Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When I am fast asleep

At 5am, police cars will lead the first non-construction cars over the I-35W bridge. This is the bridge on Sept 2, 2007 (courtesy of Ben).

At 5 am, I'll still be asleep, but the new bridge will be a welcome change. There are piles of rubble on the shore and the bike path is still closed, but about 14 months after it fell, a new bridge will be in place. 

I feel like I should write more about the collapse, but that will need to be another day.  More information on the bridge opening is at MinnPost

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The World of Sarah Palin

In the past few weeks not much has changed with me. Well, I guess that's really a lie. I've left Google and started year 4 of my Ph.D. back in Minnesota. I'm neglecting the blog a little and instead have been doing homework, spending time with friends, and doing a bit of travelling. (I'm in Iowa for the weekend.)

But, one change is something that I hadn't seen coming. For the past 10+ years, when people ask me where I'm from in Alaska, I reply with, "A small town about an hour from Anchorage." If the person appears to have in depth knowledge of Alaska, I'll give them the town name, but that's fairly rare. Mainly the person wants to know if I lived in an igloo and whether or not I hung out with bears.

With Sarah Palin as the Republican VP nominee, suddenly everyone has heard of Wasilla Alaska. "Hey. Wait. You're from Alaska, what do you think of Sarah Palin?... You're from WASILLA? REALLY?"

While this blog won't become political, and many of you reading know how I feel about these issues, I thought this would be the perfect time to use my recent pictures from Alaska to introduce you to the metropolis that is Wasilla, Alaska. For those of you who don't know, I lived in Wasilla from 1989-1998 and my trip to Alaska in July was 10 years to the day since we'd left. Much has changed, but some things are still the same.

This is the view of Wasilla as you enter on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. Palmer is now a touristy small town while Wasilla is a big-box suburb type city. A huge number of stores, retaurants and shops have gone in since we left.

All I Saw Cookware (All I Saw is Wasilla backwards with different spacing) This was almost the best place in Wasilla. One year my brother won grand prize in the Candymaking for Under 12 year olds at the Alaska State Fair. He got a $25 gift certificate to All I Saw Cookware and bought an icing bag set.

The above picture is the back side of All I Saw. The other side looks towards Carrs, which was where my mom did a lot of her grocery shopping.

Below is a picture of the new Target. Target is opening in Wasilla and Anchorage in October. Wal-mart's been in town for quite a while now. Where Target stands now, there used to be a mall. Cottonwood Creek mall. We went trick-or-treating there one year. Another year my jazz band played Christmas music there. I don't remember what stores were in the mall other than Walden Books.

There is a very odd trend of espresso shacks in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley (where Palmer and Wasilla are). Maybe in all of Alaska. These are stand alone little sheds that have a drive-through coffee business. Most of them were closed as we drove by, so we didn't get to check it out. Dad says they existed (although weren't as prolific) before we left.

I went to sixth through eighth grade at Colony Middle School. I have many fond memories of the school, teachers, and classmates. I was part of a fantastic Science Olympiad team which went to Nationals in Michigan in 1998. We had a great band and music program and I was constantly challenged. Strangely enough, I was reminded last week of one of my former substitute teachers. While many subs are forgetable, I remember one sub from middle school who stood out. He was someone who our teacher never left lesson plans for. He taught us about wildlife and survival techniques (i.e. what happens if you get between Mamma Moose and her Calf) and told great stories about his former class trips. Strangely enough, I'm 95% positive that this memorable sub was Sarah Palin's dad, Chuck Heath.

This is the library. I'm pretty sure that if we could've gotten away with it my brother and I would have lived in the library. Wasilla (and Palmer) was a small town, so by a certain time we knew all the librarians. Mom didn't like us tagging along while she did grocery shopping, so she'd leave us in the library for an hour while she shopped. (The librarians were ok with this.) We thought we'd died and gone to heaven. The library had a checkout limit of 40 books per person at a time. My brother would check out 20 Tintin books and 20 Bill Peet books at a time. I checked out cookbooks and novels. Boxcar Children, Bobbsey Twins, a biography of Evita Peron. I loved it all. I remember being shocked when I worked at the library in Kentucky that some parents only let kids check out 5 books at a time! What did those kids do all week?

When we got home we had to write our books in a notebook to keep track of them and ensure we didn't have late returns. We also had a column for whether we'd read the books, so to this day, my mom has a record of my pre-teen reading. This trip we didn't get to go inside the library, but the brown and yellow building was enough :)

It's always strange going back to a place you once knew. It feels like it's the same, but so much has changed. It's like meeting friends from elementary school who you used to spend all day every day with, but you're now 25 and you have an image of them in your mind as 8 year olds. They've grown up, as have you, but it just doesn't feel right. Hopefully I'll get to go up to Alaska again before another 10 years have passed, but for now, these pictures will tide me over.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Still alive

I've been working on a longer post, but what with moving back to MN, starting school, my birthday, parties, and house guests, I haven't had very much of a chance to write. Tune in soon for an Alaska story with a political twist.

Image of Le Palais des congrès de Montréal