Once upon a time in Fairbanks, Alaska
The air glimmers in all colors of the rainbow over the black asphalt on a hot and dry July day in Fairbanks, Alaska. The smell of fresh popcorn, grilled salmon and sausages fills the air with a hint of wildfire smoke. The scenery seems like a 110 years flash back in time. Young women in lace-up booties, net stockings, corsets, Can-Can skirts, huge hats and graters. They enjoy wearing red light district outfits. Some more mature women wear the latest Alaska fashion of 1902 which at that time would have been considered old-fashion back in Paris, London and on the East Coast. Men look like clones of Felix Pedro, the guy who stroke gold in the Tanana Hills northeast of Fairbanks on or around July 22 1902, which led to Fairbanks’ bloom and growth back then.
A twenty something woman sitting on the curb in Levis jeans and a white men’s tank-shirt with a big pin button seems like from another world. A woman in her late thirties, may be early forties in a modest old-fashioned floor length dress – old-fashioned even for that time – approachs her. “Hi Amanda. How are you?” “I am fine. How are you?” she replies. After some small talk the midlife woman asks “Have you seen Laura already?” “Yes, she is out there seeking to get into trouble.” “What do you mean by that?” “She wants to get arrested!” “So why did I buy her a permit?” the midlife woman asks. The question sounds more to be addressed at herself than at Amanda.
“Ok! That’s fine.” The midlife woman says, turns around leaving the puzzled Amanda behind. Amanda’s eyes follow her like a stalker. She is too lazy to follow her. The midlife woman stops at a group of people. You nearly could see a red question mark pop up over Amanda’s head when she sees the other woman filling out some paperwork and leaving the group with two wide-shouldered John Wayne type guys dressed like sheriffs.
Now Amanda’s curiosity gets stronger than her inertia. Before she knows it she is running towards the three like the devil were behind her. Upon coming 20 yards (~18 m) close she realizes they are stirring towards Laura. “Wait for me!” she yells from the bottom of her heart out of breath. She hadn’t run 100 yards (91 m) since middle school.
Laura smiles all over the face when she sees the group. She pretends to run away, but lets the two guys quickly catch up. They cuff her while presenting her a warrant. They walk her over to a pickup truck with a hitch. They put her into the jail that is on top of hitch and close the jail door behind her with a big lock.
One of the guys addresses Amanda “Is she your friend? You can bail her out by turning the wheel. The number at which it stops, is what you will have to pay as caution for her.” Amy stares at the wheel he had pointed to. Her eyes are wide open in disbelieve. Ten is the lowest 400 the highest number! She looks at the guy and says “No thank you, Sir. She knew better and provoked it.” while turning around. The midlife woman looks at Amanda “I invite you to a hot dog.” “A warrant for Laura, and food for me. Life is good!” Amanda says giggling when they walk away.
Laura looks happy like a clam when she texts her mom “I got arrested.” Ten seconds later her phone rings. On the display, she sees her mom’s number. “I am in jail” she yells into the phone with an upset sounding voice, but looking like being in triumph. She goes on “No, I don’t need a Lawyer.” Laura looks revengeful while saying “They presented me a warrant.” She even looks she won the world championship in who knows what when she says “No you don’t have to fly in.”
Laura’s eyes scans the jail while listing to her upset mom. Her eyes sparkle with a sudden. The next time her mom obviously pauses, in a determined voice, Laura says to her obviously furious, close to a break-down mom “No, I am guilty.” It goes on and on for about 20 minutes, when finally, Laura says “No, this is not a joke. I will send you a copy of the warrant once I’ve escaped from jail. I have a plan how to get out.” and hangs up.
Laura lets the phone keep ringing. She rips open a two by three foot (61 cm times 91 cm) big box labeled Twix using her Swiss knife. She pulls one Twix. The wrap flys out of the jail like the banana skins in zoo at the monkey house. Another wrap. And another. And another.
While munching on her fifth or sixth pack of Twix she hears one of her arresters yelling from behind “You are out off here. We need them as giveaways for the kids in the parade on Saturday!” He opens the door, and gives her another three Twix on her way out.
Laura runs away as fast as she can towards her friends yelling as loud as she can “I escaped, I escaped from jail!” Upon arrival she shares the treats with them. The midlife woman asks “Why did you want to get arrested?” “Mom did not want me to take this internship. She thinks all criminals hide in Alaska.” “Alaska’s population is too small for a Cheechako1 to hide.” “Yep, and I better fax the warrant to my mom before she gets on a plane to find me.” Laura says while trotting with her warrant towards the office building. She looks very pleased and proud.
In July, the Golden Days are a week long event to entertain tourists and locals alike. It is to celebrate the striking of gold. There is a big parade on Saturday, a duck raise on the Chena River, a floater building competition, dances, music and other events. Some companies request the Golden Day Jail to come to their Golden Day party/grill event. Typically employees buy a warrant to get their boss/supervisor arrested who then has to buy himself/herself out. This money contributes to pay for the festivities.
The organizers also sell buttons and garters to rise funds for the events. These items represent the working permits that the women of the Red Light district needed during the Gold Rush times. Back them working without a permit was punished by serving time in jail.
If you are in Fairbanks this week, watch out for the festivities.
1Alaskan word for greenhorn or someone who is new to Alaska.
It had been cold lately even when the sun was out. Thus, I wore my linen pants and plaid shirt. In winter, these items are both too cold. I added nude slingbacks to elongate the legs. I accessorized with the necklace my husband designed for me and my new wooden watch. The wood feels so nice on the skin and the sporty design goes with the vibe of the casual work outfit. You can get the wooden watch here.
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Photos: G. Kramm (2015)
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