Tuesday, January 5, 2010

You Know You've Lived in Alaska for a While IF...

-There might be some child-inappropriate language in this post. I am only repeating what I've heard from folks, NOT using a potty mouth on purpose. But if you don't want your kids to ask, "Mom, what's an 'f-bomb'?" then this is a good time for your youngsters to stop reading.
-I KNOW I haven't been in Alaska long enough to be "Alaskan". So don't think I've gotten too big for my Outsider Underpants. I know I'm still mostly chechacko.

Now that I have the disclaimers out of the way, let me tell you how I know I've lived in Alaska (especially rural Alaska) for a while now...

-If you wonder what the heck people are talking about when they ask where your child's jacket it. (For Pete's sake, it's 50 degrees, people! I wore a long sleeve tshirt and was SWEATING all day!)

-If you go to Pike Market and begin to laugh out loud at the prices in the fish market, you have probably lived in Alaska long enough to go fishing.
My loyal readers know I have been known to be a little catty about J's fishing trips. Never again. I had no idea that we probably have over $1,000 worth of fish in our freezer. Maybe even $2000. I almost snorted coffee out of my nose when I saw the Alaskan Prawns" (fancy name for enormously sized shrimp) labeled "ONLY" $17.99/lb. I have about 15 pounds of these in the freezer from J's week long "Man Trip" he took to Valdez. Not to mention the halibut ($20 a lb in Seattle, folks!), china rock, monk fish, and various other creatures of the deep that J and his brother dragged into my perfectly clean house this summer.
You couldn't tell by looking at me, but I am apparently a fish millionaire. WOW.

Continuing... you know you've lived in Alaska for awhile when you find yourself being a bit of a Salmon Snob.
This is not the first snobbery I have committed in my life. Having worked for several different coffee places in my life (including opening one with some friends), I am a certified Coffee Snob. I have been known to not even mask my disgust and surprise when my dad offered me a Folger's Single (coffee in a tea bag? Are you serious? Just tell me how to get to Starbucks.)
The coffee snobbery has mellowed a bit. Living in rural Alaska does that to you. I can still get Fancy-Pants coffee where I live, BUT... it's ridiculously expensive and when you make it in a percolator, it all tastes the same. (That said, I still will not stoop to tea-bag style coffee unless I'm desperate.)
But today...ah. I discovered a new kind of snobbery. Fish Snobbery. Previously Frozen Chinook Salmon? No thanks. Not when my hunter-fisher husband can drive to THE Copper River and bring home dinner.
Goodness. I never thought I would think there was a type of Salmon not good enough to spend money on.
And when the guy at the fish market (dressed like one of the guys on the Deadliest Catch, I should add) really did his best to convince me that I should try the halibut, I almost wet myself from laughing so hard.
See... I have a confession. NOT a big fan of halibut. Don't get me wrong! It tastes good and is a very versatile ingredient. But good grief. If you have ever caught one, you know they are REALLY big fish. If you are lucky enough to catch several of them in a fishing trip (or have family that can't take their catch home), you end up with a freezer full of the stuff. You'll spend the rest of the year inventing ways to cook it because you'll start to get very tired of it. As winter moves along and the summer harvest in the freezer dwindles away, you'll realize that you have more moose, salmon, and halibut than you really want to eat. You'll have to convince your kids that the halibut fish sticks they SAW you make are really store-bought. Or see if you can make them believe that it's chicken. You'll find yourself telling your family that tonight's dinner is "Gourmet Fish Tacos". Not the same halibut you've been trying to make them eat for months now.

Ah.... I am cracking myself up just thinking about the poor guy in the rain gear at the Fish Market. He probably thought I was crazy, standing there taking pictures to send to my husband and laughing to myself.

Of course, I would have fit in.
Here's another reason I know I have lived in Rural Alaska for awhile...
I have started to smile and say "hi" to everyone. This is good if you live in a small town, and downright rude if you don't do it.
In a big city, it is dangerous.
As I stepped off the hotel shuttle into Seattle's busy street, I did just such a thing, smiling and saying "hi" to a seemingly sweet little old lady. I was a bit surprised when she replied with, "Bah! I am so sick of you and your F-ing kid!"
I was hoping she was the only crazy person I was going to meet. Nope. Within my first ten minutes of being at the market I met people raising money for homeless cats (though I'm still wondering why all the cats smelt like weed), people who want to sell you some kind of religious propaganda, people who want to ask for your money, and even people who will follow you through the market asking you insane questions. I jumped out of my skin as my phone rang and found myself retelling this story to a friend from Salcha, AK. The concern in her voice grew more apparent as I realized I was laughing hysterically to keep myself from simultaneously crying and freaking out in public.
I eventually pulled myself together, reminding myself that I DID grow up just outside of Washington, DC. SURELY I could handle an afternoon in Seattle.
I turned tourist long enough to spend more money than necessary and consume more coffee than I should have. I should be able to stay awake until next week. After one more near nervous breakdown (resolved by a phone call to J who told me I hadn't been gone long enough to miss and that if I was that freaked out, I should call the shuttle and return to the hotel. Hmph.)... I finally ducked into a wonderfully quiet Greek sandwich shop for a wonderful lunch and a generous slice of real, fresh baklava. After THAT, I took J's advice and headed back up the BIG, BIG hill to the shuttle pick-up spot.

I'll admit it. I'm homesick. I am also VERY surprised at the impact that living in Alaska has had on me. In such a short amount of time, I have truly turned from city girl to wilderness woman.
Have you ever had the kind of Zen-ish out of body experience where you see something happening outside of yourself? I spent much of my tourist time today watching from outside myself. I've asked myself, did I really used to be the person I was? Where did she go?
A friend of mine recently commented that I had changed "a lot" since moving to Alaska. I was aware of some of the changes, but not to the extreme. I can't even conjure up the woman that would have confidently walked through a busy downtown with a destination in mind, or the gal that would have ordered some crazy-made expensive coffee drink without missing a beat.
I had a chance to conjure up that gal today, but when I got to the counter at The First Starbucks In the World, I found myself like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" when he finally reached Santa Claus. Instead of telling the gal what I really wanted in my coffee cup, I squeaked out that I would like a "MEDIUM COFFEE". Me! Coffee Snob! Good grief! I used to work at Starbucks, for Pete's Sake! I used to BE the girl (ahem, "barista")rolling my eyes at the obvious non-Starbucks customers and sarcastically saying, "You want a GRANDE coffee?" (Don't forget the condescending note on the word "coffee". This is used when you don't order a drink that requires any actual skill to make.)
And just like poor Ralphie, I stopped myself from spiraling down the slide just in time to ask for two pounds of froo-froo coffee to take home with me. (Never mind that it's going to taste the same as my $6, 2 lb can of Yuban coffee when I make it in the percolator.)

I think I amused the shuttle driver with my answer to his just-being-polite question of "Did you enjoy your time at the Market?" I think he's hoping that I don't dare go back into town. At least not on his shift.

I was relieved to return to the hotel. I know we HAVE to be here for Little Nugget's tests, but I am looking forward to returning back to my little town, population 900-ish, and my little cabin.
I missed knitting group for this.
Something good has come out of my day, however. I found a kindred spirit among the crowds (and it wasn't the lady who told me she was sick of me and my f-ing kids). I saw an ad in one of the hotel magazines for a fancy-pants yarn shop and called to see if they have a knitting group meeting this week. Turns out, they do, and the kind lady on the other side of the phone said she agreed that a couple hours of gabbing and knitting with some other yarn-sisters would do me some good. I've got an official date for knitting tomorrow. I know, I know. SUCH an exciting night-life while visiting the big city. But it's perfect for me.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

P.S.- Little Nugget is completely undaunted by the change in surroundings. Her motto: Have Momma Milk, Will Travel. She could care less. She's currently entertaining herself by licking the baby in the mirror on the bathroom door. (Fabulously funny, I might add.)
Beans is surviving her week with dad, so far.
J is, well... he hasn't called crying for mercy yet. Yet.


Susan Stevenson said...

When Steve and I travel "outside" we always end up realizing just how much we've changed too. We can not stand traffic, crowds, people who don't smile or say HI, rude drivers, etc. When we went to Vegas/AZ/UT in December on vacation, our favorite part of the trip was being on the open road with beautiful landscape. The Vegas portion was not fun at all. Give me Alaska, with wide open spaces, friendly people, wildlife, and free fish anyday! :D

Lynne said...

I know what you mean. We've been here 7 years this month. And even though we live in Chugiak, we don't like any of the things you're talking about. We don't really have a downtown here anyway. And I rarely ever go to Anchorage anymore. The Valley or nothing.
I don't know how going outside is going to feel. I'm not really looking forward to it too much. Gotta go sometime, I guess.

don oesau said...

Long time anchorageites will remember the lake george breakup that flooded the glenn highway everyy summer,the c st hill.the empress theater,fort stearns,the idle hour,mayor zack loussac,the anchorage grill,caribous store in mtn view,lorene harrison,and many others. If you remember all or most of these youve lived in alaska for a while.

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