Bush Transportation

[from the stabenow.com vaults, June 19, 2011]

My friend Pati teaches Quickbooks in villages all over Alaska. By now she has a favorite Bush pilot. She doesn’t take near enough photographs to suit me but here are some that represent traditional transportation in the Bush.

This is how you get a truck to Nikolai. And this is how you get it off the skiff once you get to Nikolai.

Nikolai, Alaska

This is the Alaskan equivalent of an RV hauling a car. You have to have ground transportation once you get up the river.

McGrath, Alaska

Hard to believe all that pop came out of one Navajo. I’d love to be able to work out a transportation price per can.

Allakaket, Alaska

All photos taken by Pati Crofut, who has the best job in the world. She does other cool things, too, as you’ll discover when you click on the link under her name.

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“Is there anything you’d never leave home without?”

[Updated, 2014 version.]

This mini-interview originally appeared on the Sisters in Crime Blog on December 6, 2010.

SinC: Is there anything you’d never leave home without?
DS: The thumb drive my books are backed up on. [Update: Stet.]

SinC: What do you wish you had more time for?
DS: Travel. [Update: Reading recreationally. As in not for research.]

SinC: Is there anyone from the past you would like to talk to for just 15 minutes?
DS: Shakespeare. [Update: Cleopatra. With an armed guard at my side.]

SinC: If the F.B.I. had to give you a new identity, what name would you choose?
DS: Wilhelmina Eleutheria Prendergrass. Or something equally unmemorable. [Update: Stet.]

SinC: Favorite food?
DS: Popcorn. [Update: Buttered. Lots of salt. Otherwise what’s the point?]

SinC: Favorite drink?
DS: Water. [Update: Yes, true. Believe it or not. I grew up drinking Seldovia water. Accept no substitute.]

SinC: Favorite dessert?
DS: Chocolate anything. [Update: But ONLY chocolate. Not orange chocolate or s’mores (Marshmallows. Gah.), just plain chocolate. And not dark, either. Milk. Hershey’s, Cadbury’s, Godiva. I turn up my nose at no chocolate.]

SinC: If you weren’t a published author, what would you be?
DS: An unpublished bag lady. [Update: Stet.]

SinC: If you could be one of your characters, who would it be and why?
DS: Star Svensdotter, because she gets to go to Ellfive, the Asteroid Belt and Mars. [Update: Stet. I’m gonna die wanting to have been off-planet just once.]

SinC: What independent bookstore is closest to the place you spend a good portion of your time?
DS: The Homer Bookstore.

SinC: Who owns the store and when did it open?
DS: It’s owned by Jenny Stroyeck, Sue Post and her brother, Lee Post. If I have the story right, Jenny and Sue moved from Anchorage (pop. 320,000) down to Homer (pop. 10,000) about 15 years ago when they were invited to become partners with Lee in the bookstore. The store was in the large strip mall that also contained the main grocery store. When the grocery store wanted to expand, the bookstore bought an old house on Pioneer Avenue and remodeled it, with apartments to rent out upstairs. It’s great to the eye both inside and out; bright, cheerful, inviting. It’s sort of like Cheers, you walk in and everybody knows your name.

SinC: What’s the specialty of the shop?
DS: They’re a full service bookstore, stocked with everything from general fiction to cookbooks. They have a large Alaska section for tourists, of course, a good selection of maps, and if they don’t have it they can order it for you.

SinC: Where can we find The Homer Bookstore online?
DS: http://homerbookstore.com/

SinC: What’s the most recent purchase you made there?
DS: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. [Update: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé by Bob Stanley .]

SinC: How much snow is on the ground in Homer today (Friday, 12/3)?
DS: The forecast is for four inches of snow today, turning to rain this afternoon. Bleah.

SinC: How much daylight are you seeing each day?
DS: Five and a half hours.

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Who was that white man with the flag?

The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked AmericaThe Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America by Louis P. Masur

On April 5, 1976, a white man attacked a black man with an American flag on a pole. By great good luck — or bad, depending on your point of view — Boston’s Herald American photographer, Stanley Forman, was standing in the right place at the right time — or wrong, see above — with his finger on the shutter of his camera. The resulting photograph was reprinted around the world and won the Pulitzer Prize, and pretty much stopped busing in Boston dead in its tracks.

This book tells the story behind the photograph. Who was the white man with the flag? Who was the black man being attacked? Who were all those white students and why were they so mad? Who was the photographer, and how did he get that shot, and how did he almost lose it, and why is the caption so important? Why was Boston, previously known as “the cradle of liberty,” suddenly such a hotspot for racial inequality and the civil rights movement? And why was this photograph, out of so many documenting white-on-black abuse at that time, why did this one imprint itself so strongly on the nation’s psyche? Masur writes

Many of the most notorious images of racial violence involve police brutality–the authorities using excessive force against African Americans….In contrast, Forman’s shot captures one citizen attacking another. And it was not just any violent assault, but one that employed the American flag as a weapon–in the year of the nation’s Bicentennial, no less.”

This is a fascinating study of a single image that reverberates back to other images, including Joe Rosenthal’s “Flag Raising on Mt. Suribachi.” “It seemed,” writes Masur

…as if one could write a history of the nation’s decline in the thirty one years between [Rosenthal’s photograph and Forman’s]. Not merely the busing crisis but a general sense of malaise afflicted the country in the mid-1970s. Whatever economic and social progress had been made in the 1950s and ’60s seemed stalled. Americans suffered through Vietnam and they suffered through Watergate, two crises that raised fundamental questions about patriotism and the vitality of the nation. People felt lost, and into that sense of dislocation entered Forman’s shocking photograph that seemed to confirm the worst nightmares over the fate of the country.

Masur also points out the positively eerie similarities between Forman’s photograph and and Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre. Where, it must be remembered, one of the victims was a black man named Crispus Attucks.

You’ll learn a little about how to “read” photographs, too. Highly recommended.

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