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..

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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..

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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…

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 1

And here we are..

I remember the first time I’d spent an extended time away from here, Juneau, the town I grew up in. It was my first year away at college. I’d gone to Idaho. I went for the writing program. And had followed a boy. It was yellow. Fields and fields of yellow. Wide, open fields..

I came home my first summer. I landed in the small airport and was picked up my my parents. Unsurprisingly, it was a grey and drizzly day. I hit the ground running, we immediately drove to a friend’s house for dinner or some such gathering. I remember the sudden claustrophobia, fighting back tears in the back seat. Juneau is surrounded by mountains, like a giant, green fishbowl. And on overcast days, of which I had grown up with frequently, I had forgotten how thick and low the clouds sit. Right on top of the mountains. I felt immediately closed in..

I spent the summer with my dog, driving to the ends of each road.. then turning back, and heading home..

Juneau is essentially an island. Travel only happens via plane or boat. I had had a taste of freedom, and the small island was too small for me..

Flying back in today, I didn’t feel homesick, or welcomed. In fact, I really couldn’t see much at all. The wildfires up North had created a thick smog, Juneau’s beautiful mountains, smudged out of view by Climate Change.

And I’m not sure what I had expected, I walked out of the bathroom and down to baggage claim and I had no idea where I was. It definitely was no longer the airport of my childhood. Where was the giant, stuffed grizzly? And the standard cafe style restaurant we’d always eat breakfast at? I felt like a stranger in a strange land..

We drove down the familiar streets I used to stomp on. The bones felt the same. The street names were the same. I think I remember that house..

We passed by my two childhood homes. One was exactly the same. Same green shutters, same fence, same vent in the attic I had butchered to help vent my clubhouse… The other house looked dramatically different. The paint seemed dark, and since when did they need that fence?

It was all alot to take in. To slam your brain with memories. Memories of a childhood, you never really bothered to hang on to. It was just Juneau. It was the bosom that nurtured me while I grew. I was a fierce grizzly growing up, and an Eagle. I needed to fly.

I am sad by how weird it feels to be here. It’s like a fuzzy dream I’m trying to remember.. but I’m not remembering it quite right. I’m not supposed to be here in a rented car. I’m not supposed to be sleeping in a hotel on a couch. And it is definitely not supposed to be 80°! People laugh at me when I cry over 70° down south, and I justify my precious tears with the explanation that, “I grew up in Alaska!”

WHAT THE FUCKOCALYPSE?! Is no place sacred anymore?..

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Chapter 0.5

The light goes on at zero dark thirty and I moan. I’d forgotten how much hotels suck. It may be a fairly quiet hotel, no wooshing of the tram-line, and the rumble of passing jets, like the distant sounds of an eager neighbor wheeling their garbage can down the driveway… over and over…

The hotel room, for all its wonderful design, its light blocking curtains and its hip, raised sink… it is not designed for comfort and relaxation!

One light switch, that illuminates the entire world! A thermostat that has to be operated by the greatest bomb defuser in the nation. The bathroom door that is a little too oiled on its tracks and slams shut. The shower door that isn’t oiled enough and groans terribly when opened or closed. The toilet that acts like this is its first job, so eager to please, and almost seems to flush itself before you can even push the button with the most extrordinary WHOOOOOSH!!! The coffee maker, brewing away, until, like a washed up stage actor taking his dying breaths, puff… puff….. puuuff….. PUUUUUUUUFF! And don’t even get me started on the pillows, so puffy and inviting, until one’s head approaches, and they immediately deflate to sad pancake pillows…

I hadn’t been able to sleep anyway. I eventually tried thinking about sheep. Then began thinking about a story about sheep. Then couldn’t stop.

I put in my headphones and cued up a monotone voiced crime reporter podcast, and did, eventually, somehow, fall asleep…

The Great Alaskan Adventure – Prologue

The View From Here…

After a night waking up with some sort of strange full neck/throat muscle spasms, in which I could barely move my head or swallow (I took a sleep aide, and magically woke up semi-cured…), I journeyd down to town for a quad shot latte at my favorite coffee shop. Sadly, my barista boy was not working today. I watched as the patrons all seemed to know each other. This table jumping up to say hi to this table. That person walking in and saying hi to that table. Not me. I sit alone in the corner, but the sweet sounds of Edith Piaff and Pink Martini, and an old school English crime novel kept me company.

Afterwards, it was alot of hustle and bustle. The last minute sort of stuff you do before a trip away. My fur sister looked dejected, someone had said the word, “walk” and possibly the word, “beach?” hours ago… My big cat naps. It’s one of the many perks of being a cat, naps, whenever. I try to feed the small tortoise a fresh raspberry from down the way, envisioning the memes of the small tortoise, face covered in murdered raspberry gore. I have my camera at the ready, but his head just bobs up and down dubiously. So I take him outside in the sun. He opens his mouth, then bobs his head up and down dubiously..

Dinner of Safeway Chinese take-out. A total guilty pleasure (don’t judge me…). Dad chokes near to death, mom continues to hustle and bustle..

At some point, our chariot for the 70 some odd mile ride arrives. It’s gonna be long, smashed in the middle seat. I put my head phones in and the noise drowns out, like those movie scenes where the music turns up loud and all the outside noise goes away. I see lips moving, and hands bouncing up and down, occassionally a laugh breaks thru, but it’s just me..

Our hotel feels confused. It’s retro, with loud music, and at any moment you expect strobe lights to start flashing. Outside our window is a building under construction. We close the curtains. Though, it’s surprisingly quiet, for being right on the tram-line and close to the airport. It’s only one night though..

We get drinks at the bar. At the next table over is a small party of an older man, and a couple Jack the Lads. They are loud, excited. Apparently, of all the million destinations in the entire world, they are destined for the same, small town as us..

I spent 2 decades of my childhood growing up in Alaska, calling it home, not really knowing anything else. Apparently, 11 years ago, we up and emigrated to the lower 48. 11 years ago was the last time I set foot in the motherland..

Tomorrow, I board a plane to return..

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PS. She totally made it to the beach..

Hashtag: Happy Mermaid Dog