Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: The Poe-etic potholes return

Well, 2021 has started off a bit shaky, especially weatherwise. Even though, at the moment, we are encapsulated in a wood frog freeze, the last few weeks have been a nightmare of rain, sleet and snow-cone slush that has turned morning commutes into spontaneous scream therapy for those already on the edge.

It’s really hard to tell who or what has suffered the worse — the highways or people. With most everyone masked up, you have to be able to read eyes in order to ascertain if someone still comprehends what dimension they’re in after negotiating roads that have turned into replicas of military bombing ranges that are, in turn, moderately to blame for the condition of the aforementioned frenzied looks.

During the month, there were rumors that the Sterling Highway between Soldotna and Homer had several road-wide potholes that could have served as subterranean tourist attractions or, when drained, sub-aqua testing areas for a new generation of submarine drones.

Here in Homer things got so nasty, at times, it triggered flashbacks to almost 30 years ago when East End Road was a nightmare, especially during breakup.

Back then, its death spiral spawned at letter to the editor that went like this:

The Pothole

Once upon a midday dreary, while I drove, weak and weary

‘round many a black hole oozing slush and gore

While I bounced, not nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of something not gently rapping, rapping near my pickup’s door.

Only this and nothing more.

Thus, I drove engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing

About the road; foul condition burning deep within in my core.

“Who’s fault?” I cried, driving, with head impacting lining

on the ceiling’s overhead binding. Constantly reeling

…I then implore,

“Please, East End, nothing more!”

Abruptly stopping, with a shudder, flinging shocks into the gutter

ghastly grim, masked with grit, ole truck, no longer one of yore

it steamed and wheezed, then hemorrhaged antifreeze.

Next off came with hideous screech, the battered passenger door.

Yet, I scarcely more than muttered, “On damn beast, this I implore.”

It merely backfired, “Nevermore.”

Once snarling, dog Howard, ‘tis now whimpering coward

and will not ride since, thru the sunroof launched, his mistress Elenore.

I do not miss his yapping, yet wait, another rapping?

Rapping near my door?

Whence down the hole where I am sitting,

I sense something flitting.

Under steel’s frame quietly easing, then bumping, ‘neath the floor.

“‘Tis an earthquake, nothing more.”

Then the truck rose, hence racing heart froze.

“What horror!” I screamed, then railed, “Not one bit more!”

Yet, it kept tilting, body rising, while I’m surmising,

what monster lurked beneath my dead truck’s floor.

A seismic rupture spewing death from buried core?

T’was a grader, nothing more.

The blade shook me free, then began to flee, toward town, on fire- sparked chains, it tore,

with driver’s wailing yell that he had escaped from hell.

Angrily, I raged, as torrid temper commenced to soar,

“I beseech thee sir, heal this apocalypse, we desire a path, nothing more!”

Quote the craven, “Never more!”

Change a few landmark names and the wordplay fits some of this winter’s thoroughfares as nicely as they did three decades ago.

Anyway, I signed the letter while conveying my deepest apologies to the late, great, Edgar Allen Poe whose poetic vehicle, “The Raven” gave me the conveyance with which to rumble down the troubling trail of Old East End without losing any more shock absorbers or totaling out rims.

It also brought a call from editor back then wondering if I would be interested in doing a few columns expressing my “Rather unhinged perspective on life.”


See you next month. The Energizer Bunny has nothing on us.

Nick can be reached at if he has pounded enough mugs of Raven’s Brew Double Dead coffee to handle some of the audacious emails rolling in from those sporting the weird eyes that we mentioned earlier. Get a grip out there!

More in Life

This screenshot from the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference website shows the faculty who will be attending the conference, held virtually May 15-18. From left to right, top row, are Francisco Cantu, Victoria Chang, Ernestine Hayes, and Brandon Hobson. From left to right, bottom row, are Anis Mojgani, Marie Mutsuki Mockett and Vera Starbard.
Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference includes readings for the public

After hiatus, annual event back as program transitions out of pandemic

Alex Rydlinski holds one of his pieces in an Instagram photo from July 18, 2020. (Alex Rydlinski)
Alex Rydlinski holds one of his pieces in an Instagram photo from July 18, 2020. (Alex Rydlinski)
Art Guild welcomes self-taught artist as new executive director

Originally from Fairbanks, Rydlinski was looking for a place “off the grid”

Foreground, from left to right: Kenai Middle School seventh grader Cooper Tallent-Darling and eighth grader Gavin Hunt perform as their “Lion King” characters, Simba and Mufasa, while the rest of the cast acts in the background. The school drama department recorded and filmed a rendition of the Disney movie and premiered it in May 2021. (Photo provided by Kenai Middle School drama)
Kenai Middle School produces movie musical rendition of ‘The Lion King Jr.’

The film is available to stream online this weekend.

Sierra Moskios is the coordinator for the REC Room. Moskios recently received an Alaska Afterschool Superhero award for her dedication to the youth of Homer. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Moskios earns Alaska Afterschool Superhero award

Sierra Moskios earned the Alaska Afterschool Superhero award for her dedication to Homer youth.

A souffle omelet takes a delicate hand but offers rich flavors and sophisticated textures. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: A Mother’s Day omelet from the heart

Mother’s Day has been one of the hardest days of every year since my mother left this world 13 years ago.

Brie and caramel apple voulevant is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, photographed in April, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: A celebration of food

Make first gatherings special with this simple but sophisticated brie and caramel apple voulevant.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Time to enjoy, not to annoy

I’m already overhearing growing concerns about whether or not the usual influx of tourists to the peninsula will be dampened due to the surging tsunami of fuel costs.

Photos courtesy John Schoen
Mary Beth Schoen admires a large-tree old-growth stand in Saook Bay on northeastern Baranof Island. Some individual trees were over 6 feet in diameter and many centuries old. This riparian area was adjacent to a salmon stream and was full of bear trails. Large-tree old growth stands are rare on the Tongass.
‘Tongass Odyssey’ explores decades of research, politics and change

‘What we learned is that old growth forest is very important’

Will Morrow (courtesy)
When did I get wise?

When did I turn into that old guy who feels like he has to give everyone else advice?

Most Read