Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Alaska Day Nine (Tuesday)

Where the rich folks live:

Now THAT doesn't suck...

The rich folks' view:

That doesn't suck either...

After leaving the "Bel Air of Los Anchorage" neighborhood in the hills, spent some time at what's likely to become my favorite place in the Anchorage area: Point Woronzof. They say in the guidebooks that you can skip it, because it's a "favorite hangout of teenagers at night." The guidebooks were, in fact, downright snooty and dismissive, which meant that Contrarian Me had to check it out.

So, maybe it does turn into Inspiration Point (10 points if you remember what tv show that's from) after dark...oh, wait, it doesn't GET dark so I guess it's only Inspiration Point all winter long, when Anchorage gets five and a half hours of daylight. In any event, I didn't see any teenagers here, just locals with their families. It's a great place to bring a book and enjoy the scenery.

Unfortunately, you have to be very careful if you want to go down to the water, which a lot of folks do, as there is a rocky area at the bottom of the point where you can go safely, but there are also:


Oh, and one more thing about Woronzof Point? Planes land right over your head. Pretty neat, IMHO. This isn't the gargantuan 757 that came over while I was arriving, but it still made me grin stupidly as it flew over.

I guess I should admit here that the first time I saw an Air Alaska plane, I wondered, "What in the heck is Che Guevara doing on that plane's tail?" Upon closer and more reasonable inspection, no, that's not Che Guevara. It's an Eskimo.

Which brings me to my political point du jour: It's very strange to be in a place where "race relations issues" means not black and white, but black and white versus Native. There's a big problem here regarding Natives -- and, specifically, Native alcoholism and homelessness. I noticed it myself the first few days I was here when, in my inimitable fashion, I first thought, "wow, there's a lot of liquor stores here," then, "boy, there's a lot of really chubby Asian people here," then, "and the Asians here drink A LOT." And then my brain woke up from its blonde nap and I realized, "They're not Asians, doofus. They're Native Alaskans, and you're a brunette, so snap out of it." There are a lot of liquor stores here because smaller towns up north have banned liquor sales, so people come down to stores in Anchorage that advertise "bush service" and fly the liquor back up north. (I know, there's a joke dying to be made here about alcohol and bush service, but I will leave that to each of you for your own private gutter mind joke moment).

Anyway, I was listening to the radio yesterday and people were calling in and complaining about the serious Native homeless/alcohol problem in Anchorage and excoriating the Anchorage City Council for its new plan of opening a few homeless camps where the homeless Natives can pitch a tent and live. I'm not sure why they don't see the irony and political incorrectness of encouraging Natives to "pitch a tent," but in the few cities where this has been tried, it's been a disaster for crime and disease. Anchorage seems committed to trying it anyway. From what I've seen -- and from what I heard on the radio yesterday, but have not seen about drunken behavior downtown -- they need to try something, but a few Hoovervilles of homeless alcoholics doesn't strike me as a genius plan in a town where the average January high temperature is twenty-five degrees, as I don't think these folks buy winterized tents and sleeping bags at The Sports Authority.

Ok, end of political talk.

So, as a final thought today, Anchorage is really not all that small:

See it, right there?

No, come on, I mean right there. In the middle of the picture!

Ok, I kid. That picture is actually where Mount McKinley would be. See that area in the picture where big, marshmallow-like white clouds strech poofily to the ground? That's where the mountain is. Hopefully, when I'm up there on Friday/Saturday, Eeyore will not be the mountain's homeboy as well, and the sun will be out.

Here's Anchorage.

It's really not that small. It's got everything a typical American city of its size would have with the added benefit of a somewhat unique race relations problem.

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