Several years ago Sarah and I talked some friends into helping us build a $15,000 bungalow on a remote Pacific island. This was not a good idea. We found out that oceanfront land that costs $100 isn't necessarily underpriced and friends who are attracted to work-for-food schemes aren't necessarily endowed with what you might call "skills."
To find out more, click on the photos below or read the short pieceI wrote for National Geographic Adventure . (For the record, the last line of the story "Sometimes spreading the dream around is the best way to make it happen." was theirs, not mine. Diseases spread, not dreams.)
I have an essay about the Pacific island of Pig in this "armchair adventure" anthology published by Lonely Planet. It also includes pieces by actual writers like Pico Iyer, Tim Cahill, and Pam Houston.
In the winter of 2001, I gathered one-hundred books I was most embarrassed about not having read in college and bought a one-way ticket to the Pacific island of Yap.
I'm now writing a book about it, tentatively titled, Paradise Misplaced. It's broken up into 100 chapters each informed by a different book I took with me. The chapters range in length from several pages to a single paragraph and contain many jokes, some of which are funny.
I recently finished a rough draft and even have an agent (International Creative Management) in New York. Need more information before giving me a very large advance? Click here for the full blurb. (Warning: Written in 3rd Person.)
After somehow graduating from Yale, I started and ran a nonpartisan political web site called E-The People. Through the site, concerned folks could send a petition or letter to 140,000 government officials. To help make ends meet, we licensed the underlying software to media companies (1,100 newspaper, television and radio stations at the peak.) Then the bubble burst.
Initially venture-backed, today E-The People continues as a nonprofit, though I am no longer involved.
Warning: Web sites of writers often start with vaguely ironic text about being uncomfortable promoting themselves. But don't believe them. They are lying. They love it.
My name is Alex. I'm a writer living in Anchorage, Alaska. Below are some of the dazzlingly-impressive things I've been involved with.
(Note: We're looking for a caretaker for the house from June,2008 to May, 2009. It's unpaid, hot, and far but if you're interested click here for more information.)
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My email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps you've read something I've written and you're disgusted? Or worse, underwhelmed. Or maybe you have a recipe you'd like to share? In any case, I'd like to hear from you. I can be reached via electronic mail via something I like to call "cyberspace" at email@example.com
My mother, by the way, has no idea what I do or why I do it. So I'd appreciate it if you could, you know, send her a quick email explaining that not all acquittals are because of technicalities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking back, the highlight was a cross-country promotional tour we took in a bus painted like a mailbox. It seems not many people had ever bothered to paint a bus like a mailbox - the tour was covered by 700 news outlets, including The New York Times, Time, The Economist, Forbes, AP, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN and CBS. My favorite headline, though, was from the Austin American Statesman which announced, "New Web Site Offers Free Bar-Be-Que, Access to Government."
MY GREATEST PHYSICAL ACHIEVEMENT...AND WHY I'M TELLING YOU
June 3rd, 2006, 1:45 am (approx.)
I suppose that the high-water mark of my twenties was the night the air conditioner fell out the window. My wife and I were in New York City for a mid-June wedding and staying at a friend’s apartment. Our friend had said her air conditioner was broken but she had bought a new one. “It’s still in the box,” she told us. “If you get too hot, you can install it, but you’ll need to remove the old one first.”
Returning from the wedding about 2 am and tipsy, we found her apartment, in fact, a bit too hot. How hard can it be to install an air conditioner, I thought? First a little background. Our friend lives on a fifth floor walk up. Her apartment faces a courtyard, a concrete courtyard shared by perhaps forty other apartments, many of whose inhabitants were probably asleep that night.
The paint or humidity or whatever it was that was causing the window to stick released its hold. The window flung open. The air conditioner, a good 70 pounds of metal and plastic, fell out. I remember being struck by how quiet it all was, how silently it slipped out and into the night.
I was still holding the window with my right hand. The cord was slithering fast behind it. In one swagful motion, I switched hands and snatched the end of the cord. It held, but the weight of the air conditioner and the momentum of its fall, pulled me towards the window. “I am not going to follow this air conditioner to my death,” I remember thinking. But it stopped, suspended in free fall by a tender line never intended for such a thing.
One hand at a time I pulled it up and into the window. It was at that precise moment that my wife, toothbrush still in hand, decided that, someday, we should reproduce.
The second Thursday of each month, readers of Anchorage's daily paper can skim 675 of my words in an editorial-page column I call, but no one else calls, "Not The Sharpest Tool." Here are some links:
Straight Off the Couch: Running a Marathon Without Training
Turns out 12% of America would trade their right to vote for a $50 gift certificate to the Olive Garden. (link)
For Whom the Bell Tolls and Tolls...
A rant against the seat belt reminder chime. (link)
Undeleted Google Searches Offer Window into Alaskan Mind
Public computer terminals reveal what people are actually searching for.(link)
Environmental Effects of Airplane Deicing
I spent weeks on this piece but after it appeared the airport took action! But be warned, there are few jokes. (link)
The Environmental Case Against Organic Food
This one generated more email than any other. (link)
These days, I'm technically a graduate student in creative nonfiction writing at the University of Iowa. I've completed my class work and am supposed to be working on my thesis. Those who have spent some time in southcentral Iowa will understand why I've chosen to complete it from afar.
The air conditioner sits on the floor.
In 1996 you could start businesses with puns in their names. Now that right is reserved exclusively for salons and hairdressers.
No Copyright Reserved, 2007
Years spent watching the Alaska legislature deregulate lobbyists, ignore conflicts of interests, and increase the limits for campaign contributions, convinced a friend and me to start the (nonpartisan) Alaska chapter of Common Cause. Through awards, public pressure, direct testimony, and discreet meetings in hotel suites, we hoped to turn back some of the more atrocious legislation. We didn't.
2004 proved to be too early for such a thing and we had to close down due to lack of support. In retrospect, we simply didn’t have the budget for hundred-dollar bills and 6th-floor rooms - all that $10 bills from a fifth floor room bought us are some new open-meeting rules. Granted these were small compared to what needed to be done, but we're still proud of them all the same.
As a precautionary measure, I unplugged the old unit before starting to jiggle the window open. But the window was sticking. Worried that only the weight of the glass and the wooden frame was holding the air conditioner in place, I asked my wife to hold the unit down while I gave the window a big push. She casually placed her left hand on top of it while continuing to brush her teeth with her right. I pushed the window hard.
Alex Sheshunoff | 515 N. St #3 Anchorage AK 99501 | email@example.com
The good folks at Marpletplace (by American Public Radio) recently ran a commentary of mine. Over a million folks talked on their cell phones while I rambled on about selling your right to vote. Or something like that. You can read or listen to it here.
YouTube Film Festival
We recently hosted a 2008 You Tube Film Festival where we asked everyone we knew for five links. From hundreds of submissions, we selected these “best of you tube”. In general, we favored the funny, clever, and unexpected over physical feats and tried to focus on content unique to the medium rather than content repurposed from television.
We then borrowed some equipment and invited everyone to our house to watch them be projected onto a wall (thus sidestepping the two problems of viewing video on the internet: solitariness and the small screen).
To make things more social and avoid sensory overload, we broke the evening up into two, forty-five minutes viewings with a twenty-minute intermission. Anyway, here is a link to the program, enjoy.