Thursday, December 6, 2018

Bro Goes to Alaska

                So as a few of you guys might know, I’m currently in Fairbanks, Alaska to do grad school.  This is my first time in Alaska, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Same as any other American town, I figured, just colder.  So I got an apartment about a fifteen-minute walk from school, but on the very edge of town.  There’s a bus stop, which is fortunate because there’s no other way to get to the supermarket unless you feel like walking for hours in subzero wind.  But there’s no true civilization nearby, except a strip mall a mile or so away from my apartment.

                Speaking of my apartment, it’s quite a place.  My landlord decided to take an old single-family house and turn it into an apartment building.  To get to my apartment, you go inside, down the stairs, and take a right.  That is to say, I’m a denizen of the lower depths.  The underdark.  I am…a basement dweller.  Not in the sense that I’m living in my Mom’s house having 3:00 AM online arguments with strangers about Boba Fett, but in the sense that my apartment is literally in the basement and all you can see out the window is dirt.  Frozen dirt actually.  Permafrost.

                My apartment is an ok place to live, if you don’t mind the front door not closing and the bedroom door not existing—“an open-concept apartment”, they said.  The hole in the front door’s frame doesn’t match up with the doorknob, so it never really closes.  When I leave in the morning, I just set the deadbolt, which I tell myself works just as well.  I sleep on an air mattress and have exactly one plate, one glass, one fork, and one beer stein that I drink oolong tea out of.  But that’s ok, because I’m in grad school and this is apparently how it’s supposed to be. 

The apartment has a fireplace (that doesn’t work) and tile floors, which of course is great to walk on barefoot when it’s freezing.  Still, it turns into a decent enough place with a six pack in the fridge and a Conan the Barbarian poster on the wall:

It really ties the room together. 
Being as it is on the edge of town, my place is on a dirt road in the middle of this great little redneck wonderland that somehow got transplanted from the Ozarks.  My neighbor on one side is a guy with a “Don’t tread on me” flag and an upside-down jeep in his lawn.  Across the street the house is surrounded by a chainlink fence topped with barbed wire.  Perched on the roof is a satellite dish almost as big as the house itself.  This, I can only assume, was installed the purpose of intercepting transmissions between Bigfoot, the Pentagon, and their alien overlords.  Behind the houses is the vast, eternal forest stretching far, far into the distance.  I like reminding myself that if I started walking west from my apartment, I would not leave this forest until I reached Norway.  The forest behind my house forms part a circle around the world,  the immensity of the Canadian and Alaskan subarctic.

                It’s an interesting neighborhood.  A couple months ago I was coming home from school.  I walked up my driveway and I saw my neighbor standing in front of my house:

                JUST KIDDING THAT’S A MOOSE.  A MOOSE WITH HORNS.  A BULL MOOSE IS IN MY LAWN.  I didn’t notice him until there couldn’t have been more than twenty feet between us (picture taken later).  It was huge.  Each noticed the other at the same time, and froze with the same jolt of adrenaline.  Our eyes met.  These things charge people, don’t they?  I thought.  Shit.  I moved as fast as I could without making sudden movements behind my landlord’s car.  There now being a physical barrier between us, I backed away down the driveway, and into the dirt road.

                Well, what do I do now?  There he was, blocking my building’s front door, gnawing cheerfully on a shrub.  I decided I wouldn’t try to scare him away, since I didn’t feel like getting killed.  But I couldn’t get inside with him in front of my door.  All I could do was wait in the street.

                I must’ve stood for twenty minutes, watching him eat.  His bored, dumb eyes mocked me.  So, moose, I thought.  Despite the toys and contrivances of Man, you have defeated me.  it was then that the door opened, and my landlord stepped out.  His eyes, too, met the moose’s, and they regarded each other with what I can only call a bored acknowledgement, like when you see a coworker on a Tuesday morning.  There clearly being some mutual understanding between them, he walked out the door, perhaps five feet from certain death, and asked me what I was doing standing there.  “He won’t hurt you,” my landlord said, rolling his eyes at the effete delicacy of people from the Lower 48. “Just walk by him and go inside.”  I looked back.  The moose had moved to about ten feet from the door.  Just walk by him…

So, gathering up my courage, that’s what I did, more than meeting my recommended daily intake of mortal danger.  Sure enough, the moose didn’t bother me at all, probably because my landlord told him I was cool.

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