February 24, 2020

Deja Vu

There’s really no point in my going on vacation. I should just save my money, because no matter where I go, I’m reminded of home.

For example, I went to Alaska and saw nothing new. The dog sled team, barking and eagerly straining at the harness, reminded me of the department where I work–well, except for the straining and eager part.

I even went to see some glaciers, because I was sure there were none in Arizona. Calving is the term used to describe huge amounts of ice falling off the face of a glacier into the water. This glacier calving has nothing on watching half a dozen sunburnt college students on a tubing trip tumble off a cliff into the Salt River. Icebergs look exactly like the foam coolers floating down the river after the tubers have all staggered back to their buses and left for the day.

Did you ever watch a bear standing at the side of a stream plucking salmon out as they swim by and compare it to a homeless guy at the stoplight at the base of an off-ramp on the freeway? They look the same, smell the same, and they always go for the slow and the weak. Even if the fish swim on the far side of the stream to avoid him, he just wades in after them. After he catches a big one, he retreats to the bank, sits on his Shamrock Dairy milk crate and has a cigarette.

One of the favorite Alaskan tourist activities is whale watching. Crowds of people cram into various sized boats and venture out in the ocean hoping to catch a glimpse of a whale. The type that you’re most apt to see is the humpback, a huge lumbering creature that swims in slow motion. Every time it breaks the surface and dives it gives a flip of that giant tail fluke. Each tail fluke has a distinctive pattern that identifies this particular whale. If you’re lucky, you might see a calf with its mother.

Have you ever seen a snowbird from Iowa navigating a 147-foot RV through a Red Lobster parking lot with its Dodge Neon calf in tow, trying to find a parking space before the early bird special expires? You can easily tell them apart by the pattern of stickers on the back. In Ketchikan (the Eskimo word for catch a can) we went to a lumberjack show. There were wood chips and sawdust flying all over the place as muscular young men in plaid flannel shirts and woolen hats chopped, sawed, climbed, threw axes, and rolled logs around with peevees. They strapped these pointy things on their feet and scurried up this really tall pole, but all they did was ring a bell when they got to the top and come back down.

Have you ever seen the palm fronds fly when a Mexican is trimming palm trees and he’s getting paid by the tree? And when the lumberjacks were done, they just left the stuff they cut up laying there on the ground. Try loading two tons of palm fronds on a half-ton ’64 Chevy pickup and hauling them off without dropping half the load in the middle of an intersection somewhere. Now that’s a real job. And the lumberjack didn’t have to contend with pigeons the size of bald eagles exploding out of the dead fronds right in front of his face.

So, if you’re thinking about going north to Alaska, come south to Arizona instead. The best season for RV watching is October through April, and I almost guarantee it won’t rain.

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