In my childhood, Sinatra was the epitome of the Italian boy made good. Today, the Italians of my generation have George Clooney. If he ever ran for president - and he should - I think I would finally move out of my lethargy and into my sixties active mode. Meanwhile, I’ll just enjoy looking at him. Way to go, Italian boy.
Am I the only one who, when buying a Barry Manilow CD, pretends she’s buying it for someone else?
Had that dream again about the captain of Serenity. I don’t know his name and don’t want to because if I did, I’d feel obligated to send him a note of apology for being possibly the dirtiest old lady he will ever have the privilege of knowing...if only in her dreams.
My house is full of Barrow people down for the state basketball championships. Barrow boys lost but the Barrow girls are still in the scramble for the title. So the excitement continues and I can’t turn a corner in town without seeing a familiar face from home down for the games. Meanwhile, poor Mr. T cowers on the stairs afraid to navigate the downstairs sitting room to get to his office pillow because the room is occupied by three wonderful but active young boys and their dad and Mr. T is just not sure at all that this is safe for him. The boys, young as they are, are gentle and understanding about his age and infirmities. Meanwhile, I can just see from the look that I’m getting from Mr. T that I will pay very soon for this disruption to his daily schedule. I wonder if he’ll use my Chinese silk carpets again to express that displeasure?
For some reason yesterday I thought of the song “It’s A Small World” and now I can get it out of my mind. It repeats and repeats and repeats. I try to drown it out with Jimmy Buffet but within seconds the refrain reasserts itself right over the words, “Why don’t we get drunk and screw?” - which, for those of you unaware of this fact, was the official love song of my ex-husband...which may have something to do with why he’s my ex. Oh, look at that. The song is gone. Now you have it. Blessed relief.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I hold a particularly low opinion of political campaigns. I must confess, though, that the current campaign for Anchorage mayor has captured my heart because it is currently producing the only hot air to be found here this month.
I know political campaigns are critical to our democracy. And god knows there is no alternative out there for a “political campaign free” form of government that is in any way attractive to me. But that doesn’t mean I have to love the oft times messy process that we call government of the people.
Having said that, let me pass out some kudos to our current mayoral campaign candidates. Up until very recently, the campaign had stayed so far below my annoyance meter that I almost didn’t mind it. Now, of course, the ads are in full swing and I once again cast my eyes towards heaven and thank god for the mute button on my TV’s remote control. It’s not quite as easy with the radio ads because I am usually driving when I hear them. But my reflexes are getting better with each passing day and I can now hit the channel change button within three seconds of the first sound bite without taking my eyes off the road. Not bad for an old person.
What is particularly nice about this campaign is that the people running for office had the decency to not start really campaigning till about six weeks before the election. Oh sure, there were some preliminary volleys, some early sound bites. But they were mercifully brief and pretty much drowned out by the holiday season and Fur Rondy.
The other thing I really appreciate about this campaign is its relative civility. Of course, that can all change overnight and that statement could be, as the Nixon White House so charmingly put it once, no longer operative by the time this column appears. But I don’t think that will happen.
It seems as though we actually have two mature adults as the front-runners and, while they are respectfully disagreeing about many, many things, the key word is respectfully. No one has felt the need to cast aspersions on someone’s character or family or birth circumstances. No one has fired below the belt and let loose with a volley of personal attacks. No one has, as far as I can tell, implied that his opponent is the devil incarnate.
Now this may seem like some really basic civic standards that should automatically be observed in any election. Alas, a brief reading of American history shows that to be so not true. In fact, as bad as things can get with modern campaigns of smears, innuendoes and lies, we are not near to the same league as campaigns of previous eras where it was not unusual for one candidate to suggest another candidate reached across species for sexual partners.
For sheer creativity and inventiveness, those old time campaigns are hard to beat. An opponent’s parentage and sexual proclivities were but a few of the topics considered fair game. In our lawsuit hungry society, the courts would be filled to overflowing with libel cases if modern campaigns resorted to half the vitriol of the golden age of politics.
In fact, I think those old campaigns were actually more fun because the candidates themselves made the scurrilous accusations against their opponents and then willingly stood toe to toe with those opponents shouting those accusations to their faces. This was not politics for the weak kneed.
Today’s politicians are pretty whitewashed, lily-livered types by comparison who have PACs and PR flacks do that stuff for them. It somehow seemed less dastardly and dirty when the candidates themselves were at least willing to stand up and spew their own vitriol and didn’t need mouthpieces to help them avoid the heat of response.
But enough nostalgia for the past. For now, let us give some modicum of thanks to both Jack Frost and Mark Begich. It’s not that their campaign ads are any less annoying than ads of the past. It’s just that they started those ads at a decent time so that they will be over before I feel obligated to take a shotgun to my TV. And, on top of that, they are actually discussing the issues. What a concept.
For both those bits of civility, I applaud them.
While watching TV last night I realized I could literally sense my brain cells screaming and dying from lack of anything that would feed them. Thank god the Daily Show came on and saved me from total meltdown.
It is positively beautiful out. The new snow has covered all the ugly black ice that emerged over the past few weeks as spring prepared for breakup. I guess it’s not really breakup unless the stuff melting is black and smelly. In that category, Anchorage wins hands down for best breakup in the world.
But for just a few more weeks....days?...we have a magically white wonderland with the trees and bushes wearing crowns of white and even the old parked cars on people’s lawns taking on a not horribly ugly persona for a little while.
Beauty is, after all, very, very relative.
I guess you just get to an age where you want what’s familiar and all else is just annoying. I made the mistake of going out for a few hours last night. Mr. T is used to me being home in the evening since it’s universally known that I have no social life, preferring a hermit-like existence with my animals. So he did number one downstairs and number two upstairs. I guess that was his way of letting me know with absolute certainty that he was displeased. Since he’s 16, pretty blind and almost completely deaf, I guess I have to cut him some slack. Except I don’t understand how he can neither see nor hear me when I am two feet away from him in the living room but can hear and see a dog three blocks away when we take our walk. Is he pulling the greatest scam of all times on me? Just to get those extra chicken pieces?
I spent more on two outfits I bought yesterday than I have on clothes in the past two years. But the deed is done. The mission is accomplished. I have the outfit I will be buried in because trust me when I tell you I will never spend that much money on an article of clothing again. I have the wedding outfit and the graduation outfit. In my world, that translates to having an outfit to wear after six and one to wear before six. And I now officially declare my wallet and closet closed.
As I head out to shop, I have to ask exactly who made up these stupid fashion rules? Why can’t you wear stripes and plaids together? Why will the world end if I wear brown shoes with black pants? Why the hell can’t I wear white after Labor Day? Will the earth stop spinning? If I walk out in public dressed in pants with one pattern and a shirt in another will democracies fall? And why does everyone but me think that a dressy sweatshirt is a contradiction in terms?
AOL has a headline about someone named Jessica Simpson snubbing a GOP fundraiser. At least, I think that’s the story. I didn’t read past the headlines because 1. I don’t care and 2. I don’t care. If people want an inane and ultimtely useless headline, they should just ponder why I am going to die so poor while someone like Jessica Simpson (who does something that has apparently made her famous but I can’t figure out what it is) is going to die very rich. Oh God! Do you think it’s the blond bimbo factor? I was never good at being blond (all the hair on the back of my head fell off one day when I was in the middle of my bleached blond period - that could have had something to do with the fact that I was doing the bleaching myself). And I couldn’t carry off bimbo with the help of a wheelbarrow and entire NFL team.
So I guess I’m doomed to poverty unless I can figure out a way for people to pay me for just being...which is apparently what Jessica has so successfully done.
I received a very thought provoking e-mail to my column about going back to Barrow. It’s not a perfect world and I didn’t mean my column to imply that it was some kind of utopia. But my belief is that people in the bush are fighting for their lives in ways we can barely imagine because we live in the same culture we were raised in and can’t begin to understand what it’s like to try and straddle both worlds.
Anyhow, this was my response to the e-mail. I think the writer had some good points about the problems in the bush but I think you miss the bigger picture when you don’t stay in a community long enough to really get to know it and its struggles to cope with modern life.
Thanks for expressing your feelings. I fully appreciate what you’re saying. Life in the bush is not a living myth. It’s real life being led in real time and some really horrible things are happening. But I think you need to live in the Bush long enough to become at least a little integrated into the community before you can appreciate what that community is facing and the honest efforts it’s making to overcome its problems. Barrow is hardly perfect. I work as a GAL with the court system there with abused and neglected kids and can tell you stories that would raise the hair on your neck. On the other hand, I know wonderful families there who are working hard to make sense of the two worlds they’ve inherited and to make it work for their children.
Yes, kids’ diets can be horrifying since non-native food was introduced. On the other hand, I sit here in Anchorage and read articles about vending machines in our schools that dispense pure sugar. You would think there would be a unified outcry against them. You’d be wrong.
I see kids here eating pizza or McDonald’s for dinner 5 out of 7 nights a week because their parents work and don’t have time to cook. Their diet is no more nor less healthy than in some bush villages. We non-natives just seem to feel obligated to make a lot more noise about a problem without ever really doing anything about it. The Alaska Native tends to be more silent and doesn’t make a great noise about a pretend solution for a problem. The bad diets kids eat cuts across all racial and geographic lines in this state.
As for the Ilisagvik College, it is now fully accredited and has a new president who is making it work as it has never worked before. It is now a Microsoft accredited training center, can award AA degrees and has a healthy student body that is interested in getting an education.
The bush may not be perfect. There are still lots of problems. But local people are working hard to address those problems. They may not have an instant answer or solution, but they will keep trying. People who just drop in on them for a season or two and then leave and pronounce the situation hopeless are people who have no sense of the rhythms of history and just how long some processes take.
There is little in this world that is as brilliantly white as the tundra in spring when the sun is shinning brightly. In fact, the only thing that can possibly be called whiter is the pack ice shimmering under that same insane sun. Like everything else in life, it doesn’t necessarily look that white when you get up close to it. In fact, the pack ice becomes a jumble of old ice, new ice, blue ice and grey ice, boulders tumbled around like grains of sand kicked by a child on a beach.
This year, Barrow has had some storms that have left the pack ice looking even more daunting than usual for the whalers who will soon be carving paths to the edge for their whaling camps. When you are hauling a skin boat mounted on a wooden sled pulled by a skidoo through corridors of jagged ice over trails broken and heaving, it is like trying to thread something very big through the eye of a very, very small needle. One wrong bump and the ice will rip into the skin and ruin your season before it begins.
These thoughts occupy my mind this week because I was in Barrow recently. While we in Anchorage long for break up if only to get rid of the ice that covers our streets and sidewalks, in Barrow the whalers are grateful for solid pack ice that won’t disappear right away so that their spring whaling can proceed as safely and successfully as possible.
While we here in Anchorage worry about property taxes and sales taxes and mayoral races, the talk on the North Slope is about offshore drilling and preserving a way of life that has survived despite the onslaught of a different world and culture. My friends flow easily between the two cultures - much more easily than I can imagine doing. They have cable modem Internet access and cell phones that are seemingly permanently implanted on their ears. They work in finance and science, administration and education.
They also hunt caribou, whales and walrus. They navigate a seemingly trackless land with relative ease. They are as comfortable in a skin boat as an SUV. They flow from one century to the next in a way that has always left me a bit awed.
Not that everything is all fine and dandy up north. I treated my friend Greta to a tank of gas for her new, fuel-efficient truck. It cost $61. I went for a latte and an extra shot of espresso cost $1.75. Domestic violence is still rife and abused and neglected kids fill the roster of both the tribal and state courts. The fight over subsistence versus development seems never ending and municipal revenues continue to fall forcing local government to make some hard choices in services.
But despite all that, I still see a community that has fought and is fighting for its future. Ilisagvik College, a fully accredited community college just outside of Barrow, continues to receive financial support from the North Slope Borough because the community is aware that education is critical to the future of its families and youth. The college enrollment continues to expand as more and more youth work to integrate the moneyed economy with their subsistence lifestyle so that a balance is achieved that allows both to flourish.
It’s not easy. Nine to five jobs don’t readily accommodate the whale, caribou or bird migrations. The need to hunt when game is available makes a shambles of the western love of schedules and time frames. But little by little, over the years, compromises have been reached that allow both cultures to exist side by side in some sort of uneasy truce.
Going back to Barrow always reminds me of just how vast and different this state really is. No one living in an urban or even suburban area of this state can really imagine how isolated village life is. That isolation isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it certainly forces a local focus that makes the rest of the state seem quite distant.
Despite all that, it’s nice to know that Tom Wolf may have been very wrong and that here in Alaska, at least, you can go home again. Certainly consideration of that possibility helps to pass the time on the plane as you fly from Barrow back to Anchorage while munching some strange mozzarella fried stick thing that comes with your drink. The warmth I always feel in Barrow never fails to totally overcome the frigid weather.
Actually, there is no question about it. When you’ve lived in Bush Alaska, you can always go home again.
Uniforms! I wore them through grade school and high school and didn’t realize at the time that it was a period of Nirvana in my life that would never be reproduced once I had to make clothing choices. If we all had to wear uniforms, I wouldn’t have to worry if there was ever a time purple and orange went together and whether my sister would get little pains in her shoulders if I tried to pair them into an attractive ensemble. OK, I lied about the attractive part. I’d wear it if I thought it covered me enough to meet minimum expectations for public nudity laws and be very happy about it. BUT NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! The fashion police apparently expect me not to offend the public’s discerning eye when dressing to go out. And that, folks, is why I happily work out of my home in T-shirts even I find questionable.