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

February 22, 2011

Day 53

Day 53

Dear all,

Still working on the computer back-up, so better photos will come next week. In the meantime, I’ll just fill you in on the boring, indoor stuff. Like the fact that after this weekend I can supplant REI from the top of my “most dangerous places in Alaska” list (a book fell on my head). No, it wasn’t the “Xtreme Tubing” or “icy mountain hiking” or “Liz learns to chop wood with an axe”– though I promise photos of all that soon enough.

Yes, that’s right, second-hand stores in Alaska are as-of-yet unmined sources for two of my most favorite things on which to spend money: old records and old sewing patterns. Unlike the East Coast, where these things have become hip, here they seem to be still sitting, unnoticed, unappreciated, unloved. Just waiting for me to take them home.

Actually, the records were somewhat appreciated because they ran about $2 each. The patterns, however, were 25 cents. I don’t even know how to do the “cents” sign on the keyboard, that’s how infrequently we ever see anything that costs that little anymore. Anyway, the downside of this price is that I can afford to indulge my love for the ridiculous:

[I thought the sailor outfit was my favorite of the bunch, until I saw the one marked "wrong." Would that we were all as discerning, and succinct, with our fashion.]

In keeping with last week’s missive on communication, I’d just like to leave you with two different conversations I had this week (plus some photos of the ongoing Great Chicken Endeavor of 2011 – a Martha Stewart recipe for rosemary chicken with roasted potatoes). The first conversation demonstrates my sense of alienation in being here. The second demonstrates a sense of isolated alienation that comes with living here. Overall, it's a sense of (at best) floating between two different worlds or (at worst) being caught in the middle. In writing down neither conversation do I intend to pass judgment on the people who said these things. It’s just to demonstrate that it’s never so easy as I fit in or I don’t. It would be easier, perhaps, if cultures, identities, and communication were as cut and dry as that, but they aren’t – they’re more like magnets, I think. Sometimes we pull someone or something in, and sometimes we push them away. Hence the need for communication – and our willingness to engage in it even when it is difficult, discouraging, or dismissive.

[Dance, chicken, dance! Show me that breast!]

Conversation One: at work
Girl: Oh, so you’re Jewish?
Me: Yep.
Girl: So, where do you go to church on Sundays?
Me: Well, I don’t. There’s a synagogue in Anchorage that I could go to but it’s too far to drive on Friday nights, so … right now I don’t go to services anywhere.
Girl: Oh. So … you don’t have a church that you can go to at all, huh?

[Bake, chicken, bake!]

Conversation Two: when I accidentally answered the phone as a CDC worker called, then thought the ensuing survey so funny that I actually answered the whole thing. Here’s just the end of it:
Worker: Ok, so we’re down to the last few questions. I have here a long list of physical activities. Can you tell me what physical activity, outside of work, you engage in the most in your daily life?
Me: Hiking, probably.
Worker: Okay, so … is that like “walking?”
Me: No. It’s more like “climbing a mountain.”
Worker: (pause) “Cross-country?”
Me: Sure.
Worker: And, the second most frequent activity?
Me: (after assuming they won’t have “wood chopping” on the list) … ice-skating.
Worker: Do you mean “skating – ice?”
Me: Yes.
Worker: Ok, now the last question. How safe do you feel in your neighborhood?
Me: In what sense?
Worker: I guess, would you feel safe going for a walk?
Me: What, besides it being negative 5 degrees today?
Worker: Um, yes. I think we’re asking about your neighbors, the other people in your neighborhood.
Me: It’s not really the people I’m worried about. More the moose and the bears.
Worker: (pause) Would you say, “extremely safe,” “very safe,” “somewhat safe,” or “not safe at all” then?

[Still need to buy baker's twine and decrease giblet-disturbance, but one goal was met – shared with boyfriend and boyfriend’s mother on Friday night.]

Much love,


  1. Sounds like Soldatna needs your services (no pun intended) as an itinerant Rabbi or Jewish lay leader!

    BTW, you really don't need the baker's twine. It's fine to roast your chicken untied. (Does it taste good? The twine won't make it taste better...)

    The challahs look lovely.

    And (unfortunately) it's equally possible to feel isolated/alienated on the mainland. Even here in the tri-state area, I still meet people who don't understand why I don't ever have a Christmas tree.

  2. Way to keep the CDC on their toes, Rolo. I do hope that the sailor outfit isn't part of your plans for next September... you know that was a joke right? ;)

    Glad to see the roasted chickens are coming along well.

    Now I need to get around to mailing those paint swatches and cookies. Where does the time go?