A perk of working at a reasonably-sized national law firm is the occasional boondoggle. For instance, the Anchorage office takes a day each summer to ostensibly relax in each other's company outside of work. Every year that has meant fishing. Back before my time, the office took fly-in trips to remote sandbars, battled weather and halibut in boats too small to the task, set tents, and drank whiskey around the fire until someone started throwing punches. But the office has grown, and in recent years we have limited our summer trip to salmon charters out of Seward or drifting the Kenai River. This year our office manager—on whose lap planning the summer trip always falls—suggested we branch out and explore something other than fishing. She threw open the door for suggestions.
“Easy!” I thought. “We should all go see the Red Hot Chili Peppers!”
The thought was not as random as it may at first appear. The Red Hot Chili Peppers had just announced a concert in Anchorage. I intended to go. After all, I had history with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
As a young boy, my older cousin came West to visit us in New Mexico. My parents packed up the car and we took a road trip to the Grand Canyon to marvel at deep geologic time. Somewhere on the road, at what I imagine was a dusty service station with tumble weeds piled six-foot high against the eastern wall and a vending machine that dispensed packs of cigarettes along with the candy bars, my Dad jokingly asked my cousin by the magazine rack, “So, you want me to buy you a girlie magazine?”
“What is a girlie magazine?” I asked.
I imagine my Dad was surprised to see me standing by the magazines too, and possibly immediately regretted opening his mouth at all, but nevertheless dutifully explained, “Well, it is a magazine with pictures of naked women.”
Oh. Doesn't that sound intriguing. To this day, I remember the mental image that followed: a magazine with pictures of buildings on white backgrounds shown in cross-section, outside walls removed so we could peak at the people inside. The buildings were filled with women. The women were going about the tasks of daily life: cooking, working, shopping, sleeping. But they wore no clothes. Fascinating. This I have to see.
“Can I have a girlie magazine?”
“No, you're too young.”
“Sure, kid. For your next birthday. I'll buy you one then.”
I'm sure my Dad thought that was the end of it. Little did he know I would store his promise, pull it out, keep it polished and dust free, and lift it up to his attention on my next birthday. “Dad, do I get a girlie magazine now?”
“What are you talking about? What do you know about girlie magazines?”
“You promised I could have one on my next birthday. That's today. Can we go get one? Now?”
“Wait. What? I did?”
It is not my intent to start a debate on parenting, pornography, or promises. Whether against his better judgment or without a second thought, Dad kept his promise. Later that night he presented me with the latest issue of Playboy, hot of the presses and direct to my hot hands. Suffice to say, I don't think it did me any harm. In fact, it probably helped my popularity immensely with the other 11? 12? year olds in town, each of whom took a turn flipping through its pages. And I flipped through the pages with them. From front to back, again, and again, and again. While there is no denying that the pictures of the women devoured the bulk of my attention, it turns out there were words and other tidbits in the magazine as well. Including this picture in the back, with a short press-release about a new L.A. Band getting attention for its choice of wardrobe:
Some years later, I actually bought albums by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Some time after that, they became international rock stars. And then they announced a show in Anchorage.
It turns out no one else in my office thought a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert would make a good summer trip. But somehow we did overcome the inertia of fishing and went kayaking in Blackstone Bay instead. It was a beautiful day on the water in front of glaciers.
We stopped for lunch on a beach, just out of view of the face of Blackstone Glacier, in a small amphitheater bordered by steep slopes. While eating from the spread that the guiding company provided, we marveled at the roar from what was clearly an immense calving event. Moments later, the water pulled away from shore, regrouped, and crashed back in wave after wave, circulating within our cove to amplify and confuse the later sets. One partner was knocked off the rock he had been sitting on and was pulled part way to sea (though he immediately stood, wet but no worse for the wear). The boats were sucked out and pushed in. We grabbed flotation devises and the other flotsam and jetsam of our trip, casually left strewn across the beach, and now swirling in the salt-water. Way more exciting than hauling in a salmon on a charter.
As fun as kayaking was, it meant I was on my own for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So C an I bought our tickets, showed up on time, and put in our ear plugs, because, well, we have become the old people standing in the back of the show worrying about their hearing while the kids go crazy up front. But we weren't the only old people at the show. After all, the band is in its fifties. Thankfully, they've started wearing more clothes over the years.