Diana and Kéa will attempt to return to the top of the world today. No guarantees. Relief from the grip of New England’s current heat wave is in sight, but not before thunderstorms preceeding a cold front are forecast to move through Boston. If the current weather predictions hold, it will be a race to beat the storms. Godspeed.
It’s been quite the summer. We knew we had our work cut out for us, but we had no idea the quantity. Living in blissful Alaskan ignorance, the rent checks showed up from 4528 miles away more or less on time, and any impending maintenance to our Rhode Island house was just an eventuality. Something we knew would require attention…someday. Whether we were rolling around the Kenai in our 1987 Volkswagen Westfalia or traveling to some far corner of the world, it was all too easy to simply kick the can down the road. With busy lives, we became absent landlords. Out of sight, out of mind.
The irony is that we are our own worst enemy. In more ways than one. While neglecting our home in Rhode Island, we have been battling a shadowy reflection of ourselves here in Alaska. Three years ago we jumped on an opportunity to move from Baja Girdwood to what we thought was “uptown.” It’s anything but. We lucked into a strange agreement with a friend of former US Senator Stevens family, fit each of a long list of stipulations and requirements, and ended up being the family to end up in the infamous home of Ted Stevens.
The house is incredible, thanks to some high-end improvements made by various oil company subsidiaries. It also got Ted into a lot of trouble. The FBI had wire taps into what is now our back office, and eventually raided the property. https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/31/washington/31stevens.html Stevens was ultimately acquitted. Without getting into historic detail, we now live in the house that brought down the house. More specifically, we now live in the house that brought down the house….next to the crack house.
About two years ago, the run-down abandoned cabin next to our house became a rental property of sorts. Two ski seasons ago it was home to all night raves, cocaine extravaganzas, and a revolving door of dereliction. We spent the better part of the winter with the Troopers on speed dial, who did little to nothing about it. I made the usual trip next door to attempt reason with the vagrants living there, but to no avail. They eventually moved out or died, I’m not sure which, and a new crew of harmless ski bums moved in. We were relieved and existed in relative Girdwood harmony and mutual respect. Peace in the valley.
Fast forward to May 2018. Girdwood, Alaska. We returned from our annual Mexican pilgrimage to find a new special brand of delinquency. The peaceful hippies had been replaced by William The Wandering Chef, someone named K-VIV, a super-drunk named Kasey, and Rachel the heroin addict. Our neighborhood went from never having to lock a door to collectively training shotguns on the ever-growing throngs of drug traffic speeding up and down our once sleepy short street.
Our dream home had turned into a nightmare. Kéa spent all of June with the doors locked, afraid to leave the house. William The Wandering Chef could be heard retching into the creek next door at all hours of the day. Loud fights would ensue nightly between the hours of 1 and 5 am. The acrid smell of Meth smoke wafted above the weeds hiding strewn whiskey bottles and beer cans. Trash was everywhere. Again and again, I rolled up my sleeves to knock on their door to plead for sanity. Mostly my own. But you can’t reason with someone on LSD and Methamphedamines. At least the heroin girl was mostly passed out and quiet.
We have since organized a neighborhood watch group and have had several meetings with local law enforcement. Diana and I both dug into a fairly extensive investigation to find out where these people worked, who their parents were, and any detail that might serve to remedy the intolerable situation. The property is owned by a well-known grifter. On May 28th, he put the deed and title into his daughter’s name to avoid the lot being taken in one of many legal suits being levied against him.
After some research, we learned that all four of the drug addicts next door worked at Alyeska Resort. I promptly wrote an e-mail to the owner of Alyeska, who to his credit, called me no less than 45 minutes later and assured me that he was aware of the problem. The behavior next door failed to change, regardless. One or two of the renters were exchanged for three or four others who were just as bad, if not worse. The state of affairs had gone from a menacing nuisance to downright dangerous.
Eventually, July 11th came knocking on our calendar. Feeling extremely apprehensive, we packed our bags, locked our doors and windows, and flew to Rhode Island. It was a welcome break…briefly. Upon the horror of our initial inspection of 91 High Street, we had to look in the mirror and face the fact that we had become the very landlords we now waged a battle against. Karmic irony is a bitch.
It’s now exactly one month later. 91 High Street is beautiful. Our little South County, RI town has matured into a bustling but quaint hamlet, and we’re grateful to the many people who have helped us bring our 1887 Colonial home back from the dead. A very special thanks to Scott (Uncle Scotty) Young for not only saving our asses in the 2015 move from Hottentot Mine Road to Northland, but for coming to RI on his own dime to shepard the revival of 91 High Street. A true glutton for punishment, what Scotty did for us qualifies as nothing short of Saintly.
Returning to Alaska has been bittersweet. It’s stunningly beautiful. We have built a life here and it’s the only true home Kéa knows. Girdwood, despite the ongoing drug epidemic, is a warm and caring community of incredible people. We have been afforded opportunity in Alaska that reaches beyond any we could have imagined elsewhere. Still, my heart aches for South County, RI. Freshly reacquainted with the charm and character of Rhode Island, I miss it the same as the day we loaded a U-Haul 18 years ago to drive “North to the future.”
I hope you have enjoyed 91 Why Street. It was fun to chronicle the anguish and package our misery into nice five paragraph essays of pain for your entertainment. In the two days I’ve been home in AK, the neighbors have either died or all switched from meth and booze to heroin. I haven’t seen or heard them. My new quest is to get the house next door condemned and torn down. Maybe the next Blog Project? Thank you for following along. In the words of my hero Edward R. Murrow, “Goodnight, and good luck.”
Other Blog Projects by Halfwaybright include: