It's not like I'm an anonymous blogger, or anything.So I'm wandering around the new Denai'na Center in Anchorage earlier this week (Tuesday, to be precise) and I got the impression there was a social worker convention going on - everybody had on these big buttons reading OCS Yes!
Well, once I realized that most of the people wearing the buttons were old white men (and yes, I suppose I am one, too) it dawned on me that it WASN'T a social worker convention.
As me and my com padre were driving up we saw a sea of hardhats gathered outside the convention center, chanting "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho" this and "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho" that, to nobody in particular (to nobody, actually) cheered on by a Ursus Maritimus riding in a horse-drawn coach (no methane worries there, eh?) who looked for all the world like Kusko the Kapeq Dog.
"Watch this," I told Norman as I rolled down my window and went into drive-by gear...
"Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Why Don't You Hire Some Eskimos" I yelled. The crowd quieted, looking confused. "The Governor keeps telling our kids to get jobs on the Slope," I continued. "How do they do that?"
Finally a woman piped back, "Join the Union and go to work."
Never one to leave the last word up for grabs, I finished with "Yeah, if you give them more than 5 minutes to sign up for an Apprentice Program!"
See, in the "Good Old Days" when the "Good Old Boys" ran things the apprenticeship ads in the papers said you had to have all completed paperwork in hand and present yourself at the union hall between 2:37 pm and 2:53 pm or you would not even be considered for entry. Things obviously have changed, but there is always room for improvement, particularly in getting more Alaskans into jobs on the Slope.
But I digress.
The social worker convention seemed like the early morning social event of the year. Luminaries filled the hall and the lobby. I saw Governor Bill; wanted to be (still does?) Governor Johnne; wants to be Governor Bob; the current Governor (well, I didn't SEE her, but I think I heard her voice through the open doors as she gave the Secretary of Interior a Piece of Her Mind); Lisa, Mark and Don (and Lu, who was looking very good, I hasten to add); Ethan Berkowitz; Emil Notti; Mead Treadwell (hey Mead, call me!); gosh, and a LOT of people I never recognize but I am sure are important.
Anyway, half the crowd was wearing these OCS Yes! buttons. Big, round, garish creations that signified support for exploration and ultimate development of offshore gas and oil resources in Alaskan federal waters.
Then the other half was wearing slap-on stickers reading "Protect Alaska's Oceans."
So I'm standing in the line for free coffee compliments of Alaska's oil industry when the lady behind me, well dressed with her back turned, catches my attention.
"So the thing I don't understand," I tell the back of her well-coiffed head, "is why half the people here are wearing OCS Yes buttons, half are wearing Protect Alaska's Oceans stickers, but noone is wearing BOTH!"
She turns and says, "Excuse me?"
So we chatted, I asked if she was in the "petroleum industry" and she said "OCS, Yes" (I jokes, she had on a button but she only said "Yes") and I asked what part and she said "oil and gas" and I thought, "well, duh!" She said that one of her colleagues was wearing both a button and a sticker, and I asked if her colleague was a scientist. She owned up that he pretty much was.She, on the other hand, was a "negotiator."
Well, I asked that question to almost everyone I spoke to, oil n gasser, environmentalist, politician. They all were taken aback at the concept that one could wear BOTH hearts on their sleeves.
We hung out with a few of the locals, catching up with friends and relatives....
Then we saw Randy.
My com padre on this trip was none other than Our Yup'ik Republican, Norman (recent candidate for the Alaska State Senate).
"Hey Norman, lets go talk to Randy," I said and off we went, chasing him down the escalator until we got his attention. After I muttered the secret masonic recognition phrase he cordially greeted us as brothers in arms.
A disgusted Vic Fisher races upstairs to the world of free hats and coffee.
He spoke warmly to Norman, even as he endorsed Norman's successful opponent in the race as a fine conservative in his own right.
I took a few snaps for posterity and then got down to business.
"Mr. Ruderich," I said, "Half the people here are wearing OCS Yes buttons, half are wearing Protect Alaska's Oceans buttons, but noone is wearing both."
Randy didn't miss a beat.
"Well," he began, "Those are a bunch of code words. The ones wearing the stickers are really anti fishing."
He started onto a fine rant (Your erstwhile correspondent didn't think to press play on the recorder :( ) about how all we have to do is "eliminate" the Democrats and everything will be OK.
Norman and I looked at each other..."eliminate the Democrats," eh? Talk about your monotheistic point of view!
Well, Norman suggested that most of the people who voted for him were more of a Libertarian bent and Randy agreed with the veracity of that observation ("People in Rural Alaska just want to be left alone" - editors note: No shit, Sherlock)and then he started off again about polls and statistics about Rural support for Unions or some such truck.
Me and Norman tossed back a couple of lifesavers hoping for a crucial sugar rush, shook Randy's hand once more, then headed back to whatever dreamworld we had been so (no pun intended) Ruderich'ly awakened from.
Oh yeah, I got lots of hats, too.