Alaska – movin’ on down the road (13)

“So…” I was beat up and starting to long for that hotel I had not insisted on when we left the airport. But I hadn’t seen this highway in so long I couldn’t bear to shut my eyes. I figured I should let Chris in on what I was thinking as we drove to Eagle River.

“Eagle River is outside of Anchorage, and is not quite as cool. But it is close, so it is close to cool. When I was a teenager, the Eagle River kids were too good for the Wasilla kids. Of course, the Eagle River kids were not good enough for the Anchorage kids. The Wasilla kids were nothing in this whole situation.”

Naturally, this setup was all within the context of the church youth groups. It started with the big mother church, that horrific structure in Anchorage, and the later generations of Peter’s Creek and Wasilla.

Abbott Loop had the cool high school–with cheerleaders!–and Peter’s Creek had a Christian School too. The Wasilla kids were bussed to the Peter’s Creek christian school until Wasilla started it’s own ‘school’–a home school program.

These three stagnant pools of social standing met briefly and brilliantly once (maybe twice) a year at camp. More on that later.

There is no comparison between a high schooler with a competitive cheer squad and a high school girl–THE ONLY high school girl–in a home school program. I didn’t really blame the Anchorage kids for acting superior. They were.

But the Peter’s Creeek kids should have known me. After all, I went to 7th grade there. They should have recognized that I was only superficially and under duress a home schooler.

Peter’s Creek christian school didn’ have that much reason to feel better than everyone. THey didn’t have cheerleaders (an activity decreed too likely to incite carnal desires). They should have known me and kept in touch.

But it was out of sight, out of mind. I knew even then that one recess, one lunch hour, one passing by in the hall, could change EVERYTHING, depending on who said that someone else said something.

I had no someone else to say things to me. So I sat at home, a cauldron of self-loathing. I loathed the doppelganger fashioned by my family and church–that backwater girl, the homeschooled Christian example of academic excellence and submission. She was not me!

I deserved pompoms! I deserved the starring role in the school play-the one with the solo!

I was a brilliant shooting star caged in a dark bottle.

The starring role…In a piece of irony so biting it was not lost on me at the time, I did get the starring role my senior year. I was Mary in the Christtmas play for the homeschool program. My Joseph? a serious 5 year old with glasses. I did get to sing the solo:

“My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord! And my Spirit hath rejoiced…”

These and many other unformed memories rushed past me, mixed in with the birch trees and the exit sign approached.

“Is this where I exit?” Chris asked. I could tell he was getting tired too. It was approaching 4 am now.

“Here,” I said. “This is the way to Eagle River.”

But now that my memories were interrupted, I had a sinking feeling as I remembered more general specifics about this town.

Alaska – Breakfast denied (12)

I looked at the tables which were still full of dirty dishes. I looked at the people who were there before us in this Denny’s. I was thinking about how long it might take to get a cup of coffee.

“Yesterday was a big party day,” I said to Chris. “People actually pay attention to the solstice here, you know.”

“All the bars are closed now and all the people came here.

We looked around.

“Let’s get out of here.”

Back to the parking lot, which was more full than when we arrived. “Surely there is another place to eat somewhere. Let’s drive around until we find it. Maybe downtown.”

But there was road construction. And one way streets.

Trying to get downtown, we ended up in Mountain View. I never spent any time in Mountain View when I lived in Anchorage, but it had the identifying markers of ghetto slum. We needed to figure out where we were going and get out of there.

We quickly made our way and where on the highway before we knew it.

“Where are we now?” Chris asked.

“um…Maybe there will be a Denny’s in Eagle River.”

Alaska- Breakfast at 3:30 am(11)

It was raining, and I was getting tired now. I told Chris as much. He was tired too.

“How about we go find a Denny’s and have some breakfast and sit for a while?”

“That sounds good!”

At about 3:30 am, we pull into a very crowded parking lot at the Dimond Denny’s.

It was crowded in there. We sat to wait for a table. There were empty tables, so I figured it wouldn’t be too long. I could indulge in some people watching.

The people seemed to be mostly drunk.

Two girls and a guy were trying to leave. The guy said “We’re driving you home.”

Girl says “No! No.”

Other girl says, “No really, it’s not a problem”

Girl says “That’s ridiculous! You…You don’t even smoke!”

Guy shuffles them both out, telling the one, “Let’s go. She’s out of it.”

They were gone, and someone at the bar yells out “CAN WE PLACE OUR ORDER ALREADY? WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET SOME FOOD?”

Chris looked at me. “They look kind of swamped.”

I was looking a new group that had come up to settle the bill.

Everyone else was Alaska-style scruffy, but these three girls had very short skirts on and all were wearing high high high patent leather heels. These three looked like they would even fit in back in L.A.

I wondered if they were hookers. But honestly, they looked too high class even for that. High Class slutty, I mean.

Alaska- Abbott Loop (10)

“Hey, that was where I used to work!” The YMCA day care where I was briefly a teacher, then was a cook for more than a year was housed right by the university at the First Congregational Church.

“Where?” Chris said.

“You missed it. I need to get my camera out.”

“Where to now?”

“Um….Let’s go up to Abbott Loop.”

“Where is it?”

I looked at the map. Abbott Loop road, right there on the map. But where on Abbott Loop road? “Let’s go over there and find it.”

We found the way on barely remembered streets across places that were the same and different. It took a few tries until I found it.

There is was:

IMG_8232

A big monstrosity. I never saw it that way when I went there. This was the place where the super-polished Anchorage kids went to school.

THAT school had a cheerleading squad.

THAT school had kids that shopped at the big Anchorage mall and wore clothes from Banana Republic and Jay Jacobs and Lamonts.

THAT school had a whole crop of boys that had romantic possibilities.

And I had no romantic possibilities with my clothes from the hand-me-down closet at my church in Wasilla.

But it was the ugliest church I’d ever seen.

IMG_8234

But it was also where I spent my senior year in high school. “Bible School” it was called, and since I had very few credits left to complete to graduate

AND

since my mother wouldn’t let me graduate ealier (17 was the limit)

AND

since I was dying to get out of the house and be around people for once

I spent my mornings there learning in what I have since come to call my non-denominational seminary Lite. It was fun. At least the mornings were fun. The rest of the day I had to spend bumming around town (with no money) waiting to go home at the end of the day when my dad ended his workday at Elmendorf. The Loussac library was a popular spot, but really, it made for a long 4 and a  half hours.

Here is where the Bible School was held:

IMG_8235

This sort of church curb-appeal was from an early phase in this mega-church’s history, back when they were still attempting for traditional ‘churchiness’. The add-ons and making room for the nets groaning with the catch for these fishers of men caused them to completely abandon their (perhaps faint) desires for external beauty.

_I_ always thought of the church as it’s interior, which to me epitomized glamour. THey had a grand piano! And pews! HUNDREDS of them.

Really, what more could anyone want?

I had some ideas of what the ideal church might look like. And now Abbott Loop revealed it’s lack of glamour.

“Where to now?”

Alaska- The University(9)

Driving through the city, we had the map. I remembered streets, but not which ones were one way. I also did not remember how the woods crowded the streets even in the big city.

It was almost 3 am, but it wasn’t dark. Dusky, but not pitch black. If it it had been black we would have seen stars. No stars.

I found UAA Drive, and we found the college. Chris said “That’s it?”

“Yeah, but keep driving. It’s really long.” Through the trees, I could see glimpses of the various buildings I walked past and studied it. We found the end. “See Chris, that’s how far I would have to walk to get from class to class. And in the cold!”

“Couldn’t you drive?”

“Once you parked, you would have trouble finding another space.”

The unpainted gray concrete buildings were kinda hard to see through the trees.

The thing about all these trees…No one planted them. They grew there all on their own. Landscaping was not part of their concept.

I didn’t have my camera, so I couldn’t take a picture of the big square sculpture like I wanted. I remembered it, in the parking lot of the first building. I remembered it as the first sight I saw when I would go to the classes at this university that meant so much to me. The HUGE student body that I could meet, and the thick book of classes I could choose from. That cockeyed square meant I could run out of the car and go learn something, go start my life.

“That’s my school.” I told Chris.

“It’s not very pretty.”

“No…I guess not”

Alaska- Anchorage at last (8)

Not only was the car rental place open, there was a line. Okay, one person before Chris, but still. I guess with them being the only ones open till two thirty and our big plane landing, there would be some people.

It felt pretty good to stretch my legs across the airport. I didn’t feel too tired for 2 am.

I pointed out the big stuffed bears nearby. “Chris! See! They have the big bears I was talking about. “ They were HUGE.

Chris pointed out “The card says that this one is the largest bear on record.”

“Well, I guess they would pick the big ones to stuff and show. But still! This is a warning to keep away from bears! It’s not a joke.”

The car was ready for us, and I was ready to check out the city. Chris looked at me, “Where do we go now?”

I could say whatever I wanted. I could say “Find a hotel.” But I was feeling pretty good. And I knew Chris wanted to save the money. So I said, “Let’s go find my University. We can see the city.”

Alaska- on the ground (7)

The plane left Seattle just a little late, but the pilots were motivated to get to their destination:

“Thank you for choosing Alaskan Airlines. Skies are clear, and we do anticipate an early arrival in Anchorage today, landing at 2:15 am. Remember, there is an hour difference. Enjoy your flight!”

Good news, because the big worry so far was that the rental car desk closed at 2:30 am and accoring to the schedule we landed at 2:30 am. But we might get there early!

When the plane taxied in, I woke up from a nice nap (thank you Tylenol PM). Chris prepared to sprint through the airport to secure our vehicle.

We disembarked, and Chris said over his shoulder “Meet me at the car rental counter!” as he sped off.

I followed him at a slower pace. I passed a Mooselaneous store (gag), and the other usual vending establishments. Halfway out, I found a site of interest.

Now Chris had always been most concerned with the car, but my priority had always been getting a place to sleep. Our original plan of toughing it out for the first night had seemed like a bad idea.

In front of me, past the TSA security checkpoint, was a very smart business idea. They were selling little room with attached bathrooms to catch a couple hours of sleep. They charged by the hour–buy three hours, get the fourth free.

This was the perfect solution to our problem! just a couple hours to rest. That was all we needed. Chris didn’t want to pay for a full hotel room when we could only be there a couple hours! But this was a reasonable price. We could do this! They even had a room for two.

Except. Chris was already past security. We couldn’t do it, because he had run ahead to get the car.

Maybe we didn’t need to rest. I was feeling pretty good. I’d had a nice rest on the plane. Maybe it would be okay.

Alaska- side comment (6)

Look up there. Do you see the title? it says (6).

and it starts with “Alaska-”

And yet I have not talked about my trip yet. in (5) I left us not even in SEATTLE let alone on Alaskan soil.

kind of a long drawn-out build up, huh? Well, I did tell you I was anxious to go. I’d like to pause for a moment to talk about my life NOW.

There is me with my fabulous husband:

Mr & Mrs Portrait 2

There is my cozy home:

IMG_0063

My venerable and loving cat:

IMG_7892

He’s thinking loving thoughts right there. You have to know him.

And my devoted dog:

IMG_7893

Food proximity increases devotion.

IMG_7894

Everyone knows that.

But these are the things I have now. Alaska was where I grew up. It is not where I am now.

And because I am not there, I can go back. The story will get there soon.

Alaska – Flying (5)

It was kind of nice, leaving so late in the day. We had all day to finalize packing, etc. The plants were well watered and we changed the bed and everything so it would be nice to come home to.

We went to the store to buy food for the plane, because they don’t feed you anymore. We had books, and I charged up the iPod with some Chris music in case he needed some tunes.

It was HELLISHLY hot, of course, which left us with a problem. We wanted to wear minimal clothing where we were, but where we were going required long pants and sweaters.

So we changed at the last minute before leaving. Chris’s mom took us to the airport, very nice of her.

Things I forgot, and remembered almost immediately:

*my water bottle
*my iPod
*my current book

Too late! I would have to buy some water at the airport and my pod would get the charging of its life. I always have multiple books, so I was covered for reading material.

I was weak as a noodle in my long pants and hundred-degree weather. But the plane let us on quickly enough. CROWDED.

Warning: Alaska airlines does not have SkyMall. I was kind of looking forward to the showcase of absurd gadgetry. But no.

Chris sat by the window and deciphered all the freeways for me. I was still noodlish, and could only pay attention for short periods. He was rapt.

I sat back and snoozed til we landed in Seattle.

Alaska trip- Before it starts (4)

You know how Marty McFly in can’t stand to be called Chicken?

Nobody tells me I can’t do something.

We could go. I’d find a way to get myself together. I got better shoes. I learned to eat more protein.

“We’ll just have to take it slow. This will not be a trip where we go hiking. And maybe, you could go out without me if I need to rest in the hotel room. We’ll do it, baby!”

We packed carefully, so that we wouldn’t have to carry much.

I was just a little worried about not being able to sleep that first night.

But we had a layover in Seattle. Seattle has very good coffee. Woo Hoo!