Slack Tide: Good day, sunshine

By Geoff Kirsch

For the Juneau Empire

Let’s not beat around the bush: I’d make a terrible nudist.

First of all, no belt loops. What am I supposed do with my thumbs? And where do I clip my Leatherman? I’d feel naked without it.

Then, of course, there’s my “dad bod,” which is really more like two dad bods glopped onto one dad skeleton.

But really, the main thing keeping my clothes on (aside from not wanting to get arrested) is this: I’m extraordinarily pale, the gingeriest ginger you’ll ever meet. I make Ed Sheeran look like Jason Momoa.

As such, I can’t ever allow the sun to shine where-the-sun-don’t-shine. You know how at the end of “Gremlins” the cute furry gremlin kills the mutant monster gremlin by opening the shade and melting him? That’s what happens when you expose me to direct sunlight, too.

To put it yet another way: your day at the beach is my worst nightmare. In fact, May through September, spending more than 15 minutes in pretty much any outdoor setting requires as much sun protection as I can tolerate, including one of those ridiculous floppy bucket hats and those even more ridiculous zip-off pants. At least I don’t wear a fanny pack.

But not in Juneau.

Ah, beautiful sunless Juneau, a location depicted by the “Twilight” series as housing a whole vampire clan (fittingly enough, a “vegetarian” vampire clan). Turns out, it proves an ideal home for the ultra-pale, too—or, as we prefer to call ourselves, Alabaster-Americans.

Ever since I moved here 17 years ago, I’ve hardly worried about sunburn at all. Not only do we average something like 300 cloudy days a year. Even when it’s “sunny,” this is Juneau; you’re never very far from shade.

In fact, that’s a big reason I stayed, despite all the vampires. Just the savings on aloe-vera gel alone…

Don’t get me wrong. I dig sunshine. It enables life on Earth. And I certainly appreciate a break from wearing Xtra Tuffs, unless I’m going to a wedding and I need to dress up.

Plus, there’s so precious little sun here in the world’s largest boreal rain forest, you can’t help but prize it. Like decent avocados, you take as much as you can get, whenever you can get it (and then gorge yourself sick on guacamole before it all starts to rot).

And so I welcome the lengthening days and intensifying rays of early Southeastern

Alaskan summer, even though I feel guilty watching TV when the sun’s still out. Oh well, I’ll get over it.

Plus, there’s nothing like increased daylight to make you feel like you want to do things. And sometimes, all you really need is to feel like you want to do things, instead of actually doing those things, just to confirm you haven’t lost all your motivation.

And, of course, more sunshine means lower electric bills—although, it also means increased expenditure on beer and ice cream, so they kind of offset.

Friends and family in the Lower 48 often ask me about the light/dark thing (also the time difference—how hard is the concept of the Alaska Time Zone?).

I tell them this: up here, daylight is something to track the steady, daily progress of, like baseball statistics or the accumulation of dishes in the drying rack before someone finally puts them back in the cabinet.

I also tell them it’s way easier to light darkness than it is to darken lightness. In fact, I still haven’t found a curtain that fully lives up to its “black-out” promises. Not even plywood.

Then—right before explaining, yet again, how you take California time and subtract an hour—I mention how everyone in Alaska is clinically Vitamin D deficient. This explains why every little kid around here rips off all their clothes any time the clouds part out even for a minute, even if the thermometer barely tops 45.

Speaking of which, on second thought, maybe I will risk a little naked sunbathing, after all—just a few minutes, right on the deck. I better notify the neighbors first; I’d hate to get animal control up here checking on reports of a wild orangutan loose in the area.

Although, what’s the worst that can happen? They shoot me with a tranquilizer gun? Whatever, I’m not driving anywhere.

• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears twice monthly in Neighbors.

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