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Ketchikan: Salmon, Souvenirs and Sex


Got you with that headline, right?


But after you've spent an hour or so in Ketchikan, you've heard dozens of pitches for visiting the town's Creek Street neighborhood, a wide-open area of brothels and saloons into the 1950s.


Today, it's nearly all chi-chi souvenirs, cheap souvenirs, and quaint coffee shops—and, as the dressed-up and slightly embarrassed-looking barker calls out, an opportunity to tour a house that was Dolly's, one of the most famous brothels.


But if second-hand sex and sniggers aren't your thing, Ketchikan also calls itself the Salmon Capital of the World, and there's lots of that, there, too. It's on every menu, and there are numbers of stores that have it packed to go with you on your cruise ship, or shipped to you at home.20170622_104612P1030790

Ketchikan has clearly made a shrewd conclusion: If tourism out-paces every other aspect of the local economy, then spare no effort to get what's possible from the thousands of visitors pouring off the cruise ships, and back on again a few hours later.


And the souvenir vendors are clever, with many ways to lure you in. Free trinkets. Free coffee. 'Unique" sales. My favorite is this one. The shortcut sign is on a block-long store paralleling the cruise-ship docks.


The shortcut is a walk through crowded aisles of even more souvenirs, returning you to the sidewalk on the other side, just as if you had walked next to the store instead of through it!


Nearby, this sculpture points out the different people who have had a role in the town's history: miners, fishermen, indigenous people, teachers, and some whose role is left, perhaps intentionally, ambiguous.


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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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Just reading Jonathan Raban's 'Passage to Juneau' - it speaks volumes, as does this post about the dilemmas surrounding modern mass tourism in areas that could formerly sustain a precarious living.

The t-shirt, the photo and the plastic mounded 'carving' is a more valid souvenir than the 'sublime' experiences of 18/19th C voyagers. 

A conundrum we have yet to resolve

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