Whenever I tell people from the lower 48 that I live in Alaska, I inevitably hear the same question:
“Don’t they pay you to live there?”
It’s kind of like saying, “Why the heck would you live in that frozen wasteland? Oh yea…that’s right…they pay you.”
They are referring, of course, to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, which is doled out every October to each citizen of Alaska. It’s a throwback from the eighties, when oil money abounded and the population of Alaska was less than one person per square mile. It continues because no politician is brave enough to end their career by voting it down.
The 2009 check equated to $3.58 per day. That’s the price of ½ gallon of milk at the general store near my house. That’s also one gallon of heating fuel; a pound of apples; 1/3 a block of cheese or half a box of cereal. It will get me a cup of fancy coffee or a quarter-pounder at McDonalds. Yea, that’s why I live here…because they pay me.
Or it could be because…
In Alaska there are no crickets, no skunks, no raccoons and no smelly opossums. No deadly spiders, no scorpions or snakes. That’s right…I said no snakes.
I live here because there are no rules, no restrictions, no retaliations that I disagree with.
If I want to throw up a shack, on my own land, and cover it with a blue tarp, I can. There are no permits, no approvals, no inspections. It’s my land, my tarp, my life…and nobody cares.
In Alaska our beaches aren’t littered with garbage or lined with beach umbrellas and you can bet nobody’s nude. Ours are sandy shores, crashing waves and lines of fishing boats, waiting for the tide to bring them home.
I live here because every teacher knows my kids current grade off the top of their head and which missing assignments will keep them from playing ball. I live here because when the high school shop teacher asks someone to cut something, three kids whip out their pocket knife and nobody is afraid.
I live here because I can step outside, point myself in any direction, and in ten minutes I can lose myself in complete isolation.
I live here because every ninth grader in Alaska knows who won the Iditarod last year, and most of them have never seen a gang member. They know what hard work is because they throw fish, like their fathers before them or are brought up around kids who do…and have seen their bank accounts.
I live here because when my kids look out their school windows, they don’t see skyscrapers or smog. They see three volcanoes, a beach and their family’s fishing vessels coming in with the days catch…their dads waving to them from the decks.
In Alaska, there are no traffic jams. There are no freeways. No forty-car-pileups. No circling the mall for parking. In the winter I don’t wait in line for anything—ever. In the summer, I meet the most interesting visitors, waiting in line. After all, I’m not in a hurry…I’m already where I want to be.
Now that I think about it, I’m sure glad they pay me to live here.