Mountains in the distance, bright sharp air, gleaming lakes to the west and to the east, God this town is a dump. Old wooden township swallowed by sprawl between the lakes. The bus stops in a sort of strung out sprinkle of streets and shops.

Which way is the centre of town?” I asked.

“This kinda is the centre of town,” the driver replied.

Strung out is right … like that film 30 Days Of Night, Alaskan zombie movie (shot in New Zealand but even so), kids with gaunt faces, bad skin, sloping around town … crystal meth capital of the state, apparently. Last year 48 meth labs were raided in the municipality. Forty eight! No wonder Palin’s so friggin energetic … there’s Nazi crank everywhere.

Old wooden town at the centre, and then the rest of it sprawls between the lakes. Everyone wants their slice of countryside which makes the whole thing a sort of arthurmartha place … big box stores and mini-malls strung out along the highway … journos in the Moose cafe, comparing notes. I ask them if they’ve felt intimidated in Palin Central? Palin has more enemies here than in the rest of the state, says one…

Cab driver laughs when I ask to go to the sports complex … we can do the whole Palin tour if you like … we go to the gleaming new building, Palin’s masterpiece, the Palindrome if you will, giant indoor hockey etc stadium which blew the city budget sideways … fifteen million it cost, and is now surrounded by litigation because it’s not certain the city properly acquired the land it’s on…

We pass back along the highway and the famous library, dowdy place in an old house established that way when Wasilla was a small town of three thousand or so … doubled and again in the last fifteen years as Anchorage workers have built houses but the library’s been starved of funds … now more info that Palin did try to ban a book, a thing by a liberal evangelical preacher called Pastor I Am Gay, emphasising tolerance (the story’s in Salon).

Sport vs. books — pretty much the Palin pattern. The government budgets during Palin’s reign show the Republican appetite for public squalor as public policy at its worst — buckets of money for sports complexes everywhere … several half-million plus grants for astroturf … every budget application for classroom computers, library upgrades, slashed — this in a state with the 48th worst record in education (no one will ever beat Alabama to the wooden spoon)…

“We’re pretty fond of Sarah round here,” the bartender tells me at the Great Bear Brewing Co.

No sh-t Einstein.

“Cos she fought corruption?”

“No cos of all the neat stuff she got us.”

True dat.

Wasilla gleams with road improvements, airport improvements, etc etc, while the rest of the state — and Anchorage in particular — has fared less well…

Bad head … late night at Alaska’s premier strip club, the Alaska Great Bush Company. Not my fault, that’s what it’s called.

“Where are the good bars?” I’d asked the Inuit trawler fish-sorter beside me on the plane up.

“Best place is the Bush company, it’s a strip club,” she said.

“Do I look like a strip club regular?” I thought, then, “don’t answer that,” I thought.

“Seriously everyone goes there.”

True dat.

An old Wild West style saloon, with a lot of bumping and grinding up the front, and a mixed crowd at the back. Canadian whiskey cheaper than coke, also stickier. Half the girls were Russians, so a la Palin, the event counted as foreign policy research, and the tab is in my expenses sheaf, Mr Green.

Woke up on the floor of the living room of my “executive suite” — a living room with fold out bed — with the OJ trial blaring from the TV. Sh-t, finally brain damage. Hallucinating that it’s 1994. No hang on, it’s an entirely new trial.

“I was selling a baseball signed by a famous corrupt baseball commissioner and OJ and friends came in with guns,” said the witness.

OJ’s charged with armed robbery for stealing back stuff of his that was being sold by a man described by his own lawyer as a “hustler”.

Flick channel while waiting for a cab to Wasilla — American economy apparently collapsing.

Proposition: Palin’s Wasilla, Palin’s Alaska is American writ small — running on pork and privilege, deluding itself with tales of frontier ingenuity. Gleaming buildings, services downgraded everywhere. You have to pay for your own rape kit? Cash or direct debit if you think you’re going to be needing them on a regular basis, a reasonable bet in Alaska.

Thinking about this late afternoon, watching MSNBC with head on side on cool counter of ice cream shop.

“Alright if I just lie here and buy an icecream I don’t eat?”

“Sure honey people do that all the time.”

The week after cheque day … everyone’s got hangovers anyway…

Breaking news — Palin’s not going to co-operate with the investigation she herself started into glacier/troopergate. No big surprise, but will Todd Palin the First Dude, respond to a subpoena?

Great story in the NY Times yesterday about Todd and much more besides — like how Palin basically hired all her high school friends to run the government, including appointing someone as agriculture commissioner, on the grounds that she has “always liked cows” … but the real deal is the report on Todd, who was apparently heavily involved in decision-making, budget meetings etc, throughout Palin’s governorship…

Is the First Dude two heartbeats away from the Presidency? The Palins were part of the assemblies of God pentecostalist church for yonks, which teaches a “surrendered wife” view of marriage, i.e. that the bloke is head of the family as a mirror of God being head of the world … be scared … be very scared…

I took the train back. Cool, that you can catch the train — even better that it whistle-stops — you can pick it up anywhere along the line. Old world charm, long since l… “WOULD YOU STOP BLOWING THAT FRIKKIN WHISTLE!”

Small town values I can live with — trains, and nazi crank — but I don’t think that’s what McCain/Palin has in mind when they talk about it. How hard is it not to have a braindead zombie smacktown with all this oil around?

And McCain/Palin are pulling ahead in all the polls.

Peter Fray

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