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Missing tourists

Frank Gerjevic

It's been a rough year for those who make a living by tourists. But if Alaska tourism had to suffer a shot to the head, this might have been the right year for it.

Look at the summer we've had.

If this was the typical Anchorage summer, we'd be a city of 1 million. Think of how long the wait would be at the Moose's Tooth or the Outback. Think how cranky your sweaty kids would get waiting for their soft-serve at DQ. Think about Lake Otis and Tudor, restored to rush-hour glory.

Think about the salmon derbies at Ship Creek. Combat fishing? We'd get nostalgic for it when we filled out our lottery forms for time-share space in the sucking muck at streamside.

"Hey, water flogger 742! You've had your 30 minutes ... reel it in!"

I like the tourists. Some people grumble about clogged sidewalks downtown, buses full of blue-hairs. It's easy contempt that forgets we're all tourists somewhere. Yes, the backcountry traveler leaves the buses behind at Denali, but Denali has riches for the retirees who ride with guides and gasp when that grizzly rambles right into their frantic lenses. Alaskans gasp too. Mama brown will do that to you.

But if tourists concluded that this summer, with its scented air -- and I don't mean the smoke -- sweet warmth and soft evenings was the norm, they and their children and their children's children might become residents. They wouldn't live in Denali. They'd live in Anchorage.

You can see the danger. The secret of the winter city is that once in a while it has a knockout summer. Fewer tourists mean the secret is safer. More would be welcome, but if they start asking about housing and schools, show them your gray video from July of '08.

-- Frank Gerjevic


Frank Gerjevic