On June 24, the Anchorage Daily News released their eagerly awaited 2011 Best of Alaska Awards. I was working that day, so I saved the special experience of reading through all 35 full-color and informative pages for the next morning with a fresh cup of Saturday morning coffee (from Kaladi Brothers—Platinum winner, page 23). Yay! I chuckled in admiration of the savvy of those crack ADN marketers. Through some mysterious, but, I am certain, rigorous evaluation, each category had three “winners.” Or, maybe, one winner and two second places? In any case, there was always a Platinum awardee and two Golds. Perfect! Not only does the Daily News get to sell advertising in this lovingly designed circular to three businesses in each and every category, but whether or not you won, came in second, or second second, you get to either label yourself as Platinum or Gold. Yay, again! Everyone’s a precious metal.
Inside this delightful publication, you will find not only three of numerous types of restaurants from family dining, breakfasts and burgers to romantic dining, sushi and Mexican. (Oddly enough, Thai food was not deemed prevalent enough here in Anchorage to warrant a category.) But not to worry. Aside from restaurants, you may find out your fellow citizen’s ratings on physical therapists, financial institutions, fur and leather shops, dentists, tires, flooring establishments, real estate professionals, day spas and plastic surgeons. From each of these categories, you may choose to patronize either the Platinum or two Gold awardees. Anchorage is bursting with all of these thriving types of businesses.
Except for one, sleepy category. Can any of you fellow bibliophiles guess which one it is? Correct! Bookstores. At least bookstores (unlike Thai restaurants) were deemed by the judging panel (or overworked Special Sections Editor? or last-hired marketing rep?) to have managed to break into the Anchorage mainstream and thus, be worthy of a category. Apparently, however, there were not enough of these esoteric establishments from which to pick three metallic awards. Remember that awarding three medals in each category is in the best interests of everyone involved.
Is this a grievous oversight by the ADN (akin to the omitting of Thai food completely)? Or is this something much, much more horrifying? Could it be that of all the ballots returned by all of those discerning and motivated ADN readers who picked Romano’s as best Italian and La Mex as best Mexican only two bookstores were mentioned? Only two? Really? Are there any more than two in Anchorage? (I realize that we were all a little confused by the “Best of Alaska” contest title. I had a difficult time finding a winning establishment in Eagle River. After an intense 4½ minute search, I found one, the Alaskan Brewing Company, located outside the Anchorage municipality.) So I suppose it would be far too much to expect either Fireside Books in Palmer or Pandemonium in Wasilla, both worthy bookstores, to get even one mention.
Can our city of 300,000 literate and dynamic residents truly support no bookstores other than Title Wave and Barnes and Noble? What about Metro Music and Books, just for example? A quick (1 minute) glance at the yellow pages reveals several more specialty and used book stores in the Anchorage Bowl and Eagle River. How could none of these receive even one mention? Imagine all of the establishments that affect our collective lives on a daily basis. When we as a community sat down to enter our choices onto these ballots, we were able to come up with at least three employment agencies, but we could only name two bookstores.
My stomach has begun to hurt. At least I know where to go to find three award-winning family physicians.
Brian Lax is a science educator at BLM's Campbell Creek Science Center, in Anchorage. His literary claim-to-fame (according to his wife) is that as a biology major at Brandeis University, he also co-edited the college poetry journal.