Barrow, Alaska Part 2 of 2

It Could Be Worse

It Could Be Worse

Jack at the hotel told me to hop on over to the AC Value Center to check out the prices such as the $100 turkeys and $10 Cokes. I gave him a blank stare and asked what else is there to do in town. Ever so helpful he suggested hiring a tour guide for $100 to take me around town. OK, take me around to what? It’s pitch black out, and I already walked to lunch.

Then I got to thinking. Seriously, what is there really to do when it’s -40F with the windchill so I realize it was the supermarket or nothing. Let’s go! Vaminos! That’s Spanish in case you didn’t know. For some reason being in Barrow and eating south of the border style foolishness at Pepe’s North of the Border made me feel like I had indeed landed in some sort of foreign land.

Right away I headed to the produce department and gawked at the $24 bags of oranges. The prices had me bouncing around the store like a kid on crack. $9.99 for milk. $5.35 for a bag of frozen peas. And the piece de la resistance $138.79 for a bone-in ham. The $40 cash in my pocket suddenly felt rather anemic and screamed for me to protect it from the overpriced fury.

I did need some swag for the party and not to sound cheap or anything but holy crap, who the hell spends $10 a bag on MSG laden fried carbohydrates? Thankfully the food gods were smiling down upon us that day in this miniature Walmart style joint last remodeled during the latter years of the Carter administration.

Ten Buck Chips

Ten Buck Chips

Doritos were on sale for $7 a bag. Oh hell yes. What luck! Viva la Mexico in the middle of a frozen wasteland! I just prayed no one at the party would know these were on sale. I can hear it now. “Oh, so we’re not good enough for the $10 Ruffles or $60 cheese tray? Is that what you’re trying to say with this marked down sale shit?”

Given the size of Barrow I am sure things went something like, “Hey Marge. Doreen here. I’m calling to let you know Doritos are $4 off! Call Shirley and activate the telephone tree! Oh, and there’s some idiot buying a few bags.” I swear later on at the party I saw someone looking at my Doritos donation and thinking what a cheap ass bastard that dude from Georgia is buying this sale crap. I’m thinking Shirley surely let someone know.

Who knew that a grocery store at the edge of the United States could be such a tourist mecca? Actually, this is probably the northernmost supermarket in America now that I think about it. Wow, to think I actually stepped foot in such a place. It’s almost as good as visiting some piece of crap in rural America like the world’s largest yarn ball. I know they all pegged me for a tourist since I was the only one in there running around like some schmuck taking pictures with an IPhone and dispatching the images of overpriced bananas home to friends who probably didn’t give a flying flip about my enthusiasm for it all.

Some New Year's Fun

Some New Year’s Fun

At 7pm the New Years Party started and let me preface this by saying my new friends in Barrow provided what is one of my most memorable an favorite New Year’s celebrations ever. Imagine an episode of Northern Exposure playing out in front of you. Only this one isn’t scripted and filmed in Washington State. No, this is quirkiness in the raw right in the tundra, and I loved every minute of this reality TV.

Everyone I met was larger than life in the best of ways and that room was packed with personality. I learned so much about life in the bush and gained a new appreciation for the remoteness and hardships. Hell, I can forgive anyone for being a bit quirky and even contemplated moving there so my own weirdness could finally blend in somewhere.

Overhearing a guy mention he needed to clean out his cunnychuck made me wonder what the hell do people do around here when the clock strikes midnight. Naturally I imagined this is an anatomical part and combine it with all the booze in this house going down the hatch quickly…Well, use your imagination. I got to thinking I better clinch my cunnychuck closed and keep it pressed against the couch cushion. But hey, if that’s what they do up here in the winter to stay warm, I say go on now and get your freak on. I realize what happens in Barrow stays in Barrow but even my cunnychuck has its limits though.

Thankfully Matt explained to the non-Barrow natives amongst us that a cunnychuck is nothing more than someone’s mud room. God, even that sounds like some filthy slang for that place where the sun doesn’t shine. OK people, let’s steer this one out of the ditch. It turned out to be nothing more than the room where you take off your dirty boots.

I was actually disappointed I hadn’t stumbled upon some new dirty word, but of course never give up. Earlier I had seen signs at the grocery store written in some strange language that caused me to look around and ask myself como se dice what the hell is this mess? These incomprehensible word jumbles turned out to be the Inupiat language, and what’s the first stuff you learn in a foreign language? Yep, that’s right. The dirty words. Within minutes I knew how to hurl an insult by calling someone what sounds like “deenock.” It means “single pubic hair.”

Best Fireworks In The Bush

Best Fireworks In The Bush

Cunnychuck and deenock were just so delightfully vulgar to my juvenile ears or maybe that was just the shots of vodka enhancing my mood. Copious amounts of booze were also elevating a larger than life woman to even greater heights, and I must admit I was truly mesmerized by her ribald nature. And I mean that with utmost respect. I genuinely respected her expletive laced mouth for not even I could string together such creative combinations of words to get my point across.

She announced that she had converted recently to Judaism though Barrow lacks a proper rabbi or temple. Evidently giving up pork chops and Christmas are all that are needed to crack the torah’s code. You see, a recent bout of drunkenness caused her to accidentally let her kids open their Christmas presents a few weeks early. Right then and there she knew Christmas was ruined and could never be celebrated again. Since Jews don’t celebrate the birth of Christ she thought, why not just go kosher. Hey, works for me.

Boeing 737-400 Combi

Boeing 737-400 Combi

Just shy of midnight we had transported the party across town to a home right on the lagoon where the fireworks were set to explode, much like the fire extinguisher someone released in the girl’s cunnychuck as soon as we got there. Just about everyone in town was busy maneuvering their cars and trucks out onto the frozen water to watch the lightshow. I stood outside with several of my new friends in that frigid icebox called the Arctic and watched as the fireworks lit up the night sky.

Angie was right. These fireworks were amazing and for so many reasons. First, the sense of community impressed me. Where else will an entire town brave these conditions to come together for fireworks? And just the logistics alone of getting ten minutes’ worth of gunpowder laden explosives above the Arctic Circle impressed me. I didn’t even feel cold standing out there in the wind as I tried to take as many mental snapshots possible so I would never forget this most unique event.

Barrow may be the one of the coldest places on earth, but the hospitality sure did warm me up to the place. I arrived alone but left having made new friends. It’s quirky. It’s cold. It’s dark. It even fed my own inner weirdness. There’s not much to do there in winter besides rummage through the AC Value Center. But I must say, New Years in Barrow will be hard to ever top.


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