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Medred: Anchorage brawl featuring Palins just a heapin' helpin' of Alaska hospitality

Sing along, boys and girls, to the tune of the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song:

Come and listen to a story
'bout a woman named Palin.
At private-sector jobs
she was always a-failin',
Then one day
she got into the politics game,
And up through the web
came a bubblin' fame.
Celebrity that is, money for nothin', Tea Party!
Well, the first thing you know
ol' Palin's a millionaire,
Alaska voters said, "Palin move away from there,"
Said, "The screen's where you oughtta be."
So they gassed up the snowmachine and moved onto TV.
Reality that is: Bristol's Bayou, pay-per-view, cage match ...

Yes, for those of you who were out hunting and missed it, the 49th state's favorite, half-term, ex-governor and her clan are home for a spell and back at it again. This time it's a made-for-the-internet brawl in Oceanview, an upper middle-class Anchorage neighborhood.

Or at least an upper middle-class Anchorage suburb pre-Palin punchout. Who knows now. Property-value valuing homeowners on Harbor Circle may have joined the likes of American liberals hoping they never see Alaska's favorite reality TV clan again.

Korey Klingenmeyer was the host for the party. He's not talking. He has Iron Dog connections. Iron Doggers don't talk. They're the strong, silent type. The media's favorite nickname for Iron Dogger Todd Palin, Sarah's hubby, was "Grunt."

That's because no one ever got much more out of him in an interview than a grunt. Outside magazine sent a writer to Alaska in 2008, when Sarah was still governor, to profile Todd. The story was titled, "The First Dude in His Element."

It went on for thousands of words. It was mainly about people other than Todd, but that's understandable. Todd seldom has much to say. The good-guy take on the then-governor's strong, silent guy was, as writer Bill Donahue summed it, "quiet and stoical."

Todd, Donahue wrote, is "a sort of sphinx -- you keep trying to crack the enigma and glimpse the gears spinning away in his mind. You watch him.

"One afternoon in Nome, Palin comes out of his bedroom in the little apartment that he and (Scott) Davis are borrowing. Freshly showered, he lumbers toward the TV. 'Let's see what's on,' he says, twiddling at the remote. Grainy snow blasts onto the screen, so Palin flicks the thing off and just slumps on the couch. Silently, he stares out at the frozen Bering Sea, glittering in the sun, and you have to wonder: Is he thinking of what Herman Melville called the 'dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows,' or is he thinking of nothing at all?"

Many would go for "nothing at all."

If you've ever wondered why the Iron Dog snowmachine race -- arguably the world's toughest motorsport competition and among the longest -- is a two-bit affair, this ought to give you some idea.

Many of the characters involved don't have much to say, and they double-down on silence when even a whiff of controversy arises. NASCAR this ain't. NASCAR plays to the hard drivin', hard drinkin', hard fightin', good-old-boy image.

Iron Doggers run from it like it's something about which they should be embarrassed, and there's no better way to make the potentially embarrassing truly embarrassing than to act embarrassed.

And everyone apparently is embarrassed about the ruckus in Oceanview, except for Eric Thompson, who went on Good Morning America afterward to talk about what happened. An unconfirmed report has it that he was promptly fired from his job at McKenna Bros. Paving, and he has retained legal counsel.

Company co-owner Marc McKenna is a four-time Iron Dog champ. A decent guy, he hopefully didn't do as has been reported, but figuratively shooting the only guy willing to stand up and tell the truth would be an Iron Dog sort of thing to do.

No, it's not the race's fault, or the fault of race organizers. It's the racers. They want to be celebrities without being celebrities. It sort of just makes them into cardboard cutouts lashed to snowmachines that zoom north to Nome every February.

The race would be a lot more interesting to the public if it captured some of the behind-the-scene hijinks, but most of the characters seem engaged in an effort to render themselves as dull as river rocks, though there is fire there.

Outside magazine's Donahue actually went to the village of Tanana and caught some of it in 2008 after someone prodded Todd about his being a good loser.

"'What gives you that impression?' he snaps. 'Maybe I don't express myself when I'm pissed off inside, but this race is very important to me. I wouldn't devote so much time to it -- I wouldn't spend so much time training and wrenching -- if it wasn't so frigging important,"' Donahue later wrote. "His eyes are electric. For a second you see the fire that has propelled him into the winner's circle and that flames up whenever, as he puts it, 'that kangaroo court down in Juneau tries to ruin my wife's reputation.'"

Seems Todd went more than a little electric at the birthday brawl in Oceanview. It was reportedly a birthday party for McKenna and his twin brother. It was not a party for the sphinx, though he, too, was born on the same date.

He turned the big five-oh this year. Good age for a fight. No reports on whether he got in his licks.

Someone did apparently pop the Sphinx in the nose to celebrate, however. Hopefully Todd's nose wasn't broken. Wouldn't want to mar that pretty face. But no photos have as yet emerged. Hopefully, the puncher didn't break his hand hitting a sphinx.

And, of course, now once again, dag-blam-it, people are trying to ruin his wife's reputation. It's just hard to figure out which reputation is in trouble. The "don't retreat, reload" reputation or the Mama Grizzly reputation.

Sarah appears to have done the perfect Mama Grizzly here. She tried to maul someone and promptly fled back into the woods. No one has been able to track her down.

But stay tuned. There's surely more to come. The full report from the Anchorage Police Department isn't in yet, and so far, the Palins have only just leaked their side of the story.

Could it be they're saving the sure-to-exist smartphone video for the internet's Sarah Palin Channel? Indications are that memberships -- $9.95 a month, $99.95 a year -- haven't exactly been selling like hotcakes.

Nothing like a little "backwoods brawl," as People magazine called it, to spice things up. Beats the heck of out of listening to Sarah blather on about a bunch of political mumbo jumbo.

Who cares about the Mideast when you've got the Crazy North. Leave it Sarah to embrace backwoods Alaska and show America what we do here: Gather with friends. Throw a moose leg on the barby. Gun a six-pack of Sockeye Red IPA. Start an argument with somebody, and get down and rowdy!

I don't know about you, but that's how all the parties at my house go down. Yes indeedy:

"Y'all come back now, y'hear?"

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

Craig Medred

Craig Medred is a former writer for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2015.

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