Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: Proof that every cloud has a silver lining

The amount of feedback this summer has changed.

Over the years, Unhinged Alaska has been the perfect magnet to attract hilarious emails about the sort of folks or happenstances the column was named for in the first place.

When the Clarion decided to throw Reeling ‘Em In into the mix, piscatorians joined the fray sharing their unique sense of humor. Many of their comments were riotous, rather risqué, and usually, unprintable due to the high octane brew they apparently consumed while penning their missives.

A plethora of the funniest snarks were launched by fin stalkers who delighted in taking pokes at what they considered my questionable tips and skills with a rod. One guy claimed that I would, “probably end up getting skunked at a hatchery’s holding pond”. I wrote back, “Gene, never thought about trying that. What size dip net do you use and when’s the best time to sneak in?” I never heard back. I think he got caught.

Other epistles such as, “Your angling incompetence displayed in your column is amazing yet deeply appreciated because it is the quintessential guide as what not to do.” I thought that was sweet and thoughtful. It meant that my advice worked no matter how he looked at it.

The amount of feedback this summer has changed. There is more of it and it slides on a scale from being thoroughly p.o.’d about how some of the visitors to the peninsula are trashing the area, to tales of exultation about being able to get out and enjoy the less congested wilderness surrounding us. Simply put, the summer has been a boon to some and a bane to others.

I can certainly understand why so many seem to reflect a generally glum outlook on the world. 2020 has been somewhat of an acidic pill to swallow when one washes it down with a slug of overtly bias media sources.

If one takes a glance at the All Doom News, they find themselves regaled with speculations about such things as the massive cauldron of bubbling lava beneath the Yellowstone National Park. Repeated stories ring a claxon warning about what could, may, might, perchance, or will, erupt from the seething mass to blanket the earth with ash, snuffing out life forms and blocking Netflix access.

That’s just the tame stuff until the back-east articles roll in with more elaborate and pessimistic outlooks to be cut and pasted into local outlets of the same political persuasion.

It must be a real challenge to constantly have to assess what will produce the most angst and apprehension among their readers. It’s hard to imagine how profoundly trying it is to decide which Apocalypse horse to charge around on for a week or so until some new flashy mayhem comes along to caterwaul about, especially when they rely on guest essayists and commentators with the attention span of a horse fly.

Trust me, it’s not all despair out there and it’s reflected in the amazing sense of humor Alaskans show when they slip out from beneath the clouds of gloom and play in the positive rays of optimism.

How can one not feel that there is an undercurrent of positivity when my inbox contains funny and snippy remarks about the crack I once made about pink salmon being acerebral. Although, one individual did chastise me for having what he thought was a flippant attitude while the country was in crisis. I felt bad for the dude. The rest of his disjointed rant sounded like he had a significant breach in his tin foil hat.

He didn’t seem to notice or care that I was trying to be conciliatory by also admitting that a pink is a fierce and insolent battler. But the fact remained, that it takes more skill to keep one off your line than on it. The only thing stupider than a humpy is a canned one, but not by much.

And so, it goes … Encouraging tomes reap upbeat responses and attitudes.

Just yesterday, I received a message from a gentleman in Fairbanks who asked if I remembered a tête-à-tête we had when he inquired as to what I thought about lingcod.

I had replied that that I knew from an up-close and personal experience that they were Freddy Kruger gruesome, had a set of choppers that would give a salmon shark a coronary, and enjoyed making a brunch out of their relatives.

I also cautioned that they also didn’t do well as pets and ended by questioning why he was interested in them in the first place.

His response had been somewhat terse. “I was wondering about their taste.”

So much for jumping to conclusions.

Anyway, he said that nowadays we need more conversations like that rather than the social media snits, snivels, disgusting innuendos and outright prevarications rampart within their comment sections.

I couldn’t agree more.

I enjoy a wordscape bathed in positive rays of optimism warmed by mutual respect for each other and nourished by a healthy sense of humor.

It’s a great feeling and we need a lot more of that, especially now.

Nick can be reached at

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