Sunday, June 11, 1995
OF THE FROZEN EARWAX
As a lover of nature and rugged outdoorsperson, I enjoy going
to remote wilderness areas where I can relax, "recharge
my batteries" and possibly be eaten. So in late April
I hopped on an airplane, then another airplane, then eight
or nine more airplanes, until finally I reached Alaska (Official
State Motto: "Speak Up! Our Earwax Is Frozen!").
is Part One of a two-part report on my trip. (Part Two will
appear next week.) (Both parts are tax- deductible.)
DAY ONE -- I arrived in Anchorage and, as is the ancient custom
in "The Land of the Midnight Sun, " I had the airplane
seat cushion surgically detached from my butt. It was evening,
but there was still plenty of daylight left, and I knew that
within just a few miles of downtown there were many spectacular
unspoiled areas, virtually untouched by human civilization.
So I went to a bar.
There I had a few beers with my friend Craig Medred, who splits
his time between writing a column for The Anchorage Daily
News and trying to get himself killed. Craig is a serious,
by which I mean clinically insane, sportsperson. He's the
kind of guy who's always heading out to the wilderness for
days at a time, crawling around in the snow, chewing pine
cones for nutrition, engaging in some extremely rugged sporting
challenge such as hunting wolverines with a letter opener.
One time, while riding a mountain bike, he fell off a 75-foot
cliff; another time, while moose-hunting, he encountered some
bear cubs, and their mother -- who, as fate would have it,
was also a bear, but much larger -- attacked and hospitalized
him. ("Maul first, ask questions later, " that is
the mother-bear child-care philosophy.)
For the record: In all my years as a newspaper columnist,
I have never so much as received an angry letter from a bear.
My evening at the bar with Craig was surreal. Maybe it was
jet lag; maybe it was the general cosmic weirdness that permeates
Alaska. It was definitely something. People were talking about
the urban moose problem. It had been a very snow- intensive
winter, even for Alaska, and there were moose wandering all
over Anchorage. This can create problems, because moose, in
addition to being humongous, are the disgruntled postal workers
of the animal kingdom. Anchorage residents routinely call
their employers and say they can't come to work right away
on account of there is a moose on the porch. (Do not try this
in, for example, San Diego.)
Anyway, we were sitting at the bar, complaining about the
moose situation, when somebody said, very calmly, "We're
having an earthquake."
"WHAT?" I said, adding: "NOW??"
"Look at the lights, " somebody said. Sure enough,
the chandeliers were swinging back and forth. Nobody seemed
remotely alarmed by this. People were more interested in discussing
Craig's court case. It turned out that Craig had been arrested
and tried on charges of -- I am not making this up -- towing
a canoe on a railroad track. I'm still hazy on the details;
it had something to do with hunting ducks.
As it happened, Craig's lawyer was also in the bar (this kind
of coincidence occurs often in Alaska, which has only about
150 residents total). He came over to discuss the case, which
ultimately came out in Craig's favor. The lawyer said this
was because Craig groveled before the judge, although Craig
views the ruling as an affirmation of the fundamental right
of every American -- not stated explicitly in the Constitution,
but clearly implied -- to tow canoes on railroad tracks.
At 10 p.m. it was still light outside, but I was exhausted,
so I trudged the two blocks back to my hotel, keeping a wary
eye out for moose and other dangerous urban criminal elements.
Yes, Alaska does have crime. I know this because alert Alaskan
reader Jenny Leguineche has sent me selected excerpts from
Dispatch Alaska, a section of The Anchorage Daily News that
reprints news items from other newspapers around the state.
Here are some actual items:
From The Seward Phoenix: "Male reported that his dog
was stolen from his residence and he had a ransom note."
From The Sitka Daily Sentinel: "A man was reported to
be beating on a boy, but the two turned out to be having a
From The Skagway News: "A business owner reported that
someone broke the hand off her mannequin. A possible suspect
may be a man with a blue and yellow shirt, sandy-colored hair
and a long skinny neck who walks humped over."
And finally, we have these two alarming items from The Petersburg
-- "A caller reported that he had received a report regarding
someone speeding in a forklift at Chatham Strait Seafoods."
-- "A caller reported that he had returned to his residence
where he was staying and a ball was missing from the front
porch. The caller stated that neighbors had seen an individual
take the ball and use knives on it."
Despite this crime wave, I made it safely back to the hotel,
where I was able -- call it an instinct -- to locate my room.
I immediately went to bed so as to rest my body for further
Alaskan adventures, which could, I knew, require me to actually
leave the hotel vicinity. But that is the price you pay when
you possess the kind of pioneering spirit exemplified by men
such as Lewis and Clark, both of whom -- and don't try to
tell me this is coincidence -- are dead.
TUNE IN NEXT WEEK for Part Two of this series, featuring glaciers
and a terrifying encounter with Binky the Tourist- Eating
© 1995 Dave Barry. The information you
receive on-line from
this site is protected by the copyright laws of the United
The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistributing, retransmitting,
or repurposing of any copyright-protected material.
happy to have you link to this page on your web site, or send
the link to your friends in email. But please don't copy the
columns and put them on your site, or send them out in email.
back to Dave's Columns