*Names and identifying details have been altered to protect the innocent people who could sue me.

January 28, 2011

Day 1

Hi all,

Well, I've survived my first twenty-four hours. I didn't get much sleep on the first plane, mostly because I was reading "Looking for Alaska," the young adult novel by John Green that Little Brother gave me for Christmas. It has nothing to do with Alaska the place - that's just the name of one of the characters - but it is an incredible book. HJ, when we were talking about the likelihood of getting published as a young adult author in today's economy, let me just say - if either of us managed to write a book like that one, it would be criminal NOT to be published. It's one of the few times I've read a book and thought, yes, every single word needed to be on that page.

Also, here's something interesting - each of my two flights was jam-packed with families. At first I thought I was just lucky (I sat next to adorable children BOTH times, though on the second flight we were both asleep) but then I realized it made sense - who would want to fly on New Year's Eve? People who don't care about the holiday, that's who - therefore, me, and parents of small children. Anyway, thanks to the invent of the Ipod, Iphone, and various other small screens that can show repeat Dora the Explorer shows, the finger puppets I had packed were unnecessary. No worries - I now live with a 3- and 8-year-old, so they'll come in handy in time.

By the time I boarded the second plane (12:30am Boston time) I was so tired that I fell asleep before we even taxied onto the runway. I woke up somewhere over the Western coast to see cities, large stretches of water, and one marvelous display of large fireworks (so now I have a small idea what the fourth of July looks like to God, which I have to admit, is pretty cool). I did wake up enough to hear them say, 'Happy New Year' over the intercom (no, no Champagne) and then a little while later to catch the second announcement as we flew into the Alaska time zone, "...and now it's 2010 again." If the airline celebrated a second New Year's (which then would have been my third!) I didn't hear it. I woke up as we were getting ready to land, remarked that Alaska looked a lot like Wyoming (very dark, according to Dad), and got myself off the plane and towards the baggage carousel where I met up with Chester Tree-Hopper. He very graciously gathered up all three of my bags, led me past the taxidermied musk-ox in the airport lobby, and out to a 1980s era red Viper that you'll just have to see to believe. He swears it drives really well in the snow. I don't care, I just think it's awesome.

Then I slept. Not as much as I would have liked, but enough to feel slightly recovered. We had a big breakfast with A1 (Chester’s friend from high school, and the main renter of the house) and the two afore-mentioned kids, J (8) and E (3 - or, 'fwree,' depending on who you ask). There's a final adult housemate, A2, who hails from the mid-West. She's Cherokee - I think that's the language she's been studying on flashcards, anyway - and her last name is 'Whitekiller.' No, seriously. But so far she's been very sweet to us.

We did a lot of sitting around after that – A1's brother (one of Chester’s best friends growing up) was here for his last day in town, so we hung out in the living room and played video games. Well, they played video games (mostly Frisbee golf - which apparently, is also a real sport, even though I only remember playing it with hula hoops taped to trees in 8th grade gym class) and I knit. I had started a pair of socks on the plane with the Alpaca yarn from Mom, and it is very soft and welcoming. So welcoming that I actually had to put it away well hidden, because the Manx tabby cat named Tundra could not stay away from what she considered a bouncing, unraveling, delicious ball of joy. Neither could E, for that matter. Turns out that what interests cats often interests 3 year-olds as well. I gave them a decoy ball of red, plain yarn that they both played with for an hour.

The other thing Tundra was desperately interested in was the pair of slippers Chester’s mom sent up for me. I'm sorry, HJ - I was wearing your Bob the Tomato slippers all morning but had to change into the ones from Chester’s mom after I unwrapped them. Don't worry - the rate at which Tundra is trying to eat them ensures that they won't last long. Why is she trying to eat them, you might ask? Because they are made out of cow hide lined with deer skin insoles and beaver fur, with a wolverine-lynx fur ruff. Yes, I'm wearing more types of animals on my feet than I've eaten in my life. And yes, I said wolverine.

Chester had a bunch of presents for me as well, which I'll detail later. Most of them involve "staying warm while out of the house." I think I'm well equipped. Oh, and a cast-iron muffin tin, for which I unsuccessfully tried not to show the most excitement. I'm going to make muffins tomorrow!

Chester loved his present from the Shore St family (a hand-knitted scarf to match my hand-knitted hat). When the sun came out (around 11am) we went for a walk on a path around the neighborhood creek. I tried to get to a place where I could take a picture of the mountains in the near distance, but the pine trees kept blocking my view. I'll try again today. After the walk we hung out a bit more, then went out for pizza in a (successful) attempt to keep me from taking a nap and disturbing my body's ability to adjust to the time change. We went to a place called "Moose's Tooth," a local pizza joint named after a local mountain. It could probably be picked up as-is, clientele still seated, and air-lifted to Vermont where it would fit right in. Hippies in Carharts, Tibetan prayer flags on the walls, and some high-quality inventive pizza on good, thick dough (we had the "Thai Chicken" pizza with bean sprouts, carrot slices, and peanut sauce). And local beer, of course. So far I've noticed that while most of the dairy products and produce are shipped in, the beer is always local.

We went to REI after that since Chester’s friend had given both of us gift certificate for Christmas. Chester looked at avalanche beacons and I looked at books on how to stay alive in Alaska - one of which fell on my head, making shopping at REI the most dangerous part of living here so far, and then went food shopping after that, at a chain store called "Cars." Maybe it's actually "Carr's," but still - it made me keep my eyes out for any car dealerships named "Foods." I didn't see that, but I did see a "Laser Car Wash." Which, apparently, is exactly what it sounds like - they wash your cars with lasers. If I ever prove adventurous enough to see what that's all about, I'll let you know how it goes.

The other thing that made me think of Younger Sister (the first being the food store named "Cars-y") was the way they named their streets downtown. Yes, at 300,000 people, apparently Anchorage likes to think it has a "downtown," "midtown," and various other neighborhoods. Whatever. Anyway, Anchorage being a new-ish city -- unlike old cities such as Boston, whose road system was designed by a blindfolded Octopus with access to a box of Sharpies and a large piece of paper -- is laid out like a grid. Chester told me that the numbered streets run East-West and the lettered streets run North-South. I expected that the "lettered" streets would be, you know, streets with letters in their names. Like "Shore St" or "Oakridge." I did not expect that each street would only have ONE letter - "C St" and "K St." Which led to my delightful discovery that there is, in fact, "A St." If I ever design a town, I will attempt to name as many streets as possible with obvious articles and adjectives: "The St," "Paved St," "Driveable St" ... and so on.

I think that's pretty much everything, and certainly a long enough letter for today. After we drove around for a while on the snow-covered byways (apparently there's no point in trying to get rid of the snow, so rather than salting the roads they just pack it down so it's flat and not too icy) we came home and, since everyone was excited that it had warmed up to 35 degrees, grilled some salmon A2 had caught and frozen. Well, Chester put on his jacket and grilled, and I watched through the window with E and tried to stay awake. Then after dinner I continued to try to stay awake and everyone else played Frisbee golf on the thing that looks-to-me-like-a-Wii-but-
apparently-is-some-other-kind-of-gaming-system. And then finally, at 9pm, I went to bed. I got a full night sleep and woke up feeling very refreshed which is a good thing because apparently, it being so warm and balmy out, today we're going to hike a mountain. At least I've got a nice warm jacket.

Love to you all --

editor’s note: The car is a Probe, not a Viper. I think I made up the name “Viper” because it sounded more appropriate to the car.

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