Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jam bands in the final frontier

Let's talk for a minute about the bar scene in Alaska


Immediately after picking us up at the airport Matt insisted on taking us to a local brewhouse called Humpy's. His friends were playing there and he hadn't seen them in a while and we were so dazed that we agreed to whatever. As soon as we walked in we were immediately transported to mountain college town USA. I seriously thought I'd taken a wrong turn and ended up in Boulder. That vibe is so universal, a dreadlock here, a batik print there, and Tevas everywhere. It was not what I expected at all. But it made sense, that the rugged backpacker adventurer type would be drawn to Alaska. Duh.

There were also far more women than I'd bargained on. I reminded myself that we were in the city and that the rugged mountain men of my weird northern fantasies would emerge deeper in the trip. Still I was disappointed. This was Alaska! Where were the men who actually used their Carharts instead of just wearing them. Where were the men whose beards were signs of life in an inhospitable climate instead of badges of laziness and Brooklyn fashioning? Where were the men who earned their plaid? All I saw was a grip of mellow dudes drinking beer to barroom jams. I could have gotten this in Nebraska!

Not that I was trekking north looking for some great romance but I'm a girl and damnit, a lot of girls think about these things. I know full well that when faced with an actual mountain man I'd probably be skeeved and he would probably be equally as skeeved. After all, the romance of the wilderness is not the reality of it and I pity the survivalist who has to interact with me and my Brooklyn bloggy ways (though I found myself consistently blessing the fact that I was born in Nebraska, as I used it as currency with those who immediately soured at the revelation that I was a New Yorker.)

We went fishing the very next day but upon our return to Anchorage we were taken by Matt on an official bar crawl. The very first stop, the Pioneer, featured a bartender from the Bronx. That didn't seem very Alaskan-esque, but was fitting nonetheless. Then again, most of the people we met in Alaska came from somewhere else and arrived there searching for some intangible ideal. Or, as in our bartender's case, they'd gotten in trouble when they were younger and had come out there to straighten out, loved it, and stayed.

We sure as hell stood out though. Megan especially. She, a beacon of blonde Amazonian appeal amdist the crunchy granola vibeage. I got several lewd comments from groups of older men but they were mainly fixated on my pants (yes, if you wear Judi Rosen jeans out in Alaska you will bewilder the fuck out of many a man.)







All of the photos from that night turned out as weird, obscure, and messy as we did. From selecting Orion on the jukebox to doffing a coonskin cap (hey, it was the property of our genuine Alaskan host!) we were pretty much embarassments the entire time (a feat I regularly managed to accomplish at bars despite my sobriety.) We were the tourists taking cheesy posed photos at every opportunity. Simultaneously exoticizing the locals while they exoticized us. I fell into the traps that I, as a long-ish time New Yorker hate so completely. We were all bad jokes and preconcieved notions, half of the time wrong, half of the time correct.

But jerks and weirdos that we were, we still had a blast.