Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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06/14/2006: "Very Superstitious"

I saw an ad for "Just my luck" about a woman who meets a homeless guy and swaps her good luck for his bad. I thought it looked stupid but since I've been back I've noticed something odd...not about luck really, but about how people respond to me. Normally, if I smile at someone they smile back and if I ask a stranger for help they stop and gladly help...I've always felt that if you put good energy out there it will return to you and that has generally been the case.

But since I've been back, it's been different. For example, yesterday I forgot the ratio (ounces to gallons) for the mixing oil into the gas for my 2-stroke outboard. I tried to ask this salty looking fisherman if he could tell me a reasonable mix ratio so I wouldn't have to run home and look it up, and he heard me, looked right at me, yet continued walking by as though I weren't even there. I couldn't believe it, people are usually so helpful down on the docks.

Plus, when I've smiled at passersby lately they've looked back with totally blank stares like they didn't see me...or worse, like they did but had no clue why I was smiling at them. Plus I've run into a few friends who are usually happy to see me, who seemed indifferent. It reminded me of a scene from Clueless where Cher's trying to seduce Christian and he's ignoring her and she thinks "What's happening!!? Did my hair get flat? Did I stumble into some bad light?"

And speaking of hair, I know how this sounds, but even though I've already washed it twice since getting back from Hawaii, tonight while cutting it I found a rather large grain of black sand i.e. a tiny tiny lava rock! Would it be insane to mail it back to Volcanoes National Park?

Replies: 17 Comments

on Thursday, June 15th, Kasia said

Great post:))) Well i also believe that a nice smile can help a lot in everything. I think all that happened to you was just a bad coinicidence. That's it.
Keep on smiling Elise:) Never stop. :) :) :)

on Thursday, June 15th, holly said

One thing I've gotten used to here, and like quite a lot, is the custom of saying "Bonjour" to *everyone*. I say it to everyone I pass on the sidewalk, I say to when I enter a store or a restaurant, I say it to every member of the hotel staff I encounter. It's expected. It's incredibly rude to not do this. And I was just thinking last night about how, in the US, we pass by people on the sidewalk without so much as a glance or acknowledgement of their presence, people talk on their cell phones incessantly (you *never* see that here). I'm starting to understand why Americans are perceived as rude. I have a feeling I'm going to have a little culture shock when I come back to the angry, self-centered US. I don't know where I was going with this... maybe people were a tad freindly in Hawaii and now you're back to the workaday.

on Thursday, June 15th, Elise said

You're probably right Kasia, just a coincidence but if too many keep happening...
And Holly, in Hawaii everyone says Aloha to you, and it is customary to say it back (and considered rude not to)...

Aloha is more than hello and goodbye, it's also (quoted from an islander in

"love, compassion, welcome, good wishes. It means belonging to others within a common humanity."

So, similar to what you're saying, and "island time" is similarly slower paced, etc. Though I have to say, life in Alaska is pretty damn slow and normally people here are (imho) much more courteous and friendly in general than in other parts of the US I've visited...or, in larger cities anyway.

So, I imagine a bit of culture shock will await you, but no one says you can't continue the tradition when you get back, even though you may get some blank least you won't have a tiny lava rock hanging over your head!

on Thursday, June 15th, dave from Nebraska said

I think the locals looking right thru you is probably a acute case of "Tan Envy" after your recent getaway to the tropics.
People might think you are some tourist from one of the big cruise ships.
Go home, stay inside and paint for awhile. Everything will be fine as you fade.......

on Thursday, June 15th, Jackie said

E: Loved Dave's advice! I'd say it's just coincidence (or 'coinkydink', as Popeye would say), unless it keeps happening over the weekend. Then, maybe I'd worry some naughty little spirits rode home with you!
I guess you could mail the grain of sand back, if you're feeling that that'd leave the park service scratching their heads!

I think Holly should say "Bonjour" to everyone she sees on the street after she gets back to the USA. Then everyone'd think she's a foreigner - a FRENCH foreigner, OMIGOD!
I would never respond to someone's smile with a blank stare or rudeness - tho I might think they were pan-handling! Isn't it funny how immune we get to the daily rudeness of our society...or worse, how quickly we doff our good intentions, and join in the rudeness. :blush:

on Thursday, June 15th, Elise said

Hi Dave! How ya been? Getting out on your motorcycle much this summer? Anyway, I think you have a point about the tan envyÖthough I donít have much of a tan. I wear SFP 123 sunscreen, itís practically liquid plastic, plus I where long pants and long sleeves AND bought a big SFP 100 umbrella for the beach, Iím so pale because I donít tan well, I mostly turn pinkÖ

And Jackie, Iím sure they would add it to their wall of letters they receive every year from tourists returning lava rocks due to bad luck. Mine might be the smallest returnÖbut what the hell rightÖa post card stamp is only 29 cents (I think). Btw, any updates on your show? I just posted an entry to your last blog entry about commissioning a Baba Yaga houseÖIím very excitedÖand what a bargain!

on Thursday, June 15th, Joan said

First, I am impressed you cut your own hair. The only time I tried that I ended up with a serious "lack o' do." I never was able to get it straight.

Second, and this wouldn't really apply to the sailing fellow, but you got me to thinking philosophically.

Why do we smile at and say hello to people/passers-by? If we do it because we think it is right or we just like to, then if they do not respond the way we like, it might not matter at all. We have, after all "held up our part of the bargin."

With that said, I have felt the same as you stated. That is when I say, "Oh, I must be wearing my invisible hat." (Maybe that is something we gain from growing up in O'Neill?!) This expression is also helpful when someone pulls out in front of me. in traffic.

On the other hand, if we are greeting folks as a way to initiate a positive reaction - and thus a personal reinforcement for who we are - then it would in deed "hurt" to not have the greeting reciprocated.

I also have tended to think about what is going on in their life that even returning a simple smile/greeting is too much to expect.

I'm quite aware I have thought about this too much but it is nice to exercise the brain occasionally.

Sounds like you had a great time on the Island(s?) It really is amazing you came home to the same weather. And I think you should send the tiny lava back. I think that is hysterical! That should make their record books.

Take care.

on Thursday, June 15th, Judy Vars said

Maby you look like a tourist since returning from Hawaii, instead of looking a local you've got a good tan and a relaxed attitude.
Alaskans can be incredibly grumpy to the tourists I've noticed. Sometimes when people smile at me and I'm in a funk, I wonder just what they are smiling at anyway. Is my hair flat or do I have a booger on my nose, or do my clothes not match. I'm just suspicious sometimes.

I'm going to watch my new favorite show Windfall 20,000,000 that is my favorite fantasy.
Glad your home safe and sound.

on Thursday, June 15th, Elise said

Hi Joan! It's good to exercise the brain from time to time. I guess when I smile at someone it's usually just because I'm in a good mood, walking down the street or in the store and if I make eye contact with someone it's a small way of acknowledging them. I suppose it does, as a side-affect, make me feel better when people smile backÖI guess itís something Iíve always taken for granted.

However, I know there have been times when someone has nodded or smiled at me and Iím deep in thought and by the time I react they have already passed. Iím sure they thought I was being rude.

And Judy, Iíve just started watching the pilot for Windfall (Iíve TIVOd it) but it looks good. There are also commercials for a new show called Heroes (about superheroes) that looks pretty good.

on Thursday, June 15th,">SB said

I can't even see you, but I'm smiling! :) :) :)'cause you're with beautifule pics to look at & steal for wallpaper!
If you HAVE to mail the lava back you're probably a little tiny bit insane...but harmlessly and interestingly. Thats my 2cnts

on Friday, June 16th, subi said

hey elise,

you know, it could just be that your reading too much into it. maybe the fisherman is hard of hearing or distracted, or like someone else noted, maybe thought you were a tourist, but i don't get why someone would just plain ignore someone talking to them. the way i think of it reminds me of a Raymond Carver short story, where you just might not have the whole picture, but of course rightfully feed hurt, I know I would.w It could just be reverse culture shock after all that alohalove. I am probably the most annoying person to ignore, cause I make a point of readdressing people, I guess I usually think, they couldn't possible be ignoring me!

you should definitely send that piece of lava back!!!! that would be so funny for those people who work there, you could include a funny postcard or pic of the lava spec with something very Alaskan, or a montage of 'it' doing all these crazy things...hehehee, it would be like oiur Conan hats!!! haha. dtd.

on Friday, June 16th, subi said

btw, no love from our dear R.,- as of yet! :O

on Friday, June 16th, Elise said

Hi SB, thanks for the welcome home and for thinking I'm on a *tiny* bit insane. I mean, that's downright normal by Alaskan standards...
Oh, and I'm glad you like the photos too!

And Subi, Raymond Carver is a good way of looking at it...I could just be misreading things but it seems like there has been a series of blanks stares the likes I can never recall.

On the other hand, nothing has gone wrong since getting back. I'm not sick, I didn't have problems with my flight, my new spinnaker arrived in one piece *and* fits my, probably it's nothing. I'm going to mail that grain of lava back though, I like your idea of taking photos of it like, at the mendenhall glacier with me etc. but they seem to take Pele pretty seriously and I wouldn't want to be seen as disrespectful and further garner any more wrath.

As for our dear R...I better call him and see what the h e double tooth picks is up.

on Friday, June 16th,">Jackie said

E: Gosh - thanks so much for loving Baba Yaga and her hut! I'd certainly love to make a similar piece for you! My Baba is complaing cuz I haven't made her dress yet, or finished her skull fence! Oh - and now she wants floor coverings inside the hut, and curtains!
Okay - so maybe I'm a bit more that 'just a little' insane!
Hmmm...I'm wondering what happened to all the puka shells, coral bits, and lava rocks my brother & I brought home when we moved back from Hawaii. It musta been back in 1972 or so. Maybe Pele recognizes her sisters that live in all the Alaskan volcanoes... :confused: :cry: :O

on Friday, June 16th, Elise said

Hmm, maybe she does give her fellow volcano dwellers a bit of slack. I've been through 3 erruptions so far, Spur, Redoubt, and Augustine...that's gotta count for something!
As for Baba Yaga, there is no timeline or anything so feel free to satisfy your own Baby Yaga first, I'll still be interested when ever you get around to it.

on Friday, June 16th, subi said

well, if you do do the silly idea of a piece of pele visits Alaska....just include a serious note in the end of the letter, like, no really, this piece caught a ride and I found it only upon my return 3 showers later! you could always do an anonymous letter and just show the piece in your palm with the AK stuff in the background! well and of course document it here! :hehe:

on Friday, June 16th, Elise said

me not document something? impossible!

Hey, do you have a phone number in Switzerland I could give to Ricky?