Thursday, September 15, 2005

Remote Alaska

J. and I are moving out to The Bush.

He's already there. I'm working my way of today, I have a HUGE bag of rice, a HUGE bag of beans, a HUGE bag of bread flour, and a case of evaporated milk in the trunk of my car, just waiting for me to the find the right box to mail them, and I've got 1/3 of my cookbooks packed into approximately five, quite heavy, boxes that I just need to drag to the post office.

This morning I mailed off to J. a box of cookies, a box of cleaning supplies, a box of J's favorite foods - like Kraft Maccaroni and Cheese, a "yard of beef,"* and six cans of creamed corn, and a box of staples for me - diced tomatoes, olive oil, vanilla extract, tampons and wool socks.

For those dear readers that know me and the way a sudden, two-second, glimpse of a good "reaffirmation of humanity" can thrill me for weeks, there should be little surprise at how much mirth I derive from sending out a 50 pound box full of day-to-day surprises, at the bush mailing rate of $9, to the following address:

General Delivery
[Remote Town], Alaska

I'm also starting the transition at work to working "remotely." I have to say, that I have never had better water-cooler conversations than those of these days when discussing with colleagues the ins-and-outs of living in a place where roads don't exist and rivers freeze up, where milk costs $9 a gallon and water is tasteless but brown. I get advice on what kind of a snowmachine to buy - as well as advice on what kind and color of snowmachining attire will be most flattering. And because this is Alaska, I also get caribou recipes and lots of advice on how to help my dog transition into a household where he is no longer the only dog. I won't lie. I also get much advice on how to avoid my dear little Puck from getting eaten or frozen. There is little surprise that I am contemplating purchasing for him an artic fleece body suit. Nor is there a surprise that the only reason why I haven't yet done so is because I haven't yet definitively decided whether to buy it in hunter green or midnight blue, as well as because I'm still hoping that I'll be able to persuade J. to allow me to get one in x-large for his dog.

There are also more serious talks. I don't want to be misleading. Talks of scheduling and logistics, like whether or not I can get fast-speed internet hook-up and the best way to get a printer hooked up for Westlaw. But, all in all, I'm quite confident that the opportunity to work "remotely" (in the entire sense of that word) as a corporate/finance lawyer is my slice of utopia. I get paid. There is no professional set-back. But I get to keep hot stews simmering, and keep dogs entertained, and ride snowmachines to grocery stores to pick up mightily-priced, but specifically-selected, ingredients. In fact, I am forced by the most unbendable of budgetary restrictions to have to start making my own bread every day. I even get to ride snowmachines to deliver lunch to the love of my life, perhaps stopping by the airport to pick up a copy of the freshly flown-in newspaper. And, every now and then, I hop on a plane and fly to Anchorage for a litigation appearance at a hearing before the judge or transaction appearance at negotiations.

I am having much fun researching the ingredients that will keep well, and planning and plotting the kinds of meals that I'll cook from them. And I'm even having fun with the fact that we will have few spare pennies for splurging. I think even fresh cabbage may have to be saved for special occasions. I'm reading the old books, with recipes and stories of the gold rush days, and pouring over books about Alaskan native traditions and the wild ingredients that can be foraged for. I'm just really excited, in no small part because I'm looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish when success requires creativity, and humble appreciation and patience and tolerance and, generally, so much more than mere access to cash.

This is the kind of perk that makes it worth a stint in the sweatshop indentured servitude of a large lawfirm. This is a million times more desirable than a partnership at one of those places, and the guarantee of a lifetime of indentured status that comes with it. This is also one of those reassurances of Fate - yet another example of how she likes to remind me that Alaska was the best thing that ever happened to me.

* I don't really think that a "yard of beef" actually constitutes one of J's favorite foods, but it was fun to buy, fun to mail, and certainly fun to blog about. And it's also practical. No refridgeration required until opened.