NPF: NOT WHAT I IMAGINED

Alaska is the only state I've never visited, and sadly it's probably the one that I am most interested in seeing. It's vast, it's mostly empty, and it's…different than the rest of the U.S., right? It's the pristine wilderness! America's last frontier!

Well, according to a certain TV series called Alaska State Troopers, Alaska is a frozen Arkansas. The parts where no one lives are pretty; the parts where there are people look like U.N. refugee camps in Siberia.

I only discovered this show recently, as I dislike A) reality shows and B) police. Anything combining the two would be unlikely to appeal to be. But I'm fascinated by Alaska, it's too cold to leave the house, and the first two seasons are up on Netflix now. The die has been cast.

Six episodes into the series I have learned that Alaskan settlements are giant trailer parks full of meth labs and the most hardcore alcoholics you'd ever want to meet. Oh, it's a dry county? That's OK, we'll drink air sanitizer. And then we'll start beating the shit out of each other, because did you miss the part where we drank goddamn air sanitizer? Of course I understand that a show about police is going to show us exclusively the saddest parts of society. Nonetheless it's interesting to me how easy it is to turn someplace into a paradise in your mind, and how surprising it is to realize that it's kind of a dump. It makes perfect sense that cabin fever combined with high unemployment and not much to do outside on account of the weather would make Alaska an ideal place for alcoholism, domestic violence, and other Trailer Park Pastimes to take root.

I don't consider myself an exceptionally naive person, but for some reason I expected Alaska to be full of relatively happy people because, you know, they live in Alaska. Their neighbors are bears. Everyone gets free money every year from the Permanent Fund (oil). Snow-capped mountains. Glaciers. I thought everyone would be into, like, skiing or something. It turns out they're mostly into acting like guests on Jerry Springer.

Yes, I still want to go to Alaska. It might be more pleasant if I avoid contact with any of its inhabitants, though. Why couldn't you be my snowy paradise, Alaska? How will I live knowing that Nome, no matter how isolated and peaceful it looks on a map, is a permafrost-covered version of Camden, NJ?

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60 Responses to “NPF: NOT WHAT I IMAGINED”

  1. gwenhara Says:

    ladiesbane,
    I grew up in Whitefish. I hate that town. I went to school in both Missoula and Bozeman and I lived for a year in Billings. Then I went to Louisiana. I spend a great deal of time figuring out ways not to go back to Montana.

    I imagine Alaska inspires similar feelings in people who grow up there.

  2. Erin Says:

    I was also born in Ketchikan like jjack was. Lived there for 10 years, moved to Homer for 5, back to Ketchikan until graduating HS then off to the military and more school with many stops in between before finally settling in Anchorage 8-ish years ago. I work as a land surveyor on TAPS (Trans-Alaska Pipeline System) between Deadhorse and Valdez.

    It's like anywhere else. Just not a lot of people in a whole lotta land. I'm pretty immune to the beauty most of the time though. It distracts from the people who should be paying attention to driving rather than white-knuckling their RW cars on hockey rink roads or gawking at the shit I've already seen hundreds of times. It's a moose eating 40 feet from the road, not an excuse to stop traffic South Carolina plate asshole.

  3. Mo Says:

    Erin – Ketchikan, huh? How'd that pulp mill thing work out for y'all?

    Right.

    And if you view beauty as a disease to which you can become immune, may I suggest Maricopa County for your retirement home. Buy lots of barbed wire.

  4. Erin Says:

    Mo- I worked at the pulp mill for two summers during high school. It was good, hard work. That said, it was a blight environmentally and deserved to be shut down and nearly completely razed.

    I never said beauty was a disease. I said/meant I was immune Alaska's particular beauty since I've seen it before. I've lived here long enough that it's just where I live and work.

  5. gwenhara Says:

    Erin,
    I understand what you're saying. Mountains and all that don't really do anything for me because I grew up in it. It's funny to me that people seem affronted when I don't gush over mountains and all that. No one reacts the same way to someone acting blase about ocean views or deserts.

  6. ladiesbane Says:

    @gwenhara: sing it! I moved to Oregon for college and fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. Later years in Maricopa County and New Mexico were a negative karma investment that landed me in the heavenly Bay Area. But I'm just doing time in heaven until I can move back to the PNW. And Montana? Never. Again.

  7. Kaleberg Says:

    You're probably a city boy. Urban poverty, you know, but you aren't that familiar with rural poverty. It looks awfully similar everywhere. As others have noted, that show could have been filmed 100 miles from anywhere.

  8. Death Panel Truck Says:

    Go to Anchorage in July. I have, twice. You'll have a lot of fun. The mosquitoes will eat you alive.

  9. Soylent Greenberg Says:

    There are just too damn many people on this planet. I do, however, have a solution…

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