Monday, July 4, 2011

So This IS Alaska

The doggie barked shamelessly. What a good watchdog!

Off the main road, into the woods just south of Talkeetna, Alaska, is a wooden cabin called the Flying Squirrel Bakery.

I want to go in because it's so rustic, so Alaska, sitting back in the woods like this. I bet there's a moose carcass hanging off a tree somewhere in the back, and a woodman nearby chopping wood to freshen the stockpile for next winter.

The setting is perfect. This Is Alaska!

So I'm excited. We go in.

And immediately, I'm not happy.

Up front, glass cases brim with sumptuous, eclectic sweets, such as ginger cookies laced with rosemary, chai tea cookies and flattened macaroons, the size of saucers, bearing those trendy unruly squiggles of milk chocolate. For lunch (if we want, but we don't) we can savor  lamb-lentil stew with a hefty chunk of whole wheat, raison, cinnamon swirl bread (that's just one loaf).

Off to my right, a man feeds firewood from a wheelbarrow into the mouth of a modest pizza oven made of bright red brick. 

And behind me, I see marble-topped cafe tables surrounded by two-tone wooden chairs.  Paper lanterns dangle from the ceiling, dancing a bit in the ceiling fan's breeze.

It's comfy, beautiful.

But it's trendy. Not rustic.  Touristy. 

I wonder if these people even eat moose.

I shake my dismay and order coffee and sweets (trendy or not, I savor tasting rosemary/ginger cookies, which are YUMMY!) and chat for a minute with Joe, the waiter. From Wisconsin. Who wears stylish square squinty glasses with dark, dark rims. 

"So," Joe inquires. "What did you think of Talkeetna?"

Talkeetna's a small muddy town bustling with activity, partly because it's where climbers must sign in before tackling Mt. McKinley. But also because somehow, I don't know when, Talkeetna got hot. It's twenty-something friendly. It's a magnet for the outdoorsy in-crowd.

They overflow into main street from the popular microbrewery and crafty little shops selling high-priced trinkets and high-end wearable art,  such as silk-screened scarves, jewelry and hand-felted slippers. Cafes sells lattes. Every Friday open-air concerts rock the public square.

To answer Joe's question, I say, "Trendy," laced with a touch of disdain.

He misses my pitch.

"Yea, isn't it great?" he quips. "It's a real party town. And, kinda like Vegas. When you play there, it stays there."

His love for what's hot is cute. And I'm softening to this idea that parts of Alaska are growing up and out of that wilderness skin. So I ask, Why? Why is Talkeetna so cutting edge?

"Because," he says, with confidence. "We're a continuation of the Seattle scene."

So up here in the wilds, 2,300 (road) miles away, between one moose and the next, Seattle's little Alaskan sister rocks. She's hard-nosed, driven to succeed as an artsy, party town. On a very small scale. But she's doing it.

And it dons on me. This is Alaska. Her people don't give up. They go for the gold. And get it.

No comments: