Surviving shoulder season

Posted: Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Every U.S. city has a nickname - an alias, a sobriquet, a slogan that captures the essence of an entire metropolitan area in just a few short words. Think "The Big Apple," "The Big Easy" or "Skankorage."

I wonder what, if anything, Juneau's nickname is. According to Wikipedia - the know-it-all's best friend - Juneau also goes by "New York of Alaska" (citation needed) , "America's Largest Capital Area" (citation needed) and "City of Best" (citation needed). I'll admit, I haven't been a Juneau-American all that long, but I've never heard anyone use any of those. Have you?

Now, obviously Juneau sometimes goes as the "Capital City." But that hardly does justice to such an amazingly quirky little burg, where wolves chase bear cubs through the streets of downtown, people sunbathe in front of a glacier, and Taco Bell fails while a dozen different stores selling Tanzanite - whatever Tanzanite is - succeed. Of course, that doesn't even take into account the weather, which, let's face it, calibrates the town's collective vibe, sometimes moment to moment.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. After all, late October is conducive to few activities, chief among them thinking. Oh, and, I guess there's also watching TV; but watching TV is kind of like the lazy man's thinking.

Anyway, here's what I've come up with (now stay with me, here): If Chicago is known as the "City of Broad Shoulders," then surely Juneau should be the "City of Broad Shoulder Seasons." Eh? Eh? Eh?

By "shoulder season," of course I am referring to the seemingly endless limbo that exists between summer and winter. The snow creeps down the mountain. The skiers salivate in anticipation, the snowboarders re-belt their pants yet another inch lower, and Home Depot sells out of snow shovels (and for some reason won't be getting any more in until winter 2010-11). But then the white disappears several hours later, and everyone's left to lament not having sprung for insurance on their Eagelcrest passes. (Silver lining: extra time to get to Western Auto Marine before they sell out of snow shovels, too).

Seriously. I haven't felt such palpable will it/won't it tension since the release of the most recent Indiana Jones sequel (Q: Will it or won't it make me vomit in horror? A: Dry heaves.).

The worst part is, shoulder season doesn't end until prevailing climactic conditions sort themselves out, and who knows when that might be. It could be tomorrow. It could be February. It could be - dare I even give it voice - winter 2010-2011.

Consider a year in which the whole winter is shoulder season: high-30s/low-40s, cloudy, 70 percent of rain changing to snow changing to rain changing back to snow, etc. Now, this may follow a regular Juneau summer - which is like winter to most of the Lower 48 - or a summer that was itself more akin to shoulder season.

Then of course, you have those years when summer is shoulder season, fall is winter, winter is shoulder season, and spring is summer and winter on a MW/TTh/alternating F schedule.

Or how about when the entire year is one long shoulder season? You know, like 2005?

Oh, and then you've got the ultimate: one long shoulder season, but it sort of moves up and down along the shoulder, like now it's at your neck, and now it's at your collar bone, then - woah! - it jumps over to your clavicle, then the scapula, then over to where Jon Bon Jovi has that Superman tattoo.

You know, thinking about it now, I'm not even sure why they call it shoulder season in the first place. If we're going for true anatomical comparability, it really should be "perineum season."

What? Perineum. Go ahead, Google it (unless you're at work). Or, better yet, sit in on a childbirth class. They love talking about perineums in there-or is it "perinea?" Incidentally, is it just me, or are some people a little too comfortable discussing perinea in public?

Anyway, like the perineum, or "taint" as some refer to it colloquially, the season we're in right now can't make up its mind, either. In other words, it ain't (sic) one thing, but it ain't the other. Of course, a perineum tends not to be quite as damp, or as cold, at least not unless you're sitting out in a skiff and you forgot your rain pants. Okay, on second thought, maybe perineum season isn't better.

So contact your local representatives, and tell them you want to nickname Juneau the "City of Broad Shoulder Seasons." It's no more ridiculous than changing Groundhog Day to Marmot Day, one of the few measures the Legislature managed to pass last session.

What? Marmot Day. Go ahead, Google it (again, unless you're at work, especially if you've already Googled perineum; the IT guys will think you're some kind of deviant).

My point is this: it doesn't matter whether the marmot sees its shadow or not. Either way, we're in for another six weeks of shoulder season.

• Geoff Kirsch is a Juneau resident.

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