Friday, June 08, 2007

Chains that find me

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Chains that find me. Chains that bind me. Chains to make me see.

As I said a couple posts ago, I volunteered for the AW Blogchain. Kelly at Organized Chaos just tagged me, so here we go:

The Chain started with Courage, and ran from comfort foods to food security, to the amazing conditions that people often elect to live in, in order to live in Alaska. Let's touch on all of that, shall we?

First off, I lived in Alaska for a couple years as a kid. We lived about 16 miles from "The North Pole". Don't get excited. North Pole, AK is a trading post near Fairbanks. My Dad was Air Force. This was near the end of The Vietnam War. He kept a flight bag packed behind the door. We'd come home from school and there'd be a note on the table, or Mom would say, "He's gone flying. He'll be back." We never knew where to. We never knew when. But, somehow, we knew not to ask.

My last stint in the Boy Scouts happened while I lived there. I got a merit badge for camping out in 40 degrees below zero. (Turns out "Be Prepared" does not equal "Be Bright"... or even "Be Reasonable".) I caught and ate my first salmon on a camping trip there.

Oh and I've blogged about Alaska at least once in the past.

I have a cousin who spent not just one, but several years working in a salmon cannery in Alaska; one of the nastiest, coldest, most brutal jobs on the planet. I think of HER every time I'm pan frying some salmon croquettes and baking up my mac and cheese.

I'm sorry, what was that? Yes, sir, you in the back? So what?.... So WHAT?? Oh, ok.

Here's the so what:

I'm not sure who had more courage, my Dad, who went off at a moment's notice on those mystery trips; my Mom, who stayed behind with four kids and never let us see her sweat; or maybe my cousin. Not for the first canning season, but for going back for more after she knew just how crappy it could be, saving all her money to send back home to family.

Wasn't me. I was just the schmo kid who played in the snow in the winter, and spent the short summers playing triple-header baseball games. What do you mean it's time to go home? It's not even dark yet. :-)

These days I'm that guy who, more than a thousand miles from the nearest salmon stream, can pick up fresh salmon for dinner (grilled on a cedar plank with a nice whiskey & peach barbecue glaze, thank you very much); can sit on my butt in front of the biggest tv screen I've ever owned and let the History Channel and Discovery Channel remind me of just how hard my life could be; and be greatful that it was just a little bit hard when I was a kid, so that maybe I learned something on the way from here to there.

And I can sit here and be amazed, remembering that, back then, there was ONE channel on TV and that Sesame Street (oh, and the network news) aired a day to two days later than in the rest of the United States.

And now?

I can click this, scroll that, copy, paste and click away, and point you toward a site where you can see Alaska for yourself, live, in color, from the comfort of your own chair. Not that the images can really substitute for the real thing. But, for those of us who have settled into a more comfortable lifestyle, it's a peek into a world where people are living and walking on roads less traveled.

Tag, Miss Peggy. You're it.

10 comments:

Peggy said...

I really admire the ability of military families to keep it together when long absences and dangerous missions are the norm. Both your parents must have been brave.

But camping when it's 40 below? That's just crazy. I guess what doesn't kill you makes you stronger . . .

-Kelly M. said...

That was a beautiful post, Williebee. It's wonderful to be able to truly appreciate what we have, because we remember a time when things were much tougher.

I had that particular conversation just last night with a teacher friend of mine, about the spoiled kids she teaches. They just don't get what it means to be a "have not."

And that salmon recipe sounds wonderful!

andrea peck said...

I just can't get beyond camping in 40 below. Wow.

cath said...

I think we do live in a privileged time, for the most part. Thanks for reminding me of the good stuff. :)

Williebee said...

Thanks All!

Andrea -- Oh yeah. We got a merit badge for camping in 40 below, and another for camping in a combined total of 100 below over the course of a single winter. They sent us through a modified version of the Air Force's "Cool School", Arctic Survival Class. Showed us how to keep warm, build shelters, find food, and the painful and very graphic realities of frostbite. I think we got a merit badge for not losing our lunch on that one.

Virginia Lee said...

I have a theatre friend who has spent several summers at a theatre in Alaska. It just blows my mind, but she raves about it. She loved the food and how different it is from Memphis, where she lives now.

Williebee, camping in 40 below? Egad. My Southern blood could never endure that. No sir.

And that salmon on a cedar plank with peach glaze? Lordy. I want that for my birthday dinner next time around!

Gillian said...

Right now in Canbera we're thinking of Level 4 water restrictions during the supposedly wet season - learing to deal with extreme climatic conditions is not such a silly thing.

CruiserMel said...

Yeah, life was tough here, too. If we were too dirty from playing outside, Mom would make us drink from the hose instead of coming inside for a glass of water. Alaska rocks, dude, from the deck of a cruise ship.

*ducking*

Harbormaster said...

I liked the way mac and cheese slipped in there. The webcam page is great, pilots here have really gotten hooked on using the cams to check the weather prior to departure. Comments on scouting are close to home, I spent many nights with kids winter camping.

Cedar Salmon said...

I can't live in a place 40 below or its just my nature because I lived in a tropical country since birth.

Anyway, the plank salmon seems tasty! I hope I can try it here.