Our first port of call was Juneau, Alaska. I hadn’t realized that it was the capitol of the state, nor that this whole section of Alaska should really have been part of Canada.
I was most struck by Juneau because the first look was like you’d expect a tourist district to look like in the Wild West days.
The first fun surprise was seeing:
This store front was surprising on a few levels – it was the first shop front that wasn’t a shop – this was for a soup kitchen/shelter – and the store front was a bit run down compared to the stores that were clearly for tourists. So this ending the row of tourist shops was a shock, combined with the name, was a pretty big cognitive shift and as I was struggling to wrap my mind around how people name things with names that mean something sexual without any awareness of it, like the tea baggers, was beyond comprehension.
Just at the moment, we had decided to move on and the giddiness of taking the photo of the sign was over, a young woman and an older man got into a screaming fight at the doorway about who was in who’s way and who was more known in the community to have clout to assert their right of way; when a middle aged man in a bright pink dress stepped out of the Glory Hole to defend the young woman.
While we and 40 or so other tourists stood in a wide circle, each appearing to debate the ethics of taking a rather unique photo of the young man in the bright pink dress push the older man down, with open hands against his chest, in front of the Glory Hole vs just standing and gaping at the unexpected street theatre that is life, the fight unfolded quickly and the participants became aware of being in the centre of tourists from three cruiseships.
The participants scurried away, back to their lives and the tourists continued to meander all over town to buy souvenirs or go on tours to see wildlife, but each of us sharing a rather unique encounter of strange but true; and the streets returned to normal
We did pick up some additional clothing and I thought this bright pink hoodie would serve well enough in Alaska’s summer and the lower mainland of British Columbia’s spring and fall. Many store fronts had stuffed bears for tourist posing, but I felt a distinctively Canadian vibe was missing:
Juneau’s main street wasn’t entirely tourist driven, it’s also a working fishing wharf, which I discovered when I breezed past the – Warning Forklift Area – sign and took this photo of the dock workers and had a forklift’s container of gutted fish bump into me.
The cruise ship lines provide coupon books to tourists who can then get deals or free gifts from the merchants. I went into one store, which offered a 1 karat black Alaska diamond for free and found it difficult to request the item on offer. Somehow asking directly for something on offer and advertised as free was difficult for my Canadian brain – and it’s true, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, because the cost of free is a lot of pressure to pay for an upgrade to the free gem in a silver ring, necklace or brooch setting.
Which, to my mind, undermines the entire jewelry industry if the alleged valuable part – the stone – can be free with just the cost of the setting to cover costs and turn a profit.