A man of many dimensions
Rick Bloom, lives in Pelican: a carpenter, an electrician, a fisherman and a musician
During a lifetime of adventure Rick Bloom made his way from the 'Lower 48' up to Southeast Alaska. He is now based in Pelican, a remote small fishing town by the Pacific Ocean. Let's find out why he has no plans to ever leave Alaska.
- How long have you lived in Alaska and why are you still here?
- Originally, I am from Northern Idaho. I mostly am a carpenter and electrician, maybe an artist a little bit, a musician, I made money doing that, I am a guitar player. I've been here in Alaska before but I actually live here 3 years. I moved here from Washington state, I lived there in the Puget sound building boats. That's what I did for the last 10 years before I moved here. I always wanted to live here and probably I'll never move away (laughing).

- Alaska is…
- Alaska is a last bastion of the American idea to me. In a way, it is kind of like the Old West. It's not like cowboys and Indians, anything like that. There is a lot less government intrusion here than there is in the 'Lower 48'. You can lose yourself in the wilderness here which is what I've done, really.

- What is the spirit of Alaska in terms of values people live?
- Alaska, in some ways, is a state of mind. I live in Pelican which is about a 100 miles by boat from Juneau. There's nothing there, it is pretty self-contained. It's about as far from the civilization as you can get and I like that way.
I live in Pelican which is about a 100 miles by boat from Juneau. There's nothing there, it is pretty self-contained. It's about as far from the civilization as you can get and I like that way.
- Since time immemorial the Native peoples of Alaska have lived here. Then the Russians came. Then Alaska became a part of the United States. In the end, who has the most claim?
- I don't really know who has the most claim. I grew up on Indian reservation, I am part Indian myself, Otoe tribe. The Otoe Indians were the first unencountered Indians that Louis and Clark expedition encountered after they left San Louis to go to the Pacific. My great-grandpa was an Otoe, he was a horse trainer. So my feeling about Indians… we're all people in the Earth. The Indians don't have any more claim in the Earth than anyone else does. So as far as who has the biggest claim, I don't know if anybody has a claim. We're all here temporarily. So I don't know if anybody has a claim on any part of the Earth.
- The First Peoples of Alaska, including Inupiaq, Tlingit, Athabaskans, Yupik, Alutiiq and others, how large is their role in modern Alaska today?
- I think it is substantial. The Indians here… it is not the Indians are different but their relationship with the government is different here in Alaska than any place else. There might be a couple of reservations in Alaska but for the most part given a choice to have reservations or not and they chose against it and that was the smartest thing they could have done here in Alaska. Down in the 'Lower 48' it is all reservations. I grew up on a Nez Perce reservation in Idaho. Later, for 10 years I lived in the state of Washington across the channel from the Swinomish reservation, so I lived on the other side of the channel. And all these reservations aren't the same. All the different tribes in the United States had different treaties cause none of them have been honored very well by the government. They all made different deals and they all have different relationships with the government in some ways. So, it depends on an Indian tribe, what life on a reservation is like. If you a Sioux Indian, you've got a pretty tough row to hoe. If you are, say, a Tallulah Indian, life's probably a lot better for you. It is kind of hard to describe it really without being there. In some ways the Indians are Indians, there are a lot of commonalities, and in other they are all different: their customs are different, so there are many differences. The Indians in some ways are kind of screwed because they've been rendered dependants. And, like any humans, once you are in that position you might just follow into it and others resisted that reservation mindset. In Alaska the Native people don't have that mindset. They've never been rendered dependants. It is not like they might not get money from the Bureau of Indian Affairs or something like that. They are much more self-sufficient as part of the society, they have a lot more economic freedom and interaction with, like those Native corporations. So I think it is a lot better here in that regard for them.

- Alaska and the 'Lower 48': do people do things differently there?
- Yes, people do things differently here than they do down there. You have to because there is lot less infrastructure here. In most places: like in Anchorage maybe some other places you have a lot mot access to commerce. In other places you can't just run out to the store every day, at least, where I live, in Pelican. So you buy your groceries for a month, of two, or three at a time. You don't go to the store every week. For instance, people in the 'Lower 48' hunt and fish and things like that but in Alaska a lot of people depend on hunt and fish. It is a subsistence living here.
- Do reality TV shows genuinely portray Alaska or they distort it?
- Well, they are all distorted to some degree. In my mind, 'The Bush People' are contrived. That's probably the most contrived one that I've seen. I don't see the whole lot of these TV series, just seen a few episodes. Things that happen on 'The Bush People'… for instance, I know from the narrative the Brown family of 'The Bush People' had a delivery business. They pick up drams of oil in some place for somebody and deliver it to some place else. They never had a delivery business. That was made up. So a lot of the scenarios in 'The Bush People' are made up but they do represent, to some degree, what is actually going on. Like Elfin Cove, for instance. I don't even think that Elfin Cove is an incorporated city, there is no regular ferry service there. But they still need supplies. So somebody that has like a landing craft type boat , they run back and forth to Juneau and they pick up groceries, they pick up spare parts, things like that and bring it out to Elfin Cove. So the Browns themselves might not be doing that in real life but it was a depiction of what actually does go on in a real life. Such things happen.
- Where, in your opinion, is the most beautiful place in Alaska? Why did you pick that place and why is it so special to you?
- That's a hard one to answer but… I've been to the Aleutians, I worked at the Aleutians, Chignik, which is a very beginning of the Aleutians. That part of Alaska is pretty treeless, there are some trees but they are tiny. They are like bush size but they still look like a tree. And that's kind of a stark beauty to it. Prince William Sound is pretty spectacular, it is mountain-surrounded. But the Southeast is probably my favorite part to that scene. Mainly I like it because of the water, its islands and its mountains.
Russia is an interesting place, I think, because there are three countries that, to me, look kind of similar. United States, Canada and Russia. Largely because of the size of those countries.
- What are you favorite Alaskan foods? Do you have a special recipe?
- Probably my favorite would be crab. Dungeness crab is probably my favorite kind of crab. I like king crab, too, because in some way it is easier to eat than Dungeness but it is not as quite as sweet to me.
- What do you know about the Russian America or Russian heritage in Alaska?
- Not really a whole lot. I mean, I know that the Russians were the first ones here. And they established Alaska as it is, geographically. They started the fur trade and all that. But beyond that I don't really know a lot about. I know the United States bought Alaska from the Russians but I don't really know was the impetus behind it, how that sale came about or anything.
- This year is the 150th anniversary of Alaska purchase by the United States: are you aware of this event?
- Yes, I do.
- How do you feel towards Russia as a country?
- Russia is an interesting place, I think, because there are three countries that, to me, look kind of similar. United States, Canada and Russia. Largely because of the size of those countries. Russia, I think, goes all the way from the Pacific to the Atlantic, just like the United States and Canada do. The 'Lower 48' isn't so much anymore, but Canada and Russia, in particular, there is a lot of remote, isolated, unsettled areas. And Alaska is like that. That's one of the things that are interesting to me about Russia: it's a huge geographical area and what most of the Americans are familiar with Russia is mostly European Russia, I guess. They've heard of Siberia but they don't really have much of the concept what Siberia is. And Siberia, to me, is probably the most interesting part of Russia because of the wild country and they've got Natives there just like Canada and the United States here. There is probably a lot of subsistence living going on there, I am guessing. Although, what's so called the historical part of Russia, what is more European, is also interesting to me in some regards. The eastern part of Russia is the part I've always been most attracted to. You know, I grew up during the Cold War. So we've heard all the kind of things about Russia, some are true and some are not. But, number one, I never did buy it completely to the propaganda, even as a kid. After the Cold War ended, we've got more information about what Russia was. It's an intriguing place and I don't have any animosities towards Russia. I think we've got a lot in common with the Russian people. I don't know if the governments have a lot in common but the people do.
- America and Russia: are we enemies? Or are we not?
- I'd say 'no'. We're not enemies and there's a lot of potential to be friends. I don't know if we're friends exactly but there is a lot of potential. With the governments, I don't know so much but the people, I think, we'd get along fine, given a chance.
- If you had an opportunity to meet and talk to an ordinary Russian, what would you say?
- Just what I've been saying to you (laughing)! I'd tell him that I was glad to meet him, I guess. And I would try to figure out who they were, I guess, because I don't really have any preconceptions. I am not apprehensive of meeting Russians, I don't have any… fear meeting Russians. I think it would be, probably, a positive experience.
- What is your version of the American dream?
- The stereotype of the American dream is the is a house and a picket fences and a family and a car. I don't think that's an American dream at all. A lot of people want all that stuff but the American dream to me is individual liberty and autonomy and the ability to associate with whoever you want to or not. And the ability to pursue whatever you want to pursue. That's the real American dream, I think.
The American dream to me is individual liberty and autonomy and the ability to associate with whoever you want to or not. And the ability to pursue whatever you want to pursue.
- What a great single Alaskan person of past or present would you like to talk to?
- You know, I've heard of Ted Stevens but I don't know much about him. I've heard of former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin. I like Sarah Palin as far as it goes. She gets a lot of bad press but, generally, I like her. I know of senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, I am not impressed with her as I'd like to be. I don't really know that many historical figures. Robert Service, he was really a Canadian, they called him 'the bard of the Yukon', he wrote about Klondike and the Yukon, he was a poet. Not like Robert Frost or something like that, esoterical or philosophical kind of stuff but he told stories through poetry of some original American settlers of Alaska. So, not the persona, but kind of a stereotype he created of Alaska… that's probably my favorite figure but he is not from Alaska. He spent a lot of time in Alaska, though. He made a big impression of what Alaska is early on to Americans and probably attracted quite a few Americans to Alaska.
- What will Alaska be like in 2034, 17 years from now?
- My guess it'll be largely like it is now. There might be a few more people. There might be a little more infrastructure but for the most part Alaska will be largely what it is now. Alaska will change a little bit cause everything does but it will remain as it is now because, number one, the climate up here and the land itself does, psychologically, attract a lot of people but the reality of it drives a lot of them back to where they came from because they are just not up to live in those conditions. So I don't think Alaska will ever be a hugely populated place but largely it will stay like it is now. I think the people want it to.
Made on