I’m seated at a bar in Anchorage. It’s nearly midnight.
A two week repat to California, just time enough to be remined of home’s attractions (wife, friends, garden, a heater that lights itself and access to a toilet across the hall rather than a ten minute’s hike) has passed quickly, and I find myself, again, at the Oakland airport bound for Homer.
My inexpensive flight to Anchorage, thusly priced due to its inconvenience, not efficiency (it routes through Los Angeles and then Phoenix), places me, each leg, near a Mormon Tabernacle Chior of babies, whose hosannas would make even the devil wish for a grave he could turn in. Napping isn’t on. Neither is reading even one page-long sentence from the only book I brought, Lord Jim.
Wheels down in Anchorage at 11PM, and I go in search of a burger and a beer to wash from my soul the songs of the righteous.
“Kitchen’s closed,” says the bartender at Moose’s Tooth as he lays the pint in front of me.
I’m chewing on my Bear Spit IPA, happy to be back in the rough-and-tumble North, when the kid walks in.
He takes the stool next to mine and quietly signals for a beer. Alaska must have a lower drinking age than the rest of the country, I think, for this person looks to be all of twelve. His is slight and pale. He sports no tattoos (this is how I know he is 12 and not 16). His short hair is artfully mussed and his five o’clock shadow appears to have taken a week to mature. He wears Converse high tops below fashionably tight jeans.
He pulls from his coat pocket a copy of Bukowski’s Pulp and begins to read, begins to read, mind you! And Bukowski, of all things. Grumpy old man Bukowski. Savage dog, pock-faced, raging metro-drunk Bukowski. Skid Row Bukowski. Being read in a bar in Alaska, land of Jack London’s Call of the Wild, by a mere puppy!
What is this world coming to that Alaska’s children are allowed to read Bukowski when they should be gnawing at the hind legs of a wolves and starting fires with gold shavings and salmon oil on the back side of yonder snow drift?
I grab a bag of peanuts from the motel vending machine and called it a night.
Next day, shopping. An all-day provisioning run to Costco. When I could no longer shut the gate of the pickup bed, I stopped.