Monday, January 21, 2008

Two Weeks In (Part One)

It’s been a couple of weeks since I touched down up here, and the camera is up and running, so I figured it was time for a substantive update (not to be confused with a substantial update, which would require more effort than this big shot civil servant is willing to put in when not on the taxpayer’s dime). I’m going to divvy this one into two entries because it’s a little beefy.

Saturday night saw my first night out in Yellowknife – an event I would call a raging success. Walking into the notorious Gold Range (aka the “Strange Range”) late on Saturday afternoon gave me the feeling of being in a double-vortex time machine that simultaneously sent me ahead in time by about eight hours, and back in time by about eighteen years. The revelry and debauchery that was well underway was of the ilk that I would expect to see after midnight, rather than the time of day when the 65-and-up crowd are usually coming in looking for a prime rib special. The décor, music and general atmosphere, however, gave off the impression of a frontier town bar during the era just after KISS took off their make-up, but just before they started their farewell tours (think halfway through the Reagan administration). Rather than play the role of the curious law student in town for a few months, I decided to try and blend in, going incognito as just another random dude who was looking to tip a few back while watching locals two-step the night (er, afternoon) away.

My afternoon at the Range also found me in a situation where I was clearly in the minority, racially (culturally?) speaking. I wasn’t especially taken aback by this situation, but it did give me occasion to reflect on the cultural backdrop against which months up here will be set. I’ll be honest: seeing people drunk early in the day is something that I normally find really freakin’ funny (sometimes to the point where I feel compelled to join in), and this was certainly true of my knee-jerk reaction when I sauntered into the Range. Thinking, however, about the cultural conflict that continues to play itself out in Canada’s North (and throughout much of the rest of the country), and a continuing struggle for identity and recognition, I wondered if the laughing frat-boy part of me was possibly reinforcing the roles that have been engrained in European-Canadians since Contact. But does even entertaining those thoughts have me engaging a culturally superior line of thinking? Am I being a pretentious and superficial Ontarian by reading too much into a bunch of people looking to unwind on a Saturday afternoon? I looked for the answer to these and other questions at the bottom of numerous bottles of Pilsner. I didn’t find any, but ended up with a nice warm buzz and the start to what turned out to be a great night of bowling and a house party with some rad new friends.

As a post-script, I have to hand it to the fellow reveler who managed to turn “Hey Hart, do you want to go halves on a twelve-pack?” into “Hey Hart, thanks for buying me that case of beer” within a period of about seven minutes, without me saying so much as three words in the process. I might have been a little annoyed, but mostly I was just impressed.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Shouldice said...

At the Storehouse in Iqaluit it seems that the Inuit sit in one part of the bar and the "southerners" sit in another. It's very strange and took me a while to notice when I first arrived there.

I prefer to do my thinking with Heineken. I'm very particular.