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Julia O'Malley

When I met Kelly Williams in the lobby at the Doyon Universal Services office building in South Anchorage last week, he was wearing a fedora and his expression was all business. A woman from an office ushered us in. There was a flurry of whispers. Employees asked their boss (whose birthday it was) to sit in a chair. Williams launched into a customized birthday song to the tune of "Do-Re-Mi" from "The Sound of Music." The boss blushed. The employees laughed. Williams snapped a picture and then he was gone. Singing telegram, delivered...

Julia O'Malley

Just when I think you know Anchorage, it changes.

That's what I thought when I read a report last week from the state about Alaska's increasingly strong connection to Asia and the Pacific Islands. For the first time, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Asian and Pacific Islanders make up the city's largest minority group, just barely eclipsing Alaska Natives. (Natives continue to be the largest minority group statewide, making up roughly 17 percent of the population.) One in 10 Anchorage residents is now Asian or Pacific Islander...

Julia O'Malley

I called a bunch of Republican legislators last week trying to get specifics about plans for reforming the state's education system. I heard a lot of complaints. I heard about poor teachers you can't get rid of, about going back to "reading, writing and 'rithmetic," and about how much schools overspend on heat.

Then I watched Gov. Sean Parnell's State of the State speech, in which he called for more charter schools and education vouchers.

The more I heard, the more skeptical I became. There seems to be a sense that public schools are expensive and failing, and that funneling state money to even more expensive private schools will somehow fix that. I did not hear facts or considered plans...

Julia O'Malley

You know how there are certain things that your mother insists you do, and no matter what your age, you refuse to do them, not because they are a bad idea, but because you don't want to be told what to do by your mother?...

Julia O'Malley

This just in: there's a new Twinkie in town.

It's not a Twinkie, technically. It's a golden, cream-filled, oblong "Creme Cake." It might be called the anti-Twinkie, because it's designed to take a bite out of the Hostess classic's sales. It will likely be just a little bit cheaper. And, some people say, it tastes better.

The anti-Twinkie is the work of Franz Bakery, the company that took over the Sunrise Bakery in Spenard last year after Sunrise's parent company, Hostess Brands, fell into bankruptcy. The snack cakes are baked at a facility in Seattle and should start appearing on Anchorage shelves this week. Also available: chocolate, cream-filled cupcakes with fudgey icing and a conspicuously familiar white swirl...

Julia O'Malley

At Clark Middle School on Wednesdays and Fridays after the last bell rings, a racket spills out of the gym and bounces off every corner of the building. It's a sound you might describe as a ratatatat crowd-surfing on a sea of clackaclackas. Once in a while, it swells into a shock wave of booms.

It's drumline, one of Clark's music programs. Ingredients include snare, quad and bass drums, and cymbals, all of them played loud as a stampede, and tween-age kids, boys mostly, their faces serious as stone. As far as I can tell, it is Anchorage's only drumline, middle school or otherwise. Being middle school, it has the advantage of also being adorable...

Julia O'Malley

I passed the house that would be ours a thousand times without noticing it, hidden in feral-looking trees on a Downtown avenue.

It came up for sale and we decided to have a look inside. It had been occupied by the same couple since 1967 and was being sold by their estate. It was a house-shaped time capsule. It had sculpted-shag carpets, rose-colored toilets, mirrored walls, and bulbous amber glass light fixtures that seemed, even in 1967, best suited for a bordello...

Julia O'Malley

On vacation in Hawaii in November, Sam Simeon presented his girlfriend, Julie Douthit, with a ring. They told family members who were on vacation with them that they were going to get married as soon as they got back home to Glennallen. After that, the plan was for Julie to travel to San Diego where Sam is stationed with the Navy.

Sam, 20, and Julie, 19, are Glennallen High School sweethearts, king and queen of their senior prom in 2012...

Julia O'Malley

It is my theory that the trailers and dog-eared bungalows of old Spenard tend to breed a higher concentration of intense people, passionate people, specialists with special skills. Tattoo portrait artists. Vintage motorcycle mechanics. Breeders of Chihuahuas. Kombucha brewers.

Dianna Smith is just like that...

Julia O'Malley

Last summer, workers demolishing an old Alaska Railroad warehouse near Ship Creek found something unusual inside a wall. It was an old-fashioned photo album: Black leather-bound cover with pages made of delicate black paper. "Marie and Irvan Christian" was embossed on the front cover.

Inside were pictures of a couple who had married in 1906. The album was made after a party was held for their 50th wedding anniversary. There were pictures of family members seated at well-dressed tables. Ladies in gloves and hats. Interiors with wood-paneled walls, linoleum floors and lace curtains. A napkin printed with their names was pressed between the pages. Newspapers from Florida and Ohio printed announcements about the party, with detailed lists of who attended...

Julia O'Malley

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