Since my sophomore year of college, friends have been taking a week or two out of their summers to visit me in Alaska. It’s been great because the only thing better than being here is showing it to someone who hasn’t. I think it helped people understand some of my mannerisms. There’s no way that growing up in a town of 700 people won’t have a lingering impact on who you are. After all, small-town California means a city of 20,000 people that is 15 minutes by freeway from one of 60,000 which of course is 15 more minutes from 160,000 people.
People are astounded by the “nothingness” when they arrive. Islands stuffed with trees give way to tiny little scars called villages or sprawling metropolises like Ketchikan or Juneau. I sneak peaks at them as we navigate through town. There’s confusion and excitement. I wonder if they are looking for bears, or moose, or trying to find something like a billboard or stop lights.
They ask only a fraction of the questions they have and whisper observations to each other either out of respect for me or because they don’t have the nerve to ask a question that might sound ridiculous. Something like wondering how we were to get from Ketchikan to Prince of Wales Island.
“So we’re going across the lake in that?” a friend said pointing to the ferry one year.
“If by ‘lake’ you mean part of the Pacific Ocean, then yes.”
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