Some days you’re a lingcod, some days a quillback. Best keep that in mind. Jeff Lund | For the Capital City Weekly

Some days you’re a lingcod, some days a quillback. Best keep that in mind. Jeff Lund | For the Capital City Weekly

Being local, and local-ish

I used to get a little territorial when it came to non-locals descending on Prince of Wales. Ironic, of course, because I had this attitude even after I finished college and was living in California. Though I consider Klawock home, you do forfeit something when you move away.

Even as a Ketchikan resident, it’s close, but not the same.

Paperwork can say you have dual citizenship, but that’s paperwork for a file. I think that’s why I had an issue with seasonal workers too. Some strutted and arrived with self-made fanfare, ready to conquer the great north — now that there was daylight to be seen outside of work hours, black ice was gone, snow had melted and the days of 34-degree rain had ended.

I did, however, always like the people who returned with reverence, as if thankful for what the island would provide and teach them, rather than what they were entitled to. Experts and famous people use Alaska to pad their life stats with the help of production crews. I was talking with my buddy Matt for a podcast about his creative side and why he feels the need to live a good life not just in word or in a bank account, but the type of life that makes an impact on the people of Ketchikan.

He mentioned a TV personality who came through and let everyone know how great a moment it was for them to meet him. Coincidentally, I happened to have met the same guy at the Ketchikan airport a few years ago. Totally arrogant. I didn’t ask for an autograph because I think more is said with a handshake, but he gave me one, and said you’re welcome and smiled. As if he had doled out bread to a starving peasant and couldn’t wait to tell everyone how generous he had been.

Matt said guys like comedians Joe Rogan and Bryan Callen were cool. Well-known and well-off, but they asked about Ketchikan on their way to hunt Prince of Wales. They were interested in where they were and the people who called it home. I like people like that.

It makes me want to be that type of guest. You have to admire the type of person who is willing to make things happen. When you are in a strange land, you’re not going to know anything except that at least a portion of the population is going to hate you, even though you’re a good person. The more I traveled, the more I considered this when people visited my home.

It also occurred to me that the people willing to make return trips likely have more knowledge than I do, thanks to the desperation to make the most out of their time. While I stick to what might be considered inside or local knowledge, there are plenty others who are only around for a few weeks per year, yet have accumulated more insight than I have. I’ve never claimed to be an expert, hence my Mediocre Alaskan Podcast where I take my failings that regularly appear in this space and talk it out candidly.

I think it’s largely because the more people I meet and the more I learn, the more I discover I knew much less than I thought I did. The only thing I know is that I’m willing to be terrible or make mistakes and be honest about them — as much as a fisherman or hunter can be — knowing that enduring this will eventually work itself out.

If you try to figure where exactly you stand on the expert or “local” continuum, then you’re worrying about the wrong things. And if you’re spending your time trying to look like a local, or complaining about those who aren’t, again, you’re worrying about the wrong things.

• Jeff Lund teaches and writes out of Ketchikan.

More in Neighbors

This resting dog’s nose is at work all the time and is more than 1,000 times more sensitive than yours. (Photo of a tired-out Cora by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: The world according to a dog’s nose

A dog can tell you a lot about the outdoors. When a… Continue reading

An Earth Day message posted on Facebook this spring by the University of Alaska Southeast refers to environmental stewardship and climate change activities, including these kayaks used for an oceanography course during the summer of 2019. (Courtesy of the University of Alaska Southeast)
Sustainable Alaska: Connecting to nature is vital to sustainable well-being and behavior

I have spent my career studying the aesthetic experience in an art-viewing… Continue reading

Laura Rorem
Living and Growing: ‘UBUNTU: I am because we are’

Ironic. As I received the 1998 Parent of the Year Award for… Continue reading

A crow is blinded in one eye with an infection of avian pox. (Photo by Kerry Howard)
On the Trails: Avian flu ailments

Among the many diseases that afflict wild birds, there is avian flu,… Continue reading

A change in season is marked by tree leaves turning color at Evergreen Cemetery in late September of 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Gimme a Smile: P.S. Autumn is here.

Ready or not, here it comes. The days are getting shorter, new… Continue reading

A double rainbow appears in Juneau last Friday. (Photo by Ally Karpel)
Living and Growing: Embracing Tohu V’vohu — Creation Amidst Chaos

Over the course of the past year, during which I have served… Continue reading

Birch and aspen glow orange in September in the Chena River State Recreation Area east of Fairbanks. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: The varying colors of fall equinox

We are at fall equinox, a day of great equality: All the… Continue reading

A male pink salmon attacks another male with a full-body bite, driving the victim to the bottom of the stream.(Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Eagle Beach strawberries and salmon

A walk at Eagle Beach Rec Area often yields something to think… Continue reading

Adam Bauer of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of Juneau.
Living and Growing: Rúhíyyih Khánum, Hand of the Cause of God

Living in Juneau I would like to take a moment to acknowledge… Continue reading

Most Read