Kind of New Orleanian Interview: Life in Alaska with Adam Pinsker (Part 2)

My brother moved to Anchorage, Alaska over 2 years ago to take a job as a TV reporter for KTUU. Adam has lived all over the country, but Alaska was still a culture shock from him– after all, my family is from Miami! Last year, I had the opportunity to visit him there and we sat down for a Kind of New Orleanian interview.

This is part 2. Read part 1 here.

Adam Pinsker at the Yukon border, during a drive through Alaska. The Yukon is a Canadian territory that borders Alaska.

Adam Pinsker at the Yukon border, during a drive through Alaska. The Yukon is a Canadian territory that borders Alaska.

What are the politics here like in the state?
I think people mistake it for being a very right-wing place. It’s definitely a solid red state, but there’s a Libertarian, progressive streak here. This is a very unionized state. They value hard work here.

People here are very civically minded, especially about local politics. People genuinely care about how things go here because there’s such a small population and the state hasn’t been around that long.

There’s a lot of pride in Alaskan statehood. Here’s a cup from the 49th State Brewery, near Denali National Park.

There’s a lot of pride in Alaskan statehood. Here’s a cup from the 49th State Brewery, near Denali National Park.

I’ve noticed people have a lot of pride in Alaska’s statehood.
They’re really passionate. There’s so many people here who were alive when the state was founded.

So you think that’s got a lot to do with it?
Yeah. Statehood was a long struggle. They actually tried to make this place a state in the 1920s.

People here seem very hardcore about being from Alaska. Do you think it’s because it can be hard to live here?
It’s a badge of honor if you survive 5, 10, 15, years here. People here have pride in weathering the tough climate. I’ve been in sub-zero temperatures and boy, it’s cold. You feel the difference from when it’s minus five to when it’s 25 degrees.

What kind of effect have the long days of darkness and light had on you?
You know what? The winter is worse than the summer. It doesn’t matter what time you go to bed, you can go to bed at 10 o’clock at night, fall asleep instantly and get up at 6 am and still feel like crap, even though that’s the best time to sleep.

I never have a problem falling asleep when it’s light out. I have a problem staying asleep. That’s always been the issue because you wake up, and your mind doesn’t understand what time it is. You don’t know if it’s 11:00 in the morning or if it’s 5:00 in the morning. It looks the same.

From a professional standpoint, working an evening shift is really hard. I had to do an interview in mid-November when the sun sets around 3:30. I got into work around 1:30 and we had to immediately rush up to this place, grab the person, and interview him on the spot because we’re literally losing daylight by the minute.

Anchorage, Alaska, 10 p.m., August 2013. In the summertime, there can be almost 12 hours of daylight in Alaska.

Anchorage, Alaska, 10 p.m., August 2013. In the summer, there can be almost 12 hours of daylight in Alaska.

Pictures from the spot in Healy, Alaska, just outside of Denali National Park. In the summertime, there can be almost 12 hours of daylight in Alaska.

Pictures from the spot in Healy, Alaska, just outside of Denali National Park. In the summer, there can be almost 12 hours of daylight in Alaska.

Is it depressing in the winter time?
I think that aspect of living in Alaska was a little overblown. But I’ve only done one winter here. I just kept myself so busy that I didn’t have time to think of it. But I live in a big city. If it’s a dreary, miserable winter day where the sun sets at 2, I can run out and go to a movie, rent a movie or go to a friend’s house. If I’m in one of these villages I might not have a movie theater or internet access. So either I read a book or I socialize. But you can only socialize with the same people so many times. It really depends, culturally.

So what are your favorite things about the state and what are some of your least favorite things?
Definitely the scenery. The mountains are just amazing. My least favorite things is definitely the distance from everything. I don’t know anybody who lives in Anchorage, beyond people I’ve met already here.

Adam Pinsker in front of the Kenai fjords, his top recommendation in Alaska.

Adam Pinsker in front of the Kenai fjords, his top recommendation in Alaska.

Do you think you would’ve ever come up here had you not lived here?
Honestly, probably not. Not because I’m closed off to it, but because it’s almost like travelling to Europe. You have to have the time, money and means to do it. And that’s one of the reasons I came here. Not only am I going to be working professionally, but I have a chance to see a side of things I’ve never seen before.

If there’s one thing that you would recommend people see in Alaska, what would that be?
I think if you could see one thing, it would just be the Kenai fjords. There, you get a sample of all of Alaska almost in one. You get the rugged wildlife and the mountains. Then you get out to the ocean and you see the finned animals and whales, all that within a 150-mile radius. Whereas if you go up to Denali you see Mt. McKinley, but you won’t see a walrus in Denali.

What is one thing you want people to know about Alaska?
It’s not a backwoods. It does have a frontier atmosphere to it, but it’s part of the United States. It’s far away geographically, but it’s not some caveman-like tundra.

More Kind of New Orleanian Interviews:

Rachael Kansas, New Orleanian

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Kind of New Orleanian Interview: Life in Alaska with Adam Pinsker (Part 1)

Adam thought life in Alaska would be living in a tundra. The state's greenery surprised him.

Adam thought life in Alaska would be living in a tundra. Here’s a picture I took driving through the Kenai peninsula.

My brother moved to Anchorage, Alaska over 2 years ago to take a job as a TV reporter for KTUU. Adam has lived all over the country, but Alaska was still a culture shock from him– after all, my family is from Miami! Last year, I had the opportunity to visit him there and we sat down for a Kind of New Orleanian interview. We talked about state pride, losing daylight, and the correct way to describe someone from Alaska.

What did you think Alaska would be like before you got here?
I thought it would be a frozen tundra, not as green as it is. I was surprised at how Anchorage is very similar to a lot of other Lower 48 cities.

What are the stereotypes of people in Alaska?
People imagine Alaskans are like hermits. Anti government or anti social. Someone told me when I first got here was that people come to Alaska for two reasons: they’re trying to improve themselves or they’re escaping something.

Have you found that to be true?
I don’t think a lot of people are here because they’re escaping. They’re here for opportunity or they just love the outdoors.

What percentage of people have you met are from here?
Very few. Maybe 20 to 30 percent. I think that’s because this is a very young state.

Did living here get you more into nature?
Absolutely. I’ve learned to appreciate animals much more. I don’t think you can live here without at least opening yourself up to nature.

A view of Anchorage from the airport. Adam says most people who live in Alaska move to Anchorage, the largest city in the state.

A view of Anchorage from the airport. Adam says most people who live in Alaska move to Anchorage, the largest city in the state.

In a lot of other states kids leave the rural cities to go to the “big city.” Is that accurate for Alaska?
Yes. There are a lot of people here that come here from villages and other small towns. If you’re going to stay in Alaska, Anchorage is the place to be (unless you have a family run business or a reason to be in another city.)

What kind of jobs do people have in the smaller cities?
It depends. In some of the villages, it’s fishing or mining. Or maybe you own a small business. Other people work for the city’s government or something with the natural resources.

How would you describe people from Alaska?
People here are pretty genuine. They’re very open and honest with you. They’re definitely a very tested people. They’ve been through a lot and they’re tough.

It’s interesting that you said genuine to describe Alaskans. Why does that stick out to you?
People seem to be less fake in Alaska. Like in South Florida, people have this fake persona. In Alaska, you may find somebody who drives a beat up truck, with a fishing rod hanging outside, wearing camouflage… and he’s like “It’s who I am. I’m proud of it. But I’m going to be nice to you if you’re nice to me.”

People here have varied interests. A guy that looks like a professional, works in the BP building and wears a suit and tie Monday through Friday could be out on the weekend shooting moose in the middle of nowhere.

So you’ve said you don’t call people from Alaska “Natives” not Indians?
I’ve never heard the word Indian used here, ever.

So what do they call them… Natives?
Actually, somebody taught me that you call people that are Eskimos—I hate using that word but I’m just using it for description sake—you call them Alaska Natives. You call someone who is not of native descent but was born here Native Alaskan. You do that to distinguish between what’s considered an actual Native American person and it’s sort of more like a formality thing, as a respect thing.

And then Eskimo is just one of the tribes, I’m assuming?
To say an Eskimo would be a really blanket statement. There’s different tribes here. And actually, I learned the people that build actual igloos are mostly Canadian Eskimos. They’re not really even in Alaska. People do build houses under the ground (from what I’ve heard) in some of the villages in the arctic, but they’re made out of bits of trees, skins of animals. Whatever they can forage out of nature.

So the Eskimo… are they a tribe?
No, that’s just a description of them. They’re more like a … um, there’s different ones. A Nupiak, Athobascan, Klincket… there’s a few more. I should know, but I don’t. It’d be like saying, “Christian.” Baptists, Methodists, Southern Baptists. They’re different descriptions. It’s not inaccurate to say someone’s Christian if they are but they may be Methodist.

But you wouldn’t call a Native American from Oklahoma an Eskimo? It’s more a description for Northern people? Is it common to meet Alaska Natives?
Very much so. Obviously more so out of Anchorage, but you can find a lot of them here.

Life in Alaska gets you more into nature, says my brother.

Life in Alaska gets you more into nature, says my brother.

I’ve split this interview into two parts. Click here to read part 2, with Adam’s thoughts on the long hours of darkness in Alaska and his number one recommendation in the state.

More Kind of New Orleanian Interviews:

Rachael Kansas, New Orleanian