Evan's Eyes

Web Log Entry #0083, Thursday, August 14, 2003: Day 269

Anchorage Sunrise: 6:06am Sunset: 10:03pm High Temp: 59° Low Temp: 53°

I did it! I finally went to the Fly By Night Club! "The what?" you may ask, since those who have never been to Alaska probably never heard of it. If you HAVE visited Anchorage, there's a 99% chance that you've been there, since it is THE PLACE for the locals to take guests from "Outside," and with good reason. All summer, the Fly By Night Club presents a musical comedy review called "The Whale Fat Follies," which reveals that the locals are a quirky lot, obsessed with canned meat products, winter clothing, vanity license plates and duct tape. You'd think an angry mob wielding torches and snow shovels would have driven them out of town by now, but the locals love it. The cast points out that anywhere else in American, people would avoid a dead whale on a beach, but Alaskans just want to eat it. "Ha ha!" the locals say. "They sure got that right!" Based my experience, I think the songs and slide show really did present an accurate depiction of the Alaskan psyche. Snow and cold are a part of life here, so warm clothes and duct tape are matters of survival. It's not surprising that they think about such things constantly. However, the many photographs of animals mating indicates a part of Alaskan psychology I think I'll choose to ignore.

The show also has an obsession with Spam. No, not the unsolicited email messages for enlargement of body parts, etc., but the actual canned-meat-product created by the Hormel corporation. They sing about Spam, they have Spam cans (empty) hanging from the trees outside, and they show slides sent in by patrons who take a can of Spam with them on holiday for the assumedly sole purpose of taking a photograph with them holding the can in front of some foreign landmark. I gather that having one's picture used in the show is what passes for being a celebrity up here. It seems a simple, harmless pleasure, much better than aspiring to be on a Reality-TV show. (Which reminds me, I was reflecting on the increase of abuse and deception in reality-TV shows, and came up with a great idea: "Who Wants to Be Humiliated?" Contestants compete for a huge cash prize by being subjected to criticism about their appearance, intelligence, behaviors, clothes, hygiene, etc. by friends, family, strangers, and celebrity judges! Viewers at home could even pitch in via the Internet. The ultimate humiliation arrives when it's revealed that there isn't a cash prize; the "winner" gets a bowling trophy that the show's intern picked up at a garage sale! I told Jocelyn about this, and her response was "I really worry about you sometimes", so I know it was even better than my "Celebrity Mud Wrestling" idea!)

A couple bits of the Fly-By-Night show stood out for me. Scattered throughout were references to typographical errors that made it to print in a variety of Alaskan publications. Perhaps it reveals a bit too much about MY psyche, but I've always found these hysterically funny. For example, my older brother Dana, a journalist in California, told me of a story in their paper about some conflict between public officials. The headline read "County Supervisors Butt Heads", which still makes me laugh ten years later.* So I really liked the typos gathered from Alaskan signs, advertisements, newspapers, and even government publications. For example, one state-sponsored survey said that the animals key to the food supply of the region's population were "moose, caribou, Dahl sheep, and beer." I can't think of hunters stalking the wily six-pack without giggling.

My favorite song from the show was about license plates. Apparently, Alaskans LOVE vanity license plates, but I'm not sure why. Sure, it's a form of self-expression, but six to eight months out of the year, everyone's car is coated in road grime from the windows down, giving the impression that all Alaskan cars are mud-brown. It also makes it impossible to read license plates or any bumper stickers, but still, many Alaskans pay the extra bucks for a vanity license plate. The song was a multi-media extravaganza with the vanity plates worked into the lyrics, and the slide show would pop up the picture of the plate as they sang about it. This may not sound terribly amusing, so you'll just have to believe me (or make a trip to Anchorage just so you can see the show). The final vanity plate, the coup de resistance, if you will, was "3M TA3". This didn't make any sense, until they flipped it around backwards. If you find this funny, then you understand the Alaskan psyche, too.

* I couldn't remember if it was "County Supervisors" or "School Board Members" or what, so I figured I'd do some fact-checking like a real journalist would, and called Dana. He remembered the headline, but couldn't tell me for sure who the Head-Butting officials were. He did say that it might be available in the paper's archives, but by then I'd lost interest in journalistic integrity. This fact-checking stuff is EXHAUSTING!

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© 2003 Evan M. Nichols