Friday, June 09, 2006

178. Leaving Deering

Our plans to leave Deering were well-organized. Marc & Blair (my brother and my sister-in-law) were visiting with their two children. We would all leave together on the morning flight on Bering Airlines and fly to Kotzebue. In Kotzebue that afternoon we would get an Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage. I would go stay with my friends in Anchorage, while my brother would stay with some people with whom they were “couch-surfing”. (How long before that phrase makes its way into the dictionary?) They would have over a day in Anchorage to enjoy before flying back to NYC.

This had the advantage that I could bring all my belongings with me on the plane to Anchorage, since the four of them were not using there whole checked-baggage allowance. (Alaska Airlines allows 3 bags per person in-state.)

We wanted to be clean to travel, so all 6 of us washed up. (Adult humans took showers, children were washed by parents, schnauzer was bathed by owner.) This presented a problem because we were out of water. My brother hauled in a lot of snow and melted it on the stove. (see picture)

The problem began that morning. Fog in Kotzebue. The Bering Airlines flight was delayed indefinitely. (Fortunately, they call you to let you know.) So we were all just sitting around with everyone’s stuff packed waiting to hear back from the airline. We also had given away what was left of my food the night before. The kids were playing and Max was being a dog. Finally the airline called and let me know the planes were coming.

I said a last goodby to my house. (see picture)

We got to the airlines. Chip and Agnes and Ting and Becky came to see us off. I’ll miss them :-( Waah!) I should have called beforehand to let the airline know that I had 8 huge boxes to go, as well as a crated dog. We did manage to get them all on the plane. (see picture)

We missed the connecting flight on Alaska Airlines, however, and there was not room for us on that evening’s flight. We were stuck in Kotzebue overnight. No, problem, right, we could just stay at the hotel? Well, the hotel does not take dogs. There are a few people who run sort of B&Bs, but they also don’t take dogs. That left us with the problem of what to do with Max. We tried asking around the airport to see if anyone had any suggestions, and they all just suggested we call the churches. Marc had an idea to call the radio station; he figured they must be open 24 hours and maybe if we paid them they would let us stay in their lobby over night, but when we called they said they were not open 24 hours. We then stated calling the churches, but no one answered. While we were trying to brainstorm, the radio station called us at the airport. They gave us the name of someone they said kept dogs overnight. We called her, and she said I could bring him over.

The next problem was what to do with the big boxes we were traveling with. Alaska Airlines would not let us check them a day early. Finally, Bering let us leave them in their storage shed.

We walked to the hotel and checked in while I stayed outside with Max. (In Kotzebue, the airport is right next to the town.) Then we went in search of Judy M. who would watch Max. Marc carried the empty dog crate and I had Max on a leash while my Blair brought the kids. We figured we’d grab dinner afterwards. Remember how my brother had brought in snow so I could have a clean dog to bring to Anchorage? The stupid mutt (OK, he is pedigreed, but his testicles and his papers were gone long before I ever got him) managed to walk through every mud puddle on the way. The snow was starting to melt, these were unpaved roads, so there were a LOT of mud puddles. I had a general idea of where we were going, but did not know the exact streets. There are also not a lot of street signs in Kotzebue. When we thought we were right nearby, we stared asking people where the street was. No one knew. (I think people learn where things are, without needing to know the name of the streets.) When we asked a guy in a pick-up if he knew where the street was and he didn’t we asked if he knew where Judy M. lived. He did. We put Max and the crate in the back of his pickup and I got in (his pickup only held 2 people) and he drove me the block and a half while the others followed.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Max stayed at Judy M’s house overnight while we stayed at the hotel. The next morning I got Max and we met at the airport and got my boxes from one airport building to the other (The airport in Kotzebue is made up of 4 small buildings, one for each airline: Alaska, Frontier (not the same Frontier Airlines that serves the contiguous 48), Bering, and Hagland. Between the building is the open parking lot where you do not need to get a ticket to park, not do you have to pay $6 /hr.) We arrived in Anchorage. Marc & Blair decided that rather than catch their flight that night they would stay with us in Anchorage for a few days.

The group “Trout Fishing in America” has a song about a porcupine in the outhouse in Talkeetna, so my nephew wanted to see an outhouse in Talkeetna, so we spent one day driving to Talkeetna, a few hours north of Anchorage and found an outhouse. (BTW, Talkeetna also had a lot of bathrooms.)

One correction, if I may. Trout Fishing in America Did not do the song "There's a Porcupine in the Outhouse." That song was done by "Waterbound," which put together an album of children's songs and stories about Alaska's wildlife. It's called "Alaska Animal Tales and Tunes." Some of it's good. Some of it is godawful. Some is kind of catchy and entertaining and godawful at the same time if you can imagine that.
Oh, you mean, like It's A Small World After All or any of those other songs that sort of crawl into your brain and stick to your thoughts like glue even though they're horrible?
Not exactly. The thing is -- and I'm thinking of one song in partuicular -- the melodies can be catchy (though a few just take the melodies of existing songs). But the lyrics are like little lectures. For example: "I'm a voracious herbivorous rodent with the biggest incisors around" and "I'm a semiaquatic mammal, it's understood."

The closest parallel I can think of is a late episode of the TV show Happy Days. Potsie is on the verge of failing a biology class. The guys realize that he relates to the world through music. So they write songs about the course material for him to study for his final. He does well, but the professor wants to fail him anyway, figuring that he must have cheated. To prove he didn't cheat, he sings "Pump Your Blood," which is about the circulatory system.

Hope that clarifies.

PS: a couple of the songs are too preachy.

PPS: I also like the versee from "Hey Bear Ho Bear": "When I'm walking in the woods and come upon a giant scat / I look at it and pray to God I don't end up like that / If it's still steaming I hike faster and usually don't stop / Cause I think about the food chain and know I'm not the top."
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