It’s true: I order The Nation (but don’t read it) and give to NPR. I don’t mind if some of the itty, bitty money I earn goes to people who didn’t have the same advantages I did growing up. I’m suspicious of the American Dream; advertising makes me angry (why is everyone lying?!?); I believe in collective bargaining. I am the person my parents warned me about.
Sometimes I don’t feel at ease in Soldotna, Alaska. There were a lot of Joe Miller signs in this town. And, someone whose Dodge Ram has the bumper sticker “feed the hungry the homeless” shops at the same grocery store as me. A publicly icky man has the mandate “Keep Strokin’, I’m Cu***n’” on his red truck. And, today I exercised behind the sweatshirt “How’s Your Aspen?” at the gym.
Alaska is pristine, expansive, and generous with her resources, but there must be something virginal about her untouched wilderness that makes crazy people a little crazier. It’s difficult to explain, but social niceties appear to be nonexistent. There’s a transparency here that inspires and freaks me out: the good, kind, scary, and weird are all absolutely recognizable. For instance, we’ll be driving on a semi-paved road and a three-legged, rabid dog will try to eat our tires while his human roommate bangs on the window. Then, this old, old, old cashier named Barbara stared me down at Safeway when I gave her a couple coupons and said point blank: “I am not in the mood for this.”
Yet, I sense that the scary are scary because they are mean, not because they are dangerous, and I strolled Clara all around today and avoided eye contact only once.
Our first stop was the post office where Steve,the building supervisor, talks to the people he knows for at least five minutes even though there’s a line of people trying to send a package before their lunch hour expires. Then, we walked by “Birchwood Estates”—why call trailer parks “estates” in the age of irony? It’s not very nice—where I spot windows with snow flake decals and station wagons with
$500! $450! shoe-painted on their doors. Finally, we arrive at our destination: the donut shop.
We reward ourselves for getting out on a beautiful day with a donut called “The Danish,” recommended by our friends Kelsey and Paul.
Next, the playground:
We conclude our day trip with a reminder.
This is the river that flows through town, the best river in the world for fishing wild salmon. It is framed by mountains so immense you could pray to them. Further east, the river turns emerald green—a color I thought only existed in Disney movies. I think the reason why I moved to Alaska is so I could pick berries with Clara. Soon, it will be time to go clamming, eat strawberries off the vine, and ask Aaron to save me half of the freezer space. One day, I want chickens and a garden. It’s what I share with the other crazy Alaskans: I still think I can be who I want to be.