Thursday, April 19, 2007


Just in case there is any doubt out there, that big "ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE" is not a display of my personal decor. It is, in effect, a compliance with a law that is a little….well, unique. How many other towns require arriving travellers to have peppered their luggage with such loudly screaming bumper stickers?

But I don't want to complain. At least not too much. Because of that sticker, I have some assurance that I can pack a few boxes of wine into a suitcase otherwise packed with cheese (and produce!) and not be greeted upon arrival by hyper-chested troopers intent on charging me with the criminal offense of bootlegging.

Does all of this sound melodramatic? weird? gauche (keep in mind that I haven't started to explain how travel outside of Alaska all too often requires the fashioning of duct-taped, home-fashioned substitute stickers)? Let me explain. The State of Alaska has a "Local Option" law. In effect, this state law allows municipalities to implement local laws which restrict the availability of alcohol within their own boundaries. My local law outlaws alcohol, sort of. My town is "damp." We can't buy, sell or make alcohol. But, we can drink it here. In comparison to my "damp" town, there are "dry" towns and "wet" towns. "Dry" towns prohibit it all - the buying and the drinking. Almost all of the towns in my region are dry. (Hence, my often lament that the nearest package store is 500 airmiles away – in Anchorage.) "Wet" towns, like Anchorage.....well, they don't have any of these restrictions. They even have bars and stuff like that. Alas, poor things, their locals are deprived of all the judicial excitement of bootleg charging troopers and all the entertainment of bootleg defending Bush Alaskan trial attorneys. And it all sort of works, I guess, because very few of the dry and damp towns have roads leading to other other towns. (Perhaps I could convey this better if I simply stated that my tundra island is damp.)

One notable nuance to our local law that allows us to drink an ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE that we are not allowed to buy, make or sell is what I like to call the "public humiliation" tariff. This tariff is based, I'm guessing, on the humiliation-equals-persuasion concept. In my mind, it's a bit akin to my mother telling me that I can shave my legs if I ask my gruff, military-retired, country family doctor to show me how to. (For the record, he was a strong soul and I had great respect and awe for Dr. Pettit. My mother was a smart woman - that tariff cost me at least a good 2 years of smooth shins!)

Here's how it works here. You can import (yep - that's the word they use: import) the alcohol that you can't buy, make or sell, but the whole town gets to know that you are the type that would do so. That less-than-subtle, big, huge, undeniable sticker that proclaims "ALCHOLIC BEVERAGE" on what could otherwise be a sleek, little black bag – that's the price for obtaining wine 'round these parts. And, trust me, in a town that still gathers at the airport for every arrival/departure of every jet, everyone does know. Just in case anyone thinks that you are merely jesting and that there really aren't ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES in your bag, local law also requires you to "declare" on the outside of your luggage all the types and manner and quantity of ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGEs you're attempting to import. Failure to do so, or failure to do so accurately, could result in your arrival being greeted by the troopers.

But the paperwork doesn't stop there for me. I also pack a declaration or two inside my bag. Admittedly, these declarations are not required by law. But, after the mysterious loss of the case of Two Buck Chuck I attempted to import from California and a rather down-the-rabbit-hole series of conversations with too many people that wine cannot be confiscated from my bag as an unlawful hazardous substance, I also make sure to stash inside my bag a copy (relevant portions emphasized with pink highlighter and underlined written summaries in the margins) of 49 CFR 175.10(a)(17). Without this assistance, I understand that the TSA might reasonably (and - as far as a lost luggage agent is concerned - only arguably mistakenly) declare my boxed wine to be a HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE doomed to confiscation (aka looting).

And if you think that this is a ridiculous amount of work just to be able to drink boxed wine from a jam jar, well - imagine, just imagine, if you found yourself one day resorting to your lowest point. Oh, it's horrible. But, I did it. Yes. I dissected the box, and cut the bag, and squeezed out the last drops. Oh dear. It's all so horrifying.

But typing all this – trying to explain all this – I suddenly realize: All of this could be so dignified, and simplified, if Alaskan Airlines could just persuade my town to adopt an ordinance adopting a "WINE AND CHEESE" sticker. Let it be white and loud. But if we are to be taxed in humiliation, at least let us proudly declare the true contents of our illicit luggage: WINE AND CHEESE.

Yes – I do believe I might just have to make a personal appearance at the next city council meeting with a proposition to adopt a "WINE AND CHEESE" sticker. Maybe I should start a petition……

Meanwhile – check out my bounty! It's been non-stop cartwheels of glee for days!

(yep! That's radicchio - and there is a post to come about just how delicious radicchio and anchovies can be! In the meanwhile, check out Louisa's more eloquent tilt at the anchovy/radicchio treasure. Genevieve - try it! you'll find yourself with all sorts of new appreciations for the potential of lemon zest! And, yes, you are seeing sunchokes too! I'm still trying to figure out the best way to celebrate those sunchokes. I'm still doing leaps of joy that I found them during such a sprint through Anchorage. Oh, I will always have a special place in my heart for New Sagaya!)

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