We bought granola bars at the Wal Mart in Anchorage. This whole trip makes me believe Alaska doesn’t exist. We toured around with an admitted homosexual studying interior design.
Then we got to Whittier. “Things are shittier in Whittier,” says Will. My old pal Will. That’s the Alaska I imagined. This little town of tin sheds, abandoned box cars and dry docks for a wintering fishing fleet.
Two bars in town and 80% of the population lives in one massive military era building. The ground floor houses a post office, a town hall, and a vending machine room, among other municipal necessities.
There is no bar in the main building so we walked in the constant misting drizzle to the Anchor Inn where I was taught Alaskan leg wrestling and competed against two women, both of whom beat me.
Alaskan leg wrestling involves laying on your back in the middle of the bar room floor. Your competitor does the same, facing the other direction – head to foot in other words. As you count “1 2 3″ you raise the leg that touches your competitor, who in synchronicity raises his or her leg as well.
On three you hook your leg around the challengers leg and attempt to lift their body off the ground.
I fought a native Alaskan woman who appeared to be in her fifties and was not more than 5 feet tall, 100 pounds. She did beat me, more because I didn’t know what I was doing and I had been drinking.
My host Will had recently been punched in the face by a woman at this bar, so I was not trying to prove anything tonite other than I was peaceful and non competitive.
Later, outside, I stood alone looking at the high mountains that came nearly to the water. In the springtime the snow is melting and you hear water rushing all around. The glaciers are calving and the snow is shifting, meltwater tumbles down the mountain side.
Nature was thick and closing in so I walked back to Will’s apartment and turned on the tv. He has cable. My cell phone worked. I watched a marathon of auction shows and wondered what wealth I could strip from nature.
The gold, the timber, the salmon were depleted and the rights bought up or protective legislation enacted -the men who pre-dated my arrival had been thorough.
There must be something in these woods I can take to San Francisco and turn to profit! Or not. What’s a junk man do stuck in nature? There is no garbage to sort, no junk to haul. My girl and I walked the edge of the cove, looking for Japanese tsunami wreckage. Some sense of treasure. She found an interesting rock and I put it in my pocket, unsure why. She held up interesting sticks but nothing that would sell. I waved her offerings away.
If only Whittier had a thrift store. Were it only Saturday and there were a yards or garages to have sales. There was only tidewater glaciers, hemlocks, sea otter and bald eagles. Some of us aren’t meant for Alaska. Not till it’s covered in garbage.