May 27, 2007

the Indian Cabbie

flights are booked, and hotel reservations are made for Rochester. we're taking the red eye from Fairbanks to Chicago on the 11th/12th. Dea's studying, so i wandered downtown to watch the tourists. nothing like watching the Texans walk around our struggling downtown, muttering to each other "where's alaska"?

i often forget that i look like a tourist myself this time of year. i asked Jim if i could take his photo, and he gave me a glare and said "i'm an Indian, but i ain't no Eskimo. no"

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"no worries" i said, and sat down next to him in the shade.
he broke the silence and asked, "where you from?"
"here, i live just down the road"
"oh, i thought you were one of them" he said as he gesticulated toward the white sock and sandal brigade. "you work for the Miner?"
"who you work for?"
"myself. i'm doing a book on Fairbanks. a book on downtown"
he let the idea simmer for a while, and asked "a book? for them or for us?"
"for us."

and with that a friendship was made. i spent a good hour with Jim, watching the tourists and talking about Alaska history. he's owned a local cab business since '75. the locals, and his friends, call him the Indian Cabbie.

we spoke about the first fire of the season burning to the South, and how the smoke that will engulf the town in a few days is unfortunate. he spoke of the '60s- when there was a fire anywhere in the state the fire chief would come down to 2nd Ave, stand on the back of his truck, and yell "who wants to fight the fire?". he'd ask "are you drunk?". if you said "no", then you were in. you didn't know where you were going, and for how long, but you would get fed and paid.

i asked him when he first moved to Alaska.
"have you lived here all this time?"
"yah. i thought i'd have to leave, for good, back in the 80's though. had cancer in one of my kidneys. i had to go to the outside to have it taken out"
"really? did you have to have a transplant?
"nope. they just pulled 'er out. you don't need them both. you can live on just one. you know that?"
"yep" i said, "i've heard that"

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thanks Jim

listening to Sparklehorse

1 comment:

Jeope said...

That was a cool post. Thanks for the read.

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