Alaskan salmon season alters the time space continuum. When a work day lasts 12 – 18 hours, you confuse chronology. The shit that happens in one day equals out to a week’s-worth of shit back home, thus one day = one week; one week = one month; one month = at least 6 months. By that count, I usually have at least a year to get into this much trouble.
For the sake of your faint constitutions and my trashed fingertips, I present a list of notable events, scrapes and near-misses:
*Bar bells: You ring the big, shiny, tempting bell hanging over the bar counter, you buy a round for everyone in the bar. If you ring it, you better ring the fuck out of it because it’s gonna cost you a few hundred dollars (the cheapest drink in the bar is a can of Ranier for $3.25, and nobody drinks cheap when it’s free). If done properly, it should startle fellow barflys into hushed, chest-rattling awe, and it’s much more bad ass if you leap atop the counter to do your exaggerated ringing. I thus far have exercised impeccable ring restraint.
*Po-lice: Don’t accept drinks from a fisherman who is a brother-in-law to your employer. Afterward, do not accept a high-speed ride on his motorcycle. Do not leave your favorite Castro cap in his garage where you exchanged it with a helmet. Don’t accept a Rainier-swilling truck ride back to your college dorm room housing wherein the fisherman disregards unauthorized vehicle signs in order to drop you off at your front door but is thwarted by a night watchman who spooks him off to the parking lot where police swarm in for the easy DUI kill. While police are investigating said fisherman outside the vehicle and after you have effectively covered most open containers with truck cab items, DO NOT try repeatedly to split the scene…even if your brain is consumed by thoughts of alarm clocks and work in the morning. Attempt four annoys local police more than you would think. When released, do not look back – there’s no point risking your sleep hours for a dirty fisherman.
*Plane crash: A small plane crashed (about a block from where I am currently staying), killing everyone on board. It crashed through a house and into the old Native cemetery. They then moved the wreckage into a building right across from the bunkhouse.
*Work: Shittiest summer ever. No bunkhouses for leads means the Work Hard/Play Hard dynamic was missing a leg. I come back to Alaska for the bonfires on the beach, the post-work multi-lingual bonding over beers, and that was missing this year, leaving room only for monotony, stress and depression. I worked from six in the morning until 9 or 10 at night, and without any stops for cleaning, the place began to smell as toxic as it felt. Ultimately this led to a break up.
*Semantics: Fired or quit, that company and I parted ways. I’ll got into the complications later, but they resulted in my forced choice to take a $2/hour wage drop and assist the manager in the fish house – a man who, according to workers’ accounts gets drunk in front of them at the bunkhouse, who is in a relationship with a worker about 25 years younger than he (to whom he allows special privileges at work and who he has reportedly thrown into a bunkhouse wall with other workers as witnesses), who had to skip work one day to appear in court for domestic violence, who screams and swears at his employees and who has been cited by no less than seven workers as their reason for leaving the company – or to quit. Fuck that, I quit.
*Free at last: I moved out of dorm housing and into the apartment of a former coworker, already have a return ticket through the former company and a new job with an adventure kayaking tour company. I wake up pretty much on my schedule, eat when I’m hungry (as opposed to the mess hall meal schedule), have time to explore the mountains, waterways, tourist sights, to read and write, to drink at the bar…life is getting back to normal.
Yesterday I went out on the kayak tour. They wanted me to make sure it was something I would be interested in. We took the boat past a nice view of the the volcano (Mt. Edgecumbe) and near the towering cruise ship, saw some sea lions tearing up some salmon and arrived at the float house up an inlet where the kayaks are moored. My kayak partner was Nick from Michigan who was on the cruise with his mom and brother. It was a beautiful sunshiny day. Bald eagles and a blue heron showed up, and a school of spawning humpies (pink salmon) where churning up the shallow water at the mouth of the inlet. I start work with that company Monday morning.
Life – especially relative to a week ago – is great.