The women and I are seated in a circle around the edge of the room, so each of us in turn takes about thirty seconds to introduce ourselves. Valerie, the stunning redhead that I sat next to last night, says she is a little nervous about speaking, so she will follow some advice and imagine that everyone is nude. She adds, “I hope that’ll be all right with Charles.” Everyone laughs.
I’m about half way around the room, so when my turn comes, I add, after making a remark that I’m a surviving poet of my generation, “I’m glad you brought up the subject of nudity, Valerie, as I am an artist that most likes to paint women.” I was hoping for bigger laugh.
The busses have parked in front of the hotel and we are trying to fight our way against a stiff wind to get into a coach. It’s only four o’clock, but the days are short in October, and dusk is falling. Lydia and I sit about halfway down the vehicle, on the curb side, and watch the rest of the group trying to find coaches. We all shout words of encouragement and wave to the rest of the group struggling to find a bus. One man’s hair curls back over his head and sails downwind where a tall woman in a fur coat catches it by jumping up on an empty flower urn and extending her hand like she was making a jump shot in the NBA. We clap and scream with delight. What great entertainment. Who will be at the free throw line?
Our bus growls and grinds its way across Anchorage. The driver’s voice drones on as he points out various sites of special interest as well as quoting some informative statistics. “Babies are in flood season in September” and “the Public Library is the largest building in town” are two things that seem to make the most sense. These quotes aren’t in my notes, so forgive me, Anchorage, if I’ve got these wrong.
Finally, our bus turns by the whore house next to the military base, currently festooned with signs declaring it the election headquarters of a local Republican, and squeal to a halt in a parking lot at the side of a ramshackle building identified by a pink neon sign that spells out “Dick…”. There are some flickering words after that I can’t quite make out through frozen eyelashes. Later I learn that this is Dick’s Anchorage restaurant and entertainment center, but out on the highway, between Anchorage and somewhere else, is “Skinny Dick’s Half Way Inn”.