Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A dangerous undertaking, defining Alaska state pride

Protecting the privacy of the home, is "consonant with the character of life in Alaska. Our territory and now state has traditionally been the home of people who prize their individuality and who have chosen to settle or to continue living here in order to achieve a measure of control over their own lifestyles which is now virtually unattainable in many of our sister states." – opinion written by Chief Justice Jay Rabinowitz in the 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision to allow residents to possess a small amount of marijuana for personal use.

A question of Alaska pride came up the other day. To begin with there was a post on Facebook from about the snowiest places in America. It's been noted on this blog before, and here is the proof:  Valdez, Alaska, is the snowiest city in the United States, beating second place by more than 90 inches a year.

I shared it on my own Facebook page and that led to several comments one of which came from another former resident who said she missed the people but not the snow. I suggested she would probably admit to a sort of perverse pride in having lived there and she admitted she did, but still preferred where she lives now which involves a lot less snow shoveling.

It's official: Alaska and Montana have the most state pride.

Later in the day I was chatting with another person from snow country and the subject turned to my recent surgery. I mentioned that I had a nice new scar on the side of my neck. She said it would probably shrink to almost nothing and my response was, "darn, we Alaskans are proud of our scars."

That got a laugh and then the conversation turned to what sorts of things people take pride in.  She said she saw the term often on the Home and Garden TV network  where people often mention being house proud. Then she asked what Alaskans are, state proud?

At first I said I didn't see much sense in home pride.  It's kind of like somebody complimenting a shirt you are wearing. You didn't make the shirt, all you did was buy it and what pride is there in that.  Now, if those people at HGTV had built their own houses there was room for pride and it's that kind of pride that Alaskans enjoy.

But actually defining that Alaska state pride doesn't come easily. Probably everyone has a slightly different definition.

What I finally came up with is that Alaska pride comes in a broad general sense from endurance, enduring a life in a harsh northern climate and all that entails.

That can manifest itself in many different directions. Of course there is the romantic Bush life, wilderness survival and life off the grid but that barely serves to define Alaska any more when you consider more than half the state's population lives in one urban/suburban region.

Pride here for many doesn't so much involve a stack of firewood as it does managing life in an urban setting affected by that harsh environment: grizzly bears wandering through back yards, icy streets with considerable traffic, waiting for a bus at 20 below zero, shoveling four feet of snow from your driveway in Valdez. To many those matter almost as much as do climbing mountains, sailing icy seas, surviving on what can be hunted. Over all each person has a tale of enduring some sort of hardship just because we live in the North.

And when we hear how tough it is when a snowstorm Outside warrants massive media coverage, to a person we smile smugly and recall how we went though something much worse and it barely deserved mention. There is that pride.

Not that we don't complain. Being someone fascinated by climate and weather, I always have to chuckle when even Alaska TV weather announcers apply their value judgments to weather conditions. A bad snowstorm approaching; a blizzard; a period of days when the temperature drops below zero. It's big news when winter weather hits a northern city and it's called bad. Or calling a warm spell in February good certainly doesn't reflect the feelings of a dog musher or a skier or a snowmachiner. It is just weather and we deal with it. And oh how we complain, but to my mind, we are allowed. We know we can't do anything about it and we manage our way through it and when it's over we take some satisfaction, yes, even pride at having endured it. "Survived" might be word to apply there too, but survival to me at least means you got through something life-threatening and a winter snowstorm is so routine, "survival" doesn't really apply. "Endure" does.

Even if a person has never shot a moose, or weathered a storm in the Bering Sea or lived in the Brooks Range over a winter with temperatures down to negative 70, everyone has experienced some discomfort and hardship from the climate. Maybe it is just attempting to navigate the icy Walmart parking lot during a Wasilla wind storm, or sliding into a ditch along the Glenn Highway in a snowstorm, taking an unexpected dive off a boat into cold water, trying to start a vehicle at 50 below in Fairbanks or, as mentioned, just waiting for a bus at 20 below zero. Who here hasn't endured an airplane flight delayed by weather? And then there's that winter darkness. We all endure winter darkness to varying degrees depending on latitude.

Most of us find a way to enjoy life here even when we complain, but that complaint is ours alone to make. It's like the kid who constantly aggravated his brother but when someone else did, he was first to come to the defense. I can beat up my brother but no one else can.

Everyone endures some sort of hardship due to the Alaska climate and whether conscious of it or not, takes some pride in that experience and, too, the overall experience of living in Alaska over a period of time. Of course everyone has personal hardships endured and can take pride in those, but for a general source of pride that everyone shares, Alaska state pride comes from that endurance.

Right now the temperature is just about zero and I have to go out and split kindling so I can have a fire in the morning. 

"Damn this weather," he said as he smiled looking over the huge wood pile he had split and stacked earlier in the year. Alaska pride, indeed.

Also published at Alaska Commons

AN ADDITION:  One aspect missing from this was the humor Alaskans use to express that pride.  This came from my daughter and a coworker as they walked across the parking lot this morning with the temperature around zero.:

"Me: "OMG it's cold."

Co-Worker: "Why do we live here again?"

Me: "Because someone has to."

It's official: Alaska and Montana have the most state pride.

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Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve