A blog by Bill Hess

Running Dog Publications

P.O. Box 872383 Wasilla, Alaska 99687


All photos and text © Bill Hess, unless otherwise noted 
All support is appreciated
Bill Hess's other sites

Wasilla is the place where I have lived for the past 29 years - sort of. The house in which my wife and I raised our family sits here, but I have made my rather odd career as a different sort of photojournalist by continually wandering off to other places to photograph people and gather information, which I have then put together in various publications that have served the Alaska Native Eskimo, Indian and Aleut communities.

Although I did not have a great of free time to devote to this rather strange community, named after a Tanaina Athabascan Indian chief who knew Wasilla in the way that I so impossibly long to, I have still documented it regularly over the past quarter-century plus. In the early days, my Wasilla photographs focused mostly upon my children and the events they participated in - baseball, football, figure skating, hockey, frog catching, fire cracker detonation, Fourth of July parade - that sort of thing. 

In 2002, I purchased my first digital camera and then, whenever I was home, I began to photograph Wasilla upon a daily basis, but not in a conventional way. These were grab shots - whatever caught my eye as I took my many long walks or drove through the town, shooting through the car window at people and scenes that appeared and disappeared before I could even focus and compose in the traditional photographic way.

Thus, the Wasilla portion of this blog will be devoted both to the images that I take as I wander about and those that I have taken in the past. Despite the odd, random, nature of the images, I believe they communicate something powerful about this town that I have never seen expressed anywhere else. 

Wasilla is a sprawling community that has been slapped down hodge-podge upon what was so recently wilderness of the most exquisite beauty. In its design, it is deliberately anti-zoned, anti-planned. In the building of Wasilla, the desire to make a buck has trumped aesthetics and all other considerations. This town, built in the midst of exquisite beauty, has largely become an unsightly, unattractive, mess of urban sprawl. Largely because of this, it often seems to me that Wasilla is a community with no sense of community, a town devoid of town soul.

Yet - Wasilla is my home and if I am lucky it will be until I grow old and die. Despite its horrific failings, it is still made of the stuff of any small city: people; moms and dads, grammas and grampas, teens, children, churches, bars, professionals, laborers, soldiers, missionaries, artists, athletes, geniuses, do-gooders, hoodlums, the wealthy, the homeless, the rational and logical, the slightly insane and the wholly insane - and, yes, as is now obvious to the whole world, politicians, too.

So perhaps, if one were to search hard enough, it might just be possible to find a sense of community here, and a town soul. So, using my skills as a photojournalist and a writer, I hope to do just that. If this place has a sense of community, I will find it. If there is a town soul to Wasilla, I will document it. I won't compete with the newspapers. Hell no! But as time and income allow, it will be fun to wander into the places where the folks described above gather, and then put what I find on this blog.


by 300...

Anywhere within a 300 mile radius of Wasilla. This encompasses perhaps the most wild, dramatic, gorgeous, beautiful section of land and sea to be found in any comparable space anywhere on Earth. I can never explore it all, but I will do the best that I can, and will here share what I find and experience with you.  

and then some...

Anywhere else in the world that I happen to get to, such as Point Lay, Alaska; Missoula, Montana; Serenki, Chukotka, Russia; or Bangalore, India. Perhaps even Lagos, Nigeria. I have both a desire and scheme to get me there. It is a long shot. We shall see if I succeed.

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The barista, her nipples and the hungry baby; Kalib jumps upon shadows

I pulled up to a coffee hut near Jacob and Lavina's house in Anchorage and the barista stepped to the window. It was one of those kiosks with a somewhat elevated floor and a window that is long in the vertical dimension so that when the barista moves about behind it, her full figure is on display and - by coincidence, I am certain - the figures always seem to be shapely.

Still, it is close to their house, I had promised Margie and Lavina that I would bring them each a cup, the coffee is Kaladi and usually very good, so I pulled up and ordered three.

Shortly afterward, the barista found that she had to perform a task that required her to bend over, toward me. This put her breasts within arm's reach and right at my eye level. Their magnetism pulled my eyes right to them. I then discovered that I was looking, not at cleavage, but at breasts - full breasts, in their entirety - and they were the kind of breasts that, once glimpsed... well, you know.

When such a sight is put in a front of a heterosexual male of any age, he cannot help but want to look at it. That is the way God made the human male and there is no way around it. That's how we are. Yet, I know that it would be impolite and unseemly for me to stare, so, naturally, I averted my eyes toward the nearby car wash. A GMC pickup truck was just emerging from one of the cleaning stalls. Steam rolled out with it and churned into the air all around it.

I watched that truck depart, then turned back to the window. The breasts were still there. The barista had to know, so I thought maybe it would be okay if I studied them for a bit, but I quickly rethought this position, turned away and watched another vehicle emerge from the steam and then depart.

I turned back... still there. I turned away.

Finally, the delightful breasts of the barista had been removed from my sight, she had handed me the coffees and I had paid and tipped her the same as I would have if she had been dressed like an old-fashioned school marm. I did not try to stuff the tip into anything. I just handed it to her. I drove away, feeling a bit shaken.

A few minutes later, I carried the coffees into the living room to give to Margie and Lavina. "I don't think that I should go back to that coffee hut," I said as I handed them their drinks.

"Why?" one or the other of them asked.

"I feel like I have just been to a strip club," I answered. They both laughed.

"Did you see something?" Lavina asked.

"Yes!" I answered. "Everything! From here up," I placed my hand at sternum level. "Even her nipples! Her nipples were fully exposed. So I don't think I had better go back there. I may be growing old, but I'm not dead."

Sometimes, when Margie holds a baby, she speaks for the baby, becomes its mouthpiece. Now she spoke for Jobe.

"Nipples? Oh, boy, grampa!" she spoke in happy baby tones. "Me know what to do with nipples! Me hungry. Me can make good use of those nipples."

We adults all laughed some more and then Lavina asked, "where did you get the coffee?"

"You know, that place right over there, where we usually get the coffee." The name had slipped me.

"The Hot Spot?" she asked again.

"Yes, the Hot Spot."

"The REALLY Hot Spot," she added.

"Yes," I agreed. "And they looked really nice, too."

To be quite honest with you, I still haven't fully gotten over it.

The worst part of it is, right now, Jobe cannot have mother's milk. Regular readers will recall that Margie went into town Sunday night, planning to spend four days and nights taking care of Jobe so that Lavina could go back to work.

Instead, Lavina got sick - very sick, painfully sick. e-coli sick. So Margie took care of both her and the baby and stayed a fifth day. Lavina is now feeling much better, but even so is taking medication that will prevent her from breast feeding Jobe again until May.

So Margie fed him some formula and then burped him.

A bit after 6:00 PM, Jacob came home from work with Kalib, who he had picked up from day care. A tennis ball preceded them up the stairs.

Muzzy snatched the tennis ball and made it his own.

Kalib walks across the living room floor without his tennis ball.

Where is the tennis ball now?

Here comes Martigny. Maybe she hid it.

Kalib, Lavina and Martigny. No tennis ball can be seen anywhere.

This cannot be disputed.

I was even more tired than Kalib and I knew that Margie was, too. I wanted to get going, headed back home.

Jacob and Lavina invited us to go to dinner with them at Taco King. We decided to delay our departure long enough to take them up on it.

Jacob left ahead of the rest of us, walking with Muzzy. Kalib and Jobe got buckled into their car seats in their family's Tahoe and, given the fact that Lavina was still weak, Margie drove them all.

I drove our car, so that we could head straight for home afterward.

I arrived at Taco King first and, as I waited outside for the others to arrive, an airplane flew overhead.

When dinner was over and it came time to say goodbye, Kalib jumped on his mom's shadow.

Then he jumped on "Shadow."

He stomps on Shadow's left leg.

Kalib, living in his grandfather's shadow.

Kalib, shadow hopping.

More shadow hoping.

Then it was time to go.


I should note that before I went to buy the coffee and pick Margie up, I had a little business meeting. Very soon, I will be working on a new project and can start paying bills again. Such can be life when you are a freelance photographer.

I am very glad about it - but this does not change the fact that, whatever projects I must take on to survive, I now see my real work and future as tied into the development of this blog. I will still put up that button, hopefully today and will work on other schemes to bring in blog-based funding. I give myself until July 14, 2011, to figure out how to make this thing self-sufficient.

And whoever you are in New Jersey, thank you. I will be in touch.

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Reader Comments (21)

I love this blog! You are so genuine and real. I love Kalib living in his Grandfather's shadow, what a lucky boy~

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Tim laughed and laughed over this. We don't have such a business here in Pennsylvania. Tim is not a coffee drinker, but he is thinking of heading to Alaska and taking it up.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

...and furthermore, he wants to know why you take pictures of virtually everything but not this?

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

what great pictures, i just love your Family

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

I was feeling a little down today, Ok more than a little, and read your story and just laughed and laughed. I have to say I was not sure what I was getting into when I read the title, but Bill Hess you never cease to amaze and amuse me. Best of luck with the new project and with great hopes it does indeed pay the bills. And as for that button...blog fans are standing by!

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermocha

my hubby laffed at your coffee encounter...he says that he is pretty sure you took a picture of the breasts but understands that this is a family blog and that's why you didn't do a Hot Spot coffee kiosk window study...and he understands completely.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjustafarmer

Your blog has been nominated for a blogger's choice award.


Let's all go vote.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSally

Jerry Seinfeld said it well...
"Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun. You don't stare at it. It's too risky. You get a sense of it and then you look away."

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterakbright

I thought blogging on the 'net was free so do you have to pay to do it? Or you're trying to earn a living doing it? I think the latter.

Here's a site I stumbled on, have not looked at it in-depth. Maybe along those lines...


April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLynda (AK CDA)

Bill, I'm laughing!! Then I'm enjoying the photos. Then I'm laughing again at akbright's Seinfeld quote.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

DAd we laughed so hard while reading the blog, I read to Jacob while he drove...of course the boys were asleep...

Here is the link to vote for Bill's blog in the photography category of the blogger awards


April 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkathleenpalingates

So funny! Thank you for the laugh about the barista. I hope Lavinia will recover apace (and thank you for the chance to use that word, by the way). and that you all have a nice time at home. Peace.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Bill, is that your plane on your banner, back when it was still servicable? I take it it's damaged beyond repair now?

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark W

Laughed and laughed. And what wonderful pictures of shadowhopping.

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterthe problem child

That gave me a good laugh :) That's quite the show!!!
Love that shirt too, that's classic!

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMikey

Thank you, everybody. Glad I was able to make a few people laugh and to brighten what had been a down day for Mocha.

Sally, thank you for the nomination.

Mark, no - the airplane on the banner is one that passed over me one day as I was out walking near Wal-Mart.

Lynda, there are free blogging services, such as Google's blogger, but even there they will charge you for storage after you pass a certain limit - although it is a huge limit, but not too huge for me. I did my original "No Cats Allowed" blog on blogger, but wanted a site with more capabilities for this one and so chose Squarespace.

This was a horrible mistake.

Yes, I hope to find a way to build this blog into an online publication that can actually be the basis of my livli-hood. It's a huge challenge and I am not even close and don't even know what I'm doing - I'm just doing, but I am intent on it.

April 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300


Hand on your heart --- Wer r d Pics :P
Has this blog got the largest number of comments? Glad that you got a new project and my hearty wishes for the successful completion which I bet you will do! Jobe has grown in the past few weeks and got more cuter cheeks now!
Pass my love n kisses to him and Kalib

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuji

I hope the dr or pharmacists did good research before banning Jobe from mamma's milk for so long. Check Hale's book to be sure, cuz that's a lot to demand of a baby.

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterD

Suji - It's fun to see you here again. Glad you came back and I will pass on your love. Actually, of my recent posts its not this one, but the post of April 20 that got the most comments.

D - You are right, it is a lot to demand of a baby - and a mother - and it could also make resuming breast feeding very difficult, yet I think we have no choice but to trust the doctor on this one.

April 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

I'd trust a pharmacist over a dr, and Hale's over both, but that's me. Glad to see she's been able to resume.

May 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterD

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