Recently the Betster took a little camping trip to one of those secret, awesome campgrounds that Alaskans don’t advertise lest they become overrun by tourists. Oh, the smart tourists find out anyway, especially if they know how to chat up locals, a craft finely honed by the Betster’s Uncle Mark.
Uncle Mark could have been one of those annoying old guys who drive strangers crazy, but he had a gift for making people feel at ease. Maybe it was the New Balance tennis shoes or maybe his infectious smile. Even in his late 70s he could charm women half his age. When he pulled up at a coffee shop in his vintage VW Westfalia camper, inside of 10 minutes he’d know the best place to get a pizza, the best campground within 150 miles and the easiest route to get there, because when you’re a retired Army paratrooper, who needs GPS? He’d even find out when to go to the best campground within 150 miles and avoid angry swarms of savage mosquitoes.
This is a lesson the Betster forgot.
The Best Campground within 150 Miles has great beaches, fantastic views, wonderful camping spots and fields of wildflowers. In August it has pretty good silver salmon fishing. But on a hot summer day with no breeze, the mosquitoes rise up and make even seasoned sourdoughs go nuts. This might be why on Friday night the campground had been packed and by noon Saturday it turned into a ghost town.
Well, some bug dope and a good screened porch and you can survive Alaska mosquitoes, though somehow they always sneak through the netting late at night and whine in your ear.
So be like Uncle Mark, fun, witty and inquisitive, and get solid information from locals, like maybe these best bets:
BEST LIVE FROM SPENARD BET: In partnership with Spenard Jazz Festival, Homer Council on the Arts presents Endless Field at 7 p.m. next Thursday, June 9, at the Homer Theater. The show will be a unique combination of live music and screening of in situ wilderness performances. Concessions will be open and beer and wine will be available for purchase. Tickets are available at HCOA and at homerart.org. $30 general, $25 HCOA member, $10 youth. Masks required except when eating or drinking.
Endless Field (Biophilia Records Artists) is a collaborative instrumental guitar and bass duo featuring guitarist Jesse Lewis and bassist Ike Sturm. They play original songs filled with intricate finger-style lines, improvisation and ambient textures. Drawing on inspiration from nature, the duo seeks to bring music to outdoor spaces, encouraging audiences to explore their own frontiers.
BEST MORE ART BET: Anchorage artist Tarryn Zerbinos couldn’t make First Friday last week for the opening of her show at Grace Ridge Brewing. She’s back in Alaska now and will visit the brewery from 5-7 p.m. Friday. If you missed First Friday, too, here’s another chance to see some art and meet another one of Alaska’s most excellent artists.
BEST LIVE FROM OLD TOWN BET: If you missed Endless Field on Thursday, or just want some more great live music, check out Wild Shore at 6:45 p.m. Friday at Bunnell Street Arts Center. The concert also will be broadcast live by KBBI Radio, AM 890, at 7 p.m., so the audience must be seated at 6:45 p.m. (and that’s real time, not Homer time). A composer talk is 6 to 6:45 p.m. Wild Shore is a New York-based, Alaska-raised chamber music collective featuring composer Joseph C. Phillips Jr. The ensemble features a composer portrait of Joe Phillips (Numinous) and is led by two New-York-based performers with deep Alaska roots: Andie Springer (violin) and Katie Cox (flute). Wildshore enlists other accomplished performers to create a dynamic chamber ensemble which presents concerts and outreach events in rural communities of Alaska. Phillips presents work “about my conscious acknowledgment of my heritage in popular and contemporary music and culture, but reflects a post-black aesthetic… Through a lens of individual experience, Changing Same explores some of this richness, diversity, and complexity of blackness in America during my lifetime.” To purchase tickets, visit https://bunnell-street-arts-center.square.site/concerts.
AND EVEN MORE ART BET: OK, maybe this state is so full of art awesomeness we need a second weekend to show it all. From 4-6 p.m. Saturday, the Pratt Museum & Park holds an opening reception for “Protection: Adaptation and Resilience,” with an artist’s talk at 5 p.m. According to the exhibit description, “In times of pandemic, climate crisis, and ongoing struggles for justice, how are Indigenous Alaska artists strengthening self and community, guiding the next generation from surviving to thriving? ‘Protection: Adaptation and Resilience’ centers Indigenous ways of knowing. Fifty-four artists with 16 projects elevate collaboration, allyship and community as tools of resistance, adaptation and cultural affirmation.”
BEST VOTE EARLY, BUT ONLY ONCE BET: With all sorts of wild conspiracy theories about elections, the Betster shouldn’t joke about elections. This is serious stuff, like choosing the next Congressperson to represent all Alaska. If you’ve been pondering who to choose out of 48 amazing candidates in the special election, time’s up. You have until Saturday, June 11, to check just one box and get your ballot signed, witnessed and postmarked. You also can drop off your ballot at Homer City Hall to make sure it’s received.
BEST REMEMBERING DUFFY BET: The Loved & Lost memorial bench for Anesha “Duffy” Murnane and other missing and murdered women will be dedicated starting at 1 p.m. with a memorial and the bench dedication at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, June 12, at the Homer Public Library. The Floating Leaf Meditation Community leads a mindfulness walk starting at noon around a loop at the library. The walk will be a joyful celebration of love and community; please dress your best in respect and bring your own water.
BEST SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL BET: If you’re new to Alaska or just visiting and haven’t experienced the thrill of a really big earthquake, check out the simulator from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, June 13 at Homer Middle School. It’s what Alaskans call “the uh-oh moment” (only we use stronger language) when a quake goes from “ah, that’s nothing” to “ohmigosh this could be the big one.” Learn what to do when things really start rockin’. It’s part of a day of emergency preparedness sponsored by the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management. There will be booths, a tour of the mobile emergency operations center and other educational and fun opportunities.