A sample of my own writing and photos follow:
The Watering Hole: The Alaska State Fair, August 26, 2019
It was getting late. Pete and I gravitated in the direction of the Watering Hole, one of several quasi beer gardens on site at the Alaska State Fair. We had decided to check out Rogues and Wenches, an Irish band that was singing pirate ballads. I followed Pete into the large white tent where there were about 50 or so individuals. Most were sitting at picnic tables. It was standing room only, so some were standing. Most were drinking beer out of plastic cups.
The band members, who were standing in a line, were dressed in pirate hats and shirts, and belting out a ballad. They were loud – I put my hands over my ears and hurried to a picnic table that was at the far tent wall. I scrunched myself onto the edge of a seat – two listeners moved over, then when they saw Pete coming in my direction with a beer in hand, got up and left.
Pete sat on my left. A tall, skinny man wearing a bright yellow tee-shirt and sunglasses followed us in, first stood, and then sat to Pete’s left. His dark brown hair was swept back over his head – he kept running his constantly moving hands through it. He had a beer in hand, one of several. Across from him was a heavy set fellow with a mop of dark gray hair. He sat hunched over his beer, his back to the musicians.
The two men started talking, first about the band, which they deemed to be quite good, then about the other entertainment sites, the Sluice Box and the Blue Bonnet Stage included. Pete listened to the men with one ear and the band with the other. Finally, Pete, a huge smile crossing his face, leaned in my direction and whispered in my ear “Man Cave!”
I immediately saw what he saw – two men, in a drinking establishment, bonding. Now, the Watering Hole is not a literal man cave per say because women also inhabit it. But rather, it is a figurative man cave, which is a place where men have a few beers and then share their stories with other men.
I did not hear the conversation that took place between the two men. But I deduced that this one was life affirming when the sedentary fellow leaned forward and put his beefy hand on the other man’s scrawny arm.
The energy level picked up as the music grew louder. The sedentary man leaned in Pete’s direction and started to talk. I listened in. The former Texan told Pete that he moved to Alaska in the 1980s. Hopped on a ferry, tossed his cowboy boots into the southeast Alaskan waters, and vowed to never, ever ride a horse or rope a cow again.
He continued, in a voice that was now slightly slurred, to say that he was determined at the time to get a job in Wrangell, at the wood mill. He approached a boss who was standing on the porch and drinking a cup of coffee. He asked him if work was available and was told no. Undaunted, he returned the next day, and was told the same thing. His eyes wide, his audience now including a lanky fellow wearing a green and yellow John Beer shirt, he said in loud voice “The next day I approached the man, handed him a cup of coffee and asked if there was work. I was hired!”
His story finished, the man sat up straight and muttered something about having drank too much. The band, now done playing, exited the stage. The three men, who must have known one another, then stood up and left, perhaps in search of other bands, other beer.
Next: 236. 8/26/19: Priorities