I've just returned home from a trip Outside that morphed into "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Rants." Planes, trains and automobiles, thousands of miles from home with a couple of my best politically savvy girlfriends.
Unless you're living in a Kaczynskiesque cabin and haven't gone Outside for at least five years, you have no doubt noticed the changes in travel. No, I'm not talking about the TSA (though I'm happy to report JFK Airport TSA was lovely compared to Reagan a year ago. It kind of makes sense).
"Oh, you're from Alaska?" used to be followed by something quite different. How cold is it really? Dark all the time? Light all the time? Ever seen a grizzly bear? Do you live in an igloo or have a dogsled? What's the biggest fish you ever caught? Do you need a passport? Do you use dollars? Don't you get paid to live there?
I can't describe the guilt I now feel for being annoyed by those questions. Those were icebreakers for interesting conversations that opened up all kinds of topics, sometimes for hours.
For the last four years, where we live became part of a punch line. "Can you see Russia from your house?" No. But when I was growing up I saw Old Believer Russians at the post office and school. Does that count? This may explain why the Cold War was lost on me. I couldn't understand why Russians were so scary; the ones I knew were pretty nice.
"Do you know Sarah Palin?" This, my friends, is a trick question. Don't bite the hook. You can't win regardless of the position of the person asking the question
While sitting in a fancy sushi bar in New York City, I was relieved when the first question from a group of women was, "Have you eaten muktuk? Am I saying that right? Or stinky flipper seal?"
What? Thank you, Ariel Tweto and "Flying Wild Alaska" for a new topic and change in a tired and old conversation. By the way, I love the show.
A few times on this trip, I asked questions where I got "the look" before the answer. I've given that look to sightseers before. Once while hauling tourists on the Danny J ferry, a man asked how far above sea level we were. It was low tide. Awkward.
I asked what "day" was garbage day in New York City. Really? "All of them, Shannyn." It seemed strange the "No Standing Anytime" signs are not directives to pace the sidewalk. "No Standing Anytime" applied to vehicles only. Then why don't they say that?
I paced for nothing.
I still can't get over the concept of driving through two or three states without even a pit stop. That's insane.
My stopover in Minneapolis was eventful. Realize, I dose myself out on anti-anxiety meds and wear my hoodie backwards and over my face once I'm seated in order to fly. Flying in a plane feels like cursing gravity. While waiting for my connection in my Xanax-induced haze, I looked around my gate at my fellow passengers. It was a full flight with a waiting list. I could pick out the few Alaskans among the "Bucket List" crowd.
Clearly Alaskan, one fellow had his shoe and sock off and was clipping his toenails. I took a picture. A few ladies in matchy-match travel garb were discussing what they would say if they actually met our former half-term governor. They were all a-flutter.
"Why would you say anything?" I said. "She quit."
"Well, she had no choice," the Bucket-Lister countered. "Hateful people drove her from office. She was going broke."
I realized at this point that I don't really care anymore. The man trimming his toenails seemed more interesting. I thought about asking him about his foot health.
"She quit because she couldn't cash in on a book deal and be the governor. You can't have other jobs while governing in Alaska."
"Well, I'll be. I didn't know that. Do you live there?"
I remembered the patience of my city friends to my inane questions.
"I do. Make sure to see a glacier. They are tremendous time capsules melting away. Look for moose, but don't get too close. If you don't stay up late, you really should set your alarm and see the sun at midnight. Don't miss the flower gardens, the colors are so vibrant. Eat salmon, it's wild and good for you."
It's good to be home.
Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. statewide on ABC affiliates KYUR Anchorage, KATN Fairbanks and KJUD Juneau.