -- for good. He only got here in August. But I'll miss him. I liked his cologne; you don't smell that in Haines often. And his East Coast accent and his quick wit. He reminded me of people I grew up with.

At first, Big Ray loved Haines and bought a cabin near ours thinking he would live off the land, hunt, fish and zoom around in speedboats in the summer and snowmachines in the winter. He'd take his giant new truck four-wheeling in the backcountry out his cabin door.

The trouble is that the Chilkat Peninsula doesn't have wide-open spaces. It's mostly homes on a few acres and protected state park land. The woods are hilly and dense. There's one main road.

Hunting season is about a month a year, and legal bull moose are hard to find. The lake at the end of the road has brook and cutthroat trout, but they are not like the pictures Big Ray saw in Alaska magazine. The biggest ones are 8 inches long.

Aside from a few rambling brown bears, the biggest game on Ray's five acres of alder and spruce were porcupines.

And there were neighbors. Ray had about a dozen off in the woods and down on the road. They range from retirees in new dream homes to serious environmentalists, the kind who wouldn't sign up for electricity or phone service even when the power company put the lines in. All of Ray's neighbors like to walk on the dirt road past Ray's place. Which meant Big Ray couldn't shoot his rifle in the yard.

Ray's nearest neighbor was not the wise old sourdough he might have expected either. The man has a shack in the bushes and a junk truck Ray could see from his house. He limps from an old gunshot wound his girlfriend gave him and, when he's drinking, disappears for weeks at a time.

We spent last weekend at our cabin. Big Ray's snowmachine trail had melted and thawed enough since his departure that the two-mile hike up was like walking on an icy balance beam. If we missed it, we fell up to our hips in crusty snow. It was so bad it was funny.

When we finally got to our cabin, we worked quickly to get a fire going in the wood stove, hand-pump water for drinking and dishes and shovel a path to the outhouse. While the house warmed up, the kids played outside and we used the last light to snowshoe around the lake.

We walked by the Podsikis' old house. It is the picture-perfect Alaska farmhouse with porches, gables and a storybook barn against a backdrop of distant mountains.

Greg Podsiki built it and lived there with his family before moving into town when the kids were all in school.

One night, when we were coming up for the weekend, we caught up to Greg's headlamp on the trail. Deep, wet snow had stopped his snowmobile. He had to walk home with a backpack full of groceries and a 5-gallon container of fuel for the generator in one hand and a 5-gallon water jug in the other.

Greg was, as always, cheerful, but as we skied by him, enjoying our winter night, we knew we were playing at rural life. Unlike Greg, we could go home to do laundry, shower and make phone calls. We didn't have to be up here tonight if we didn't want to. But we admired him enough that we hope to live on this lake just as he did when all our children are out of school.

Big Ray did not find joy -- or even use the bragging rights he'd earned -- in roughing it. As winter bore down on him, he bought a bigger generator, built a real bathroom and put up a satellite TV dish.

He was still not happy. "I'm going crazy here," he said. "There's nothing to do, and there's no sun. My skin is green. I don't know how you can stand it."

I was thinking about that when our cabin came back into view, with lights in the window and smoke coming out of the chimney. "How can you stand it?" he had said. How can I ever live anywhere else, I thought.

The last time we saw Big Ray, he was packing up his trailer and giant pickup for the trip to a ranch in New Mexico he said he had bought. He was going where he could drive to Vegas for the weekend. We said we hope he comes back. "No way," he said. "Never."

Inside the warm cabin, we sip cold beer, eat cheese and crackers and talk about Big Ray. "I guess this place isn't for everyone," my husband says. The fire pops, the dogs sigh and the children deal cards. "I don't think Haines is too quiet. Do you?"

Heather Lende lives and writes in Haines. She can be reached at hlende@adnmail.com.

From the February 26, 2004 in alaska, we don't care how they do it outside! | Permalink | Comments (0)

Poll Shows Americans Confused by Medicare Changes

American seniors are keenly interested in the new Medicare bill signed into law last December, but more than two-thirds are confused about it, according to a survey released on Thursday.

The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows just 15 percent of people over 65, who will be most affected by the new prescription drug law, understand it very well. And the younger general public understands it even less well.

More here.

February 26, 2004 in politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Twelve Tips For Finding An Accessible Hotel Room

Look for properties constructed after 1992. The Americans With Disabilities Act took effect in 1992 and properties constructed after this date usually have better access.

Read the list here.

February 24, 2004 in accessability, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Journalist and Author Richard Cohen on NPR

He's a former senior producer for CBS News and CNN with three Emmys to his credit. For the past 30 years he's lived with multiple sclerosis, even continuing to work in a war zone shortly after the diagnosis and with failing eyesight. He's written a new memoir called Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness/A Reluctant Memoir.

Listen to the FreshAir interview here.
Buy the book here.

February 24, 2004 in people | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Sanctity of Marriage

Perhaps sensing that the Bob Jones University crowd might not be as motivated towards electoral politics as they would like, the Bush administration has come out of the closet supporting a Constitutional amendment to cement the status of gay and lesbian Americans as second-class citizens. Casting the amendment as necessary to protect the "sanctity of marriage," Bush has found the perfect issue to move the debate towards more comfortable ground than the war in Iraq, the economy, and his Vietnam era service record. But with each passing day, the spectacle of the ongoing celebration of love and devotion by monogamous gay couples in San Francisco is convincing more and more heterosexual Americans that married gays pose no real threat to them, or to the sanctity of their marriages. So, to avoid the perception that this amendment is really a political stunt designed by Karl Rove to mobilize Bush's base, Bush needs to go further, get out in front of the curve, and really push for getting the amendment passed. I have a few suggestions for the Bush team.

More here.

February 24, 2004 in humor, politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Data Challenge Theories of Multiple Sclerosis

A new view of multiple sclerosis (MS) may arise from the first extensive study of brain tissue from the earliest hours during a bout of the disease. The results, published February 23, 2004, in the advance on-line edition of the Annals of Neurology, suggest that the earliest event is not, as previously believed, a misguided immune system attack on a brain substance called myelin.

Instead, the first event appears to be the death of the brain cells that produce myelin, triggering a subsequent immune system mop-up operation to clean up the cells and the myelin, said author John W. Prineas, MBBS, of the University of Sydney in Australia.

More here.

February 22, 2004 in research, worth following... | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Your Religion Unsanitary? Is God telling you to love war? Loathe gays? Restrict women? Join the godless throngs now!

Is your god really, really angry right now?

Is your god telling you, like it tells G.W. Bush every night, that your unwanted unprovoked ultraviolent war against a nearly defenseless nation is not only justified and righteous, but is His deepest wish?

And does your religion tell you, like it tells so many of the Christian Right, that homosexuals are a dire threat to humankind and should be stopped at all costs before the so-called gay agenda sneaks into the playground and the drinking water and the "Spongebob" scripts and starts covertly converting our blessed innocent hetero children to a life of sin?

Or maybe it instructs that gay people are simply misled, morally derailed by a hunky leather-clad Satan with great hair and Prada sandals, and, despite that sad fact, they are still all God's children and should therefore be pitied and patronized and helped over their "sickness?"

Join here.

February 22, 2004 in spirituality | Permalink | Comments (0)

Farwell Pat

Much loved husband, son, brother, uncle and friend Patrick Joseph Ferree lost a valiant fight for life and succumbed to cancer at home, surrounded by family and friends, in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, 2004, while the snow he loved so much fell quietly outside.

More here.

Just returned from Pat's memorial service. He was a wonderful man that left us much too soon.

February 22, 2004 in people | Permalink | Comments (0)