It was probably 1991 or 1992, July 4. Maybe 1990. I was separated from my husband. He had our two small kids for the day. I was sad, hurt, and lonely. Therefore, I did not want to be alone. Fortunately, my friend, Erin, and her boyfriend allowed me to invite myself out to their house in Indian, Alaska.
They were just going to spend the day painting the exterior steps into their home on the second floor. Their garage was most of the downstairs. Which, I always thought was kind of funny since, they usually parked their cars outside. At least, that is where I always saw their cars when I was there. I would NEVER park my car outside in Indian. I guess after living there for some time it was not an upsetting or unusual thing. Several other friends of ours who lived in Indian also parked their vehicles outside. Very, very close to their steps. I asked why they didn’t use their garages? They found it inconvenient. Besides, they parked close to the steps and even more their two big dogs (most had at least one dog) to protect them. My eyes bugged out and I just could not believe what I had just heard. I asked them what they would do if something got between their car and the stairs? Calmly, they said they would either run for the stairs or get back into their cars. Now, I know adrenaline can make you stronger and faster. But, I knew there was no amount of adrenaline that could make me strong enough or fast enough to reach those stairs and CLIMB those stairs, and unlock the door, open it, and get inside before something bad happened. Erin and Dan were oblivious to this possibility.
Most of the houses had their entries on the second floor. Usually, the stairs to the second floor front door were rather narrow. Far more narrow than one might find at nearly any home in the lower 48.
This day was a beautiful sunny summer day. I was depressed about the sad state of my marriage. I had recently kicked my husband out of the house for cheating on me. That is an entirely different story to be told at another time.
Erin and Dan were both excited for me to see their beautiful back deck and the new fencing they put up in their back yard. It was meant to keep the wild life out. Part of the chain link fence had already been knocked down. But, not by their two big, incredibly furry dogs. Though, it may have been that the wildlife was chasing the dogs and just busted through the fence in their exuberance. It was the time of year when teen-agers were running around wild in the Chugach mountains. Incredibly, big. Incredibly furry. Incredibly strong teen-agers. Too big for the dogs to do more than bark fiercely from the second floor deck or run like hell.
Anyway, I hung out with Erin and Dan all day. I did a little painting. Neither my heart nor mind were in any way into painting. So, really , they painted. I pretty much just got in their way. They were incredibly kind and patient with me.
After several hours of talking and painting and splashing paint and water at each other, and some laughter, and fun, it was dinner time. I had an Entertainment Coupon Book (I love these coupon books), it went everywhere I went. I always bought Entertainment Coupon Books. Every year, in nearly every city I have ever lived in. Anchorage was no exception. In the book was a coupon for a Buy-One-Get-One-Free Pizza at Chair5 Restaurant. Dan decided he did not want to go. Erin was all in. She and I washed up a little. When I say a little, I mean nearly not at all. Pretty much we just washed our hands and splashed a little water on our filthy faces. She was hot, tired, and hungry. Me? Well, I was tired, hot and hungry, too. Clearly, not for the same reasons.
Anyway, Erin and I drove to Girdwood to Chair5 for our pizza pig-out. We each ordered our favorite pizza. There was so much left over pizza. YUM! We tried our best to finish them both off. But, that was impossible. There was no way either of us was going to let one slice of either pizza go to waste. So, the server boxed up our pizzas and Erin and I drove back to Indian and Dan.
We get out of the car and I take the leftover pizza upstairs into the house with us. I put it on the kitchen counter and forget about it. I stay for a while. Quite a while, actually. They have some beers. I cannot drink. This is another story. Suffice it to say if I could have alcohol that was one night I would definitely have drunk and gotten drunk. There are still times, like this, that I wish I could drink. Anyway, they drank and we watched a movie. Darn it. I cannot remember which movie we saw. By the time all of the beer had been drunk and the movie was over it was about 1:00 a.m. Still plenty light outside. The blessing and curse of Alaska. Light all day all summer and night all day in winter.
We again discussed who should keep the rest of the pizza. Should I take the rest of the pizza home? Should Erin and Dan keep it? I won. There is no loser when you get to take home your favorite Chair5 pizza. I was tired. Erin and I took about 15 minutes to say good night. Then, she walked me out to the front door landing. As I was standing there, talking some more I realize I have left the pizza inside. I decided to let Erin have the pizza. She would have none of that. We already went through that argument and I won. She was not going to go through it again.
So, I went back inside and grabbed the pizza box off the kitchen counter. I went back outside to the upper stair deck. I gave Erin a big hug of thanks and good bye. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a BIG blonde back. This was no human head of hair I was detecting. What I saw was likely just a teen-ager. Well, that is what we Alaskans call 2-year old Grizzly bears. They’ve been weaned and are on their own for the first time in their lives.
I scream at Erin to get inside. “GET INSIDE! GET INSIDE!
LOCK THE DOOR! LOCK THE DOOR! LOCK THE…..”well, you get it. I am FuhREA-KING OUT!!! She and Dan are laughing at me and asking me, “Why should we lock the door?” How could they be this calm? I am yelling, only slightly less loud and hysterical than my previous screaming, “If the bear gets up the steps it just has to paw at the door knob and it is IN!!! If its locked it can’t!!!!!!!!!?” Makes perfect sense to me, damn it.
Once I am safely inside, and Erin has LOCKED the door I turn around. I notice Dan is sitting on the couch laughing at me. Almost so hard he cannot breath. I am so freaking scared and excited at the same time. I mean I have been close to bears before and would be again. But, not under these circumstances.
Anyway, Dan is laughing at me. The door locking insistence must have sent him right over the edge into hysteria. I calm down enough to realize I am nOT going outside again. Tonight or EVER!
Ok, well I will. But, it would be a while.
Dan kept telling me the most outrageous thing I had EVER heard. “The bear is more afraid of you than you are of it.” He kept saying that as if I were going to believe him. I countered that this was an impossibility. I told him, in no uncertain words, “There was NO WAY any Bear was more afraid of me than I was of IT!” “It has 5-inch long claws. Of which there are 5 on each paw. That makes 20 claws on 4 very strong paws at the end of four very STRONG legs/arms! It has a jaw that can snap the thick leg bone of a full-grown moose like we can a small wooden toothpick! Me?!?!?! I am a soft, high fat, high energy, high calorie, appetizer to the bear.” “AND I WAS DELIVERING ITS PIZZA!!!!” Only I was the topping!
Erin and Dan finally stop laughing, so loud, and calm me down. They have me stay as long as I want. I am now totally terrified of going to my car. It is parked OUTSIDE. It is NOT the one closest to the bottom of the stairs. AND I LOCKED IT! Who the HELL did I think was going to steal anything from my car in their driveway in the middle of Indian, F-ing Alaska!!!!?
I just missed being the take home pizza for a 500 pound+- curious, and always hungry teen-age GRIZZLY BEAR! If I had not forgotten the pizza and had not turned around to go back inside to get the pizza I would have been the Bear’s DINNER! Special Delivery!
It took Dan and their two big dogs closely escorting me to my car that morning.
That day an Italian sausage, Chair5 pizza saved my life.