In Alaska, it seems you find novel uses for all sorts of things. I regularly find myself shoveling my steps with a pick-axe, changing tires with a Mag-Torch (nothing loosens stubborn lug nuts faster) and manicuring my yard with a chain saw.
Partly, that's because performing many activities up here requires burlier gear than compared to the Lower 48. I mean, you can't pull certain fish from Alaskan waters without first shooting them in the face. On the hottest day of summer, you can still die of hypothermia. Theoretically, you can get mauled by a bear on your way to the coffee shop. A raven can snatch your scone and an eagle can grab your baby right out of your Bjorn. You've got to be prepared for stuff like that.
But people here also seem to prize resourcefulness on its own merits. For instance, I've learned that masonry trowels make excellent spatulas, spatulas make excellent play-doh tools and play-doh tools make excellent - not to mention extremely painful - obstacles to step on in the middle of the night in your bare feet.
Now, this is to say nothing of the tarp (the plastic or canvas kind, as opposed to the relief fund). People use tarps as windows, tarps as roofing, tarps as a garage, tarps as carports, tarps as boat sheds, tarps as wood sheds, tarps for tying down truckloads of other tarps, tarps as outerwear, tarps as underwear - a section of tarp, a washcloth and some bungie cords, you got yourself a wilderness diaper, sir.
Then, of course, there's Alaska's favorite all-purpose material. I don't even need to mention it by name (hint: it rhymes with "plucked ape").
We all have our favorite uses for duct tape: book covers, wallets, mouth gags, reattaching bumpers, wrapping or sealing ducts (interestingly enough, one of its least effective uses), cheap and durable mummy costume for Halloween, lifting and separating when you wear a strapless evening gown or the poor man's chest wax. The list goes on.
I have to say, though, as fond as I am of duct tape, I love another adhesive even more. And I don't mean electrical tape (although that's good stuff, too, especially as a makeshift puck to slap around the garage when you're supposed to be cleaning it out, not blasting Metallica and playing push-broom hockey with yourself).
No, I'm talking about cyanoacrylate, commonly sold under the trade name Krazy Glue.
First of all, Krazy Glue is more than just regular glue. It's krazy - with a "k," which renders it crazier still. Sort of like how substituting "k" for "c" makes Kool-Aid even cooler and that band Limp Bizkit even crappier. Sorry, I mean krappier.
They say that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, when all you have is a tube of Krazy Glue, everything looks like a construction worker hanging by his hard hat from a steel girder.
I use Krazy Glue for everything: reattaching coffee cup handles, repairing furniture, patching waders and fixing broken play-doh tools after I've stepped on them in the middle of the night. I once reattached a nail to my finger with it.
Hobby enthusiasts build models with Krazy Glue. Criminologists use Krazy Glue to reveal hidden fingerprints. Surgeons use Krazy Glue to close wounds. Krazy Glue was the basis of a hilarious gag involving a mix-up with shampoo in "Police Academy 2." One story on www.krazyglue.com even tells of a man who used it to fix the broken handle of a portable toilet, thus freeing himself from a rather unfortunate predicament.
I'd like to see duct tape do that.
Before I continue, let me go on record: for all you kids out there (and, let's face it, some adults, too), I DO NOT condone sniffing Krazy Glue, recreationally or otherwise. Not only can it cause permanent brain damage; you run the serious risk of accidentally gluing your nostrils shut. Talk about a party foul.
Which brings me to my favorite Krazy Glue usage: healing those annoying little splits I get on my hands all winter long, especially when I've been chopping wood without gloves.
I first learned of this particular utility from an accomplished wilderness first-responder. You know, one of those guys who's got stories about stitching up his own duct tape sutures with a Leatherman multi-tool after applying lighter fluid as an antiseptic (while cooking a Hot Pocket on his snow machine engine).
Anyway, a week or so ago, this friend's two-year-old son took a spill off a chair, opening a half-inch gash in his head that necessitated a trip to the emergency room. Jokingly, I asked this friend why he didn't just stitch it up with duct tape. Not nearly as jokingly, his wife said that was his original suggestion.
But of course, these friends weren't at their old cabin 60 miles upriver from Willow - they were here in Juneau; Western medicine practiced by licensed providers at a state-accredited facility got the call that night. I think that's important to remember that sometimes a little civilization comes in handy, especially if you have toddlers.
PS: Do you know what the ER applied on top of the kid's stitches - which weren't made of duct tape, by the way - to seal it all together? Krazy Glue. I rest my case.
Geoff Kirsch is a professional writer. His first book-length project "Run For Your Life Apocalypse 2012!" is forthcoming from Workman Publishing. From now on, "Slack Tide" will appear every other Sunday in Neighbors. Send any and all comments, positive or negative, to email@example.com.