2008.07.16 Checking in with the 49th state

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I used to write occasionally about the oddities of life in Alaska—back in the good old days when I received three or four Alaska papers in the mail.

I started trading newspapers back in the 1990s when we visited my wife’s brother, Kevin, in Anchorage. It lasted for several years, but someone must have wondered why they kept mailing these free papers to Michigan every week. I was cut off.

When Kevin came for the recent wedding, he brought an issue of the Anchorage Daily News for me to catch up on events.

Gasoline prices continue to be higher in Alaska than anywhere else in the nation. The July 2 report noted the average was $4.64 a gallon.

A Black Hawk helicopter crew from Ft. Wainwright rescues an average of one person a week out in Alaska’s wilds, but that will soon end when the crew heads to Afghanistan.

In Wasilla, the city council voted 4-1 to ask the mayor to resign over business dealings with a frontage road and new shopping centers.

“What I have done is denied myself the opportunity to have the best bacon-cheeseburger in Alaska,” Dianne Keller said.

Dr. Leland Jones will remove “lumps, bumps and warts.”

What’s that? You want me to back up and give an explanation for the cheeseburger comment? The Wasilla mayor hasn’t been able to visit the Windbreak Café since November because of the nasty things being said about her.

A backpacker with a fractured foot was rescued 40 miles north of Ambler. A body was found in the Yukon River.

The International Conference on Permafrost was underway. About 80 percent of Alaska stays frozen, but that amount is getting smaller. As the melt continues, damage to roads, buildings and other infrastructure is expected to cost billions of dollars.

The average age of the seven people listed in the obituaries is 52. The average age of Anchorage’s five homicide victims from 2008 is 33.

John Calvert was fishing far out into the Cook Inlet when he ate a halibut eyeball. His fishing companions had just landed the 11th halibut of the trip and one of its eyeballs was knocked out in the landing and lay on the deck.

A deckhand told Calvert it was good luck to eat an eyeball so he swallowed it whole.

An hour later he caught a 279-pound monster halibut. As of July 2, that fish led the derby in Homer.

They play baseball in Alaska. The league features the Alaska Goldpanners (Fairbanks), the Anchorage Bucs, the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, the Mat-Su Miners (Palmer), the North Pole Nicks, the Peninsula Oilers (Kenai) and the Athletes in Action Fire. But if you’re a true fan of the big leagues, you already know that dozens of Alaska Baseball League players have made it into the majors.

There’s a park on the east side of Anchorage where at least 20 grizzly bears visit for salmon fishing. A teen-ager was mauled there recently while competing in an all-night mountain bike race.

Kevin also brought a copy of the Anchorage Press, a free entertainment weekly that includes columns by James “Dr. Fermento” Roberts. He wrote a touching tribute called “Last Beer with Mom.”

“I’m a tough case,” he wrote, “because I evaluate everyone through beer goggles. Beer goggles, like mothers-in-law, get a bad rap.”

His mother-in-law died recently and he talked about the importance of beer in her life. She didn’t drink a lot; beer was just a tool to quench her thirst and she liked the taste.

He writes about her final weeks (“She’d been circling the drain for quite some time, both physically and mentally...”) and he remembers their final beer together.

The good doctor went south to Denver to bury Mom and recall their shared moments in beer. She left a few bottles behind for him in her refrigerator.

Now he’s back at work, suggesting stops at Wasilla’s Great Bear Brewing Company, the Silver Gulch Brewing Company in Fox, Homer’s Ring of Fire Meadery, etc., for his ultimate Alaska beer break.

I enjoyed the brief reconnection with the 49th state through two newspapers. It’s Alaska residents like Dr. Fermento that remind me of the unique character of those people to the north.

  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.

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