Michael Carey

"He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune." So sayeth the English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Bacon insisted the single life is superior to marriage. In his cranky zeal, he failed to acknowledge we all are hostages to fortune -- and children far more the hostage than adults. I found myself preoccupied with the fortune -- and misfortune -- of children while in federal court watching a civil suit brought by Cherry Dietzmann, the mother of Jason Anderson Jr., a 2-year-old shot in the head during a shootout between his father and law enforcement officers. Jason Sr., a fugitive drug dealer, died in the March 2006 Homer clash. His son was left in a vegetative state that continues to this day. Cherry Dietzmann asked for millions of dollars from the City of Homer...Michael Carey
In January, a FedEx driver left a box on a bench outside my door. I wasn't expecting a delivery and couldn't find a return address. Instead, I found myself mumbling "Where did this come from?" After examining the content for half an hour, I resumed mumbling. The box contained a 10 by 12 maroon scrap book full of old newspaper clippings and full pages of newspapers, some carefully pasted on crumbling yellowing pages, others stuffed in loosely. Many were from Newark, N. J. papers, others were from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The majority dealt with Alaska in the late 1950s. The scrapbook owner obviously was following Alaska's battle for statehood, then in its final stages. Turning the pages, I eventually found a note from an old friend, Don Kaplan of New York, wishing me happy holidays...Michael Carey
"Here is your test," said professor Grant, as he handed copies of a quiz to sleepy Ithaca College sophomores. It was barely 8 a.m., a little early for medieval philosophy. Nevertheless, I turned my eyes to Dr. Grant's questions and frowned while reading "Saint Bonaventura, arguing for the knowability of God, distinguished between knowledge by apprehension and knowledge by comprehension. What does he mean?" I couldn't answer a question like that today but must have in 1964. I passed the course. For reasons beyond my apprehension and comprehension, the quiz wound up in a box of letters I brought home from college and has been there almost 50 years. My medieval philosophy course came to mind after reading a New York Times piece on young people who conclude higher education is unnecessary and...Michael Carey
Julius Frank Terbeba frightened me, and my fear was well founded. He shot two of my boyhood friends. He didn't set out to shoot them, but shoot them he did. Tereba lived behind my parents in Graehl, across the Chena River from downtown Fairbanks. Our lot was long, running the length of the block from Front Street to Second Street. Tereba's place faced Second Street, which put him maybe 75 yards from my folks' house. Sometime in the '50s, Tereba arrived in Graehl and built a home for himself and several small rental cabins. He was a craftsman. His cabins have attracted renters for more than half a century. City water was unavailable in Graehl so Tereba drilled a well, a task that took all summer as he only drilled in the evening after he returned from civil service work at Ladd Field, the...Michael Carey
The nation's columnists have exhausted themselves searching fiction for anecdotes and admonitions that will illuminate David Petraeus' affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Not only have the writers rounded up the usual suspects -- Shakespeare, Homer, Sophocles -- Richard Cohen of the Washington Post invoked gritty Chicago novelist Nelson Algren who said "Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman who has more troubles than your own." (Algren was correcting Sophocles who warned don't sleep at Mom's.) General Petraeus offered the American people a portrait of perfection. The elected officials, journalists, and officers who responded with disbelief when his affairs became public lacked the imagination to understand a...Michael Carey
President Barack Obama won a narrow victory in the popular vote Tuesday, but a decisive vote in the electoral college. His victory in the battle of ideas was decisive too. In the swing states that turned the election, voters rejected major changes in entitlements, lower taxes on the wealthy, deregulation of industry, and harsher penalties against illegal immigrants. Going into the campaign, Republicans believed they were riding the wave of history. Rarely have the election returns been so cruel to those so righteously certain of themselves. Where does our state fit into the election story? Wednesday morning, a Democrat said to me "This is a great day to be a Democrat -- unless you live in Alaska." Alaska not only remained a red state but we now may have the most conservative government in...Michael Carey
The man on the telephone interrupted himself with hesitant light laughter as he launched into a story without giving his name or offering a greeting. "Remember when I told you -- heh heh -- about that time my car broke down near Tok -- heh heh -- and I couldn't remember who was with me -- heh heh? Now I remember!" The phone rang at six in the morning. The Ford broke down in 1959. "I told you I would remember who that guy was," said Johnny Grames. John George James Grames, who lived a stream of consciousness life, died in Bellingham, Wash., last week. He was 75. For most of half a century, John Grames was a well-known figure in Anchorage. He wasn't a member of the local elite. He didn't have a profession. He didn't make a name for himself in politics although he was the Green Party nominee...Michael Carey
Turnout in the primary election was less than 25 percent. There are several obvious reasons why Alaskans didn't show up. There was neither a gubernatorial nor Senate race on the ballot. Many primary races were uncontested. Numerous incumbents were prohibitive favorites. Learned tomes and scholarly papers have been written on why Americans don't vote. Their authors usually focus on alienation or indifference to the political process, the impediments created by state and local government (polling places far from where voters live, for example), the non-voter's rational calculation that there's a better way to spend his time, the transitoriness common to American life, and religious-philosophical objections to the state, political authority, and the act of voting. On election day, I decided...Michael Carey
A couple days ago, I had breakfast with a young man about to leave for his freshman year in college. He was preparing to depart the following morning and appeared excited but uncertain. The word "college," when he used it, seemed to have a question mark after it. The more he talked, the more I felt like I was looking at myself -- the skinny young guy who left Fairbanks for his freshman year at Ithaca College almost a half-century ago. In September 1963, I flew to New York City and took a commuter train to my Uncle John's bar-restaurant-motel in Westchester County. I managed this without getting lost -- an auspicious start -- but felt occasional disbelief. Me? The kid raised on moose meat at the ticket window in Grand Central Station? On a cool, gray morning, my uncle John pulled out of...Michael Carey
My friend Jim Rogers explains the psychological value of graves to the living this way. "A grave is a place to walk to and a place to walk away from." This is concise way of saying -- a place to pay tribute to the dead, then return to the living. With cremation now common, there are fewer graves to walk to and from. You don't hike to the base of Mount McKinley and meditate on grandpa's ashes scattered at 18,000 feet. I have visited cemeteries for 40 years, often as a tourist come to pay tribute. On a couple of occasions, I walked through graveyards in towns dead themselves, Tofty near Manley Hot Springs, for example, where only the former mining camp's name survives, and spindly willows cover the graves. I also have been to large metropolitan cemeteries and paused at the final resting...Michael Carey