Something somewhere has gone terribly wrong. The visitor centre is not at all what I was expecting. It certainly doesn’t seem worth the visit now that I have all these guns pointed at my head.
Why is it that people I don’t know always want to kill me?
Yes sir, security in the Anchorage Visitor Center is tight. I can see four shooters and there may be more, though I remain lucid enough to realise that this is an academic train of thought. I consider the possibility of turning around and walking out, but the risk of being surgerised with bullets is simply too great.
The game begins. I have been engaged, whether I like it or not. Strange nausea. I am white, which is a great advantage when dealing with federal representatives at all levels of the American government. The Western World loves a xonq nopp. But this is no free pass; certain rules of play must still be adhered to. We are dealing with dangerous and deranged individuals here after all.
Government issued ID – not accepted.
Eye contact – met, but not held. Subtle raise of right eyebrow.
Passport – accepted.
Pockets emptied and small change and keys scrutinised for guns and explosives – pass.
Small change, keys and bags thrown through duel energy x-ray scanner – still no guns or explosives.
Expression – blank. Don’t get cocky at this stage, old boy.
Metal detector – fail. A fifth shooter appears.
Metal belt buckle – off.
Metal detector and ritual humiliation – pass.
Pat down – pass. Didn’t I just pass the metal detector? Keep that kind of talk to yourself, sir.
Motives questioned – think fast.
Christ, these pigs are psycho. I wonder if it’s just me; I do have a beard and a hangover, but men, women and children behind me all get the same treatment and none of them appear to have beards or hangovers.
If tell them that I, a 30 year old man, am here to get an Alaskan Adventure Ranger badge, an item designed for small children, for a no longer very funny joke, they will probably shoot my blood out. Or at the very least get all rubber glovey on my anus.
Hands in the air, I tell them I want to buy a postcard.
Welcome to the Anchorage Visitor Center.
Inside the insides. My terrible initiation is complete. I am made privy to secrets: Three different editions of the same Dick Proenneke book. A plywood cut out of Smokey Bear. Keyrings with your name on.
How could they have known?
A rudimentary 3D relief map of Denali National Park is housed inside a glass cabinet. When you flick the switch on the side, a small bulb illuminates part of the cabinet. It is now an interactive display.
I stop to watch a flickering documentary on the 1890s gold rush. Grainy footage of doomed miners ascend the Golden Staircase of the Chilkoot.
The Chilkoot Trail was the 33 mile wilderness gateway to the Klondike gold rush, from Skagway, AK through the Coast Mountains to Bennett, BC. Hiked on foot, in any and all seasons. A prime example of the Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Brave. Thousands of prospective prospectors exercised their god given right to march to their death in Arctic wastes for absolutely no good reason. And why not? A self-regulating population is a fine thing. Suicide has a bad reputation these days and yet so many inherent benefits, not just to the end user, but to society as a whole.
It all makes sense to me now. The Guns. The Glares. The unjustifiable Idiocy of it all. The horrible, horrible Inconvenience. At first I was angry, I can admit that now, in the translucent glow of hindsight. Why are these strange people threatening to kill me while touching me in inappropriate places? And why would I secretly enjoy that? I didn’t understand back then, all those minutes ago.
Only through sacrifice will we be free.
Every dead gold miner. Every scorched acre of wilderness that Smokey Bear couldn’t save. Every healthcare premium for the gunsmiths who machine the Glock 22s that will be aimed at your face in the Anchorage Visitor Center. Every rubber gloved federal agent. Their sacrifice is our personalised keyring and there is always just one personalised keyring between us and the savages.
We live in grim times, friends, and one must be careful in this golden age of international terror. The fate of the First World rests in vigilant hands and a careless citizen is a dead one.
So be alert!
Accept your sacrifice!
And remember: when you have postcards like these, you must protect them at any cost.