Julia O'Malley

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Adak isn’t the sort of place many people just go. If you are neither hunter nor birder nor fisher, and you still want to go there, it’s best if you have a collector’s mind. It’s the sort of place you’d really get if you’ve always been a beachcomber, a person who likes to walk a tide line, who can’t...
Julia O'Malley
Adak isn’t the sort of place many people just go. If you are neither hunter nor birder nor fisher, and you still want to go there, it’s best if you have a collector’s mind. It’s the sort of place you’d really get if you’ve always been a beachcomber, a person who likes to walk a tide line, who can’t resist pocketing the hollow bird bone or the hunter’s sun-bleached shotgun shell. It helps, too, if you like history. History, like beachcombing, is essentially a way to exercise the imagination. Adak has exotic natural beauty, sure, but the place is also a unique study in the life cycle of human debris. It’s junk, really, but if you’re the right sort of person, it fills your mind with stories. To get to Adak, you fly 1,200 miles west of Anchorage to the far end of the Aleutian Islands. Alaska...Julia O'Malley
After months skimming listings in search of her first home, Elizabeth Knapp, a 26-year-old elementary music teacher in Anchorage, stumbled on her house-hunting holy grail one night in February after work. It appeared in an agent’s email: three bedrooms, two bathrooms, garage, all updated, located in the East Anchorage neighborhood near her parents. Most crucial and hard-to-find was the asking price: $285,000. She called her agent right away and got set up to make an offer the next morning. Six other offers were already waiting. Knapp and her agent decided to go above asking. To increase the chances the sellers would pick her, Knapp wrote a personal letter. “I told them that I grew up in the neighborhood and am still a frequent visitor,” she said. She said she liked the nearby dog park and...Julia O'Malley
When I first walked through the Daily News office 19 years ago, I was 16 years old. What I remember most were personalities. Mike Doogan, metro columnist, paced, ornery and preoccupied. Sheila Toomey, court reporter, cradled a phone between ear and shoulder, laughing way too loud. Don Hunter, who covered City Hall, muttered at his computer. The desks were all paper piles and coffee rings. Those were the "good old days" people talk about now. A few years out from the last Pulitzer and fresh from overtaking The Anchorage Times, the News had oversized ambition and money to chase it. There were reporters covering every beat, librarians and columnists, clerks typing in letters and managing obituaries. The Internet was beyond the horizon. Howard Weaver, then the editor, was perched on the edge...Julia O'Malley
First, eat the pho with your eyes, Tony Chheum told me. Your big round bowl should be volcanically hot, sending off curls of steam. Next to it, a pile of crisp bean sprouts, fresh basil, cilantro, jalapeno and a wedge of lime. Next to that, if you want, a small platter of thin-cut, extra rare beef. He told me this in his restaurant, Phonatik, on Dimond. He was sitting across from me at a table in the VIP room, where the graffiti-style artwork on the walls matches his tattoos. I was there to talk about the Vietnamese noodle shops that have been colonizing Anchorage's strip malls over the last few years. Drive down any major artery in town, and a pho shop will eventually appear, tucked in next to a cellphone store or a nail shop or a dry cleaner. Pho House, Mom's Pho, Alaska Pho, Pho...Julia O'Malley
Walk in these shoes and tell me what you'd do: You're a waitress at the Lucky Wishbone. And there's a homeless guy with an alcohol problem you see all the time. In fact, sometimes he panhandles in front of your restaurant and you have to chase him off. Anyway, one day, the guy is panhandling and a customer, trying to do something nice, tells the guy that he won't give him any money but he will buy him lunch. The restaurant is packed. There is only one small table. You decide to seat the well-meaning customer and the very intoxicated homeless guy. You're a little nervous about it but you decide to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. You pour them some coffee. After a while, the homeless guy gets up and stumbles over to the coffee pot behind the counter, where customers aren't really...Julia O'Malley
First in a series about the 1964 Alaska earthquake When the ground stopped moving, 8-year-old Penny Mead and her little brother, Paul, were sitting on the hood of an old light green Plymouth station wagon out on the Cook Inlet mud flats. The earthquake had been so loud. Now it was quiet. Not far away, water lapped the shore. When they had climbed on that car, minutes earlier, it was parked outside their house on Chilligan Drive in Anchorage's Turnagain neighborhood. Now it was lodged in a bizarre new landscape next to the ruins of their garage. Broken chunks of snowy ground, rafts of mud, and upended trees stretched all around them. Behind them, across 150 feet of debris, a newly formed cliff rose three stories. Near the top of it, torn pipes stuck out of the earth, dripping. Sandy soil...Julia O'Malley
Inside the soon-to-open Natural Pantry last week, it felt familiar and exotic all at once, a little like being inside a fancy natural foods store in Seattle, except I'd never left Midtown. Notice I didn't say it reminded me of Whole Foods, though you're probably already making that mental comparison. Whole Foods rumors have been haunting Natural Pantry's owners, Vikki and Rick Solberg, since they broke ground on the new store at 36th Avenue and A Street. The natural foods giant is not a part-owner. Anything else you've heard about Whole Foods and Natural Pantry is also not true. The new, $23.5 million store may be big enough to rival a Safeway, with 33,000 square feet of retail space -- twice what they are operating now in the University Center. But to the Solbergs, it is still a family...Julia O'Malley
Dallas Seavey got the big check and the truck for winning this year's extra extreme Iditarod, but it was the musher who rolled in minutes behind him, Aliy Zirkle, whose story, full of twists and turns, won many hearts and many fans. I reached her on her cellphone Friday in a coffee shop in Nome. Here's some of what we talked about: JULIA O'MALLEY: Can you give me a picture of what was in your head when you left White Mountain? ALIY ZIRKLE: I was pretty happy leaving White Mountain because my dog team looked so good and I felt pretty good too. ... There were a lot of people taking pictures and cheering me on, which always kind of makes me feel happy. I was thinking if something happened to Jeff (King)'s team, and since mine looked so good, there was a 25 percent chance that I could catch...Julia O'Malley
Just about a year ago, somebody burned down the Sugar Shack Espresso stand on Lake Otis Parkway. They threw a rock through the window, stole a roll of quarters and some energy drinks and then torched the place. Most of this was caught on surveillance video. It was in the news. Soon after that, a screen shot of the guy in the video, released by the Anchorage Fire Department, went viral. Lots of people recognized him. "To make a long story short, we had like 25 or 30 leads within a matter of days," said Gary Loyd, the Sugar Shack's owner. Loyd turned this all over to the authorities. But nothing happened. It's been almost a year now. No charges have been filed, though the case finally made it to the district attorney. Rebuilding Loyd's shop took three months and about $40,000 and made his...Julia O'Malley