31 August 2009

On Tourists and Juneau

A few Fridays ago, the Friday Photo Shoot-Out featured interesting and amusing signs in the area. Not finding enough amusing signs, I chose to show interesting signs--particularly those that showcase the growing debate in Juneau over whether or not local tours should be supported. It received quite the reaction in my comments that week, and I promised that I would write more about it at a later time.

Well, it's a later time.

Welcome to Juneau! The City and Borough of Juneau is an incredibly beautiful town of around 30,000 residents and is comprised of three main sections--Downtown (pictured above), the Valley, and Douglas Island (from whence the above photo was taken). There are, of course, smaller communities within those areas (usually named after creeks or geographic locations--Montana Creek, Lemon Creek, North Douglas, the Flats, etc) and there are outlying areas of town as well (the southernmost section affectionately referred to as "Out the Road" as it is literally out. the. road...about half an hour's worth of driving through nothingness to get there). But that's it. Literally....that's it. There are no roads leading into or out of Juneau--it is an entirely landlocked town. Well, landlocked may not be the best way to put it...we have an ice field on one side, unscalable mountains on another, and the Inside Passage of the Pacific Ocean on the rest.

For the sake of illustration, allow me a momentary digression--when I lived in Chicago, I loved going downtown. It was fun to ride the El down to the Loop, shop on Michigan Ave, maybe check out the bar on the top of the John Hancock building, and then go home. Once I passed Belmont Avenue, it was a generally tourist-free zone. Anyone up there knew the major directional difference between Clark Street and most of the rest of the streets downtown (major points to anyone who can tell me what it is in the comments!), and no one actually stopped walking when the pedestrian sign changed to the flashing red hand. I loved going downtown, I loved giving directions to lost tourists and telling them the best places to catch a show or go to dinner, but I also loved going back home and knowing that we all belonged exactly where we were. It was homey. It was comfortable. It was mine.

And sometimes it's really hard to get that feeling in Juneau.

People who live out further into the edges of Juneau can avoid all tourism pretty well. People who live downtown like me and like the homeowners in some of the photos a few weeks ago can't avoid it. On an average walk to the grocery store less than a quarter of a mile away from my home, I'll see three tour buses. I've never been on the public transit system without having the front aisle blocked by at least two tourist suitcases. Walking downtown in the afternoon is pointless if you're trying to get anywhere with any expediency, as the clogged sidewalks hold an eerie similarity to circa 1940's movies set in New York where the brown-clad masses suddenly erupt into synchronized dance. For that matter, driving downtown in the afternoon is a plain hazard, the narrow roadways bearing a striking resemblance to that antelope stampede in The Lion King when Simba's dad gets trampled. It's not just the downtown area that gets taken over every summer--driving the main roadway (it really can't even be called a highway) in the early afternoon guarantees at least one run-in behind a smoke-spewing Greyhound bus, and I've all but given up calling my parents on my lunch break at work in the Valley because there are so many sightseeing helicopters flying overhead that it sounds like a war zone; I'm tempted to end each phone call with "Gotta go, the Freedom Fighters are breaking through the line!!!" When I lived on Douglas Island last summer, I'd dread foggy mornings and the ensuing foghorns from each of the ships when they docked at five in the morning (although Kip's shouts of "WE HEAR YOU, WE KNOW YOU'RE HERE!!!" from the next room were always amusing).

"Well, why don't people just live outside of Downtown or Douglas or near the glacier?" you might ask.
"Excellent idea!" I would respond.
...Except it's not that easy--when you live in a town with no roads in or out, it's not like you can escape to the suburbs. And when the mountains behind you are that tall and that steep, there's only so high that houses can be built.

I might be wrong and, given, I've only been here a short time, but I think that's the main problem behind people objecting to local tours--they don't like being constantly surrounded by the tourism. We can shout all day about noise pollution and carbon footprints and clogged sidewalks, but I think people just get upset when they can't go above their version of Belmont Avenue and only encounter locals. For four or five months out of the year, Juneau isn't theirs like above Belmont was mine in Chicago--it's theirs...and whoever happens to be in on a ship that day's.

There have been great deals struck between the cruise lines and the local government--including a fantastic document called the Tourism Best Management Practices that outlines when and where buses, bike tours, and car tours can and can't go in the local neighborhoods. I think cooperation like that is fantastic and I'm pleased to see that it's happening. We all know that Juneau would be a ghost town if it weren't for the money brought in by tourism, and by and large, Juneauites just smile and say "I love it" when we're asked for the thousandth time what it's like to live in Alaska. It's the cost of living in a postcard, I suppose.

30 August 2009

Cheshire Crafts

"Mom, can you teach me how to crochet?"
My mother looked up from the Reader's Digest she had been paging through. I had walked into the screened-in porch at the back of my family's house with a purpose, and that was to learn how to transform a ball of yarn into something functional.

For the whole ten years of my life at that point, I'd seen a few blankets around the house that were, to me, works of art worthy of a special room in the Louvre. They were warm. They were cozy. And they were crocheted, either by my mom or by someone else, I can't remember. But I knew that Mom was the one to ask--and besides, I was at the age where I was obsessed with anything old-fashioned, and in the Spice Girls and Tamagochi world of 1997, crocheting was not only vintage but completely old-fashioned in my eyes; something that women in the Revolutionary War would have done next to the fire while waiting for their brave soldiers to return home.

And so it was that my mom pulled out her crochet hooks and taught me how to chain stitch and then single crochet and then double crochet. Admittedly, it took me about a decade to get any good at it, but after last semester and sitting next to Heather in our Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament class crocheting away every Tuesday and Thursday morning, it's become a bit of a hobby.
And, at times, an obsession.
A costly obsession.
Which is why I would like to proudly announce the opening of my shop on Etsy.com, Cheshire Crafts. Etsy.com is a bit like Ebay, only for handmade goods--sellers must only sell items that have been handmade by themselves. It's a quaint little corner of the Internet, and I'd appreciate anyone who might be interested in seeing or buying some pretty snazzy accessories to take a gander at my shop, linked both here and on the sidebar of this blog, under my "Friends of the Blogosphere" list of followed blogs. I only have a few items listed so far, but I'm hoping to expand the list to include baby blankets, scarf and hat sets with Alaskan-made yarn, and some embroidered goods as well.

Here's to you, Mom! Thanks for the crocheting lesson all those years ago :)

28 August 2009

Friday Photo Shoot-Out: Incongruous Stuff

Inspired by Barry's passion for his community, I've decided to take part in the My Town Friday Photo Shoot-Out, a project begun to get bloggers into their communities and showing them off to each other. I figure there's no better way to get to know my new home of Juneau, Alaska, so here we go!

This week's theme, suggested by Mary of Traveling Hammer, is "Incongruous Stuff". For those of you in need of a dictionary lesson, "incongruous" means "not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something", according to my Mac's dashboard dictionary.

This is the normal view out of Kip's and my living room window. Yes, it is incredibly depressing. It's not the slightly melancholy structures that make it depressing--I actually find them sort of rugged and adventurous--it's the fact that it's raining.
A lot.
So much, in fact, that the roof on our neighbor's garage could be used as a skating rink once it gets cold enough.
This is, however, a typical Southeast Alaska day in all its depressing, wet glory. What stuff makes this photo incongruous, you ask? Well, nothing. I'm including it for reference to the next few photos.

This is incongruous. First of all, there is sunshine. This is unusual for Southeast Alaska in general and Southeast Alaska at the end of summer in particular (see above photo). The first few months of summer were uncharacteristically bright this year. By the mid-June, we'd already seen more sunny days than we had in all of summer 2008 and were steadily on our way to a drought. The drought only got worse into July, but by the time Kip and I came back from our wedding in August, the weather was back to its gloomy self, therefore making this sunny photo a statement of an incongruous day in Juneau. You might also notice the white stuff at the top of Mt. Roberts. Oh no, that's no dandruff, that is snow.
In late August.
If that's not strange, I don't know what is.

The incongruous sun sets behind unnamed mountains. Who knows how long it will be until we see it again? In the foreground, some spent stalks of fireweed show that the seasons aren't the same in Alaska as they are in the Lower 48--we're already well into early Autumn up here!

One courageous little stalk reminds me of the summer that once was. It was the first summer of my life that I remember seeing wildflowers that were actually wild--growing out of sheer adventure and free will, not because someone thought it would look pretty to scatter some wildflower seeds around their yard! These daring little plants are the first to grow after a razing forest fire, hence the name: Fireweed.

Now, this just isn't right. Is that really a satellite dish on top of an igloo???

26 August 2009

A Little Insomnia, A Few Photos...

Note to Self: the downstairs Internet access apparently works at 4:19 in the morning.

This isn't such a good thing for solving the insomnia inherited from my night shift-working husband (who is currently on the couch next to me playing "Civilization" on the PS3 and shouting at his imaginary subjects), but it is a good thing for blogging. Especially because we got a few of our long-awaited (okay, two and a half weeks isn't really that long, but in "waiting for wedding pictures" years, it's ages) wedding photos today. I couldn't resist sharing a few while I try to get sleepy to the sounds of the Iron and Wine station on Pandora.

Update: Kip just named a town in his civilization after me. How romantic.

Oh, Mom. We had a moment while everyone was helping me get ready :)

Dad and I practiced our dance while Mom and Becky wrestled with my bow.

I'm such a geek for cross-denominational Christian community, and Kip and I thought this photo was such a neat Venn Diagram of faith: my Protestant family on the left, his Catholic family on the right, and us in the middle during the Lord's Prayer.

Quite possibly more beautiful than the bride, my best friend Kasey.

Best post-kiss moment EVER!

We really didn't think this photo would turn out as well as it did

...or this one.

21 August 2009

Friday Photo Shoot-Out: Interesting and Amusing Signs

Inspired by Barry's passion for his community, I've decided to take part in the Friday Photo Shoot-Out, a project which was started to get bloggers out into their communities and showing them off to each other via a weekly photo theme. I figure there's no better way to get to know my new home of Juneau, Alaska! This week's theme was "Interesting and Amusing Signs in your Area".

Internet update: I've been able to add a few photos! There are still more, but I'm working at it piece by piece and I'll also try updating soon with more information about the local tour debate, seeing as it's gotten such a strong reaction in the comments. Thanks everyone!

Remember that post a few months ago about bear-safe trash cans? Yeah, I wasn't kidding. They include instructions as to how to open them.

Juneaunians have some VERY strong opinions about whether or not local tours should be given to the tourists coming off the cruise ships. I can see both sides...if I owned a home on a quaint street here I wouldn't necessarily want fifty tourists walking across my lawn shooting photos every day. On the other hand, I also understand that our entire livelihood comes from the money from those tourists, so I'm okay with it. The homeowner above is not.

Then again, their neighbors across the street are.

I thought it was mildly amusing that our water meter covers are made in...Indiana???

I walk by this particular sign every time I leave my apartment to go to the grocery store or church or anywhere in downtown Juneau, really. But I never stopped to look at it until this week's shoot-out. Little did I know that I was walking on Native hallowed ground--this unassuming little patch of ground is the cremation site of Kowee, the chief of the Auke Tlingit (pronounced "Ock Klink-it") tribe. The sign says that he was part of the Raven clan (the Tlingits are split into two clans--Ravens and Eagles--to prevent intermarriage, as only Ravens can marry Eagles) and that he was cremated in 1892, around the age of 78.

Last but not least, I thought this was an amusing "sign" that an animal had stopped by the sidewalk...and that a human had not noticed it.

Even more photos to come!

18 August 2009

Wireless Woes

Kip and I have been back in Juneau for a week now and I am officially at the end of my rope in the "do we have wireless today?" game. At first, a month and a half ago, it was a fun game of chance. Sort of like Russian Roulette, just without all the death and messiness. I'd wake up in the morning, a gem of a blogging idea being formed and polished in my mind, make some tea, trudge over to my computer and click on the internet icon.

"Loading" it would say.
"Waiting" I would think.
And then, if the wireless network belonging to my landlords was in a good mood, my homepage would pop up and off I'd go, joyfully typing away, doing my bloggy duties and checking my email with a certain joi de vivre.

If the downstairs wireless was in a bad mood, another page would pop up in about a minute or so, "You are not connected to the Internet."
"Yes I am" I would respond as politely as I could muster.
The page would stick with its statement, resolute.

In non-Internet days like those described above, I would shrug with a slight air of disappointment and go about my morning, inevitably arriving at work earlier than if I had been able to poke around the Internet that day, and perhaps reading a little Wendell Berry or Thoreau during my lunch break to encourage my simple and non-technological existence. Besides, if I'd really needed to use the Internet for anything, I could always stop by Kip's apartment, which had a neighbor on one side or the other kind enough to not protect their wireless connection with a password.

But now it's been a month and a half.
And Kip's apartment is no longer Kip's apartment.
And I'm waiting for wedding pictures that I can only view online for the time being.
And I've lost three followers due to the lack of posting (or so I would like to think...it's a much more desirable alternative than thinking they left due to a dislike of my prose and much less idealistic than thinking they left because they too are pursuing a Wendell Berry or Thoreau-like non-technological existence).

Now, I wake in the morning, make my tea, trudge over to my computer, and stare disdainfully at it. Sometimes, if I'm feeling in the mood for self-inflicted punishment, I click on the Internet icon.
"Loading" it says.
"Waiting" I think.
"You are not connected to the Internet" it says.
"YES I AM!!!!!!!!!" I yell this time, my patience gone weeks ago.

And now I sit in the Downtown Juneau Library using its screechingly slow connection, trying to look on the bright side of things and be in a Wendell Berry frame of mind...although I'm pretty sure that Henry David Thoreau didn't have the option of chucking his wireless router out of his window at Walden pond. Food for thought.

14 August 2009

Friday Photo Shoot-Out: Relaxation

Inspired by Barry's passion for his community, I've decided to take part in the Friday Photo Shoot-Out, a project started to get bloggers into their communities and showing them off to each other. I figure there is no greater way to get to know my new home of Juneau, Alaska! This week I finally came home after a full month away due to a family medical emergency and Kip's and my wedding. So the theme this week, suggested by Lena at Spirits of Lena in New Jersey, was rather fitting---relaxation. Don't I need, it Lena!!!

I know, I know. "But Cindy, that is not you kayaking next to a glacier. Nor is it your husband. What gives?" This is one Father Thomas Weise, our priest in Juneau. Kip and I flew him to New Hampshire for our wedding because he was the only of the three clergy involved who knew both of us and also because he's generally awesome. Why is he my first picture for the theme of relaxation? Because he relaxed me more than anyone else after the wedding rehearsal a week ago. I was SO stressed, and he walked over to me without a sound, made the sign of the cross on my forehead, and then forced me to pat different parts of my face in a stress-release technique that basically saved my sanity that night. Here's to you, Father Thomas!

This photo is the epitome of relaxation: it contains Kip, the person who consistently relaxes me most in the world; my fish Sparky (being held by Kip), who has been scientifically proven to be relaxing according to the scientists who said that fish owners have lower blood pressure than other pet owners; and it also showcases the Capital City Bed and Breakfast, which looks like a wonderful place to relax and which Kip and I would love to go to some day.

Some people in Juneau take a flight over the Inside Passage to relax. Personally, I prefer other modes of transportation.

I take drives to relax sometimes! I took this photo with our new camera while driving (rather, while passenger-ing) through the tunnel in Boston on the way to the airport. The blurry effect is less about Kip's quality of driving and more about shutter speed.

My parents' home in New Hampshire is their incarnation of relaxation. It's a place for the now very spread out family to meet and enjoy each other's company away from it all.

Kip doesn't need a house. He gets really relaxed after taking our favorite Vitamin D gummies. Seriously, these things are sunshine in all-natural, lemony goodness form. If you live in a dark climate like we do, please, for the good of humanity, TAKE THESE!!!

He also apparently gets super relaxed on plane flights.

...or maybe it was all the relaxation he experienced from reading the newspaper and indulging in tasty food in our upgrade to First Class. Oh, the perks of being newlyweds....

Our tasty breakfast at the airport hotel was relaxing, since it looked over the skyline of Boston.

So there you have it. This week was more of a "My Life Friday Photo Shoot-Out" than a "My Town Friday Photo Shoot-Out", but I promise next week I'll go back to a more Juneau-centered post. I also want to apologize for not posting for the past two weeks; with wedding stress and limited internet access, the MTFPSO got bumped to the backseat, but I'm looking forward to getting back out into Juneau (and with our new camera!) to shoot for next week's theme, "Interesting and Amusing Signs in Your Area". This'll be good.....

13 August 2009

Happy Friday Photo Shoot-Out News and Not-So-Happy Barry News

Since joining the Friday Photo Shot-Out gang a few months ago, I've had a terrific time taking themed photos of Juneau on my cameraphone, and even receiving a few compliments on the photos I've been able to get on my little Samsung cell. But I'm growing up, and so are my camera preferences--Kip and I invested (with the help of a wedding gift from my Grandpa...thank you!!!!) in a beautiful new Sony Cybershot 9.1 megapixel digital camera. Oh yes, my friends, this Friday Photo Shoot-Out experience is about to go "off the hizzy", as they say. I seriously cannot think of another term to describe the beauty of the photos this camera takes. I've been inspired, in part, by the amazing photography of one Austyn Elizabeth Ford, our photographer for the wedding who takes amazing photos and is generally one of the coolest people I know. Check out her blog here. Maybe we can get her to join the shoot-out!

On to the unhappy news. After months of fighting esophageal cancer, Barry over at An Explorer's View of Life just found out that his recent bouts of chemo and radiation did nothing to cure the cancer that they just found in his spine, although it did shrink the tumor in his esophagus. Please join me in praying for him and his family, as his battle just became emotionally and physically tougher. God be with you and yours, Barry.

08 August 2009

Love Story, Part 3

"Hey, do you want to take a picture with me?" Kip asked as he held up his disposable camera.
He could have been asking if I'd marry him and I probably wouldn't have given a less enthusiastic answer.
"Sure!" I tried to hide my excitement, "Um, I mean, yeah, we could do that."
He looked around Fort Friendship, the theme area at camp where he had worked the first summer that we worked together and where I had worked (under him as the Program Director for Theme Areas) my second summer.
He pointed to the top level, "Why don't we go up there?"
"Yeah, that's cool!" We made our way up to the top of the stairs as Kip handed the camera to Katie, another staffer, to take our picture. I put my hands behind my back, ready to do the typical "We're not close enough friends to touch, but we still want a picture together" pose, when he reached out and put his arm around my waist. I just about died from lack of blood anywhere but my face.
"Ready?" Katie called, "One--two--three!" and snapped the shutter button.
"One more?" Kip asked, somehow managing to keep a straight face as he tickled my side. I wriggled like a two year old, partly from being extremely ticklish, and partly out of such amazing joy that he seemed to be flirting with me...me!
"Alright, one..." I took a breath, trying not to laugh during the picture,
"...two..." I focused on a spot somewhere behind Katie's head and all of a sudden became very aware of Kip's shoulder next to mine and his hand on my hip,
"...three..." I didn't even see Katie anymore, as my focused changed from the spot behind her head to a spot much further away, into the future even. Everyone was smiling, and girls in blue dresses holding bouquets dashed across a crowded hall as a camera bulb flashed in the next room.

The thought came to mind from nowhere, and completely without reason--this was, after all, only the second time we'd made any sort of physical contact, and it's not like we even kept in touch during the school year, or our weekends off from work even. Still, the thought was seared in my brain, showing unjustifiable relation to fact despite all circumstances pointing to the opposite:
I'm going to marry this man someday.

And today, five years later, I am.

No Friday Shootout This Week and General Wedding Freak Out Extraordinaire

As has been made painfully obvious through the lack of posts for over a week, I'm busy. Very busy. And stressed. Too stressed to blog, in fact. It's a good kind of stress, planning a wedding and trying to make sure that I'm spending enough time with each of the dozens of people who have flown to New Hampshire specifically to be here for Kip's and my wedding. Sadly, something's gotta give and in this case it's a general semblance of sanity, the lining of my esophagus, and keeping a well-updated blog.

More or less, this situation hasn't bothered me. I've had a great time over the past two weeks hanging out with my adorable niece, Alli, seeing my sister and my mom, and watching all the aspects of the wedding that we'd dreamed about actually be put into reality. It wasn't at crisis point until this afternoon when usual wedding rehearsal stress combined with the powers of a lack of sleep, the interminable presence of heartburn, a church wedding coordinator who didn't quite get what was going on, a priest who by nature scares the crap out of me, and the overwhelming feeling of so many people staring at me and Kip at the same time.

If that doesn't get a person to crisis point, they're just not human.

I was so obviously stressed after the rehearsal that two out of the three clergy members performing the wedding walked up to me at different points and, without saying word, swept me up into those kinds of hugs where it's less of a polite gesture and more of a necessity by the hugger to keep the huggee from falling into pieces (literally or figuratively...take your pick). Father Thomas traced a cross on my forehead and made me knock on various parts of my body, claiming that it was some sort of emotional stress release technique. I don't know if it was legit, but I actually felt much better afterward, so I'm going to assume that it is.

All this to say: no Friday Photo Shoot-Out today. But I'm looking forward to shooting next week in Juneau again!!! The stress from tonight eventually melted into the beauty of our rehearsal dinner, an event that included signed books sent to me and Kip from our mentors (including Phyllis Tickle!!!!!) and the periodic sound of Langsea Dibley yelling "Cindy! It's Cindy! Cindy!" across the room at me. Now, after hosting a party for all my college friends, I sit on my bed in the hotel, Sarah next to me trying to untie the bow on the top of her bridesmaid present (a rather amusing show, actually), and wearing my veil because it makes me happy. Now it's off to check my email (a much-welcomed slice of normalcy) and then a shower, some Tylenol PM, and bed.

I'm getting married tomorrow.