Dear National Geographic:
Today, I offer a proposal more inspiring than your feature on the first ascent of Mount Everest, more dramatic than your television show “Wicked Tuna” and even sexier than the December 1995 magazine cover shot of a chimpanzee looking for lice in Jane Goodall’s hair.
Before I delve too deep into our future award-winning show, let me give a brief history of how “Toughest Alaskan” came to be.
A number of years ago while attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I realized the rest of the state didn’t think much of Southeast Alaska. When someone asked where I was from, they would often repeat “Ju-nooo!” like it was the cross between a satanic invocation and a swear word so terrible if you muttered it too loud a bar of soap would just miraculously appear in your mouth.
My greatest point of contention wasn’t the constant snickering, or being refused every time I asked a girl out; no, it was the realization that people in the rest of Alaska believe that I, Juneauites and other Southeast Alaskans weren’t as tough as them.
Which, if I’m honest, kind of hurt my feelings. After several weeks mostly spent writing poetry and sobbing on the phone to anyone who would listen, I set out to prove that we Southeasters are just as rugged and hard as any mad trapper living alone in the farthest reaches of the Arctic where the sun doesn’t rise for 364 days each year.
This led to many interesting and fruitful conversations, such as the old placer miner sucking back rot gut I met at the Howling Dog bar in Fox.
“Give me a Mike’s Hard Lemonade! No I changed my mind. Make it a cosmopolitan!” I growled to the barkeep.
“You’re from Southeast, aren’t you?” the old miner asked and laughed. I slammed my drink down, cursed when it spilled on my Patagonia jacket and pointed to a scar on my face.
“You see this scar! No? Come closer then,” I said until his tobacco stained whiskers were just inches from my face.
“You mean that pimple?” he asked, confused.
“That’s from the seventh time I was attacked by a bear in SOUTHEAST ALASKA! How many times have you been attacked by a bear?”
“Once, and I’ve never been able to walk right since.”
“That’s nothing!” I said. “The fifth time I was attacked, after I headbutted the bear to death, a giant boulder fell on my arm. After several days of being trapped, I had to saw off my right hand with my right hand.”
“Why didn’t you just use your left hand?”
“Because I’m from SOUTHEAST ALASKA!” I laughed. “And besides, I’d injured it doing yoga. You ever shoot a wolf while pissing in the Yukon River? I have. How about save a seal pup from a burning igloo, or sleep with a wolverine or crash a small plane into an alien spacecraft bent on destroying Earth? I don’t like to talk about it but I’ve done all those things and let me tell you another thing about SOUTHEAST ALASKA — with all the rain my thighs frequently chafe and my hair is always oily! I just can’t seem to find the right pomade ... what sort of products do you use?”
You probably get the gist of the dialogue. I had countless conversations like this during my time in the Interior and the North. After a while, I got so tired of all the hot air folks from up north were spouting that I decided to do something about it.
That’s where “Toughest Alaskan” comes in.
The basic premise is that the toughest people from each region of Alaska are sent to compete against each other. I’m thinking seven episodes each season.
The first episode will be a simple meet and greet potlatch, in which each contestant brings their favorite dish.
On the second episode, contestants will be subjected to a spaghetti eating contest and voluntary wrestling match involving giant foam fingers.
For the third episode, I’m thinking KY Jelly wrestling with endangered marine mammals. This is a perfect way to make educating the public on climate change fun.
The fourth episode will definitely involve roping musk ox and “slapping the bear.” If you fail to agree to this I’m dissolving our contract.
I’m thinking a combined hunt for Sasquatch and a 60-degree-below-zero dance off for the fifth episode.
The sixth episode will be a watercolor painting contest.
The grand finale will be a mixture of the movie Hunger Games and David Attenborough’s Planet Earth. Contestant will be forced into a wilderness coliseum where the audience can enjoy the spectacular Alaskan scenery while people are forced to fight to the death. The last person alive will be the Toughest Alaskan — which I’m sure will be team Southeast — and will win something like a new iPhone with a free birdwatching app.
Please respond soon. If I don’t hear from you I will be forced to ask TLC or the Discovery Channel and we both know they’ll accept any idea as long as it has the word Alaska in it.
In fact, TLC and my lawyers are currently going over a contract for a reality show about a secret society that gets together once a month and juggles a variety of types of wild Alaskan animal droppings.
• Bjorn Dihle is a Juneau writer. Check out the preview of his first book, “Haunted Inside Passage,” or contact him at www.facebook.com/BjornDihleauthor.