I was twenty three years old, visiting San Fransisco, California for an Angels & Airwaves concert. Before handing my card to the Starbucks cashier, I knew it was coming. I clamped my teeth down hard, tensing up my facial muscles, the eye twitch slowly pulsating.
Then he asked.
A wild card of a question, the nail in the coffin, a real winner.
“Do you know Sarah Palin?” followed by “Can you actually see Russia from your house?”
Damn him. Damn her. I mean most of us don’t even like Sarah Palin but in her defense, for her statement to be taken literally, you must be an idiot. I mean I took at as “her house” meaning from some area of Alaska and she meant it as… like “welcome to MY HOUSE” or “this is my turf!”. Technically you can see Russia from Little Diomede Island, Alaska.
My response to him was yes, I know her, we party with her all the time in our igloos where we ice fish from our living room. I told him this concrete jungle was a major culture shock to me and that this was my first time in a Starbucks. If you didn’t know I was a smart ass troll, now you do.
…”Are there any trees in Alaska?”…
I woke up to another five inches of snow on top of the two feet we accumulated last week. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ready for summer, but I’m glad this years winter feels very much like an old school Alaskan winter. The last few winters have been terrible, brown, and warm. I mean I’m so excited to actually be able to smell dog shit this spring.
Days like today always make me nostalgic. Seeing the lawn with a fresh blanket of untouched snow while the tree branches hang heavy. The power lines bounding up and down and our vehicles looking like a snow cube with wheels. It was snowing hard this morning and the snowflakes were the size of half dollars. The wind was kicking up too, making visibility mildly poor. I love it.
I’m sure my outsider friends get sick of me always talking Alaska up but I just can’t help myself. Just about everyone has some kind of pride overload with their home town or state. But ours is just a litttttttttttle bit better and as I’ve said, you’re entitled to your wrong opinion but I assure you, ours IS better.
But what makes us truly better? What annoys the shit out of us? Why do some of us hold ourselves to a higher standard? There are probably a million reasons/answers and to be honest I don’t have enough time in my lifetime to explain each one, so I asked all of you, my friends on FB, those who have known me for most of my life and those who I’ve known for only a few years.
“Are you part of the United States?”
“The summers here in Alaska are perfect even though the sky is bright into the night. Fishing, camping, mudding and hunting is GREAT! Traveling in Alaska may take hours but the drive is so beautiful, it doesn’t matter.Winters are fun for some and not so much for the ones who don’t like the cold but you cannot deny that the snow doesn’t make everything look amazing. There is ice fishing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowboarding, skiing and snow machining! Yes, we here in Alaska call it snow machining! So, if you want to “fit in” and not look like a tourist, remember to call it that.
“I went to visit family in Louisiana back in the summer of 2005. I was 15 and a girl who was 18 asked me if we had houses, roads, and cars but the winner of questions was when she asked me if we had cats in Alaska. I was sitting there surrounded by about 7 other teens who were just waiting for an answer”
-Danielle Darlyn Rheault
“Is it like….night time all the time there?”
“When I moved to FL someone asked me if we had different money in Alaska? I assume she was thinking about Canada, but still…..lol”
“Also the thing I miss most about Alaska is the down to earth attitude from people and people always willing to help you on the road. It just doesn’t happen here. People aren’t into the latest fashion trends or superficial shit like they are in the lower 48 for some reason, we’re truly our own little world”
“My tire blew out on a main road when I was (obviously) pregnant, it took 5 minutes for someone to pull over and help me, and the guy told me that I was lucky because “people around here don’t stop to help”. He wasn’t trying to be a dick about it, as he was happy to help me and tried to refuse my 10$ I gave him for stopping. When I got back to work (I was a delivery driver at the time) ALL my co workers were like “Oh wow, you’re lucky someone stopped!”
“My most memorable Alaska ditch moment was hitting a patch of black ice coming off the muldoon exit and the truck behind me immediately stopped, pulled me out, AND followed me to eagle river walmart, one of the girls even rode with me to make sure i got there safely!”
“Do you ever see penguins?”
“People would leave their cars unlocked in the Bush in case the car needed to be moved to make room for the snowplows and graters. People in the Lower 48 looked at me like I had three heads when I told them I wasn’t used to locking my car.”
“Is there anything to do in Alaska?”
Nope not at all so you probably should just stay exactly where you’re at. Ok I’m kidding. There’s loads to do here but honestly 80% of it is outdoor stuff, so if that’s your thing, you’d be in heaven. I’m not even too outdoorsy but I can appreciate it enough to just enjoy being out side, even if it is mowing the lawn three times a day, or picking up sticks in the yard, or finding simple little things to do just to keep me outside. My friend Stephen Griffin use to say “sleeping in during the summer is a waste of a day” and I still believe that to this day. I still think that Alaska is one of the last places where imagination actually still comes into play when entertaining yourself. Yeah we have clubs, bars, theaters, malls, blah blah it’s all there with a small town feel that even makes THOSE different.
It’s really annoying when people don’t even have the slightest knowledge on Alaska. I mean the first few you run into are fine but eventually, it gets old. I remember in the first grade, we had to memorize all the states, write them in on a blank map, as well as the province codes (AK,AR,MN,FL, etc.). “Is Alaska part of the US?” yes, yes we are. There are 50 stars on that flag and who exactly do you think number 49 and 50 are? So if you ever hear the term AK49, now you know, Alaska, the 49th state mtherfcker represent whaaat.
When did we become a state? We became a state on Jan. 3rd, 1959. We have a population of 736,732 as of 2014. Our state bird is the Willow Ptarmigan and we are known as “the last frontier” and YES, we are the biggest state. Sorry Texas, you just don’t cut it. You’re cute being in second place and what not, but no….sit down….all the way down…yay good girl you did it! Now stay.
“Do you have electricity in Alaska?”
“I visited New York for a few weeks. It was terrible and everyone was out for themselves it seemed. I instantly missed the community we have. As soon as someone found out I was from Alaska they seemed to feel sorry for me, as if I had a tough life in such a rough place. But honestly I’m glad Alaska isn’t easy to live in. If i wanted to live in an easy mindless place, then I suppose I’d choose anywhere in the lower 48”
“Alaska is just a frozen wasteland”
That was actually said by some kid on the internet while I was playing World Of Warcraft. I made him feel real stupid shortly after, it was refreshing. It’s amazing the image folks have about our state, probably from all the stupid ass shows that have come out over the last ten or fifteen years. I use to want us noticed and on the map but now that I think of it, I prefer to be in the shadows of mystery. Hell I prefer people to still think we are located in the Gulf of Mexico. However google is an amazing tool, I mean we just got it a year ago here in Alaska and we’ve learned so much about flux capacitors and instant messaging and moving pictures, you should try to look up Alaska sometime! I promise we aren’t all like this. I’m just the voice that speaks what everyone probably thinks. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.
“I really want to pet a bear”
“Do you guys have cars to get around?”
“Is it ever green in Alaska?”
I suppose our “small town feel” is much like any other small town community, only ours feels state wide. I love the fact that you can be anywhere in the world and as soon as you run into another “Alaskan” you instantly form a bond. Kind of like a friendly neighbor vibe type thing.
As kids, we are taught that playing in subzero temps is okay and perfectly safe, snow days and school being cancelled rarely ever happens (three in my entire school career from kindergarten to my senior year). One of the best looks on an outsider’s face is after I’ve told them we don’t shut down for snow storms. In fact I don’t think I ever had a “snow day” due to actual snow because usually it’s when we get loads of freezing rain and everything turns into an ice rink. They would only keep us kids inside for recess if it was -30 or worse (now days its probably -20). We would bundle up and go have fun outside. Believe it or not, when you are cold, its best to actually move because movement creates heat and heat creates smiles and happy faces yay!! But when you don’t move, and you lock up, you will die. When you die while locked up, you’re found in the same way, frozen, pitiful and blue.
Most of us are educated with fire arms at a young age, hell my Uncle Steve bought me a .22 rifle at the age of five.
We use our imagination outside….a lot. Pretty sure as a kid, we taught ourselves a primitive version of shelter building and surviving in the wild. Not even kidding when I say I could construct you a nice little post zombie shanty that could sustain through winter. Try me.
“It’s just cold all the time there..”
“Where else but Alaska do you find this kind of beauty and make such wonderful memories with your children?”
“You’re bragging about Alaska all the time, chill out”
“I’ve never been to Alaska, but it’s not my cup of tea”
Toooootally fine and we understand and I promise you we will forget you even said that in like…. wait…what did you say? I forgot. I do encourage all to visit Alaska though. Really….I do. But you have to have an honest curiosity. If you don’t, and you expect it to be like where you live, then you’ll be let down. Then, like a disappointed customer, you’ll spread the negative review to an average 15-20 people. We already get a bad rep from stupid inaccurate t.v. shows and loud mouth politicians…. and people who can’t Google. It does get annoying when they have an idea of how life looks like in a third world country and compare this idea to what it might be like in Alaska, only with snow.
Oh look, it’s groundhog day, looks like we have six weeks of winter left. Well…No shit.
Sorry I was distracted.
“How do you stay warm inside?”
We use ancient alien technology from the planet Argus that harnesses the power of the sun and stores it in our own fusion cells which we then use to channel through flux capacitor copper lines known as “baseboard heating”. Some people are fancy and can afford to upgrade to a forced air type heat, which feeds off the same system. Crazy huh?
Yeah this blog is all over the place but that’s how I want it.
“Alaska > everywhere else because I have too much debt to move lol”
I’ll leave the rest of this rant open ended for those who message me their stories and annoyances, so I can add it as I go and it can be forever logged in the never ending, living, breathing, void of the internet.
And FYI, there are no freaking penguins in Alaska.
She’s our home. Our roots. Our foundation.
You’ll have to excuse me for my writing skills, for they are quite unsuitable for nothing more than the blog of a C student.
To most, Alaska is unknown and hardly looked at as a place one would want to live. Most people I’ve run into that have never been to Alaska think it’s located in the Gulf of Mexico (I’m kidding). But what makes those who have lived here for some time so unique? What are the first few words that come to mind when you think of yourself as ‘Alaskan’?
The first few words that come to my mind is “tough as nails”. Because in all reality, we truly are. We are a special kind of breed that separates us from the norm. Anyone who has an Alaskan friend would easily say they were “different”. We are different. We are taught to adapt, evolve, and overcome most situations in our every day Alaskan life. You have to, or you wont make it. I’ve traveled to many places and have experienced complete polar opposites of Alaska. 98% of everyone I have met outside of Alaska usually is fascinated with where I am from. This fascination usually comes after a shocked, slightly nauseated, yet curious look on their face. Yes I am from Alaska, the 49th (out of 50…Hey some folks don’t know that!) and largest state in the United States of America. With a population of 736,732, Alaska is 663,300 square miles of complete awesomeness.
Every Alaska can agree that we are bombarded with the same kind of questions every time we meet a new person in the lower 48. Some of the usual questions are; “is it always cold there?”, “have you seen a penguin?”, “is it night time all the time?”, “do you live in an igloo?”, “do you have power?”, “do you have internet?”, “do you use cars?”. The list can go on and some of those aren’t even the bad ones. Most of us have gotten use to the onslaught of bad questions and we normally are happy to answer each one with smiles and laughter.
Now most people would think that due to our smaller towns and cities, we are quite a small world. But from all my travels and cities I’ve been to, it really seems the opposite. Being Alaskan, we have to travel what city folk would call “a long way” to get to places. I live in Wasilla. Which means If I wanted to go to the mall, it would be a good 45 minute to an hour drive. We do it so often and so many things are 1-3 hours away that it becomes normal for us. A simple three or four hour drive is nothing. Hell you can drive for seven to fourteen hours straight and still be in Alaska. A small world I think not.
A city, to me, is a small world. Uncomfortably small. Everything you need is within five to ten minutes away, which to me, makes your bubble even smaller. Granted this has its perks and by no means am I bashing these perks. But I do believe things like that diminish our natural human need to explore and expand. Your whole world is packed for you in twenty blocks of concrete buildings, quarter acre lawns, billboards and traffic. It’s definitely a different kind of world. Exciting, but different.
So how would an Alaskan handle being away from the mother land? How do you transition from fresh air to just….air? Or mild traffic to…fast pace chaos. How do you go from mamma moose and her twin calves or mamma bear and her twin cubs to alley cats and and the occasional suburban dog? If any of my friends who have managed to stay out of Alaska for over a year, please comment with answers. I’m not oppose to moving out of Alaska, for I love exploring and risk taking. But I was born here and I’ll die here.
What would you miss the most?
I’d miss everything. I’d miss those winters of going snowboarding in untouched snow. That soreness you get from a full blue bird day of shredding down the side of an Alaskan mountain. I’d miss spending a good afternoon mowing the grass and weed whacking, then having a beer shortly after and admiring your fresh groomed lawn. I’d miss local mom and pop restaurants and businesses. I’d miss the community that we have which is full of kindness (for the most part) as well as that unique Alaskan, independent mentality that we all have. I’d miss the natural season change indicators. The termination dust on the mountain, which means winter is coming. The rotting leaves dog shit smell in the April, which means spring is here. The fireweed as it begins its journey from green, to purple bloom, to the funky cotton stage, and then finally orange and red. That crisp smell in the air just before and after a fresh snow fall. I’d miss the “do it yourself” attitude because in Alaska, sometimes there isn’t a business you can just call to fix a certain thing. You have to just do it. I love that.
Could I live anywhere else?
Why not? Adapt, evolve, and overcome…right? Seems like everywhere could use a little dash of Alaskan. In a few years who knows what the world will offer me and my soon to be bride. I just hope, where ever we live for a bit, they have good salmon….and real crab. They gotta have real crab…
Adapt. Evolve. Overcome.
I was born in Alaska. I will die in Alaska.
One of my all time favorite sushi restaurants is “Shine’s Sushi” in Eagle River, Alaska. Locally owned and operated, Shines has been serving the town of Eagle River for several years now. I’ve tried every roll they have to offer and I’ve found that each one is delicious. I prefer the cooked rolls myself but their variety of rolls will satisfy any sushi lover. The above picture is my all time favorite, the “Double Dragon Roll”. This roll is made up of shrimp tempura inside, BBQ eel and cooked shrimp on top. My second favorite roll is the “Kiss of Fire Roll” which consists of sliced salmon on top of a California Roll topped with spicy mayo then baked. The staff is friendly and always remembers me when I walk in. They have my usual order memorized (two Corona’s with lime served chilled, no glass, bottle only. One Kiss of Fire Roll and one Double Dragon Roll). Their website is http://www.shinesushi.com and their phone number is (907)-622-8889. They are located on 12400 Old Glenn Hwy #3 Eagle River, Alaska 99577.