Overheard in Anchorage

Overheard during the past few weeks at various locales around town:
  • "It's a breakfast sandwich--you know, bacon, cheese, eggs. It's not quite as good as McDonald's. It's from Chevron."
  • "Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't want your penis anywhere near my vagina."
  • "I used to live right by the railroad tracks on Spenard in between two whore houses. It was great."
  • "My pee smells like tunafish." [1]
  • "The only people more annoying than Red Sox fans are Sarah Palin supporters."
  • Liquor Store Salesman: "We don't take checks anymore."
    Surprised Customer: "Why not?"
    Liquor Store Salesman: "We were bought by the Canadians."
  • "I can't tell--is she cute or have I just been living in Anchorage for too long?"
[1] This was in the restroom at a bar. The guy who said it was urinating in the sink at the time.

BONUS MATERIAL: Not Overheard, But Still Witnessed In Anchorage

Seen: A guy showed up for a party at a bowling alley after spending the day hunting moose. He was wearing snow pants and snow boots--not uncommon up here this time of year, but there was snow mixed with moose blood and little bits of moose encrusted on his boots and the cuffs of his pants. The snow then started to melt, leaving moose blood all over the floor around the lanes. I pointed this out to him and he went to the bowling shoe rental counter, grabbed a towel, wiped up the blood, and then put the towel right back on the counter. Ah, Alaska.

Read: I've been reading a lot of Chuck Klosterman lately. I re-read most of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, and I'm in the middle of Chuck Klosterman IV. He's hilarious, and I find his pop culture musings quite insightful. Check him out. Here's a sample:
It's like this: You used to be able to tell the difference between hipsters and homeless people. Now, it's between hipsters and retards. I mean, either that guy in the corner in orange safety pants holding a protest sign and wearing a top hat is mentally disabled or he is the coolest fucking guy you will ever know.


One Week Later

"I see these amazing pictures of Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House and I still just can't believe it. Maybe I'm overly sentimental, but this just feels different--it feels historic."

I share Chris Matthews' paraphrased enthusiasm (and like him I am definitely overly sentimental about certain things (my dog, and girls, mainly)), and it is the understatement of this young century to say this is a historic moment, but it is. It represents a sea change in our collective thinking. It says that we are not stupid, that we are not full of hate and fear, that this country has come full circle on slavery, and it shows the hope and promise of this nation: Barack Obama is a nobody--he didn't come from a wealthy, politically-connected family. He is a self-made man, with the kind of pull-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps background that conservative Republicans usually love. He worked hard and he did it. He is a role model and it's been a long time since we've had a President worthy of being a role model.[1] But more than any of this, his victory restores faith in the notion that we the people can change things and we the people still have the power in this democracy.[2]

[1] It feels weird, but I like it. And as much as I love me some Bill Clinton, cheeseburgers and diddling the intern do not a role model make (to the youth of America at least. To me he's still a role model for those very reasons.)
[2] Yes we can!

President-Elect Obama speaks in a manner that matches my sensory perception.[3] He speaks in coherent complete sentences (which should be a prerequisite for public office) and he talks about the issues in ways I can understand. I know a lot of you feel this way too. You are thinking, "Wow, there is someone in the White House who cares about the things I care about." That is really cool. I hope it lasts, because it probably won't. I'm not going to be an Obama apologist. I know he's not "the messiah or Moses" as Pat Robertson accused me of believing. I know he will make his fair share of mistakes and that he alone will not fix all of our problems. And he will certainly make decisions the we won't all agree with. But I feel extremely comfortable putting him in charge and letting him make those decisions.

[3] H/T to Jon Stewart for that line, used to explain the disconnect one feels whilst watching Fox News: "I go outside and see that it is sixty degrees and think, 'It's nice out here.' I go inside and turn on Fox News and they say 'It's snowing.' I think, 'That doesn't make sense.' Then everyone around me says 'It's snowing!' even though it isn't. Then I think, "This is really bad." Fox News in a nutshell, people.

A lot has happened in the last week. Here are seven things I have learned during the past seven days:

1. No American can use "it won't make a difference" as an excuse for not voting ever again.
2. A story from my intern: "My friend is dating a few guys who don't quite have jobs. She told them 'I don't want to hear any more excuses about you not being able to find work. If a black man can be elected President, you can find a job.' " Obama's success is bad news for slackers mooching off their girlfriends across the country.
3. All Americans traveling abroad can now take the Canadian flags off their backpacks.
4. Fox News has been trying their best to pervert and distort Obama's victory, but they can't. No one is buying their tired shit anymore. Fuck you, Fox News. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck you.
5. Myster beat me to it, but Alaskans are freaking out and reacting the only way they know how: by buying guns. Lots and lots of guns. And lots and lots of ammo.
6. The Blame Sarah Game is awesome: She didn't know Africa was a continent, didn't know the countries in NAFTA, she was hard to deal with, she's a wacko, she tried to ban Harry Potter, she didn't get along with McCain, the clothes thing, etc., etc. And there's a new one: a local rumor has surfaced regarding (a la Uncle Ted) mystery funding for significant improvements (I heard $1.7 mil worth, but that seems hard to believe, esp. in Wasilla) to the Palin homestead. Is this stuff true or are the Repubs, and especially the McCain Camp, just throwing her under the bus and trying to pin the blame on the Caribou Barbie? True or not, these stories are hilarious, mostly because they are so believable and fit the meme that she was not vetted at all (which I think we can now agree was accurate). But these stories are also really frustrating and disappointing because it is clear that campaign insiders and members of the conservative media had serious doubts about her experience and qualifications, but they did not raise those concerns during the campaign. Instead, they all lied. All of the Republican and Fox News Talking heads lied about her experience, they lied about how much contact McCain and Palin had, they lied about how much they liked her, they lied about what a great choice she was. Pants on fire, all of you.
7. The contrast of this momentous victory with what happened in California is sobering. For all of the Obama excitement, the passage of Proposition 8 shows that we still have a lot of work to do. Prop 8 amends the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, thus firmly reminding us that there is still one group that it is still okay to discriminate against. Despicable as this is, this discrimination will not last. Every pervasive, accepted, codified form of discrimination that has existed in this country has allen by the wayside. It's only a matter of time before this isn't an issue. But why do we have to wait? Why do we have to go through the motions and discriminate against gay couples for a few more years before we realize the error of our ways? Let's just get rid of it now. And it is important to get rid of it now because of what Prop 8 actually does. Prop 8 is different from all of the other states that have amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage. The difference is that in California gay couples had the right to get married before the amendment passed. The Cali Supreme Court said so. Thus voters didn't just block gay people from achieving a measure of equality with their heterosexual peers, they took away the equal-ness they already achieved. But fret not: lawsuits are underway. From a legal standpoint, this raises really intersting constitutional questions because constitutions usually aren't amended to eliminate fundamental rights. I'm not going to do the research, but I can't think of any examples where liberties have been rescinded by an amendment, and doing so may itself be unconstitutional (I'm talking fundamental rights--prohibition of alcohol, fundamental as drinking may be to many of you, doesn't count). Also, there is a question of whether such an important amendment, one that strips rights away from a good number of people, can and should be left solely in the hands of the voters by way of a ballot initiative. One of the arguments raised in the case is that such an amendment must arise through the state legislature before going to the voters.

In closing, looking at this list made me realize that I spend way too much time thinking about politics. Fortunately, there are other things for me to focus on now. And by "other things" I mean the Mets' extensive off-season shopping list: two starting pitchers, a closer, a second baseman, and a left fielder.


No More Bong Hits

It's finally over. After nearly seven years of litigation, including a trip to the Supreme Court (memorialized here, here, and here), it's over. Now we just have to wait for the movie.

Where Were You?

I found out he won while wearing a hat, gloves, and down jacket and sitting in the small, chilly, mostly deserted Hageland Aviation Services building in Bethel, AK. I was huddled around a TV with 3 fellow civil rights lawyers and 3 Alaska Natives who were working with us as translators. We all started freaking out--yelling, screaming, hugging, crying, high-fiving. Then more hugging. And lots more crying.

At 7:30 Hageland had to close for the night and we had to catch our flight to Anchorage, which was leaving in an hour. So we headed down the street to the Alaska Air terminal. We checked in quickly and then ran to the pizza place next door--which we knew to owned by staunch republicans.

We went in and of course Fox News was playing on the big screen TV. "No celebrating," the guy behind the counter said, "this is a republican restaurant." Then I mumbled something about free speech (the state action doctrine notwithstanding), he smiled shyly, shook his head and said "fine." We determined that we needed to head back to the terminal at 8:00 to go through security and make our plane. That gave us about 15 minutes to watch the visibly morose and depressed Fox News talking heads (I'm looking at you Brit Hume and Charles Krauthammer) attempt to continue to slam the President-Elect: "Well, we still don't really know that much about him...we need to find out more about all of his questionable relationships..." Give it up, d-bags. We're not buying. Time to close up shop.

It was announced that Obama would be speaking at 8 (midnight, eastern)--the exact time we needed to leave. A collective groan arose. Would we be willing to miss our flight and spend the night in Bethel in order to watch the speech? Maybe. He actually started a few minutes before 8 and at 8:15 we started the slow process of pulling ourselves away from the TV. We were back in the terminal by 8:25 and headed to security. Everyone else was on the plane already except us and the guy they wouldn't let on because he had an invalid ID. We got through, went outside, scampered across the icy tarmac, boarded the plane and headed home, happier than any of us had been in a long, long while. (And then we had some drinks on the plane to celebrate.)


Cooler Heads Prevail

And it wasn't even close. Well done, America. Thank you for showing the rest of the world that we're not all a bunch of Fox News loving wackos. We elected a black man named Barack Hussein Obama to be President of the United States because it was the right choice. We did not give in to fear, we voted for what we believed in, and we got it right. Well done.