Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - Opinions



By Dave Person


August 11, 2005

I recently had the pleasure of walking through downtown Ketchikan while helping my wife with her booth at the Blueberry Arts Festival. I don't visit downtown much these days because there is almost nothing there that interests me. Walking past the myriads of jewelry and curio shops was surreal, like living in a Hollywood set. The front of the store said "Alaska Logging Show" but I knew that inside I'd find a bunch of actors and producers from California. Then I remembered the poor, chubby schmuck dressed as a British Grenadier (the Coldstream Guards must be turning over in their graves) in front of a jewelry store and it struck me - I was in a cartoon, a caricature of real life! Were those hawkers trying to get me to buy their tanzanites from Africa real or clay-mation? I couldn't tell. I think the next time I am in town I'll stab one with a pencil to see if he bleeds. No one will really arrest me because it's not real. Right?

The only thing wrong was that cartoons usually tell a story or make a point. This cartoon was pointless and growing longer. Mindless perpetual growth is the behavior of a cancer cell. Perpetual growth, that is, until it kills the patient. I longed to tell the cartoonist that it needed more diversity. How about a wax museum? The Rainforest Sanctuary Wax Museum complete with likenesses of wolves, bears, and deer. That may be the only way many tourists get to see those local animals since the real Rainforest Sanctuary only has a reindeer. Out front will be a likeness of an owner of the sanctuary trussed up in his forest-canopy sliding cable gear. If you pull the string on his back he points his finger at you and warns "If you don't build the new docks the cruise ship industry will leave". Inside the wax museum you will find a likeness of Mayor Weinstein. He will be passing out city council sponsored brochures promoting dock expansion while also holding a sign that says "No Commercial Uses of Our Trails!!!" (could expansion of the cruise ship industry and pressure to use our trails be, like, connected - KNUCKLEHEAD?). Worst and most sinister of all I envisioned the likenesses of all the property owners along the waterfront. They were sitting around a poker table with diamonds and tanzanites in their eyes dividing up the chips representing properties after the dock expansion. "Get rid of the electricians and put in a jewelry store". "We don't want no stinkin' Pizza Mill. Replace it with a jewelry store." On and on it goes until a squeaky little voice asks - "Couldn't we have a curio shop for, you know, diversity?"

I left downtown with my eyes averted to the gawking tourists and jewelry pimps and headed for home. The cartoon vision was gone and I felt a breath of reality as I headed north away from town. Monday morning I was awakened at 6:00 AM by the sound of floatplanes passing over my home flying tourists (oops, I mean "visitors) to Traitor's Cove and Neets Bay. Afterward as I drove to work I passed a group of "visitors" on bicycles riding through my residential neighborhood. "Look a real Alaskan driving to work". "I wonder if he speaks English?" Oh my God, the cartoon had followed me home! I then remembered a prominent tourism advocate telling me that the cruise ship tourist industry in Ketchikan was only in its infancy. I thought of Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" as I drove sullenly to work.

Dave Person
Ketchikan, AK - USA




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Ketchikan, Alaska