In the freezing village

   I counted it an immense privilege to be here at all. My belly was full (pilot bread) and I was on station in what might be among the US’s last functioning ethnic cultures. Therein lay my real mission.


   But my freezing, dust covered rooms … All told it would take 42-hours of scrubbing to get just half the rooms adequate. The only time available was between scheduled work shifts. And usually, and I was too dog tired after a shift. Quite a change from being a somewhat famous (or was that infamous) professor. Five days a week from here on out, I must clock in like millions of other blue collar workers throughout America - those lucky enough to be in work in a time of high world unemployment. My half hour clocked out lunch break might include the famous working fare of America, a Bologna sandwich.


   The only reason I was working in America at all, harks back to that long list of folk who’ve run up against me at some point or another. 22-years before I was living behind a couch with son Geoffrey, then 9-years old. 22-years later couch owner Rex was AC’s company president … and what a company! Alaska Commercial sits in history as America’s most historic functioning retailer.


   “Go to Bethel, George,” Rex had advised. “Lots of nice people.” That’s all it took. And now I was standing amid the bone cold vistas of the capital of Yupik America. I was floundering about the freezing village until Jack, a friendly native, handed me a heavy Canadian Snow Goose parka. What a blessing!


   Some daylight had eventually emerged. The Snow Goose together with some of my old Northern Outfitters gear from the Millennium, allowed me to hesitantly edge myself out the door, bundled like a spacewalker out into the low minus 30 temperatures (not including wind-chill). Such was the intensity of the whiteness, that even just brooding inside threatened snow blindness. Sometimes the wind had snow drifted up to the door’s handle.


   My new home had a flag pole out front. There was the red of the US banner showing, the rest being stuck fast to the pole. ‘Liberia’ I would tell the mystified folk of Bethel. The crackling iced snow under boots would lead to the sudden consciousness of breathing. The only sound was crisp crunching footsteps under a still high, hunter’s moon. 9-minutes was all the time I had to reach the store without injury. It stood lit up in the distance like a landed spaceship. If the route brought me into the wind, then I would all but fold. Up would go one gloved hand, up to cover my face.





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Documentary Film