A town is the scene of what people do, become and have.
Stabenow describes happy slow small towns with unusual people who are ever so slightly insane. Who might shoot people over candy bars, or murder them in quaint hotel rooms or share fried bread with a wolf.
There are towns with female elders called “Aunties” who have outlived five or six husbands each, speak English as their third or fourth language, and who have enthusiastically and indiscriminately adopted every stray idiot that crossed their path. They have walnut brown cheeks, wear gold rickrack and are poised between misdemeanors.
Some of these towns are north and some are norther. It is cold:
He wore a balaclava and a knit cap, inside hood Gortex pro shell, ski pants, Patagonia capilene, beneath down parka guaranteed to 20 degrees (below), surround caribous guaranteed to 20 below…
Some are situated where there would be gold if it could be mined. And here there are problems.
Once upon a time, in a movie made long ago, there was a beautiful fairy who helped a poor little girl. You do not remember the movie. You remember the voice. It is the voice of Mary Peiffer.
This time the movie is not about a little girl. It is in fact not even a movie. It is a book, about a woman, who comes from Alaska, and lives in the cold, with dogs.
Mary Peiffer’s lovely, ringing, good witch voice, turns every book into a fairy tale. Sometimes the tale is about not so little girls who grow curiouser and curiouser. Sometimes the girls get into trouble and sometimes they almost die. But always they are found by a voice which wraps itself around them like a shawl against time.
1948 is a strange time to be a Jew. For Lonzman, the hero of this tale, it is the year the Jews in Israel are driven into the sea, and get a small beachside strip of Alaska as compensation. It is the year Lonzman’s father arrives in downtown Sitka where blue kerchiefed Jewesses sing Negro spirituals with jewish lyrics that paraphrase Lincoln and Marx. It is the year Lonzman’s father plays chess “like a man with a toothache, hemhorroids, gas, and a headache whose moves are like successive pieces of terrible news for the survivor Jews who play him. The survivors populate The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, with their chess, their holy books, their rabbis, their clans, their latkes, their typical and atypical habits, their policemen, their crimes.
But I’m curious, do you really feel you’re waiting for Messiah?
It’s Messiah, what else can you do but wait?
And Palestine? When Messiah comes all the jews go back there, to the Promised Land, fur hats and all?
I hear Messiah cut a deal with the beavers…
No more fur.
Landsman and Berkot confront Schmerle, the doorkeeper of the Verbove Rebbe, whose son, Mendele, has been found heroin-dead in a seedy hotel. Schmerle
“… looks east, looks west, he checks with the mandolin man on the roof…
“There is always a man on the roof with a semi-automatic mandolin.”
The Ninilta Native Association is run by Aunties – fierce old women who knit and protect native women and define the small life of the large territory called The Park. One of the Aunties belongs to Kate Shugak and functions, among other things, as a creditor.
We give you time, Katya. You almost get killed when you stop bad man . . . and you come home to heal. Ok we let you heal. We even give you puppy to let you heal. You fight with your Imah. She dies. We let you mourn. Your man die. We let you mourn some more. Your house burn down. We build you another. We give you life, we send you to school, and then instead of coming home like you should have you take job in Anchorage… What about us? Your people?
Kate knows well that the human geography of the Park is a map of old and odd relationships, and that these relationships are to the right and to the left and to the side of the law that comes from the State.
What wasn’t Park was wilderness and what wasn’t wilderness was wildlife refuge. Less than one percent of it was privately owned…
A fraction belongs to those who came during the goldrush in 1898 when the Park was created around them. Another fraction belongs to the native Alaskans who traded the right of way to oil for money and land. These are called Park Rats.
Among these Rats is a murderer. Find out who…