SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column - Commentary: Humor

Heat Stroke Musings



August 08, 2018
Wednesday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Having mostly survived the great Ketchikan "heat storm" of 2018 - when temperatures were in the high 70s and low 80s for almost two weeks, muskeg fires broke out and people's water cisterns went dry - my thoughts now naturally gravitate to where I will live some day when "retirement" crashes down upon me like a cedar tree killed by global warming.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

In fact, it was so hot that it was too taxing the past couple of weeks for me to even sit at the computer and type out my usual random musings and digressions. 

When I tried, sweat would pour down my back, my vision would blur and I would find myself in dire need of an adult beverage. The simple of act of waking up in the morning became too taxing, because it didn't cool off enough over night for good sleep. 

That is what I got out of two glorious weeks of sunshine and no clouds and high temperatures.

So it seems like an odd juxtaposition.

How can I think about living somewhere else after two of the best Ketchikan weather weeks in anyone's memory?

What I will remember about the  "Ketchikan Heat Storm of 2018" is that for the first several days everyone basked in the great sunny orb's glory. Then for the second week, nearly everyone bitched about how it was "too hot," there were no fans to buy, if you opened windows all the bugs in creation came inside and how the only respite was to drive around in air conditioned cars.

It seems that Ketchikan can never find that median ground when it comes to weather. Either it is soggy and a nearly frigid 40 degrees or it 80 degrees and mercilessly humid.

We pine for something like 65 degrees and partly cloudy, Like the insides of our houses. And we never seem to get it.

But, as usual, I digress.

"How can you possibly leave Ketchikan?"

This is a question I get asked frequently, when I mention that I may eventually live elsewhere. 

"Well, I throw out nine-tenths of the sh-- I have amassed over the past more than half century, I put the rest in a shipping container and I drive my car onto the ferry...."

That, of course, is not the answer they want to hear. They want me to explain how I - after living on The Rock since Vancouver named it - could possibly live somewhere else.

They, natch, forget that in the past I have also lived in Juneau, California, Massachusetts and Ireland for periods of time. I am - unlike some folks - aware that there is indeed a world outside of the daily grind of home, work, Tongass Narrows, and the grocery store.

When I was growing up, I remember having friends who had never been off the island. One memorable high school band trip involved stopping near a field outside of Chehalis, Washington so a couple of the band members could get out and look at their "first" cows.

I took my first trip south when I three. I have been told that I immensely enjoyed it. Something about being dangled over the edge of the Space Needle by one of my "fun" uncles. Probably apocryphal as most of my family stories are. The motto on our family crest is "Nunquam adepto in via bona et vera historia."  (Never let the truth interfere with a good story)

That, in itself is apocryphal. 

The actual motto is "Sit autem ostium non ledo in exitum." (Don't let the door hit you on the way out)

But I digress, again.

For the past two decades, my wife (Charlotte the Most Patient) and I have been pondering where we would like to live if we didn't live here.

Whenever we are off island, which is often as possible, we ponder whether the places were are visiting are potentially "livable." Usually, the answer is no because we are pretty particular. Sometimes its the weather. Sometimes its the location (where is the water?). Sometimes it is simply the fact that too many other folks have decided to settle in "paradise" first. Picky, picky, picky.

Which brings to mind a conversation I had with a friend at the height of the heatstorm. "Wow, if it was like this all the time, I would stay here forever," he noted as the temperature edged over 80. All I could think was that if Ketchikan regularly had temps in the 80s, 1 million people would already live here. Not a very exciting thought.

Of course, the most obvious big NO answer is Sequim, Washington.  Sequim is a lovely town near Port Angeles which supposedly only has 6,600 people. This is patently impossible, because I know of at least 8,206 Ketchikan residents have moved there.

Port Angeles also has a high number of former Ketchikanians as does, of all places,  Bend, Oregon. I would suspect that Seattle also has a very high number of Ketchikan expats as well.

These places pretty much immediately fall off the list simply because - well, if I wanted to spend the rest of my declining years surrounded by people from Ketchikan, well, I guess the best thing would be to just stay in Ketchikan.

Nothing against people from Ketchikan, per se. Some of my best friends are residents of Ketchikan. 

It's just that they live in Ketchikan.

And, unlike my mother, I do mind the rain a bit!

I also don't plan to shovel snow off my driveway when I hit 75.

And I really like the idea that going on a "trip"  - whether for a weekend or a month - would not involve an automatic $500 get off the island fee. 

While all this, of course, would argue for moving to a place like Sequim - which apparently is the only relatively dry spot west of the Cascades - I just don't see that happening.

As I said before, I was just not raised - primarily by a mother who loved to travel - as seeing that Ketchikan was the only possible place to be in this big world. Which is a little ironic because Mom did end up spending 93 years "on The Rock."

Natch, with 8,206 former Ketchikan residents, Sequim just sounds a little bit too much like Ketchikan, even if it does have much better weather.

Don't get me wrong, Ketchikan, in many ways, is a wonderful place.

But it is not the ONLY wonderful place

At least for me. 

So someday, I suspect I will move.

In the meantime, unlike most of the folks who I started out my Ketchikan journey with, I'm still here.

Baking away in the remnants of soon to be legendary Great Ketchikan Heat Storm of 2018.





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

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