The Skagway seniors pose with Alaska’s senior senator on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Photos courtesy Class of 2002

A SHS senior’s swan song

Editor’s note: Earlier this month, prior to graduation, reporter Stan Bush and six classmates from the Class of 2002 spent 10 days in the Washington, D.C. area for their Close Up/Senior trip. This is their story. Part 1 appeared in the May 31 issue.

By STAN BUSH

Part 2 of 2
Day 4- Tuesday Close Up #2
After what became the usual disappointing breakfast we were taken to another seminar that had all the makings of a boring 50 minutes. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The speaker knew how to get the attention of a high school audience. He immediately asked if anyone enjoyed homework. Of course, no one raised their hands. Then if anyone liked tests. The results were the same. He then said that in his class there will never be either of these. When asking if anyone would like to join his class everyone’s hands shot up in a knee-jerk reaction. He said that schools teach out of fear not out of desire. That put him on our good side instantaneously. The rest of the seminar was a Q & A session on pacifism and the media. He said how the media is controlled by the money and that the news you receive tells only of the rich and none of the poor. He left to a standing ovation and afterwards nearly 100 participants signed up for his monthly newsletter.
Lunch was then held at Union Station. On the bus ride everyone was given 35 dollars to call their own to feed themselves over the next four days. While many spent their time in the crowded food court, Kristin and Ashley decided to spend that time doing what they loved, shopping. Shopping was the mainstay of their diet. And a dollar less spent eating was a dollar more saved for shopping. They seemed like drug addicts in lockdown. When they weren’t shopping they were talking about it and when they were shopping it seemed like they were already planning for more shopping. The two of them moved like twin tornadoes through a wheat field. There was absolutely no wasted movement between the two of them. Those months of preparation and anticipation had clearly paid off as they rivaled the speed of FloJo and Marion Jones in the 200m.
That night at the hotel, CJ, the head PI of this Close Up group had come to our room and asked if our window opened to its full extent. Unknowing of the consequences, our roommate Juan said, “Oh yeah, opens all the way, it’s awesome.”
CJ had quickly responded that they were going to put a stopper in it closing it for good. We felt like morons. We totally blew our air conditioning situation in five seconds. When the repair man came to fix the window we had disguised it to appear as though it was already fixed. We held them off for one day at least. Apparently a big stink had gone on the previous night when a couple of girls who had the same window situation as us went outside on the ledge at night and decided to run around knocking on everyone’s window.
After the “Saga of the Window,” I had wandered down the hallway to one of the workshop rooms that were being designated as hangout areas for people to keep the hallways free of people. As I walked down the hallway, I saw Chris running the table in a card game called Spades. He had learned the game only the other day and, being the card hound that he is, he was already beating the people who had taught him the game. The apprentice had seemingly become the master.
The workshop room was bustling with activity. Music thumped with a steady bass line as a couple of girls from Newark were teaching a girl from Palmer how to dance (and when I say dance I don’t mean that kind of walk in place, slow strutting dance, I’m talking about that Houdini-style, getting jiggy with it mind bending movement) The people from New Jersey were as smooth and sleek with their dancing as the Palmer girl was herky and jerky. Patrick Kane, a student from South Burlington, Vermont, said later in the week about the dancing. “It looks like someone dropped a big bowl of Jell-O on the floor.” Clearly Mr. Kane was also very impressed by the foreign dancing.
I also played the part of sheltered Alaskan, when a couple of guys were talking about doo-rags and tilting their hat when I asked, “What is the Wave-Cap for?” It was like one of those moments in the movies when someone does something really stupid and the music stops, or when the man drinks the bitter beer in the Keystone commercials. All eyes were on me – it felt like – until I said that I was from Alaska. Then they all seemed to have that typical, “figures” look on their faces and they went about their business. However, before the night was over, I knew the doo-rags practical use and was on my way to knowing the true way to be cool in the city. I have decided in this that I am probably much safer staying away from such things as icee, bling-bling, doo-rags, and corn rows though.
After room check and lock down, the party didn’t seem to end. Clayton had decided that it was time to invest in a little prank calling. Clayton decided not to reveal his own name and instead used the name of our roommate Danny. Clayton proceeded with the calling by talking of a man who was unable to control his own flatulence, as well as other bodily functions. The stories that he told had us in stitches the entire night, and as he got to the funniest part of one of the stories, he laughed so hard that he fell over. We were laughing so hard that we could hardly breathe. We were sure that Danny would never get another girl to talk to him for the rest of his natural life as Clayton purposely called girls’ rooms. The mud was in Clayton’s eyes the next day, though, as girls were flirting with Danny from sunrise to sunset. Clayton went around that very day and specifically said it was him, however he was telling it to all they wrong people. The people that he told were now furious with him for interrupting their sleep. Unfortunately for him, he had lost twice at once.

Day 5- Wednesday Close Up #3
On our Capitol Hill Day I had managed to get on C-SPAN for a Close Up program to ask questions to Washington insiders about growing democracies and the media. While I was at the studio in Rossyln the rest of the students from Alaska were waiting outside in a heat wave for our senators and congressmen. Tyson was able to get a picture with Sen. Stevens, but it looked like he might have gotten a little too close. Ty had the senator in a tight, one armed embrace. The senator looks shocked in the picture - like he is ready to call for the secret service.
The feelings about the day were constant throughout the entire group. While may people were disappointed with the visit with Stevens and Murkowski, everybody was very pleased with Don Young, who took the entire group into an air-conditioned room for a retreat from the heat.
Dinner was at Pentagon City, a gigantic shopping center. Kristin and Ashley darted off for a power shopping trip. They weren’t the only ones though. It looked like a bunch of people had copied their plan to shop, and when returning back to the buses people had more full shopping bags than full stomachs.

Day 6- Thursday Close Up #4
We moved back into our groups for what was really the last day of Close Up. The buses went their own ways. Mine had taken us to a seminar at the Peace Corps and a visit to the zoo. At the zoo one of the Puerto Rican kids made a sound that was straight out of the Jungle Book. The sound woke up the rhinos and sent the buffalo into a fury.
The other group had gone to the Habitat for Humanity but we all met up at the Hard Rock Café that night when we ate together. After they took our order all of us made quick work of the gift store.
The week was starting to get monotonous. It was a good time for something new and while most people thought that the play we watched that night, Polk County, was the answer, the real anticipation was for a free day in the city.
Day 7- Friday Washington Free Day and Banquet
It was a huge relief to take a break from the Close Up system. On this morning most of us decided to sleep in. Chris and Mr. V tried to get tickets to see the White House but without any results. In the morning I had been able to convince David Wilson, a X-C runner from Wrangell and also one of the buyers of the FOakleys, to run the National Mall with me.
Back at the hotel the rest of the Skagway group was still sound asleep. Most of them had decided to spend the day at the Tyson Shopping Center, the largest in the DC area. While they did that, I caught the last hour of the Tony Kornheiser radio show at the ESPNZone in downtown. While I was eating at the zone and watching their multiplex of TV’s I saw Joe Thiesman, hall of fame quarterback, walk right past me and into the studio. I couldn’t believe that he was sitting one booth away the entire afternoon and I hadn’t even noticed. I felt like an idiot for not even knowing. Then, as soon as I realized where he was sitting, he left. So after the radio show I decided I didn’t just want to have sat there and done nothing, so I rushed into the studio and met Kornheiser and was able to talk to him for a couple minutes before he scurried away. so the day wasn’t a total wash.
I got back to the hotel at five and the only one who was back was Crystal. She had spent the day at the Holocaust Museum with a group of Samoan girls instead of taking the mall trip. The rest of the group was 30 minutes late. Apparently there was a lot to see. They said that the mall consisted of both a rich mans and poor man’s sections.
Our day concluded with a banquet where Shockley and I were selected by our respective groups to give speeches on what we had done during the week, followed by a talent show and dance where that Palmer girl was able to show what she had learned on Tuesday night. (She didn’t look like she had learned much.) Kristin and I agreed that in Skagway we’re pretty good dancers but anywhere else, we pretty much suck.
After saying our good byes and getting addresses from other people at close up we spent the next day traveling to Williamsburg and resting from the week’s experience.

Day 9- Williamsburg
The humidity in Williamsburg was ten times worse than it was in DC. We didn’t want to spend the whole time just sitting around, so all of us, with the exception of Kristin and Ashley went to Water Country, USA. The other two girls went shopping and Kristin said that she had water behind her ears and couldn’t get wet.
The water park was a horrific sight. Not the park but our pasty white bodies in the sun. I’m surprised that no one was blinded by the reflection off us as we strolled through the park. We decided that since we were really white, we needed to get as tan as possible in the next two days. Big mistake. We had used SPF 2 and 8 as sun protection. It worked more like a magnifying glass in the water than a protector. We were getting fried like eggs the entire day and we didn’t even know it.
We just kept on going, riding slides all day and standing in the wave pool letting the water knock us over. By the time we went to dinner at Red Lobster several of us looked as red as the crustaceans on our plates. And it was the first time that many of us had had lobster. Ty tried to crack the claws open with so much force that the shell flung into the air and landed straight into my lap. It was a truly barbaric experience. By the time dinner was over the table looked like it had been in a hurricane.
The day ended with several of us lathering our backs up with coconut lotion to soothe the pain of the burn.
Day 10- Final day back East
Our last day was spent at Busch Gardens. As we approached the park, Shockley began to rant about how terrified he was about roller coasters. Tyson and I had to trick him into going onto the first one, but after that there was no looking back. In one ride Shockley had gained what he called his “Coaster guts” (Please understand that the word guts is not the real word he said but in order to keep this article at a PG level, that word will be used as the substitute. I can, however tell you, if you haven’t already figured out that the word he used rhymed with the place that the girls spent most of their time.)
Shockley outlasted almost everybody. At the day’s end he had ridden 31 times on four extreme rides. What would be that last run by our agreement ended up being the 10th ride until we were actually done.
At day’s end we drove back to Washington in a rain storm. And to complete the trip we saw two lightning bolts while crossing a river south of Arlington. With everyone exhausted and homesick, we were anxious to be home the next day in familiar beds surrounded by familiar walls.