Alaska

IMG_6303Anchorage. Friday night.

I am in a bar. I have come to test the 7:1 ratio theory. I want to experience, first hand, the legendary prowess, the outrageous displays, the bright feathers of the Alaskan mating ritual.

I see men. Lots of men. Most of them are wearing sensible heels and dresses.

Of the women, many, but not all, are dressed like men.

As the disco ball slowly spins, a gaggle of girls screaming girls gets plastered on jello-shots. I am on the edge of the middle of an orgy of equality. People are happy tonight. Alaska, it seems, is a come-as-you-are state.

Mad Myrna’s is a portal onto a level playing field. As these Alaskan drag kings and queens take the microphone, the joy in the room is palpable. Clear as the majestic mountains. Clean as the air weaving drunkenly down the streets. I feel giddy. My cocktail is in a pint glass. I suck it down through a straw.

This is the final frontier.

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Or one of them.

***

I have learned an important lesson: even with the fabled seven to one ratio, there might not be one in the seven who will want me.

I collect myself in the refreshing night air. Not to be defeated, I walk down Fifth Avenue and slide into a restaurant and onto a bar stool. I hang my coat on knees, wriggle out of my sweater. Moments later, a man sitting caddy-corner glances past his drink and smiles.

“You just get into town?”

I am amazed. How does he know I’m not from there? Is it my city vibe? My shoes? The stupid smile plastered on my face? I trace the bar with my finger, looking down at the menu.

I am wearing my red ‘Arkansas’ shirt.

“Yesterday.” I answer, meeting his stare. I order a glass of wine.

He is a handsome man, rough around the edges, finely chiseled and tattooed, a bad boy type – straight out of the pages of a well-worn romance novel. He knows it, too.

In the next five seconds, a woman comes up to him. “You have such nice hair,” she says, giggling. She drops her business card and darts out the door. He handles the card, flips it over. Reads her name. Tosses it on the bar and sighs.

“I hate that shit.”

“Must happen to you all the time.”

“I don’t understand why people can’t just sit and talk. I just want someone to talk to.”

So we talk.

***

In the lower forty-eight, Alaskan men have a certain allure. They are exotic, mysterious, manly. Lonesome loners who have chosen a strange road. Rugged individuals. Strong, silent types.

Alaskan women, from what I’ve observed, have a different story.

It’s this: the odds are good, but the goods are odd.

***

Fairbanks.

Earlier in the week, when I step off the plane, I’m greeted by a polar bear, stuck at the airport in a saw-dust filled, snarling purgatory. My clothing doubled, tripled, and painfully stifling at O’Hare airport, smiles upon me as snow-covered Fairbanks lifts an eye-brow.

Another tourist from another one-horse-town touching down to look up at the night sky. Bears slumbering, humans barely out of hibernation, ice lining the streets, refusing to budge. My new-found obsession with hot springs, Santa Claus, and the Northern Lights distract me from my purpose, preventing me from venturing far off the beaten path.

I am very lucky, however, to witness a dating ritual at the coffee kiosk at the Fred Meyer’s on Airport Road.

He has unfortunate facial hair and a braided beard.

She’s a perky cashier with sensible shoes and an espresso habit.

He seductively pushes her coffee across the counter.

She shoots her espresso and sips her Frappucino back.

His hopeful innocence peers past his frizzled beard and gruff exterior, smiling.

She invites him to pop by her cash register sometime, ostensibly for a deep discount.

He watches her walk away. Maybe tomorrow, he thinks, maybe then I’ll ask her out.

***

Six things one should do when visiting Alaska:

Eat snow.

Shoot a gun.

Drive on ice.

See a moose.

Drink at a gay bar.

Watch the world from the top of a mountain.

***

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***

Anchorage. Thursday night.

I sit across from a clear-faced, open-minded, world-traveled, born-and-bred, fresh-scrubbed Alaskan. White shirt, black tie, straight out of the pages of Susie’s Alaskan Man magazine. We’re sitting at the bar at the brewery.

He’s a successful entrepreneur with an acting habit who lives life, delighted by the gifts that come his way – the perfect balance of old soul and young spirit.

I am impressed.

He knew I wasn’t from Alaska, too.

***

A friend of mine has a theory that environment shapes culture. And I agree with her to a point. The people in Fairbanks seem frigid, fragile, and tired, as if they’re just coming out of a deep freeze. A blanket of white encroaches on their lives, almost always covering their houses, narrowing the roadways. It’s not an easy place to live. But, when the sun shines, it shines long and hard. Hope comes from above, and the magic of the Northern Lights, with its scientifically simple explanation, is a constant reminder of all that we do not understand.

In Anchorage, surrounded by mountains and clean air, there is a purity of spirit. It seems to be a city of happy secrets. Even the people who want to leave love it.

My date and I talk about the lights, the verdant spring, the long days, and the long nights.

“It’s no wonder that people here believe in God,” he says. “Go to the top of a mountain. You’ll see. Sometimes it’s nice to feel so small.”

***

To quote one fine, bearded bachelor featured in Susie’s Alaska Man Magazine, “what you see is what you get. That’s the Alaskan way.”

I submit that this is mostly true anywhere you go.

I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for.

Improvisation

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Obi and I were chatting over coffee the week before last. The day before I left for Alaska. We were talking about the universe, as one does when one is half asleep and half awake, hopped up on caffeine in the company of a sleep-deprived, suddenly 40-year-old friend.

I was packing. Long johns, jeans, socks, skirt.

I told him my latest theory, which is that there is something beyond our infinite universe (which is only infinite to us because it’s impossible for us to comprehend its vastness). This thing beyond is even bigger, more magical, mysterious, and worthy of our awe.

When I was growing up, we had the back yard, where the grass was soft, and the way back, beyond the vegetable garden. It’s where my father tried to grow his dwarf apricot trees and we chipped mica off of rocks. Past the way back and over the stone fence was the way, way back, where a wild pumpkin patch grew. The way, way back had black-berry bushes, golf balls we’d bring back to my father so he could practice putting, and an occasional mattress.

It was forbidden territory, so we were always there. Lost for hours, picking wild flowers to bring back to our mother, who was invariably allergic to whatever gifts we presented.

The back yard was like the earth, the way back, the universe. And the way, way back, the whatever that is beyond our comprehension.

That morning, over coffee, it seemed to me that life is the third draft of a novel that needs another few rewrites. It’s written, but not well. Anything can change.

Obi disagreed.

“I think the universe is like us,” he said. “Tripping along, pressing buttons to see what happens. Moody. Hoping no one notices when it makes a mistake.”

“Riding the fine line between fate and free-will…”

“Drinking a beer. Learning as it goes…”

I take my coffee lightened with really good milk, and sweetened by beautiful, raw honey. I’m picky about my mugs.

Obi takes his coffee black, with a splash of water. He’ll drink anything out of anything.

By eleven, the coffee was cold, the conversation over, and I was surrounded by small piles of clothes.

“I hope I packed okay,” I said.

“It’s not like you’re going to the end of the universe.”

“Feels like it.”

“But you’ll be able to find a tooth-brush. If you need one.”

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I’ve often considered life an improvisational, experimental piece of performance art. Sometimes the moments are eye-rollingly mundane, and other times, distilled, intense, and deeply moving.

First and foremost, I traveled to Alaska to get a date. I take my research very seriously. But, as a side project, I wanted to see something of such breath-taking beauty that it changed my entire paradigm.

Armed with a seven to one ratio and a mini-skirt, I figured my date would find me, so I focused on the more pressing challenge of finding breath-taking beauty in Alaska.

I expected a front row seat to the Northern Lights would suffice.

Here’s what I think now:

If we’re mirrored by the universe, and the universe is mirrored by us, quantum siblings tripping through life, I am honored to be related to the greatest artist known to man. There is, out there, a beauty that defies human language. It’s filled with a mystery I don’t want to solve. Broad strokes of colored light smeared across the sky, a forest covered just so with snow, the mountains cradling a fat, juicy slice of quiet. The attention to detail is heart breaking.

Like a slow, icy slide into a snow bank with 32 chattering Japanese tourists while colored curtains painted by an invisible hand consume the night, living is the moment between eyes open and eyes closed when you’re not sure if you’re dreaming or sitting at the airport at 4 a.m., wondering if you remembered to pack underwear. It all swirls together and blends into a rich stew of questionable ingredients.

I’ve been lucky to be mostly warm and rarely hungry all of my life. And even though I can demolish a three ingredient brownie mix and render the finished product inedible, lose my favorite pen and my favorite hat on the same day, and hurt a stranger’s feelings by accident, I can also walk five miles with a skinned knee, smiling.

I assume the universe can do all that, too. But better.

As for the great beyond. I don’t know. Maybe it looks like Hackensack. Or Detroit. Hard to tell.

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I did have a date, by the way. I’ll tell you about it next week.

Santa Claus

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Dear Bill O’Reilly,

I wanted to let you know that Santa Claus is alive and well. I met him this week at his
summer home in North Pole, Alaska. The elves are recuperating from an intense holiday season in a little village in Kalawao and are expected back to work late August. Mrs. Claus is obsessively making fudge.

He is very nice. Erudite, thoughtful, and open-minded, as one would expect from a
well-traveled man.

The Easter bunny is also thriving in Alaska. I caught him kicking back before the big day, as smart as a bunny can be.

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I know you have been worried about their well-being. I wanted to reassure you that both are living large in Alaska.

I am currently reading an article on how to make money off of ginseng, rabbits, chicken, and moonshine from The New Pioneer magazine (the complete guide for self-reliant living) that I picked up on the grocery store check-out line in Fairbanks, and so must go.

Please, do, feel free to drop Santa a line. He loves mail.

yours,

Amy

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Practice

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There’s a subway ad campaign that boldly states “only the boring get bored.” It features the most milquetoast models wearing the most nondescript clothing walking down the safest tree-lined streets in the nicest neighborhood in Brooklyn.

I comb the pictures for meaning, looking for engagement, sparkle, intelligence in the model’s eyes. Character, perhaps, a little twist. They couldn’t have conceived of a more blanched, bleached, or withering photo essay on non-boring life.

Is that their point? That even if you look like an expensively dressed well-manicured pop up doll who has never faced adversity or ugliness, even if you look like the most boring person on the planet, it’s all a house of mirrors.

Maybe it means “don’t judge a book by its cover,” even though everyone always does. You never know what happens behind closed doors, I suppose.

***

Tuesday morning, 3 a.m. I’m lying in bed, not sleeping. My dog’s curled in the corner, oblivious. People tell me that animals are empaths. I don’t buy it.

I lay on my back. Side. Stomach. Back. I make a list of what I need to do on Wednesday. I revise it. I wonder why I do anything. I wonder why I’m awake and not asleep. I wonder what will make me happy. And I realize I am happy. So then I wonder why I feel the need to do anything other than what I’m already doing.

So it goes.

It’s like I’ve forgotten how to sleep.

***

Wednesday morning. Nicki’s staring at me across a cafe table. She has a street map of Brooklyn held open by her latte and my cappuccino.

Spring is springing, which means her demented game of “Where’s Waldo When You Don’t Know What he Looks Like,” is about to begin again.

“I thought you gave up on finding Bob,” I say.

“Winter was a temporary set-back. I’m biding my time until it’s biking weather.”

“You don’t bike.”

“But he does. I think.”

“I need a practice date before I go to Alaska.”

“What about Jack C.? He’s single.”

Subject change: successful.

“He’s a little creepy.”

“I think he’s cute.”

“Maybe you should date him.”

“I have a steady date.”

“Who has a steady wife.”

“Who has a steady boyfriend. Bob.”

Oh well.

“I’m learning to make cheese.”

“I bet he makes his own beer.”

“I’m being cyber-stalked by some guy in Rhode Island who keeps writing to me.”

“Is he cute?”

“No picture.”

“Is he funny?”

“No.”

“What’s his name?”

“SuburbanDad.”

“Oh. Boring.”

“Anyway, as far as he’s concerned, I live in Fairbanks now.”

“I just thought of something.”

“What?”

“What if Bob’s an accountant?”

***

Thursday night. I step into The Piper’s Kilt. It’s karaoke night and I’m there to find my friend’s friend, Jenny. She dated an Alaskan guy. She’s promised to give me advice.

I’ve never been to the Kilt before, but I hear that new faces are like fresh meat. So, I might kill two birds with one stone.

Jenny’s sitting at the bar with a beer. Her smile pops when she sees me. The place is packed. On a small platform, an expressionless woman warbles, “I just called to say I love you… I just called to say how much I care….”

“I’m doing my research – Alaska,” I yell above the din.

“Oh! I just got a text message!”

She pulls out her phone to show me, but it’s her karaoke turn. Ricki Lee Jones. She’s on fire.

I stand by the bar looking at the crowd. No one is looking at me.

Three minutes later, she’s back on her stool, phone in her hand.

“Yeah. I texted him a month ago. Just got a text yesterday when I was doing my laundry.” She reads. “‘Heyya. Going back to the bush. Keep warm.'” She looks at me. “What does it mean?”

***

Friday. I’m invited to coffee in Fairbanks, by a guy who lives in a log cabin in the woods. He speaks in bad puns and silly jokes and plays the banjo. Half-beard, no hair, hippie hat, and a smile like a scoundrel.

His childhood fascination with Jack London led him to Alaska as an adult, he writes, which brings me to the conclusion that the Alaskan male might, in fact, be an outdoorsy, camping, hunting species closely related to the common indoor sci-fi genus Geek.

***

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Saturday morning. Says a friend’s friend in an email, “Oh my, oh my. She will have no problem in Alaska You know the ratio there is ridiculous, like 5 or 7:1…. Hence, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd…” Seriously, in the 2.5 years I was up there, I never found one man that I enjoyed talking to for more than 10 minutes.”

I read the email to Obidiah, who’s over for breakfast.

“Should I try a practice date? Someone with a beard.”

“You could try Martin. He’s gay. Does that matter?”

“That’s fine.”

“He’s a teddy-bear.”

“You mean a ‘bear.'”

“Yeah. Whatever. Lot’s of bears in Alaska.”

“You think they make martinis there?”

“Or something like it. I’m sure.”

***

“I knew an Alaskan woman who was a rollerskating stripper,” offers my stage manager on Sunday.

That does me no good.

***

Monday, Sadie and I visit Mary and her cats to make cheese. The cat/ dog relationship develops with a tenuous lope as one cat watches my dog dig through her toys and the other hides. My dog wants to play.

Mary lives in Brooklyn, on a not so perfect tree-lined street. Her Jamaican neighbor stands on the stoop next door and watches people come and go. She has a basement apartment with concrete floors, and a labyrinth-like path to the bathroom, but it’s filled with such light, such warmth, that you know, even if she and her husband are bored, they’re never boring.

She has a perfect set of pots and pans in her clean, un-manicured, kitchen. Her husband makes beer.

They don’t know anyone in Alaska, we’ve established that, but, for a split second, while we’re drinking wine and waiting for the milk to curd, I wonder if they know Bob.

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Rain

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” — Roald Dahl

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I cut my finger.

It hurts.

Please be nice to me.

I’m having a hard day.

The thing about my profession is that you learn to tell stories in a snipped, short, fast, and cryptic way, mostly because at any given moment an actress is bound to walk between you and whoever you are talking to wanting to change her shoes, or wig, or dress. And usually, during that moment, the actress also want to change the subject of the conversation. Mainly, she’ll want to talk about herself.

So it goes. And it seems that part of what we get paid for is our quick wit, secret lives, and willingness to listen to drivel in fits and spurts, in a kind and gentle way.

Kelly’s very good at talking fast and living large. So much so that her life reads like an adult version of a Roald Dahl story. Last night, between cues, she got embroiled in a heated internet argument on an interior design site. Apparently, she mentioned, among other things while asking for interior design help, that her a boyfriend is a little messy, which is an issue when sharing a 300 square foot studio apartment.

Instead of decorating advice, she received unfavorable psychological diagnoses from any number of angry interior designers who probably figure that the first rule of interior design is to get rid of any person who might muck up their design by actually living in the space.

Well, she called them all idiots the public forum and then realized that she had used her own name as her handle. Kelly’s a performance artist in her own right, a good one at that, so she also quickly realized that she needed to change her handle so that none of the disgruntled interior designers would show up at her current show and boo her off stage.

People, it seems, allow the angry voices in their heads to read simple emails, descriptions, and explanations with a dramatic flair that gives them a reason to prove their own personal fables. We’re all monsters because they say we are. Because that’s what those angry voices want to see with their angry eyes. It’s what they want to hear.

What I’m saying is that I cut my finger. No offense. It hurts. Nothing personal. I cried after I did it, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. And I’m having a bad day, but it’s not because of you.

Yesterday morning, a snowflake landed on my dog’s forehead. I bent down to look at it and she lifted her paw up to my knee, pleading for me to take her back in. It was a perfect star above her left eye and moment I never want to forget. I wiped it away and coaxed her over to her favorite tree.

In the evening, the snow had turned to rain and the radiator I pretend is my fireplace hissed and spat. Sadie and I curled up on the yellow chair to leaf through, once more, my dog-eared copy of Susie’s AlaskaMen magazine, 2012. It’s like a novel with the last pages ripped out. I want to know what happened to all the men. How their years turned out. If anyone sent them a letter.

The male to female ratio in Fairbanks is 16,907 to 14,846. Nearly one to one. The median age is 28 years old, perfect fodder for a cougar in a snow-bunny suit. There are 129 registered sex-offenders and one miniature golf course.

I’m not a cougar, though, and I’m tired of lies and half-truths. I amended my sparse profile to admit  that I am a traveler, currently exploring the world. Looking for people to talk with.

It’s the truth. But no one wants to hear it.

My profile is on fire. It’s raining men. And they all want to know the me they think I am.

It must be lonely in Alaska. And cold. Maybe it’s hard to look at all the beauty out there through only one pair of eyes.

I’ve built a life around being uniquely ill-prepared for the moments that love has knocked on my door. I’ve let it slip through my fingers as if it were cheap and easy to find. It always seemed to me that relationships were a beautiful, confining bondage, at once comforting and limiting, in which we all become blank pages for the another’s story. Figments of each others’ imaginations. Fun-house mirrors.

But it would be fun to step into someone else’s skin and rattle around. That is, of course, if the loud, angry voices don’t get in the way and ruin the gift of sharing a moment, an idea, the taste of a dessert, the tickle of grass on your neck as you watch the clouds…

I had to wait an hour before Kelly and I crossed paths again. Before she had thirty-seconds to finish her story.

The pressure was on. She couldn’t think of a handle. She had to change her name fast and any name she could think of was already taken. Until she came upon it. Her new handle for the interior design site. The code name that would grant her immunity and freedom of expression.

“What was it,” I press her. Time is short. The song is coming to an end.

“I called myself ‘yodelayhehayhehoo.'”

She doesn’t see it, but Kelly is one of the most magical people I know.

If you’re in New York, check out her show:

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Kellykinsella.com

Life, the Universe, and Story-telling

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I worked at a boutique hotel on 38th and Park for a couple of years in the nineties. It was one of those elegant, unique, and horrifically managed institutions that you couldn’t help but show up to every day just to see what would happen next. We had our regulars at the bar, a drunk engineer who was employed to take military inventions and apply them to theme park rides, Ms. Dubois, a sophisticated lady with a blonde wig and Alzheimer’s who required us to set a place for her imaginary friend every night, a pretty, but manipulative, middle-aged woman who drank cranberry and sodas nightly while she interviewed her blind dates, and a cantankerous, overweight, and sneering sneaker designer who was social only when drunk.

The sneaker designer believed that every designer eventually becomes an artist out of sheer boredom, and that once that happened, the gig was up. They’d out-lived their usefulness, and could never again design something for general consumption. Their ideas were too fantastic, too big, too colorful, too exciting. Too good.

It was an occupational hazard.

And it was happening to him.

Perhaps, he thought, developing a drinking habit would slow down this natural progression.

It is my suspicion that story-telling is an occupational hazard of being human. It’s the theater folk, of which I’m one, who heighten story-telling to a whole new level of affliction. It doesn’t matter if you’re on stage, backstage, in the alleyway, or watching the stage door. If you work in theater, you cannot merely drink a cup of coffee in the morning. You must describe how you made it, what it tasted like, who sold you the honey you use to sweeten it, why you chose the decadent, non-homogeonized milk with the cream on top to lighten it, and how your expectant dog watched you with her bone in her mouth, slightly confused by your one-way conversation with the three dying green tea plants nestled just out of the sunlight in the fold-out table.

Or something like that.

The worst part is that, even if your story is stupid, or no one wants to hear it, you can’t stop telling it. You just tell it faster.

I was out with my friend Obidiah a few nights ago. Drinking.

Obi has a head cold, perhaps from doing naked yoga on stage in a modern opera.

There’s nothing worse than a singer with a head cold. Especially one who isn’t currently working as a singer, which is an occupation hazard of being a singer.

He drank whiskey. I preferred olives in my drink.

He drank many whiskeys. I ate many olives.

Finding one’s way in this world, we agreed, is sometimes like being a letter in a complicated mathematical equation. First, you feel out-of-place by virtue of being a letter in a world of numbers. And then you feel like a sort of hostage, lost in a swirl you don’t understand, and taken for a piggy-back ride on some symbol that knows where it wants to go, but won’t tell you. It turns out that you are part of the answer and part of the problem, which is confusing, and slightly mind-bending, it you stop to think about it. You don’t know whether to move right or left or to stay still, and ultimately, something else is shoving you along, despite the fact that you feel like your life is a series of your own really bad decisions.

You are not merely a citizen of the equation, or of the world. You are a citizen of the entire universe. A mere letter, swimming in a wide sea of numbers and ideas. Tumbling towards an answer that will only lead to more questions.

Better have another drink. It’s one of the coldest nights of the year, after all.

“It’s going to be colder in Alaska,” Obi reminds me and I look down at my Uggs. They’re only a couple of weeks old and already beat to hell. I wear them because I hate wearing socks.

It’s midnight, then one a.m., then two a.m. and the trains will be running slow. I slide off the stool with a few parting words.

“I don’t know if I’m going to get a date in Alaska,” I say. My resolve is wavering. And the idea of going on a date wearing snow shoes worries my urban soul.

“That’s a nice scarf,” he says as I wrap my shawl around my shoulders.

“My friend gave it to me,” I answer. It is a beautiful shawl, made in India, finished in Pakistan. I slide into my winter coat.

“You sure you’re okay?”

I nod. I’m a city girl after all.

“Nice coat.”

“It’s vintage. My friend gave it to me.” I wrap my scarf around my neck. “And a friend gave me this, too.” Pimped out in winter clothes, I stumble, just slightly, towards the door. I’m tired. It’s late. I want to see my dog.

Outside, I advise Obi to do what he knows already to do.

“Get some rest. Feel better. Don’t do any more naked yoga on stage than you have to.”

The cold feels good and I decide to take the long walk to the subway, across town to the West Village. I wonder what Fairbanks will be like. If I’ll see the Aurora Borealis. If I’ll walk the city streets and meet someone I don’t know. Or someone I do know. I wonder if I knew, when I was born as a place-holding letter into this impossible mathematical equation, the crazy places I’d be pushed to go in my misguided attempt to be a part of the answer.

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I think about how cold it’ll be there, and when I’ll have the time to buy a sporty winter coat and long under-wear.

I dig my hands into my pockets and think about the three women who conspired to keep me warm on the long walk to the subway.

An occupation hazard of being a letter in an equation of numbers: the giddy sense that if nothing matters everything matters, too.

I wonder, cold, smiling, slightly drunk, how I got so fucking lucky.

Issue 42


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My friend Obidiah Feinstein is laying on my floor, quietly strumming my out-of-tune guitar.

I’ve known Obi since before I got married and divorced. He’s seen me through countless relationships and even made out with me once on my friend’s sofa; we were drunk. HIs father’s a Jewish hippy from Brooklyn, his mother, a Mennonite hippy from Canada. I think they’re relieved that Obi didn’t rebel by popping out a right wing investment banker with a loft in SoHo and a home with a three car garage in Connecticut.

Obi broke up with his girlfriend last night. It’s no big deal. They break up all the time. They’ll be making up by Monday. But, for the time being, he’s hiding out at my apartment, probably because I have coffee at my apartment and he doesn’t have any at his.

I’m curled up on my yellow chair, leafing through my copy of Susie’s Alaska Men magazine. My dog’s wedged herself between my thigh and the chair cushion. The magazine is very thin, considering it’s a year’s worth of single Alaskan men. I might need to rethink my Alaskan dating strategy.

Obi’s friend from Anchorage told him that the reported 7 to 1 ratio of men to women in Alaska is misleading. When you take crystal meth addicts and assholes out of the equation, it’s more like a 1 to 1 ratio.

Which means the pool of single men in Alaska is a lot smaller than originally anticipated.

Which means, my chance of getting picked by a single man in Alaska is a lot smaller than originally anticipated.

I’ve never had any luck at being picked up – at bars or anywhere else.

“You’ve got to smile more,” Obidiah states. So matter of fact. He’s been dating and breaking up with the same girl for seven years.

“I’ll smile if someone smiles at me.”

“You’ve got to smile first. Men are afraid of rejection.”

“Even Alaskan men?” I don’t like looking desperate.

“Yes, Amy, even in Alaska, men are afraid of rejection.”

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I toss him my copy of The Guide to Picking Up Girls – a tome by the venerable Gabe Fischbarg.

“Make yourself useful and give me some insight on the male psyche,” I say. “Maybe I can backdoor my way into a date.”

He rolls on his side and opens the book. I go back to my magazine. My dog shifts her head so that she’s leaning her nose on my leg, suddenly interested in participating in the conversation.

A brief survey of men featured in issue number 42 of Susie’s Alaska Men Magazine reveals that most Alaska men are seventeen years younger than me, though a near twenty percent are twenty years older than me. One hundred percent do not live in Fairbanks, where I will be. Most are devout Christians, aside the single Mormon man who is looking for someone willing to convert. And their over-riding concern is finding a woman who is sexy as hell and likes fly-fishing.

I’m losing hope.

“It says here that a guy should always have breath mints, a pen and paper, a business card, chapstick, and cigarettes and a lighter when he’s out picking up girls,” Obi reports. He flips a page. “Can I borrow this?”

“Make sure I get it back.”

“Thanks.”

In the back of Susie’s Alaska Men Magazine, Susie also has list of do’s and don’ts.

*Don’t write a very short or a very long letter.

*Don’t lie about your looks.

*Don’t call a man at work.

*Don’t show up at his doorstep.

*Don’t lose hope.

“‘You don’t want to be caught without a pen when you need one,” Obi reads. “‘You don’t want to have to rely on others to write down a number… Also, it’s disruptive to the rap if you start having to ask around for a pen to use.’ Oh, wow,” he pauses.

“You learning something?”

He nods. “‘You must be careful not to get caught writing down a phone number on a piece of paper with other girls’ phone numbers on it…'”

“You sure you’re ready to be single again?”

The sun is finally streaming in through the window, the heat kicks off. My dog wriggles from her perch onto a hotspot on the floor by Obi’s head.

“If you carry your guitar around, and a pen, you won’t have a problem picking up girls,” I tell him. “It’s easier for guys. On the other hand, I have no idea how to look sexy fly-fishing.”

In Don Quixote, Cervantes, as the narrator of the story, tells a story. “There was a madman in Seville who was taken with the oddest and craziest notion that a madman had in all the IMG_4332world. It was this: he made a tube out of cane, sharpened at the end, and catching a dog, in the street or elsewhere, he would hold down one of its hind legs with one foot and lift the other one up with his hand. Next, fitting the tube to the right place, he would blow into it, as best he could, till he had made the dog as round as a ball. Then, holding it up in this way, he would give it a couple of slaps on the belly and let it go, saying to the bystanders, – and there were always plenty: ‘your worships will perhaps be thinking that it is an easy thing to blow up a dog?'” Then he asks: “Does your worship think it is an easy thing to write a book?”

And I ask: do you, dear readers, think it’s an easy thing to get a date in Alaska?

Only time will tell.