I arrived in Anchorage this evening and will be here till Friday for job related training. Left home at 2 PM and had an uneventful ride on Pen Air (just one hour late pulling away from the terminal, and only some of the guys sitting all around me reeked of alcohol). It was just gorgeous approaching over the snow covered mountains with the sun shining down on the water. I was reading an interview with Bono, from U2, in which he talked about the frustration he feels that the songs that he hears in his head can't really be translated to music that is played outside his head--they don't ever quite sound the same way. (I'm paraphrasing, but something like that). It made me think that there is really no way to describe the beauty of Alaska in words, and even the photos we take do not adequately represent what we see with our eyes. You just have to come and experience it!
Riding the hotel shuttle, I was accompanied by an older woman from Washington and a fairly young guy who'd been out fishing "off Dutch Harbor." This came up because the woman asked me if I had "just flown in to Alaska." I told her where I live ("Unalaska," which is usually met with a puzzled look, and then we have to say, "Dutch Harbor?") so he piped up, "Dutch Harbor--that's a dangerous town!" I said, "Dangerous? What do you mean?" He laughed and sorta trailed off with "Well, between the Unisea bar and the hotel bar..." I can't tell you how DEFENSIVE I immediately became! The dude started talking about all the drinking and fighting he'd seen; the woman joined in that she'd also read that Dutch Harbor is "dangerous" and overrun with alcoholism. I could not hold myself back from giving these people (and the poor innocent van driver) a lecture about our great little community of people who live there YEAR ROUND and are very involved in making it a vibrant and happy place to live. It's the people who live elsewhere and come in for a few weeks or months a year, spending their time drinking and fighting in the bars, that give all of us a negative reputation. Yes, we have our share of problems just like any town does, but many of us, astonishingly, rarely step foot in a bar and almost never get into fistfights or pull knives on anyone else.
Dangerous? We don't lock our house or our car (in fact, we leave our keys in our car, don't tell!) Kids walk and ride their bikes everywhere. People pick up hitchhikers because they probably know them, and if not, they are just nice folks lending a hand. The top speed limit is 30 mph and there's not even a traffic light to run when it's red. As far as I know, no gangs have infiltrated and we haven't had a drive-by yet. I love to read the Police Report in the paper, which is typically loaded with such dangerous occurrences as "dog at large," "taxi drivers having an argument over fares," and yes, too many reports of "intoxicated individual asked to leave establishment." Dangerous, yes, if you are fishing out on the Bering Sea, as we saw last week with the sinking of the Katmai, the kind of tragedy which, unfortunately, seems to occur each fishing season. Dangerous, maybe, if you choose to get drunk and get into a fight. Not so dangerous if you live and work on land and know what you want your life to be. Here's my advice, Mister: Don't judge us by your own behavior and the company you keep.