Anarchistic musings from a SE Alaska harbor
By Ed Sasser

Multiple Hats

Eddy's Chuck, Alaska*

I walked into the Dock Lunch last Thursday and my heart skipped as I saw them sitting around the table. All five of them were there ready for the meeting.  Am I supposed to have the minutes ready for today?  Which meeting is this anyway:  Sons of Norway? Village Council? Trollers' Association? Sailing Club? The Messabout Society of Eddy's Chuck? Noodlers Anonymous? The American Legion? No, wait; that last one went out of business since it had all the same members as the others.  That's how it is in this maritime village at the end of the shortest fjord between Ketchikan and Skagway.

"Sorry I'm late for the meetin'..." I began to apologize.

"What meetin'," Leon offered.  "We're just havin' coffee."

I sighed in visible relief as Bev brought me a black coffee.  Leon being there had kinda thrown me. He's either a current or past officer in every group that ever formed here in Eddy's Chuck.   Before the American Legion went bust he wore so many hats over there that he was a quorum.  He  had been voted Secretary, Treasurer and Chaplin all for the same year. One day I was at the old Legion Hall when a bill came in marked "treasurer".  He put on his secretary hat and opened it and logged it in, then  put on his treasurer hat and told himself: "This bill is past due."  He changed to his Chaplin hat, grabbed the overdue bill and cried to the sky: "Oh God, how we gonna pay this?"

The old joke about small towns is "we're too small to have a town drunk so we all take turns."  When it was our village public safety officer's turn to be the town drunk somebody reminded him about his inebriated condition and he voluntarily did the honorable thing.  He changed hats and arrested himself.  As we have no jail, he handcuffed himself to the radiator down at the "Harbor Lights" and told me to call the troopers.  I never did, of course, and when he woke up the following morning he accused me of cuffing him to the radiator.  

Here, we are so far from the infrastructure that we take turns at many more things than town drunk:  preacher, barber, bartender, boat builder, village idiot, and political leader among them. Some in town would say those last two are the same.

We've got two full-time bars and one part-time church.  The preacher flies in for two hours on Sunday from Port Alexander.  One day he told me at the dock:  "I'm an OK preacher but I'm not ordained."  I thought it was confession time so I took him aside and confided:  "I'm an OK boat builder; I ain't ordained either."  He just looked confused.

The point I was making was that we all wear a lot of hats.  We all do things the best we can and end up doing lots of things, certified or not.  For instance, Ellie, the postmaster, is a day-trading, beautician, gerontologist with a degree in Botany who works part time at the radio station.  The high-liner (top fisherman) here last year carries an eighth-grade graduation certificate in his wallet that indicates he's qualified to enroll in any high school in the state of Minnesota.  He made $440,000 last year and just added another 56-foot limit seiner to his fleet.  He goes to Juneau every January as a lobbyist.  I helped him write a letter to his sister last week.

Well, that's how it is here: we have multiple roles. We all do a lot of things and most of us aren't too good at at least some of them.  Why, I think most of Eddy's Chuck was built by somebody who'd just seen it done once or got stuck filling in for somebody else who said they had.

Like when Ellie works at the radio station.  She does "The Music You Remember" for her peers:  the WWII set.  Well, last week Leon's kid Rufus didn't show up for his 9PM watch to do "The Rap Up", a show that causes your ears to bleed if you are over 25.  Anyway, Ellie, trooper that she is, stayed at the station and introduced Rufus' play list.

Listen to her crackling church-lady voice yawning into the mike an hour after her bedtime:  "Since Rufus isn't here, I'll tell you it's time for his rap music show to start and I'll introduce them for you.  This first tune is a classic by MC Hammer, 'U Can't Touch This' followed by some new tunes by Pimp Daddy, Cheeky Blakk, MC Spud, Da Sha Ra, Ruthless Juveniles, Partners-N-Crime and others.  Please stay tuned."

I think we are all pretty accepting of each other's need to wear multiple hats here in this little corner of SE Alaska.  Just show up and pick a hat...any hat.

(*Eddy’s Chuck Alaska is a fictitious harbor populated by real Alaskan Noodlers.)

Copyright 1999-2000 by Ed Sasser. All rights reserved.


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