Wednesday, April 30, 2014

People of Skagway

I've been chit-chatting up a storm! Every time I go into a shop or meet someone on the street, it just feels right to exchange names and get a bit of their story - it's that kind of town.

It'll be interesting to see it when the streets are flooded with tourists, though. Apparently you get to know or at least recognize everyone who's here the whole time, as you see the same faces amid the thousands and thousands of cruise ship passengers cramming the streets. Right now it's totally weird but awesome here. It looks like a movie set, because the buildings are so period, the backdrop is so beautiful, and the streets are so utterly empty.

Anyway, I've been taking notes on the people I've met, because they have interesting stories and also because I want to actually remember their names!

John grew up here and now lives in – if I remember correctly – Seattle, or possibly somewhere else in Washington State. He works in the ice cream shop and has been back every summer since he left, but might not return next summer!

Steve is from Indiana right outside of Chicago. It's his first summer up here, and he's working in his aunt's (I think!) gift shop art gallery.

Ashley is also working in the ice cream shop, and is up from Idaho for her second summer – some of her college friends had come up her before and it sounded good to her!

We also met a couple in the street yesterday – Michaela and Lenny. Michaela came up a few years ago to work in a jewelry store – her first day was the same as Skipper's and Niles' first day! They quit working in the jewelry store pretty early – apparently it was awful – but Michaela stuck it out the whole summer before returning home to San Diego. After she and Lenny got married, he wanted to try coming back up here, but she was determined not to work at the jewelry store anymore. So now they're tour drivers! She drives a street car around town on a historical tour, and he drives a bus up and a bit out of town, apparently. They're super excited to come see the show again!

Also, I was chatting with Michael again, and he told me that he goes foraging for wild mushrooms, and said that he was willing to teach me how! He says it's very easy to recognize different varieties and avoid the poisonous kind.

More pics soon, probably! I want to show y'all my room and my view and the town!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tiny Plane Flight

I stopped by Radio Shack yesterday and picked up a cord to connect my camera to my computer - so I can now narrate the flight from Juneau to Skagway! Here goes :)

This was our plane! It seats ten people, including the pilot.

The dashboard is so cool!

I was sitting right behind the pilot for the first and longest leg of the flight, from Juneau to Haines.

 The view out my window as we took off from the Juneau airport.

What is this tiny island? Who lives on it??

And then we headed out, up the Inside Passage, into the mountains (the Chilkats on the right, the Chilkoots on the left).

I can't even, with these mountains.
I don't know how to caption them.
I've never seen anything so beautiful.
Look how clear the water is!!

I actually took 130 pictures. I've winnowed them down to about 40, and I'll post all 40 in a facebook album.

Here, I'm restraining myself. I'm just narrating. They're just helping.

Just a few pictures!

This coastline looked like fractals to me.

I don't know what glacier it is, though.

 The shadow of our tiny plane, as we descend into Haines.

Our intrepid pilot, Chris!

 I traded with Tess to sit co-pilot on our second leg, from Haines to Skagway!

The view as we left Haines

We're coming to the end of the Inside Passage...

...and it's our first glimpse of Skagway!

 Remember how the dock sank?
Uh, yeah, there it is.
The dock sank.

We had to take a very steep turn past the town
in order to descend onto the runway,
because the valley is so tiny!
It was fun.

 Hello, Skagway!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

In Which I Try a New Kind of Meat

I don't have a heckuva lot to say about yesterday, and I haven't been to the Radio Shack yet to facilitate the posting of pictures, so this will be a short one!

We had a long but productive rehearsal. The show goes up on Friday, so we have a lot to do, but everyone's working hard and rocking it out!

I realized at lunch that I had like ¾ of the ingredients for anything I might want to make – but not all of the ingredients for anything. So I box mac 'n' cheesed it, and I'll make a quick grocery run on my lunch break today.

And for dinner, none of us wanted to feed ourselves but neither did we really communicate, so Meridith and Tess ended up at the Brewery and Stephanie and I wandered around until we found the BBQ Shack, where we ate...

...caribou sandwiches! This guy (Bob – he's lived all over Alaska, including on the Aleutian islands, and used to give tours in Skagway before he settled here and opened the restaurant) has all kind of wild meat on his menu, actually – caribou, elk, salmon, buffalo – and he says that as the season gets going he starts having a wild meat buffet, which sounds tremendously exciting. Meanwhile, the caribou had been sort of pounded into these smooth rectangular patties and put on just a regular sandwich with bbq sauce and lettuce and stuff, and it was delicious! Very savory. Stephanie and I had been on the hunt for hot dogs, and weirdly enough this sort of hit the same spot, although it was tastier/less processed.

And that's about it! Hung around the house in the evening, chatted with Michael, who's been teaching himself finger picking through the winter, who used to frequent a bar in New Orleans where all the musicians came after 2 am and jammed together, who started directing the show up here in 1984 and did so for four summers before he quit to run his Mexican restaurant in Baltimore, and then who came back up here in 1998 and stayed! What a cool cat.

And now – to rehearsal!

Haha I forgot about this picture from Juneau.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Juneau to Skagway!

So, omg, yesterday, I don't even know where to start!

Ok, the beginning :)

Woke up in Juneau – managed to sleep until about 6:45, more or less, but I'm still not entirely on Alaska time. Meridith and Tess were worse; they had gotten up about half an hour before and headed out to chill in the coffee shop downtown. So I met up with them, had some coffee, watched the locals.

I did forget the best story from Thursday, though. We'd been walking back to the hotel from exploring downtown, and passed a little park with a big peace sign made from leaves, with the letters “N” and “O” on either side and the letter “Y” on the bottom. A woman was standing there with her dog and suddenly began – I don't even know how to explain this – rapid-fire quizzing us on the meaning of all these symbols. There was some bizarre philosophy involved, and some math involved, and each question led to the next, and it was just astonishing. Eventually as she began singing “Oh Canada” she started to walk away and we were able to disengage ourselves.

I don't know if that paragraph did this encounter justice, though, so next time we talk you should ask me about it – I'm told I do a decent impression :p

Anyway, back to Friday! Headed back to the hotel eventually, met up with Stephanie, grabbed a great breakfast from the little conjoined diner, and before too long headed back out to the airport to get on our tiny plane!

Y'all, riding this plane might have been the coolest thing I've ever done.

However, until I survey my roommates and/or stop by Radio Shack (yes! There is a Radio Shack in Skagway!), I can't post pics, since I have neither the right cord nor a memory card slot in my computer. So I'll wait to narrate that part of the day, since the pics are really the whole point!

At any rate, we landed in Skagway and were picked up at the airport by Jon, the artistic director and one of the Soapy Smiths, and Allison, the company manager and also one of the performers, and driven the few blocks (everything is within a few blocks, actually) to where we'll be living. The building is owned by a couple guys, Skipper and Niles, who run a coffee shop on the first floor, and I can already tell how fun and sweet and goofy they are. Plus there were Niles' bacon-cheddar biscuits, which thoroughly impressed me, since I've never been able to find a satisfactory bacon-cheddar biscuit recipe. We live upstairs, in four little rooms along one long hallway – although I have the bigger corner room, because they'll be bringing me an electronic piano! – with a centrally located bathroom. After you pass our rooms and go round the corner is a small but full kitchen, and on the other side of the kitchen are the two guys' rooms. Bill is from Harrisburg and playing our other Soapy; Michael is local and has been opening the show with music and poetry for thirty years! Can't wait to chat with him some more. House pics to come!

We had a few hours before our read-through to go grocery shopping/eat/unpack/whatever. So we stopped by the Fairway, which is pricey (thanks, isolated location!) but had a better selection than we feared. The lady who was working my checkout aisle has lived here for seven years but is moving back to Washington State in a few months to be close to her kids and grandkids. It's so hard for her to travel from Skagway that she's only seen her 7-year-old grandkid four times! She said that she really feels that Skagway is home at this point, and she's nervous about leaving – but determined.

Once I had groceries and I unpacked all my stuff I felt a little better – more at home and a little less tired. There isn't and will not be any internet in the house, but I have the data plan on my iPad and there's internet in the theatre, which is immediately across the street (I didn't think it was possible to have a better commute than I did last summer in Cripple Creek!), so we'll manage :) Good thing I loaded a bunch of movies on my hard drive, though!

At six we trooped across the street to the theatre, which is lovely and old. Pics to come, I imagine! My piano is jangly, which is deliberate, and out of tune, which is not and will be fixed – and it sits directly under a very large and very real moose head, which is somewhat alarming but fun. The read- and sing-through went smoothly (more about the show later, too! I'll save all this general-type stuff for days that are less full of plot!) and we got out early. Jon was nice enough to take us all – Meridith, Stephanie, Tess, Bill, and me; Allison; Julie the choreograher; and Jon's wife Tegan – out for a drink and some appetizers at the brewery down the block (because everything is down the block... :p). And then we crashed!

I'm still a little jetlagged and tired this morning but better than yesterday. The blinds in my room are pretty good and the bed ain't bad. And now I'd better get dressed and head to rehearsal!

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Here I am in Juneau! I'm going to try to post properly for the next five months, since I'll (hopefully!) be going on adventures and meeting cool people and doing fun things and having interesting thoughts as I live and work in Skagway.

Here's the debrief for today:

Got up at 4:45 am! Caught at cab at 5:30 am! Got to the airport, only to find that while my ticket said Alaska Airlines from JFK, there is no Alaska Airlines at JFK, and it took 15 minutes and 4 airport workers to figure out that it was run through Delta! Also found amid all that that I had left my cell phone in the cab! A nice security guard let me borrow his phone to call Alex to get the cab company number (because I only had it programmed in my phone...) so I could call the cab company and ask them to look for my phone. Which they told me they couldn't find. So I gave them Alex's number for if they found it, and gave up and went through security, since I had only five minutes left to check in. (They put me through the expedited security lane, which was awesome, btw! Didn't have to take off shoes or jacket or accessories! Didn't have to take out my computer!) And then as soon as I called Alex (on a coworker's borrowed phone), when I got to the gate, he reported that they had found it and called him but now the cab was too far from the airport to bring it back (plus we were boarding in like five minutes), so he had to go to the cab depot, and hopefully it is now on its way to me via the mail! Augh.

So, you know, one of those mornings. But flying is lovely, and here I am in Juneau! The day is beautiful! I AM IN ALASKA WHAT

The thing about flying into Juneau is that you are for hours just flying over snowcapped mountains, and it's like, where are we going to land? We are just in the mountains? Where is Juneau? And then boom all of a sudden you have landed in Juneau. Which is tiny. But not as tiny as Skagway! Anyway, I don't know that I realized that THERE ARE NO ROADS THAT GO TO JUNEAU. I guess that's a thing that everyone knows, but I didn't. I've been joking that going to this job is like going to Siberia or something, but it's not that far from the truth in terms of how hilariously isolated and far from everything these parts of Alaska are. Weird. But cool!

BTW, flying into SEA-TAC for our brief layover was also freaking gorgeous. I don't remember ever really seeing Seattle from overhead like that - maybe it's always been overcast when I flew in, or maybe I was never on a window seat. But - wow. And the airport itself is lovely, too! Props, Seattle.

I'm wearing out a bit on telling the story of my day, since I'm exhausted (but trying to stay up until 8pm at least, though I got up at 4am Eastern and now it feels like midnight to me, since ya gotta fight the jetlag immediately yo) and have been telling various parts of it to various people. But in brief, it is beautiful and sunny (although the locals were raving about how it was an unusually nice day, which is a bit alarming, and kept telling us how windy Skagway is, which is also alarming); I got to know a couple of my coworkers and they are great; Juneau is just gearing up for the season, so many of the shops are not open but some are, and the owners are just hanging around being friendly; you can walk around the whole downtown in two hours, which is ridic to me for a state capital but neat; and we learned from some locals that yes, those giant crows were actually ravens, and also they are bringers of light in Tlingit stories.

Also, this happened...


So we'll not, obviously, be taking the ferry to Skagway as planned tomorrow. We will be taking a 6-person propellor plane, over glaciers and evergreens and fjords. I am freaking psyched. Updates ASAP! :) :) :)