As far as years go, 2019 doesn’t seem particularly auspicious: no elections, no Olympics, no leap day … it isn’t even a prime number.
Still, the 2019th year of the Common Era enjoys some noteworthiness. For instance, there’s the Cricket World Cup to look forward to, not to mention the Transit of Mercury (although here in Juneau, good luck being able to view either). And did you know the United Nations General Assembly designated 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Elements? Finally, an opportunity to unleash one-liners like “I asked the guy sitting next to me if he had any Sodium Hypobromite; he said ‘NaBrO.’” Not feeling that one? Well, that’s the trick with chemistry jokes: keep trying until you get a reaction. Hey-yo!
Of course, 2019 bears special significance to me. You see, this year marks the 10th anniversary of “Slack Tide.” That’s right, I’ve been slacking off for an entire decade now. And they said it couldn’t be done.
Obviously, I admit to feeling a certain measure of pride. After all, 10 years is quite a while for anyone to do anything, even if I only do it twice a month … in my pajamas … sometimes mildly intoxicated.
In fact, I’ve written “Slack Tide” longer than I’ve done anything else in my life, except parenting (which I also do in my pajamas, sometimes mildly intoxicated). During that time I’ve composed more than 200,000 words worth of jokes about tanzanite, Marmot Day, salmon jerky, jaywalking, Fred Meyer, fish blood-stained Carhartts, dented fenders, cracked windshields, open primaries, whisky, WD-40, duct tape, blue tarps, combination sheet metal/bridal shops and poop … so many poop jokes. Indeed, “Dog Turds of Alaska” ranks amongst my personal favorite columns, along with “Your Juneau Staycation,” and “Proposed: Alaska’s State Utensil Shall Be Bear Claw Salad Tongs.” And I’ll always have a place in my heart for “Guns Don’t Kill People; Mail Order Tactical Knives Kill People.”
Two columns a month, every month for a decade adds up to a significant body of work. Is it the body I thought I’d have? No, but then, whose is? Okay, Marky Mark, but who else?
As I’ve said before, everyone has a “what I’m doing in Alaska” story: I got a job; I followed a girl; I watched too much Discovery Channel; my ancestors crossed a land bridge from Asia sometime between 60,000 and 50,000 BCE.
But nobody moves here to become a humorist, except me.
You see, I spent most of my 20s almost-but-not-quite making it in New York City. Back around the turn of the millennium, for instance, it came down to me and one other person for a staff-writing position on a major late-night TV show. Guess who got the gig.
Eventually, I grew tired of taking that particular beating. I’d also recently completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction — despite my questionable “mastery” — and figured why not let literary agents reject me for a change? Plus, my fiancée was starting a one-year internship in the 49th state and I really didn’t feel like getting married over Skype.
And so I headed north, to the future (by which I mean the present), where I would write a novel.
Well, you know what they say: the road to hell is paved with plans to write a novel. Ten years later, I’m still tinkering with the opening sentence.
Why? First of all, my wife and I decided to have kids, and that’s been a whole project unto itself.
But also, way back in 2009, a friend of mine offered me the perfect procrastinatory outlet: a regular humor column in the Juneau Empire. I mean, I couldn’t possibly work on a novel, not with a “Slack Tide” deadline looming. And there’s always a deadline looming. Interestingly enough, this also happens whenever I think about expanding “Slack Tide” into a book.
Fiction is an art; humor is a craft. Once you learn the process and technique you can crank out piece after piece after piece, forever. Ten years? That’s nothing. I’ll be writing “Slack Tide” from beyond the grave (you should read my will — it’s hilarious).
Anyway, did you know they call the 10th anniversary the Aluminum Anniversary? That’s fitting, considering all the cans of beer I intend to consume — responsibly — in celebration.
And I will raise a toast to anyone and everyone who’s ever read “Slack Tide.” My only goal for writing it — aside from avoiding other, more unpleasant tasks — is simple: to entertain you for a little while, every second and fourth Sunday. Succeed or fail, thank you, Juneau, for supporting my attempts. Maybe with another 10 years under my belt, I’ll actually know what I’m doing.
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears every second and fourth Sunday in Neighbors.