Columns 2008

Summertime and the flowers are drowning

I know what all the experts say. This is not an unusual summer. The unusual summers were the ones where the sun actually made an appearance once a week or so and the temperatures climbed into the 70s on a few occasions.  A true Anchorage summer is wet, cold, windy and gray.  So stop whining. We are being treated to the true Anchorage experience this year.

But we are Alaskans. Whining and free government money are our two most precious birthrights.  So when I posted a comment on my blog recently about the weather, I received more responses than I did to any number of columns or comments that I felt were truly controversial. Apparently Alaskans will absorb a lot of blows without complaint, but mess with their summer and you are really jumping into the pool without first checking for water.

I think my favorite comment came from a woman who told me that when anyone complained about the conditions this summer, she told them that no one came to Alaska for the weather.  Aside from people with a serious skiing or snow boarding addiction, she is right.  Most of us came to Alaska for much more valid reasons.  For instance, our fiancé left us for a man and so we fled the city where our romance had bloomed to try to figure out what we did that turned a straight man gay.  Or there was a war in Southeast Asia and coming to Alaska to do alternative service in a mental health facility seemed safer.  Or, and this is definitely one of my favorites, you accidentally landed in Alaska on one of its only beautiful, sunshiny days and decided there was no where else in this world you could imagine living. By the time you closed out your life in the lower 48, packed up the family dog and landed here to build a new life, Alaskan normalcy had reasserted itself. It was either snowing or raining or there was an earthquake or a bear rummaging in the garbage can the previous owners had left in the driveway.  And your spouse, significant other, children and/or family dog looked at you with the dawning realization that you really were insane and they were stuck a million miles from civilization with no ticket out.

Yes, the reasons for moving to Alaska are many and varied and sometimes very hard to remember when you glimpse your garden’s flowers holding up signs that say, “I surrender. Please put me out of my misery.”

Of course, any true Alaskan will tell you that it is this type of weather that separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the sane from the insane. In other words, it separates the real Alaskans from the imitators who thought they could put up with anything in a state that sent them checks every year for just being here. They are the wimps. They are the faux Alaskans who not only complain about the weather, but actually make plans to get out before they start growing mold where their hair used to be. A true Alaskan is found standing in a river, hip waders pulled up to their chins, hat firmly smashed on their head to keep the wind from blowing it away, smiling insanely and catching the fish that will make their hearts healthier than the hearts of anyone else in the world… assuming they survive the freezing cold, the drive on the Seward Highway, the bears competing next to them for the bounty and the infections from the cuts that result from cleaning the fish.

Of course, they may also die from eating winter comfort food at least three months longer than anyone in the lower 48 does.  How much salmon do you have to eat to reverse the health effects of nine months of anything fried with cheese smothering it?

Let’s face it. If it wasn’t for the weather, we’d be actually embarrassed to take all that free money flowing out of Juneau. At least the weather gives us another reason besides hungry bears and dog-eating eagles to claim that the state owes us. It may not be much of an excuse but we’ll embrace any complaint possible to assuage our consciences as we cash another Made in Alaska freebie.