A fund raising auction at the Convention Center


The city of Nome has a flag

They imprinted it all over some swag

Just for the kiddos

I made the right bid-do

On a bucket, a bottle, and bag

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record System (EMR) I can get along with. Right now I’m in Nome, Alaska.

When one says Convention Center in a town the size of Nome, one means a building with less floor space but better acoustics than the high school gym.  Adequate for the Nome Preschool annual fund-raiser, it seats about 200.

I bought tickets for the evening’s raffle last week, and, in the spirit of supporting community institutions, walked over to check out the auctions.

I bypass the home-baked desserts and chili, browsing items on the silent auction table.  With no interest in cosmetics, fragrances, and home-made garments, I note winter clothing bearing logos for telephone, construction, and fuel companies.  I discard the idea of a wrench set, or anything else difficult to transport.  I consider the knife and flashlight sets.

I find an item entitled City of Nome Swag: a plastic bucket holds a Frisbee, T-shirt, fabric shopping bag, water bottle, and ball cap.

I like to bring back small stuff from my travels, an ivory polar bear from Barrow, a ball cap from Waikiri.  And this batch would suit my purposes.  Especially the water bottle.

I sit with a PA and a CMA from work.  We swap stories about Alaska.  I learn about an island where statute prohibits locking the car or the outer door of one’s arctic entry, because bears regularly harass the population and people need to have shelter in a hurry.  We talked about Adak Island, I hear about being stuck for two weeks because of winds.

The live auction list reveals a lot about the location and the town’s values.  The Natives invented the ulu, a kind of knife very useful for dressing hides, and the program sports three of them, one for sewing.  I find a half-dozen kuspuks, an ornate, hand tailored upper garment with a hood and an elaborate kangaroo pocket.

The auctioneer pitches tryouts for the Community Theater, and emphasizes that we have gathered to raise funds.  He chants through pieces of local art, a home dog grooming kit, and a toddler’s Ski-Doo jacket.  The first item that holds an interest for me, dinner at every restaurant in town and movie tickets for two, also catches the crowd’s fancy; the bidding passes the triple digit mark and keeps going.  In the course of the evening, the other items that fetch the highest prices include 100 pounds of air freight (three different airlines), 10 pounds of crab (three lots each), a one night fishing getaway to Niukluk river, a helicopter sightseeing tour for 3, an hour of bluegrass music from Landbridge Tollbooth (a local group), Nome Discovery Tour for 4, 100 gallons of fuel, and 40000 frequent flyer miles with Alaska Air.

Every 15 items, the action stops.  A child picks a door prize ticket (cash), and the MC reads the names of successful silent auction bidders from two or three tables.

I outbid everyone for the Bucket of Nome Swag.

In the third round I buy a dog sled ride. My bid goes over the triple digit mark.  Later I find out the musher, the District Attorney, qualified for next year’s Iditarod.

I look forward to the conversation as much as the ride.

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