I have some friends who (for privacy reasons) I will pseudonym here as the Resk family (which stands for "really excellent super-keen", just so you know.) The Resks are everything you could want in friends: They're smart, funny, generous, warm, good-hearted, hospitable people, and man can they cook. Which, if you're friends with them, is vastly to your advantage, since there's every chance they'll feed you at some point along the way. I say this in complete confidence, since every time I show up at their house, food magically appears. And it's GOOD food. And if they offer you a drink? Try it. You'll like it.
When I first met them, it was as clients. Mr. Resk (who will henceforth be called Mac, which stands for "manly and capable") mostly came in with the dogs at first, since his lovely wife Tara ("talented and really adorable"), a nurse, was working a 3-on, 3-off schedule far far away in Bethel. I can't really remember what it was that got us started, but Mac and I made each other laugh really a lot. Somehow we'd always manage to get a physical exam and treatment lined out, even so, but it was a near thing sometimes.
It turns out that Tara was making beaver mitts as a fund-raiser for Iditarod one year. I thought: I want some beaver mitts! So (following instructions) I traced my hand twice on a piece of paper: Once with fingers together, once with fingers apart. My rings made odd little bumps appear on my tracings, so I carefully labelled these, with arrows pointing to them: "This is not a deformity. This is my ring." The thumbs ended up looking a little weird, so I labelled them, too: "This actually IS a deformity. Oh, wait, it's my thumb."
Evidently Tara thought that was pretty funny, but despite my deformity - er, my thumbs - she made me an absolutely gorgeous pair of beaver mitts. It's not possible for your hands to get cold in them. Trust me, I've tried. Ain't gonna happen.
At any rate, I've enjoyed a friendship with the Resk family for many years. Lately it's been even more interesting, what with the addition of their children, Extremely Adorable #1 and Extremely Adorable #2. These are charming boys, sturdy and bright and SO cute that no one alive can look at them and not go: "Awww!" I tried it once. I almost had a seizure trying to hold it in. It's better to just give in right away. Trust me on this.
One day, a few months ago, I happened to hear that the Resks were planning to sell their house. I must digress here for a moment and tell you: I love their house. It's cozy and snug, sitting up on a hill amongst big old aspen trees. It's a log home with a fieldstone fireplace in the living room and a long deck across the front of the building. There are outbuildings and a couple of nice, level areas for dogs, a fenced yard for kids and a wide, flat space where barbecues can be held. Plenty of space for horseshoes or a volleyball net or a game of giant-inflatable-soccer ball soccer. A congenial space, in the Knik Historic District, with access to the trail system. It's not far from the Musher's Hall of Fame, the Kink Bar (where Hobo Jim has put on many a rollicking pre-race concert) and Kink lake. There's access to the Iditarod trail right off the property.
Iditarod trail access.... Hmmm. My tech Julie should hear about this. She runs dogs. She likes log homes. This would be PERFECT.
So, quick like a little bunny, the minute I returned to work I told Julie she should call the Resks. She did. They're all like "Wha...? We told ONE person we were planning to list our house and already we have a potential buyer? Before it's even been listed? We don't even have a real estate agent! Um... eh?"
Alaska. It's a big state, but it's a small town. Word gets around.
So, fast forward a few weeks, and: Ta-da! Julie and her husband bought the the Resk house. What do you know. It is perfect. Or, at any rate, perfect enough. Me, I'm pretty happy that it's going to someone I know and like. It's a lovely space, and if I can't have it, well then, someone dang good should.
The upshot, naturally, is that I went to yet another perfectly fabulous barbecue at the house. It's not a housewarming party; that's when you move in, and this was thrown by the Resks the day before they moved out. So what do you call that? It's kind of the opposite of a housewarming. But somehow "house-cooling party" doesn't sound right. House-switching party? Tag-team house-handoff party? Hm. Well, anyway: A party.
I did mention the Resks know how to cook, right...?
Halibut, onion and pepper shishkebabs. Reindeer bratwurst. Scallops wrapped in bacon. Tenderized pork on a skewer, basted in something yummy. Marinated prawns. And of course, for the
I might also mention that there was Sangria, Sunny Knik Margaritas, and Alaskan Summer Ale on tap. Hm. I have to try ALL of those.
Jeez. Where to begin? So many choices, so little space in the average human stomach.
Well, it was a gorgeous (and I mean gorgeous) day, and the fire was crackling cheerfully, basting the air with the scent of fire. Clearly where I must start is with a nice cold ale, whilst standing near enough the fire to get the smell of smoke thoroughly permeating my hair. Oh, and as a by the way, that's where the good conversations got started, so obviously I picked the perfect spot to begin. So there I am, basking in the warmth of a sunny Alaskan day, chit-chatting with friends while the rich, warm taste of my cold ale limbers my tongue, and watching a bald eagle fly low to check us out. And hmm... the grill is starting to smell mighty good, perhaps I should get a plate...? But first a hunk of this smoked salmon and - damn that's good, nice work, man! What, there's plenty? Don't mind if I do, then... nothing like a nice hunk of smoked salmon with a bacon-and-scallop chaser.... (pause to enjoy random dog cuteness) What? You're right, my plate is empty! How did that happen...? Oh, another couple of shrimp and some pig-on-a-stick? Sure, why not? Nobody minds if I eat like three of these spring rolls in a row, do they? (short intermission for more random dog cuteness) Oh, look, Extremely Adorable #2 is doing something extremely adorable! And Extremely adorable #1 is passing out bubbles to the other kids - who, strangely (not!), are also extremely adorable. Wow, better move back, here comes Mac with an entire sled full of wood to throw on the fire all at once. I think I'll just stand back here for a few minutes.... Oooh, another Margarita? Sure! What, giant marshmallows for roasting? Wow, dudette, that is a champion s'more you just made there! (and, yet more random dog cuteness).
Well, it went on like this for several hours. Five and a half, to be exact. If not for the fact that I had dogs waiting to be fed, I'd probably still be there. Fortunately I'd not eaten lunch - it being a busy day at the clinic, as usual for a Saturday - so I felt more than justified in eating two days' worth of calories in one afternoon. Why not? We're celebrating here, man! It's the house-hand-off.. er.. whatchamacallithousewhateveritis party!
Overall it's a bittersweet occasion - sad to see the last of the Resk BBQs, happy for their new adventures; Happy for my friends Julie and her husband, sad Julie could not make it to the party. Still, there's no denying the pleasure of the day, the enjoyment of good friends and good food and good weather. The Resk family isn't leaving the state, or I might have been too sad to go to the party. As it is, there will be other parties, and maybe they'll come to Wildwood for one event or another. Maybe Julie will throw her own BBQs, and we'll all meet there. The possibilities are endless.
One thing is for sure though: There's something about standing under the wide open sky, the heat of the sun on my head and the heat of the fire on my legs, the scent of wood smoke and grilling meat pierced by the happy squeals of children and the murmur of conversation.
It feels like summer now.