|You Say Tomato, across the street from my studio|
Anyway, so here I am after three seasons, trying out Skagway in the wintertime. I’m keeping myself busy working on my book Skagway: It's All About The Gold and applying for everything from park ranger to police dispatcher to bank teller—and the usual office administrator and web design positions. All the while, I’m immersing myself in the history of the 1897 Gold Rush, reading, writing, drawing, my creative nature for the first time in years surging forth. I wake up each morning in the dark, wind howling outside; go to bed at night in the dark, wind howling outside. (They were not exaggerating when referencing this wind!) Rarely have I been happier. And it’s occurred to me that Skagway’s 1,000,000 summer tourists might be interested in what this place is like in the frozen dark months. What the heck do people do in the wintertime? How do they get through the day with a smile on their faces?
One of the things they do is socialize.
|Arizona Lunchbox, a long way from home|
I’d met Tim Saulter while working for Alaska Excursions the summer of 2010. He’s a year-round resident. With shaking, numb fingers I poked at his name in my cell phone.
“Sure, come on over!” he boomed, talking tightly around his ever-present baby cigar.
I was once sick while driving for HollandAmerica-Princess…could hardly talk for the barbed-wire ball lodged in my throat. “Mitty,” I’d texted, “Can you go buy me some throat lozenges?” Half-hour later showed up at my hotel room (HollandAmerica housed us in the old Westmark, two to a room, kitchen and free laundry down the hall for a measly $196 a month—love, love, love that company) with a grocery bag full of stuff that he tumbled onto my bed. Throat lozenges, EmergenC, ginger root, fruit popsicles, mixed nuts. “What do I owe you?” I mouthed.
Knowing I could count on him three years later, I drove over to the corner of State and 15th in the biting cold. This is how we identify residences here. No street numbers, no mail delivery. “I live across from You Say.” “I live on the corner of State and 15th.” “I live behind the Molly Walsh Park.”
|"Mitty" Tim Saulter cooking for the senior citizens|
But Mitty barely had time to buzz my cheek with a kiss and mumble around his cigar “make yourself at home” before flying out the door to Thanksgiving dinner. Like I said, everyone socializes. Being Thanksgiving, all my friends were over at someone else’s house. Lonely, but not lonely, I poked around and opened up a can of Mitty's tomato soup.
SO THIS IS SKAGWAY. This is where you never go homeless, where you never go hungry, where friends move over and let you have their bed. Even it means they have to sleep on a camping cot next to a bicycle next to a crate next to a freezer.
I'm learning what folks do during the winter. And I like it.