Walking about in Barrow with Pictures I


I am not playing a prank

In Barrow there’s a genuine bank.

     The way that it’s built

     It’s up on short stilts

To keep the permafrost dank.

This is a photo of the new, upscale Barrow.  With the prosperity of North Slope oil, there is now a reason to have a Wells Fargo Bank.  Like all the other major buildings here, it’s up on pilings sunk into the permafrost, and elevated above the ground so that the permafrost doesn’t melt and wash away.  Sooner or later I’ll go inside, just to say I’ve been further north than any Wells Fargo customer in Sioux City.  Note every parking place has an electric cord.

You can see there are pieces of whale

 And pieces of a vehicle fail,

     In the barrel’s baleen

     On the windows no screens,

And antlers galore, but no tails.

This is a picture of what Barrow used to be about.  You can see pieces of baleen in a barrel on the left.  There are obvious caribou antlers, but there’s also an elk antler in the foreground at the left side of the boat skeleton.  Note the pieces of snowmobile, car, sled, and boat.  There aren’t very many windows, to cut heat loss during the winter.  There are no screens on the windows; I’ve heard the mosquitoes aren’t bad here in town as long as the wind blows, but out in the peninsula they get vicious.

A beautiful view beyond price,

Look at the thawing sea ice.

     I’d like you to note

    In the background’s a boat

You might have to look for it twice.

I confess I have no idea why there are boats out on the sea ice.  Clearly, someone had to work to put them there, they didn’t just get frozen in.  I suppose at the end of the whaling season they might have just been dragged to that point and then left in place for when the ice breaks up. 

I didn’t think the visual impact of sea ice would mean much to me, but it did. It’s not like lake ice at all because of the pressure ridges and the cracks.  The first sea ice I saw was from the plane, coming in to Barrow. 

Today I learned how to say man, aangung, and man in a boat, aangung umiaktuktuk.  Inupiak K’s are pronounced the way central Michiganders pronounce the final K in truck.

I spent half an hour today dealing with an insurance company trying to get approval for very reasonable medications.  I used the patient’s speaker phone because my hospital issue phone doesn’t have that feature.  At the end the reviewer allowed as how the original denial should not have been made, that the prescription was reasonable all along, and we could just carry on.  And I didn’t get mad or angry or frustrated.  I made faces and the patient couldn’t help but smile.  When the patient leaned forward, putting elbows on knees, hang head and shaking it, I put palm between shoulder blades and stroked.

My saxophone playing is improving.  I ordered softer reeds online this evening; I’ll be ready for the harder reeds in about six weeks. 

I took a trip to the local supermarket for foil and tape for my windows.  The merchandise is familiar, with a few exceptions (like full size axes and a good selection of shotgun shells).  The prices, however, are very high.  Apricots are about $7 a pound.

And there was no sunscreen.  I ordered that online, too.

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