25 March 2009


during my time as a student at the university of arizona in tucson, i spent the summer of 1982 in alaska, one of thousands of starry-eyed hopefuls looking to make a ton of money during the commercial fishing season. the trip up involved a flight to seattle, then three days on board an alaska marine highway ferry sailing north along the inside passage, then hitchhiking through canada and alaska to anchorage. my host told me that weather forecasting is simple: if you can't see the chugach mountains to the east, it's raining. if you can see them, it's gonna rain. here is the city's flag, which i think is a neat design --

after a two-week hiatus in that splendid city, more hitchhiking south through the kenai penninsula to homer spit, thence by ferry to kodiak island. after two weeks' camping out in a rainy state park, i pulled some strings and got a job aboard the processor/freezer ship M/V All-Alaskan, a.k.a. the blue zoo. i spent the entire summer wearing long johns and seeing my breath, working 12 hours on and 12 off, seven days a week, processing salmon that were first loaded onto our vessel by fishing boats, then gutted and flash-frozen and boxed, then off-loaded onto korean or japanese freighters. i had one of the better jobs, running the strapping machine which secured the big boxes of fish from falling open. we burned so many calories that we lost weight even while eating three to four huge meals per day, especially if we worked an 18 hour shift. not to mention building up impressive shoulder, chest and back muscles from all that lifting and shoving and maneuvering of heavy objects.

it was a wild summer, filled with vivid memories, mind-blowing scenery and a frontier lifestyle. i hated to leave at the end of salmon season in bristol bay, but i'd scored a free airline ticket back to tucson, and more importantly, i missed my son ian so much that toward the end i would sometimes break into tears when i thought of him. so, back to the blazing sonoran desert and home. well, one home. it feels like everywhere i've lived is home. now i could add alaska to the list.

and i want to go back !!!!!

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