Anchorage was a small town with a subtle native vibe—a place where mountain-man meets a city all too wise to the hustle, that it knows when to hold ‘em and it knows when to fold ‘em, so to avoid getting run over by the busting ruffle of the new world.

Anchorage wasn’t hectic, it wasn’t cluttered. It wasn’t chaotic or loud. Where the buildings lined the streets, there were equal amounts of Inuit relics keeping the fulcrum in balance. Along side the Inuit spirit, was the spirit of Bear, Moose, Fish, Elk and Eagle, subtly speaking—very loudly—against the gentle rumble of the cars.

Anchorage wasn’t underdeveloped nor was it too modern. It was a place that rested on the convergence of the two extremes, like a moose being observed by a human through a pair of binoculars from a looking post, or a salmon running up the central city stream. It was a place where patience and wholesome living hadn’t yet imploded into general ADHD. A place whose exterior spoke of the temperament of its inhabitants.

There were no towers encroaching the original thumbprint of the Awe-Mighty-One, only stories four or five to max. All around the outer boundaries was the wild at heart so vast.

The designers of the city had left it to the range to do the scraping of the unwavering blue. The influence of the forests abound permeated the city’s aura, allowing Nature to make her grace well known, even in a place where motor vehicles roamed. It was a city where one could hear the flow of water, the soft sound of footsteps and voices, a muffler’s cough, and a train’s bellow, all in the same instant. The juxtaposition of the ends fitted together perfectly to enlighten the senses to a world so strategically untamed.

Thank you Jake, my soul had said to me, with grace, as I dipped my toes into the river waters, followed by my knees and waist and chest. Compassion welled up from the inside. A tear had formed in my eye as I began to take part in action. I was prepared to take the moose by the horns and dance with it. I’m ready to bear the fruits of all that has come before, I thought to myself. I had in fact, been flying above the storm when I arrived in Alaska. I’d reined my ears towards a call from the wild, and it seemed as if the wild had responded.

Every morning, 8:00 sharp, the chugga sounded through the city, like a steel whale running, into its own wake, set out before itself. Five to eight, sometimes twelve long, the demand for travel into the wild was great. And there I was, aboard the loco—motive pure as dew on a blade of grass, washing dishes for the vulnerable seekers and bold explorers alike.

Along with myself, there were about a hundred other workers from places spanning the gamut. There was one guy named Jeff who I worked with, who was an Elvis impersonator by night. He was heavyset, Italian, mid-twenties. “Oh you just wait and see how I can pull off The King for you,” he’d said to me in an accent on our first day of meeting.

“Well, you do sound like Elvis, Jelvis, I’ll give you that much,” I said back.

“Oh, uh huh, thank you, thank you very much,” he said, nose twitched, lip quivered, head bent down sideways, over-piercing eyes. He had the looks, he had the voice. I couldn’t raise a brow of suspicion before his claims. He had a charisma that went unpaired. I’d never listened to much Elvis though, so I didn’t know exactly what I was in for, or to what extent.

There was also a girl named Flo who I worked with. She was a Pacific Islander, easy going, the epitome of taking it easy. Within the first few hours of meeting her, she’d said she was the Lemon Queen, and that I could be head of the Lemon Council if I played my cards right and squeezed lemon-aid with her, so to appease the Lemon gods.

I didn’t know what the hell she’d been talking about, so I smiled and said “Flo, I love lemon-aid.”

Then she ensured I had the right idea. “Jakestirs, you must imagine lemonade to also be lemon-a.i.d.

“Flo,” I said to her, realizing I’d known more about what she’d been talking about than what I’d originally thought. “When I hear lemon, god, and council, in the same sentence, I’m the type of person that immediately thinks of aid. Rest assured. HOWEVER, I also think of a quenching. All in the same.

“As it should be, Jakestirs, as it should be.” Flo was a bartender on the train, her lemons extended far beyond the blender and rim though. For her, lemons had become the quintessence of all things uplifting—the flavor of life itself. “Lemonization is in full effect,” she’d often say with an energy capable of digging up burrowers—a positive contagion.

To me, she made perfect sense, so long as I was going with the flow, otherwise, it’d be as if oranges had encroached.

While washing dishes on the train was grueling, longwinded, tedious, and mind-numbing, it was everything outside the boundaries of the pit that’d helped me keep the lasagna flying.

The anti-office was ever-changing around the still rails extending through the backwoods. Though the choo remained the same, on a schedule never breached, the scene on which it had to bounce off rode with the seasons.

When steam would build up from the initial job, the open-air-deck was a step away, as natural vice, to let the pressure out. It was this type of release that’d give long-wind new definition as the sun traversed the sky.

Everyone on the train, whether tourist or crew, was there for a reason deeper than the imprint of their seats would allow. Whether they knew it or not, everyone was looking for something beyond a bibelot, otherwise they wouldn’t have been casting their eyes to the sticks in the first place. Some were there for Moose and Mountain. Some were there for Lemon and Song. Some were there for wild wander. Others were there for lust and wonder. Some were there to get a glimpse of Cupid’s call. Some were there for that ravenous longing to be free. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently I’d been looking for something before the ladder I’d been trying to climb. Jelvis had seen it coming and had been well prepared to pitch his sense. Flo had seen it too. I hadn’t seen it coming though, for I’d fallen into the bosom before I could think twice…

Once again, thanks for reading. I hope this excerpt from Chapter 44- A Last Frontier, has tickled your lemon. Stayed tuned and follow for more portions to come as I post the “The Lower 48 Chapters” of Losing My Mind in America, for the coming 48 days (44 now). Comments and questions are welcomed with open eyes and fingertips. PEACE IN.

-Tom

 

 

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