Allow me to introduce myself, or blog myself, or however one uses "blog" as verb. I'm Emily Bergl (or just plain Bergl if you'd prefer; many seem to), and I play Annie on Men in Trees. And, um, I'm blogging. I never thought I'd be saying that, as my only previous experience with blogging was when my friend's ex-girlfriend starting blogging about their breakup. Don't you think we're in dire need of a cyberworld Emily Post? Every coffee shop in L.A. now has to put up a sign that says, _Don't talk on your cell phone while ordering. And then you have the reverse of that, in that now it's kind of impolite to actually booty call someone, you should really booty text them. (I don't really know about these things firsthand, as I'm in a relationship, but I keep current by living vicariously through my castmates, and no, I won't tell you which ones.) Kind of makes you wish for somewhere where people still actually talk to each other in person& maybe a tiny town in Alaska? And she comes full circle, folks.
Two weeks before we were set to start shooting the second episode of Men in Trees, I got itchy feet, traveler's feet _ you know that feeling when you just have to get out of town or trouble might start to happen to you, or maybe even be caused by you? I thought, well, I'm doing a show where my character, Annie, drops everything and randomly goes to Alaska _ why not drop everything and, well, randomly go to Alaska? Research. Luckily my beau, Tyler, was ready to get out of Dodge as well, so I had a partner in crime. So over the next few blogs (is that the plural of blog? And PS. to Microsoft _ Word needs to get with the times, blog is not a misprint, so stop underlining it in red!), I'll feature one of the towns in Alaska I visited.
I won't bore you with the logistical details, but I could fill this entire blog with all the configurations of ferries/scary small planes/even scarier, smaller seaplanes Tyler and I had to go through to visit all the towns we wanted to go to. The ferry visits one of these towns only once a month, I'm not kidding. Somewhat challenging when you're planning on a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants trip, but in a few days, there we were, getting on a plane to Alaska. We arrived in Juneau only to step immediately onto a ferry to Haines, a small town in southeast Alaska that seemed a perfect model for our fictional town of Elmo on Men in Trees . The first thing that struck me was how much Alaska looks like where we shoot Men in Trees, just outside of Vancouver. I'm not bursting anyone's bubble here, right? And if I am, Seinfeld didn't shoot in New York either, just so you know. We don't actually shoot in Alaska, but I'm telling you, I couldn't believe how similar the landscape looked. And then, almost on cue, whales began cavorting outside the ferry. Wow, it really is as beautiful as in those National Geographic documentaries.
When the ferry landed, as promised, the owner of the Ft. Seward Bed and Breakfast, Norm, was waiting at the terminal in Haines to pick us up in his fabulous gold Lincoln. I couldn't believe it when the first words out of his mouth were, _Hey ho._ If you watch our first episode (which I'm sure millions upon millions of you will) you'll know how crazy this is. On Men in Trees there's a character named Patrick Bachelor (played by the real-life bachelor Derek Richardson) who runs a B&B, and I think the first words out of his mouth in our first episode are, _Hey ho._ It turns out that Norm is almost the real-life Patrick. He even has a radio show on the local radio station! (What is it about blogging that makes me want to end everything in an exclamation point?!) Norm was raised in Haines, went to college to get a radio degree, then returned to Haines and started working in the now-defunct sawmill. One day his jacket sleeve got caught in the conveyer belt, and at the last second he was able to get out, narrowly escaping losing an arm or worse. He quit immediately, and soon after converted his childhood home, the captain's quarters of an old military fort, into the Ft. Seward B&B. I wish I could do a whole blog just about Norm, because he has some amazing stories, one of which involves bears eating llamas, which I might just have to relate at some point.
Our first stop was the Haines Hammer Museum, natch. Yes, an entire museum, or rather the converted front porch of Dave Pahl, dedicated solely to hammers. It's a little hard to find, but Dave is considering dealing with this problem by erecting a 25-foot hammer on the roof of his house. Genius. Suffice it to say there are many, many more different types of hammers then one could ever imagine. Dave said he displays all the hammers people send him, and I'm seriously thinking of sending him my pink hammer from my pink tool set, except I don't know if I can give up watching Tyler put together Ikea furniture with a pink hammer. While Dave was showing us an old barrel of salt pork from the 1800s, one of the ladies who had stopped in from a cruise ship piped in with, _Did they have a lot of salt back then?_ This was said while we were actually looking at the ocean through the window. Dave, the consummate gentleman, replied, _Well, yes, I guess they did have a lot of salt back then.
Our next stop was the sight of the upcoming Southeast Alaska State Fair. Turns out they built an enormous set for the movie White Fang a few years ago, left it all there, and now it's the state fair grounds. In my search for the real Alaska I ended up on an Alaskan movie set _ oh, the irony. But the real reason to visit is that the state fair is the home of the Haines Brewery, where we sampled a beer brewed with actual spruce, and met some schoolteachers visiting from Anchorage.
After crab legs and ribs (why isn't this combo more popular outside of Alaska?) at the grizzly-bear-hide-laden Fort Seward Lodge, we headed to the Fogcutter's Bar. Apparently people in town just leave their dogs outside while they go in for a brew, because there was a whole mess of dogs wandering around outside unleashed, and throughout the evening there was a continuous cycle of dogs running into the bar and then being shooed back out, as if no one had any idea how their dogs were getting into the bar. I have to admit, when I read the scene in Men in Trees where Marin (our heroine, Anne Heche) orders a vodka negroni, I wondered if she'd really try to order that fancy drink in a tiny Alaskan bar. Yet I soon found myself standing in a tiny Alaskan bar, explaining what a vodka gimlet is. I guess Jenny Bicks (the creator of Men in Trees) knew what she was doing when she wrote that in the episode. Tyler and I sat at a table nursing our drinks, feeling a little silly, when in walk the schoolteachers from Alaska that we met at the Haines Brewery (Cord, Adam and Alexa _ more about them later.) A few shots of Jäger later, it was like we'd known each other for life. (By the way, never try to keep up with an Alaskan at the bar. They can drink you and your frat brother under the table.) We found out that we were all going to be in the town of Sitka at the end of the week, and we arranged to meet at the Backdoor Coffeehouse at noon. Making plans in Alaska is so much simpler because there's not the expectation that people will flake out on you. Los Angelenos, you feeling me on this? No cell-phone numbers were exchanged, no backup plans were made, they simply told us where to be at noon and that was it. I have to admit, the cynic in me thought they might not show. Did they? You'll have to read my next blog to find out. (Sorry to leave you with such a desperate cliff-hanger, but I gotta reel you in somehow, people!).
Around 1 am, Tyler went outside the bar to bond with the various dogs, and I got to experience firsthand the fact that Alaska has more men than women. I knew from Men in Trees that this was the case, but I wasn't prepared to see it in action so quickly. Immediately, two drunken men from two different sides of the bar approached me (and, quite frankly, I wasn't looking my best _ I'm suspecting the beer goggles were in full effect). A very nice lady named Molly stepped in, yelled at them, and literally pushed them back in the direction from whence they came. She then asked if I'd ever been on Gilmore Girls. Turned out I'd been spotted around town earlier. Next thing you know, she calls her daughter, Kelsi, and she's bringing the DVD down to the bar for me to sign. Apparently word spread after that. The next morning I was walking down the street and met a totem-pole carver sitting out on his porch, and he says to me, _Are you the movie star?_ I am huge in Haines, Alaska.
Hmm, I guess I'll end this on the high note of my Alaskan fame, and we'll move on next week to the big city of Juneau (pop. 32,000). I must give a brief shout out to Molly and Kelsi here, because they not only drove me and Tyler to the airport, saving us from the price gouging of the only taxi driver in all of Haines, but also gave us some homemade smoked salmon to take home. And also to the Bamboo Room, a former whorehouse with the best bartenders and halibut and chips around.
I think I'm in love with Alaska.