"It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from here," the T-shirts read. I was only six when my family moved to SE Alaska but I knew we'd moved not only to a new geographical state, but also to a new state of mind.
A new reality.
In the nearly forty years of adventure since then, I've become convinced of it.
I've also been unavoidably made aware that there are A LOT of misconceptions about Alaska, and SE Alaska in particular. It's a rare treat when an author, TV producer, etc., (more on this in my next post) gets it right.
That's what this blog is about: giving the real story of Alaska in general and SE Alaska in particular. If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask them, or if you want to verify whether something is Alaskan FOR REAL, I will look into it, if I can, and report back.
Keep in mind that I'm blogging from a floathouse in the bush, where there are no roads and I have only one near neighbor. The rest is wilderness. The Internet signal I get is dependent on a single tower on a mountain. If it goes down, so does my ability to post or respond to comments and questions. Sometimes, especially in the winter when it can storm for a week or more, the tower can be out of commission for days.
To launch this blog, why don't we start with a TEST YOUR ALASKA IQ quiz?
1. What currency does Alaska use?
2. What postage do Alaskans put on their mail?
3. Does the Iditarod Sled Dog Race run through the city of Ketchikan?
4. To which government department does the Alaska State Police belong?
5. Do Alaskans live in igloos?
6. When you step off a cruise ship in your first Alaskan port of call, what is the elevation?
7. At what time of night do the Northern Lights appear?
8. Which fast food joint has the best view of Mt. Denali in Ketchikan?
9. Can you see Russia from Alaska's capitol?
10. Are the various reality TV shows set in Alaska really real?
And the answers are.....
1., 2. I've been asked these two questions many times. Oddly enough, because Alaska is the 49th state of the United States of America, we use U.S. currency and postage.
3. That would be a big NO, with all possible respect to the writers and producers of th 1980s sitcom "The Love Boat," in which, during one memorable episode, the cruise ship crew and passengers enjoy the summertime spectacle of sled dogs hauling their sleds, minus snow, in downtown, year-around rainy and temperate Ketchikan--several hundred miles from where the Iditarod began. These mushers obviously took a wrong turn somewhere and just kept on going.
4. None. The only place the Alaska State Police exist is in Cicely, Alaska, which itself only existed in Washington and Oregon in the 1990s (and in the imaginations of the writers and producers of "Northern Exposure").
5. No. Just--no. Do not ask me, or any other Alaskan, this question ever again.
6. This is a common question asked every day, many times a day, all summer long as one batch of visitors after another steps ashore. The answer is usually, althought not always, a polite: The water's right there, dummy. How far above sea level do you think it is?
7. Yes, I have been asked this question, too. I've found that visitors can become quite insistent and impatient, even irritable when you don't give them a specific time that they can put in their itinerary or set their clocks for. It's obvious they're mentally jabbing the "unhelpful" button when I tell them, "The Northern Lights show up when they show up."
8. Did you answer: "Burger King"? If so, you must have read the same book I did that was written by someone who'd never been to Alaska, looked at a map of Alaska, or spent two seconds researching Alaska. Yes, Mt. Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) is tall. The tallest peak in North America. But it is also more than a thousand miles from Ketchikan, with a whole lot of water, mountains and curvature of the earth between the two. It would be like going to your favorite burger joint in S. Dakota and expecting a view of Mt. Ranier.
9. According to a former Republican governor of Alaska, who ran for Veep of the U.S., the answer to that is yes.
10. By and large the answer to this last question would have to be....SERIOUSLY?
So, how did you do?
In conclusion, one might reasonably ask: Is it possible to get Alaska right?
Brent Purvis managed it with his screwball Jim and Kram mystery series. More on that in my next post.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)