Juneau: City of broad shoulder seasons

Normally, when it comes to the weather, I’m an undying optimist. Ask my wife; it drives her nuts. Ever hear the term “sucker hole?” I’m the sucker and that’s my hole.


But at this point, even I can’t deny: summer’s gone, no matter how long I keep wearing cut-off jean shorts, which also drives my wife nuts (she really hates the cut-off jean shorts).

That’s right, it’s shoulder season again, and we’re about to get buried in it. Shoulder deep.

By “shoulder season,” of course, I mean the seemingly endless limbo before winter finally starts (and then, on the other side, finally stops). You keep your eyes trained for the first sprinklings of termination dust amidst torrents of sideways rain, castigating yourself for applying your PFD toward a brand new set of studded tires instead of a Hawaii vacation. That’s shoulder season.

Seriously. I haven’t felt such palpable tension since last election night (and we all know how that turned out). When will it be winter? What kind of winter will it be? Do we have enough Gore-Tex or too much?!

And the worst part is, this anxiety won’t let up until prevailing climactic conditions sort themselves out, and who knows the time schedule for that. Could be tomorrow. Could be February. Could be — dare I even give it voice — winter 2018-19.

Anyway, consider a year in which the whole winter is shoulder season: 40s, cloudy, 70 percent of rain changing to 100 percent of whatever weekend you’ve booked a Forest Service cabin.

Now, this may follow a regular Juneau summer — which, even in the best-case scenario is like winter to most of the Lower 48 — or a summer more akin to shoulder season, itself. For example, summer 2017.

Then of course, you have those years when summer is shoulder season, fall is winter, winter is shoulder season and spring is both summer and winter on an alternating Monday-Wednesday-every-other-Friday schedule.

Or how about when the entire year is one long shoulder season?

And then there’s the ultimate: one long shoulder season, but sort of moving up and down the shoulder, like now it’s at your neck, and now it’s at your collar bone, then — whoah! — it jumps over to your clavicle, then it’s on your scapulae, then over to where Jon Bon Jovi has that Superman tattoo.

Lately, I’ve given this a lot of thought. After all, there’s nothing else to do around here these days but think. Well, except maybe watch TV, but watching TV is the lazy man’s thinking, so …

I don’t understand why they call it shoulder season in the first place. If we’re going for true anatomical verisimilitude, I’ve got a much better name for it: “perineum season.”

What? Perineum. Go ahead and Google it ... Just not while you’re at work. Or, better yet, sit it on a childbirth class. They love talking about perineums in there — or is the plural form “perinea?” Incidentally, is it just me or are some people a little too comfortable discussing perinea in public?

Anyway, most U.S. cities have a nickname — a sobriquet to capture the essence of a metropolitan area in a few short words: “The Big Apple,” “The Big Easy,” “Skankorage.”

Obviously, Juneau goes by the “Capital City.” But this hardly does justice to such an amazingly quirky little burg, where nearly 65 inches of liquid precipitation fall annually but no one carries an umbrella, a McDonald’s location fails while three different public radio stations succeed and the weather calibrates the mood of every single one of its 32,406 residents, sometimes moment to moment.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with (now stay with me, here): If Chicago is known as the “City of Broad Shoulders,” then surely Juneau should be the “City of Broad Shoulder Seasons.” Eh? Eh?

It’s no more ridiculous than changing Groundhog Day to Marmot Day, and we’ve been celebrating that up here for the past eight years, now.

What? Marmot Day. Go ahead and Google that, too (again, unless you’re at work, especially if you’ve already Googled perineum — the IT guys will think you’re some kind of deviant).

My point is this: it doesn’t matter whether the marmot sees its shadow or not. We’re in for another six weeks of shoulder season.

• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears every second and fourth Sunday.


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