Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Our Town

I’ve got to give it to the Brits. There is always, and I do mean ALWAYS, something interesting in the Daily Mail. Oh, sure, most of it is meretricious crap, but even the meretricious crap is often interesting.

What caught my eye last week was an article on the town of Whittier, Alaska – a town where almost all of the 200+ residents live in a single building.

The building, called Begich Tower, houses the town's entire neighborhood, including the local police department, a school, an indoor playground, two convenience stores, a B&B, a laundromat and the post office.

The local church performs baptisms in an inflatable pool in the basement and children can easily knock on their teacher's door for homework help in the evenings. (Source: Daily Mail)

How out of the way is Whittier?

Surrounded by only mountains and the sea, the remote town is so isolated that it's only accessible by North America's longest one way tunnel, which stretches for two and a half miles.

And which is not open from 11 p.m. until 5:30 a.m.

My guess is there’s not much more at the end of that tunnel than there is at Begich Tower, but if you’re stuck in a town that gets 250+ inches of snow each winter, and where everyone lives in the same building, even an Applebee’s or a McDonald’s might start to look good.

Whittier Alaska

In any case, the isolation (and desolation) are broken up during the summer, when cruise ships drop about 900,000 tourists into the town. What they do there is beyond me.

Gawp at the Begich Tower? Wonder what the Whittier-ites do to keep themselves from going stir-crazy?

And where do all those tourists go to buy trinkets? Door to door in the town’s only building?

But forget about those tourists. They get to get back on the boat and float on out of town.

What must it be like to live there?

Even surrounded by natural beauty, it must get pretty darned boring.

Where do you take a walk?

I will be the first to admit that my daily walk often takes on a sameness. It’s just as easy to take the Esplanade out to BU, and walk back home via Beacon Street. The horse knows the way, and I don’t have to think about it.

But when I do think about it, I vary the plot and take my stroll along the waterfront, or around the South End, or in the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

And no matter what my route, there’s always something to look at. And, while I occasionally run into a friend, mostly I’m just seeing an un-repetitive flow of people I don’t recognize.

What would the walk be in Begich Tower?

I think I’ll walk on the 6th floor today, I did the 8th yesterday.

And what if you want to stop for a cup of tea or a cup of ice cream? If the convenience store is closed, do you just knock on someone’s door?

Of course, living in Begich Tower is probably not all that different from the geezer complexes I’ve seen advertised of late.

You know, the ones that show all those attractive, silver-haired folks eagerly giving testimony to the benefits of the under-one-roof lifestyle. We see the residents exercising in the pool, getting their silver hair done, stopping by the ATM, and stocking up at the in-house convenience store (which doesn’t appear to stock anything that resembles fresh; but if you just need a quart of skim, a loaf of white bread, or a can of Chef Boyardee, you’re good to go).

I may scoff, but, especially after this winter, those geezer complexes have a certain appeal.

After all, there were plenty of days in there where I didn’t stick my nose out of the house. Some days, the farthest I got was the foyer where the mailboxes are. Sometimes I opened the front door and looked out. But once I confirmed that there was still an eight-foot snow bank out there, that was enough for me to scurry back in and flop down for a nap.

And if Whittier, as a norm, gets twice as much snow as we had this winter, well, staring at four walls is staring at four walls, whether you’re in a condo in downtown Boston or in Begich Tower.

Still, all that living together in the same building – while it would have some advantageous – does sound like too much of a good thing.

Give me anonymity and variety any old day!


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