Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Fur Piece


"Why would you want to go to Alaska for vacation? In the winter?"

Why not? Dave and I have never been inclined toward the tropics. There's something about being comfortable outdoors nearly naked in the wintertime that just seems wrong, somehow. Something morally corrosive about being caressed by gentle breezes, with nothing better to do than fend off parrot poop with the itty bitty umbrella in your drink. You go to Alaska in the winter and you can appreciate the warm shower and the cozy bed quilt and the two-inch view of the mountains through the peep-hole in your balaclava, and your heart is the gladder. You come home from Belize and your nice comfortable home life looks like a pile of crap.

It's probably even more fundamental than that. I have a Viking chromosome inside me somewhere that beckons me north. It's the strapping chromosome with the little horned helmet. The chromosome said harr! Head for the pole, and our more practical friends Scott and Kevin agreed and added a recommendation to pack warm gear. We received our instructions and bought gloves and hats. Snow boots. Insulated trousers. And what most people call "thermal layers" and Dave cannot be dissuaded from calling "panty liners." We were ready.

Scott picked us up at the airport and took us to downtown Anchorage. There weren't enough degrees out there to rub together and make a spark. And the wind was blowing. Dave and I looked like sleeping bags on legs. Giant walking larvae. Charitably speaking, we were penguin-shaped. Everyone else was hatless, busily peeling down their zippers and fanning their necks. I'd seen something like this in Maine one winter. Kids were coming in from playing outside and their mom said "how is it?" and they said "nice! It's above!" by which they meant it was above zero degrees Fahrenheit, which is a totally stupid temperature. Don't they know what zero degrees is? It's no degrees.

Anyway the Fur Rondy was going on. That's short for Fur Rendezvous, and there are sleds and dogs
and parades and snowshoe softball games and, everywhere, people wearing carcasses. One man had an entire wolf wrapped around his face and his companion was trailing lynx paws for ear flaps. A fox curled up on someone's head as if it were trying to get a better view. And those hats with dingleballs? Actual balls. I thought: we're not in Portland anymore. And then I thought: great thundering Thor on a toy pony, I want one.

I tried on a fox hat. It was fabulous. Its provenance via the leghold trap was invisible. I could have bought it then and there, but I could only have worn it then and there. You cannot wear slain headgear in Portland, Oregon. We have standards for earnestness. Shit: there are thresholds you can't cross in Portland unless your shoes pass the hemp detector. Nobody's packing, but if you wear a dead critter in Portland, you will be liberally sprayed with ocular bullets of shame. Nobody thinks a thing about it in Anchorage. If it hadn't been Fur Rondy, they wouldn't have had the stuff on at all: you wouldn't even think of putting on your fur until it's below. So there's that. Fur is really, really warm.

And it's really, really gorgeous, all of it, from snout to dingleballs. You can make a case that it's even more gorgeous wrapped around its original beating heart, and no one could disagree, but it's gorgeous this way, too, and unquestionably the thing to wear if you're a naked human trying to make a go of it in the Arctic. There aren't that many humans in this state (Alaska, not naked). It's even possible there are few enough that most people can get a hat and there will still be critters left too. I don't know.

I know I don't get to go home with a hat.

36 comments:

  1. How about a nice temperate zone? Greece and Italy aren't too hot or too cold, and any town has more history and culture than the entire tundra has. The only notable thing Alaska has produced is Sarah Palin, and even she's actually from Idaho.

    All those dead animals on people's heads look like some kind of pagan ritual. But I bet they smell.

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    1. She's from Idaho? Should've known. Nah, if you're a nature-and-mountains girl, Alaska is plenty fine. Temperate is good too.

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  2. Very fetching in that hat, Murr, even if you aren't fetching it home with you.

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  3. I never heard of the Fur Rondy before. I must say, you do look quite stylish in that borrowed skin. :-)

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    1. It's a look. I always thought I'd have been better off in the 19th century in some ways. So I could wear a fur hat in 1850, or Alaska.

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  4. Dead animals on your head? err. OKAY, if thats what rocks your boat, who are we to complain. Those are gorgeous animals, that's for sure. And we all knew you were weird beforehand anyway. In a good way!!!!

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    1. Oh no. I can't tell you how horrified I was every week when Mrs. Bengtson wore her fox stole to church with that squished-up little face on her shoulder. I had no idea such a thing would rock my boat until I put it on. I'm okay now.

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  5. I'm not too sure about the fox hat in the first pic. It looks as though it has carnal designs on her occipitus.

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    1. Now that you mention it...wouldn't that make a great hat? All hunched up and ready to...

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  6. That fuzzy white hat was made for you. Lookin good. I hope you were able to see the Northern Lights. It's on my bucket list, but probably not happening.

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  7. Had a nice Arctic fox hat once, but sold it. It was too pretty to be practical. Now I have to wear two hats when it's below.

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    1. I still don't get how you can have less than zero degrees.

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  8. Jealous thoughts. About the adventure and the temperature anyway.
    Fur clothing? Not so much. The phrase ' the first person to own this died in it' stays with me. And of course it would never, ever be remotely necessary here. So it is either an ethical or a practical decision I have made. Or both.

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    1. Yeah, although I wear leather shoes. Not that many cattle have been caught in a leg trap.

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  9. Great thundering Thor on a pony! this is great stuff. Do enjoy your vacation. Well, that is ill-timed advice-- you are doing. Clearly.

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    1. I am a polar fleece girl enjoying a fur world.

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  10. O, I loved Fur Rendezvous when I was a kid!! Your perspective is fabulous. :)

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    1. You've got a great name for an Alaska girl!

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  11. I live in Nekkidsville.Not even keen when a cat sits on my knee in summertime. That colour suits you, by the way

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    1. I really need to visit you people too. Is it EVER cool there?

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  12. The baseball hat with the wolf on top is quite the look. Down here kids in grade school have been known to wear toques over their baseball hats but I think if anyone tried the wolf look they would get the Portland treatment, full whammy. I have a lynx hat hidden in a garment bag in the basement. Back in the late 50s they weren't endangered so we wore fur hats shaped like hoods with snaps with pride. I keep thinking I should hold a funeral service for it now and bury it at the end of the yard.

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    1. Maybe you could wear it and drape a little cross on it. Or something.

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  13. The hat on your head looks like a weird wig...or even how some younguns do their hair nowadays.
    Not sure I could walk around with an animals rear atop my noggin!

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    1. Nah. I can't. But it was fun for a minute.

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  14. Why, Murr, I am shocked! Have you no empathy for those dear creatures?!

    I know that fur is beautiful but it's not for me. Or at least I thought it wasn't. I recently needed to buy a new winter jacket in a speedy manner. Mentally dismissed the "fur" trim on the hood as fake. Read the tag a few weeks later (too late to return it) Yep. Real fur. I am hiding the tags.

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    1. Don't be shocked. I am complicated.

      This is not true, by the way. I am very simple.

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  15. Originating from Sweden via Germany, it's possible I may have some sort of cousin to a viking gene, but there's no way I want to go to Alaska, no matter how many times I joke about it during our summers. I do however, want some of those fur lined hooded parkas, boots and gloves they wear up there. To wear in our winter. Don't laugh. After our boiling summers, our mild winters seem pretty darn cold to me. If I ever win lotto, I'm going to Alaska, in their summer, and buy me some winter gear. I've heard the fur of a snow wolf is the best for around the face because it doesn't ice up when you breathe. Or something.

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    1. If you're lucky, it doesn't ice up when you slaver, either.

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  16. We'll expect you to visit Duluth next winter, then, perhaps for to watch the start of the John Beargrease sled dog race. If you're lucky, one of the pups will snap a leg, need to be put down at the start, and you can skin him and wear his hide.

    We LOVE to entertain!

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  17. There is only half-a-million people in Alaska and half of them are in Anchorage. Alaska is a land of extremes; It can be fifty below in Fairbanks and fifty above in Juneau. My wife and I taught school in the Indian and Eskimo villages for eleven years. One winter on the Arctic Circle we had extreme cold - even for Alaska: Our thermometer read down to sixty below and the mercury dropped into the bowl...don't know how cold it was - but it was cold.

    In Alaska you kill the wolves to save the moose...so you can kill the moose. Guess it has something to do with the food chain.

    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. Crapcakes that's cold. And you're in Maine now, right? You know what you like. I'll give you that.

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  18. I have a WARM felt hat with wolf-tail trim. Wore it on the bus one day and a young Reed student marched up to me and said, "If that REAL fur on your hat?" I said, "Yeah, damn dog wouldn't stay out of the chicken coop, so I HAD to shoot him." She jumped off at the next stop. But hell, I was raised by wolves.

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    1. Now that I think of it, the army-green jacket that simply all the hippies wore in 1970 was wolf-trimmed, too. Movements arise at different times. (Don't go there.)

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