Hotel and clerk
It was a stormy morning in Barrow, Alaska, when I first arrived [June, l996] The Sea of Chuck Chi was in the immediate vicinity of the Top of the World Hotel, if I remember correctly; and you could see the snow on the frozen waves of ice from a great distance with the naked eye, but I still brought my binoculars – and it didn’t take away from me the beauty of the endless view of the frozen sea, while the Top of the World Hotel, the one I stayed at, kept its shores — yes, it was as if I were at the top as I looked out the large bay window.
There was a television and large sofas in the hotel lobby, and a loaded polar bear, surrounded by a glass case, guarded the lobby. I sat there as I drank the Pepsi diet checking the bear, its height, the window of countless ice that continued across the horizon. The day was long and the night was gray for a moment, and the day came back again. Hard to sleep and hard to hold on to sometimes; anyway, back in the lobby:
the first day, the lady behind the table approached me and greeted my keys with the room number in the chain, I put the paper on the table, got up, I had already checked in at the table:
“I hope you like it stay her sir …” the oriental young woman commented as she turned her back to me and did business.
“Do you have everything you need?” she asked, knowing I still had an instinct.
“Yes … for sure–” I said as I left.
“Let me know if I can do something for you,” she added as I made my way halfway down the hall to my room, still doing my job and not looking at me; she had eyes under that beautiful hair, I think, on the back of her head.
Here I am, I told myself, walking through this maze of bends and stairs going down again and again – then to the right, down the hall, at a height to find my room, my little room on the second floor of a three-story hotel.
Everyone was busy, the people around me: the maids, the office clerks, the janitors, everyone, so I added a monologue to my incessant muttering; as I often say to myself, “… which is why travel is so much fun, – to go somewhere then to say, I got there (and watched everyone else who is preoccupied with their daily lives).” And Barrow, in Alaska, in the heart of the Arctic, was not laughing; I mean, it wasn’t easy to get there. I had to take a plane from Minnesota, then to Fairbanks, then a small plane to the wilderness of the melting land, the desert ice of the Arctic, and then land in Barrow, a community of about 3,000 inhabitants (l996; maybe more now, or maybe less). It was my favorite moment when I was going down, kind of a feat if I may say so. When I called North Western Airlines, I told them I wanted to go to Alaska, but I hadn’t added Barrow to my conversation yet. I had miles of frequent flyers. And when I told them to Barrow, they asked, “Where is it?” Looking at the map I was expecting, the answer over the phone was, “I don’t think we’re going there.” And I said, “Oh, yes, you know,” and when she said very friendly and said, “If we do that, then you’re going to go there,” she checked; she discovered that they were, or were. It was hard to believe it; and so I got there.
During my five-day stay at the hotel, I found myself mostly in his moored cafe, the Mexican one, of all the places to find a Mexican cafe, in the middle of the Arctic I was thinking of, in a village of three thousand people, most of them Inuit, or otherwise. known as the Eskimos.
On most trips, I usually avoided eating exclusively at the hotel where I was staying so I could visit other places, but I found that I entered other eating establishments only once during my four-day stay; there really wasn’t a wide choice. I wanted to eat a whale, but there was nothing to eat, or at least the locals told me so; they killed a whale a few weeks before I came. I called the area before arriving and hoped to join the whaling hunt, but it didn’t work out. (I would eat a whale in Iceland, four years in the future, but that’s a different story). I must add that if you are not originally from the country, it was / is against the law to eat whales in the US, in Iceland it is not. And so according to the customs and the law, so I continued my stay. Like I said, I had to wait another four years to eat whales, which I did while I was very, very good in Iceland.
One night I stayed up most of the night talking to Jackie (the evening receptionist) and watching television in the lobby. She was a young woman, traveling well; we had a very easy, clear, quiet and tasty conversation – or should I say discussions …
My tired and sleepy eyes listened intently as she traveled as mine went … I think we both regretted not repeating that night, a beautiful night with a lovely woman of wise thinking and well-groomed conversation. It was all worth it, how she felt I don’t know, but it showed caution.
“What are you doing?” Jackie asked, “How do you like Barrow so far …?” Did that question come from her that night?
“It’s okay to visit,” I commented, adding, “… but I’m afraid it’s a little too speculative to maintain a lasting relationship with …”
She turned to my side, thought a bit, and said, “My boyfriend works up here …”, pointing in a certain direction, I mean northeast. She looked excited when she said that, adding “… he’s a pilot.”
I found that this was not too uncommon for this area in the Arctic, as there were a lot of small planes and a lot of small villages that people could fly into, in fact, it was the only way to enter the villages other than on foot or dog sledding.
“Flying with him?”
“I wrote a book,” I commented.
“Yes, is that so; what kind?”
“Children’s book,” I said.
She thought, then said, “That’s great,” when she got up to attend work, going to the counter to make sure everything was fine, for she had been sitting in them for two hours with a shiny couch on armchairs.
“You think it would be okay to give you some books for yours, the hotel, and for the kids in Barrow, right?”
“Oh yes …” she commented, “that would be nice, very nice.”
The next afternoon I went to a small airport, a cargo station similar to the unpaved road that was along the coast, leaving the living space. The day was warmer than the day before, and there was always light outside as I noticed, hard to sleep, but I got to see the famous Midnight Sun, strangely, if nothing else, the sun rises a little after midnight and the darkening of the day a little to gray and sharp a glow as if rays were penetrating the atmosphere. Then after the event, the 22.5 hour day starts again.
The next day, I walked into what was called the “Airport Station” and talked to the clerk about how to drive here or there. He then spoke with a Russian pilot, who worked as a mail delivery route to three nearby villages. He then made a deal with the pilot to take me with the mail management. I would pay for the space used, and that was all and little advice for the pilot. So he took me on the most attractive ride, over and around and up to 100 meters to see the caribou running. Beautiful brown tundra, which thawed to a minimum in winter. And we would move to five hundred feet, rather than back to 100. Roller coaster; we stopped at Port Lay and several other stops. It was all worth it.
Note: While compiling my second book of short stories, I discovered a short story I wrote in August 1996 (more like journal notes), pasted on the pages of a short story book I was reading at the time. , Sometimes I run out of paper or can’t find any, I usually find the book I brought, in this case she lost eight years, which was found on 12/18/22; tucked away again so far, revised 6/10/2005.