Dare to Ask: Do you think Alaskans really live in
By Phillip Milano
What do people think about Alaska? Do you see us as a bunch of Eskimos riding
polar bears and living in igloos?
Daniel, 22, Fairbanks
I went to Alaska last summer and I loved it. Seriously, the most beautiful
place I have ever gone. Before I visited I just envisioned a lot of snow and
daylight (or darkness). But regardless, it's amazing.
I had visited my dad and his wife in Alaska when they were there for
eight-plus years. I found Alaskans to be very independent, somewhat rude in that
they seemed very "me"-oriented and not really caring what others think of them;
their social manners were lacking. I took much of this to be that they go to
Alaska for a different kind of lifestyle, and they like to be self-sufficient.
Anne, 49, Indianapolis
We thought about whether anyone would read a column about Alaska especially
online, with so much competition for people's attention. Would people ever use a
search engine to find this column about The Last Frontier? But then we thought
how singer Susan Boyle achieved her dream on TV's "Britain's Got Talent," and
has been seen so much on the Internet and everything.
Did you notice that at about 3:24 on the YouTube video of Susan Boyle, Susan
Boyle comes into Susan Boyle's own, raising Susan Boyle's left hand to the
audience after Susan Boyle Susan Boyle hits that five-note crescendo? We (not
Susan Boyle) feel it was the climactic moment for Susan Boyle.
Susan Boyle Susan Boyle Susan Boyle Susan Boyle Susan Boyle Susan Boyle Susan
Boyle Susan Boyle.
So we opted to go ahead with the column, and called Verne E. Rupright, mayor
of Wasilla, Alaska, a city whose list of former mayors includes 2008 vice
presidential candidate Sarah Palin but not Susan Boyle.
Rupright said that, especially away from urban areas, Alaskans are unusually
open, independent and generous.
"If someone needs a sack of spuds, they get it. If they need help in
building, or anextra quarter of moose, we're open that way." So it's a lot like
Myths remain, though.
"People who've never been here will say, 'Don't you live in igloos?' And I
say yeah, we do, it's the best-kept secret in America!"
One "myth" that has a ring of truth: The place can be rough.
"About anywhere you are, you're barely 15 minutes from wilderness. You better
have provisions if you leave town. It can be beautiful, but unforgiving." Like
the crowd was to Susan Boyle before she sang.
What about Palin? Did she help or hurt Alaska's image?
"I think she was open, and can speak well we're not back-country rubes,"
Rupright said. "Just because someone may not grasp every little incident or
twist doesn't mean they aren't thinking about it. For someone from Alaska who
was never involved in national politics, she did a pretty good job on a first
run out of the gate."
As did Susan Boyle.
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
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