After living in Alaska for a few decades, it’s hard to pin down just one or two adventures. Heck, stepping off your front porch to a startled moose is an adventure; or driving down the Glenn Highway in a raging blizzard. But then I did that in Montana. What I didn’t do in Montana was slip and fall on a glacier sliding toward a crevasse, never to be heard from again. Obviously I didn’t fall in.
I’ve been reflecting on my arrival to this odd and glorious place. I was in a honeymoon period upon arrival in Alaska; a bizarre time when everything seemed magical and foreign. Scotty had beamed me to another planet–only this one had people, cars, wild animals, and cows. White dominates the landscape most of the year. Once I had settled in, I felt I’d mastered something when I would arrive at my destination without slamming my car into a moose or a pissed-off driver with a truckload of guns.
Before leaving Montana, I wondered if I was moving to a cultural wasteland. I couldn’t google in 1983. Will there be theatre, movies, entertainment? Will I be able to buy clothes or will I have to mail-order them from Sears?
After all having lived in Montana all my life where cows are the landscape, I had no clue. I needed reassurance so I called the guy in charge of moving us to Alaska.
“Do you have dairy products up there? I hear Alaska has no cows,” I said to the travel guy.
Silence on the phone. Then, “Yes…we have cows here.”
“Really—but do you have spices? I hear you can’t get spices in Alaska.”
Another silence. “Yeah. We have spices. You can even buy them at the grocery store.”
I heard muffled laughter. “Oh good, grocery stores—so I don’t have to stock up on anything to bring with me?”
“No ma’am. But don’t bring meat. You can shoot it here.” This time silence on my end.
I ambled to the spice store and stocked up anyway. You never know when you’ll need a caraway seed. I still possess an antique jar of cinnamon from 1983. I need a chisel to get the cinnamon out. It’s not that I didn’t believe the travel guy; I was freaked about moving to the subarctic.
I then set out to buy my Alaska car. I spotted a TV ad that said the ‘official car of Santa Claus’ was the Toyota Tercel four-wheel-drive deluxe wagon. The car traversed rugged mountain ranges and plowed through white-outs like a blitzkrieg tank. I had to have that car. I didn’t know if I would be trekking steep terrain to go to work in Anchorage. Best be prepared. We bought one.
The hard part was handing the keys of my precious new Toyota to a toothless greasy guy on the Port of Tacoma dock, who promised my car would be safely barged to Anchorage. Peering out the back window as the taxi rolled from the dock, I hoped I’d see my car again. It’s not that I didn’t trust the guy. I was freaked about moving to Alaska.
I flew from Seattle to Anchorage in November, sitting on the right for the best view. Gazing on the endless mosaic of bleached rose mountains, sapphire glaciers and turquoise ocean for the first time is indescribable. My nose flattened on the window, I gawked at the ceaseless alpenglow, windswept peaks, and jagged crevasses for the duration of the flight. I stayed transfixed, like seeing Mars for the first time. When we landed, my nose was red as Rudolph’s from mashing it against the glass.
I picked up my official car of Santa Claus on a crisp morning at the Port of Anchorage. Once I recovered from the shock of what I paid the taxi driver, I approached what I thought was my Toyota in the weak morning light. Why was it pink? What happened on that barge on the stormy winter seas? A closer inspection revealed it was still red under the inch of hoar frost that made it look pink. Thank goodness it arrived in one piece. I envisioned the wintry, thundering seas my shivering car had survived to reach this alien planet.
Not only can I now buy spices in Alaska, I can mosey to Nordstrom for a designer dress to go with my Sorels; see Elton John at the Sully Arena, or Brian Regan at the Performing Arts Center. I can even buy a flat-panel TV. These things fly or sail from Seattle to Anchorage. When gas is cheap, they’re trucked through Canada on The Alaska Highway. We may be far from mainstream America, but we aren’t primitive, as the reality shows lead one to believe.
No, I can’t drive from state to state in a heartbeat, the way I could in the Lower 48. It takes many heartbeats to drive to the nearest states—Washington or Montana—but I don’t care. That’s why God invented jets.
I’ve not regretted moving up to the Land of the Midnight Sun. Ever. Not one. Single. Moment.
© Lois Paige Simenson and The Alaska Philosophaster, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to The Alaska Philosophaster with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. LIPS