(Editor's note: For some time, Anchorage musician and comedian Mr. Whitekeys published a humor column in a national magazine -- until last month, when he was told that his observations "trashed Alaska" and were thus at odds with the image of the state that the publisher sought to present. Over lunch recently, Whitekeys accepted the dismissal philosophically, but lamented that the last column he wrote would now languish unpublished. We offered to print it here and, with the author's permission, now share it with readers.)
Well Hallelujah, Hallelujah! It's finally summertime in Alaska. Everything we've put up with during the last nine months of frozen hell is over and the next few weeks will make it all worthwhile. Once again it's time for those quick trips to the Kenai Peninsula where one day's catch will fill your freezer for the entire winter, where there won't be a single Winnebago in front of you on the road, and where you'll spend an entire day on the road and on the river without even once using the word #$%&*@#$%^&#.
But there's no escaping the Big Reality Slap In The Face, so it's once again time for "Summer By The Numbers."
According to the latest figures available from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, we collectively fished for 2,000,167 days and brought home 2,566,595 fish in the last year. That's only 1.28 fish per day! This is great news. I only have to catch one more fish per day to be normal!
Then ... if you factor in that Alaska anglers spend around $1.4 billion per year on their affliction, it turns out that we spent $545.47 per fish!
One day last winter I was accosted by a wise guy in the checkout line at Costco: "How come you're buying salmon? Didn't you catch anything last summer?"
"No, I just decided to eat fish that cost $536 less than the ones you eat."
The one part that bothers me, though, is this 1.28 fish per day thing. For every day that I get skunked, some other guy is catching a whopping 2.56 fish. Who is that guy? One time, I got to meet him in person.
My fishin' buddy Dr. Pete and I had spent a day working the long gravel bar at Bodfish's Hole with #10 Egg Sucking Leech patterns. We'd caught a couple of fish and were feeling pretty good when a guy appeared upstream on the bar and worked his way downstream toward us. We were casting way out into the current, but he was lobbing his fly out with only six feet of line and caught a trout on nearly every cast. By the time he got to us, he'd caught enough fish to feed every person who has been the frontrunner in the race to be this year's Republican Presidential Nominee.
It turns out he was from Kenai and he said the secret was in the exact amount of weight needed to keep the fly on the bottom. This was hard to understand because, like ancient Demosthenes who stuffed his mouth full of pebbles to improve his enunciation, the angler's mouth was full of split-shot sinkers so he would always have the right number and size handy.
He took off down the bar and caught another 42 fish before he disappeared around the bend. I asked Dr. Pete for his expert medical opinion.
He put it in very succinct scientific terms: "That guy might be catching more fish than we are now, but by the time he's 135 years old, he'll be dead from lead poisoning and we'll still be catching our fish-and-a-quarter every day for years to come!"
THE WHALE FAT FOLLIES, the music and comedy revue featuring Mr. Whitekeys and crew and billed as "the show the Alaska Department of Tourism does not want you to see," can be seen at 6:45 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays through Aug. 29 at the Tap Root, 3600 Spenard Road. Tickets are $21-$11, available at centertix.net.
CAUTIONS: Minors must be accompanied by a parent and all patrons must be 16 years or older with a valid ID to enter. That's because, in addition to the venue being a bar, the show contains "some language, photo images of Alaskans doing stupid things and a snotty attitude toward politicians" -- and may be perceived by some to trash Alaska.