The Senior Senator from Alaska

Last night our local Rotary clubs held a fundraiser for a project to build a school in Figi. Because of the catering I do, I was asked to be one of the six folks bringing food. I got so lucky—Costco had not only pineapples, mangos and grapes but also papayas. You really don’t want to know how much 7 fresh pineapples, 30 mangos, 10 pounds of grapes, and 4 papayas will set you back in Alaska on the day of the first snowfall. The only thing I couldn’t find in the stores was breadfruit, but I wouldn’t know what that looked like anyway. Those fruits, dressed in coconut milk and fresh lemon juice, made a beautiful fruit salad.

There were fresh flower leis flown in from Hawaii and you could buy one for $20. I think they might have been wild ginger blossoms. Again, don’t ask me—I know nothing about the tropics by design. Why people would want to go somewhere to sweat on purpose is beyond me.

There were almost 100 people at the fundraiser, a great turnout for a blustery cold night. I had joked with someone about wearing a coconut shell bra and assumed everyone would come in Alaska Formalwear: slacks and sweaters. Nearly everyone was wearing a Hawaiian print shirt or dress over the top of warmer slacks and sweaters! Those of us who stood out like sore thumbs for not having appropriate island attire were myself and Senator Ted Stevens. He had a good excuse—he was just popping in, after two speeches at other locations before this shindig.

It’s been probably two years since I’ve seen Sen. Stevens in person. He’s 83 years old now, I think? He’s really showing his age. He’s always been so small in stature, and perhaps it had been a long day, but he had serious old-guy-shuffle going on. He showed quite a bit of interest in the silent auction tables which held Figian- and Tongoan-made items. I didn’t see if it was the Cannibal Flesh Eating Teak Carved Fork or something else that he bid on.

Lately when I’ve seen the Senator on the news, it’s usually been a sound byte where he’s giving someone hell about something during a Congressional hearing. He can be fierce and highly persuasive, not the tired older man I saw tonight. Maybe that takes it out of you more than you’d think. Maybe it’s the prospect that his days in the Senate could be numbered. In the wake of political corruption scandals here in Alaska, the public sentiment has turned. Both Senator Stevens and Representative Don Young face uphill battles to re-election, for the first time in their decades of elected service.

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