Down to Size
It didnâ€™t take very long to settle down in Alaska, through my bartending job at the Captain Cook Hotel, I instantly made some wonderful friends. There was Matt, who had worked as a bartender, but who now ran a used bookstore down the street. There was Paula, who also became a drinking partner, and who was also my boss at the hotel. And there was Daniel, who I worked with at the little coffee shop/bar downstairs, who showed me, and is still showing me, what a bad pun really is.
There were many bars that we frequented in Anchorage, but there was one that stole my heart the second day I wandered through Anchorage.
It had a square sign dangling from a pole, and looked like the sign from an old English pub.
On the sign was a monkey holding a skull, and it read Darwinâ€™s Theory.
Inside it was as a bar should be. There was almost more bar than room to sit or stand, there was dark wood paneling, the bartenders became part of your family, and the owner would ring the bell and give everyone a shot of cinammon red hot liquor late at night.
On the alleyway side of the bar, there was a mural. It was the classic painting of the rise of man from the swamp. The first depiction was a something crawling out of the ocean, and finally a man standing upright. But there was an added twist, after the upright man, there was another figure, and this one was starting to slump over again. Obviously he had been in Darwinâ€™s Theory for too long.
I had been in Anchorage for a month or two, I was making some money, my bike was running well, and I could look back and suddenly realize that I was cool. I had rode my motorcycle to Alaska. Ok, it was not across the Saraha, or into the outer reaches of Russia. But it was cool none the less.
Oh, I didnâ€™t go and blurt to out to everyone I met, but if they asked how I got here, I would tell them, with pride in my voice.
One night after work I went to a bar called The Pioneer with a coworker. I wish I could remember his name, but sadly it has escaped me. But we sat at the bar and talked. He was about my age, -late 20â€™s early 30â€™s- and he told me stories about living in Fairbanks. My favorite, was when the temperature dropped to a brain scarring 50 or 60 below zero. â€œThe problem with that weather,â€ he said, â€œwas that the beer you bought at the liquor store would freeze and burst on the walk home.â€ So he had to buy whiskey. Later I would assume it was Crown Royal.
I told him of my motorcycle trip, feeling cool that I could tell someone about the journey. So he told me about his airplane. He told me about his little single engined airplane, and how he was out in the bush, and just when he was leaving the ground for take off, a big gust of wind came along and flipped over the airplane. It rolled a few times, broke off the wings, but he was fine. He had it trucked back to Anchorage, and it was sitting in a garage, until he got time to put it back together.
Suddenly my intrepid trip on the motorcycle seemed puny in comparison. All my cockyness faded out of me, as I listened to his story.
And I began to enjoy Alaska, where people do even stupider things than I.
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Road to Alaska: Section VIII