Articles By Gord
As I see it... Yellowknife, Canada

November 2005 issue of Vibrant Magazine, view the actual article (including images).

The way I see it... Yellowknife, Canada

I have to be honest with you Folks. I had absolutely zero interest in exploring North America and slightly less than zero when it came to discovering my own country. (For those of you lost in the math, that country would be Canada.) I just couldn't feel Canada's appeal. As a result, all of my vacation dollars have been squandered abroad. I was like, “Are you nuts? Spend money touring Canada? A big nickel, a moose, a goose and a beaver? Wow!” But, I always felt the perfect job would be one that paid me to travel the country and meet it's people. Well ain't I the lucky dog, because I got that job. I frequently go out to do a gig on my own. I fly in. Maybe for a day, maybe for two days, but in that time the locals do their best to show me their world.

• I'm performing at this conference and because of its remoteness. I have to stay over for two nights in Yellowknife. In January! (I know, I know, it sounds like a dream gig.)

My first surprise came on my flight from Edmonton up to Yellowknife. I expected some rinky-dink bi-plane. Instead, it's a Boeing 737, and it's packed. And mostly with Japanese tourists. I'm looking around thinking ‘Well, one of us has got the wrong flight.‘

I'm convinced it's me when we arrive at our hotel and the Japanese receptionist finds ME difficult to understand.

I'm beginning to feel as if I've entered the Twilight Zone, when my contact for the conference explains that each winter hundreds of Japanese flood to Yellowknife for the northern lights. He went on to tell me that the belief was that if a couple made love outside under the lights any children that resulted would be blessed with great intelligence. (Yeah right. I just think its appalling the level that some guys will sink to in order to get... I mean, sure it's a great line... Northern lights and intelligence. Beats the Hell out of my “moon over Mohawk Lake” and just a hint of the dump on the breeze.)

Yellowknife is like a real city, malls, chain stores, new hotels, a college, a house made entirely of blocks of ice. This is no doll house made from a swirl of ice cubes. These are huge blocks forming doorways, stairs, arches and windows. I couldn't help but think, “Sure it feels fantastic now, but they tell me that come summer its nothing to look at.”

So, how do you top a visit to an ice house? Well, your friends drive a little ways, shut off the car and invite you to get out. Out into the January cold. Out onto the frozen mass of Great Slave Lake.

It is still. No wind that evening. No sounds either. That's what strikes me first. The absence of noise, clatter, cars, trucks, planes. Nothing. I stood there trying to absorb all of that vast nothingness. I felt this urge to just walk off in any direction. There'd be no fear of open water or thin ice here. I begin to feel cold, despite all my winter gear. (Running shoes and thin leather gloves.) It is such a welcomed relief when that car engine pops to life and warm air streams from it's vents.

• Summertime is generally a slower work time for me. The occasional gig will spring up, but sometimes my attention is less on the show to do and more on my surroundings. Early one August I get a comedy booking at the “Key to Bala,” and as luck would have it, we've friends with a cottage on nearby Lake Muskoka. So my wife Catherine and I stay over with them and they come to my show as guests in return.

The show overwith, we return to the cottage, to the dock, to the lake and its summer sounds. You've all been there. You've a drink in hand, hushed conversations; the events of the day and the plans for tomorrow. It's such a cozy feeling, suddenly broken by that eerie call of the Loon. Our conversation halts. As one, we peer into the blackness of the lake, breath held. Hoping, listening... and then it calls again. It is indescribable and each time I hear it, I find myself yearning for the song of the Loon to go on and on. (Been there?)

• I'm doing a series of high school shows in and around Picto, Nova Scotia. Its late May, my shows are finished, but we've some time to kill before leaving for the airport. After a show I experience a tremendous sense of relief and a desire to be alone and free. I expressed this to Rob, my Picto contact/guide. His solution? A provincial park minutes from town. It's a Thursday afternoon and the park is deserted. We stand in brilliant sunshine and it's hot. Very hot. A great expanse of white sand beach that reaches on for miles, and at its edge, the ocean dreamily laps. In dress pants and bare feet I walk, playing that lovely little game where your feet sometimes kiss the water's edge and as it retreats it's the cold, hard packed sand. It is the perfect solution, and it is beautiful.

• Grand Prairie Alberta. Population, maybe 25,000. I've no burning desire to go there or be there. But I have a gig. Fortunately, my showtime allows me to fly in that morning and back out that same day. (YIPPEEE!). I make small talk on the ride to the airport. “So, your conference is over, I guess you'll be heading back home this afternoon.”

To my horror , she replies, “No, not till tomorrow. I'm staying another night to do some shopping.”

“SHOPPING? In Grand Prairie? Where the Hell do you live?”

“About six hours north of here. A place with a population of about eight hundred.”

I was humbled by her remark. I felt incredibly lucky. Lucky to live in Canada. Lucky to be a Canadian and glad she was Canadian too. I have so many more stories regarding my travels about this great country. It is a shame if you have not had the opportunity to experience this land but greater is your loss if you have not met her people. O Canada.

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