I’m coming back to Anchorage, and I’m not sure what I’ll find. I haven’t been back since 2010, for my Grandmother’s funeral. I’m surprised the time has slipped past so quickly. When I moved in 2008, I only lasted six months before I went back for a visit, and during that visit I resolved to visit more frequently. That didn’t happen. I visited once more in February of 2009, once again during the summer of 2010, and then right on the heels of that in September 2010. That was the last time.
I’m also not entirely sure what the draw is. I still have friends there, many of whom I haven’t seen in a very long time, so I figured it was time to see them. Many other friends, perhaps lured by better jobs or better weather, have also emigrated away. Some of them think I’m crazy to visit in February, but I like empty flights and cheap hotels, and I like a city that’s not overrun with white-sneakered, blue-haired tourists asking everybody how they can stand the sun staying up so late into the evening.
I suppose a big part of it is just needing to see the place to see what’s different and what’s not. Every once in a while I’ll pull up Google Maps and sniff over the fact that my old karate dojo (I was part of the hordes of children that bought into the karate kid craze of the ’80s) is now a Lululemon or that the abomination that is Buffalo Wild Wings has oozed its way north to the future.
I wonder what became of the spaces of national brands that I know no longer exist but haven’t been back to Anchorage since their demise, like Blockbuster Video. I wonder if weirdly cherished old icons like Classic Toys and Cafe del Mundo and the RoundTable Pizza at Dimond Center have survived the steady slide of time. I wonder about the fate of some family owned businesses like Mexico in Alaska and Sandwich Deck – those people eventually have to retire.
I wonder if the Loussac Library still has microfiche and folders hidden away in the Alaska section with actual cutouts of airline-related articles from the Anchorage Daily News that began in the late ’80s and ended somewhere around 1998 – I used to sift through those for hours, and I’m sure my fingerprints are still all over them, assuming they haven’t been shredded and recycled over the last decade.
I know some of my favorite restaurants have closed. I was still there when Harry’s closed, but the space hadn’t yet been released. I’m disappointed to learn that Yamato Ya and New Cauldron and Cafe Croissant no longer exist. I wonder if mall standbys like O’Brady’s Burgers and Brew and The Perfect Cup continue to soldier on, and I wonder if The Castle on O’Malley still has miniature golf, and if Skateland has changed their carpet, and if The Alaska Zoo still smells like popcorn. I’ve recently read the damn Northern Lights Hotel still hasn’t been torn down.
Perhaps I’m just curious to see how well everything has aged. When you leave a place and don’t go back for a period of time, your mind’s eye of the place doesn’t really change, but the place keeps developing just the same. My vision of Carrs Aurora Village still includes photo developing and VHS rentals. Those are probably gone but I also wonder if the deli (which I’ve never seen equaled anywhere in the world) remains, even though it’ll undoubtedly have the same boring brands as its Safeway-affiliated brethren I shop at in Dallas.
I’m just rambling at this point, but it’s a funny feeling, isn’t it, growing older? The older you get the more you’re haunted by your ever-growing cache of memories.
I’m coming back to Anchorage, and I’m not sure what I’ll find.