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

Tour of Tony

Having taken his own life in June 8th, and then his birthday being June 25th, June seemed the most appropriate month to honor Anthony Bourdain. I took a little cooking tour through his last cookbook, Appetites.

He stated in interviews that he had wanted to write a cookbook with family friendly recipes, with his daughter in mind. Admittedly, even for an intermediate cook, I found some of the recipes a little difficult. Some of the ingredients difficult to find, or quite expensive. And some of the recipes were time consuming, definitely not after work cooking.

But overall, they were all delicious.

Budae Jjigae

“Korean Army Stew”

Halibut Poached in Duck Fat

Macau-Style Pork Chop Sandwich

Cast-Iron Grilled Chicken

Spaghetti with Garlic, Anchovies, and Parsley

Sunday Gravy with Sausage and Rigatoni

Braised Pork Shoulder with Fried Shallots and Pickled Veg

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Here are some youtube clips of him cooking with Anderson Cooper.

In the first, hes teaching Anderson about the Korean dish Budae Jjigae. Yes, it sounds like it would be gross, but it is actually so surprisingly good.

In the second, hes cooking his Sunday Gravy with Sausage and Rigatoni. A dish, I spent the day cooking, and sharing with friends, on what would have been his 63rd birthday.

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In truth, I still can’t believe that it’s been a year since I woke up to a message that broke my heart. And I can’t believe how much he still comes to mind. Almost every week, from random foods, to things he’s said, even to the time he had a pair of custom shoes made… room full of people’s wooden shoe impressions. “How do you know if someone’s died?” he asked, I wonder the same thing…
A whole year later and I still feel my eyes filling. I can’t believe how much he touched me, his honesty. The time he bought food for hungry onlookers in Haiti, and before he knew it, he was overwhelmed with hungry people. It was horrible, but it was real. He was our ticket to the world, the real world. And he made us love it as much as he did…
I can’t believe its been a whole year since the world lost one of my greatest heroes…

(June 25, 1956 – June 8, 2018)

South China Sea Culinary Tour

I decided to take a culinary tour of the South China Sea. I included Thailand in the tour, because who doesn’t love Thai food?

I discovered that across countries alot of the food is very similar, or even the same. It was hard to find food that was unique to a specific country. So I started looking for interesting dishes to make and challenge myself with.

Indonesia – Beef Rendang

Spicy Dried Caramelized Beef Curry

Singapore – Hainanese Chicken Rice

Malaysia – Curry Laksa

Thailand – Angel Wings

Boned out chicken wings, stuffed with Pork, Shrimp, and Vermicelli. Steamed, then fried.

Vietnam – Bahn Bot Loc

Pork Belly and Shrimp Clear Dumplings

Hong Kong (restaurant) – Szechuan Fried Tofu, Sizzling Black Pepper Beef, and Crispy Noodles with Chicken

Hong Kong (restaurant) – Xiao Long Bao, and Hong Kong Style Milk Tea

Taiwan – Lu Rou Fan

Braised Pork over Rice

Philippines – Kare Kare

Oxtail Peanut Stew

If there was a lesson to learn here, it was that Asian food is complex. It is time consuming. Some of the recipes asked some 6 hours of my time. I have developed a deeper respect for it. I don’t think I’ve felt more connected to the food I was cooking before. You could feel the depth and history of some of the dishes.

If you want to develop a greater appreciation for South China Sea flavors, watch the show on Netflix, Street Food. It is excellent.

South China Sea Culinary Tour

I decided to take a culinary tour of the South China Sea. I included Thailand in the tour, because who doesn’t love Thai food?

I discovered that across countries alot of the food is very similar, or even the same. It was hard to find food that was unique to a specific country. So I started looking for interesting dishes to make and challenge myself with.

Indonesia – Beef Rendang

Spicy Dried Caramelized Beef Curry

Singapore – Hainanese Chicken Rice

Malaysia – Curry Laksa

Thailand – Angel Wings

Boned out chicken wings, stuffed with Pork, Shrimp, and Vermicelli. Steamed, then fried.

Vietnam – Bahn Bot Loc

Pork Belly and Shrimp Clear Dumplings

Hong Kong (restaurant) – Szechuan Fried Tofu, Sizzling Black Pepper Beef, and Crispy Noodles with Chicken

Hong Kong (restaurant) – Xiao Long Bap, and Hong Kong Style Milk Tea

Taiwan – Lu Rou Fan

Braised Pork over Rice

Philippines – Kare Kare

Oxtail Peanut Stew

If there was a lesson to learn here, it was that Asian food is complex. It is time consuming. Some of the recipes asked some 6 hours of my time. I have developed a deeper respect for it. I don’t think I’ve felt more connected to the food I was cooking before. You could feel the depth and history of some of the dishes.

If you want to develop a greater appreciation for South China Sea flavors, watch the show on Netflix, Street Food. It is excellent.