Eating Bear

Eating Bear, Racing Outhouses,Falling Moose + Other Alaskan Absurdities

"Bear, anyone?" the server asked, with a smile as he
lowered a silver tray before me. I'd never eaten bear before, so I gladly took the offered pastry. Hmmmmm, it was sausaged bear wrapped in a phyllo pastry, so it tasted quite nice. The next round brought squirrel pops and barbecued seal. All local wild foods, of course. (And all legally harvested.)

I got to dine on all these treats two nights ago at a benefit dinner.  Which got me thinking about-------absurdity. It was the bear-in-pastry and then the squirrel pops that did it. They just kind of took the cake, you know?  I'm a huge fan of the chef who made them. He's brilliant, creative, generous--and he donated his efforts for this dinner on behalf of a friend with cancer. But--- the cutest of creatures, his little chicken-y flesh endoughed and impaled on a popsicle stick? And the wildest of wild creatures, who terrorizes our garbage routes, served on a silver tray en croute? 

Fed by such delicious paradox, I got to thinking about other general human craziness, which abounds, of course. Sometimes we're so embattled we forget to lift our head, consider the squirrel pop in our hand, and simply laugh. I did that this week, in between more sober events. And I'm hoping, in a pure spirit of contagion, to infect you as well.

Consider these entries: 

 An artist  (Nina Katchedourian), who spent too much time on long-distance flights, decided to put those tiny bathrooms to fuller use.  Why not create classic Flemish portraits in the loo using only toilet paper and other paper products offered there? 

Then there's the festival held every October  in Manitou Springs, Colorado, in celebration of Emma Crawford, a woman who died of tuberculosis in 1889. No one would be racing coffins in her honor now had not storms and a landslide unearthed her coffin and slid it down the mountain to the canyon below in 1929. Why not run wheeled coffins through the streets?

                (photo by Cornelius Dunham)

But I really needn't stray so far from home. Alaska has its own brand of Absurd.  We have outhouse races, of course, like many places. But our state actually still uses outhouses---and we have the race in winter. Why make it easy?


Alaska has some strange laws on the books that are still enforced, I hope. Otherwise the public would be in clear danger: 

*A person may only carry a concealed slingshot if that person has received the appropriate license. 

*Employers of bars may not let their bartenders serve while they are drunk themselves.

*You may not wake a sleeping bear for the purpose of taking a photograph.

*In Fairbanks, you may not feed alcoholic beverages to a moose.

*(And my personal favorite:) It is considered an offense to push a live moose out of a moving airplane.

(photo: sardinereport,

Elsewhere in Alaska, the village of Talkeetna has been out of sorts lately since a dog viciously attacked its mayor (See photo below.) Yes, Stubbs really is the honorary mayor. The only mayor. At last report, however, Stubbs is recovering well and should be able to resume his mayoral duties soon. 

But I needn't even leave the island for absurdities and fun.  I discovered this week that there are 7--count them!! SEVEN reality shows either based in Kodiak, or featuring Kodiak for some parts of their series. Including this new one: "Alaska Women Looking for Love". (Yes, that's the real title.) Four of these women are from Kodiak. The drama? They fly down to Miami to go on dates with eligible Florida bachelors--with cameramen catching every scintillating word. (Yawn.)

Given all this, I was not surprised when a friend wrote me on Facebook this week and suggested that I too start a reality show. But I'm much too normal for that. And I'm married. AND--I got married in a church. BORING! As compared to, say, getting married in the river, as this lovely Kodiak couple did last summer. 

                                                       (Photos by James Brooks)

Here's what I know: When Life bends down in a white-pressed shirt and serves you lollipop squirrels and bear eclairs, you take, you eat and drink and you rebuke the Preacher in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes who complains that "all is meaningless, meaningless"; that "all things are wearisome, more than one can say," and, long sigh: "What has been will be again; there is nothing new under the sun."  

Really? Not so! So much in this life is new to us--and funny and paradoxical and ridiculous and laughable----if we keep watching. And I promise I will. 

When we do this, stay awake to the presence of God and one another, no matter how crazy we are, this is how we can rest and live, the Preacher goes on to say:

Go eat your bread in happiness.
Drink your wine with a happy heart.
For God has already been pleased with
    your works.
Let your clothes be white all the time.
And let there always be oil on your head ...
God has given you these days under the sun. 

So he has. 

Let us laugh when we can, 

and Praise God when we can. 

And let us count the squirrel pops  

        and  toilet paper head dresses

         and fishy weddings
           and inebriated mooses
All joy. 

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?