More than 735,000 call the biggest state in the union home, although you'd hardly know it from the checkout lines at Walmart on PFD day. We're spread out, just 1.2 people per square mile. And we're different. You know you live in Alaska when ...
You never use an umbrella.
You name your children after landforms, tree species or snowmachine parts.
You wear fleece, wool and down year round.
You don't get into "fender-benders"; Alaskans "roll in the ditch."
You're into burning stuff.
You're into shooting stuff.
You're into smoking stuff (in both senses of the verb).
You own a banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and/or ukulele — not to play, necessarily, just to hang from your wall between the whale baleen and Barbara Lavallee print.
You eat reindeer for breakfast.
You stack firewood for the intellectual challenge.
You treat every ailment with vitamin R.
You are proficient in the use of Visqueen.
You shave with ulu knives; you wax your bikini zone with duct tape.
You usually don't pay your much attention to maintaining your bikini zone -- that is, until the night before your annual trip to Hawaii.
You serve every meal with bear claw salad tongs. Extra points if they're made from real bear claws.
You toss fish scraps out in the yard and call it a "bird feeder."
You hunt moose from your deck.
You get married wearing Carhartts.
You've conceived a child wearing Carhartts.
You're born wearing Carhartts.
Instead of chewing tobacco, you dip a big ol' plug of smoked salmon.
Whether you drive a Subaru, a rusty Toyota, a behemoth American 4x4 or a crazy homemade Frankentruck with massive spotlights and built-in gun mounts -- the front fender's dented and the windshield's cracked.
You can and do check two items of luggage for free.
You name your 16-foot cabin cruiser with a bad boating/fishing pun like "Hot Ruddered Bum" or "Master Baiter."
You drink a double mocha latte with extra whipped cream and sprinkles with a loaded .44 strapped to your leg.
You're so vitamin D deficient, you've contemplated mainlining fish oil.
You know of a housesitting gig somewhere — maybe no running water or electricity, but a housesitting gig nonetheless.
You're notoriously averse to paying state income tax, but have no problem shelling out $500 to the DMV for a vanity license plate no one can understand.
You strap on crampons for your morning commute.
You construct elaborate storage systems for all your recreational outdoor gear, even though you haven't recreated in the outdoors with any of that gear since the Knowles administration.
You consider 60 degrees "hot."
You use your PFD to buy a PFD.
You no longer suffer from seasonal affective disorder -- indeed, you've grown so used to lacking natural UV light you've developed seasonal affective disorder disorder.
You appreciate a fine tarp.
You don't tip well (here's one area we might learn from our friends in the Lower 48).
You wipe with devil's club.
You always take off your boots whenever you go inside, without necessarily removing your bloodstained fly-fishing vest.
You won't admit you: can't drive a stick; don't particularly care for whiskey; paid for the meat in your chest freezer; secretly hope they open a Trader Joe's up here; finished off the coffee without making more; voted Democrat (or, in Southeast Alaska, Republican).
You eat cinnamon rolls. A whole lot of cinnamon rolls.
You simultaneously complain about things not being like they were back in the good old days and, in the same breath, about your 4G LTE running slow lately.
You've had at least one dangerous wild animal in your garage.
You aren't afraid of a little spray-on tanning product, no matter how orange it makes you look.
You give your kids ammo for Christmas.
You believe a combination auto body shop/nail salon is a perfectly normal business venture, say, along the lines of a sheet metal works/bridal boutique or place that rents both heavy machinery and prom tuxedos.
You complain about all the snow until it suddenly stops for a few weeks, at which point you start complaining about its absence.
You can't resist a sale on ice cream.
You grow massive patches of rhubarb in your garden, even though you know full well you'll never eat that much rhubarb.
You know what pilot bread is. All too well.
You start preparing for winter in July.
You start preparing for the Fourth of July in January.
You own neoprene lingerie.
You've patched at least one piece of outerwear with duct tape and would do the same with underwear, too, if duct tape didn't so readily adhere to body hair (see "duct tape bikini waxing," above).
You covet thy neighbor's arctic entry.
You've become desensitized to scraping bear scat from your shoe treads.
You absolutely can't conceive of living anywhere else. Well, except maybe Hawaii for two weeks in February, but even then you'll never quite shake feeling like you're missing out on whatever's going on up here.
Geoff Kirsch is a Juneau-based writer and humorist currently working on an essay collection based upon his long-running column in the Juneau Empire. The above piece comes from that work-in-progress.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing