We are staying at what is billed as a classic Alaskan hotel in Nome. It is an old rambling place with carpet laid at the beginning of the last century and vacuumed at least twice since then. There are dusty artifacts nailed to the walls of the lobby where a very slight young Chinese guy at the desk checked us in one by one. It took an hour and there aren’t that many of us. He would hand out a key to the next person and point up the stairs! or down the hall! with great urgency, sometimes correcting people if they lingered over their luggage too long.
Since we have been here, the same round-faced Native woman has wandered into the lobby three times to ask what time it is and to use the bathroom. A tall, gruff Native grandfather and a little girl traipsed through the lobby twice. “Welcome to Nome,” he said out of the side of his mouth. Behind him a young very thin Native man walked with his head down, stopping twice in the ten steps past us to hitch up his pants. There is a lot going on here, I think. I need to be mindful of that.
The residents of the hotel are not Native. Does that go without saying? There was a hugely tall man in an American flag shirt, massive trench coat, and cowboy hat who found his way to the Chinese guy at the front desk to complain about his shower not working. A slight man, looking like a geophysicist on a long hike, strode through the lobby with his hands stuck deep in his pockets. He looked intent on being where American flag shirt guy wasn’t. We sat in chairs watching; for a while, I imagine getting into a disagreement with the American flag shirt guy and I wonder if he would be over the top belligerent or reveal himself as a secret gentlemen. My gut tells me to steer way clear, make sure I don’t brush up against his over-sized self and cause trouble. It’s a needless worry, a fiction. He goes on his way, having made his complaint. He looks like he needs a shower. Badly.
There are amenities here. The ironing board and iron lean against the wall in the upstairs lobby. Space heaters sit unplugged in the hallway, waiting for the coldest among us to swipe. There are two towels in our room, a small fridge and a microwave; and when the curtain is pulled back, we can see the weathered brown wall of the building next door. The twin beds are sweet and make us feel like Lucy and Desi in the old days except we lack the proper pajamas. I intend to sleep in my clothes.
At dinner, we drink Alaska Amber and laugh. Out the window of the hotel restaurant, the Bering Sea rolls. The waves hit the rocks which seem just yards from where we are sitting. We see a freighter way out, just barely discernible. It is foggy and rainy and rough here. And it oddly seems like heaven.