It's all a matter of perspective.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Alaska is different from anything that I have ever seen in my life.

It took twelve hours and three planes, but we finally arrived here yesterday afternoon, about 2:00 local time. It was 71 degrees and sunny. A nice coastal breeze was blowing in off of the channel. It was the most beautiful weather I have ever seen anywhere. We are here for Miss Tracy Lingle’s wedding. Her mother met us at the airport and took us back to her house while Tracy finished up at work. After sitting down for our third light lunch of the day, Tracy’s mom needed to run a errand, so she dropped Miss J and I off at Mendenhall Glacier, just northwest of town.

The Mendenhal is a large, retreating glacier that flows from the Juneau ice field into Lake Mendenhall. It was beautiful and the cold breeze blowing off of it was exhilarating. I could have spent hours there hiking the trails and checking out the beautiful view, but Miss J is a woman of leisure, not a woman of sport. Hiking is not the sort of thing that she does. Also we only had thirty minutes before Mom returned from her chore. If you view the pictures here, you can see a disinterested native and an awestruck tourist in front of God’s perfect canvas.

So we went back to the airport to pick up the bags that did not make it on to our plane, and then downtown to Tracy’s house. She lives about three blocks uphill from downtown Juneau. There is an old Russian era Orthodox church across the street. The front door looks out at Mount Juneau, which rises nearly straight up 5000 feet. You can stand in front of her apartment and stare at the perfect beauty for hours and hours. This is where I would later gill the huge steaks. I like it outside. Inside are two cats. It looked like they had complete control over the futon that had been designated the Greer bed.

I met her brother, Bucky, and her fiancé, Adam. They are all cool Northwestern hippies. The kind of people that free-climb boulders and form grunge bands. These people are gracious hosts and determined to show us a good time. Bucky lit the grill and marinated the steaks. I put a Fatnathan scald on everything. We ate Dinner at about 9:00 local time.

I went to bed at 10:30. It was still perfect daylight at 10:30 and I would have stayed outside on the stoop drinking bottles of Alaskan Amber, if I had not been up for 24 hours at that point. When I got up this morning at 7:30, it looked exactly the same outside as it had when I fell asleep. At some point during the night, there had been about three hours of mostly darkness. I hope to be able to stay awake long enough tonight to see what midnight in the summertime looks like. I still have a week here, no need to do everything the first day.

So this morning we got up and walked three or four blocks to the nearest coffee shop. Yesterday afternoon there were four cruise ships docked in the channel at Juneau. This morning there were only two. Downtown was packed with the touristas. I was one of them, of course. A Cruise Activity Official off of one of the mammoth arks walked up to me on a downtown sidewalk and said, “Be sure and go out on the whale sighting tour this afternoon, there should be some good whale action.”

But for some reason we are a little more tolerable class of tourist to the locals because we are not off of a boat. We are staying longer than one afternoon. We are eating in local restaurants, rather than hogging down the inclusive buffet on the ship. We sat in the window of the coffee shop and tried to figure out where the tourists were from, California, Florida, Minnesota, the east coast, Euro-trash, Filipinos, and lots of Russians.

After coffee and a few shops, we came back to say good morning to our hosts and bathe. With the two furry balls of highly allergenic dander living with us in the apartment, bathing makes me feel like I am washing poison out of my hair.

Back downtown for lunch. We decided to just walk around and see what looked good. We found a tiny shop where a native woman (read: Eskimo) made fresh halibut fish and chips. It was the best fried fish I have ever put in my mouth.

Then the museum. It had a lot of stuff about natives (read: Eskimos) and Eagles and Bears and stuff. Alaska is a unique place and everything you see is all about Alaska. We walked into a bookstore this afternoon and Miss J immediately wrinkled her nose and said, “Oh Boy, Alaska stuff.”

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