A blog by Bill Hess

Running Dog Publications

P.O. Box 872383 Wasilla, Alaska 99687


All photos and text © Bill Hess, unless otherwise noted 
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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.

Blog archive
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I go to town to take Margie to the doctor, pay the printers and look at airplanes

I had to get up very early today and it was hard. No, you would not likely call it early - 8:00 AM, but I have turned the clock upside and have been going to bed somewhere between 4:00 and 5:00 or even 6:00 AM. I don't fall into a good sleep, because of these damn, persistent, shingles, but I seem to get my best rest between 8:00 AM and noon, which is when I usually get up.

But Margie had a follow up doctor appointment in Anchorage scheduled for 9:30, so I had to get up at at 8:00 after going to bed at 4:30.

This is what Pioneer Peak looked like at 8:42 AM as we passed by on the way to Anchorage. To get the picture at all, I had to push my ISO to 3200.

Still, there is a lot more light here this time of year than there is in Barrow.

So I dropped Margie off at the hospital and drove to University Mall, where Jack of Print Solutions Alaska met me. I gave him a huge check, which I would have really liked to have kept because it could have supported us for three months. He gave me some copies of Uiñiq magazine to take home. The rest went into the mail and to the North Slope Borough in Barrow.

Maybe someday I will look at them. It's kind of a funny thing, but after I finish a big job and get the printed product back, I can't look at it for a long time.

I still haven't looked throgh the Kivgiq Uiñiq that I put out a couple of months ago. That was 116 pages. This new one is 120.

Now that it is done, I do not have a single paying job in front of me. For the moment, I do not want one. I want to work on my own projects. But pretty soon I must find some kind of work that will pay me some decent money or Margie and I will be on the street. I think we can make it for another six weeks. Maybe two months with good luck, one month with bad.

I have no idea at all what kind of job might come along. I want to keep working in the Arctic, though. I do. I love the Arctic more than I can express. Sometimes, I wonder why, because it is a tough place and it can be terribly difficult to work in, but I want to, because there is so much that needs to be done and I want to do it.

And the people. For whatever reason, the people of the Arctic tend to be good to me.

So I want to keep working in the Arctic. It is changing so fast. My eyes can sometimes hardly believe the changes I see.

This isn't the Arctic, though - this is Anchorage. Once I paid for Uiñiq and got some magazines to bring home and stick aside and never look at, I knew that I would have an hour or so until Margie was done.

And so I just started to wander and pretty soon, as always happens, I came to a place where there were airplanes. Lake Hood this time. It could have just as easily been Merrill Field.

I remember reading the story in the Anchorage Daily News or the Alaska Dispatch when this old World War II era plane wreck was recovered, but I don't remember the details. I tried to find it online but failed. I do remember they were going to restore it. Maybe someday it will make it back up there, where it can play with the clouds.

I returned to the hospital at 11:00. Margie was waiting for her medications. She asked if I could go to Jake and Lavina's and feed Marty, the calico cat. Lisa usually feeds her but didn't make it over this morning.

So I did, and as I neared their house, I saw this woman cleaning snow off her car.

I think I fed Marty, anyway. I never saw her. I looked in every room, in every nook and cranny that I could find. I called her name. I called out, "kitty, kitty, kitty."

But I never saw her.

Then I went back and picked Margie up. The doctor had removed the tube from her abdomen. He said she was doing pretty good, although they do want to monitor her blood for awhile. We then drove out to the Dimond area where Lisa met us at Red Robin.

Lisa said that in all the days that she has been feeding Marty, she has not seen her once. When she comes back the next morning, the cat food she put out the day before has all been eaten.

The two of them looked very pretty sitting across the table from me and I meant to take a picture, but I forgot. So, as Margie I waited a nearby red light, I photographed this overpass instead.

We continued on. While we were stopped at another light, this little Cessna 150 or 152 flew over us. I don't want a plane like this one. As metal planes go, they are cheap and economical but they are lousy bush planes. They are good for training student pilots and that's about it.

Still, if someone were to offer me one, I would accept. Then I would try to trade up, probably to another Citabria 7GCBC, because I loved my Citabria.

As you can see, Jim makes things hard for me. He has been in the space between my keyboard and my monitor ever since I sat down here about three hours ago. In this capture, he is simply turning around to face the opposite direction from what he had been.

I don't make him move. I just tilt my head this way and that way and work around him.

Tonight I want to get bed early and see if I can force myself back onto a schedule that comes closer to matching that of the world around me.

It is 2:29 AM right now. Maybe I can make it to bed by 2:45 and get up before Sunrise, which probably happens about 10:00 AM. Maybe a few minutes before. If you look at the time this actually posts, then you can figure I got to bed maybe 10 or 15 minutes after that.

I hope I can get some decent sleep. I've got all kinds of medications now to take away the pain and the horrid, horrid, itching and they help a little bit, but not as much as one would hope or think. In fact, the last several nights have been maddening.

I know I am not supposed to scratch, but when I get suspended in a strange state of near sleep and the itch that accompanies the pain is maddening, I can't stop myself. I scratch. I just hope this itching means that it is going away.

It has been just about four weeks now since I first knew that I was getting struck by something bad.

Thank God it was only shingles. At first, before the rash appeared, I truly thought this might be it, the affliction that would take me down. But it was only shingles. No big deal. Just a painful nuisance for awhile.

But I would like to sleep, uninterupted. I would really like to.

Tomorrow, I will post more pictures from my time of hiatus. They will be fun pictues, I promise you. 


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Reader Comments (6)

Sweet dreams Bill! Glad Margie got the tube out. May the pain and itch soon go away. Maybe you should wear socks on your hands so you don't scratch in your sleep. Had to do that the my kids when they had chicken pox...same virus. Hope you find the big job soon. When do the boys get home? Margie must be getting anxious now. Something about grand kids that make you feel good!

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Gunka

your shingles sound like the plague, the way god punished pharoah fot not letting the children of israel leave. hope you're snoring while i'm typing this.

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Deming

Hi Bill, how can I get a copy of Uiniq here in Anchorage?

December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaphne

Hi Bill, is it possible to get copies of any of your publications outside of Alaska? I own your book but am interested in any other material.


December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebecc

I love the road sign. I always give the planes right of way on our roads.

December 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

Mrs Gunka - that is a good suggestion but I think I would go nuts with socks on my hands. The grandboys come home the night of December 12. It seems like forever since we have saw them.

Ruth - That is a nice thought, but I was not snoring then.

Daphne - You could go to the North Slope Borough office at 3000 C Street, Suite 201 and ask for one. They probably don't have their copies yet, though. Even though they are printed in Anchorage, they go first to Barrow and then Barrow sends some to the C street office.

Rebecca - that is a tough one. You could write to the North Slope Borough Mayor's Office, P.O. Box 69, Barrow, AK 99723 and ask them to send you some issues of Uiñiq. Hopefully, they will.

Debby, I am glad that you do. Everyone should, wherever they live. Airplanes that don't get the right of way can cut heads off.

December 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

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