Monday, June 13, 2011
Fashion Sense Has No Age
A little girl, maybe 5, stands in front of me just inside the Aurora Ice Museum in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska. We're getting ready to see the artwork of Steve and Heather Brice, world-champion ice sculptors, and this little girl begins making a scene.
She's wearing a thin sweater and it's 20 degrees in here. So her mom wants her to wear a parka (provided by the museum) to keep warm. Mom pulls a parka off the rack and drapes it over her daughter's shoulders. Who whines: "It's too big."
To prove her point, the little girl deflates, making herself even smaller and making sure the parka slides off onto the floor. I want to laugh, but I can't, because mom's not happy. And the tour guide's not happy. And others are getting antsy because we can't go into the main part of the museum until we are all suited up. And this little 5-year-old's a wedge in the works.
I inject myself into her world.
"Hey, I found a smaller parka!" I say, enthusiastically, to the little girl, right into her eyes, and I ignore her mom. "Want to try this one on?" To my relief, it works. She grins and nods her head.
I drape the parka (which is really the same size as the one her mom just tried) over her shoulders and the little girl obliges by puffing up a bit. I then take the arms and tie them in front of her (with Mom's help), chatting all the time about how much fun it must be to be inside a cocoon, just like a butterfly.
Now she's happy, and everyone's happy because we get to go in. And what we find inside is a darkened word of ice that titillates my senses with blue and pink and green lights shining through poles, bowls, horses and trees, all carved out of tons of solid ice blocks.
Even the floor is ice (stay on the carpet or you'll end up on your butt.) A nightclub bar -- carved out of ice -- offers martinis in carved-ice goblets for $15 to patrons who sit on ice stools padded with caribou skins. I pass and head for the three hotel rooms in the rear. They cost $600 a night (wow) and feature icy walls, floor and carved-ice beds. Caribou skins pad the bed, just like the bar stools.
After exploring all three rooms, I think about my little girl and wonder if she's having fun. So I stand near those rooms and survey the surreal landscape, looking for her. About 50 tourists mill about in the subdued lighting, taking pictures, sipping drinks, talking in hushed tones. As if we're in church.
And those who wear the parkas look like clones. Who's who?
But soon I see my little 5-year-old, who stands apart from the parka-ed crowd because she's so small; she looks like a walking parka. I see her tottering about, staring at the spectacular art, not shivering a bit. Smiling. Mission accomplished. Even her mom is smiling now. Enjoying this icy word of the Aurora Ie Museum.