Unalaska journal, part II

by Dave Weigel

UNALASKA, AK -- I took this photo yesterday on some winding road or another on the way to Summer Bay. This is a real sign, and it's one of several that warn Unalaska denizens of the threat posed by bald eagles. Sure, you think bald eagles are majestic. You don't see them more frequently than any other animal in your city, and you don't see them digging through trash and dumpsters. (Honestly, the image of a bald eagle dumpster-diving, feathers matted with waste, is un-erasable. It's like walking in on Uncle Sam as he's on the john.)

On the way out to the island, a few of my co-passengers laughed at my enthusiasm. "You can see all of Dutch Harbor in a day," said one guy making his semi-annual trip out here to work for Caterpillar. Indeed, you can. Thanks to a fire that took out a Chinese restaurant earlier this year, you can count the number of eateries on two hands. The airport has a bar, as does the hotel, as does a sports joint, and that's it, thanks to a "Footloose"-style crusade against drinking that occurred here last decade.

This isn't the place I'd pick for a moral crusade. Crime is so unheard of that it's common to leave your keys in your car, and it's not unheard of to leave your house unlocked. The only resistance I've met from an authority figure here was polite disapproval for bringing an empty soda into a museum. (I threw it out.) But this isn't some podunk town. Yesterday, I sat down to work in the same room as some kids recording a radio show for KUCB. As they edited songs on a Mac, one kid asked me what kind of iPad she had, because she'd just bought her own and was digging it. An hour later, inside that museum, a woman saw me using my ostentatious Steve Jobs word domination device and asked if wireless was working. Convinced that it was, she opened hers up. That's two expensive toys on an island with less than 4000 people, where the Internet is so slow that you can't watch Netflix and five-minute YouTubes can take 30 minutes to stream.

Not that constantly loading up a computer and trying to watch "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is the best way of spending time here. The sun shone yesterday until close to 1 a.m., and the time before it set was well spent climbing up Bunker Hill, named for the many surviving bunkers built during World War II to gird for Japanese invasion and bombings. They're some of the sturdiest structures, still, in a place where the highest recorded winds have gone up to 200 mph -- roof-tearing, house-collapsing nightmare weather.