SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Of Block Parties and Lightning Bolts



June 03, 2013

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska
- Ketchikandians (!) are a partying bunch as a whole, but one thing that we don’t usually have are those big outdoor, area-wide things that they have elsewhere, block parties.
jpg Dave Kiffer

Maybe it’s the fact that we really don’t have “blocks” like they do elsewhere. Oh sure, there are some traditional “blocks” in Ketchikan. Of course they generally tend to cling to hillsides. The house next door may actually be down a pretty steep cliff.

And then there is the problem that while we have far fewer “blocks” than more traditionally sited communities, we do sadly seem to have a larger proportion of “blockheads.”  That , of course, is fodder for a very different column.

As usual, I digress.

At any rate, we don’t have a lot of “block parties," but I thought it was I interesting to note four recent non-block parties that happened in In Our Fair Salmon City.

They all took place in May.

First, we had a marvelous floating “block party.”

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Alaska Marine Highway, some 400 Ketchikanites played hooky from work and school to go around Revilla on the Malaspina. The weather, of course, wasn’t perfect, leading to numerous comments along the lines of “that’s why they call it Misty Fjords.”

But really, what is better than 11 hours floating lazily along Behm Canal with no phone calls, no computers and no work or school to intrude. In a future life, I plan to become a “floating novelist” riding the Alaska Marine Highway hither and yon while cranking out bestsellers in my stateroom.

 I can’t imagine a more perfect Heaven than a quiet stateroom and that big pile of books that I am always gonna get around to reading.

The second party was not nearly as relaxing, although it was “Ketchikan” to its core, or heel as the case may be. How about getting together with almost 2,000 other Ketchikakanucks, slapping on some extra-tufs and going for a little run on the Third Avenue Bypass. Last year, the great rainboot race fell a few "feet" short of the world record for shins shod in soggywear, but this year we appear to swished the record. Best of all, we proved the “Great Wall of Ketchikan (AKA the most expensive mile of concrete in Alaska) can hold up to all that foot pounding.

From a political standpoint, it was absolutely stunning to see that many Ketchikaneros all heading somewhere in the same direction. Just a gander at the SITNEWS and Daily News letters sections would indicate that 2000 Ketchikanorkers will always head in 2000 different directions.

The third “party” was more of a gathering, although it was “block party” in a way, if you consider Ketchikan to be one big “block.”

A great big bunch of folks  got together to salute the passing of our good friend Tom Miller nearly a year after he left us. I can think of no greater tribute than if several dozen of your friends have a party to commemorate not your passing, but the life you lived. It reminds me that we may all live in a small town, but that small town has a very big heart.

Finally, we had the first sunny Memorial Day weekend in my lifetime.

Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it is fair to say that sunny Memorial Day weekends are about as rare as 60 pound king salmon landed in the Salmon Derby. They are out there, but not very often, especially in the last couple of decades.

So Ketchikanotans enjoyed three rare days of sunshine coinciding with three days off from work and school and then Precipitatous, the God of Ketchikan Weather, stepped in with a spectacular thunderstorm.

Now in most places, including some other ones where I have lived, a thunder and lightning show, especially a slow moving one that lasts about 90 minutes, causes people to take shelter.

Other folks are afraid of the thunder and lightning. They worry they will be struck by all that Ben Franklin juice arcing throug the lower cosmos.

But not here.

No, definitely not here.

Decks and porches all over the community were crowded with people watching the lightning, especially the unusual horizontal flashes that zipped across the sky as if someone was waving an electric wand over our heads.

We get so few electrical storms here that we aren’t even very good on the etiquette of lightning. We just stood there exposed to fate snapping our cameras obsessively (see FACEBOOK) trying to catch all the flashes.

And then, after particularly good flashes and thundercrashes, we did what all appreciative Ketchikansians do when pleased, we cheered. And clapped.


All over town.

For ninety minutes.

It was way better than the Fourth of July fireworks.

The next day, I was talking to a visitor to Our Fair Salmon City. He was surprised to hear all the cheering during the storm.

Is that sort of thing (the cheering) normal up here?, he asked, shaking his head.

Yes. Yes it is.


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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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