As summer ends, let's celebrate state

August 16, 2011 

Termination dust is appearing on the mountains. I've had to close some windows in my house at night because it got so cold. And after a month-long marathon, my last summer visitor just departed. This means winter is rapidly approaching. So before we get too far away from summer, let's celebrate some of those things Alaskan that help us through this season of unbearable lightness and guests.

First and foremost, let us celebrate our state itself. There is a tendency to become complacent about the beauty and wildness that surround us. It sometimes takes summer guests to reawaken in us the awe we once felt for this land.

Instead of feeling annoyed at that moose crossing the road, our guests are pulling out cameras while exclaiming with wonder at the sight of something so wild in an urban environment. An eagle flies overhead and they are amazed. They spy a flower that in their yard in the Lower 48 is small and delicate but here in Alaska grows to amazing heights and widths. And every time they get in the car, they comment on the beauty of the mountains that surround us.

We must also celebrate those things our guests find totally unexpected in a land that they imagine is cold, white and dark all the time. Their eyes widen in amazement at local produce available at our famers' markets. They are amazed at the quality of cultural life available, from the Native traditions that enrich our state to the "Whale Fat Follies" ... and yes, in its own bizarre way, that's Alaska culture too. After way too long an absence, Whitekeys has returned to once again skewer the ones we both loathe to love and love to loathe. His hair may be whiter than ever but his wit has not diminished. And rumor hath it that if we Alaskans all clap hard enough, "Christmas in Spenard" may be back to help us get through the dark days of winter until it's time to fish again.

Also not to be missed if you have summer visitors to entertain is Cyrano's Off Off Off Off Broadway playhouse, which is currently featuring "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Once again I found my friends looking at me somewhat amazed that we had this level of talented voices and actors right here in Anchorage. And once again I felt compelled to explain that those of us who live here do not view our residency as a punishment for something we did in a prior life but as a gift. So finding people with talent here should simply not be so startling. And on a personal note, let me say that with the productions being offered year-round at Cyrano's for a very reasonable price, it's hard to get enthused to pay so much more to go down the block to the PAC. I appreciate the shows the PAC brings to town but could never afford to go to those productions routinely. On the other hand, I can have a great evening at Cyrano's for less than it would cost me to watch a bunch of machines beat each other up on the big screen.

The very best part of this summer's entertainment, though, happened in Fairbanks. I know that's anathema for someone from Anchorage to admit but UAF's summer programming this year included a live taping of "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" This is possibly the best show on public radio and getting to be at a taping put the exclamation point at the end of a summer filled with great shows, great markets and great scenery. Sadly, it also forced me to admit that Fairbanks is a happening town, which is something we Anchorites would prefer not to believe. But a cruise on the Chena River complete with a stop at Dave Monson's kennels made it clear that Anchorage is going to have to put on its A game to stay ahead of the Golden Heart City as Alaska's best destination.

And now let winter commence. I need time to change all the sheets in the guest rooms and restock my smoked salmon. And then I need a little time to sit quietly in my living room with no need to be tour guide to anyone for the foreseeable future.


Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," her memoir of 28 years in Barrow. Website, www. elisepatkotak.com.

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