Friday, September 12, 2008

Alaska, Part 3: The End of the Pipeline

The last stretch of the Dalton Highway is a journey to the end of the world. The tundra extends for hundreds of permafrosted miles in every direction, the equilibrium broken only by the occasional musk ox skeleton (I can spot them when they're dead), white cliffs (not Dover), and the return of BlackBerry reception (not T-Mobile). Finally, the highway plunges into an eerie fog through which Deadhorse gradually comes into focus, a coven of warehouses silhouetted by krieg lights and the never-setting sun. (There are places in Alaska where the sun doesn't set for sixty days in summer and, conversely, doesn't rise for sixty days in winter, topping the biblical plague by a factor of 20. Even so, there are places in New York where any sense of light or hope is permanently absent, e.g. Brooklyn, Mamma Mia.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Alaska, Part 2: Hostels, Hostiles, and Hikes

On the road to Deadhorse, one has to sleep somewhere. For us, these requisite somewheres came in the form of random hostels (in Fairbanks, Alaska's second biggest city), backwoods cabins (in Wiseman, a 13-person village whose showers have two settings: hypothermia and apocalypse), and trailers (in Deadhorse, also Menlo Middle School). Given the communal living spaces, part of the hostel/cabin/trailer experience is playing nicely with others, a task at which Bryant and Jarrod excel. No matter what country a person is from, Bryant speaks their language, attended the same university for at least one semester, and engineered their national railroad. Jarrod possesses extensive knowledge about their government and its trade relations with China—or if they're from the United States, their senators, electoral votes, and all applicable geopolitical data, no matter how obscure the state (i.e. Utah).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Alaska, Part 1: Yukon? Oh.

In the northern hinterlands of Alaska (even hinterlandier than the rest of Alaska), the Dalton Highway stretches 414 miles from just above the town of Livengood (and its neighbor, Manly Hot Springs) past the Arctic Circle into the far reaches of Deadhorse. This road, originally built in 1974 alongside the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, lacks the staples of traditional highways, such as pavement, lane lines, or "services" (read: gas stations, hospitals, civilization) within a 200-mile radius. Instead, it offers an inconsistent surface—dirt, gravel, active airstrip—pocked with potholes and a right-of-way policy best summarized as "smoosh, or be smooshed."

This is not a location I would normally wish upon myself or others.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Greyhound of Death

As I write, I sit on a Greyhound Bus rattling through the Bronx on my way to Boston, and I wonder what, in the eyes of God, I did to deserve this. (Some guesses: I serve my community only when forced, I hate small children, and I write musicals that celebrate the destruction of furry mammals, often endangered.) Whatever my crimes, however, they seem less egregious than those of the man sitting two rows behind me. Through his cell phone conversations, here's what I've learned so far:
  1. He's drunk. In his words, "[The driver] said, ‘You smell like booze. Maybe you should chew some gum or something.' I said, ‘Fuck you, motherfucker.'"
  2. He can't visit Canada. Rather, he can, but if he does, he won't be allowed back into the United States. I agree with him that his parole officer is being entirely unreasonable.
  3. He's headed to Bangor, Maine.
From these items, there's only one conclusion: all people in Maine are drunken convicts. (True, Stephen King is from Maine; this does not disprove my hypothesis.)