Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sun Days

I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of something to blog about this week. My life is pretty boring right now. I just got over a fucking cold. So, that’s been a lot of fun. Summer colds are the worst. Luckily, it was raining most of the time I was sick so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

So, Juneau is a rain forest and they actually have Sun days here. Not Sunday, like the day of the week. Employers will actually let people go home early if it’s sunny out and there hasn’t been sun for a long time. If you haven’t seen the sun in over a month and then all of a sudden it’s a gorgeous day out, there is no way anyone is going to get any work done. Sun days are the best. The whole town practically skips around all day smiling and giggling. We all shit rainbows and butterflies when the sun comes out around here. I’ve never lived anywhere so affected by the weather. We hunker down for the bad weather and don’t let it stop us, but everyone lives for the sunny days.

Yeah, so, that’s about all I got for this week.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Long Ladder Story

Milwaukee is a pretty segregated place. I am not certain, but I think that is one reason why they passed an ordinance a few decades ago that all city employees have to live within city limits. Teachers, police, postal workers all have to live in the city. I’m sure the thinking was that city jobs would provide decent pay and steady employment and people in those jobs were exactly the kind of people the city didn’t want fleeing to the suburbs. Breweries and manufacturing jobs were being moved to cheaper places and I’m sure white flight was a concern when they passed that law too.

My parents are both public school teachers and have lived in a neighborhood that has steadily lost property value for the last 15 years. Corner liquor stores and fast food chains have sprung up, crime has risen, and foreclosures are incredibly high, especially in the last few years. I don’t have any good ideas about preventing people from moving out of the city. I have no idea how a city would go about slowing gentrification either. I do know that forcing employees to stay within the city limits probably does more harm than good though. My parents watched a lot of their colleagues take jobs with suburban school districts over the years just so they could move out of the city. Not only did Milwaukee lose residents, but they lost good teachers because of their stupid policy.

Anyway, my dad retired in 2008 but my mom is planning on working until next year. After years of looking, they finally bought their dream retirement home in the suburbs last year but kept their house in the city as their permanent residence until my mom is officially retired. They have been having a lot of fun fixing up the retirement home on the weekends so that it will be perfect by the time they can officially move in.

I’m turning this into a really long story and it really has nothing to do with my point. Last weekend, my dad was painting around a skylight in the new place and fell off the ladder. He was alone and broke his pelvis and shoulder. They initially thought there was a neck or spinal injury too, but I guess he just had some really bad bruises. He couldn’t get up and had to lay there for hours before my younger sister finally found him. He just turned 61 in April. He isn’t old enough to fall off a ladder. He is going to be fine, but I feel helpless being in Alaska while he has to go through a really long and painful rehabilitation. I don’t want to think about my parents getting old. It’s not supposed to happen for at least twenty more years.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Celebration 2010

Sometimes I try to remember what I thought about Alaska before I moved here. I am pretty sure I thought that Alaskan Natives were all just called Eskimos. I’m pretty sure I had never heard of Eyak or Tlingit. I can’t remember if I thought there were polar bears and igloos everywhere or if I was under the impression that people still used dog mushing to get around. But seven years later, I am now shocked by the ignorance of people ‘down south’. (Down south referring to anywhere else in the US, from Wisconsin to Texas.) When tourists get off the cruise ships and ask what currency is accepted and wonder if there are going to be any penguins around, I don’t even know how to respond.

I love learning more about this place every year. One of the things I got really excited about my first year up here was Celebration. Every two years there is a Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian festival held in Juneau called Celebration. I got to work at Celebration this year and it was a really amazing experience. It is such an important event for Southeast Alaskan traditions. It reminds me of how spoiled I am to be able to take my culture for granted. I have never once thought about Dutch customs dying off. But there are less than a dozen fluent Haida speakers left today and they are all over 70! Can you imagine watching the last English speaker grow old and die? It breaks my heart to think about not only the impact Europeans had on Native Americans when they first landed here, but the impacts throughout westward expansion and impacts from forced boarding schools even in the 1950s. It makes Celebration so much more meaningful when you realize just how important it is to celebrate and showcase Southeast Alaska Native traditions and customs.