The Great Alaskan Adventure – Post Script

I don’t mean it to sound like I really hated my childhood.. Honestly, the older I get, the more I realize it’s the opposite.

This town sheltered my childhood. I grew up around complete families. I grew up surrounded by culture, and diversity. I grew up in a community of adopted children, and through that, my eyes were opened to the huge world outside my little island. I grew up enmeshed in the local Native culture, and through that understood the concept of respect. And I grew up in a town that is probably 75% wild nature, and through that I developed knowledge of more than just human culture. I watched our beloved Glacier slowly melt away, and understood that what we do really does matter. Climate Change is real. I remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill in ’89, and understood that life is more than just we see on land. I saw a wolf on the ice, I watched from a distance as it tipped its head back and howled, and I realized some things TV and Photos just can’t capture. That there is a real world out there, and first hand is sometimes the only way to really experience it.

It took me years to realize. But it all soaked into my development as I lived and grew. No one had to teach it to me. Like my mother never tought me her Spaghetti recipe, but I know it. Like my father never tought me how to shell fresh shrimp, but I know how.

I ran away from my childhood once I finished High School. I washed away the memories and never wanted to go back.

Juneau, Alaska was where I spent 20 years of my life. It is my childhood. I knew culture, I knew nature, I knew Love.

I simply mean to say, that through this return, I have realized that it is no longer my home. All things continue to move, and I had moved on. It wasn’t for me to stay there.

(Photo credits from 11 years ago.)

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Epilogue

Parting Shots..

The entire city of Juneau, Alaska is covered in a thick haze. Smoke from wild fires up north. It distorted a lot of the views. The mountains in the distance, standing like sentinel ghosts. And the heat was record breaking. These aren’t the way things are supposed to be there..

And maybe it was fitting for my return. All of my memories got distorted and turned on their head..

The truth is, Juneau is no longer my home. I don’t know it anymore. Everything is different. The shops, the people, the Glacier, the trees! Some things are the same. The beaches.. But none of it felt like “home.”

We spent so much time playing tourist, and seeing as much as we could see.. It wasn’t like I was returning to my home.

I’ve lately spent so much time confused about who I am and what I should be doing. The two people I reunited with, so head strong and assured in what they are doing. Why couldn’t I find that?

I don’t really know what I had been expecting. Some grand revelatory moment? Some golden answer to all my quiries?

Instead, it was like opening a box, to find it’s empty inside..

I had never believed or felt that I was really an Alaskan. Not the way some people do. But I suppose this trip confirmed it for me. Alaska is not my “Home.”

“Home” is still a place I’m searching for..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 5

The Case of the Murdered Raven..

In the wee hours of the morning, a raven was murdered on the grounds of the Sacred Shrine of St. Theresa.

All the other ravens were up in arms. Squaking and crowing at any who passed by.

Crime scene photos were taken.

But no trace was left behind. It seemed the culprit had made a clean get away.

Was it Great Bald Eagle? Known for laying the smack down on smaller birds getting in his way?

Was it Big G Bear? Who possibly happened upon this straggling raven and had him for a snack?

Or was it possibly Mr. Wolf? Not typically know to these parts. A traveler. Passing thru. Murder and mayhem left in his wake.

Who could know? But the ravens demanded answers.

The heat was on, and the tide was rising..

Who would solve the crime.. of the Murdered Raven..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 4

(You’re not going crazy. There is no Chapter 3.)

The Day After..

I don’t know about you, but 16,000 steps sounds like loneliness to me.. 16, 192 right now, as I type, sitting, perched in the window..

Yesterday, the world came together to celebrate the Birth of our nation.

Today, life goes on. The sun comes up. Stores open as usual. Crew ships dock. Life goes on..

Candy wrappers litter the streets. Orange cones still linger from blocking off streets. A woman in a police car drives block by block, stopping each time to pack up the “No Parking” signs..

I walk the streets, and I don’t recognize anyone. I don’t recognize the stores. I don’t recognize much at all. It’s like a dream you’re trying to remember, but can’t quite pull it out of the fog. My heart feels confused..

I reunited with a childhood friend, and I didn’t know him anymore. He looked different, but the same. He knew me, and I knew him, and I smiled… but I didn’t have the energy to meet a stranger..

Even the trees are strangers. The freakin’ trees!

How can a place be so familiar, yet so different? Was it like this for my father? Who moved from his home across the world to be with the woman he loved.. was it like this when he came back to his childhood home?

A teacher once told me that “Nostalgia,” is the longing for a time, not a place. Places change. This place has changed..

And 9 stories in the air, I watch a small tour ship, docked away from the other massive crew ships. I watch as it toots its horn and pulls away from port. I watch it disappear behind a building for a while, a long while.. I watch it reappear, turn right.. turn right again. I watch it go around it unsure circles, before finally finding its way and heading off, and I feel a profound sense of… loneliness…

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 2.5

Sky Flowers..

When she was younger, she’d been a little in love with him.. But then, what young girl isn’t a little in love? Something about him drunk dialing her and serenading her a song by Poison. Or maybe it was something else.

On this night, the docks were crowded with people. Drunk, and rowdy, and jostling everywhere. Everyone shuffling around, looking for someone else..

And then BOOM!!

And the sky sparks to life. Everyone stops, turns, and looks skyward. The night fills with colourful explosions. One after another. The next bigger than the last. It is the event of the night. 4th of July Fireworks show.

And yet something pulls her attention to the left. And there he is, standing alone, head tilted up in awe. The sparks of light illuminating his most likely drunk, and relaxed features. The slightly amused twitch in his lip.

The show was in front of her, but the heart stopping sight was to her left..

And then someone says his name, pulling him from his revery, and he is engulfed into the crowd..

———————————————————

I never liked loud sounds. Booms of explosions, banging of drums. It always hurt my chest. The deep sound bouncing around my empty rib cage..

I always avoided parades because of it. And thunder would cause me to cry. I couldn’t handle the echoing in my chest..

Tonight, the explosions are loud. They are numerous. Sky explosion after sky explosion. People cheer and clap. The sounds carry and bounce off the mountains.

BOOM! ..boom! ..boom… BANG! ..bang! ..bang…

It is a trick. It makes the night full of flashes and rumblings.

And I wonder if it also makes Juneau cry. The sound echoing around her rib cage..

Or if she feels happy. Because tonight, her chest is full with the people who love her..

———————————————————

George A. Romero was called the Godfather of the Dead. He wrote and directed the classic Night of the Living Dead.

He had this idea, in one of his films, that one could distract a hoard of zombies by lighting off fireworks into the sky.

(I think, another nod to what Romero thought of society..)

In the movie Land of the Dead, you hear the boom, then see the masses of zombies all stop, turn, and stare skyward. Awe-struck by the sparkly sky flowers..

At which point, the group of survivors either make a run to safety, or bash the zombies in the brains..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 2

Today we played Tourist..

I’m trying to remember my childhood. How we’d walk our dogs all around the Mendehall Glacier. I see the old grainy pictures of them in my mind, but the glacier today is not that place..

It is verdant green and lush. Even the water from the falls and the glacier seem a tint of green. At first, what hits you, is the smell of exhaust. There are some 5 buses when we arrive, and more coming and going. We take the standard photos. I squint, and I’m not sure if it’s because my contacts are dry, or if I’m trying to see the glacier. My heart breaks a little over how far back it’s melted over the years. But hey, “Global Warming is fake news,” right?

2019

There is about a mile walk out to the epic waterfall. We fall into the stream of traffic and are whisked off, like spawning salmon. And no matter how many waterfalls you’ve seen, this one still takes your breath away..

From a distance it seems standard. Meh.. But as you get closer, you hear it before you can see it. A distant, tickle of laughter in the air, followed by a cooling in temperature. And then when you break through the trees and are finally upon it, it towers above you like a God, laughing its great, crashing laughter. Your feet sink into the dry sand as you approach its base. Like a traveler reaching an oasis, you reach the fall. You are met with the cool, spray of water. And words escape you..

It is a very touristy thing to do. What was once a peaceful, leisurely place to go, now a place people from around the world flock to see. After all, perhaps one day, there wont be much to see anymore..

In keeping in the spirit, we go to the local fish hatchery. Not some place locals would go to for fun, but somewhere your second grade class might take you during Ocean Week. Inside, one giant cylander with warped glass the induces a sense of dizziness, is full of huge fish you’d never just see. Giant, lazy rock fish. Huge, spiney king crabs. Anemonies that could suck your face off. Barnacles the size of walnuts.. And of course, to one side is the touch tanks, where kids can poke starfish and sea cucumbers.. And for a good 10 minutes, I stared at a hermit crab as he contemplated moving to a new shell. I had my camera poised, ready to snap a shot of his naked body as he made the half a second change. But also felt a little bit like a peeper, looking thru the window of a stranger, and eventually left to reunite with my party..

And finally, dockside, the oddly ellusive, bronze whale sculpture. Nothing quite so awe inspiring while I was living here. Huge, with fountains and spraying water shooting up. Really, it was pretty fantastic (if a little oddly located..) Humpback Whales, such amazing and magestic creatures. They’ve always struck me as so Alaskan. The way Rhubarb feels Alaskan. Yes, you can grow and buy Rhubarb anywhere. But Rhubarb in Alaska is like palm trees in California..

…I’m not really sure where that analogy came from. It’s coming on 10PM on July 3rd (11PM down south time.) And I am contemplating the feasability of going to bed and skipping the festivities tonight at midnight. But, you see… it is a big thing here. Cars are already lining up along the main road, finishing boats are clogging the channel up, and with the fire warning pretty high up here and a possible water rationing soon, it is a really big deal that the city has even allowed fireworks at all tonight..

And so it is..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 1.5

The midnight streets of downtown..

I still sometimes dream of Juneau. It’s always downtown Juneau though. I suppose there are the random dreams about the old houses, but usually it’s downtown. At night. I’m walking, and it’s empty, but all lit up. It’s almost like the scene at the beginning of Spirited Away, where there’s no people, but everything is open..

Maybe it has something to do with the night my brother and his friends were throwing a Christmas party. He was living downtown, in an apartment above one of the tourist shops. I honestly, don’t really recall the party, but I remember, as I was getting ready to go home, looking out the window over the downtown streets..

Snow covered the streets and buildings, cuz in Alaska, that’s what happens in the winter. All the shops were long since closed. But all up and down the streets, it seemed the entire high school senior class had decided to have a giant snowball fight..

Imagine streets, usually crowded with tourists all bouncing from shop to shop. Now suddenly empty. Bright, and beautifully blanketed in virgin, fluffy white. The streets aren’t large, but all along them, the largest, organized, bloodless war I’d ever seen..

I don’t really know why these two memories pop into my head… We used to joke that Juneau had 2 seasons, the Rainy Season, and Tourist Season. “Going Downtown,” mean’t you were taking your life into your own hands by jumping in with the non-locals..

I suppose I’m probably being dramatic. But I was always very small and easy to step on. I also, never knew what downtown was like after it all shut down for the night..

Now here I am, head hanging out a 9 story window, breathing in the fresh, sea air and embracing the silence. It is profound. It has taken me 3 decades to realize, underneath it all, Juneau is beautiful…