By Jennifer Williams, Contributor, US Daily Review.
At the present time, I’m in Juneau, Alaska for the summer. Last year, I learned how to knit when I was living and working here. It was one of those moments, when I walked into one of the yarn shops in town, that I decided it was time to unravel (pun intended) the mysteries of yarn. My then patient tutor, Nancy Fenton of Skeins Yarns, taught me a few basics. When I went home to Ohio, I eventually taught my husband to knit and he has taken to it. We now have a his and hers stashes. And my traveling stash has doubled since I’ve been here because of more than a few yarn purchases. This year, I took to hanging out at Seaside Yarns in the Wharf building near the cruise ship docks. Melissa, the owner, has several comfy chairs for the non-knitting partners to wait out the shopping of their yarn hound. There’s also fabulous coffee from a local roaster. So it makes for a cozy place to curl up on a rainy day and knit. On Saturday afternoons, the knitting circle shows up to knit and spin and I’ve made several new acquaintances in the creative world that exists here in Juneau. I was invited by them last week to the most unusual and not-be-missed Juneau cultural and social experience – knitting in a bar. Hey…it’s Alaska. They wear ExtraTuffs to weddings and church here. I’m pretty sure more than one person has been buried in them. Knitting in a bar…well, it makes perfect sense.
South Franklin Street is lined with bars – the Red Dog Saloon (primarily for the cruise ship folks), the Lucky Lady, the Imperial, the (legendary) Alaskan Hotel and Bar and finally the Baranof Hotel and the Bubble Room. The Bubble Room is an upscale place and less like one of the more interesting alternatives down the block (interesting in the sense of the difference between a Down South drunk and an Alaska drunk). I am licensed to serve alcohol in Alaska, if I chose, but my occasional run-ins with the weaving and bobbing milieu downtown has already told me that I just don’t need that kind of drama. So the Bubble Room is a wonderful alternative to the “real” bars a couple blocks down Franklin. The Nineties décor is funky and dark and the big tufted seats are comfortable if the lighting awful for knitting. But the point is not knitting and crocheting as much as it is a social gathering in a rather unusual venue. For those who do knit and crochet, this is a good time to get a drink and unwind (in some cases, literally) with your fellow yarn hounds. And yes, we talk knitting and yarn and “did you see that pattern on Ravelry?” I don’t drink but others ordered martinis and wine and pick up needles and hooks to continue with a project. We look down at our work while carrying on a constant stream of conversation. We go back and forth with topics, sharing yarn disaster stories that include the dog getting into the stash and eating yarn and when Junior made a lovely yarn canvas from that lace weight at $40/skein you set aside for a shawl. We stay away from controversial topics and just stick to family, shopping and yarn.
Alaska is a different place. It just “is”. You have to be here to understand that statement. People are different – they deal with seriously adverse weather conditions and crazy darkness in winter and then the mass influx of thousands of people in the summer. Especially here in Southeast, we know if you’re not from here (note to CB – you’re from here and the fanny pack has to go…dude…) since the cruise ship logo items and cameras hanging around your necks are a dead giveaway (although I’d like a Dam Ship hat). Fortunately, we are a kind lot here and if you buy yarn, you can sit in the comfy chairs and start your new project even when there is no knitting circle. We know that knitting in a bar is not one of the excursions that the cruise ship shore ex’s will recommend. It’s not in any of the brochures. And for the most part, cruise ships will depart long before you could hope to join us on a Wednesday. There are so many experiences to being here in Juneau and in Southeast Alaska in general that aren’t part of the official guide book information. It’s just a feeling though; not something that translates well into the written word. But you’ll know it when you find it here. I hope you will come back on your own someday. Then you can come up Franklin Street and enjoy an evening of that tried and true Alaska experience of knitting in a bar.
Jennifer Williams is adjunct faculty in American History at Ashland (OH) University and the American Public University System. She is also the teaching chef for the New Day Family Resource Center in Sandusky, Ohio. Her interests are photography and curling. She lives with her family in Norwalk, Ohio.