Alaska – social engagement (28)

So, the one thing I had actually planned for a time on this trip was to meet a friend from college.

I’ve been talking about all the things I remember from when I lived in Alaska. And you might well imagine that there were people involved in some of these memories. But these people, on the whole, were not people I wanted to see again.

I moved (back) to Alaska with my parents when I was 11. Yes, I had been born there. And I lived there until I was 7. At that point, my parents joined a group of people who felt ‘called’ to establish a church in Humbolt County, California. So we moved down to Hippie Central, California and established a church for four years. But then, things didn’t work out, in a way that was unfortunately painful to my parents.

And their impulse, when thinking of where to hole up and lick their wounds, was Alaska. So, they packed up us kids into a VW van and drove up the Al-Can to re-establish their family in the 49th state.

Which led me to re-experience Alaska anew as an 11-year-old. And eventually led to my parents’ decision to live in the city of Alaskan strip mall, Wasilla.  And it was there that the personal tragedy of Home Schooling took hold.

However, I do remember being really really pleased with my first year of college. First semester of college, 1990, in Mat-Su Community College.

Now, I can see I was a rank Noob about the whole thing. I had found high school to be thoughtlessly easy. Yeah, I had to study, but nothing that required any more attention than I usually gave to whatever novel I was reading. And homeschool was an entirely part-time endeavor. Start at 9, done at noon.

COLLEGE, though, that was the desired and feared obstacle at the end of the prison of homeschooled high school. I had the impression that college was hard and that it was serious and that I would have to work at it. And that if I screwed up in college it would be unsalvageable. On my permanent record.

After all, not only was college work supposedly harder than anything I’d done in High School, it was also the den of Satan where I would fall into the clutches of secular humanists and Evolutionists. I had my doubts about  that, but that idea had been expounded from so many sides for so long, I couldn’t entirely dismiss it.

So, in cautious preparation, I informed my mother that I would be taking the minimum of courses the first semester. The math went like this: 12 credits was technically a full-time student for the purposes of the Pell Grant, my educational sponsor. But for the first time, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t screw it up. I wasn’t going to go full-time. Just 9 units for me, and I would fully fund it.

“Mom, I don’t know how well I’m going to do in School. Maybe College will be really hard. I’m just going to take it easy for the first semester and only take 9 units.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”


and none of the answers satisfied me. I remember the classes I took:

English  (composition)



Here is me, at the start of my first college semester:
mat-su student ID

Note the tufts of curly hair sticking out of my quasi-fro. It’s as if I were a fledgling bird moulting the last baby feathers.

Just for some perspective, the next semester, barely 3 months later, I had acquired a better polish:


Those were simpler times. The blurred-out section in these college IDs was where the authorities had put my social security number. The WHOLE THING!

Anyway, the first semester of college was fantastic. I learned things, I spent time around other people and life was exciting.

I honestly do not remember meeting or befriending any females at the time. You would think that typing class in particular would have been rife with possibility for female friendship. It certainly was overwhelmingly attended by women. There was only one guy in the class:


Fact was, Ray was super cool. He was simply too much fun to talk to. The females in the class terrified me. They seemed to be blonde, eyelinered, and hairsprayed within an inch of the planets ozone depletion.

And Ray was interesting, full of dry humor and snarky comments. Truly, now that I think about it, he may have been the very first guy to introduce me to my life-long preference for the companionship of smart nerdy men.

Girls I can take or leave, but put me next to a smart nerdy guy, and I’m immediately charmed.

So Ray and I hung out and talked during the breaks of typing class. And often, after class was over, we’d walk together to the computer lab. I was taking a computer class too. The computer class was definitely the most challenging class.

I wish I had worked harder at it. But the nice men in the computer lab were so helpful I left that class having turned in very little of my own work. I wanted to understand what the class was teaching, but  the guys explained the concepts by showing me how to do it, and before I knew it they had DONE the work and were saying “See?” Only I didn’t really. But the homework was done and I got an A.

Personal nerdom was yet to come.

Anyway, Ray and I kept in touch over the years through email and IMming. I hadn’t really kept in touch with anybody else from college.  So, this first night, I wanted to see Ray again face to face and catch up–holy god, EIGHTEEN YEARS after we first met.

We’d arranged to meet at the Trout House, a cafe that had not existed when I lived in Wasilla. He’d bring along his wife, and Chris would get to come too.

As long as we woke up on time.