SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Red Neck leaves me feeling Blue
By Dave Kiffer


July 10, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Ouch.
jpg sunburn

Okay, let's try again.


Sorry, it's not so easy to type when your neck and arms are the color and consistency of a boiled lobster.

Yes, like quite a few of my fellow Ketchikander "wet heads" I got a gorgeous burn on the Fourth of the July.

Sure, I know better. We all know better. Waiting for the parade leads to serious burnage unless one slathers on the sunscreen or wears a full body tarp. But we forget. We are just so happy to feel something non liquid on our skins that we don't think about the consequences.

Besides we are too busy greeting and being greeted by those folks we only "see on the Fourth" that we throw caution to wind and end up soaking in a bathtub full of green aloe gel for the next week or so.

Usually we are fooled by the clouds. It seems like every fourth starts out a little overcast and we can smell a hint of rain in the air (last year, of course, there was way more than a hint, but I digress).

So we leave the house with hat and jacket and no sunscreen. Then as we are waiting downtown for the parade - which always seems to begin "several hours" earlier at Jefferson Street- the clouds part, it warms up and the hat and jacket are dropped to the curb.

Then the baking begins, but by then we are distracted by the constant peering down the street to see whether or not the parade is coming (like we can't hear the sirens approach, but that is another digression).

Even people who should be immune to the "parade" sunburn fall victim to it. It makes sense that I would be prone to burns, after all my skin is so "fair" that it borders on translucent. In fact, I don't need to have x-rays taken because you can just about see my internal organs pumping away through my skin.

But how come the more swarthy folks also get burned? I remember a few years ago noting that two non-Caucasian friends had pretty gnarly looking skin peels a few days after the fourth. Go figure.

I even had a similar experience myself many, many moons ago.

After graduating from Kayhi, I went college in sunny southern California. Despite my best precautions, I ended up burning off at least four layers of skin almost immediately. Finally, by about Christmas, I had become immune to further So-Cal sunburns and for the next couple of years, I had none. I had the world's most egregious case of the freckles, but my skin no longer immediately combusted when exposed to the sun.

Then I came home of the Fourth of July after my second year south. Somewhere along the way, I misplaced my trusty, ever present baseball cap. I watched the entire Fourth of July parade sans chapeau.

The next day, my forehead was so "toasted" that I could barely blink. Apparently, that part of body had been covered up while the rest of my body underwent the California burning.

I didn't know about aloe in those days, so I just slathered on the Noxema. I'm sure it helped on some level, but it felt like butter sizzling on my forehead.

So you would think I would remember the intensity of the Ketchikan burn, but no. I watched the parade on Tuesday without any precaution other than keeping my hat on (thank goodness for small favors).

Oddly enough, the burn didn't happen during the parade. I know this because I was facing into the sun and the most burned place is on the back of my neck.

How did this happen? It was my Mom's fault.

Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. You're thinking that's impossible because Moms always insist that we "cover up" when we go out in the sun and even if my mom didn't make that specific "nag" before the parade, then she had made it often enough over the past four decades that it should have sunk in.

True. But it really was my Mom's fault that I got the burn!

My Mom asked me to pick her up some food from the booths at the dock this year, like she does every year.

So - a few hours after the parade - I went down to the dock to get some kebabs and lumpia for my mother.

Since the crowds had thinned out significantly, it didn't look like much of a wait,. No, I didn't slather on the sunscreen. It was only going to take a couple of minutes.

And it only took about five minutes to get the kebabs. So I then got into the lumpia line which was a little longer, but certainly not as long as it is some years. I soon discovered that the reason the line wasn't that long was because it wasn't moving.

At first, we made the usual jokes about how the line was going slower than "continental drift" but after awhile the wait didn't seem all that funny. In fact it started to take on the endlessness of the Bataan Death March.

Then it became sheer stubbornness. After you have spent more than a half an hour in line, you aren't going to give up until the EMTs take you away. All the while, the sun is beating down on your head (or in my case, my arms and the back of my neck.)

Finally, after more than a hour I reached the front of the line (no exaggeration!). After another ten minutes, I got my lumpia and skeedaddled them to Mom's house (the kebabs were pretty cold at that point, but that's why the creator created the microwave oven).

Mom looked at me when I got there.

"Ya got a little pink, eh?"

Well, yes.

"Didn't put on any sunscreen?"

Well, no.

"Better get some aloe."

I didn't want to tell her that I figured the line at the drugstore was too long.



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

Dave Kiffer ©2006

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