Alaska in six words or less!
By DAVE KIFFER
April 05, 2016
Ketchikan, Alaska - Recently, the Alaska Dispatch News held a contest to see if readers could describe their "Alaskan Lives" in six words.
As to be expected a lot of them contained endless drivel about life in the wilderness and how wonderful it is.
Lots of Northern Lights, lots of big wildlife poop, lots of big mountains, lots of big wildlife poop on big mountains under the Northern Lights, lots of appreciation for Starbucks always being within walking distance.
Okay, I made that last one but up.
No one in Alaska actually walks anywhere.
Seriously, we are worse than Los Angelenos that way. We. Do. Not. Walk.
Partly because we have large distances to cover (Ketchikan is in Georgia and the Aleutians are in California!) and partly because walking anywhere frequently seems to lead to early onset death.
If the weather doesn't get you, the megafauna does.
Two bad that is nine words. It would make a great entry in the ADN contest.
Anyway, I get that a lot of folks are convinced that "The Last Frontier" is a big, awesome place to live. And that somehow leads to this obsession that Alaska is really "all that."
Which reminds of that wonderful quote from Cary Grant.
"Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant."
I can imagine Alaska sitting in some Denali Highway roadside bar and muttering "Everyone wants to be Alaska. Even I want to be Alaska" into its pale ale.
Of course, if Alaska could fit into a roadside bar that was in Alaska, that would create a serious tear in the time space continuum. And why a "pale ale?" Why not a more stout stout?
But I digress.
Anyway, my personal favorite of the ones the ADN chose was "You had me at 'free shipping.' "
Now there is the true measure of the Alaskan subsistence lifestyle.
A while back, I was trying to order something on-line and as usual, the shipping was coming in at around three times the cost of the item. So I decided to reach out and touch one of the phone operators to see if I could negotiate a better deal than the automated system was giving me. Sometimes that happens, if you can convince them that Ketchikan is not somewhere that the mail arrives by dogsled.
For example, one time I was chatting with a real person on the phone and they informed me that they would love to ship UPS but that UPS didn't service Ketchikan. Interestingly enough, the local UPS guy came through the door at that instant. I put him on the line and the situation was resolved quickly in my favor.
Anyhoo, I was talking to this other retail consultant (they don't call them operators or customer service folks anymore) more recently, trying to negotiate a more favorable shipping fee and she said something very interesting.
"Y'all don't have much of an accent."
I was taken aback. I don't think of Alaskans having accents. Maybe we do.
After all I'm sure that I seemed to be "tocking funnay" to someone who clearly had been raised in the backwoods (how come someone is never raised in the frontwoods) of Kentucky.
"Accent?" I responded.
"Well, I guess I figured y'all would sound kinda Russian."
Great. Another fan of the former Governor.
"That's pretty funny," I said, acknowledging the joke.
"Huh?" she replied, acknowledging there was no joke.
Fortunately, the upshot was that I finally convinced her that she could indeed just put the item in the mail and it would get to me just fine, without any exorbitant next day service (ha, ha, ha,) shipping fee. Even if I was in Russia.
Sorry, I digress, again.
Back to the "Describe Your Alaskan Experience in Six Words" contest.
Interestingly enough, the winners and finalists did not include any from Our Fair Salmon City or pretty much anywhere in Southern Southeast Alaska. So I figured I should see if I could come up with some appropriate ones.
Speaking of which, it is really hard to boil down existence into such a small statement.
It becomes a sort of minimalist poetry (no that is not redundant). Which makes it even harder for me, because I have never written a poem that did not contain the word "Nantucket" and several inappropriate rhymes for it.
So how to describe OUR Alaskan lives in six words. Well, here goes nothing.
Born in Goretex, died in Goretex
My salmon heart bleeds for you
It has been raining, since forever
Marry me, my little skunk cabbage
From Deer Mountain to Dear God
I've looked at clouds, since forever
Tourist Season: What's the bag limit?
Tsunami warning, flee, two inch wave
Muskeg is not just for breakfast
Red sky at morning? Harbor day!
Duck, duck, duck, goose, bang, bang!
Banana slug cream pie recipe, yum!
Next day air is a joke
I can't believe I'm still here
Salmon return, oh dear, the odor
Tarps on sale, run and hide
From loose women to loose diamonds
Tree to be, you and me
Northern lights sparkle, beyond the clouds
No we are not Canadians, eh?
Trash uncanned, grin and "bear" it
Living in a Post Tropical Paradise
It rains in a rain forest (duh)
Recreational fighting to pass the time
Under God, under funded, under water
Well, I'm sure there are a million others.
Heck, I'm sure you have some of your own.
Send them in.
Just don’t send them next day air.
On the Web:
Columns by Dave Kiffer
Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer
Dave Kiffer is a freelance
writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Kiffer ©2016
Letter to the Editor
Stories In The News