In the summer of 1983, I worked for four straight months, six nights a week, in a rock and roll band that played the lounge of the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel. I had gotten a kidney transplant two years before, and I was in flourishing good health.
I was also drinking a lot, so much that I had to exert teeth-gritting willpower not to get so drunk that I couldn’t stand up on the bandstand in our later sets.
Then I had a great idea: I’d take a little speed to even out the alcohol.
Something stopped me. Something made me say, “Wait a minute — you’ve done this kind of thing before and lost your kidneys. Don’t do it again.”
Mid-summer, I walked into an AA meeting, and I haven’t had a drink since.
WASILLA COMES INTO PLAY because, having sobered up, I suddenly found myself with quite a lot of money on hand, in cash. That’s one of the cultural markers of Alaska: having a lot of money. Having a lot of money young. And, in Alaska, just about everybody flies. So I decided to take flying lessons, something I had always wanted to do.
A friend of the band put me in touch with a flying instructor named Mark. Mark told me to meet him at the Wasilla airport Sunday at 9 a.m. — well before most of my bandmates woke up; I’d have plenty of time to use the band’s only car. I slept maybe three hours that Saturday night, popped out of bed clear-eyed and sober, and fired up our old Rent-a-Wreck for the 40 mile drive northeast along the Cook Inlet to Wasilla.
Wasilla appeared, as I recall, right on Route 3, as a single line of modest — not to say ramshackle — stores and gas stations on the right hand side of the road. I cruised the entire town in a matter of minutes, seeing no airport. So I stopped at the Iditarod Cafe, an all-American kind of diner and grill festooned with souvenirs of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, and asked where the airport was.
“Right out there,” said the man behind the counter, pointing to the back door.
I opened the back door, stepped out, and nearly got beheaded by a roaring tail-dragger, taxiing on the gravel.
AIRPORT INDEED. ALL OVER THE BUMPY GRAVEL, I found airplanes tied down, parked, and in use, many of them requiring a manual propeller pull-through to get started. I hoped I wouldn’t have to do that. I soon found Mark, who was bedding down three of his sled dogs near his tie-down site.
Mark and I climbed into his Cessna 152, me in the left-hand seat. Mark showed me how to taxi and directed me to the gravel runway.
“I’m supposed to call for clearance to take off, right?” I asked.
“There’s no tower here,” he said. “Take off!”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?