Let me just start with some declarations:
- Everyone should visit Alaska.
- Attaching fake testicles to your car is weird.
- Dance parties are the best parties.
Back in December I wrote about The Best Date Ever when my dear friend’s parents took me to see Wicked and then out to eat and then told me they were buying me a trip to Alaska. BEST DATE EVER. I love these people for their generosity and for their genetic contributions to the world. So let me tell you about Alaaaaaaaaaskaaaa. The name itself is so pretty with its sibilant sounds and soft A’s. There are great names in Alaska, like the Athabaskan people who run the Kantishna Roadhouse in the interior of Denali National Park. Mom and I flew into this land of awe-inspiring landscapes and lovely words on June 10, and for the next week, we saw so many gorgeous sites and ate so many scrumptious foods and drank so many tasty beers. We flew into Anchorage at night (or what would have been night time in the Lower 48; Mom and I went six days without seeing darkness), so the next morning we “awoke with the chickens” (as my mama says), and we took the train to Seward, which is on the central, southern coast. We chugga-chugga-chooed-chooed along the coastline and saw moose, Dall sheep and bald eagles. It’s so romantic to stand on the viewing platform and breathe in the sea air and look out at the mountains and glaciers. Our tour guide was a high school student; the Anchorage Public Schools offers an intensive after-school program to juniors and seniors where they learn all about Alaskan history and ecology, etc., and there’s a competitive application process to be hired by the Alaska Railroad to lead these train tours in the summer. I forget our guide’s name, but she was a doll, and one of her projects in this course was to create a binder of Alaskan flora and fauna, and she had it on board, and it was very well-done. Such a cool program, right?
Seward was a tiny town with fantastic restaurants. Giiiiiiiiiiirl the halibut and the King crab legs! We took a boat excursion around Kenai Fjords National Park, and amidst the craggy coastline we saw humpback whales, puffins, sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles, and glaciers. The captain of our ship drove us right up in front of Holgate Glacier. When it calves (meaning when chunks of it fall off into the water), it sounds like thunder, and it litters the sea in front of it with tiny icebergs. Glaciers have a bluish tint; they look like someone took blue raspberry snowcone syrup and drizzled it over the top of them (this is because the ice can’t absorb the short, high energy blue wavelength). From Seward we took the bus north to the tiny, funky town of Talkeetna. It’s teeny but full of character. A lot of hip 20-somethings work in the restaurants and spend their free time playing in the mountains and rivers. While there, Mom and I ate at Twister Creek Restaurant at the Denali Brewing Company. So charming. We took a scenic flight and enjoyed an aerial view of the snow-covered peaks, and then we LANDED ON A GLACIER. The experience was [insert all the good adjectives]. The pilot was super hot, too. Before we boarded the 8-person prop plane, Hot Pilot asked, “Who wants to be my co-pilot?” ::my hand shoots up:: I always fall in love with my tour guides. I even fell in love with the older gentleman who drove us through Denali National Park. He was a character. A very smart, witty, well-read man who left Chicago in the early 90s to work in the tourism industry in Alaska. You could tell he loved his job, sharing stories about Alaskan history and providing information about the park. What’s great about Denali is that, unlike places like Yosemite and Yellowstone, car access is restricted. If you want to see the park, you have to take a bus, so there’s no congestion. You get a sense of being out in the wild. We saw moose, caribou, bald eagles, and GRIZZLY BEARS–two of them, but from a distance. On the last day, we went rafting (on mild rapids), and of course I thought the tour guide was just precious. He was 21, from Montana, and was having the time of his life. With great jubilance he described his summers working in Alaska: fishing, hiking, looking for geodes. We passed a hut on the river bank, and he called out in some masculine sound to alert the men within it that he was passing by (he and his buddies had created a sauna using tarp and timber). Hell of a life, right? On the train back to Anchorage we sat next to a woman who had undergone a mastectomy about a year ago, and we talked about nipple reconstruction. She recommended that I forgo getting nipples made and attached and then tattooed because it’s not uncommon for them to fall off. Instead, she suggested I just pursue a 3-D nipple tattoo. She will be travelling to Baltimore to visit the tattoo parlor of the one-and-only Vinnie Myers, the preeminent 3-D nipple tattoo artist in the country, and she got my e-mail address so that she can send me a picture of the final product. I’ll let ya know how they look. I told my plastic surgeon about this, and he said if I want to do this, then that’s OK, but he’s very good at making and tattooing nipples, and he’ll even suck some fat out of my belly during the process (sold!). Anyway, Alaska is beautiful and you should go.
I came home for a few days but then returned to the airport to head east to The Empire State. My lovely friend April graciously gifted me a ticket so that I could come and spend some time with her and her man and baby girl at their place on Long Island. They live on the North Fork, a quaint community of mom-and-pop establishments and coastal wineries. The day I arrived, April had to work, so George and lil Miss Charlie drove me around parts of the Hamptons so that I could see how the 1% live. I was expecting to encounter all Snooty McSnootersons, but the one person we interacted with was a guy in a jeep whom George had to ask for directions. We ended up following him out of the parking lot, and this man had a fake scrotum hanging from his bumper. In the Hamptons. I loved it. But I had so many questions for him. Seriously, I would have loved to have sat down with Man Who Hangs Ball Sack from Jeep and asked:
- What compelled you to hang fake balls from your car? What were you trying to achieve by doing so? Were you trying to make a statement? If so, what?
- Where did you get these fake balls?
- Do you have a wife/girlfriend and/or children who ride in this car with you? If so, what do they say about the artificial ball sack hanging from your bumper?
- Has this plastic scrotum gotten you into trouble before?
- Wouldn’t you agree that balls are very sensitive whereas female genitalia is made to withstand much, much more trauma, so if you wanted to demonstrate your toughness it would make much more sense to hang a vagina from your car?
Anyway, there are lots of ridiculously grandiose houses in the Hamptons. April and I took the Hamptons Jitney bus into the city on Thursday, and she knew a vendor who sold delicious, cheap breakfast sandwiches near the bus stop. We had coffee with a former love-uh of mine who now works on Wall Street, and then we took the ferry to Ellis Island. When I was in elementary school, I loved this book of photos documenting children who had come through Ellis Island, and ever since then I’ve wanted to see this symbol of freedom (or doom, depending on your health and sanity). We had limited time there since we had to get back to make the bus, but seeing the Statue of Liberty, watching the short film about the immigrant experience, catching some of the ranger’s guided tour, and seeing the vast Manhattan skyline made for an exciting and educational jaunt into the New York Harbor. The rest of the trip included chillin’ on the North Fork and enjoying the ocean breeze (and eating delicious New York pizza and bagels). April, Georgie, and Char Char: thank you for your hospitality! XOXO
More exciting things: I am planning The Breast Dance Party Ever which is goin’ down on Feb. 17 at Lumen. It is going to be a fundraiser for Gateway to Hope, which is a Saint Louis organization that provides financial assistance for breast cancer patients. One of the founders works with my plastic surgeon, and he started the organization after his patient died of breast cancer because she didn’t have health insurance. I wanted to have a party to celebrate being done with all of my cancer-related nonsense, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to raise money for those in The Struggle. I cannot imagine not only having to endure cancer treatments, but not being able to pay my bills because of cancer. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but between October and April, I spent $8500 out-of-pocket on cancer, and I have good insurance. Because I was able to live expense-free with my folks, I didn’t have to worry about making ends meet, but what if I hadn’t had family nearby? or what if that family couldn’t afford to host me during my sickness? What if I had had children to support or was the main breadwinner of my family? I would have been screwed, that’s what, and that’s why Gateway to Hope exists. Last year they were able to help 227 women, and at this point in 2016, they’ve already helped 180 women. This dance party will be epic. It will be serious. It will be a serious dance party, and I can’t wait to have you all there. Many surprises are in store.
One more thing: I get my implants on July 22! I had my final expansion last week, and although you typically wait three months before installing the implants, Dr. Maclin said it was OK to do it before the school year started. On my way out of the office, when it was time to set the date for surgery, I started complaining about having to take off two weeks in September (I don’t want to run out of sick days), so Big Mac said it would be fine to do it before I went back to work. I get to end the summer with more drain bags: yaaaaaaaaaay! (no) But that’s OK, I wanna get that silicone in me and move on with my life…
…because life is gooooooooooooooooood, and it makes me want to jump for joy!
Band Names: Sibilant Sounds, Hot Pilot, Artificial Scrotum