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The local view: same language, different meaning
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No one attacks spring with the vigor of Alaskan kids kept inside by snow, ice, or rain.

After one of the worst snow storms of the winter, it hit a sun-soaked 55 degrees Saturday, so kids went swimming ... in the ocean. Because 55 and sunny is Alaskan for “hot-enough.”

A little mild-hypothermia isn’t how many visitors would choose to spend their afternoon, but that’s why the word “local” carries so much weight. My favorite part of summer is showing friends these little Alaskan nuances, and in honor of my buddy Matt getting engaged, I’ll tell of his.

He and a friend from Tucson make their pilgrimage to the 49th state one summer during college. I rented us a forest service cabin on a lake for $19 a day. He mentioned he and his family had done the same at a rental on a lake back home in New York.

They went boating, cooked meals outside and had a wonderfully relaxing weekend sipping tea and neighbors with neighbors. Two miles out of my home town, Matt looked around, wrinkled his face and asked why there were no street lights.

“Because the state of Alaska does not feel the need to illuminate the middle of nowhere.”


Images of wooden docks, lawn chairs, pontoon boats and catching fireflies was completely destroyed when I pulled off the road and onto the gravel shoulder. I parked the rented suburban (one door was a different color, and the pleather seats were sun bleached and torn) and began unloading our gear. The wind was blowing in from the northeast making little white caps in the usually glass surfaced water. As we set off into the wind for the cabin almost a mile away, Matt tapped me.

“We are just going to leave the car on the side of the road?”


Matt laughed, picturing a stripped frame on cinder blocks I am sure. Not feeling I needed to explain further I instead told him to take the port-side oar. The sideways rain made the row across brutal. Rain infiltrated his water-resistant jacket, but he continued, mostly in stroke while the other two passengers buckled down for the ride.

Matt stood in the living room shoes on the plywood floor dinged up and scratched from hatchets, and thrown firewood. Behind him was a plexiglass window burned and carved by disrespectful visitors. The table was rough cut boards hammered together and covered with more carvings, melted wax and burn spots. In the middle of the living room was a wood stove, the only thing not made out of wood, and the lone source of heat. The kitchen was made up of four cupboards and a countertop, all wood. There was no running water, no power, and no appliances of any kid, just empty space. The rooms were similarly structured out of plywood and two-by-fours. The bigger of the two rooms had two sets of mattress-less wooden bunk beds. Out the back door was a little trail that led to the outhouse, a 20-yard dash from the cabin.

Matt was quiet. The rain slowed then stopped as did the wind and when the gear was unloaded into the cabin, I went outside and ignited the fire ring with dry firewood left under the porch. I then plopped in a can of corn to celebrate their inaugural wilderness excursion.

“What are you doing man?”

“Just back up and watch.”

The label turned to ash and within a minute the can was alive with popping sounds. With a steamy burst, the top of the can gave in to the pressure and peeled back, allowing the yellow contents to rain down on the campsite.

“Won’t this attract bears?” Matt asked.

“That’s why we’re sleeping inside.”

I didn’t mention the mice that would almost assuredly make cameos while we slept on the floor. He’d find out soon enough.

Sunday, I offered to rent the cabin for he and his wife on their honeymoon, because who wouldn’t want to row their bride across an Alaskan lake in stinging rain to a cabin with no comforts except an ax to chop kindling? That’s romance.

Wonder why he hasn’t gotten back to me.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail