Wednesday, November 17, 2010

10 Illustrated Things I Love(d) About Alaska

I don't have cable, so I can't write about Sarah Palin's Alaska, and what she loves about her home state, but I can imagine it's much different than my recent Alaskan experience, which went by way too fast.

Palin probably would not leave her home with just about the clothes on her back and go 3,000 miles away with a recent Alaskan transplant she'd only known a few days, and met in Chicago during a meeting. Palin probably has a family to report to, and a busy schedule on her Blackberry. I just have houseplants, the pipeline (not to be confused with a real pipeline in Alaska), and the ability to work remotely, which I did for the Nov. 2 and Nov. 9 Pipelines.

Without blathering on, here's the first 10 Things I Love(d) About Alaska that come to the top of my mind while sitting in Skewerz wi-fi lounge and 'speedwriting' between 1:15 and 2AM.

1) The Sun. In November in Alaska, the sun shines sparingly, but when it does, everyone talks about it, the day it came out, the pictures they took, when the sun is supposed to come out again, etc. The Sun Shining is not to be confused with daylight, which happens around 9:30AM. The later daylight is great for night owls and people with hangovers who don't want to feel guilty about sleeping in too late, and perfect for early bird writers like me who enjoy waking up at 7AM and then having at least a few hours with a notebook by the fireplace when the world outside is dark and it still feels like you're operating on stolen time.

2) Magpies. I hear they're like pests, similar to the pigeons we have here in Chicago, but to me they seemed exotic because I'd never seen them before. I even followed a few.

3) People. In Girdwood, a small ski town which was in the off season during my visit, everyone seems to know each other. And they're ALL friendly. First I thought it was just Girdwood, and then I went to Seward, and everyone was really friendly there too... maybe because there's not too many people around, so you need to like the ones you see? Or perhaps I had that I'm-So-Happy-to-Be-Escaping-My-Life vibe that I seemed happy & friendly, which caused others to be that way too?

4) Mountains. Mountains. Mountains. Maybe they are the source of the friendliness. Among them, you feel like nothing could be that important, you're just a tiny peon, grateful to be among Nature. Check out these quotes by famous writers and thinkers who confirm this idea that there's something about mountains which is really important:

Great things are done when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street. ~William Blake

Truly it may be said that the outside of a mountain is good for the inside of a man. ~George Wherry, Alpine Notes and the Climbing Foot, 1896

5) Tap Water. It's delicious is Alaska. I think it was from a well, or glacier, but whatever it was, it tasted better than the water here in Chicago.

6) I love the fact that Alaska feels like a country within our country. 'The Lower 48' is the way the rest of the country, outside of Alaska, is referred to by Alaskans, even in obituaries, i.e. so and so lived in 'The Lower 48.'

7) Snow is not snow. They call it, "The White Stuff."

8) No sales tax! (But on the downside, many things are just as expensive in Alaska as they are in Chicago, or even more in some cases. A bottle of Diet Coke at a Chevron in Seward was $2.25)

9) Fashion. It doesn't seem to matter much in Alaska, or maybe it does, but everyone's cute outfit is covered up in puffy coats, so who cares. For those of us who just throw clothing on, this was refreshing. Though I did not clip it from the Anchorage Daily News, there was a picture of senate candidate Joe Miller, and his wife, and she was wearing what looked like they could be fashionable knee-high leather boots, but instead of skinny jeans, they were baggier jeans, and wrinkles from the jeans were all over the tops of the boots. It looked like something I would do, but then again I am not the wife of a wannabee politician. Here
I am in a puffy coat four winters old, with down feathers coming out of it, and a hat, much happier than on any beach, next to a new friend, who works at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

If all goes well, Joe Miller will lose to U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who lives in Girdwood and waged a wildly successful write-in campaign of which the votes are still being counted. Per this New York Times via Seattle Times story, headlined 'No Mistaking Murkowski Votes; Lawyers Leaving Alaska,' things are looking good for Murkowski, and the rest of Alaska. Fun Fact: Joe Miller has seven children, and wants to do away with a dizzying number of programs, some of which his own family has benefited from. Sounds like 'do as I say, not as I do' to me.

10) The Alyeska Resort. Granted, I can no longer ski due to lower back problems, and I didn't actually lodge at the Alyeska, but it came to mind because the resort has the best wifi in the town of Girdwood, and a Starbucks and bar that wifi squatters like me can frequent as to not feel guilty for wifi squatting. The people at the Alyeska are really nice too, and no doubt thought I was crazy for spending so much time glued to my laptop working on last week's pipeline writing about Wicker Park when I should have been playing in the Alaskan snow. But I got a lot of snow time in too.

For more photos snapped in Alaska, click here.

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