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Weekends fly by all too fast, don’t they?

One week ago Saturday my wife Gosia and I enjoyed the incredible vistas on the highway south of Delta Junction and north of Paxson. The next day I took Gosia for her first trip on the Dalton Highway, but we did not drive too far. The memory of the huge rock a big industrial truck threw into my windshield just above Wiseman still intimidates me. From the Dalton Highway we backtracked to the Elliot Highway and took the spur road to Minto for gas. I put in 10 gallons for pennies shy of $70. Yowch!

For us, it was a perfect weekend. Gosia’s trigger finger never seemed to leave the shutter button as we experienced the Alaska we moved here to enjoy. We watched a pair of white swans diving relentlessly to the bottom of a pond, enjoyed the migratory birds gathered in bunches at Creamer’s Field, and gasped in awe at the limitless expanse of tundra off the Elliot.

The muddy, slick road to Minto coated my van with dirt, and I said a small prayer of thanks for replenishing my windshield washer fluid. Traffic was sparse, and just about every passing driver waved to us. A male and female hunted in separate all-wheel vehicles near Minto with their rifles on their laps, but they didn’t return Gosia’s wave.

For the past few days, I read opinions about the News-Miner’s dropping the Saturday paper into a weekend edition. I appreciate the constructive and even the harsh criticisms from one and all and try to make adjustments as needed to improve editorial coverage.

Years ago, I penned books for young adults such as a biography of Olympian Jesse Owens. My publisher mailed me reviews that I read with stopped breath. One reviewer for a library trade journal hated my books, and, in my early 30s, I was far more sensitive to criticism.

Recently I sat down for coffee with Explore Fairbanks CEO Scott McCrea who used to do some fine theater reviews for the News-Miner. He talked about the challenge of writing an honest review that somehow captured the essence of a play without eviscerating “actors who are your friends and neighbors.”

I told Scott I totally agreed. “I played the part of the lover Eilert Lovborg in Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ 50 years ago,” I said. “I still remember the Reno newspaper reviewer who said I was ‘too wooden’ on stage.”

In my 30s, long before meeting Gosia, I was in a relationship with a best-selling author of historical novels. “I hate the term romance novels,” she always said. Anyway, I cried on her shoulder about a stinging review, and she said, “Just think of the reviewer as incorrigibly stupid and forget her.”

Then there was the time in 1984 I interviewed author Kurt Vonnegut for an airline magazine and asked him how he responded to bad reviews. He recalled how Newsweek reviewer Peter Prescott gave him particularly bad reviews all his career. Vonnegut said he was tempted to put such reviewers in his books.

“Anyway, we run into each other at parties,” Vonnegut said with a snicker as he drew on a Pall Mall cigarette. “I always sit next to (Prescott) and talk to him. In Gogol, this character (in the humorous novel “Dead Souls”) takes a tremendous liking to (the comic hero) Chichikov for no reason at all. He holds him by the arm, taking him around and introducing him to all these people. I do that with Prescott.”

Then in 1993, it so happened Kurt Vonnegut and I both gave public lectures at the University of New Hampshire. I took a photo of my tiny poster alongside Vonnegut’s giant poster. Unfortunately, we spoke at the same time, so I was not able to hear him. I, of course, had a huge audience of thousands, and he spoke only to about one hundred people. Or was it the other way around? Memory plays tricks. Kidding, of course.

This happened to be the night of the 1993 National Championship pitting North Carolina’s basketball team against Michigan’s Fab 5. We finished speaking roughly the same time and raced individually to an eatery on campus to watch the game on TV.

“Mr. Vonnegut, do you remember me?” I asked as we bellied up to the bar.

He looked hard into my face. “You’re the guy who said I walked like a man with cheese in his shoes,” he said. “I hate you.” He said he watched himself in a full-length mirror to see if he hopped up and down as he walked.

Fortunately, Vonnegut smiled and bought me a beer, and the game ended with Michigan losing when Chris Webber called a timeout with no timeouts remaining.

Even worse than a bad review must have been the experience of the poor passenger on the Atlanta to Barcelona flight who developed a terrible case of diarrhea and left an offensive trail the entire length of the plane while Texas two-stepping to the toilet. Perhaps the passenger ate some sugar-free candies with undigestible glucose syrup. I remember how my sons used to race to the toilet after eating sugarless Gummi Bears.

“Can you imagine your stomach churning in your passenger seat, and the flight attendants yelling at you to keep your seat?” I said over breakfast to Gosia.

“That poor passenger, he or she must have been so embarrassed,” softhearted Gosia said. “Everyone’s making fun on social media.”

“Yes, that poor passenger,” I agreed. “The only thing worse would be being the guy on the plane seated next to that poor passenger.”