Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ha Ha.  

It's been over two years since I've posted.  I'm not writing at all, anywhere, except in my head sometimes.  When I think about it, I feel embarrassed.  

I seem only to respond to shame.  So here I am, publicly shaming myself. 

I have given myself an assignment: Write 101 short pieces inspired by my favourite book from childhood.  I hope to get through three in a week.  Very. Short.  Pieces.  Observations, really.  Anything to feel like I have some sort of forward momentum.  

An elephant joke is, basically, an absurd joke involving an elephant.  The book pictured above was compiled by a 14 year old in the 60s, at the height of the elephant joke's popularity.  Not terribly sophisticated stuff.  No matter, I love these jokes.  There are a few that still make me laugh very hard when I think about them, even 30 years on.

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 18, 2011


We stopped at a roadside café/bar on our way to the Varadero airport.  As is typical in Cuba, there was a small, rail-thin cat lurking at the feet of the patrons, desperate for a scrap or two of food.  All the cats look like kittens in Cuba. I’m guessing that they never reach full-size due to malnutrition, though I also suspect that their lives are not very long, either.  Either way, I spent a few minutes watching this bony, starving cat sit patiently and attentively.  Then I saw some movement in a low hedge about 50 feet away from the cat.  A hen emerged, three chicks in tow.  The chicks were small; half fluff, half feather, and made a peeping cluck sound that reminded me of a teenage boy’s voice breaking.  The hen and her chicks moved in the direction of the cat, crossed within feet, and…nothing.  

That was my Cuba experience in a nutshell.

When a starving cat doesn’t hunt easy prey, that is defeat. I’ve seen that defeat before.  I really didn’t think that I’d go to Havana and spend a good part of the time struck by the similarities between Cuba and Nunavut, but there you have it.  No fruit, but 14 kinds of mayonnaise at the grocery store.  $7 bags of chips.  So. Much. Pop.  No real change on the immediate horizon.

“Is Cuba,” was the answer to nearly every question we asked all week.  Is Cuba, Is Nunavut, Is Long-Term Lack of Access to Resources Equals Shelf-Stable Food and a Culture of Shrugging Resignation. Like I said, I’ve seen it before.  There were coconuts everywhere, but we never saw a dish or a drink with coconut in it on a menu the entire time we were in the country.  

The food was mostly shit, and the Internet sucked.  I had an amazing time.  But let’s not kid ourselves—everything is amazing when you’re deeply in love and armed to the tits with charcoal pills and Immodium. 

I’m back in Baker Lake.  I just heard a radio announcement providing the local phone number for “if you want your dog to be shot”.  Then they played Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ start to finish.

Is Baker Lake.

Is only two months.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stark (Naked), Raven Mad.

Blame me.  Blame me.  I don’t care.  Blame me.  Just stop blaming each other.  Give me all of your blame.  Oh, wait.  You already have.  Fuck you, then.  

I’ve been absent.  I had a really bad cold, but more importantly, posting has been a near impossibility because I’ve had no Internet at home basically since I got here.  (By home, of course, I mean the lumpy single bed in which I sleep, under sheets printed with hula girls, a million years old, still inexplicably rough. Anyway.) 

I found a house with wifi that wasn’t password protected.  I found the sweet spot between their truck and front door.  Hidden, in rubber boots and pajamas, an Internet Interloper.  There is only daylight, and I’m sure the people on this stretch of road think of me as the weird, forgetful white lady.  The routine looks a little like this: walk a couple hundred feet from front door, stand and fiddle with wifi device until email uploads, “remember something incredibly important”, turn on rubber booted heel and hustle pajama-clad ass home.  Showtimes: midnight, 3:30, and 7:00.

It was like that for 6 weeks.  Week 7, I was able to steal a feeble signal from my room, so long as I was on my stomach, back hooked like a comma, facing the door, laptop perched on two pillows and a book, the book necessary to maintain a steady and specific angle. No moving.  When I got sick, it wasn’t until I started coughing that I realized I had a cold.  I’d just assumed that all my stiffness and immobile neck were the result of my nightly Internet poaching position.  

Who is to blame?  WHO IS TO BLAME? I'll tell you.  Fucking ravens.  The ravens up here are big, nearly the size of the Chihuahuan Raven (the largest in the world.  and no, i didn't look that up.  i just know that.  which is why i can't do long division anymore. moving on).  

The technician finally came to sort us out last week.  A Finn with a dry sense of humour and unusual dental arrangement, he arrived in a bright yellow jacket, flood pants and athletic sandals on his bare feet.   I was so excited that he'd actually shown up that I gave him my dessert.  He ate it very slowly, while boring me with a complete and detailed list of all the antique cars he owned but didn't drive.  To say that he was peculiar would be an understatement, but I nodded and smiled.  I needed the Internet.  Once he finished his (MY) dessert, he (LEISURELY) climbed a very tall ladder to inspect the dish. He spent so long at the top of the ladder that eventually I gave up and retired to my room.  

The next morning, he gave me the full report.  Rolling his Rs with a gleeful flourish that had to be at least a partial exaggeration, he provided a definitive cause for our long-standing internet issues.  At the top of the ladder, on the shelf built to hold the dish, he found a couple of pounds of caribou bones and fur, dropped by ravens.  "Don't worrrrrry," he said.  "Those rrrrrrravenssss, they arrrrrrrn't going to be a prrrrroblm for you now."  They had eaten the "rrrrrrreceiiiiivrrrr", he said.  It was "verrrrry rrrrrradioactive".  A crooked (and maybe demented?) smile stretched across his teeth.  "The rrrravennnnssss.  They arrrrn't a prrrrroblm ennymorrrrr."

So now I have internet.  I also have nightmares about clutches of glowing green eggs.  Soon-to-be Superravens, HulkHawks, blue-feathered monster birds.  They will perch on the roof of the Northern Store, shoot laser beams from their eyes and read my thoughts.  

What I'm saying is, I love you, Raven Overlords.  I know where all the good garbage in town is, and I'll save all my dryer lint and showerdrainhair for your nests.  I think we can make this work.  Please don't kill me.  I have a lot to live for.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stoners In A Dangerous Slime

These days, I would rather stab at the daylight until it bleeds darkness. With all due respect to Bruce Coburn, of course.

There is a season for everything here.  Right now, it is the beginning of both 24-hour daylight season and mud season. And something else is always just around the corner... 

When I first came to this place, in late-May of 2007, there were no stop signs in town. Soon, the company I was working for at the time decided put some up.   The people in town didn’t seem to need or want them, so what was the point?  To give the miners, so far away from home, a bit of familiarity?  In hindsight, it was all a bit silly. The signs themselves seemed out of place, unwilling to stay put.  While you can drill a hole into permafrost, it’s not like putting a fencepost into dirt.  The hole doesn’t close up around the inserted object.  It stays steadfastly wide open. The stop signs wobbled insolently.  They flipped defiantly like weathervanes in the wind.  They practically begged to be plucked from their holes.  And so, naturally, they were.  Yanked in the night, taken home as trophies, beginning a cycle of theft and replacement that went on for some time.  Every day, I got up, took an inventory of signs gone missing, and sheepishly reported the disappearances back to head office in Toronto.  Eventually, the locals gave up the fight against the invasive species, like our own particular cane toads (of Safety. everything in the name of Safety. always.).  The children of the town quickly decided to make vastly better use of them: target practice.  

And so, as the slimy mud leaves the road for every surface BUT the ground, revealing pebbles and then larger stones, Rock Season will begin.  The never-ending chorus of howling sled dogs that ring the town will be soon be accompanied by a hamlet-wide percussion section: children throwing rocks at stop signs (and occasional tin roof).  All night long.  And by night, I mean day.  And by day, I mean night.  You know what I mean, goddammit.


To everything, Turn, Turn, Turn. 

(Actually, speaking of that song: one of the first “big girl” auditions I went to (i.e. alone, without my mother in the room), I busted out the Byrds tune.  It was the first time I’d ever heard my voice alone, unaccompanied, in a big, empty room of adults.  It was thin and small, and I lost my nerve by the second verse (it’s okay, nobody knows the second verse, anyway).  I learned to hate the sound of my voice that day, to dread vocal auditions.  And as a result, I choked on every single one that followed.  Well, except for that one time that I ripped off an audition panel member’s toupee while belting out ‘Turn Back O Man’ from Godspell.  That one, I blew for other, very obvious reasons.  But that is yet another digression. I will embrace this turn of seasons, even though the very thought of the rock choir makes me grit my teeth.  I will go headlong into it, if only because it is a season closer to the finish line.  Maybe I’ll even throw a few rocks for good measure. While singing at the top of my lungs.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Prodigal Sun

This goes on and on.  It never ends. The sun just never sets.  I can’t tell if I’ve been here one day, or one hundred.

(actually, I’m at day sixteen of sixteen weeks.  not that I’m counting. ohgodohgodohgod.)

Everybody likes the idea of coming to visit during the period of 24 hour daylight, but once you’ve been up for 72 hours with ATVs on a constant parade loop outside your window and children throwing rocks on your tin roof from midnight to 5 am, the novelty kind of wears off.  Like a 4 year old mangling a joke.

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

The sun!

The sun, who?

The sun blazing through your windows at 3am!

(Har har.)

Knock knock.

Who’s there?


Sun, who?


Knock knock….


The Inuit articulate chronology in a way that makes particular sense this time of year.  Everything is counted backwards or forwards from the moment you’re in.  When talking about an event three days in the past, they say ‘today, yesterday, the day before, the day before that.’ Seamless, and somehow separate.  It probably explains why I just listen to the same albums over and over again, and am perpetually déjà-vuing my way through the days. I can’t begin to count the days until my break: five weeks and the day after that and the day after that and the day after that…

Every fall, the roads are sprayed with Calcium Chloride for dust suppression purposes.  The by-product of this process is that every spring, every inch of this town (and every soul in it) ends up covered with silky red mud. Keeping clean is impossible, so everyone just wears an outfit until it smells, itches, or becomes sentient.  I suspect that with a few more days' wear, my fur hat will fuse itself to my skull and start giving unsolicited relationship advice.  "He was a BASTARD to you! More coffee, more coffee!*" Or something.  And as helpful as my hat might be, I still look like crap.  Ugh.

And yet...I feel better than I have felt in a very, very long time.   Look at me, with the optimism and smiling and crap.  

I’ll find you in Hell after the Rapture, at the combo Tim Horton’s/Wendy’s/Esso.  I’ll grab the Double Doubles and the Dutchies. You get the napkins.  We’ll need a lot.  It’ll get sweaty in Hell, I reckon.

*kids in the hall reference.  there will be a test.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Barney's wife: I'm going to bingo.  I need money. I can either sell your rifle, or the tv.

Barney (in slow, Baker Lake drawl): Well, I'm watching the teeeeveeee....


Friday, May 13, 2011

Thursday, May 12.

yesterday's highlight: overheard plane mechanic refer to me as 'that broad'. i think i can die now. and given that we have a town necrophiliac, i might even get some sex out of the whole thing.

today started off well, with me having to explain to a coworker why it wasn't appropriate for him to "joke" (incessantly) about how he has been sexually assaulting me in my sleep.

yeah, i'm back in nunavut.