People seem to associate Alaska with death. The varieties of death are somewhat diverse with the most popular demises being death by bear(s), drowning, hypothermia, poisonous berries, bush plane crash, moose, icebergs in the river, swarming bugs, yeti, White Walkers, black plague and overall cluelessness leading to lost wandering and henceforth death.
I love exploring mental associations. The kind where people associate two or more ideas and objects together based on their experiences. Like if your house is struck by lightening when you are a kid, you may grow up fearing lightening. Mental associations can be positive as well. Like when 5p comes around, you may think “happy hour!” These can be conscious or unconscious – that part doesn’t really matter to me.
I have many mental associations between people and acts/objects/ideas ingrained in my brain. For example, following are automatic and instantaneous associations I have with some of my friends:
Jeff = Milwaukee handsome
Olivia = bean burrito
Amy = Brother Jon, Avenue of Americas (I have lots more for her)
Dave = spaghetti sauce behind his ear
Hammer = the Mustang and a straw in his mouth, way too small gym shorts
Stanton = crashing into a basement pole while playing floor hockey
Lisa = hair pull
Rich = the dirt
Kerby = “What’s up?” “Nuthin, you?” “Nuthin.”
Dude from rival softball team back in the day = unnecessary and laughable grunts
My mom = Birmingham (instead of Burning Man)
My dad = Not nece-celery (instead of necessarily)
JD = Springsteen
My kids = Total and unconditional love (and spilling and bumping)
Kimmie = Cubs (and also a crazy story involving a custom t-shirt, asshole cops, a crack-whore breakfast and bail money)
I could go on and on. But the point is I’m trying to not be anyone’s association to a bear's meal!
I’m going on an epic adventure to Alaska with my buddy Tom. We leave on Monday. We are due to come back two weeks later assuming everyone I know is wrong with their doomsday associations. Funny thing is I don’t think any of these people have ever been to Alaska so their fears and concerns are either based on something they heard about, or somewhat bruising to my survival skills pride, they are based on their lack of confidence in our knowledge and abilities to be dropped off by a bush plane in the Gates of Arctic and fend for ourselves down a river with no guides or safe words.
Although this trip has been in the works for years and committed to months and months ago, we are scrambling to be ready to fly out on Monday. It’s amazing how life gets in the way of preparing for not dying in Alaska. Plus, neither of us is really concerned about anything really – we just want to have an experience of a lifetime. ‘Life’ is key. We fully intend on coming back with stories and memories that we will associate with Alaska forever.
This trip pretty much knocks me off the grid. I will be in civilization at various times between jaunts from one adventure to another but I don’t plan on checking in with anyone, other than my children. Even though Mindy at work today (half) kiddingly asked if there are any files with critical information or phone numbers she should call if I never come back. I assured her I’d return so no need to give her access to the man behind the curtain, although my ex knows what to do in the event of an untimely death (is there a timely death?).
So enough death-talk and negative associations! Instead, think of this as a grand adventure, a soul cleansing, a life changer and a damn good time. I’ll be back end of June.
Godspeed my friends…