Crude Conversations
EP 049 with David Reamer

EP 049 with David Reamer

September 18, 2019

In this episode, Cody has a conversation with Anchorage public historian David Reamer. A public historian is concerned with including a public audience, while an academic historian is generally concerned with including an audience of their peers. Academic historians, David says, have a tendency to create an echo chamber of ideas that perpetuates and builds off of old and often prejudiced narratives. Whereas the purpose of the public historian is to deliver information to the people if affects. David calls this, "the democratization of knowledge."

A lot of David's work is concerned with Anchorage's historical relationship with race. Generally, how Anchorage has never been as tolerant as it likes to believe. He points to Alaska's self-identification of exceptionalism, the idea that Alaska is better than other places because our morals and our values have always been ahead of their time. David says this has never been the case because, unless you're Alaska Native, you or your family moved here from somewhere else, bringing with you the beliefs and disposition of your original home. However, above all, he believes in change and the power of self-determination. That precedent matters because change begets change. 

EP 05 with Claude “Muff” Butler

EP 05 with Claude “Muff” Butler

September 10, 2019

In this episode of "lost anchorage," we look at the Anchorage drug trade through the perspective of an ex drug dealer. Claude "Muff" Butler ran a crackhouse in late '80s. After he gave that up, he made deliveries all over town. Between dealing drugs, prison and tragedy, Muff's past was a turbulent one. Today, he is an ideal example of someone who turned their life around. He now teaches kids how to play basketball and emphasizes the importance of school. 

EP 048 with Libby Bakalar

EP 048 with Libby Bakalar

September 4, 2019

In this episode, Cody has a conversation with Libby Bakalar, the creator of the One Hot Mess blog. Libby’s One Hot Mess originally began as a mommy-blog, where she wrote about things like recipes, make-up, and the trials and tribulations of parenting. She says it transformed into what it is now—a social justice blog—after President Trump was elected and especially after Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy was elected. She explains that, as a lawyer, she really had no choice but to speak truth to power because if she were to stay quiet in the compassionless government we’re currently living in, then she would be complicit in the repercussions. 

The transformation of One Hot Mess from a mommy blog to a social justice blog comes from Libby’s sense of a moral imperative—if she doesn’t call these people out, then who will? If she’s not critical of the powers that be and the injustices that they effectuate, then who will be? She believes that when push comes to shove, Alaskans will always band together for the greater good. For the values and the morals that make us who we are. Because, at the end of the day, she believes that we have a lot more common experiences than we think we do.

EP 047 with Joker the Bailbondsman

EP 047 with Joker the Bailbondsman

August 28, 2019

In this episode, Cody has a conversation with Sean Sullivan, better known as Joker the Bailbondsman. Joker is, without a doubt, the most commercially successful rapper from Alaska. His music videos were in heavy rotation on BET: Uncut, a late-night, uncensored music video block on BET back in the early 2000s. Back then, Joker was fully in it, he was living the stereotypical rap life—selling drugs and rapping about it. That is, until he got caught trying to sell to an undercover agent. He ended up spending over eight years in federal prison for the distribution of crack. Today, that's not something he's proud of though. He doesn't flaunt his rap sheet for street credit. Instead, he uses his past experiences, both good and bad, as a way to guide him toward legitimate success in the future. 

 

Probably Sean's most important professional attributes are his persistence and his willingness to invest in himself. Back when he was doing the rap thing, he seized every opportunity that was available to him. And for the opportunities that weren't available to him, he created situation that would, in time, make them available to him. He did this by cold calling television and radio stations, paying for the production of his own music videos, and buying plane tickets for hip-hop journalists to come to Alaska. This is how he found success: he manifested it. He didn't wait around expecting someone else to recognize his talent. Although he doesn't really go by Joker anymore—preferring people call him Sean instead—he still pursues potential ventures with the same vigor and tenacity he did when he was a young rapper. 

EP 046 with Gus Engle

EP 046 with Gus Engle

August 21, 2019

In this episode, Cody has a conversation with Gus Engle, a former professional snowboarder turned musician. Back when he was a snowboarder, rather than taking to the mountains, Gus headed to more urban locations to ride. He ollied sidewalks, slid on corrugated pipes, rode down cement ledges, and jumped off overpasses. Altogether, he helped change the definition of what it means to go snowboarding. His impact on the sport is one of those things that was immediately felt, but was not immediately attributed to him. But that's how those thing go sometimes. However, in time, history may be kinder to his contributions. Today, Gus lives just outside Quebec City, Canada with his wife Este, pursuing a career as a musician with his band Gus Englehorn

Gus has always been a dreamer. He's always chased his passions, usually resulting in something strange and uniquely Gus. That's what he did as a professional snowboarder, and that's what he's doing now with his music. He's a self-described monomaniac, meaning he can only be obsessive about one thing at a time. And when Gus obsesses about something, it becomes all-consuming. 

Gus phoned in for this conversation from his Canadian home in the woods.

EP 045 with Lauren Murphy

EP 045 with Lauren Murphy

August 2, 2019

In this episode, Cody has a conversation with UFC fighter Lauren Murphy. Lauren was introduced to combat sports in 2009 when she dropped her son off at jiu jitsu class. She ended up taking the class alongside him so that he wouldn't  be afraid. He wasn't afraid, but she did get hooked. The following year, Lauren competed in her first MMA fight in Wasilla, Alaska. She knocked her opponent out in 17 seconds. It was the first fight she had ever been in. Today, when she talks about why she got into fighting she says that she wanted to find out how brave she was, and that the only way to do that was to get right in the middle of all of it and to make it as scary as possible. 

Lauren phoned in from her house in Texas. After a few technical difficulties and dropped calls, the conversation officially started. There is an overall message in this conversation about the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people. Because everything in life flows from that. Those people can either frustrate you or support you, they can either drag you down with them or encourage you to become a better person. Lauren knows about toxic people and bad habits better than most. She's been down that road. But with the help of her husband, her son, and all the other healthy relationships in her life, she's now fully recovered and thriving. 

Thanks to Aurora Ford for help with interview questions.

 

PHOTO / Mike Squire

EP 044 with Mike Dempsey

EP 044 with Mike Dempsey

August 1, 2019
In this episode, Cody has a conversation with his friend Mike Dempsey. Mike is a videographer and visual storyteller. It's a hard-won career that not everybody succeeds at, and Mike's well aware of this, which is why he got a degree in computer science—so that he could work remotely. The computer science degree has allowed him to work from anywhere in the world, while he pursues his real passion of documenting people and places. He's traveled to Kenya, Peru, and Columbia for work, and Costa Rica, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Jamaica for himself. He's interviewed people for his own personal projects along the way. 
 
Mike's choice to document life is a symptom of wanting to understand it better—to understand what makes people act the way they do. He's always been able to find the tragedy and the humor in humanity in equal measure. Laughing about the absurdity of it one second, and then lamenting it the next. Probably humor more than the other one. But, ultimately, he believes that a fulfilling life is not about how much money you make or the materials you're able to furnish your life with, it's about the people you meet and the experiences you have. 
 
EP 043 with Julie Decker

EP 043 with Julie Decker

July 24, 2019

In this episode, Cody has a conversation with Julie Decker, the Director and CEO of The Anchorage Museum. When she took the job, Julie made a radical shift in the way museums typically function. Rather than just collecting and displaying artifacts, she decided to transform the Anchorage Museum into a living museum, focused on local issues by examining present themes in order to look at Alaska's cultures and traditions in a contemporary way. Ultimately, this shift was meant to answer one fundamental question: how does the museum and its network make Alaska a better place?

Julie is uniquely qualified for the position she's in, having grown up around her dad Don Decker, a prominent Alaskan artist whose work goes back to the '70s. When she was a kid, she watched as he did the artist thing—struggle and appreciate the creative process and then learn to let his art exist outside of himself. She understands this dance between the indefinable creative process and its payoff because she's an artist as well. Today, she talks about how she finds things like the sound of pencil on paper soothing because of what it represents: a quiet and contemplative meditation.

EP 042 with Cory Davis

EP 042 with Cory Davis

July 17, 2019
In this episode, Cody has a conversation with professional snowmachiner Cory Davis. Cory's been riding a sled since before he could walk. At least that's what his parents tell him. And it's an easy thing to believe if you've ever seen him on a snowmachine. Dude's a natural. Fast forward to 2007, and he's competing in the X-Games at 18-years-old. Today, he holds six X-Games medals in Long Jump and Speed & Style, and a first place win at Iron Dog, the longest snowmachine race in the world. In addition to competing, he co-produced Winter Project, a documentary about backcountry snowmachining in Alaska. 
 
Cory hooked a mic up to his computer and the conversation began. Cory in Soldotna, Cody in Anchorage.
EP 041 with Stephanie Wonchala

EP 041 with Stephanie Wonchala

July 10, 2019
In this episode, Cody has a conversation with Stephanie Wonchala, the Executive Director of Pulse Dance Company and the owner and operator of Studio Pulse Center for Dance. Stephanie started Pulse Dance Company in 2010. Back then they rehearsed wherever they could find space. At one point they held rehearsals on the second floor of a massage studio, with carpet, low ceilings, and no mirrors. Although not ideal, Stephanie remained thankful, but always kept looking. Then, in 2013, she opened Studio Pulse Center for Dance in order to provide the company with a permanent home. 
 
As you mature as a business owner, you learn to accept change and allow for your creation to take on new ideas. You bring other people in and begin delegating responsibilities. You allow it to become something bigger than yourself. It's taken some time, but Stephanie has learned to accept this: that in order for Pulse to continue being a guardian of culture and a home to those who practice dance, then safeguards need to be put into place to ensure Pulse continues to exist long after she's gone. 
 
Thanks to Carrie Hambach and Brittany Petry for help with interview questions.