It was late in the afternoon when I walked into the Morgan Library and Museum in midtown Manhattan. I wouldn't have time for the exhibits at the palace financier J.P. Morgan built on Madison Avenue, but at least, I could get a brochure, find out when the doors opened the following morning, check the admission fee.
A staffer at the information desk answered my questions cheerfully, then she asked: "You're not from around here, are you?"
No, I replied.
"Where are you from?"
The middle-aged woman's face immediately turned scarlet and she screamed "SARAH PALIN AAAAAHHHHH!"
Then she started fumbling with the papers on her desk. I thought she was looking for a cross to ward off evil, but a former New Yorker here in Anchorage later suggested, "She was probably searching for her gun."
Well, if you don't like Palin, whether you live in Manhattan or Shaktoolik, you better get used to seeing her photograph, reading news stories about her, listening to radio and TV commentators rattle on about her.
Sarah Palin is internationally famous. She easily meets the definition of a celebrity ascribed to historian Daniel Boorstein: "Someone who gets in the news and stays in the news." She's going to remain in the news until at least the next presidential election.
In six months, Sarah Palin has become the face of our state. People in the East no longer ask about the snow, the cold, the wilderness, the oil fields, the trans-Alaska pipeline, the Bridge to Nowhere or the "free government money" (the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend): They ask about Palin when they don't scream.
What do they ask? Things like Is she dumb? Is her family as screwed up as they seem? Does she really hunt those poor moose? Has she ever read a book? (Some New Yorkers seemed amazed that I, coming from Alaska, had read a book, let alone actually could identify a cultural icon like T.S. Eliot.)
To read the complete column, visit The Anchorage Daily News.