Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Alaskans are definitely a unique people. Folks who didn’t fit in down in the lower 48. People who like their hair long and as much personal freedom as the law will allow. Or perhaps more: something like 10 % of the state has a criminal record. As the saying goes: “People come to
I made my first trip to the laundrymat a couple of nights ago. I’ve never seen so much hair. The laundry lady was a gorgeous tattooed punk with red-fro dredlocks down to her waist and only one front tooth. I was a little intimidated to buy laundry tokens from her, given the way she was man-handling the bear-like men who were waiting around for a shower. The laundrymat is a one-stop cleaning shop for cabin-dwellers. But, Pippy-the-Punk Longstocking explained how to use the machines and I plugged in my i-pod to make it clear to the wooly mammoths that I didn’t want to talk to them. It worked.
This weekend I’m cabin-bound, as my new car is in the shop getting a new head gasket, new airbags, and new brakes. I won’t speak of this again, for obvious reasons. Note to self: never buy a car from members of a Ukrainian religious cult who live out in the Bush. Yesterday, the temperature peaked at a balmy 20 F, so I decided to check out my neighborhood. It took me five minutes to make it to the end of my driveway, so I turned back and got my skis. There were 18 inches of snow on the ground yesterday and this morning we got another inch.
I decided to ski up to the Dog Mushers’ Hall at the top of the hill. The Hall is a regional headquarters for the mushing association. There is a big dog race here this weekend, but the start line was downtown and I had no way to get there. My guess is that today’s race is just finishing up because all of the neighborhood dogs are barking like crazy right now. I’m posting a few photos of the dog teams that were over in a field near the Hall. Today, I’ve been perfectly happy to stay home in my silk pajamas and drink coffee.
Excuse me for a minute. Hmmm. I am writing this blog from my kitchen table and some kind of vermin has landed on my roof and proceeded to crawl into my stove vent. It sounds like it is about the size of a badger, but I don’t think there are badgers here. I actually have no idea what this animal might be. So far, I’ve only seen a moose and a giant bird that looks like a chickadee on steroids, which may or may not be a Canada Jay, according to my high school science teacher Ferris (phone diagnosis). Well, the flying badger has stopped tap-dancing in my stove vent and has apparently settled down for a nap.
Let me tell you about my cabin. First, it’s hard for people from the Outside to understand cabin-living. Most young and/or poor people in the Interior live in cabins. Permafrost conditions and extreme cold make plumbing very expensive to build and maintain. So people live in these cabins with no plumbing. I have an outhouse about 40 feet behind my cabin, connected to a shower room which is fed by raising a bucket of water up a tree on a pulley. I can get my water from one of two sources: one is at a pumphouse in
I would be lying if I told you that running out to the outhouse at -30 F is fun. But apparently it increases my chances of seeing the aurora borealis. And nighttime wildlife. Last night, a midnight run let me hear a couple wolves howling in the spruce bog that is my backyard. The drinking/cooking/washing water is relatively easy to manage. I bought four of these 7 gallon jugs that have spouts on them and it costs only a quarter to fill these up at the pumphouse. This morning I washed my hair in a bucket in my kitchen, but during the week I can easily use the showers at my lab. In the summer, I think the tree-bucket shower will work just fine.
The cabin is brand new and quite nice. The heat is oil-burning and plenty warm enough. There are two bedrooms, so I use one for a study, and a large kitchen/dinning area. Pictures of the outside are posted on my Flicker site. I’ll post some of the inside when I get unpacked and settled. On the side of the cabin is a carport. But when my landlord built the place, he put the power outlet near the front of the house, so to plug in my engine block heater I can’t actually park under the car port until I get a long extension cord. My landlord is quite a character. His name is Greg. In addition to building and managing half a dozen cabins, he’s also a pilot, and a mountaineer. He’s a sweet guy, but I would describe him as having a few bats in the bellfry. And possibly a badger.
Up on a ridge in the northwestern part of town is the University. The UAF community is something of a science commune. I work at the
Well, so I think most of you know where
The mode of my departure from
My roommate, Miriam, helped me carry my suitcases down to the car. The taxi driver on this trip seemed inclined to chat. He told me that I had a beautiful daughter. I told him she was my roommate, only three years younger. That kept him quiet until we arrived at the terminal. A big smile and a
The 11-hour trip went surprisingly quickly. I looked over the pictures from my going away party and tried not to cry. Too much. I read Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” and thought about my summer plans for hiking in