Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unalaska, Alaska Journal Entry 4

Preface: Twelve days remain in my visit to the Aleutian Island of Unalaska, and I am now beginning to reach conclusions on the questions in my life that brought me here. Not going to spend much time explaining the specifics to the millions who wait under abated breath to hear these findings, but simply going to state that desolation provides one with an abundance of time for introspection. The answers are clearer, future intentions are better defined, and reintroduction is anticipated.

Body of Work (a): Weather in the past week has been exceptional (the heat wave felt across the mainland of this nation has not been evident to this subcontinent), with temperatures sustaining in the mid-fifties to low-sixties. Allowing myself and my social friend/professional superior to skip out on occupational duties and spend time communing with the nature that surrounds this village. The outskirts are littered with mountain peaks and trails that lead you to them or circumscribe them, through passes, and lead you to unique destinations (i.e. native Quonsets, rocky coastlines, etc.). Nodes that undoubtedly exist in Oregon, but have been unfortunately ignored due to the all-encompassing noise and social pull of the urban, social scene. There will definitely be more exploration of these venues upon my return to the state, yet I will also voluntarily once again become the victim to the entertainment within this urban noise. Populist excursions are limited here, and one of the simpler conclusions this escapade has brought me to is that I need these distractions in my life. But a better balance of immersion and distancing must be discovered to maintain high levels of health.

Body of Work (b): Work at the radio station has been both tedious and relaxing the past week, but the archival portion that was of priority to the social friend/professional superior is finished. With this task completed, more freedom to take on desired tasks is now available and I will hopefully be aiding the programming department (a middle-aged man that performs ballads on his key-tar on the weekends) or the news department (a peer who attended an Ivy League university and converses to open ears for mind-numbing lengths of time). This advancement began yesterday when I was able to fill-in for an absent on-air talent and host a sixty-minute program featuring independent artists. Male Songwriters: Bright Eyes (10:00 am), Elliott Smith, Sufjan Stevens; Canadian Artists: Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, New Pornographers; Female Songwriters: Neko Case, Cat Power, Jenny Lewis; Established Acts: Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney; Pacific Northwest Artists: Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie (11:00 am). A set of music that conjured up memories of similar sets in college radio that sent ignorant hands frantically turning their dials in search of familiarity.

Conclusion: My adventurous spirit has brought me to an area of exceptional beauty and endless opportunity for exploits of the natural setting. There is, however, limited amounts of opportunity for exploits of the social setting, which has reminded myself of how great of a fit the City of Roses and the Beaver State is for me. I am in no way placing an "x" over the box of each ended day on the calendar, but I am eagerly looking forward to my return.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Unalaska, Alaska Journal Entry 3

The past week has been one of apparent normalcy when describing life on the island. Diligent work throughout the workdays followed by the viewing of a film over a self-prepared meal of two-to-three courses, and then the decision of whether or not to catch up on a domestic or professional itinerary. Your alternative is to push these chores aside and socialize at one of the limited watering holes, where you discuss occupational matters in a setting outside the workplace or attempt to sequester the constant thought-line of labor by whimsical and nonsensical banter. This is the pattern of life for myself and friendly coworkers during the first five days of the week, but as soon as six o’clock appears in the bottom-right corner of your computer’s monitor you pack your bags and head for surrounding nature.

It was at this time on Friday that three of us headed out on a hushed adventure to a cabin located on the western side of the Beaver Inlet along the Agamgik Bay. This cabin is the more secretive of two cabins known to a select few on the island; the other being one that is a common hangout for highschool students and rats that inhabit due to the teenager’s lackadaisical behavior. After a drive along a meandering coastal dirt road, we arrived at the head of the trail and readied ourselves for a five mile hike out to the distant cabin. The trek out was fairly uneventful without any daunting inclines and only a bit of foraging through a handful of shallow streams. Along the barely-worn trail there was a light and refreshing breeze that enhanced our comfort, providing relief to our bodies hauling the evenings feast and festivities- in addition to the essentials. Upon reaching the cabin, I noticed it was an old makeshift shed dating back to the second World War. The dilapidated exterior had me second-guessing my friend’s lofty proclamations, but after further inspection I learned this poorly kept face may serve more as a deterrent from outsiders than anything else. The backside of the cabin was far more welcoming, including: (1) a running stream that flows ten feet from, (2) a deck with optimal picnic seating covered by a wooden roof and blue tarp that were recent renovations in response to a winter storm, (3) bedding for up to five occupants, and (4) enough food and supply to last these potential occupants for weeks. How had I ended up at this oasis? I felt incredibly fortunate to be introduced to this area by my Alaskan friend.

Events of the evening were typical to most camping excursions I have experienced in my past. The specifics being that we cooked up four halibut fillets and a pot of coos-coos for dinner, indulged in conversation that seemed to go off on tangents only to end on the initial topic of work, and plenty of consumption of Hamm’s beer and Corbett Canyon wine around an uncooperative wood stove. The evening wore on into the early hours of the morning, and the morning began in the early hours of the afternoon...awakening to scrambled eggs, sausage, and a couple cups of coffee. The weather conditions had flipped overnight and we were now faced with light showers that we decided to hike back through, but not before a game of Scrabble and a warming fire aided by plenty of kindling and fire paste (a substance of amazement that I had previously been unaware of). The drenching hike back to the truck seemed an exchangeable punishment for a great excursion, and provided my mind with time to reflect on the time spent at this resort.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Unalaska, Alaska Journal Entry 2

One week has now passed since my arrival to the port of Dutch Harbor and I have become fairly settled within the midst of this warming community. The population of this island is estimated around 4,200 year-round residents, but the census reader must have had a monetary dependence per capita since the island only appears to near this determined number when a ferry or coast guard cutter docks. Therefore, I have made it a priority to engage in noncritical conversation and take the few disparaging comments with a light shrug. No desire to burn any bridges or create any enemies during my stay on the island; a wise decision seeing that there are few places to escape any conflicts.

Being that this is the largest fishing site per gross national product, I seized the opportunity to spend last Wednesday on a thirty foot charter adventure on the hunt for halibut. The majority of the bill was flipped by my gracious host’s parents who were on a four-day visit from Florida. Thank you. Filling out the Suzanne Marie’s cabinet was a friendly couple that were the first residents that I met upon my arrival last weekend. The weather conditions were favorable to a day of successful fishing, with fairly calm waters and limited gusts of wind. I was able to catch two halibuts (the limit of my one-day fishing license), view a couple of puffins wading on the cold waters, and catch a glimpse of a porpoise skipping near the stern of the boat. An experience that anyone visiting this community should indulge into at least once during their stay.

My other afternoons this week were spent performing enjoyable, but tedious, work at the radio station. Monotonous duties of archiving the station’s minimal musical library that has enabled me to familiarize with genres that I have had limited experience with since my time spent in college radio. I must insert here that archiving and listening to music for any sort of income, travel opportunity, or combination of the two hardly seems like any sort of labor. To further strengthen this advantageous situation, everyone in the office shares a passion for the arts and shares in the common theme of welcoming visitors to their island village.

The above mentioned is, of course, just a glimpse of my experiences on this island thus far. Every moment in Unalaska has been incredible and enjoyable, whether it has been driving along the outlying roads in search of wild horses, foxes, and bald eagles, floating in the open waters hoping to catch the evening’s dinner, or exchanging favorable conversation with the locals (that are never at a loss for words) over some free beverages. This island has many adventures to share with any outsider that opens his heart to new experiences.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Unalaska, Alaska Journal Entry 1

Yesterday I arrived to the Aleutian island upon a PenAir island hopper to the breathtaking view of jagged cliffs of green earth comparable to the photographs I have seen of Ireland or Iceland. The runway suddenly appeared when descent seemed to have reached conclusion, parting a ceiling of cloud cover reaching no higher than five hundred feet. Destination for my summer had been reached and a warm face greeted me at the single-runway airport of Dutch Harbor, a commercial portion of the island flooded with various representations of a predominate fishing industry.

My gracious host immediately introduced me to peers of the community at the village’s only hotel where the four of us were served a hearty midday meal by Darlene, whose background of alcoholism and subsequent court ordered banishment and eventual reintroduction was revealed. Everyone here, like any other one of us, has a story to tell. Only in this isolated location, it becomes common knowledge to all settlers and one particular visitor in a fashion similar to that of a small town highschool.

After our meal, my gracious host and I departed the resort for an introduction to the living quarters I will reside in for the next five weeks. A pleasant one bedroom home separated from a family with two younger children (privacy, however, I do not foresee becoming any discomforting issue). After unloading my baggage, we stepped back into a familiar truck for a tour along one of the few routes that escape the community’s nook located at the mouth of Unalaska Bay, which is an inlet of deep blue connected to the Bering Sea. The steep rural hillsides were shrouded with the typical vegetation of a tundra in winter recession and a private land fenced from nearly all possibilities of exotic introduction.

A late afternoon rest would follow the brief tour, which allowed time for mental clearance and realization of my new surroundings and the familiarity I will develop with it. Then it was a thrust into civilized life including a trip to the town’s grocery store, a stir-fry dinner and a late night where I was introduced to friends of my gracious host and two of the island’s three taverns.

I feel blessed to be able to spend the next month-plus in seclusion from the mounting stress of life on the mainland. Such detail is expended upon everyday life here that one can find himself forgetting that there exists a world of international distress. Yet, life appears to resemble one of any other American - minus the assortment of entertainment choices found elsewhere and a stronger link to the extreme weather conditions.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Recapitulation of the “Great Alaskan Death Party or the Fourth of July I Spent in Heidi’s Room.”

My summer farewell to Portland was held yesterday in the shadows of an American celebration. It is now known to the masses that I will be departing for Dutch Harbor, Alaska on Friday evening for a five-week stint with the local radio station. Friends from two past occupations showed; they brought chips and salsa, they brought their wives and husbands, they brought their unwanted boyfriends, they brought their one-week old newborn, and they brought their childhood manners. The festivities were lively, which may seem a bit ironic or appropriate (some think on different wavelengths), since I am traveling to one of the more desolate places in our country. Here’s hoping that I will make an ironic return to this city and leave behind some of those who were in attendance to their static present. A trimming of the Portland family tree is in store for those who bring unwanted boyfriends and childhood manners. A branching out with those who inspire with their dynamic present and presence will follow. Yes, a pruning will occur and some will fail to make the cut. Trust me we’ll all be the better for it. There will be plenty of time to ponder self-improvement in the tundra, and it will be welcomed. When I return I will find that things haven’t changed all that much and won’t unless some effort is put forward. And forward as we all know is the direction of progression.