The Arctic Ocean beats the parking lot view


I know at home it is night,

But here there’s perpetual light

     The view will be nice

     Of the snow and the ice,

But right now it’s gloomy.  Yes, quite.

Anchorage looks like almost every other airport I’ve ever been to, with the same shops and restaurants.  The ethnic mix of the passengers is pretty much the same as Omaha, maybe with fewer Hispanics.  There are female TSA workers with the Moslem head scarf.  A few people appear to be Native.

When I first went to Navajoland all the Indians looked the same to me.  After a couple of years all the Indians looked like individuals and all the whites looked the same.  By the time I left not only could I tell Navajo from Keresans (the Acoma and Laguna Pueblos), but at Toohaajilehi I could spot the Nakai Dine clan from the others. When I looked at most of the Pueblos I could fit individuals into a family structure. 

The Fairbanks airport looks like most other airports, too, but with bigger mountains in the background; the trees on the other side of the fence look like arctic evergreens.

The Barrow airport doesn’t look like any other airport, in this country, in this century.  It looks a little bit like the Casper airport thirty years ago.  There is no jetway; airstairs are wheeled up to the door of the plane.

Families crowd the limited floor space.   There are no shops or restaurants.  It has the feel that the Tucson airport had in the ‘50’s: close, and crowded, and accessible.  Baggage claim has no carousel; handlers bring bags (generally three per person) out of two doors and piled them randomly.  There is great congestion and chaos and conversation.  Most everyone smiles and many laugh.

 We flew over sea ice coming in, and landed in fog and ice with temperature is in the high twenties, only cold by comparison.

Less than a year ago I flew to Chicago with Bethany; a major pharmaceutical company paid my way.  A liveried driver stood at baggage claim holding a sign with my name.  He drove us in a limo to a five star hotel.

Anthony from the hospital Building Services calls out my name and waits with me for my checked suitcase.  Spalls and cracks mark the windshield as the battered SUV lurches over frost heaves. 

Barrow feels like a raw outpost.  The streets are not paved and the houses are up on stilts; telephone poles and wires crowd the skyline.

I feel much more at home in Barrow than I did in Chicago.  In the final analysis, I’m not a five star hotel kind of guy; I am happier in the SUV than in a limo.

My apartment is attached to the hospital.  Two stories, two bedrooms, a bath and a half, walk in closets, fully and nicely furnished. If there’s a view I can’t see it because the snow and fog crowd visibility to a quarter mile.  A good amount of traffic travels the unpaved roads, and three pedestrian figures walk through the mud. 

My internal clock should be telling me it’s after midnight, but it’s not night here, and it won’t be night for months. 

When I awaken I’ve not slept enough and it’s still cloudy but the fog has cleared, with visibility a couple of miles.

The downstairs gym offers a view of the Arctic Ocean.  Which is better than no view, but right now it’s pretty bleak.  The exercise machines I use at home are the same as the ones here,  but these have no TV.  Which is just as well. 

And a view of the Arctic Ocean, even with the sea ice, is better than the view of the parking lot in Sioux City.

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