Frank Gerjevic

Word came this week about the deaths of pilot Cliff Hudson, 84, and journalist John Strohmeyer, 85. Hudson was one of those Alaskans who defines this place. Mountain and bush pilot superb, he was a quiet man as legends go. Almost 30 years ago I wrote a story about him and had the good fortune to take a flight to Ruth Glacier with him. He told, in a matter-of-fact way, about rescue flights he'd made, and how he'd keep an eye on folks in remote places. His were very good wings to have on your side. Strohmeyer helped to define Alaska too, after coming here to fill the Atwood journalism chair at UAA. He tackled big stories -- the oil industry, Bob Atwood, fishing. He had a powerful passion for Alaska, even while wintering his old bones in Florida. He wrote a column for the Daily News for a...Frank Gerjevic
One of the beauties of Alaska Permanent Fund dividend is that you can argue for or against it from anywhere on the political spectrum. Bane of the right and blessing for the left, it's a redistribution of wealth that benefits the poor far more than the rich. Blessing for the right and bane of the left, it takes money out of the hands of government and gives it directly to individual Alaskans to use as they see fit, no matter what their station in life. Dreaded by social workers, this October curse bankrolls liquor and drug binges, leaves kids neglected and spouses battered. Welcomed by families, this October windfall buys winter boots and college courses, fixes cars and settles debts. Libertarian's dream, eh? No, government handout that breeds a sense of entitlement and dependence rather...Frank Gerjevic
Last week Alaska called at the busy intersection of Eighth Avenue and Bragaw Street. There, night air was sharply scented by wood smoke and fresh snow. For me, that's the signature scent of Alaska, home fires' smoke in the cold. It's a unifying scent, connecting Anchorage with Sleetmute and Nikolai, Juneau and Unalakleet. Now comes word that Fairbanks suffers from too much of this good thing, that hearth fires are fouling the air with fine polluting particles that are hell on lungs. That leaves air in Fairbanks no better than air in Los Angeles. Fairbanks faces federal sanctions, and the Fairbanks-North Star Borough has two years to submit a cleanup plan to the state, which will take a year to review it and pass it on to the Environmental Protection Agency. Three years. That takes the...Frank Gerjevic
Winged in cruelty by some lout with a bow, the Tern Lake trumpeter is now twice rescued, and it looks like she's going from the Alaska SeaLife Center to a rehab farm in Everett, Wash., where she'll winter with other swans. Marshmallow may not have the celebrity of Maggie the Elephant, the Alaska Zoo's old girl gone to a better life in California, but it's clear Alaskans will want to know what happens to her. Some have raised a reward of $4,000 to help find the person who shot her. Justice calls for conviction and a sentence that includes the words guano and deep. Amy Maddow of the SeaLife Center said Marshmallow may never regain full use of the wing. Therapy may be more stress than cure. But you have to hope Marshmallow stretches that wing in the wild again. Maddow said she got the name...Frank Gerjevic
Those of us of a certain age can remember the first energy crisis in the early 1970s, when Americans were asked to turn their thermostats down from 72 to 68 and wear sweaters. Sweaters. At 68. That's a long time ago and thousands of miles away, near Cleveland. At 68, Alaskans go swimming outside. Seventy-two degrees is too warm for a standing house temp. Dry, stuffy. You need to open windows to clear the air. I understand one temp does not fit all, but years in Alaska have made the old 72 standard excessive. A few weeks ago we turned the heater on again at my house and set the thermostat at 68. The dog started spending nights outside in the yard. We dialed it down to 65. That's the temperature for the city's code "yellow," part of its energy conservation plan if gas deliveries fall during...Frank Gerjevic
Within shouting distance of Goose Lake earlier this summer were the signs of a homeless camp, its tent recently struck. Flattened ground, a few containers. No liquor bottles. Good green cover screened the site. You'd have to know it was there or stumble upon it like I did with the dog. Was it a once and future homeless camp? I don't know. Maybe it was just a place to bed down for some young traveler doing Alaska on $5 a day. Maybe I assumed this place had sheltered one of Anchorage's street people because they've been in the news this summer, dying. What do we do about that? Are we going to prevent some people from drinking the kind of hard life that makes you 60 before you're 40 and then kills you? Involuntary commitment, honor farms, wet houses, dry camps? Some or all of the above might...Frank Gerjevic
People were borrowing books before elected officials and library patrons could cut the ribbon. That was a good sign for the new Chugiak-Eagle River Public Library, which officially opened Wednesday night at the new Eagle River Town Center. Mary Williams, the branch director, offered some striking history. Back in 1968, separate Chugiak and Eagle River libraries merged to make a single library of 320 square feet -- about the size of many Anchorage living rooms, or a 16-by-20-foot cabin. Wednesday's crowd would have been hard-pressed to fit inside that facility. Since 1968 the Chugiak-Eagle River library has moved six times and grown to 18,000 square feet. Opening night featured chicken wings, nachos, pizza and cake. Imagine the traffic the library would get with a finger-food buffet every...Frank Gerjevic
Be prepared or be tough. That's what my son Will, just out of the Marines, told me they say in the Corps. On the night of July 21 in Crow Pass, we were not prepared. Will was tough. I was in trouble. Three young people in a cabin were lifesavers. And a grizzly bear played a part in my rescue. We'd started late, a little after 1 p.m., but made a fairly fast hike from the Girdwood trail head nearly a dozen miles to the Eagle River ford and most of the way back with Ginger, an 8-month-old husky mix from the pound. Soaked by light rain, creek crossings and stretches of trail canopied by wet fireweed, our misery after 20 miles was the still the mild kind that just makes trail's end sweeter. Now I was falling behind on the ascent back to the pass. No big deal. At 58, I didn't expect to keep up...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...Frank Gerjevic
The day may come for some Alaska musher or skier or snowmobiler when the most important work of President Obama's stimulus money is a cabin between Iditarod and Shageluk. Federal stimulus money includes $400,000 for cabin and trail work on the Iditarod National Historic Trail, the gold rush route from Seward to Nome. Some of that money will go for cabins along the way, and that will be a step closer to creating a permanent trail as close to the old trail as possible. Those cabins should provide some work for young people from Alaska villages, and that element harks back to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Depression '30s, when unemployed young men went to work building trails and roads, fighting fires and planting 3 billion trees. Among their legacies are the Blue Ridge Parkway and...Frank Gerjevic