It’s funny. Nobody really thinks much about Alaska, especially since Sarah Palin did not become our vice president. But the Alaskans feel that perhaps too many people are thinking about Alaska. Tonight was an early dinner at Moose Tooth, and over pints and pizza the conversation revolved around the changes taking place in Alaska, particularly in Anchorage. I have some wonderful photos of Anchorage; but take out the mountains and it could be big city anywhere. Alaskans have a problem with that. They love Alaska, and they love the fact that we outsiders (those from the lower 48 ) would travel all this way just to visit. Seriously. Tell someone this is your first trip to Alaska, and they’ll practically invite you over to dinner! But what they don’t appreciate is Wal-Mart, and big highways, and all the other stuff that we outsiders bring with us. Native Alaskans are ferociously proud of their hertiage, and it’s worked quite well for them. They don’t need to be changed – if we want to come to Alaska, then we should learn to function in the Alaskan system. As one guy put it, “I wish the winters would just get colder and longer, so that those pansies would go back south.” Ouch. But I see his point.
Before dinner, I spent the afternoon at Lake Hood, which bills itself as the world’s busiest seaplane base. Lake Hood is unique in that, unlike airports in the rest of the country, one can drive around the airport grounds freely, in and amongst the airplanes. (Airplanes get the right-of-way, of course). Security is lax because people respect the planes. Airplanes are the lifeblood of Alaska – you mess with the planes and someone in the bush doesn’t get their mail, or groceries. It’s a good system, and in Alaska, it works. However, this too could change. Emilie has lived her whole life on Lake Hood, and two days ago the TSA came through and proposed a bunch of changes – to make Lake Hood resemble other airports in the lower 48. That’s bad news, and Emilie’s prediction (and mine too) is that Lake Hood will suffer for it. That’s a shame.
Yet Alaskans are optimistic. Their distance from the lower 48 gives them a unique perspective on things. They can see what works and fails before it gets to them. They are optimistic because this perspective allows them to collectively fight the changes that will endanger their way of life. My buddy from Moose Tooth loves Alaska, and still feels that Anchorage is the greatest city in the world. Emilie still loves Lake Hood, and one day hopes to get her pilot’s license.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, will include a drive down the Seward highway to the Alyeska skit resort. An airplane mechanic at Lake Hood told me to try and grab lunch at the Old Alyeska hotel, where, he says some excellent soup can be found. Then it’s back to Anchorage to explore a bit more and probably find a coffee shop and bury my nose in a book.
I’ve taken a bunch of good pictures, and sadly I don’t have a way to upload them while I’m on the road. Ah well.