Alaska is justly known for harboring a lot of people who can be charitably described as “characters“, but some really stand out from the crowd. I work as the bouncer at a small college bar in Fairbanks, Alaska, and witness firsthand the characters that can be found here.
There’s a 50-ish year old “lady” who has been coming to my bar fairly regularly lately. She has variously claimed to be anywhere from 30 to 60, but I’ve checked her ID. I know that some ladies prefer not to state their age, so I’ll just say that she’s about 50.
The first time I witnessed her dancing I momentarily thought that there was something medically wrong with her or that she might be in distress and in need of assistance. She dances by standing perfectly still, closing her eyes, extending her arms out in a ‘Christ on the Cross’ pose, bending her elbows and then jerking her elbows, shoulders, chest and waist back and forth independent of each other and without any regard for the rhythm or the beat of the music. She dances exactly the same way no matter what sort of music is playing or how fast or slow it is. She just stands there, having an upright seizure on the dance floor.
Sometimes she moves her hands to her crotch and makes “come hither” motions with her fingers.
I’ll give her this – she seems to be truly enjoying herself, she’s lost inside her head. But it’s a… errr … unique (I think this is the least pejorative word I can use to describe it) style of “dancing”.
She also has an amazing autobiography:
– She is the last surviving speaker of her Native American language. It’s SO secret and special that not only can she not name the tribe that she’s a member of, but she also can’t even name the language or give anyone a demonstration by speaking it. “You wouldn’t have heard of it.”
– Her son recently signed a contract to play professional basketball with the LA Clippers. He’s going to be a millionaire and he could take care of her, but she doesn’t accept charity. She also doesn’t tip.
– Her son just signed a record contract with Eminem’s record label. She doesn’t know the name of the label, but it’s the one that Eminem is with. Her son is about to go on a national tour with Eminem, too, but they won’t be coming to Alaska.
– Her son just knocked up Miss Georgia, but she doesn’t remember the woman’s name, just that she’s a national beauty pageant winner.
Mostly when she comes into the bar I avoid her as much as possible because being cornered by her and trapped in conversation (you can read that as “being held hostage by a crazy monologue”) with her has a lot in common with my image of Eternal Damnation.
The other night I noticed that she had a little knife tucked into her belt in the small of her back.
Now, I realize that this is rural Alaska. Everyone works and spends time outdoors, carrying a knife is about as common as carrying a pen or chapstick – I don’t freak out if someone brings a pocket knife into the bar. But to me, a folding work knife in your front pocket is a tool – a straight knife tucked under your vest & hidden in the small of your back is a weapon.
I approached her on the dance floor and tapped her on the elbow with my right hand while I pulled the knife (sheath and all) off of her belt with my left hand. She looked surprised for a moment until she realized it was me.
“I’ll hang onto this for you until you head out for the night – it’ll be safe in the drawer of the cash register.” I said.
“Just be careful with it! It was made for me by a MASTER knife maker over forty years ago…”
I interrupted her. “OK good – I’ll have it with me at the door.” I walked away as fast as I could without running.
She went home shortly after that; as I had promised, I gave her the knife back on her way out without incident.
Outside, she met up with a slender young soldier who had been talking to her earlier in the evening. He looked wide-eyed, a little drunk, smiling at her with equal parts fear and excitement. They walked away together down the street, arm-in-arm.
I silently wished him luck.
Alex Bates is a career bouncer who lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @alxbates or check out his blog whenever he gets around to starting it!