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Loving Alaska is like marriage: Take the bad with the good

  • Author: John Levy
    | Opinion
  • Updated: April 16, 2018
  • Published April 14, 2018

(Bob Hallinen / ADN)

This column is in response to Amanda Boozenny's piece, "Alaska, I'm breaking up with you," published earlier in the week. 

Dear Amanda,

I read your commentary in which you described how you've soured on Alaska and are moving. Too bad that your love affair with our state is over. I truly hope you find romance and happiness wherever it is you are going. Let me tell you my story.

Alaska was my first love and we've been together for 60 years.

Let me tell you why.

First, I love the natural beauty of our surroundings. No matter how many times I drive toward the Kenai Peninsula I am struck by the incredible beauty: sheep on the mountains, waterfalls, ice flows, bore tide surfers — how lucky we are to live here.

We live next to wilderness. We have one of the largest state parks in the nation at our doorstep: hiking, skiing, running, biking, camping — all at our front doors. Of course, we take moose and eagles for granted; bears, lynx and fox are more elusive.

When the sandhill cranes return with their unique call, it signals the return of spring, longer and warmer days and new growth. Leaves unfurl so quickly as if shot in time-lapse photography. We have fishing and hunting opportunities, summer and winter, without even having to leave the road system, often not even having to leave the city! We can ski to Portage Glacier in the winter, take in the stunning foliage surrounding Eklutna Lake in the fall.

You write that we have ever more criminals and are seeing an increase in property crimes. Sure we do. But so do many U.S. cities. Unfortunately, the availability and spread of opiates has created desperate addicts in even the smallest towns. I can tell you Anchorage has always been a tough town. It was tough growing up here in the '60s and the pipeline days saw all kinds of weird stuff. Tough on the outside, however, can also mean soft on the inside.

Anchorage's soft side shows as we are a small-size city with a plethora of great restaurants, a world-class museum, amazing live performances with multiple local theater companies, a beautiful library, a symphony, opera, Arctic Entries live storytelling that sells out to millennial audiences, and a rich fabric of diverse cultures living together. And we know how to have fun: Fur Rendezvous, the Iditarod ceremonial start, the Fourth of July parade. We play hard: we run up Mount Marathon, race our bikes to Seward and back, play baseball at midnight — you name it.

I love the influences of Alaska Native peoples on our city: place names, language, amazing contemporary and traditional art.Mixed with the sounds of Yup'ik and Inupiaq, you hear Korean, Samoan, Tagalog, Spanish and every English accent imaginable. These cultures make us stronger and richer as a community.

I love that Anchorage has a great, unified public school system with many choices for learning styles and languages. I love that it takes 20 minutes to get anywhere in town.

I've dated other cities. Many have their charm: a graceful bridge, a lovely river, rolling hills, or historical buildings. These other places never kept me. Their traffic was unbearable, their landscape too tame and their populations too content. Alaska is extremes: our mountains are jagged, our rivers are unpredictable, our people are edgy.

I agree with you that short winter days can be difficult — especially if there isn't snow. And I admit that there are probably a disproportionate number of local residents wearing Costco sweaters. But, we also have a disproportionate number of breweries, artists, entrepreneurs and activists (of all persuasions), too. We can be ornery, but we are also passionate and generous.

I love that our city, in the last election, voted to fund all our bond issues and reject a discriminatory proposition.

To sum it up, Amanda, living and loving Alaska is like a marriage: you've got to take the bad with the good. For me, I'm staying faithful to my first love.

John Levy was born and raised in Anchorage. Retired after selling real estate for 25 years, he serves on several boards, and spends his time enjoying Alaska with his wife, Beth Rose.

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