Columns 2003

Alaska just doesn’t cooperate with brother’s visit

It took me 31 years to convince my brother to come to Alaska. I finally did it by pointing out that he could not consider himself a real fisherman unless he fished in Alaska and he couldn’t call himself a golfer if he hadn’t golfed in Alaska. I think his pride finally forced him to rise to the challenge.

It rained the entire week he was here. It rained on him as he sat on his charter out of Homer; it rained on him as he golfed in Anchorage, it rained on him as we wandered the Saturday market; it rained on him as we took our 26 Glacier Cruise; it rained on him as he attempted to fix my screen door.  He was polite enough not to ask why I would ever need it since the sun obviously never shone in Alaska.

Meanwhile, Alaskan wildlife is apparently still boycotting me so by the time we drove up the Seward after the fishing debacle in Homer, I almost caused an accident with my excitement at seeing a Dall sheep by the side of the road. At last, proof that we did indeed have wildlife in Alaska. As for the views along the highway, I was once again reduced to explaining that if the fog weren’t there, he would see sweeping vistas.  And moose.  Or at least a stray dog.

He didn’t get to keep any of the fish he caught while in Homer. He brought in four halibut that were considered too small to keep.  And he didn’t get to salmon fish because the weather was so bad the charter captain just decided to come home.  Luckily I have some friends down in Homer who gave us halibut and salmon to take home so we wouldn’t feel bad about our time there. Truth to be told, I wasn’t feeling bad at all. The day my brother spent getting rained on in Kachemak Bay, I spent in the spa at Land’s End getting my pores opened and my back massaged.

In order to keep the mystique of Alaska alive in my family’s mind, I am forced to resort to telling them that they missed the boat when they didn’t take the time to visit me in Barrow.  I regale them with stories of the Bush and the rugged outdoors that began in my backyard in Barrow.  In actual fact, my back yard ended at a road that led to other houses in the sub division but if you looked past all that housing, there was the tundra in the distance.

Knowing they will never visit Barrow allows me the freedom to embellish just a little on the experience they would have had if they hadn’t wimped out at the thought of crossing the Arctic Circle.  I describe a yard full of polar bears, walks surrounded by wolves and rabid foxes, a sea alive with leaping whales and vicious walrus.  I figure if you’re going to fantasize an adventure you should go all the way. After all, it’s not as thought there’s any danger they will actually challenge you to take them there.

As for Anchorage, I’m just about ready to suggest we use animatronics not unlike those in use at Disneyland.  We’d only need them in the summer when all our relatives and friends from the lower 48 arrive so it wouldn’t cost much. In fact, they could be coin operated so that those of us who used them would pay for them.  They could be set to work with a little timer so that I could feed them quarters on my way to the airport to pick up my guests but time it to not start till I was returning. 

Then, just as we approached that curve when Minnesota mysteriously becomes O’Malley, a moose could lumber out of the trees and start nibbling on the grass and a bear could sit by the side of the road with a little hat on waving to us.  Maybe we could have a fox sniffing a flower while an eagle salutes the flag.  We could arrange it so that the whole drive from the airport was filled with wildlife animatronics acting just the way people from the lower 48 think animals act. No wolf killing a moose.  No eagle snatching a miniature dachshund.  Just peaceful happy animals glad to see all the tourists arriving.

Until that happens, I am putting a little rack on my miniature schnauzer’s head and getting a bright yellow light for my back yard.  After all, these people barely believe Alaska is part of America.  Hell, half of them aren’t sure Alaska is really on earth. So I’m pretty sure I can fool them into thinking the dog and the light are a moose and the sun.  That will just have to work until we figure out a way to train the real things to appear on cue.