Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ring the Bell, Mothafuckahhhhhhhhs!

Just in time for New Year's Eve, I came home to a letter congratulating me for finally paying off my law school student loan. 

It's only been 14 years, but apparently I've finally absolved my debt to mens rea, res ipsa loquitur, Blackacre, the Bluebook, and easements appurtenant to dominant tenements (#lawschoolhumor #beyondlame #dontask). 

AND guess what? It turns out I actually OVERPAID by . . . wait for it . . . $17.08! That's 17 Washingtons and 8 red Lincolns, BITCHEZ! What in the name of Ramen noodles and ketchup packets am I supposed to do with all this surprise scrilla? 

Well, first off I'ma buy everyone I know a round of shots tonight. Crazy Horse or Zima will come in right under this price point I think. Ring the bell! 

I can think of a few other things to do with $17.08 too.  BELEEEEEE DAT!

Perhaps a single shot of Glenlivet or a 10 minute aviation school refresher course for the Alaska Airlines pilot who pulled the ultimate DERP yesterday by landing on a taxiway at SEA/TAC? Whoops! I thought everything in commercial aviation was supposed to be computerized nowadays? Looks like "pilot error" is still possible though, so good thing there wasn't a plane taking off in the other direction, or else . . . WHAMMO.

According to SEA/TAC spokespeople, this is only the fourth time this has happened in the airport's history. So maybe what I'll do is use this $17.08 to track down the other three pilots who pulled this derp move. They can all drink Crazy Horse (on me) together to celebrate being in the small, ignominious club of four that have done the pilot equivalent of a 90 year-old grandma accidentally entering the highway via an exit ramp, or a New Yorker driving the wrong way down a one-way street in Boston before the days of Google Maps. (Not the Tobin Bridge again! Not Storrow Drive!? Fuck! Fuck!)

Or maybe I'll buy Isaac an iTunes gift card. Yesterday we were listening to Radiohead's OK Computer, and this kid who is all of five years old was poppin' off about his parents' taste in music. "Can you change this? It's freaking me out," he said. There's no accounting for taste in this world, I tells ya.

In any case, that $17.08 is a welcome boon to my coffers. As my dad used to say when I'd grumble about my minimum wage paychecks in college, "You wouldn't flush it down the toilet, would you?"

No dad, no I wouldn't.


Fig. 1: The letter and check in question, carefully redacted to omit delicate identifying personal information.




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

To Paige on Her 8th Birthday: 8 Ways You're Already Winning at Life Despite Your Mother

Dear Paige,

Eight years ago tomorrow, you made me a mom. 

By being born on December 31 in Juneau, you also ensured that I would receive the full tax and permanent fund dividend benefits of your existence, and that I would never again need a plan on New Year's Eve.

Thank you! The 18 hours of labor and subsequent C-section I could have done without, but otherwise your timing was impeccable.

Much unlike your mother at age 8, you have your shit (don't say the S-word!) together in ways I never did and still do not. Here are 8 ways in which you're already winning at life in spite of--not because of--your crazy mother. 

1. You're good at math: I had to make my own mom (your Franma) take the train to Providence to help me pass my calculus final in college. She literally asked me if I even took the class. You on the other hand are constantly doing stuff with "number bonds" and "bars" and "groups" and other things from Singapore that I don't understand. Fortunately you've already figured out that I am useless and have ceased to bother asking me for help with your homework.

2. You're a friend to everyone you meet: Every time we go anywhere, even on vacation, you pick up a friend and insist on arranging a play date. You're like a friend pick-up artist. You could totally have your own Reddit thread on grade-school friend PUA culture. The only problem is I then have to get a strange parent's digits, and it can be awkward--something you don't seem to care about. At least you make all your own phone calls for play dates at home.

3. You give zero fucks (that's "effs" to you!) if someone doesn't want to be your friend: When I was your age, I was doing crazy shit like pulling my pants down in front of older boys to impress the most popular mean girls in the class. You would NEVER do that in a million years! If someone doesn't want to play with you or be your friend, you just shrug and move on to someone who does.

4. You are super independent and competent: Your mastery of scrambled eggs on the stove without YET setting the house on fire and your ability to swim and not drown are impressive. Also impressive is the way you successfully monitor and play with other little kids. No, I am not getting you a phone yet, but we're close. Also, we need to work on your fear of the downstairs bathroom.

5. You have good judgment: You never tattle-tale for no reason, and your instinct of self-preservation is strong. Thanks for always wearing sunscreen, your seat belt, bike helmet, ski helmet, washing your hands, and tattling for the right reasons, e.g., when three boys are literally playing with knives in our fire pit.

6. You have willpower: Whenever I had presents, money, or treats at your age I would open, spend, or eat them instantly. Nearly all of your birthday gifts are still waiting for you to open them, though they've been here for weeks and I said you could open some now because I want to see what they are and play with them. I seriously don't get how you're not opening them. Also, I love that you're saving up for a pony even though you know you're never getting a pony.

7. You're good to your body: You're a strong, active, and mighty girl. You're a good skater, swimmer, and skier. You rarely whine on long hikes. You make your own lunches with all the right food groups. Basically you are a bad ass when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Thankfully you're not around to see me eating cake for lunch three days a week while seated at my standing desk.

8.  You're a leader but also considerate of other people's feelings: You always come up with great group activities like an art class or a pretend Broadway production. You always include everyone and have a place and a part for everyone, except maybe Isaac (you're sometimes kind of a dick to him, but that's to be expected since he's your little brother).

I am now begging the universe for you to stay on this path through adulthood, because I lack the psychological (and likely financial) resources required to parent a juvenile delinquent. I've been doing this for 8 years and two kids. How am I still so bad at it?

I love you, my sweet girl. The force is strong in you!

'Tis the Season in Juneau to Fall Flat on Your Ass and Scream "OW! FUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!"

'Tis the season here in Juneau, Alaska for beautiful winter sunrises like this, and for taking in the deep majesty of the stunning vistas that grace our presence each day. 'Tis also the season to inadvertently forget our Yak Tracks ice cleats, because we are not yet in the habit of bringing them everywhere we go.

'Tis the season as well for taking stock of our lives; reflecting on the previous year; and contemplating resolutions and goals for the year to come. In addition, 'tis the season when, despite wearing our Bogs or Xtra-Tuff boots to work, we slip on black ice and twirl our arms backwards in a spinning pinwheel--like a Looney Tunes character with that "struggling-not-to-fall" cartoon sound effect in the background, as a quick burst of adrenaline and panic surges through our veins.

'Tis the season too for gathering with friends in merriment and good cheer, shortly after we slowly hoist our 10-pounds-overweight frame upwards from freezing cold pavement on a 45 degree angle sidewalk in Starr Hill, using a frozen picket fence for support, and glance around, hoping no one saw our ridiculous and humiliating pratfall.

'Tis this very time of year when we stop to acknowledge the gifts, both tangible and not, that we have received, and ponder all that we might give back to the world; a contemplation that we make thoughtfully, peacefully, and with deep reverence after screaming "OW! FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!" at the top of our lungs for both no one and everyone to hear.

'Tis the season for warm drinks, frosted evergreens, quiet snowfalls, early sunsets, comfy wool socks, and fires in the wood stove; as well as profound gratitude that we have once again defied statistical odds by falling on ice for the third time in one day with only a nasty and impressive bruise to show for it, as opposed to a broken bone or a thrown-out back that would put a serious dent in our immediate future plans and health insurance policies.

Ah, Juneau. 'Tis the season.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When I Say I Wanna Netflix and Chill, I Actually Mean I Wanna Pass the Fuck Out Watching "Best of Gangland"

My biggest "why-couldn't-this-be-real" moment of 2015 was when Ted Cruz allegedly hosted a contest for donors on his campaign website in which the grand prize was a trip to Houston, TX to "Netflix and chill" with the Republican presidential candidate.

Sadly, like 99% of the shit you read on the Interwebs, this turned out to be a hoax. But it made me think about the whole "Netflix and chill" thing, which b-t-dubs, for my fellow old lady mom-jeans wearers who might not know this, means to fuck your side piece with Netflix on in the background, a.k.a. casual sex. Don't make me spell it out for you. I just did though. You're welcome.

Anyhoo, my definition of "Netflix and chill" is much more literal and much less salacious and exciting. When I say I wanna "Netflix and chill," I do not mean I wanna turn on Netflix only to instantly dive-bomb the sack.

No sirree. When I say I wanna Netflix and chill, here's what I mean.

I mean I wanna pour myself a coffee mug full of dry Honey Nut Cheerios and dump them down my throat with one hand while picking up the Apple TV remote with the other. 

Then I wanna click past Hulu and iTunes until I get to Netflix. Then I wanna exit the Kids profile in which the "recently watched" items are Octonauts, Wild Kratts, and Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. 

Next I wanna navigate on over to the normal adult profile and find "suggestions for you." Then I wanna look at and reject all of Netflix's shitty suggestions for me. Then I wanna peruse Netflix's original content, select "Master of None," and get annoyed 17 minutes into the first episode. Then I wanna resign myself to the Netflix-licensed TV shows from History Channel and A&E, like Alien Files Unsealed and The First 48 before I settle on The Best of Gangland.

Then I wanna PTFO like a skid row junkie on the couch and wake up to some talking head going off about the Hells Angels versus the Mongols and which group has claimed which part of California as its territory before wiping the drool off my face and hauling my sorry ass off to bed.

That's what I mean when I say I wanna Netflix and Chill.

Sherwin Williams Paint Color, or Name of Classmate in Your Child's Brooklyn Heights Suzuki Violin Class?

Radish
Rosebay
Dynamo
Cyclamen
Framboise
Grenadine
Alyssum
Serape
Sable
Toasty
Kaffee
Coconut Husk
Anjou Pear
Caraibe
Umber Rust
Chrysanthemum
Moonraker
Jardin
Espalier
Julep
Jasper Stone
Farro
Utaupeia
Tassel
Hopsack
Jonquil
Flan
Armagnac
Ripe Olive
Arugula
Oakmoss
Calypso
Aqueduct
Refuge
Krypton
Distance
Delft
Jetstream
Bosporus
Ionian
Angora
Enigma
Armadillo
Dewberry
Thistle
Ponder
Destiny
Jadite
Otter
Balmy
Elation
Dustblu
Lattice
Jogging Path
Mineral Deposit
Dry Dock
Loggia
Marshmallow
Domino
Raisin

Naval
Sanderling

Mountain Road
Morning Fog
Peppercorn
Sprout
Patience
Pediment
Crushed Ice
Daybreak
Lotus Pod
Alabaster
Sagey
Acanthus
Roycroft Copper Red
Edamame
Koi Pond
Buff
Lanyard
Travertine
Andiron
Canoe

Image result for sherwin williams paint can image

If I Could Just Lose 10 Pounds, My Life Would Be Perfect

It's almost 2016, and I don't need to tell you what that means. Or maybe I do. So I will. 

It's that time of year when I remind myself that if I could just lose 10 pounds in the next 12 months--and hopefully sooner--my life would be perfect. I don't think it's asking too much. Just 10 little itty-bitty pounds to eradicate all imperfection from my life, with the resulting perfection preferably not instantly undone by a single Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger (TM) from the Cheesecake Factory.

Every woman (and a few men) know this to be a truth more profound than gravity or the tenacity of the IRS: The removal of 160 ounces of fat, water, muscle, and other biomass from my stomach, ass, thighs, and chin will instantly transform my life from a dark pit of despair into a halcyon, celestial meadow bursting at the hedges with colorful wildflowers, frolicking unicorns, shooting stars, and rainbows. 

Indeed, my life after the loss of 10 pounds will make the cover of a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper look like a grayish-brown shit-stain layered over with homeless junkie sick, slowly drying up on the cold, beige tile floor of the handicapped stall of the men's restroom at the Port Authority bus terminal on 34th Street and 8th Avenue.

Speaking of 34th Street, losing 10 pounds would be my life's truest miracle. A Hollywood agent will probably option the rights to a remake of "Miracle on 34th Street" called "Miracle on the Scale: How One Woman Lost Ten Pounds and Gained Perfection." It will be a combination documentary/biopic. Mostly it will be interviews with me. But there will also be dramatized parts in which Rosie O'Donnell will play me in the "before" the loss of 10 pounds scenes, and Kate Moss will play me in the "after" phase.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I just stepped on Scaley (that's what I call her) this morning, and after she showed me a number, I could almost hear her talking to me in a little robot lady voice like an effeminate K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider: "GOOD MORNING MASTER. . . MIGHT I MAKE A RESPECTFUL SUGGESTION, MASTER. . . IF THIS NUMBER I HAVE JUST DISPLAYED DECREASES BY 10 DIGITS THIS YEAR, YOUR LIFE WILL BE PERFECT, MASTER . . ." 

Seriously I think Scaley actually said those words out loud to me. And I know she's right!

I don't know if I'll wake up tomorrow. That's the way life is. Here one day, gone the next. It's all so ephemeral and fleeting. But if there's one thing I DO know, it's that the only thing--THE only thing--standing between me and the resolution of every single, solitary problem in my life (apart, perhaps, from death itself) is the aforementioned 160 ounces of fat, water, muscle, and other biomass.

Once those 10 pounds come off, everything else will instantly fall into place. It goes without saying that I'll feel better, be in a better mood, and have more energy. Or at least that's what I plan to tell anyone who remarks upon my drastic transformation. What I won't tell them though--because I don't want to rub it in--is how the loss of 10 pounds has also simultaneously solved every other problem that I have.

When I lose 10 pounds, my bank account will be flush with dollars; my kids will don their shoes and coats without being asked (or only asked once); my driveway will magically plow itself for free; my mental health will be impeccable; all my friends will love me; all my co-workers will think I'm a genius; and an enormous box of brand new clothing from Zappos will arrive at my doorstep, unbidden and perfectly tailored to my new physique.

SCUSHCLK ... Did you hear that? No? That was the sound of me opening a can of Diet Coke. (The sound of me opening a Rice Krispy Treat from the downstairs vending machine to complement the Diet Coke was silent, so you probably missed that). Whatever. As everyone knows, anyone who drinks Diet Coke instantly loses 10 pounds. 

Can you imagine what my life will be like if and when I lose 15?!






Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy New Year, Last Frontier! Three Dozen Alaska Memes for 2016

Here are three dozen Alaska memes created by yours truly, One Hot Mess. I've posted these previously as three individual posts, but I'm putting them all in one place right here for your memeing pleasure. (Is that a word?) I think these sort of sum up what it's really like to live in Alaska. Happy New Year, Last Frontier!

I. The Dos Equis Guy Moves to Alaska

























II. Alaskans Be Like . . .


























III. Alaskan Motivation























Old Sturbridge Village Failed to Make the Desired Impact on Me

Sometime in the autumn of 1986, my fourth grade class awoke early in the morning for the long drive north-east from the Bronx to "Old Sturbridge Village," an "1830s New England Living History Museum" in Massachusetts.  

But though ambitious, this field trip (like so many grade school field trips before and after it) failed to make the desired impact on me and my classmates.

The sun was barely rising over Connecticut as I tried in vain to find comfort on the hard, cracking, plastic green seats of the big yellow cheese bus bouncing jarringly along the highway. I smashed the right side of my face up against a grimy, plexiglass window and stared out at the barren trees lining Interstate-84. An adult chaperone chastised several 10 year-old blonde boys who were sharing one pair of Walkman headphones and cackling at 2 Live Crew's "Me So Horny," playing at top volume. Four girls in pigtails and leg warmers whispered conspiratorially to one another.

Three hours and one Dunkin' Donuts rest stop later, the cheese bus transported us 150 years back in time to the set of an M. Night Shyamalan movie and an era when life was tougher, simpler, and much, much shittier.

The dominant feelings during my visit to Old Sturbridge Village constituted a gray slurry of boredom, embarrassment, self-reflective ennui, and tempered relief--which in retrospect were the dominant feelings of my entire childhood.

Throughout the day, the chaperones and teachers continued to shush and hiss at the gaggle of misbehaving children as we made our way through the "village," trailing docents decked to the nines in 19th century New England cosplay. We ducked through tiny bedroom doorways ("DAAAAMN, the pilgrims was SHORT!!!") and stared with sullen, disengaged vacancy at butter churners, yokes, troughs, bonnets, and cast-iron farming tools displayed with loving precision on a rustic barn door. 

Rather than losing myself in this fascinating moment of American history though, I felt relieved that by being born in the 1970's rather than the 1820's, I had narrowly escaped an 8th grade education in a one-room church schoolhouse; squirting out babies every year starting with my first period until I died in childbirth; toiling on a farm; shitting in a bucket; and/or perishing slowly from a common cold that today would easily be eradicated in 24 hours with a single dose of antibiotics or a vaccine.

The highlight of the day was watching two pigs fucking while we ate soggy turkey sandwiches and bruised apples from the "village orchard" on wooden picnic tables in a freshly-mowed field. Like cannibals, our lunch meat's more fortunate brethren pecked about our Reeboks looking for scraps, and I think at least one child vomited.

That evening, my mother discovered a robust and thriving community of head lice in my scalp, and word quickly spread that the entire fourth grade had been colonized by the pest. It was the perfect denouement to the day of "living history" with which we'd all been so enraptured at Old Sturbridge Village.

Later, as a teenager, I did a bike trip through Pennsylvania Dutch Amish country. As I squeezed my hand brakes to prevent my bike's front tire from skidding through a steaming pile of horse manure, I suddenly recalled Old Sturbridge Village, and wondered why we hadn't just come here instead.

Pimpin' Ain't Easy in a 2005 Subaru Forester With 125K Miles On It

Biggie Smalls said it a long time ago: Mo' Money, Mo' Problems. And ain't that the truth. 

I know.

'Cause while most ballers and shot-callers in Juneau are rollin' up in a brand new whip that their bae just bought them for Christmas--like a 2016 Benz on 24-inch rims and a hydraulic lift kit all wrapped up in a big red bow and gifted to them in their circular driveway with a "tada!" flourish of a lifted blindfold--I roll DEEP in this tricked-out 2005 Subaru Forester.

That's right, BITCHES! Do NOT disrupt my flow! I'm strapped up with a 16 oz moldy Contigo travel mug of lukewarm re-heated coffee and ready to bust skulls ALL DAY, ERR DAY. Here are just some of the sick features of this ride:
  • 125,000 miles and counting
  • Upside down T-shaped crack spreading across entire front windshield
  • Peeling faux-leather seats
  • Missing front passenger-side floor mats
  • Black mold embedded in every seat belt
  • Shocks that let you feel every single piece of gravel you drive over
  • Climate control system that results in ice and snow INSIDE the vehicle (see photo)
  • Whisper-quiet ride in which you hear the wind whistling through every loose joint
  • Latch of back hatch broken to the point that whole back storage area of car is rendered useless, unless you load your shit up in there through the back seat
  • Crayons and marker designs adorning backseat upholstery
  • Countless bumps, dings, dents, and scratches
Whenever I park this beast after work, I go right inside and demand a Grey Goose martini with a TWIST because that is how you DO in a '05 Subaru, baby! 

Calm down, calm down. Yeah, I'll letchoo drive it  . . . MAYBE.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Go Home, Vladimir Putin. You're Drunk.

So . . . Vladimir Putin made a beefcake calendar--or, as they say in Russian, a "govyadina tort" calendar. 

For reals, Yo. 

Per The Daily Mail, each month of 2016 will bring you a hunky shot of the Russian Dictesident (dictator/president) snuggling a puppy, sniffing a flower, or fishing shirtless with his man-boobs--or, as they say in Russian, sis'ki chelovek--hanging wild and free. Each photo is accompanied by a "nationalistic quote" of some kind.

Well, if this isn't the sexiest thing since Anthony Kiedis put his cock in a sock on the cover of Rolling Stone. And just like Rolling Stone, the clear target audience for this calendar is heterosexual women. 

Wait . . . Hang on . . . I think February is making me a little rogovoy (that's "horny" in Russian).

Vladimir Putin just seriously upped the ante for closeted gay homophobic violent dictators and politicians everywhere. If Stalin or Idi Amin were still alive, I'm sure they would have commissioned one of these for their "fans." Just look at that big picture in the middle--it's his famous pants-sharting face and man is it SMOKIN!  

Fuck it. 

This calendar thing is going to replace the Town Hall Meeting for the 2016 presidential election. I can't wait to see what Marc Rubio and Donald Trump do with June and July.

Winter Break Haiku

No more Wild Kratts please
Your minds will rot to the core
Why can't I make rules?


This house is a wreck
I've seen pigs cleaner than this
Why are you such slobs?


We need to read books
You will forget how to read
And that will be sad.

Yes we are skiing
Be happy you get to ski
You little ingrates.

How many more days
Until you go back to school?
It's like Groundhog Day.

That is a movie
No you cannot watch it now
It stars Bill Murray.

How many damn times
Must I repeat myself, huh?!
It's like Groundhog Day.

I'm throwing this out
Unless you put it away
I mean it this time!

I'm shutting this door
And please do not come in here
Unless there's a fire.








Saturday, December 26, 2015

Some Guy Named Klaus Teuber Tried to Kill Me Tonight (Again)

Well, not literally, but that's what it felt like. 

Don't let his sweet, avuncular face fool you. Klaus Teuber (which I pronounce in my head with a heavy Austrian accent) invented "Settlers of Catan," quite possibly the most confusing board game ever made. It's also a game with which several friends of mine are completely obsessed, and have tried to push on me with all the enthusiasm of a crack dealer. You'll LOVE it, they said. We PROMISE, they said. 

Tonight was the second time in recent memory that Klaus Teuber has tried to slowly murder me with his diabolical invention. Even his name sounds like an evil character from Pinky and the Brain, and the plot of his "game" is no less disquieting.

I really don't understand any of it, but as far as I can tell it's like Monopoly for the British Empire. The goal is to colonize large swaths of land with little wooden pieces representing roads, cities, and "settlements." There are thousands of parts to the game. There's the puzzle that constitutes the "land." There are dice. There are little cardboard circles with numbers AND letters on them. There are cards with rocks, sheep, wheat, and logs that you're supposed to trade for other special cards like the "knight card" and "the longest road card" so you can get "victory points." Then between turns you're allowed to just randomly build shit and it's called the "special building phase" or something. There's a "robber" that hangs out in a desert threatening to fuck shit up and there are strategic trading ports. You win when you get ten victory points I think.

The fluency and zeal with which my friends who play Settlers of Catan play Settlers of Catan boggles the mind.

Each time I've played this game, I've felt like the game played me. Someone has to sit next to me and basically tell me what to do every step of the way. Literally the only thing I know how to do in this game is roll dice, count the dots on the dice, and announce the number I've just rolled. The rest just kind of happens around me, as though I were some mentally incompetent ward of the state, and I start to wonder if this is what it feels like to be senile.

That's the way it is with me and board games though. My second grader is already better at math than me and my preschooler is a much better skier. So it's hardly surprising that I barely understand Uno. The only board games I know how to play are Chutes & Ladders; Candy Land; Hungry, Hungry Hippos; and Operation, and I hate each of them to varrying degrees. Come to think of it, the last two probably don't even count as board games.

Somewhere in the Black Forest, Klaus Teuber is shaking his fist and laughing, knowing that it won't be long before he has the motive, means, and opportunity to make another attempt on my life.





Friday, December 25, 2015

Two 70 Year-Old Jewish New Yorkers Who Haven't Thought About Star Wars Since 1977 See Star Wars on Christmas

The following is a verbatim transcript of a FaceTime call I had with my parents late this afternoon.

Mom: Hi! What did you guys do today?
Me: Oh you know, same thing we do every weekend. Fought like animals all morning and then finally made it outside by noon. How about you?
Mom: WE WENT TO SEE STAR WARS!!!
Me: Wait . . . What?
Mom: Yeah! I said to dad, I said: "Nicky, I wanna see Star Wars. Let's go see Star Wars." So we went to see Star Wars! In IMAX! In 3D!
Me: Wow . . . did you like it?
Mom: I really liked it. Dad didn't like it as much as I did, but I REALLY liked it.
Dad: Meh. It wasn't as good as the first one. 
Me: Interesting.
Dad: The first one was funny. This one I thought missed a lot of opportunities to be funny.
Me: Wow . . . I guess I'm just kind of surprised you guys did that. It's so . . . kind of . . . random . . .
Mom: Well I loved it, and then when I got home I read about the entire plot on Wikipedia.
Dad: She read about the entire plot.
Mom: I never realized Luke and Leia were brother and sister?!
Me: I'm seriously so confused. Am I dreaming this right now? I'm just trying to figure out how you two spent Christmas. You went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D, and then you went home and read about the plot of all of Star Wars on Wikipedia.
Mom: Yep.
Dad: Yep.
Me: OK.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Losing Winter

Winter is an endangered species. Everyone knows that, or at least everyone but a few morons in Congress and the people who put them there.

Winter is also by far my favorite season in Alaska. It's the darkest time of year, but in my opinion it's also the time of year when this state shines the brightest. It's a big reason why I choose to live here, and it's probably a big reason why a lot of other people choose to live here too. 

I love everything about winter in Alaska: The snow, especially, but really all of it. Wood stoves, hot showers, big moons, skiing, snow shoeing, the mountains, the northern lights, and the unique and unexpected way Alaska simultaneously tucks into itself and offers itself up to new adventures.

Lately though, winter has become unreliable. 

Last year in Southeast Alaska--and in much of the rest of the state as well--winter made a pretty dismal showing. There was a palpable sadness as December turned to January, January to February, and February to March with no real winter to speak of. There was no snow. Animals and plants behaved oddly. Bodies of water that used to freeze for months had only a thin skein of ice on their surface. The Mendenhall Glacier continued its heartbreaking retreat.

Perhaps nowhere are the impacts of climate change more immediately apparent than in this part of the world. With each passing year, no one is sure if winter will come again. "Will we have winter this year?," everyone kept asking each other, looking nervously up at the snowline's progression down the mountain ranges surrounding Juneau. 

The answer, at least for now, appears to be yes.

It's an odd analogy, but the way I feel watching the gradual warming of our planet is how I felt watching my grandmother slowly descend into dementia over a period of years: A force that had once been so steady and so dependable for so long was suddenly unpredictable and fundamentally not itself. Sometimes my grandmother would be perfectly lucid, but more and more, you couldn't count on her to remember what year it was, just as you can no longer count on the planet to deliver a season that has defined Alaska and the lives of the people who have lived here for so long.

Today while skiing, I met two women from Texas. Juneau is crawling with tourists in summertime, but I've never met a single winter tourist. This family had no connection to Juneau. They didn't know anyone here. They just wanted to spend Christmas in the snow, get out of the heat, and be outside in the cold, low, sunshine of an Alaskan winter. Briefly, I saw Alaska anew through their eyes. 

And it was beautiful.