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Back From Alaska

August 7th, 2008 - 8:14 pm

Sorry to have been silent for several days, but Barbara and I were on a cruise (courtesy of the wonderful people from Hillsdale College) in Alaska, and internet service was very random.

I always thought it was stupid to go to Alaska in August.  I love August in Washington, I adore hot and humid and so Washington is a dream come true for me.  Plus, no Congress, which means much less traffic, and you can get tables in restaurants.  Plus, I moved my office from AEI after twenty happy years, to Cliff May’s rising Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.  It seems a good fit, it puts me in the same sandbox as Andy McCarthy and other terrific people, and I love the email address:  michael@defenddemocracy.org  I mean, that’s what I’m all about…

So I’ve been packing and unpacking and cleaning out my files, throwing out two decades’ worth of notes, urgent to-dos that ended up at the bottom of a pile, highlighted clips, you know.  And finally it got done.  Just in time to start a new book and sign up for a new parking lot.  I’ll be a better blogger for it.

Alaska, then.  Barbara has wanted to do it for a long time, and she was right, as usual.  It’s glorious, in a cold, almost monochromatic way.  The glaciers are aquamarine, a color you don’t see anywhere except in glaciers, it results from the compression of the ice.  And those glaciers talk, the guide called it “ice crispies,” and they really do snap, crackle and pop, as you sail past them, the water full of gigantic ice cubes.

Barbara went fishing and caught salmon and black bass, which we had shipped back to Chevy Chase and started eating tonight.  It is so much better than the “fresh” salmon in the market, kinda like the difference between pasta in Rome or Naples and pasta in…your home town.  While she fished, I walked around little villages like Sitka, which was full of Russian tourists having a fine time.  I suppose the exchange rate with the ruble is good, and the stores were full of Russian furs.  No Russian beer, however.

The state capital is Juneau, which has the highest concentration of bars I have ever seen.  Juneau is unique among American capitals:  you can’t get there in a car.  You have to fly or sail…or take your dogsled, I suppose, but this was the wrong season for that.  There’s snow on the mountains, but not in the streets.  Yet.

As I walked past all the bars, I thought back to the night I discovered peppermint schnapps in Madison Wisconsin.  I had just moved there from Claremont, California, and I couldn’t believe that life was possible at forty below.  Then one day my philosophy professor, Julius Weinberg, said to me, “you don’t know about peppermint schnapps?  If you drink it regularly, it makes your bloodstream impervious to the cold.”  And it did.  But it also made those eight o’clock classes harder and harder…

One final travel pointer:  the immigration/security lines at Vancouver Airport are the longest I’ve seen anywhere in North America.  Right up there with a bad morning at Heathrow.  It took and hour and twenty minutes standing on line.  Oy.  But it’s a nice airport, plenty of Chinese takeout, so you don’t need peppermint schnapps.

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