Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 12 PA Arts Sunday - The Fine Art of Ishmael Melville

Ishmael Melville, the bard behind the most genuine small town blog in Alaska, Kodiak Konfidential, has enriched many web addicts' lives. He's a master of short takes on what makes life in an improbable small town at the edge of the end of the world livable. His understanding of Kodiak is deepened by his long affiliation with other small communities "westward" of Anchorage.

His photoshopped, fake Vogue cover of Gov. Sarah Palin has become the classic image of how fake this woman's destiny has now become. Ish invented it long before the rest of us mere mortals knew what was in store for her, and a lot of other Alaskans. Believe me - I know how weird this ride has become. I live in Wasilla, after all....

Ish's scrimshawed portraits of Kodiak life are supplemented, from time to time, by short stories. The bizarre appearance of Hobo Jim at the Ted Stevens trial on Thursday, prompted Ish to pen what may become a classic. Here it is, unaltered:

Say It Ain't So, Joe!

Did you know that Alaska's Official Troubadour, Hobo Jim, is one of Senator Ted Stevens' Character Witnesses in his corrupt bastard trial going on now in Washington, D.C.?

I can almost hear it now....

"Hey, ya got any hooch?," Hobo Jim said to the newcomer who jumped the freight car out of Girdwood.

"Hooch? I don't have any hooch. I don't got any hooch. I don't need no stinkin' hooch!" the small, elderly stranger said.

"Just askin' pard'," Hobo Jim said with a bit of thirsty disappointment in his voice. "Just askin'."

"Well you just watch who you ask for hooch," the angry little man said. Hobo Jim thought he caught the outline of an Incredible Hulk neck tie in the moonlight reflecting off the waters of Turnagain Arm. His stomach turned just a little.

"I didn't mean anything by it, sir," Hobo Jim said. "Maybe I'll just get off here...." as he made his way to the open side door.

"Sit down!" the dwarf said in a voice twice his size. Hobo Jim almost lost control of his bladder as he plopped himself down on the rolling boxcar floor. He kept a weather eye out the door, judging each passing rock for its suitability for landing on at 40 mph.

"I go by Hobo Jim," the slim man with the kind, though scared, eyes said.

"I know who you are. And you know who I am," Alaska Senator Ted Stevens said as he pushed the brim of his fedora out of his face with the business end of a Colt .45.

Hobo Jim's bladder control was in overdrive as he recognized the most powerful man in Alaska, and once, in the United States Senate.

"Senator ... Uncle ... Senator ...," Hobo Jim stammered.... "I ... I ... I ...."

"Shape up, man! Do you think I singlehandedly avenged Pearl Harbor with a stammer?"

"Ah, ah, ah ...."

"I did not!" Uncle Ted said. "I had help from Daffy Duck and the Road Runner. Oh, and George Burns."

Hobo Jim knew he was way in over his head. Sure, he wandered about Soldotna in full desert camo for a week before shipping out to entertain the troops overseas, but staring down Hadji and the camel jockeys was nothing compared with coming face-to-face with Senator Ted Stevens in a northbound boxcar at midnight on Turnagain Arm.

"What are you doing here?" Hobo Jim asked.

"I'm making a secret visit to my ski chalet to judge the progress on its expansion," the state's senior senator said.

"Why are you..."

"Why am I riding the rails like a common bum? Like a folk singer? Because I am mostly anonymous traveling like this," he said. "But having you recognize me... well, that complicates things. Complicates them mighty hard."


"Listen, I may let you live. Hell, I may let you come play at the next Kenai River Classic, where I rake in millions of illicit dollars under the guise of fundraising for a phoney conservation 'non-profit,'" Stevens said. "But, if the hammer ever comes down, you've got to swear under oath that you never saw me here."

"I can do that," Hobo Jim said.

"You God Damn better," Stevens bellowed. Hobo Jim could have sworn the senator's face grew a little green, like his Hulk tie.

"Oh, yes sir!"

"Alright then," Stevens said. "We're coming around Bird Point. Jump."


"Jump! Jump now!" the green-glowing dwarf shrieked.

"But, but, but, " was all Hobo Jim could get out before Stevens grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and the seat of his pants and threw him off the train. Tossing his National Guitar out after him was an afterthought.

"That's a helluva racket those dobros make when they hit the rocks," Stevens thought, as he sat down to dig into Hobo Jim's supply of smoked Kenai River king salmon. "A helluva racket."

Hobo Jim lay sprawled across 100-ton boulders at the edge of the water, his stainless steal guitar lodged over his head.

"Nobody will ever believe this," he thought, and he tried to get up and make his way to the freeway to flag down a passing car.

When he crawled up to the road, a northbound Chevy Tahoe stopped to pick him up. "Hop in," said the perky brunette with the four kids in the back. "Where ya headin' don'tchaknow? I'm goin' all the way up to Wasilla, ya betcha."

The only other Turnagain Arm train story of this caliber I know of is this one. Most of the train scenes were filmed near Portage. Some regard it as John Voight's best film.

Thank you, Ishmael Melville, for your wonderful work!

Update - Sunday @ 9:30 a.m:
from the comments, the question gets asked again, in this fashion, "What is the story behind that fake Vogue cover? I must have missed it-- I thought it was genuine!"

And so have others, anonymous one. Ishmael Melville created it, back in mid-December, 2007. It became a local hit, among Alaska bloggers and our readers. At that time, only two Alaska blogs got really, really high traffic, most of it out-of-state: - KoKon and Dennis Zaki's Alaska Report.

Ishmael published his photoshop Vogue cover on December 14th. PA picked it up on the 15th. On December 23rd, the HTML-link-challenged Sheila Toomey, put up a screen shot of my December 15th coverage at her Alaska Ear spot, without figuring out that the cover was Ish's product, Ish's fine art.

Somebody on John McCain's staff soon passed the fake Vogue cover on to his boss, where he placed it on his desk. The rest is history.

The nice gentleman at the top of the page thought the cover was real, too, as did his friend, who didn't want to be photographed. I caught them at the Anchorage Cafe del Mundo on Benson Blvd, back in early September. I ruined their day when I told them the history of the photo.


Ishmael said...

Thanks for the shout-out, bro.

Anonymous said...

What is the story behind that fake Vogue cover? I must have missed it-- I thought it was genuine!

Philip Munger said...

anon #2 - see update above

Anonymous said...

On Hobo Jim: I used to always try and take visiting family and friends to see Hobo Jim. He IS an awesome performer and his songs of Alaskan culture are interesting for visitors. Then last summer I saw him dis the Dixie Chicks on stage. ! That pissed me off! HJ can't see that GWB is a murderous liar by now? Then I saw him at the state fair with a McCain Palin sticker on his guitar praising Palin? I walked out.

I think I am done supporting HB now. He protrays himself as a regualr humble and simple Alaskan musician, but he sure isn't supporting the working class people or the environment of Alaska. I think he gotten used to cavorting with all those people with money, staying in their plush lodges, free fishing and hunting outings and the like.

He is great on stage and has a lot of energy, but I noticed that this energy does not transfer over to his CD releases.

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