Monday, November 8, 2010

Phil's and Judy's Alaska

Judy and I lived on Prince William Sound for ten years - three in Cordova, and over seven in Whittier. Judy and I fished commercially in Cordova. I also worked at the radio station, KLAM, and did other odd jobs around town.

We moved to Whittier when Judy got her first real post-college job, as an elementary school teacher. I moved over as soon as I finished silver salmon season on the Copper River Flats. Soon afterward, I took the job of harbormaster (the harbor entrance, with Judy peering over the bow of our skiff, is pictured above), where I remained for five years. Then I began running charter boats and working for Crowley Maritime at sea. When we decided to start a family, we left the corrosive maritime and social environment there, for the Mat-Su Valley, where we remain, having raised that small family.

When we lived in Whittier, there was initially no TV. There still isn't FM radio. You had to get a special antenna to be able to pick up Anchorage AM radio. The newspapers came irregularly. The train came only three days a week most of the year. The electrical power would sometimes go out for days at a time. The longest outage, in 1977, was nine days.

The adventures we had, alone, together, with friends or co-workers are to be treasured. In our fishing boat, our sailboat and our Boston Whaler, we'd go out onto The Sound in all months of the year, in almost all weather conditions. We have fish, whale, bird and bear stories that rival some of the best. None were staged.

We subscribed to a few magazines: Alaska Geographic, The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. I also subscribed to The Village Voice. Of those four, we still subscribe to The New Yorker and NYRB.

This week's New Yorker has an article about Sarah Palin's Alaska, now debuting on what the author of the article, Nancy Franklin, calls "The Leering Channel." Reading Franklin's article, I couldn't help but think a bit about comparing Judy's and my encounters with the "real" Alaska over the years. And one of Franklin's lines reminded me of my first encounter with Palin, back in February, 1991. Franklin writes:
[A]nd the way she coats acid and incoherence with cheery musical inflections join together in a sickening synergy that distresses the listener, triggering a fight-or-flight reaction. When Palin talks, my whole being wails, like Nancy Kerrigan after Tonya Harding’s ex-husband kneecapped her: “Why? Why? Why?”
My remembrance of my first encounter with Palin, who was at that time a brand new mama Griz, is from a session my boss and I had at the Wasilla Planning Commission. We were there to pitch a proposal to open a small halfway house with a mental health component within the city limits. Palin was on the planning commission, her first encounter with public office.

She struck me as younger by some margin than most people who serve on these commissions. She also surprised me by being well prepared. She had obviously studied our proposal, probably more than had anyone else on the commission.

To relate this to Franklin's observation about Palin's voice, all I can remember is that if Palin had struck me as attractive upon looking around the commission members at the table, once she began asking questions, this attractiveness evaporated so fully that I don't remember if it was even ever there.

All I remember thinking about her once she began asking her informed questions in that awfully whiny voice is that I tried to solve the question in my mind, "Where is this person coming from?" Politically, that is. Is she a "yes" or a "no" on the project?

Franklin goes on to describe what may be one of the most unflattering scenes Palin has yet inflicted on her victims:
The first episode involves a couple of fun family outings. But before we leave the house let’s set outside a spell, shall we? Palin likes to do “a lot of my writing and researching, especially on a beautiful day . . . on our cement slab, where I get to take in the beauty of the lake.” The scene, it turns out, is really just an excuse to bring up a subject that infuriates her: the writer Joe McGinniss, who is working on an unauthorized biography of Palin, has naughtily rented the house next door. Palin’s husband, Todd, ambles onscreen and explains that “our summer has kind of been taken away from us” by this. Palin adds proudly that Todd and his buddies have put up a fourteen-foot-high fence—a fence that handily doubles as policy. “I thought that was a good example, what we just did. Others could look at it and say, ‘Oh, this is what we need to do to secure our nation’s border,’ ” she says.

When they arrive back home, Palin attempts to poison Piper’s little mind with her mean-girl attitude. “See, we one-upped him, Piper,” she says of McGinniss. “We had a good day. And he’s stuck in his house.” (Actually, the camera finds him sitting outside on his porch, reading a book.)
Hudson concludes with a sentence that approaches my advice to the Palin kids (get out of that house as soon as you can!):
[T]he Palins have to postpone for a day, Willow is allowed to beg off. (“My back hurts,” she says. Right. What probably hurts is that she’s stuck in this family.
Gryph has been following the asinine way Palin is handling the well-deserved fallout she is getting for invading McGinniss' privacy, both in the initial episode and its aired trailers, and her most recent tweets.

Meanwhile, I'll go back to the real Alaska.

(image below - Babs Reynolds' sign outside Hobo Bay Trading Company in Whittier. I was Harbormaster No. 1)


Anonymous said...

Only one problem with the story is the author incorrectly calls a brown bear "not a grizzly." Whoops! I am sure the brown bears over here in Kodiak are grizzlies!

Philip Munger said...

She may have looked it up or checked it out. People on Prince William Sound and parts of the Gulf Coast and on Kodiak and Afognak call the large brown bears Brown Bears, not grizzlies. Once you get away from the coasts, they are called grizzlies.

There are a few sub-species of brownies, most notably that of Middleton Island.

Anonymous said...

How can she be well informed and still miss the entire point of an issue? Or worse yet repeat something proven untrue constantly.
Dusty @ palingates

Anonymous said...

Isn't a mama grizzly a "sow".

Anonymous said...

KCHU, "public" radio for Valdez has a translator in Whittier on 88.3 fm, it's been there for many, many years.

Maybe you could get your buddy Lansman to build a station there.....

farmer john said...

Hi Phil

Great article but just a correction. Sarah never served on the Planning Commission. She was on the city council and had a lot of help from the father of her husband. Which is why she appeared to be prepared. You probably came before the Planning Commission before you went to the City Council. I was there either as the Chairman or Vic Kohring was at that time.

miller said...

I don't want to know about Sarah Palin's Alaska. I would rather know about you and your wife, Judy experiences. This would be a show that I would watch. Read a review in Variety today about her show. I believe that the writer called it an 8 hour infomercial about Sarah Palin. How gruesome.

Philip Munger said...

farmer john,

I guess I stand corrected. Must be time to call John Stein and figure out just when that meeting about the halfway house application occurred. Thanks.