My knee is feeling better, but I might be getting fatter. This morning, I got up and walked the one pebbly block to the closed-down Lutheran college campus where I'm using the practically closed-down Lutheran college campus gym. I want to swim, but everytime I call to ask if the pool's open, the lady sounds like she knows me and doesn't like me when she says it's closed until further notice. How do you know when further notice has become a new notice if you don't keep checking? You don't. You keep checking and you keep sounding like a crazy person. I'm convinced crazy people are the ones who yield results. Last Saturday, I got to the Sheldon Jackson Gym at 10:30. The door said Hours of Operation: Saturday 12-6. I tugged on the cold metal handle. Voila! Easy access to early Saturday exercise. Everyone seems to trust each other here-- people leave their cars unlocked, their houses unlocked, and even their businesses unlocked. I know this because the people I know here all told me. I could probably rob this town blind, but since I can't really leave this town, I'd just be sitting here with a lot of open doors and books on whales. Plus, I don't really have an interest in burglary, just working out.
While I was pumping some huge iron, I began to get paranoid. Picture an old gym that makes a lot of creaky noises. Picture you didn't turn any of the lights on, just the classic rock station, and one of the flourescent lights is buzzing on and off ominously. Creeeepy. I started picturing someone coming in and either yelling at me or killing me, and since I'm afraid of being yelled at and murdered, I decided to cut my sets off early, cut the radio, and head back into civilization.
This morning, when I went to the gym and tried my torn knee out on the stationery bike, I had more motion than I've had for the last two weeks, so that made me happy. I took note, while spinning my wheels and getting nowhere, of the propensity towards obesity there seems to be in this town, or maybe in Alaska in general. Yesterday, a writer for the newspaper was telling me that Alaska is "up there" on the list of obese states when I told her I'd been living amongst the Type II Diabetes rolls of Louisiana for a while.
I looked up "up there." Mississippi is the heaviest, Louisiana is the 4th heaviest, Alaska is the 12th heaviest, and Colorado is the least heavy. (Hooray!) I also read in the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, a gem of a collection I stumbled across with a handful of (secret) sour gummies in my hand at the library (no food allowed policy- I hate those), that women, at any age, are more obese than men. Another not-so-tasty fitness fact morsel: treadmills have upped their maximum capacity to 500 pounds. A 500 pound human being? I wonder when the first human being hit 500 pounds. I bet it was after high fructose corn syrup was invented.
I might be growing around the middle not only because my physical exertion has been limited by injury, but because what you do up here when you're doing nothing besides writing and walking is you drink a lot of beer. You drink it on the boat, you drink it on the dock, you drink it in the woods, you drink it in the evening when you're eating the fish you caught. You might have even drank one in the morning when you wanted a cold drink and the Alaska sun was shining and all seemed well enough to cheers to nature.
It's no wonder Alaskans also exhibit a higher than normal rate of alcoholism. The high rate of suicide is the one I have not empathized with yet, but then again, I have not spent a winter here. I would posit that these statistics are related to place, but I'm not sure what else is truly affected by one's connection to their environment. I expected to come here and find hippies galore, running markets and organic kiosks on Saturday mornings, but instead, I've found little to no real interaction with the food part of the land here in the native population or the more privileged population. It's cold, but it's not too cold to grow any food.
And aside from food, it doesn't look like any of the natives at my gym have ever been on a hike. It seems the "last frontier" has been infected by the same processed food/lack of cultivation epidemic that the rest of the mass-produced nation has been enduring since the Industrial Revolution. (Also, there are also two hot dog stands in town. Why does food that's bad for you have to taste so damn good?)
I'm staying at a house that's so green, they don't use heat (thermometer currently reads 52), they have a compost pile, a chicken (yes!), four bins for recycling, and a general sense of living off the land. But you can't buy any local produce in town. You can't, in fact, buy any fish in Sitka out of Sitka's waters even though you can smell it out the front window from the sea. The only fish I've eaten here have come directly off Luke's boat.
So what is this place? Natural? Obese? Touristy? Trusting? Confusing?
Yes. I don't know where I'm going with all of this just yet, but sometimes you have to go nowhere to get somewhere. I'm just a cow for now, chewing my cold cud.