Once upon a time, I shared a great fondness with millions of North Americans toward an ideal village community in a remote region of Alaska made up of quirky loveable independent souls. This town Of Cicely is exposed to the glorious Riviera of Alaska and is a very long days drive from my home.
During the depths of the dog days of summer a friend and I were feeling a profound sense of disconnect and loss in our community. We hoped to fill that emptiness by visiting and reaching out to Cicely and her friends .
Late afternoon, we rolled onto the downtown business district. One street, one hypnotic blinking red light , a bar in a corner of a BRICK building that looks like an old bank, a raggedy ann grocery store, a radio station with a big bear sculpture outside, an old fashion storefront doctors office and a collection of 40’s storefronts accessed by a rickety wooden boardwalk.
Finding a parking place in between rows of antique auto’s and hells angels bikes we headed directly to the Brick where our old friends from Northern Exposure would hang out. Looking good so far, expecting to sit at the bar and order a humongous Hollings hamburger. Instead we walked into a pizza palace. Not the Brick or anything like it. Shock set in immediately exposing our quirky community as a rude myth. We stumbled out of there and headed down the street ending up in front of the K- Bear radio station. Sure enough behind the reflections of the plate glass window was Chris’s empty dj chair where he offered his star struck discourses . Maurices Astronaut suit looming standing up behind him . We wandered down opposite end of the street past the grocery store which is still an active store just without Ruth Ann and Ed. The legend finally shattered across the street at an eerily vacant Dr. Fleishmans office with its still peeling wallpaper and no patients. By then we were totally bummed out from our long trip and our foolhardiness. Expecting to grasp something we so loved in Cicely/ Roselyn, Wa.
Looming in front of us was a two story camel mural. Not a moose. It is the side the Roselyn café which we entered to soothe our grief and fatigue. We sat at a bright red checkered clothed table. We were promptly served by a vivacious petite waitress with a matching red checkered apron. Johanna smiled at us and immediately asked what happened? We shared our grief and basically said Cicely and Northern Exposure was a total myth. Wait a second as she scurried out to the back of the restaurant.
A minute later she came back to our table and silently handed us a stack of black and white photographs. Open mouthed we saw the beautiful face of Ed Chigliack in different poses, a troop of belly dancer and the faces of a myriad of portraits of people smiling quirky looking people . Johanna see this town took myself and my son in when I had nowhere to go in Minnesota. They gave me a job and place in the community. I joined the belly dancing community of which Roselyn is the center to the belly dancing world on the West Coast. Darren/Ed is my boyfriend and he has supported me and encouraged me to pursue my photography.
Johanna’s energy certainly quickly turned us around and rekindled our faith and hope in the sacred gifts that true living communities offer. We spent the rest of the day walking the neighborhood chatting with all the friendly residents learning many of the stories in the TV series were adapted from the community.
We breathed in a feeling of great relief and gratitude on that autumn day there are great possibilities for this human experiment we are intricately a part of.
From the Pilot to the last episode at Tranquility Base – Thanks to Joshua Brand and John Farley and Our friends- Adam Arkin , Darren Burrows (ed), John Corbett, Barry Corbin, John Cullum,Anthony Edwards, Cynthia Geary, Grant Goodeve, Graham Greene, Elaine Miles, Rob Morrow, Peg Phillips, Teri Polo, Janine Turner