Ah, February, the most brutal time of year. Sure, there’s Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and of course, President’s Day — still can’t decide on my costume, but I’ve narrowed it down to George Washington and “Sexy” George Washington. But this several-week stretch can be particularly trying, even with a tri-cornered hat and crotch-less breeches.
Obviously, there’s the snow, and extreme cold, and hurricane force winds—thus presenting the perfect opportunity to dance around blasting the Scorpions’ “Here I am, Rock You Like a Hurricane”… just as my kids turn on the video and microphone for virtual school (possibly while dressed as Sexy George Washington). Serves them right for disrupting all my meetings. After all, to paraphrase the Bible, the Zoom bombing of the father shall be visited upon the son (and daughter).
Then, of course, we’ve got the continuing darkness, although some of us have lived here long enough that we no longer suffer the effects of seasonal affective disorder, itself a condition known as seasonal affective disorder-disorder.
Point is, we’ve hit a rough patch. But if my decade and a half in Alaska has taught me anything—aside from the merits of neoprene — it’s techniques for overcoming stretches of doom and gloom. And I mean without intoxicants.
First and foremost, I remind myself of the old saying: when the going gets tough, the tough clean out the garage.
Oh, wait. I’m sorry, I mean “muck” out the garage. Real Alaskans don’t clean out anything—they “muck” it out (just like how Real Alaskans don’t get into “fender-benders;” they “roll in the ditch.”)
You see, to live in Alaska is to accumulate muck—case in point, I regularly sweep our kitchen and dining area with a shop-vac—and in these dark times, a thorough mucking out can prove curiously satisfying. It’s like the emotional equivalent of Q-tipping your ears.
If your garage is anything like mine, this time of year finds it especially mucky after a fall and winter’s use as everything from a woodshop to a ski and snowboard ER to a grown-up hangout when “My Little Pony” cartoons hijack the living room. Of course, with Covid it’s also a music rehearsal space, makeshift movie theater, batting cage, painting studio, corporate HQ for my daughter’s online friendship bracelet company and, oh yeah, parking space for our car (which is itself in dire need of a thorough mucking).
This year, I’m really going after it—not only mucking out current muck, but a whole bunch of back-muck, too. That rusty old wheelbarrow I keep banging my knees on but continue to hold onto with the intention of someday converting into a planter? I converted into a planter. Boom. All that extra scrap shelving that falls across the tracks every time the garage door opens? I made it into shelves—for that monster pile of jackets, and even scarier tangle of footwear growing like a forest across the steps. Trail, blazed.
I’m not simply rearranging junk, either. For the first time since I divested myself of every possession that didn’t fit into my half of our Subaru on the long drive up here in the summer of 2005 — including my entire collection of mix-tapes and a life-size stand-up cardboard cutout of Boba Fett — I find myself actually getting rid of things.
A partial list of items: an old microwave; a basketball backboard still in its original packaging (going to someone else’s garage); three different vacuum cleaners defunct in three different ways (hence cleaning the kitchen and dining areas with a shop-vac); a printer, a scanner and a fax machine (each separately); a printer, a scanner and a fax machine (all together in one dinosaurian hunk of plastic); a record player that cost half as much as the parts I’d need to fix it and a bargain-bin electric power washer that literally blew apart 15 minutes into use. Let me know if you want any of that stuff. Otherwise, I’m making it into planters.
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is our garages can all stand a thorough mucking out now and again, and not only our actual garages—our metaphorical mental garages, as well.
And let’s not limit the cleansing power of mucking to garages, either.
When the going gets tough, the tough can also muck out the fridge; reorganize the cabinets; sweep the woodstove chimney; take in all the glass recycling; squeegee the gross blob of eagle poop off the kitchen window that’s been there since June; get in better shape so they no longer almost pass out buckling up their ski boots; update their website… the list goes on.
Here’s one thing the tough don’t do: begin their day with a bag of doughnuts and a three-hour nap.
It’s good to remind myself of that from time to time.
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears twice monthly in Neighbors.