Not your kids alone, of course. They shouldn’t talk to strangers. But, you or the whole family, you should talk to lots of strangers. In Seward AK, I met a grandma from Anchorage on the bench at the playground who was in town to see her daughter perform in the July 4th street circus after graduating from circus school in Vermont. I told her of my interest in visiting Wasilla. She sort of laughed and then politely said “there are nicer places to visit.” Now, I know my friends (some of whom might even be reading this) have told me the same thing but it doesn’t quite have the same impact from a friend. When a stranger nearly chokes trying to hold back the giggles, it makes an impact. We did have to drive through Wasilla and, ah, well, let’s just say, I was glad to have chatted with that Grandma on that bench.
Later that same night in Seward, Bill and I wandered up to A Swan Nest Inn (which is really nice by the way) and started chatting with Heather, born and raised in Seward. She was happy to hear that we were enjoying Alaska (“all native Alaskans just want you to love Alaska”) and then surprised to learn that we were enjoying our hotel, the Van Gilder. “Did they tell you about ghost?” We heard a nice story about a love affair, a jealous husband, and a murder. And then we narrowed it down. “Don’t worry, she only roams the second floor.” (We’re staying on the second floor.) “The murder happened down the hall to the left of the stairs.” (Yeah, that’s the way to our room). “In one of the rooms that looks to the street.” (Un-hun) “The room that looks out to the left, toward the water.” (Yup, that’s the room where we had left our kids.) We later discovered that the owner had written a book “The ghost of Fannie Guthry-Baehm: A murder mystery” and, right there on page one, he mentions … Room 202! Now, how are you gonna find out that your hotel room is haunted if you don’t talk to strangers. (Needless-to-say, we didn’t tell the kids until morning). Heather also convinced us to go on a local dog sled tour and that was some excellent advice!
We also met nearly-80-year-old woman in Talkeetna, AK who was living off the grid year round. And, I discovered that our shuttle driver back at the Jet Motel in Seattle was taking workshops on street hypnosis.