Saturday, March 26, 2011

Break Up

Moving to a new place comes with regional sayings and ways of using words that are unique to that place. Alaska is no different. We've been over Cheechako. And the opposite of a Cheechako is Sourdough. Meaning, someone who's lived so long in Alaska that they smell sour from living in a dry cabin. Sure they may know a thing or two that us "cheeky babes" don't but really they just need indoor plumbing.

And people tend to refer to how long they've lived in Fairbanks not according to the years, but rather the winters. A lady said as she looked me square in the eyes, leaned forward and lowered her voice, "I've been here ten winters." I wasn't sure from her tone what was the appropriate response: congratulations or condolences.

I've been hearing the phrase, "break up" a lot lately. Each time I heard it, I thought, wow, a lot of couples are having trouble in Fairbanks. I wonder if that's normal or just the time of year? Maybe there's some odd winter coupling-up whereby people stick together just to "get through" the winter and then when the weather starts to warm they realize, among other things, that their partner is a bit sour.

I spent an entire afternoon ruminating on this topic. Are the chances of breaking up statistically higher in Fairbanks than the national average? Are there other socioeconomic factors at play in this seeming epidemic? Do more couples break up in Fairbanks than Anchorage or Juneau? Is it even worse up in Barrow? What could it be? Can't we all just get along? Should I get my Ph.D and do a dissertation on this? And, that's when I knew I had gone too far. A PhD? More school? Oh hell no. Contemplation over a stiff bourbon and soda would suffice. Because we all know: with whiskey comes clarity.

Then, I overheard someone say (presumably at the coffee shop because that's where I hear all the good stuff) "the ice break up". Oh. Of course. The ice.  The ice break up is a huge topic here. There's even a contest called the the Nenana Ice Classic, where people guess down to the second, precisely when the ice will break on the Tanana river. It's a big deal; there's money to be had.

Now I was in the know. Good thing too. Just today, when out walking at Creamer's Field a woman remarked to me, "I wonder what this is going to be like during break up." I furrowed my brow slightly and said knowingly as I shook my head, "Yep, it's not going to be pretty around here." She nodded in agreement and replied, "It sure isn't.

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