“North to Alaska, they’re going north, the rush is on.” Lyrics such as these and visions of untold riches and adventure have fueled man’s desire to reach Alaska since the 1800s. The motivation for this insatiable drive northward wasn’t the yearning for religious or political freedom, such as that of the people of Europe coming to the new world, but rather, the promise of more tangible commodities such as gold, oil, timber and seafood.
Just like the rest of humanity, college kids had their hopes and aspirations, and looked toward commercial fishing in Alaska as the ideal summer job to provide them with riches and adventure.
GETTING THE ITCH
I was up to my toukis in everything academic; term papers, classes, typewriters, libraries, reference books, study books, books, books…endless books. My buddies and I were getting the itch for beach antics, and Stinson Beach, in Marin County, California, was just over the hill. Throughout the spring semester at the College of Marin, when the thermometer climbed into the 80s, an assorted collection of wing nuts would cut class to get some sand in their shoes. However, surfing, bikini-watching, and working on our tans had to wait, because it was finals, and that meant crunch time, and crunch time meant cramming, and cramming meant staying awake round the clock consuming maximum information with the guarantee of minimum knowledge retention…that’s where I was at. I was sitting in Economics 1B, and the dismal science was particularly dismal that day. Why? Because I had been awake all night, stuffing new material into my gray matter that I should have rote memorized long ago, and I hadn’t slept in two days.
The professor was obviously more interested in the Wall Street Journal than Surf’s Up. Scanning the class, he gestured to the rear. “Third row in the back, would you please put that magazine away and at least try to pay attention to the material up here?” That was me. Feeling righteously embarrassed, I stowed Surf’s Up, and drifted in and out of Keynesian economics. As I lost my concentration, I became increasingly fixated with the hair of a girl seated in front of me, and in an effort to stay awake, I took my shoes and socks off; I had been told that was an excellent remedy for fatigue when driving. Then for a moment I caught myself gazing out of a window, fascinated by the sights, sounds and colors of spring, and my eyes zoomed in on a double-breasted mattress thrasher sunning herself on the lawn below.
Then I heard a “Psst!” It was classmate Rick, barely audible, whispering, “Are you sure you’ve dropped acid before?”
“Of course I’m sure I have, it isn’t something you forget. It’s not like forgetting to comb your hair before you leave the house.”
The professor turned to the class. “Are there any questions?” He scanned the room for a waving hand or quizzical look, yet found none. Satisfied that the lesson was over regardless of whether anyone was paying attention, he sighed, “and that concludes our discussion today on the inelasticity of demand; class dismissed. And by the way, I am sure I don’t have to tell you to crack those books!”
Then Rick leaned across his desk and continued in a forced whisper, “Okay, I’m telling you, this is the best stuff I’ve ever had!”
“Well, where did you get it?”
“Look, that’s not important; if you must know, I got it from a guy named Paul in my Statistics class, and he’s a very reliable source, “Really?” “Yes, and I’m telling you, you shouldn’t pass it up, this is the best acid going around San Francisco!”
I hemmed and hawed, and after five seconds of careful consideration, decided, “All right, all right, I’ll have some time after finals this week…tell you what, let me have two hits.”
“God damn, the Pusher, God damn, I say the Pusher, I said God damn, God damn the Pusher man.” The rock band Steppenwolf, circa 1968, lyrics by Hoyt Axton.