In Alaska, it seems you find novel uses for all sorts of things, such as de-icing your driveway with a weed-burner or scratching your back with bear claw salad tongs. A guy up the road shingled his garage top to bottom with old LP records—vinyl siding, literally.
This idiosyncratic utilitarianism owes to several factors. First, almost any activity up here requires way burlier gear than you’d use anywhere else. For instance, in Alaska, you can’t pull some sport fish into your boat without shooting them first (right in the face). Up here, routine yard maintenance requires a chainsaw and outdoor summer wedding attire means full Grundens.
But of course, Alaskans also prize resourcefulness for its own merit. Since living here, I’ve learned masonry trowels make excellent spatulas, spatulas make excellent Play-Doh tools and Play-Doh tools make extremely painful things to step on in the middle of the night.
Now, this is to say nothing of the tarp. Up here, people use tarps as windows, tarps as roofing, tarps as carports, tarps as boat sheds, tarps as wood sheds, tarps for tying down truckloads of other tarps, tarps as outerwear, tarps as underwear — heck, a section of tarp, a washcloth and some bungie cords, you got yourself an Alaskan diaper, sir.
Then, of course, there’s Alaska’s favorite all-purpose material. You know the one I mean (hint: it rhymes with “plucked ape”).
We all have our favorite uses for duct tape: book covers; wallets; reattaching bumpers; wrapping and/or sealing ducts (interestingly enough, among its least effective uses); as a cheap durable, mummy costume for Halloween; lifting and separating when you wear a strapless evening gown. The list goes on.
However, fond as I am of duct tape, I love another multi-use adhesive even more. And I don’t mean electrical tape (although that’s good stuff, too, especially for fashioning a makeshift puck to slap around the garage when you’re supposed to be cleaning it out, as opposed to blasting Van Halen and playing push-broom hockey with yourself).
No, I’m talking about cyanoacrylate, commonly sold under the trade name Krazy Glue.
First of all, Krazy Glue is more than just regular glue. It’s krazy — with a “k.” It can’t get much crazier than that. Okay, fine, “Qrazy Glue.” But that’s it.
They say that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, when all you have is a tube of Krazy Glue, everything looks like a construction worker hanging by his hard hat from a steel girder.
I use Krazy Glue for all sorts of projects: reattaching coffee cup handles; repairing furniture; patching waders; fixing broken Play-Doh tools after stepping on them in the middle of the night. I’ve reattached several toenails with it.
Hobby enthusiasts build models with Krazy Glue. Criminologists use Krazy Glue to reveal hidden fingerprints. Surgeons use Krazy Glue to close wounds. Krazy Glue was the basis of a hilarious gag involving a mix-up with shampoo in “Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment.” One story on krazyglue.com even tells of a man who used it to free himself from a portable toilet. I’d like to see duct tape do that.
Before I continue, let me go on record: for all you kids out there (and, let’s face it, some adults, too), I DO NOT condone the recreational sniffing of Krazy Glue. Not only can it cause permanent brain damage; you run the serious risk of accidentally gluing your nostrils shut. Talk about a buzz kill.
Which brings me to my favorite Krazy Glue usage: healing those annoying little splits I always get on my hands, especially this time of year.
I first learned of this particular utility from an accomplished wilderness first-responder. You know, one of those guys who’s got stories about stitching up his own wounds with duct tape sutures and a Leatherman after applying lighter fluid as an anti-septic (while simultaneously field dressing a moose).
The other day this friend’s son took a nasty spill, opening a several-inch gash in his head that necessitated a trip to the emergency room. Jokingly, I asked this friend why he didn’t just stitch it up with duct tape. Not nearly as jokingly, his wife said that was his original suggestion.
But of course, these friends weren’t hundreds of miles into the Alaskan wilderness (they were actually live a few houses up from the vinyl siding guy). Western medicine practiced by licensed providers at a state-accredited facility got the call that night. I think that’s important to remember — even in Alaska, sometimes a little modern civilization comes in handy.
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears twice monthly in Neighbors.