Dear Glacier City

It is so good to be within the Chugach mountains again after a year long sabbatical studying botanical’s in northern California. Within my absence the small hamlet of Girdwood has gone through some growing pains, noticeably the paved streets which encourage people to drive as if competing in the Indy 500, sidewalks less than a year old that are already cracked and curbs having been obliterated by heavy equipment pushing snow in the winter time which coincidentally is also responsible for the death of many newly planted trees that were plowed over. I don’t know how or why curbs were approved instead of the valley style gutters popular of many ski areas that receive huge quantities of snow but I’m sure it was done so by the same folks who put in those huge highway style street lamps a few years back that were eventually replaced with more modest ones after public outcry. Regardless, it is what it is. On a more positive note, I have noticed also though that since the sidewalks have been put in,  there are more Mothers pushing strollers and skateboarders in town making use of the curbs which in my opinion is the best usage for them so far. Its probably only a matter of time though before we see ” No skateboarding and/or loitering” signs in and around the “town square” and sidewalks.

Speaking of the ‘town square”, after the clearing of the old Cottonwood forest that once stood there, it has become just that: a concrete square which some locals have now begun to call ” The Grid” Albeit, now planted with many different types of trees and shrubs that will turn brilliant hues in Autumn, are not indigenous to this region and will most likely need constant attention instead of something more on the lines of a permaculture design which is self sustaining (like the original forest?). I must admit that I like the colored chalk drawings all over the place which makes me smile, but I do miss those trees. I wish a public restroom was put in because it now cost 50 cents to use the Laundramall for such an emergency, which I can understand because it shouldn’t be that buildings owner or any of the still remaining business’ to be the public/tourist restroom. Which reminds me, since I have been gone we have lost a few local business’ one being the dining establishment known as Maxines which was a great spot to eat and enjoy some good beers and a awesome venue for musical talents local and from afar. Sadly, the World Cup and the small coffee shack down by the bike shop are also gone and since the former restaurant known as Casa del Sol has closed it doors that side of town up until recently was sort of the other side of the tracks, lonely and desolate, I get depressed every time a go past that empty deck. Recently though if not for the Thriftwood business which took over the Grrd Pets and Greenery would truley be a dismal site yet I am pleased to see though that it has become a epicenter for people that like to play music and enjoy each others company giving that part of town a much needed shot in the arm.

I don’t want to bum anybody out here but speaking of “shot in the arm” I have noticed the popularity and  usage of  some very old and somewhat newer substances within the younger community here in Glacier City. Drugs are in as much demand as they ever were if not more so and has locked it’s talons around some of our most gifted and beautiful young people within our community. It may be a sign of the times that even though the town has had a new facelift,  it is essentially the same ugly and very real underworld beneath it all. Anyone in their right mind or has eyes to see, there is a plague within this small town and not limited to the Big City to our north. It is very much alive and well and going nowhere but up in popularity here amongst our youth. I’m here to tell you that it is not prejudice within whom it ensnares; be they Black, White, Brown, Yellow, Native, Male, Female, Young, Old, Rich or Poor, it will use your body and mind up until it finds another host and only then will it move on, if at all. There are the tried and true  things out there for people to play with from our friendly neighborhood drug dealer like Heroin, Methamphetamine and Cocaine but nowadays there are also a plethora of pharmaceutical and designer drugs that are prevalent as well easily to attain over the counter. It’s hard to believe but for some young people who cant afford the now astronomical price of a ski pass or who don’t have a mountain bike, packraft or a car may find living in this valley to be quite a bore, so what else to do besides party? I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just the way it is and by the encouragement of some, moving away is not the answer as some would speculate, for it will follow you wherever you go. I couldn’t tell you the things I have seen in this town due to bad decisions made when under the influence of drugs and alcohol but I can tell you that it has it’s affects on the community as a whole. Believe it or not there is an alarming amount of young people who are struggling and cant even get into rehab for whatever reasons and desperately need help. I can also tell you that I cant count how many people I have known, lost due to overdoses, jail or mental instability due to over exposure of these chemicals.

 I don’t know what the answer is but its not turning a blind eye to it as being “those people’s” problem because it is OUR problem as a community.  I can also tell you that there a very few families that have, if not been directly affected by this plague then in some other manner, be it the loss of someone you knew, domestic violence, theft, vandalism or perhaps your own kids being exposed.They may be called “recreational drugs” only to be used responsibly but therein lies the problem. There just seems to be something in some people that is like a internal regulator that doesn’t function properly even though they know its a bad decision. BELIEVE THIS. Its time we open our minds and hearts to this all consuming condition called addiction that may be a disease and not just a matter of choice and if approached in such a manner we may be able to tackle it head on. Locally, I don’t have the answers we need to do something positive but maybe a Boys and Girls Club, a local AA/NA (that isn’t so frigging depressing that it makes you want to drink or use when you leave), more local involvement/volunteerism or simply more cost effective (FREE) options for young people to bide their time with. I have worked with “at risk” inner city groups in the past that have been able to make a difference and should be used as a model even though we are not a huge suburbia. There are successful programs like Rez Riders, Shred Love, Ski Duck, Ski Jammin, Snowdays Foundation and the Serviceboard that help teach our youth life lessons and values through snowboarding and a outdoor oriented lifestyle. It would be nice if anyone has any information on some things available to people like that around here, please feel free to share! I will be the first to admit as well, that maybe it’s time for people like myself to try and conduct themselves in a more positive manner and be better examples, to act like a Uncle who really cares about the youth as I really don’t want to see others have go through some of the BS and mistakes I have made and known in my time. I really don’t know the answer. I do know that by just getting older does not make you an Elder, that’s something that must be earned. There is one other thing I do know and that is if we choose to do nothing at all then we as a community have still made a choice.

If there is one thing here that has remained a positive influence on the community as well as myself it is the Vibe Tribe of the Forest Fair. I have had the pleasure to be a part of this yearly event off and on for eight years now. It’s probably no secret that back in the “Who-Jammy” days when people would camp out on the island within the California Creek it was pretty crazy and I not being for one observing from the sidelines was usually a main player in all of its debaucheries. Since then some things have changed some would argue for the better and some otherwise as there are a few things that are different from years past. Since the inception of the no camping rules in and around park it has discouraged somewhat the craziness of the past. I would be lying to you if I told you that I don’t miss some the madness, nakedness and off the chart partying but we live in a different time now. I don’t want to try and argue that we were more responsible back then but it sure seems that the younger generation swing a lot harder than we used to. It wasn’t all that long ago when I was cornered snarling, ravaged with dilated eyes by the Vibe Tribe to bring it down a notch and become a part of the story in a more positive manner. Since then I have been keeping the Vibe alive in a variety of roles be it volunteering as a Friend of the Forest setting up the venue to helping out around the skate park, and believe it or not working on Security which for me is pretty much just hanging out with my friends, eating good food and listening to good tunes. For the most part people pretty much check themselves and just enjoy each other. This year we only had a few incidents one being a drunken reveler who apparently watched to much “Breaking Bad” and “Son’s of Anarchy” which after parking his Hardly Ableson in the Handicap Zone went on to get tanked in the Beer Garden, insult and threaten a bunch of people and after being escorted no less than three times out of the park, the Alaskan State Troopers gladly responded to the call and even though he had a medical card for his marijuana it was found that he had a glass pipe and Meth which coincidentally the State of Alaska does NOT give out medical cards for. Besides that there was a naked guy we simply let the mosquitoes take care of and of course there were a few ” Lost Parents’ we had to reunite with their concerned children. Hey I’ll be the first to tell you that I think it’s healthy to let your hair down once in awhile and get your groove on and even though I am guilty of not making the best decisions myself while in party mode one thing I have learned on my own or with the assistance of a local magistrate is that we are all ultimately responsible for our own actions! Of course it doesn’t hurt when we can help a person out when we see that they may be in a a compromised situation and cant drive, need a shoulder to cry on or lean on for in the proverbial saying “Are we not our brothers keeper”?

It is now mid- July and I have had the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of people I have been away from far to long. I have also noticed how some of the folks I’ve known for years are getting a bit more grey hairs and perhaps a bit wider of girth and more earthlike in their appearance with deeper lines, there’s contemplation and reflection in their demeanor, not the wild abandon ways of youth. The kids I knew of years ago are now becoming young adults with the whole world ahead of them. It is an exciting time for another group of  people that are becoming a part of our community and its in our best interest to instill on them the importance of being a part of this story and not apart from it. Allow me to suggest to simply take a few minutes in your everyday life to lend a few encouraging words to these up & comers for they are our future. In pushing people to the fringes of society for whatever reasons it only creates resentment and hatred. The venerable Yoda had a few words on that…….

I have heard that someday soon within the new township there may be a free music day modeled after the Live at 5 Talkeetna shows, where the whole community comes out to listen to music, dance, bar-b-Que and just hang out with each other, wouldnt that be nice? The closest thing we have to that is the infamous Softball Sundays and Volleyball Tuesday games we have in the park, more adult oriented though but still a get together all the same. You know not all that long ago on Good Friday 1964 a enormous earthquake devastated the original town site of Glacier City in where the land literally dropped from under it’s inhabitants and subsided into the Turnagain Arm putting much of the town below high tide. During the aftermath the people had a decision to make and that was either abandon or rebuild whereas they chose the later and moved up to our present day new township. We have seen struggles and hardships in the past yet have overcome, not by looking out for ourselves but only by coming together to overcome adversity. I know that will be the case in the future for one of my favorite places on Earth.

Glacier City, Alaska!

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