Living Life on the edge
I’ve lived in Alaska most of my life. Grew up in Fairbanks. But I’ve also spent a few years on the East Coast, and in New Orleans, so I have a little worldly experience. But yeah, I’m a Nomiac now! I characterize it as living on the edge of the world. You really are out here, about as far west as you can get—and it’s, it’s different. ...What matters here is: Is your snowmachine working properly? Are your tires inflated properly? Are you living close to the pavement? Or close to the gravel, as the case is here? It’s a very unique place, and I’m very glad to be here. ... The misconceptions that people visiting Alaska bring with them are very stereotypical. They are surprised we aren’t living in igloos, or that we [don’t] go to work on a dogsled. [But] with the media nowadays, I think people have a much better idea of what Alaska is like.
WHEN I FIRST CAME TO NOME...
[My wife] Sue and I had just gotten married. It was about a month later, and she had gotten ... a state job here in Nome—good pay and good benefits. And we decided, "Okay, we’re going to move to Nome." When we first moved... I had left our two snowmachines in Fairbanks, the idea being that Sue and I would drive them here to Nome for our honeymoon. Well, Sue had started this new job and had not been there long enough to have accumulated leave, and it was March-going-on-April, and we were running out of winter. So I asked my best friend in Fairbanks if he would drive one of the machines out. So we snowmachined from Fairbanks to Nome, and went through many Native villages on that trip. ... In Koyuk, we had traveled all day long—it was six or seven o’clock in the evening—and we were exhausted, and we just were just sitting outside of the store, which had closed so we couldn’t buy any food. And the lady in the house next to the store came up and said, "You guys hungry?" And she brought us into her house and she fed us a great meal! ... That left a strong impression. We are white strangers in total Native town, and it didn’t matter to them at all. They wanted to feed us and make sure we were safe.
"No place is better than Nome! We’ve been to Europe; we’ve been to Central America; we’ve been all over the U.S. And we want to come home to Nome. There’s something that clicks here, for me, and for Sue."
This is strictly my opinion, but Alaska is governed in the big cities, which are mostly white. The seat of government in Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks—they don’t see the Native villages, they don’t see the Native culture. So it’s not even on their radar, and I see that as being the problem. I mean sure, regions of Alaska are represented in the legislature, and that’s of course good, but the majority of Alaska lives in Anchorage, and I don’t think Native culture is part of the typical city-dwelling Alaskan's life. I grew up in Fairbanks; I have a memory of maybe a dozen Native kids in a school of hundreds, thousands of white kids. ... There was nothing taught in school to educate us white kids about what Native culture is about. I didn’t learn that until I came to Nome. And not that I know that much about it even now. ... I have great respect for it, would like to learn more. ... It’s an ongoing thing.
There's no place like nome
This is different than Fairbanks. ... [There,] you don’t know your neighbors. People don't wave at each other when you're driving down the street. ... I spent most of my life in Fairbanks, and I can count the friends I have in Fairbanks on one hand. Whereas, here in Nome, it’s like almost everybody is a friend. I just feel more grounded here. I’m in my element! ...We’ve been to lots of other places and are always happy to get back here. We’re in our early 60s and so we think, "Where are we going to retire?" No place is better than Nome!