I moved to the great state of Alaska a little over 12 years ago. Clinton was still President and I was still in my 20's. I was coming up to work on fishing boats as an on-board fisheries observer. I was scared and excited. I had just graduated from college and to be honest the job prospects for a biologist in Wisconsin were grim. So I was happy to find a high paying job, relatively speaking, in my field. I never intended to make it a career but if you do something for over 10 years I think it's safe to say it is. I still am technically a certified observer at least for another month but have officially retired this winter when I got my full time gig with Fish and Game. But over the coarse of that decade you meet so many people and make so many friends. This weekend two of those friends finally tied the knot. It's not odd that 2 observers should "hook up" or even date for an extended period of time. But the job and life style really isn't very conducive to relationships. So it's rare but not unheard of for 2 observers to get married. As a matter of fact I can think of at least 3 that just come to mind. But the point is weddings are times for celebration and the people that come out of the woodwork for them is great. There were friends there I hadn't seen in over 5 years or longer. In this day and age it's not hard to keep up with people with Myspace and Facebook, but observers come from all over the US and Canada and then leave to go back to all over the US and Canada.
I remember back when we were all 20 somethings just starting out in our professional careers. Some of us stayed up here others went back home and others went on to bigger and better things and places. But it's always good to see old friends, and make new ones. We are all growing up. Getting married, having kids.
Now it's funny. I was perusing my blog list and I have 2 college friends that have little blogs. They don't post a lot and one has officially quit his blog. I noticed that Underachieversink was posting again. This is a buddy of mine from college. Freshman year he had the dorm room right across from me and I eventually had his brother as my roommate years later. I feel like a heel because I haven't talked to him in quite a few years. I've always meant too.
I remember when he and another buddy, who was also a roommate of mine for a time, both moved up here. A little after me they were both searching for the same things I was, I think. Alaska is a land of dreams, the mystical music that you hear in the background when it gets mentioned in the lower 48. That's what we call the rest of the US, except Hawaii, or the outside.
The outside. It's a term that makes me smile. I've considered myself an Alaskan after about my first year here. When I got to Alaska, I didn't know if I was going to stay or like observing. But I figured what the hell. I changed my driver's license, because to be honest the only advantage to having a Wisconsin license was the cheap hunting and fishing licenses and I would have rather gotten a cheap Alaska hunting and fishing license. My only true regret up here is I didn't try to get into Fish and Game sooner. I work 4 years pumping out sea days observing before I started working summers for Fish and Game. The outside. It makes Alaska the inside. That sounds insular and comforting. Most of us pride ourselves on being fairly self-sufficient. You'll be hard pressed to find people living in Alaska that were born and raised here and stayed. And even harder pressed to find third or fourth generation Alaskans. They're here just few. So yes having spent the last decade up here I consider myself an Alaskan.
The nice thing about Alaska or maybe for some the worst thing is that it isn't the little things you have to worry about killing you. It's the big things. We don't have poisonous snakes, we don't have ticks, we have only one kind of poisonous spider. We do have Brown, Black and Polar bears and the largest ungulate, the Moose. All of which could kill you, in more ways than one. But the nice thing about all those is they're not very sneaky. Most of the people that get mauled by bears or trampled by mooses get into trouble of their own doing. I pride myself that I do not fear bears or mooses but I do have a great deal of respect for them.
And as I was sitting around the campfire this weekend, sipping a cool Pabst Blue Ribbon, talking with old friends about good times, being teased for stupid shit I did 10 years ago, and laughing my ass off, I thought about how small this world really is and how after all this time all of us had gone out in different directions but really weren't that far apart.