Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Like a stranger in a familiar town

Somedays, when I feel like being really cruel to myself, I browse photos of tropical islands. I look at my pictures from Vegas and the California beaches I visited a few years ago. I look at pictures from my best friend's Facebook profile and dream of finally getting to Italy to visit her and my "nephews." I crack open the Barcelona travel guide I bought for a book I was writing last summer. I paste pictures of Scottish castles as my background on my desktop.

I dream about vacations. I ponder what I'd do with two weeks off and a bank account that didn't threaten mutiny every freakin' three weeks. (Seriously, it's getting old, Alaska USA.)

I mope. I shrug. Whatever, right?

Well, here's a little story about how my husband and Boo opened my eyes this weekend.

Anchorage was beyond beautiful. It was cloudless, sunny days that hovered in the 70s. We'd do our normal morning routine, and when Boo would wake up from nap #1, we'd go. Go go go. Grocery store, Gracie Barra, didn't matter.

On Sunday, we ended up at the Downtown Market. It was empty, compared to the shoulder-to-shoulder nonesense you normally deal with. Everybody was fishing. Everybody was camping. Everybody was, in short, not at the market.

We tried to find Boo one of those bucket hats popular with sunworshippers, but the kid has a man-sized head that hovers between child and grown up. The only toddler sized hats were pink, and we love our child too much to subject him to that sort of treatement.

We love fair food. Love love love it. And althought it's not a fair, per se, the market has that "food row" that smacks of being at a summer fair. Unlike my patient husband, I am unable to walk down one side and up the other before making my selection. I was ready to drop all my money on the grilled corn guy (and his neighbor, Mr. Funnel Cake), but ultimately held out for three more stalls and bought up a plate of fried catfish and hush puppies, complete with Frank's Hot Sauce. Ooohhhhheeeeeee. It was fantastic. (Boo loved Catfish! Boo loved Catfish!)

P got some corn fritters and honey butter and if I thought it might have worked, I would have shoved him off the bench and eaten his lunch, too. 'Cept he's bigger and stronger and better at jiu-jitsu than me. Just sayin'.

When we'd seen all that we could see at the market, I wasn't ready to pile back in to the car yet, so we hoofed around downtown Anchorage. A cruise ship has started docking in Anchorage once or twice a month for the first time in nine years, so there were plenty of middle-aged, fanny-pack and matching T-shirt wearing couples on the streets. Oh, and bums, too. I had to give a holler to my old bus-riding homies in case they wanted to forget the crazy, coffee-wielding chick from the 102 Express. Hi, guys!
Crossing the street, P found a trillion dollar bill. Yes, you heard correctly, One Trillion Dollars (forget that it was some relgious mumbo-jumbo..it was a TRILLION, baby!). I will no longer be reporting to work at 8 a.m. every morning. You can forward all mail to the Bahamas. Thankeeverramuch.

We found the Alaska Cake Studio as we randomly passed by. Hello. Cupcakes in the window? I am so there.

P got a peanut butter brownie. I got a lemon-lavendar cupcake. (Have you ever heard of one of those before? Me either. It was amazing.)

Boo liked both. I think he liked my frosting best of all, 'cause we sure fought over the yellow, delicious stuff.

So while we sat there in the little bakery, with tourists milling in and out with salted caramels and margarita cupcakes, it struck me. The three of us had just spent the last two hours as Anchorage tourists. We saw downtown through their eyes. We explored new stores. We ate obnoxious fair food and paid way too much for it and we were happy to do it!

Spending less than $35, I got an afternoon with my husband (and one son!) that I'll smile about for months to come.

Sitting there with P and with Boo in his little man stroller, it hit me. I don't have to go far to feel like I'm getting away from it all. I just need the right frame of mind, a little adventure in the spirit, and the right company.

Consider me schooled, World.

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