We left off last week, or at the very least I wrote a thing and emailed it off into the ether never to be seen again, discussing the wet conditions of the first two days of my backcountry class’ three-day excursion. The picture I painted last time may not have been flattering, perhaps even less…
Author: Evan Dodd
I write to you, dear reader, surrounded by a cluster of supplies that have become increasingly vital over the past few days. Namely, a mound of empty Powerade bottles, two separate heating blankets, a red residue of Nyquil slowly creeping across the floor, and a bucket filled with contents of a dubious nature. It’s…
I’m not new to Anchorage. In fact, in the five years I’ve lived here full time, I’d argue that I’ve managed to explore more of it than most. By way of the inter-city trail system, the Front Range access via upper and lower Hillside and the outlying trails snaking down the Turnagain Arm, I…
“Love, sex, and Valentine’s day,” I read aloud to my girlfriend with mounting dismay. “It’s the same damn topic every year, no matter how much of a train wreck these columns turn out to be.” Laughing with a knowing glance, she began choking on her Wheaties as I became more animated and agitated with…
I’ve never given much thought to moving. In my four years in the dorms, I never stayed long in any one place, preferring instead the ghostly nomad approach to campus life. Some years, I found myself staying the full nine months, and others I spent barely three weeks tripping over unpacked boxes before it was…
As a freshman, I was often naively irritated by the non-traditional students in my classes. While everyone in my cohort was within a couple years of having graduated high school, the classes often had a few students out of that normal range. Whether they were in their late twenties, responsibly chipping away at a degree…
When you’re in your twenties, the places you live tend to be contingent upon low cost and little else. While I could summarize the growing disparity between the wages of Millennials and the growing cost of housing to illustrate this, it’s a bit too early to be despondently drinking bourbon with my coffee. Instead, I’ll…
In college, you tend to gravitate towards a social group based on mutual interests. In my case, the common denominator is a love of questionable decisions and the bad luck that inexplicably tends to follow. In the interest of graduating without added scrutiny, I’ll simply refer to the group as “The Templewood,” with the shared…
13 weeks. By a rough estimate, that’s the imprecise remainder of time in which the excuse of being a college student is sufficient to explain my Netflix habits, granola appearance and the tendency to keep all my belongings in the backseat of my car. This horrifying realization came up between roommates, all of whom…
The last two weeks are always a chaotic mess for me. Even when the rest of the semester has run smoothly and fallen into a comfortable rhythm, those final couple days seem to spontaneously unravel in an instant once I actually look at a calendar and see that I’m out of time once again. It’s…
It’s quickly becoming that time of year where I begin making the difficult decisions that shape my summer months. Who signs my paycheck? Do I stay in a tent, or is someone in an apartment kind enough to lend me a floor? Should I continue using my lava lamp and shag carpet after college, or is it time for them to find a permanent home in the dumpster behind East Hall?
Given that the thirty some internships I applied for didn’t call and the state economy is in the toilet, the prospects for summer employment aren’t exactly as lucrative as I had hoped. So far my interviews have consisted of a former landscaping employer that had me picking junkies’ needles out of the bushes in shopping center parking lots, and a job that would require me to spend eight 24 hour days in the wilderness while only paying me for ten hours a day. When you start seriously considering employers that have clearly screwed you over in the past, you know you’re in a bit of a bind.
At least so far I’m not at the level of last summer, which consisted of frequent camping trips that were partly motivated by my love of the outdoors but more so focused on not having to ask a friend for a place to stay that evening. As much as I appreciate generous friends, I need my own place to stay, if only so that I can blast some 90’s music while I’m in the shower each morning without fear of angering roommates with poor musical taste.
I’m not really worried about the summer yet; as dramatic as I can be, it’s not like I’m in danger of starving. That being said, one might expect that after four years of college you’d be able to find employment in a field other that “lawn maintenance”. The one solace I’ve found is that I don’t seem to be alone in this predicament. A simple poll of other economics students in some of my classes revealed that of those graduating this semester most are working as construction laborers, roadside flaggers, lifeguards, and wait staff at restaurants. The point being that none of us seem to be emulating Dicaprio in the Wolf of Wall Street for our first jobs out of college.
I’m at the point where I’ve started to consider alternative lifestyles in lieu of traditional employment. A friend of mine bought a bike the other day from a guy that lived in what he called a “Jambulance”, an ambulance retrofitted into a camper complete with four burner stove built with the intention to jam. I’ve even got a professor who, by his own admission, lived in a school bus for a few years after college to save on living expenses; and the closer I get to graduation the more I being to think that he may have been on to something.
On the other hand, I’ve got an old friend from high school that disappears off the radar for the majority of the year to live the hobo lifestyle, only emerging once or twice annually to post pictures of the trains he’s been hopping. Judging by the incoherent jumble of things he posts to social media, I’ve been able to piece together that he’s been living in a hippy commune, got lice from buying a used sleeping bag, and seems to subsist solely on can of beans. If there’s a point to this incoherent rant, it’s that there may be an advantage to staying in that happy medium between granola outdoorsman and off the grid social hermit.
How that helps me for the upcoming summer is unclear. At the moment, It’s looking like I’m either going to be making the lawns of Anchorage look fantastic for the only three months in which people actually care about that sort of thing, or groveling for a bussing job in the hope that the tips would make it worth it. These aren’t the best prospects I’ve ever seen, but it’s also the end of the world. Luckily I have a girlfriend that, for some unknown reason, really hates the thought of me living out of my car and tent and subsisting off beans for another summer, so she’s graciously offered up her floor in the meantime.
If there’s any point to this it’s that I suspect that I’m not the only student facing abysmal job prospects and there’s got to be some small comfort associated with seeing your own fears and worries printed in a newspaper by someone else.
So if you’d like to hire me (or clothe me, feed me or house me for that matter) then by all means, send out a smoke signal to get my attention. Or just continue to read the hilarious side effects of my attempts to break into a job market that doesn’t involve consistently sweating through my shirt by midmorning. In either case, good luck out there; because it’s looking like lean times for the foreseeable future.
Halfway up the stairs to my bedroom I came to a grinding halt soaked in sweat, desperately trying to squeeze another couple of vertical inches out of my aching calves. Coming to the startling conclusion that my legs had ceased to function as such, I contemplated my potential future as a spokesman for Life Alert,…
Friday marked the last field day of my backcountry ski course with one final trip to Sunburst, in Turnagain Pass, in hopes of a final spring run before the long summer wait. We weren’t disappointed either, with bluebird conditions and an untouched skin track we had the entire mountain to ourselves for one last hurrah….
As I near the end of my stay at our high class campus housing, I feel the need to reminisce on my time here. Maybe its nostalgia, maybe it’s a complete lack of anything recent to write about this week, or perhaps some part of me just wants to get everything in writing in the event of a class action lawsuit.
Either way, as I begin the packing process for the final time (deciding to finally trash my secondhand shag carpet rugs and pineapple lamps in the process) I can’t help but think back to everything I’ve seen as a resident of campus housing.
Due to mismatched schedules, conflicting budgets and preferences, and the fact that some of my friends seem to think the only relevant criteria when renting a property is checking to see if it has four walls and internet; I’ve been unable to live off-campus during my time at UAA.
I began in North Hall, which was nice, well maintained, and relatively uneventful. Well, if I close my eyes and try to block out memories of my two muscle-bound roommates lobbing punches at each other and any solid objects in the immediate vicinity, then it seems uneventful. Coming home to a sea of empty Natural Ice beer cans (which the roommate in question claimed to have been hurled by the “Natty-pult”) and a hole in my wall one day before move-out was probably a low of the year. Needless to say I quickly learned to consider my housing deposit as some tribute to an unknown god, never to be seen again.
I do however, have fond memories of cranking all the showers and sinks to maximum heat to turn the room into a sauna and serving some variation of tropical shave ice while we blasted reggae to try and hold off the crushing darkness of December.
For my sophomore and junior years, the MACs remained a fixture in my life that I’ll always remember no matter how much therapy I attend. In my first semester I moved upwards of five different times due to mold, shrew infestations, reoccurring flooding, and a roommate who made the questionable decision to allow a homeless man to sleep on our floor. I have fond memories of gazing out the window as campus police were called in to tame a raucously drunk hockey party for the third time that month in the apartment across the way.
While I certainly appreciated the opportunity to use the window as a convenient entrance on nights that I misplaced my key card in a less than sober state; the benefit was null compared to the nightly fire alarm caused by residents who didn’t seem to understand that smoke detectors also react to incense, bongs and 3:00 a.m. burned popcorn. By the time I had left the MACs I had developed an unsettling numbness to fire alarms that may very well be the death of me.
When I finally moved into a Templewood apartment my senior year, it was as if I had achieved nirvana and ascended to a new form of life. Never mind that the shower didn’t drain, the toilet didn’t flush and the heat was malfunctioning at best; I had a garage and a fireplace. Within a few hours time I was able to extract two feet of hair from the drain, fix the toilet with zip ties and duct tape, and start a fire large enough to warm the space until the heat decided to cooperate. With the exception of having to teach my roommate how to wash his clothes and dishes as well as cook, the rest of my stay ran smoothly.
At the end of it all I roomed with friends, RA’s, foreign exchange students, and a disproportionately high number of alcoholics. I was complicit in multiple plans to create Nerf forts out of decrepit furniture, a scheme to bake three cans of chili and a bag of Fritos into a “casserole”, and participated in a therapy session conducted by our favorite RA who made us an “anger orange” (essentially a citrus with a crudely drawn face that was to be passed around the room as we shared our grievances). I once watched a man use a bungee to snowboard off the top of a parking garage and nab a sketchy back flip on the way down without missing a beat.
So as I begin packing I realize that while I wouldn’t wish four years of crumbling infrastructure, mayhem and low living standards on anyone, I also wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. Campus housing may have been a struggle at times, and it almost certainly took years off my life, but at the end of the day all our lives really come down to the stories we tell. And when you measure life by the stories, then I’m convinced I’ve lived an eternity in these past four years.
So here’s to my few remaining weeks before I’m on to the next big adventure.
So over spring break I eschewed the normal range of college break activities, such as drinking (too poor), studying (too lazy) and vacationing at the beach (did I mention too poor?). Instead I made the questionable decision to take 11-hour classes every day in order to become a Wilderness First Responder.
Thankfully we did get a rest day or two in the middle of the week, which I used to go hike and explore Whittier, Hope, Girdwood and Kenai, taking advantage of the rare sunshine — though any of my professors reading this should instead assume that I’m lying and worked incredibly hard on whatever project they had assigned me.
WFRs (or “woofers” as they’re casually known) are trained medical professionals that specialize in backcountry medicine. The idea being that while an EMT is no good to you without an ambulance, and a surgeon is no good to you without a sterile operating room, WFRs are trained to treat certain types of wilderness injuries and stabilize the patient until they can be evacuated to a higher degree of medical care.
Simple dislocations, head trauma, severe asthma, anaphylaxis, spinal injuries and wound management are a few of the main concepts we touched upon, but the main idea of the course was improvisation. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t trained to summon an eagle to swoop down and deliver a defibrillator in the middle of the forest, so much of the course involves using what you have on hand to splint limbs and construct rescue sleds.
Having grown up watching medically accurate documentaries like “Scrubs” and “House,” I actually recognized the odd term here and there. But given that I don’t come from a science background, the course was almost entirely new to me. I came away with a new appreciation for the human body and the sneaking suspicion that I should probably stop feeding mine trash and forcing it not to sleep.
The class itself was fairly diverse, ranging from two outdoorsy college students, a handful of hunting guides and lodge owners, and quite a few remote government employees from Fish and Game and the Department of Natural Resources. What this looked like in practice was a Patagonia convention mixed with an unkempt beard competition. After years of wallowing in the midst of professionally dressed economics majors it was like walking into a classroom and suddenly finding myself transported to the middle of REI in July.
While the first bit of the course was fairly lecture heavy, we quickly progressed into drills intended to make us diagnose and treat patients with no prior information to go on. By day three we started running scenarios intended to simulate large-scale incidents in which seven or eight patients were hurt with varying mechanisms of injury. Everything from car crashes, bike crashes and remote camp mishaps (which fittingly included a sled crash) became fair game and the patients ranged from slightly stressed to unresponsive and bleeding internally.
If you saw mayhem, madness and spurting blood in the UAA quad or APU ski trails and wondered what catastrophe could have possibly happened, it was probably just us practicing our medical skills under pressure. The mantra of “kill them in here, not out there” was drilled into our skulls for a solid week until everyone in the classes had well surpassed the minimum requirements and passed the exit exam. On our way out we were treated to the sobering fact that, statistically, as least one of us would use the skills we had learned within the next six months.
What had only been a week had instead felt like a solid month of intensive drills that even the most incompetent person couldn’t have helped but learned from. The main takeaway — other than the fact that stressed patients often make stupid decisions — is that a good many of my friends probably could have died or seriously injured themselves on numerous occasions.
So now I’m a Wilderness First Responder. Maybe it will lead to a job someday — and you can bet your ass I’m heavily hyping that certification as I apply for summer internships — or maybe it will save my own life or someone around me. More likely it means I’m going to have to yell at my friends every time we go out on trips for doing something I’ve now learned is incredibly stupid.
Either way, it’s easily the most productive spring break I’ve ever had, even if I did forget how a normal sleep schedule worked. If you’re ever interested in the course, they are offered through the university on campus, so there’s no excuse about not having time. I’ve run into a lot of idiots in the woods, and while I now realize exactly how much can go wrong, I’m vaguely comforted that there are now 16 more people who have some inkling of what they’re doing.
My backcountry ski course met way too damn early the Friday before spring break, loading the bus with what seemed to be enough gear to summit K2. Eager to shred some decent snow and gain our level one avalanche certifications, we headed out before sunup to get an early start. Spending the weekend in…
Well it finally happened. Much to the surprise of every cynic, including myself, marijuana legalization passed in Alaska and reefer madness quickly ensued, destabilizing any remaining morals in our depraved society.
Well, not exactly. Actually the day passed with little to no fanfare, with Anchorage Police issuing only three citations for the public use of cannabis, and Wasilla (widely held as the hometown of grass-growing miscreants) had exactly zero citations. In fact, without the local news agencies posting about the subject to Facebook every five minutes, I probably would have entirely forgotten about the big day.
Like it or not, though, it looks as if the devil’s lettuce is legal, regulated and here to stay. So here are a few tips for those of those looking to responsibly enjoy their newfound freedoms.
If you live on campus, don’t smoke or store cannabis in your room. Those “fire drills” they do are often more about making sure you haven’t left a smoldering blunt in a roach clip on your desk than they are about ensuring that a group of adults can properly respond to a fire alarm. And your resident advisers aren’t idiots, either — they know damn well why your dorm smells like incense or why you’ve shoved towels up against the crack in the door. Marijuana is illegal at the federal level, and because this is a public university, don’t expect to legally light up during your time here.
Secondly, for the love of all rational thought, don’t drive stoned. I don’t care how many times you’ve seen Cheech and Chong do it, or how good you are at the weed mission in “Grand Theft Auto.” If you drive high, you’re getting a DUI — and that’s the end of it. Remember: Alaska is on the forefront of marijuana legalization. Don’t hurt your own cause by becoming a statistic to be used in arguments for prohibition. As much as Taco Bell loves the increased consumer base, they’d much rather have repeat customers than have a one-time order because you stupidly got your license suspended.
Finally, be careful how (and with whom) you share your love of trees with. While it may be legal in the eyes of the state, there is absolutely nothing keeping your employer from testing, and subsequently kicking your ass to the curb if you come up hot. That risk-benefit analysis is going to be different for every person and something you need to determine on your own — so don’t be so cavalier about your plant preferences before you’ve figured out how it may affect your career.
Notice that there’s a common theme here: Don’t let pot get in the way of your life. You know those people that drink excessively or seem to always have a beer in hand? We call those people alcoholics, and all the mental gymnastics in the world can’t rationalize why it’s a good idea to do the same with some Mary Jane.
I’ll admit, there are a lot of “don’ts” in this article, so before I get accused of harshing anyone’s mellow, let me outline what you can do in this new age of green: You can enjoy your herbs responsibly and revel in the fact that no one is going to bust in your front door over it.
If you own your own property, then feel free to grow a plant or two (though no more than six if you’re trying not to run afoul of The Man), or just enjoy your bud responsibly with some good friends. Stay home, order in some pizza or Chinese food and queue up that Netflix playlist you save for the weekend — you know, the one filled with old cartoons, wild nature videos or campy B movies like “Big Trouble in Little China.” Listen, if you want to watch “Fantasia 2000” three times in a row while feasting on Doritos and donut holes, then as an Alaskan you’re now entitled to do that.
Most importantly, as that guy who makes the rice once told his spider-nephew, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Don’t harass or pressure those who don’t smoke, don’t burn one at the expense of those around you, and don’t become a nuisance that gives people a reason to hate your newfound freedoms. There is a substantial stigma against potheads, stoners and jolly green giants alike, and if you’d like to help overcome that, then you better act accordingly. Be polite, be courteous and most importantly, be excellent to one another.
So go out, do your own funky thing, enjoy yourselves responsibly (note the repetition on that point?) and be ever-thankful that you live in one of the few states that grants you that right.
Finally, I just want to thank the voters of Alaska for giving me the opportunity to get paid to write a column using as many different euphemisms for cannabis as I can reasonably imagine. I can only hope that you find this as funny as I do.
It’s been a rough year to be an outdoor enthusiast. Alyeska is a rock-ridden sheet of ice, the flu dashed my hopes of climbing Matanuska glacier, my winter camping class was dead on arrival due to low enrollment, and the one time I got to go on a proper adventure it nearly ended with five…
Valentine’s Day: that dreaded “holiday” which brings all the worst aspects of romance together in one soul-crushing day of chalky candy hearts and a rousing game of “guess what’s in the chocolate.” Barely qualifying as a holiday, Valentine’s Day always struck me as a holiday that would have been designed by a preschooler who had…
As a broke college student, sometimes you have to do things you’re not proud of. The type of dirty, non-taxed, under the table type jobs that leave you exhausted, emotionally drained and reeking of desperation.
I’m referring, of course, to dog-sitting.
A variant of house-sitting, the typical supplemental income of choice for poverty stricken college students, dog-sitting presumably came about when some dog owner decided to go on vacation while leaving poor Spot in the hands of a naive neighborhood kid. In theory it’s a great arrangement; the owner can escape the obligations of keeping another being alive long enough to get a much needed holiday, while some entrepreneurial teen or twenty-something can make a quick buck.
In terms of house-sitting, this is always a great trade. Provided the owner leaves something edible on the premises and the house sitter doesn’t throw a party large enough to necessitate a visit from the local authorities, everyone leaves happy. However — much like buying a used car from the lemon lot — you’re forced to rely solely upon the word of the owner to evaluate whether the dogs are worth the trouble.
Here’s something I’ve learned during my years of dog-sitting: Some dog owners are dirty liars.
As context for my lack of appreciation for dog-sitting, my girlfriend just house-sat for a lovely couple that, for some reason, decided to own five diaper wearing rat-dogs that were afraid of food, water and their own shadows. They couldn’t fetch, shake or roll over. They offered no form of companionship and required at least two full-time jobs in order to clean up after them.
Despite the diapers, these dogs were advertised as “house-trained and loving,” which leads me to believe that dog owners must have some vocabulary deficiency that renders them incapable of conveying how much work their pets require.
I once house sat for a family who, five minutes before leaving, informed me that they had meant to have their ancient black lab put down before they left, but had run out of time. What this meant was that when that giant dog laid down and stopped audibly breathing three different times throughout the job, I was left with nothing but an illegibly scrawled number for the vet and the WebMD dog edition on my phone.
Another time I was left with three dogs, who I had been assured would be no trouble at all, just “a bit finicky with their diets.” Expecting nothing more than to have to buy something along the lines of gluten free, non-GMO, organic, free range hippy kibble, I gladly accepted the job to keep my bank account from losing yet another digit. However, apparently “finicky diet” was meant to be interpreted as “Dog #1 will eat nothing for three days, then have some sort of episode due to self induced starvation, Dog #2 will primarily subsist upon twice ingested table scraps, and Dog #3 will only eat cheese and the occasional ice cube.”
It’s really the bait-and-switch that makes the offer of dog-sitting such an insidious request. Most times it’s not even malicious. It’s easy to see how over many years a dog owner can grow accustomed to the fact that his or her precious companion can only be coaxed outside by speaking in certain tone of voice, by a person (preferably brandishing some sort of treat) that has passed the dog’s rigorous background sniff check.
Before you conclude that I’m just bad with animals and prone to complaining, keep in mind that I’ve worked some bad jobs. I was forced to fire someone three times my age while working my second day at Carrs, only to have the person break down and cry — and I was only seventeen at the time. I’ve had to set up weddings for a vicious, drunk mother-in-law who I’m pretty sure was plotting to kill the groom the second I left the property. Hell, last summer I worked as a “landscaper,” which is really just a euphemism for “guy who pulls junkies’ needles out of bushes in grocery store parking lots” — but even that is preferable to caring for someone else’s untrained mutt.
So I guess if I have to throw a useful recommendation in amidst all this complaining, it would be that resources exist to care for your furry best friend while you’re away. While you may hate the idea of a leaving your dog in a day care or boarding kennel for a week, at least those establishments are better equipped to care for a living creature than some high schooler whose work experience starts and ends with lawn mowing. You could even leave them with a dog-owning friend to save money and unnecessary stress. Just don’t leave town and entrust all your worldly processions and four-legged friend to a stressed college student with no idea what they’ve just committed to.
Alternatively, you could just train your dogs well and reward me handsomely to care for them. The choice is yours.
As an underclassman you have a very uneducated view of what goes in to being a college senior. “Sure, you naively assume, I mean the capstone course is probably difficult, as are the remainder of the degree requirements, but otherwise it’s just another year, right?”
Wrong; hypothetical example of an underclassman reading this paper, very wrong indeed.
You see, people tend to forget about the dreaded internship application process, which involves applying for every position ever remotely related to your degree in the hopes that you can either fool someone, or earn their mercy long enough to come out with some relevant work experience. That’s not to mention the fact that a large bulk of internships are unpaid, presumably to cater to the mythical independently wealthy college student who is really only here to enrich their own intellect rather than trying to avoid starving as an unemployed bum.
I got three quarters of the way into applying for an environmental internship in Seward, only to see the tiny print stating that there would be no pay, no stipend, and only housing covered for the three month period. As someone who makes the majority of his money in the summer, working for free in a town a hundred miles away doesn’t sound appealing, especially when housing is covered while the funds necessary to purchase food are conveniently forgotten. As much as it would be fun to handle wildlife and save the planet for a summer, you can be damn sure it isn’t feasible for me to do it for free.
Admittedly, a great deal of my frustration stems from the fact that I was supposed to write this column about my ice climbing excursion at Matanuska glacier this weekend. Instead I’ve been on bended knee praying to the porcelain god as a result of what I can only assume is my utter stupidity in failing to get my flu shot this year. So as a mid-column PSA, please vaccinate yourself, your children, your pets, and even that loud guy who smokes cigarettes right outside of your apartment building every night. Believe me, it’s more than worth it if it helps you avoid the full body aches and a Technicolor yawn or two.
Back to the internship search, hopefully your advisors have been telling you all to get letters of recommendation from your professors. Well, let’s back up. Hopefully most of you have been visiting your advisors, or at least know who they are. Because if you wait until the last minute to get a recommendation letter like everyone else you know, then even the professors who like you will struggle to get you a letter on any sort of schedule.
Whether this was publicized and I missed it, assumed to be common knowledge, or just a massive oversight, the reality is that every internship application I’ve seen so far demands two letters of recommendation to even apply. That’s a significant barrier to entry for a student who’s forgotten about the networking aspect of college and thought that basic academic success would signal competency.
Finally, even if you obtain your letters of recommendation that give off the vague impression that your professors remember who you are, get an internship that pays real American currency, and are able to complete said internship alongside your final courses; don’t expect to be hired on full time afterwards. While this may be the case some of the time, far too many friends of mine have completed internships only to return back to the full time job hunt with a slightly spiffier resume.
“Isn’t there an alternative to this process?” you may ask with wavering desperation in your voice.
I’m afraid not, wearied hypothetical reader; now less secure in their future for having read this column. Whether or not this is the most fair or efficient system is a question for someone far smarter than I, the best that I can do is to educate you to the process. Graduating college is hard; learning to use your college experience effectively is harder still.
My point, if such a thing has managed to come across despite the bubbling concoction of cold medicine I’ve been frantically ingesting, is that quite a bit more goes into graduating school than just taking classes and donning a cap and gown. Sure, you can come out with a 4.0 and be the pride and joy of your family; but if you don’t also have professors who can vouch for you, relevant work experience in your field, and a particularly lucky rabbit’s foot then you might as well just apply directly to Starbucks and call it a day. That’s not a reason to fret or call it quits before you’re done, but it’s a damn good reason to get your ducks in a row long before you register for your final couple of semesters.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to applying for internships while I down some emergen-c and moan for a couple hours.
I’m a broke college student.
That’s the answer to your impending question of why on earth I’d go on vacation to Homer in January. I say this only because of the incredulous looks I got when I tried to explain to people that I’d be out of town for the better part of a week. My girlfriend and I, half out of annual tradition and half out of a hefty bout of cabin fever, headed down to spend four or five days in Homer as a relaxing last hurrah before the spring semester.
Unlike last year, where we somehow teleported through a whiteout at speeds only my Kia could have achieved, the drive down was thankfully non-eventful. We ended up in town just in time to dump all our gear at the hotel and head to a steakhouse that, I kid you not, may have broken me for any other burgers I could ever eat. However, given that a good chunk of Homer closes down in the winter, hours of scouring the town produced none of the Thai food I’d been craving, sending us right back to the same steakhouse the following evening.
Somehow, the awkwardness of attending the same restaurant, wearing the same clothing, sitting at the same table and ordering the same food two nights in a row did nothing to diminish the glory of that sweet, juicy burger.
The following afternoon we decided to drive as far past Homer as we could get on the road system, with interesting results. Unbeknownst to us there exists a large Russian Orthodox community far past Homer and, being completely oblivious to the unique street names and impressive beards we passed, we almost missed this discovery entirely until we discovered a distinctive graveyard overlooking a sharp cliff that my Camry almost got too acquainted with.
Returning to town, we briefly stopped by the homemade (and almost life-size) TARDIS on the side of the road that has become a bit of a local legend in recent years. While my girlfriend sat in the car, mercifully withholding judgment, I may have spent more time than necessary probing the box with my sonic screwdriver to ensure that it was not in fact a space-time capsule.
As a bit of an aside, let me note that I’ve developed a controversial hypothesis about the demographic makeup of Homer — mainly in that there don’t appear to be any men around. My primary evidence is the fact that the Safeway in Homer doesn’t seem to carry condoms of any sort.
They do, however, have an entire wall of tampons, next to a three-rack ensemble of every sappy romance novel ever written and a very large assortment of wine. Reading between the lines, I have to conclude that all the men in town packed up and left on the fishing boats, given that we saw few children and even fewer contraception options.
Continuing our tour of the town, we stopped by the Salty Dawg Saloon for a drink and checked off that quintessential Alaskan experience by getting a shirt and sticking a signed, tattered dollar to the wall. Both feeling a bit more worthy of our Permanent Fund Dividends, my girlfriend and I returned to the hotel and spent the evening avoiding anything that could be construed as romantic, instead opting to stay up until 3 a.m. watching seven hours of “Star Trek” and BBC nature videos. Long story short, we returned from the trip with a hilariously robust knowledge of Captain Picard’s vacation habits, as well as the migration patterns of the Pacific walrus.
Other highlights of the trip included our attempt to craft homemade onion rings, a venture that resulted in “cream filled onion rings” as the batter in the middle remained room temperature, and a misleading scene for room service to discover. Though we had only purchased a few bottles of beer over the course of five days, the miniscule hotel room trash can made it appear as if we had consumed nothing but alcohol during our stay, giving an unfortunate impression to whomever cleaned the room.
Thankfully the return trip home was uneventful as well, especially given that we avoided an excessive speeding ticket that had almost derailed last year’s trip.
And then, in the blink of an eye it was over, dropping us back into the monotony of being stressed college seniors.
It may not have been Hawaii, which is on the docket for next year, but it was definitely a nice break from the confines of Anchorage, and the aftermath of an ongoing snow machine mishap. So if you’re ever in need of a cheap vacation, or just inexplicably want to watch some Star Trek in an unfamiliar place, I’d highly suggest a trip down to Homer — even if only for that magical burger.
I left off last time with the story of five frozen college students who had plunged three snow machines through the ice at 20 below zero, only to be the overjoyed participants of a remote midnight rescue. The following morning we awoke in a small cabin on Lake Susitna, with piles of wet and thawing…
This summer, a group of friends took an RV filled with 12 people up to Lake Louise, promptly sunk it in a gravel lot, named it “The Incident” and vowed to never again be bested by the notorious lake. In this vow we have admittedly failed. The plan was to head out to our friend’s…
In a last-ditch attempt to obliterate any chance of passing my few remaining midterms I decided to make the obvious decision to take sea kayaking at the last minute. If you’ve been even remotely following these columns this semester, you’ll recognize this as just another installment in the growing trend of my lack of academic…
I’ve never been a big fan of bars. With the exception of the beer itself, they’re typically filled with loud drunks, dancing, desperate singles trying way too hard and a host of other situations I generally try to avoid. Unless you’re people watching or profiting from tragically overpriced drinks, I’ve just never found a good reason to spend too much time or money there. But slap a pirate costume onto all of that and you’ve got an entire different story.
I’m talking, of course, about the Pirate Pub Crawl, an event in which a chunk of Anchorage loses its better judgment, and sets out to swashbuckle around downtown in order to follow the treasure map to the 12 bars brave enough to participate.
I had been enticed to join the evening with an offer of drinks and a free costume that had already been bought by a friend. However, when I put on the costume I quickly realized that I looked less like a pirate and more like Freddie Mercury dressed up like a pirate. I had to reevaluate my wardrobe choices before we went downtown. After a little bit of work and a beer, I somehow managed to look less like a male stripper and more like someone wearing a cheap pirate costume. Then we set sail for the event.
On the way downtown we saw every sort of pirate imaginable. From half-hearted effort pirates, to those who went all out, we even saw a group that had built an entire pirate ship on wheels and were “rowing” it down the sidewalk — much to the dismay of anyone not participating in the event. We got our treasure maps at McGinley’s and quickly decided that we didn’t need to hit all 12 bars, given that a chance at winning 80,000 Alaska Airlines miles (the grand prize) wasn’t worth a multi-day hangover.
Somewhere between McGinley’s and the Captain Cook my pirate hat became the first casualty of the evening. A sudden gust of wind blew it into oncoming traffic and, quickly calculating that my life was probably worth more than $8, I resigned myself to looking like an out of place gang member with only my pirate do-rag left covering my head.
The two bars in the Captain Cook were participating in the event, something which can’t have been common knowledge given that we saw 10 rich couples trying desperately to have a fancy dinner in the midst of drunken pirate madness. We finally made port at F Street Station for some much-needed food and found every chair occupied by some form of pirate, with the exception of one confused Viking in the back.
We briefly entered the Playhouse, only to find some loosely based pirate debauchery set to the blasting beat of what I can only assume were the last dying remnants of Nicki Minaj’s career. We quickly left for fear of getting too into character as dirty pirates by catching an airborne STD and headed across the street to the Avenue.
Now, I have a love-hate relationship with the Avenue. Normally I’m not a fan of seeing people I know, or large groups of those I don’t. However, I don’t tend to visit the Avenue until late in the evening when social interaction becomes slightly less of a concern, so occasionally it can be fun. I bring this up because the Avenue seems to have the inexplicable ability to force people to run into old acquaintances from high school that they’ve, quite frankly, forgotten about. This effect held true for all of us, which was all the more impressive when one considers that no one in our group went to high school in Anchorage and some were as far away as North Pole and Fairbanks.
Shortly after the Avenue, someone initiated a dead sprint all the way to Mad Myrna’s, which may have contributed to our decision not to wait in the two-mile line to get in. Instead we called a cab, the driver of which seemed completely unfazed by the car full of pirates, and made port back at one of our houses. We, for some unknown reason, concluded the night by making chili and blasting (while singing along to) ‘90s music until the late hours of the morning.
The following day we recovered from a long night of plundering by watching Jean-Claude Van Damme movies and heading out to a greasy diner breakfast, where we ran into other bleary-eyed ex-pirates who hadn’t even bothered to take off their costumes. If I learned anything from the evening, it’s that Anchorage knows how to party even for a ridiculous concept, and that homework can wait until the wee hours of Monday morning if there’s pirate treasure on the line.
Once upon a time there was a baby-faced, poorly dressed high school boy who got his first car, and it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
It was a black-ish plastic Kia that gave off the distinct impression that it had been assembled in a hurry out of whatever parts happened to be within reach. To a high school kid with a surplus of testosterone and a severe lack of judgment, getting a car for the first time is about a close as one can get to overdosing on freedom.
I drove that Kia for the final time today, having finally decided to upgrade to something with a significantly reduced likelihood of killing me.
In the years that followed the high school days, I drove that car places no respectable automobile should dare go. The fact that I coaxed a front-wheel drive sedan up the sides of mountains, across semi-dry riverbeds and through alleys the width of my bed will forever remain a point of pride for me. I took that car to places that will probably never have roads, and across landscapes designed by the insane. Had I been gifted with the foresight to film any of this I could have retired on the income from Kia’s marketing team.
While my friends’ cars always seemed to be breaking down or being replaced, the most I ever had to do generally involved duct tape and zip ties. I once changed the blackened air filter only to discover that the car seemed to thrive on dirt and had actually run better before the swap.
My car and my girlfriend always had a bit of a contentious relationship, no doubt as a result of competing for my affection. Given that my girlfriend reads these ramblings while the Kia, sadly, cannot, I should point out that I clearly love her more than my late car — even if she didn’t always understand or support my relationship with that plastic Korean death trap.
The Kia was, at times, my TARDIS and Starship Enterprise, and at others a flimsy rolling coffin, destined to become my tomb. Like all great things, over time she got old and gray — literally given that the idea of a carwash was a foreign concept to me.
In the final months the headlights had faded to a dull glow, the driver’s door refused to open from the inside and the engine gave off enough heat to raise the temperature of anything within a 10-foot radius. At one point I left the front bumper in a friend’s driveway as the car, in its infinite wisdom, decided we didn’t need the extra carry weight for the journey home.
That car somehow transcended the need for oil, instead subsisting on energy-dense gray sludge that science has yet to identify. By the end, the airbags didn’t function, the seat belts became flimsy and frayed, and the engine made a sound like a dying whale. When I saw her last the speedometer had topped 150,000 miles, a feat I believe entitles me to a 50 percent off coupon for a new Kia.
If this column comes across as a strange man publicly professing his love for a dangerous junker, then congratulations, you’re correct. I’ll never apologize for my devotion to my car, and I firmly believe that there exists no stronger bond than that between a man and his trusty (petroleum-fueled) steed.
So let me issue a warning. Parking Services, birds that like to crap near my garage, Subaru owner in Templewood 8 that dented the Kia: Stay well away from my new car. I fully intend to write a companion memorial piece when this new one fails in a decade or two, and I’ll be fairly unforgiving if someone speeds up that timeframe.
My request for a Viking funeral pyre at sea for the Kia was denied by everyone from DMV to the EPA, so let this column serve as the final ode to an amazing car. That little thing always got me to where I needed to go and beyond, without a single accident, speeding ticket or injury.
So Kia, rest in peace in that grand junkyard in the sky. And new Toyota, you’d better get used to camping gear and pine tree air fresheners, because we’ve got work to do.
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