Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Where everbody knows her name

I've been developing quite a small town jones for some time now(partly fueled by daily viewings of Gilmore Girls) and there's something about living in a place that's not as fast paced or as alienating as a large city can be that holds an attraction for me. I know that small communites have their own particular brands of malcontent and pettiness and are not sweet little Shangri-las that cast a magical spell over life's worries and woes. However,it would be nice to be part of a community doesn't just reach out to someone only when there's a crisis and annual events are actually fun.


I don't know if I have the fortitude that Heather Lende does-she and her family live in Haines,Alaska,which is ninety miles north of Juneau and is best gotten to by water or air when the weather is good. Heck,it would be easier to find Superman's Fortress of Solitude just before disaster strikes Metropolis. Haines has very little industry to keep steady employment,other than fishing,tourism and lumber. There's no traffic light,everyone goes to the post office to pick up their mail and there's not a Starbucks or a MickeyD's in sight.

Heather writes obituaries for one of the local papers,The Chilkat Valley News, and her book,If You Lived Here,I'd Know Your Name(due out in paperback this June) covers that and a lot more about her friends and neigbors. One of the many reasons people from all walks of life choose to live in Alaska is the oneness with nature. Getting up every morning to the sounds of sea lions and catching a view of some of the most majesic mountain ranges in the world does sweeten the pot.

True,there is alot about death in this book but it's not the end all and the be all of it. Heather also focues on the life around her,such as adopting a young Bulgarian girl(affectionately called "Stoli"),worrying about her daughters as they work on a fishing boat with their friends and getting involved in local politics such as setting up tolerance workshops for the high school students after a nasty incident that revealed social and racial bias. One of the workshops wanted to focus on homophobia but that caused an uproar so it was eventually dropped. Heather eased up on some of her political involvements after that.

One of the strengths of the book is that Heather doesn't shy away from the tough side of life in Haines but also finds the good in it as well. She's also not afraid to express her doubts and concerns about choosing this way of life and how it affects her marriage and six children. She does find much to inspire her,such as the "grand dames" who never let up such as "Porcupine Jo" Jurgeleit,a one legged lady gold miner who was not hesitate to settle her differences with a shot gun. Even the members of her local church are quite lively-a number of them were leads in the Lynn Canal Community Players production of a musical called Angry Housewives that featured such ditties as "Eat Your Fucking Corn Flakes". I'd certainly pay good money to see and hear something like that!

If you're like me and have a hankering for hometown events and bake sales,get ahold of Heather's book and see what it's really like to live in one of the remotest areas in the world. Even if you're happy where ever you are,If You Lived Here,I'd Know Your Name is an excellent mediation on community,nature and the bonds that hold lives together. If you want to read and know more about Heather Lende,please click the title link above. Those so-called "desparate" housewives who think the suburbs are a wilderness should try really roughing it in a place where you may have to drive to Canada for emergency surgery for your kid. That's extreme living,if you ask me.

2 comments:

Lady M said...

No no no - Just say no to small towns. LOL!

I live on Kodiak Island. Can't get much more remote or small than that.

But hey - I know all the repeat offenders.

I love DHousewives. But I'm waiting for 2nd season to come out on DVD.

Have a great day sweetie.

Lady M

lady t said...

How did I know that the fabulous Lady M would have something to say about a book set in Alaska,hmmm? Guess them psychic powers of mine are starting to kick in...pretty soon,I'll be able to communicate with the spirits of dead houseplants:)

You have a great day,too(hey,are there bears on that island? Bears rule).

Lady T