From the Office of the Governor…

I admit, when I received a letter from Governor Sean Parnell of Alaska, which was personally addressed to me and not to "Current Resident," I wondered which organization sold a list with my name and address on it to the 49th state.

Even though the envelope was stamped with the official state seal "OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR OF ALASKA," it screamed JUNK MAIL.

My curiosity got the best of me. I opened it to see the Governor had chosen the perennially impersonal salutation, "Dear Neighbor…"Really? First of all, I'm not his neighbor. I can't see Alaska from my house. I wonder if he thinks he can see South Dakota from his.

Secondly, someone needs to take "the Gov" aside and fill him in on the nifty 21st century tool called "mail merge," which personalizes letters by automatically addressing recipients by their first names.

Although, I decided not to hold this against him and kept reading and quickly learned it was an invitation to visit Alaska. But, of course, why else would the Governor of Alaska write to me?

In it he raves about Alaskan wildlife, camping, fishing, hiking, breathtaking glaciers, rain forests, volcanic landscapes, rafting and dog sledding.

I suppose he did not mention that the 10 most popular recipes in Alaska have moose in them so as not to upset animal lovers like me. You betcha! Well, 11,623 Eskimos and everyone else who lives in Alaska can't be completely wrong. And, according to Sarah Palin's best seller Going Rogue, '"If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?'' Huh?

The Governor's "Dear Neighbor" letter urged me to discover the state's native and Russian roots, explore the Arctic Circle and pan for gold. "Alaska is different from every other destination in the world," he continued.

I noticed that he didn't mention that the mosquitoes in Alaska are so big they have landing lights, that the state has three seasons: winter, still winter and almost winter and Alaska's unofficial motto is "Don't retreat, reload." Hmmm, I hope he knows that Africa is a continent and not a country.

What surprised me the most was that I didn't put the letter down. Now, don't get me wrong, I am no sucker for junk mail. Yet, I stood there dog tired from a long day at work, holding the epitome of junk mail in my hands.

Maybe it's because Alaska still represents one of the last frontiers. A place with strange laws, where it is legal to shoot a bear but illegal to wake a bear just to take its photo. And then there's the one where it's illegal to push a moose from a moving airplane. Go figure.Let's face it; it's one thing to receive junk mail but it's a whole other experience receiving junk mail from the least densely populated state in the nation.

At any rate, I hung onto the letter from "Gov Sean," as you can see we're now on a first-name basis, and I'm considering completing and returning the enclosed postage-paid survey.

I'm not really that interested in driving nearly 4,000 miles from where I live in South Dakota to Alaska, nor flying there for that matter, but I'd kind of like to keep this thing going.

If I do visit the 49th state, I hope my pen pal Sean completes his term and is still in office. Excuse me while I fill out the survey…

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took five first-place awards statewide. To contact Paula, email pauladamon@iw.net, follow her blog at www.my-story-your-story.blogspot.comandfind her on Facebook.
2010© Paula Damon

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