North to Alaska, or, Back From AK

There he is, Myth America …

Ted Stevens International Airport is the place you land when coming into Anchorage, the largest city in the most populous part of Alaska. Ted Stevens is the disgraced former Alaska Senator (going back to Statehood in 1959) who famously said:

And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.

Tubes not trucks

And, aptly, the intertubes were pretty much unavailable to me in Alaska, which is why I’ve been silent for the past week, WHILE I’ve been in Alaska. Lotta stuff to report, up to and including the epic Quest for a Wasilla Souvenir Baseball Cap, and Sarah Palin’s new fence.

Ted Stevens International Airport, Anchorage, Alaska*

Too much for one blog, so let’s start at the Ted Stevens International Airport and Anchorage. But first, let’s backtrack.

* Ted Stevens International, for real, Anchorage, AK
the faux Anchorage airport above is SEA-TAC in Seattle, WA

i. Myth America

This goes back to my childhood, growing up in Wyoming. At the time, it seemed like virtually every Western on TV was about Cheyenne or Laramie, both of which comprised virtually all of my childhood residence. I was pre-literate in Cheyenne and post-literate in Laramie, but even from that pre-literate time, we had “The Lawman,” “The Virginian” (which takes place on Shiloh Ranch in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, 30 miles north of Laramie) ,”My Friend Flicka” (set on a ranch between Laramie and Cheyenne), and the eponymous “Cheyenne,” and “Laramie.” In 1955 (the year of my nativity) Jimmy Stewart made a movie called “The Man From Laramie.”

The Virginian, TV Graphic Cover June 1962

And it’s a good place to start — especially since I ended up graduating from high school and later living for several years on my own in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where “The Man From Laramie” was shot.

It’s about myth and mythology. And self-mythology as well.

The Lawman

The Lawman came with the sun,
There was a job to be done,
And so they sent for the badge
And the gun of the Lawman.

And as he silently rode,
Where evil violently flowed
They knew he’d live or he’d die
By the code of the Lawman.

A man who rides all alone,
And all that he’ll ever own
Is just a badge and gun
And he’s known as the Lawman.

Set in Laramie, Wyoming circa 1880, Lawman was one of several television westerns produced by Warner Brothers in the late fifties. The show distinguished itself in the western genre with its depiction of the relationship between Marshal Dan Troop and his youthful deputy Johnny McKay…. [more]

Our friends from “back East” would come to visit us in Wyoming, and then their kids would take us aside and ask breathlessly: “Where are your horses?” and “When do the Indians attack?”

We would patiently try to tell them that the Twentieth Century HAD arrived in Wyoming, and that no Indians had attacked in decades. Heck. We had cars and electricity and TV and everything. They would have none of it.

It was the problem of mythology. To them, Laramie was this amazing place where Kit Carson and Daniel Boone had arm-wrestled with Sitting Bull and Geronimo over the rights to the gold mines that General George Armstrong Custer was protecting from the raids of Jesse James and Billy the Kid.

Wikipedia: The room on the Remount Ranch outside Cheyenne, Wyoming where Mary O’Hara wrote “My Friend Flicka” was added to the main house by Mary O’Hara and her husband around 1931.

(See “Davy Crockett, R.I.P.“, 19 MAR 2010 for more on this phenomenon.)

Which is why, while the movie buffs talk about what a great film “The Man from Laramie” is, I suppress a guffaw. I cannot ever watch it with a straight face, because the damned history is equally jumbled. Stewart has taken the “trail” from Laramie to Santa Fe, which is just Western illiterate as hell. They have a big confrontation on the salt lake. Etcetera. There was never a trail from Santa Fe to Laramie, unless you want to count Interstate 25 and then Interstate 80, West out of Cheyenne. But that’s been more used in transporting nuclear weapons and materials than salt, I think.

Any American Indian (or Native American, First Nations in Canada, or Novamundian) will understand what I’m talking about.

Because when confronted with the truth, our young offspring of my parents’ friends would look at us blankly, blink, and IGNORE the reality of Laramie, preferring the mythology instead.

Usually, Dad would pack us all up, and we’d drive to the top of the Snowy Range, just below timberline and the tough, scrawny timberline pines, whipped by the winds into a permanent distortion with all the boughs on the leeward side, and have a snowball fight in the middle of July or August, astonishing the Easterners with snow in the winter.

(Sad note: the glacier that gave the Snowy Range its name completely melted off by the end of the Summer of 1987, which I witnessed with my own eyes, sad to say. The gray Precambrian rocks at the top were receiving their first direct sunlight in 50,000 years.)

Glacier all gone on Snowy Range (13,000 feet plus)

So what does this have to do with Alaska?

Everything.

Coming into Anchorage for an 11 PM sunset

ii. Moosylvania

(Tomorrow: the mind-boggling tale of boggled minds, bearses and mooses.)

Courage.

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NOTE: This is part I of a series of VIII.

The other installments are:

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