A tale of two photo-ops

Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Everyone has a "What I'm Doing in Alaska" story: I followed a job; I followed a guy/girl; I watched too much Discovery Channel; I crossed a land-bridge from Asia sometime between 60,000 and 50,000 B.C. Me, I'm here for the free hot dogs.

Actually, that's not entirely true. I came for the casual dress code and the prospect of never, ever having to shave again; I stayed for the free hot dogs. At least that's what I'm doing in Juneau, a town that seems to enjoy no shortage of public events involving the distribution of complimentary processed meat.

In the three short years I've lived here, I've eaten so many free hot dogs I set off an alarm whenever I walk into Rainbow Foods. And it's not like I'm out there looking for free hot dogs, either. Okay, sometimes I am. But more often than not, free hot dogs find me.

Seriously, there I'll be, right across the street from the Legislature Building, about to drop off my wife's lunch bag, which she forgets three days out of five. Bam! Next thing I know, someone's shouting something from a megaphone. Up go the picket signs. Out come the wieners.

In this way, I've inadvertently rallied both for and against income tax, both for and against ground water fluoridation, both for and against building the road/pool/some kind of bubble-feeding humpback whale sculpture. At least I think that's what it was. I couldn't hear that well over all the chewing.

Whatever the cause, celebration, or ceremony, if it involves no-cost tubesteak, odds are you'll find me there, mustard dotting my beard like the Aleutian Islands, carrying on my shoulders a year-and-a-half-old miniature girl version of myself, right down to the little mustard stain archipelago. By the way, there's nothing like a baby to elicit free food, especially one who looks like she's been putting it to her dad all day. That's usually our general impression.

Which brings me to another thing babies are good for (aside from the PFD, and as a back-up alarm clock): attracting the attention of photographers. There's nothing event paparazzi love more than a cute kid eating a hot dog, preferably standing in front of an American flag, while her proud work clothes-wearing dad, also preferably standing in front of an American flag, shakes hands with some VIP or other, again, preferably standing you know where.

Given both my carnivorous and narcissistic expectations, imagine how sad I was to come away from last week's Governor's Picnic at Sandy Beach with nary a hot dog or a photo op. The food line stretched all the way back to all the high school kids loitering around the Treadwell Rink parking lot in all their skin-tight Emo finery. The governor didn't even have a line for himself. He was going commando, trailed closely by a rather menacing-looking bodyguard.

Nothing against Sean Parnell. I'm sure he'll be a great governor, and I look forward to passing him some relish one day. But when it comes to crowd management, he could take a page from a certain recently ex-governor's book.

Before I continue, I'd like to note that my interest this particular vice presidential runner-up is entirely apolitical. She's like Tom Cruise, the Gosselins, and-I'm going to be honest-Demi Moore, all rolled into one. And she used to live in my town. Well, sort of. Even still, whenever she did raise her head, I could see her from my house. Seriously. I'm looking into her old bedroom at the Governor's Mansion right now. Wow, I really should Craigslist this telescope before the Parnells press charges.

Anyway, think what you will about Sarah Palin, she sure could host a gubernatorial meet-n-greet. It seemed like half the town turned out last December for the annual holiday shindig, most of them, like me, angling for a photo that would blow everyone's minds down south. (I'm still getting comments on Facebook, eight months later).

I don't think Sarah Palin disappointed a single attendee that evening. She stood there right in the foyer, next to her husband-who she'd obviously strong-armed into wearing a suit and tie for the occasion-dutifully shaking everyone's hand, smiling for the camera then reapplying lipstick, again and again, for hours. Not only that, she had her staffers pass around cider, hot chocolate, and homemade fudge to everyone waiting outside, knowing full well that many of them still hadn't removed the "Yes We Can" bumper stickers from their Subarus yet.

Now, I'm no political analyst, but I think that says something. I'm not quite sure what that something is, but it fills me with a vaguely warm feeling, much in the way a nice footlong with sauerkraut might. Especially if I haven't paid for it.

• Geoff Kirsch is a Juneau resident. His column appears every other Wednesday.

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