The Bear Truth

Council Meetings Ain't Nothin' Like Alaska

illustration by Doug Potter

There was no council meeting this week so Kayte VanScoy is takin' a breather and I'm a'writin' this guest column. For those a you readers who been ponderin' my whereabouts, I disappeared from civilization last May. I done wrote this column for two years and just couldn't take it no more. Coverin' a state capital with half a million people don't allow much room for relaxation and a person gets all kinds a stressed out. I figgered the only way I'd ever be my old laid back self again was to git as yonder from Austin as humanly possible, so I throwed enough for a romantic lifestyle into a big black duffle bag and hit the road to the last true wilderness still remainin' in America. That'd be Alaska. I been livin' there in a cabin without modern civilities nor utilities for the last six months, which might help explain a little the degradation in the formality of my speakin'. Anyways, I up and left town at the right time. I'd done gotten so successful insultin' local politicians and buracrats that they and theys lawyers and mothers and even grandmothers was creatin' all manner of aggravations for me. They cussed me out a storm and hung up on me so often that I begun considerin' a career in phone sales, since I'da gotten a bigger salary not to mention improved self-esteem. I endured verbal abuses on a weekly basis such that are still too tragic for me to discuss without a psychiatrist. I couldn't understand all the indignation. I may a been rude on occasions, but I was the most objective reporter that city hall ever did see as I took great pains to insult everyone equally.

Aside from bein' the beat-up stepchild of the council family, it's just plain unhealthy to sit through them miraculously borin' meetins. I had to take up smokin' just to prevent heart failure. One thing I never could figger out was the multitude of time that councilmembers wasted trying to increase attendance at council meetins. They was forever doin things to popularize the meetins like rearrangin' the meetin' schedule around work hours, or tryin' to make funny jokes. Fact is, bonds and annexation and childhood anecdotes are just torturously boring. Bout the only solution I can figger is holdin' the meetins at a bar and spendin' the grub budget on whiskey. Texas Legislature already done discovered the benefits of that. Sad to say though, such common sense notions was still a long ways aways when I covered the council. I knowed I had to get out a town if for no other reason than my health, so when a pal invited me north I didn't hesitate. We didn't have no plan, really. We just wanted to climb some mountains and subdue some grizzlies, so we drove to the top of the world and took a left.

It was seven days drivin' but the trip was positively gorgeous, especially seein' all the snowed mountains that shimmered hallucinogenic in the distance like flocks a angels ascendin' the heavens. The further north you gets, the bigger the sun gets and so does everything else. The mosquitoes growed to be the size of dragonflies, the moose was like elephants, and the women was seen grazin' all along the roadsides. And it's also a scientific fact that when things get bigger they gets dumber. Shootouts, bar fights, and wrastlin' matches was the primary entertainments.

My last night in the great wild land, I ventured into one of them movie stores in the big civilization called Anchorage just to check up on what was happenin' with the world cinematically. Anchorage is where they have Wal-Marts. Anyways, this here attendant who I'd never before in my life set eyes upon sized me up suspicious-like soon as I entered the store. I was figgerin' maybe he's thinkin' I got loads of money and he wants me to check out a trilogy or somethin'. But no. Instead he invites me to a bout of arm wrastlin'. I thought that real mannerly of him but as he wouldn't wager no VCR, I didn't consider it worthwhile and declined. But he jumped gymnastically over the counter anyways and cocked his arm.

"Let's go! Come on! Come on!"

This manner of encouragement and refusal continued for some time until lo and behold, a lady customer much littler than him up and agrees to wrastle. But she wanted to really wrastle, I mean not no arm wrastlin' b.s. So he springs again back over the counter and they break down into wrastlin' stance, circlin' around and jukin' with their hands 'til she charges his mid-section and both of em go arollin' across the floor over and under and through one another, knockin' over the murder-mystery section and a Batman cardboard display and hittin' the glass storefront so's it bowed threatenin'ly as a crowd of customers cheered her on 'til he finally couldn't no longer take no more and picks her up entirely, flips her onto the floor, and flattens her 'til she supplicates him and God and Jesus all for mercy!

That's AK for ya in a nutshell. Place is wild and I didn't really wanna come back, truth be told. They was somethin relaxin' about a place so in touch with its wild side and the rhythm of nature. Surprisingly, man and beast coexist pretty darned harmoniously up there. On any given day they'd be Beluga whales twistin' in the cold grey waters that enter Anchorage, or bald eagles asittin' on the telephone wires. And shoot, the moose, they been known to come inside your house and pop open a beer and watch the Super Bowl, and do it mannerly even if they's rootin' for the other team.

I didn't really wanna come back but I figgered I cain't live in a cabin forever. It's been real difficult recivilizin' myself. When I first got home everyone looked at me real funny, I think cuz my teeth may a had some green residual cuz I just started brushin' em again and I hadn't took a bath since September. Well, we didn't have no runnin' water at the cabin and public showers was three bucks and damned if I'm gonna pay three bucks to wash up in front a buncha naked men. When I come home I witnessed my first traffic jam in six months, one long eternal mess a brakelights and smog and all manner a disturbin' cacophony along I-35, and I knowed humanity done gone mad to be livin' in such unnatural and stressful surroundins.

I wish from my experience I could come back and help Austin become that little small town community in the beautiful Hill Country and flowing waterways that it always dreamed of. But after bein' in true beauty, I know those aspirations'll always be no more than just a mythical campaign slogan to get the next guy elected. I hate to say it, but Austin ain't about natural beauty no more. One a the first things I did gettin' home was rock climbin' at the Greenbelt. When I was here last, Barton Creek was finally up and roarin' after a two-year dry spell, and hundreds a peoples was hittin' it every day. Now it ain't nothin but a dry bed all over again. I didn't wanna believe it when I lived here, but now I know it's just another city creek. Dry until the rains come, and then it rages thirstily for a short period.

And I guess knowin' that, I don't know what's left in Austin to fight for really, just nit-pickin' battles over land-use of individual tracts but still no general plan except let's keep this damned machine profitable and that ain't gonna last forever neither and when that's gone I can tell you, Austin ain't gonna be a fun place no more. That's why attendance is down at council meetins, too; I guess everyone knows the big issues done been dealt with. That's why I'm planning on headin' back to that young, growin' and changin' state for a little bit longer. There's still a chance to save somethin' up there. Plus I find the news more interestin'. Stories 'bout climbers tumblin' down mountains, men fallin' off boats, bear attacks.

Like this one time me and my friend we was hikin' the flanks of Government Peak near the cabin. We done crested this creek bank when we outright spotted a muscular mass exitin' the brush upaways. It was grizzly and couldn'a been no more than 50 feet. Soon as he sights us, I could tell he's a'rarin' for some human flesh. There bein' no trees to climb nor gun to shoot, I come upon a brilliant strategy. The ground was muddy and wet, so the grizzly is slippin' startin' after us, which gives me ample time to start an explanation of city bonds. Amazingly, the bear skidded to a halt so close I felt his warm wet breathin', and he appeared to be listenin' and what's more amazin', even interested. I think he caught the grasp of general revenue bonds, but when I switched to certificates of obligation, the beast's eyes rolled, and it hit the earth a'shiverin' before fallin' into deep hibernation. My hikin' partner had also done fell asleep, and I was feelin' woozy myself, but we managed to get out a there unscathed. I knowed them Council Watch days'd be good for somethin'.

Alex de Marban is the former "Council Watch" reporter. Kayte VanScoy's column will return next week.

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