Leaving Alaska is hard. There is more to the process than simply selling off your possessions, shipping a few boxes, and driving across the border – not that any of these things are easy. You also have to forego that most glorious of Alaskan perks, the Permanent Fund Dividend check, where the state pays you annually to live in Alaska. You will not only give it up, you will now pay taxes to another state for everything you buy. But still, this is not the ‘hard’ part.
Eventually, you have to give up your Alaskan Identity. That’s when the ‘hard’ part begins. And I have to ask myself, is it vain of me to claim an Alaskan Identity so fiercely when I lived there only seven years? But I lived IN ALASKA for SEVEN YEARS!
First, New Jersey took my driver’s license – a thing of beauty, which held magical powers. Yes, magical. If you’ve never flashed an Alaskan ID in the lower 48 you simply have no idea how powerful it is to wield.
You’re checking out and use your credit card; the grumpy clerk asks to see your ID. Wait for it… the magic is coming. There. The smile from nowhere. The conversation you never would have had with a stranger.
“I’ve heard it’s beautiful there.”
“The most beautiful place I’ve ever been.”‘
“I’d love to go one day.”
“You should. I did. And then I moved there.”
Or you find yourself at the car dealership for routine maintenance and everything is hurry, hurry, hurry. But wait for it… the magic is coming. There. Did you feel the pace slow down as he inhaled deeply, caught in a memory? And the conversation he never would have had that day, if not for you and your magic ID.
“My father lived in Alaska. A place called Kenai.”
“I’ve been there. The people are very kind.”
“I’ve always wanted to visit. When’s a good time to go?”
“June or July are incredible, but anytime will take your breath away.”
New Jersey took my driver’s license, and I can feel the magic begin to fade. But I get to keep my equally magical license plates, which scream Alaska, for a few more weeks while I wait for my title to be released.
Imagine, you’re standing near your car in a restaurant parking lot, just minding your own business. And a large man wearing a leather jacket and dark glasses approaches you. But you’re not scared because you know what’s coming. His smile gives him away.
“Alaska? You didn’t drive here from Alaska, did you?”
“It took a while, but I sure did.”
“Do you think a man could drive a motorcycle to Alaska?”
“If you pick the right time, anyone could.”
But perhaps the most magical of all is when the conversation starts like this; “Mam, I pulled you over today because I clocked you going 39 in a 25.” I’m speechless. He’s right, although I had just seen the sign and was slowing down. Instead of opening my mouth to protest I hand over my NJ License, my NJ Insurance, and I wait to see if what little magic I have will work. Before he walks back to his car to write my ticket he inquires about my Alaskan plates, and I think I see a hint of a smile but I can’t be sure until he comes back a few moments later.
“Did you move here from Alaska?”
“Yes sir. I’m still in the process of getting everything switched over.”
“You know, I was just up in Fairbanks for training. It was so cold there…”
His body language relaxes and our conversation continues for 10 minutes until he says, without another word, “Well, you have a nice day.”
You cannot tell me that was anything other than magic. But hold onto your awe dear readers, because it gets better. It’s two weeks later and I’m returning from a trip to North Carolina. I have just crossed the New Jersey border and have another conversation, which starts all too similar.
“Mam, I pulled you over tonight because you have only one headlight.”
“Oh. I had no idea.”
“I can’t give you a ticket, because your car is registered in Alaska…”
Okay, it was probably more like, “because you’re car is not registered in New Jersey,” but you have to allow me a little creative freedom. I have a feeling I’m going to need creative freedom if there is to be no magic. No magic Alaska Driver’s License. No magic Alaska License Plates. No magic Alaska Registration (which I didn’t even know was magic until that night). Is there any magic left for New Jersey to take?
Oh yes, one more vestige of my Alaskan Vanity remains. My Alaska State Park Pass. It’s not much, just a tiny square sticker on my windshield. A sticker adhered carefully my last summer in Alaska. A sticker carefully transferred in the exactly same place when my windshield was replaced in Texas. The exact place where my New Jersey vehicle inspection sticker MUST live within 14 days of registering my car. I chuckle as she scrapes it from my window with a smile.
That parking pass may not have been magic, but without it my car (my Petra) is stripped bare of Alaska. The only badges she still wears are the scrapes and bumps from living an Alaskan life, although they are not distinct to my former state.
But my Alaskan Vanity is still strong so I decide to apply my creative freedom in an attempt to make magic where none exists. I will apply to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Division for a Vanity Plate. And if I am lucky, or the magic of Alaska still exists, I will soon have a legal NJ license plate that simply reads, ALASKA.
But I have to ask for 4 choices in my attempt at vanity. So I need your help…
What else says Alaska in eight letters (and numbers) or less?