Another favorite gathering place — and the only restaurant in town opened year round back then — was Al’s Eskimo Cafe. There was a place called Brower’s Cafe but it only opened in the summer for the tourists. It was tradition to go there at least once a season and eat a bowl of reindeer soup while listening to the tour guides’ latest spiels about Barrow.
I left for Alaska on October 1, 1972. I was accompanied to the airport by a large contingent of relatives who seemed unduly concerned that this move would somehow lead to my permanent removal from their circle. Although in hindsight that proved more true than not, at the time I found myself wondering if my grandparents had had to endure this when they departed for America. Of course, at that point I wasn’t too sure the move was as bright an idea as it had seemed when first conceived. Some things are much cloudier in the light of stark reality than they are in the much dimmer glow cast by parallel logic.
My most vivid memory of that day occurred when I checked my beloved parrot Adeline into cargo. She was stuffed into what she considered a very small carrying cage considering the more gracious accommodations she’d grown so use to. She was clearly unhappy at the prospect of being the first tropical bird in the arctic. And she’d unfortunately picked up some language in her time with me — though I have absolutely no idea who could have taught it to her — that was very expressive of these feelings. I don’t think even death will wipe out the picture I have of her carrying cage flowing on the conveyor belt back to the cargo area while she let loose with some of her more scatological expressions in a voice that could be heard in Chicago. Airline staff and customers were popping out of every nook and cranny imaginable to see exactly who was creating this cacophony of four letter words. I was beating a hasty retreat up the escalator trying to pretend I had no connection with the scene. Every time I surreptitiously glanced down at the counter area, I’d find three or four hands pointing to me.
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