It's funny that I'm calling this part one. That implies that there'll be additional parts. But I seriously doubt it. I'm really taxing my brain as it is, thinking about and writing about something that happened so long ago that it's almost folklore by default.
Anyway, it was 1996. Dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and primitive mammals spent their days scurrying to and fro and counting the days until they'd be in charge of things. I know. I was there. I was one such mammal.
I arrived in Alaska on January 2nd. It was my second trip to Anchorage, but the first one of any consequence or duration. I think the previous visit had been in the Spring of 1994, and it had only lasted a few days.
I wish I'd paid more attention. But, back then, I was too busy scurrying. And avoiding dinosaurs. And watching the sky for comets. And being cold.
I've looked at the weather pages on the internet, and I can't find confirmation, but the high temperature that first day was nineteen degrees below zero, according to the television lady. I remember that she was quite cute, as if that matters.
I spent my first night in a hotel. A Holiday Inn or some such. There was a brewpub in the hotel, and they had a pumpkin ale. Back then, I wasn't into beer at all. I mean, I knew that there was beer that I liked and beer that I didn't like, but I hadn't yet formed any theories as to why any one particular beer might be categorized one way or another. I was pretty sure that I didn't like lagers, and I was starting to suspect that I liked ales, but I'd gone no further that those two preliminary hypotheses.
So I had the pumpkin ale, and it was fucking yummy. Unlike anything I'd had before. I had three or four more.
But I digress.
The next day, my coworker arrived. He took over the hotel room, and I moved to the apartment that my company had secured. Fine with me. Mainly I just needed a place to smoke and watch TV and sleep, and an apartment seemed like a better place than a hotel. I don't know why.
The apartment was in the walk-out basement of a house in the center of town. There was a dude living in the house, and I knocked on his door to get a key to the apartment.
Anybody remember the old Captain Kangaroo TV show? Okay, remember Mr. Green Jeans from that show? Well, the dude who owned the house/apartment looked exactly like Mr. Green Jeans. But he didn't act like Mr. Green Jeans. Nope, this guy was between seventy and three-thousand years old, and, because of senility or brain-freeze or something, had the mental capacity of a turnip.
At first, I tried to make myself feel better by imagining that the dude was just a partier who was drunk all the time, but by the third or fourth time that he'd managed to wake me up by shoveling snow at 4:00 AM, I knew better.
I'm digressing again, dammit.
It was fucking cold.
The weather page on the internet is no help, but the hot lady on TV assured me that, for the first three weeks I spent in Anchorage, the high temperature was eighteen below zero. Then, on or about the 20th of January, it shot up to seven below zero.
T-shirts and shorts became the uniform of the day. All over Anchorage, alabaster skin competed with reluctant sunlight in a contest to see which could cause the most blindness. Me, well I continued to dress like a normal person who was freezing to death - a cheechako in Alaskanese - with my coat and glove and boots and the like. I did learn an important lesson that day, though. For me, the dividing-line between cold and fucking cold is at ten degrees below zero.
There is a difference. There really is. At ten below zero, I can function. At eleven below zero, I might as well be a chunk of ice that won't melt until June.
In Anchorage, they say, there are three seasons each year.
Winter lasts from late August until April or so. Next is Breakup, during which the snow and ice decides that it's maybe time to start thinking about melting and forming puddles. The more disgusting the puddles, the better.
The third season is road construction, and that lasts from the end of Breakup until the beginning of Winter, or for about a week and a half during late July and early August.
Wow, I've already written more than I expected, and I haven't even gotten to the good part yet.
Stay tuned for part two if I ever get around to writing it.