So this is Yukon winter...
In Ottawa when it is colder than -35 degrees Celsius, the government issues weather warnings to stay inside, keep an eye on children and the elderly and everyone has fun shopping, going to movies, having sleepovers with best friends and stuff like that. Well, we had friend sleepovers, anyway.
In Whitehorse, when it is that cold outside it is called ‘winter’ and everyone bundles up and plugs their cars in. I think they issue warnings when its colder than -50. This week it’s averaging between -35 and -40 something. I nearly hospitalized myself filling the truck up with gas. (An exaggeration for you southern folk. My fingers just got really cold. Even inside my mitts!) Our truck didn’t start at all Monday as all the oil and engine had frozen. We used a creative technique involving a hot lamp, blankets and a forceful shove from another car, pushing ours into our garage to remedy the situation. Our garage door, it turns out, is built to close 3 centimeters short of our truck length. Hoorah!
At work, we all run down every hour or so to turn on our engines so they don’t freeze up, and when I got to the indoor track for lunch runs, I just leave ‘er running. (No riverside runs in this weather, oh no, my pretty blond head would likely cryogenically freeze or something!)
The usually insanely busy Superstore has a barren parking lot, and all the good movies are rented out.
There is this phenomena called “ice fog” that magically impedes my vision as I try to figure out where I am going by where the tail lights in front of me are headed.
The poor puppy pees closer and closer to the door, and lifts her poor little paws off of what I assume feels like a frozen pole you are not supposed to lick. No walks for her so she takes out her unused energy on our clothing and our carpet.
I wear like a bajillion layers to go 100 metres to get the mail, with only an eye slit left exposed so that I may see where I am walking.
Steam comes out of our front entrance when I open the door.
I am forced to stay in my living room on my comfy couch eating fruity popsicles with my puppy and kitty while husband works night shift, and that in its own is not an unwelcome break.
It is unwelcome when it is repeated for days on end and there is no good TV because the writers are still on strike. Curses!
Oh, and we found out this spring we are moving somewhere further north and colder in this freezing frigid territory of ours.
Most of my phone calls home involve me describing what life’s like here, what I do, what makes Whitehorse different from Ottawa. My work is covering the city beat here, so most of my day is spent filling my office corner up with such thoughts,sticky notes and interviews.
Time to time, I know I have to look beyond the mountains that form walls around this city, and see what else is going on in this big, wide world of ours. I owe it to myself (curiosity! Cool random facts!), my job (perspective! ideas!) and my responsibility as an able-minded citizen in a large-scale capitalist democracy who believes you use it or lose it. (I apply that adage to my mind, in this case)
Today I checked out my fave news site, BBC Front Page. It’s my fave because the news isn’t always politics, and it doesn’t act like Africa is one solid place that creates war-ish headlines once in awhile like SOME news outlets seem to think. As high and mighty as that sounds, I realize today I am no better.
There are stories with which I am not familiar in the slightest. I try and connect headlines to generalized social histories I learned in high school (so, does this Gaza Strip-Egypt thing have to do with the agreement after W.W.II? Still? Oh, OK). I try even harder to read the detail and absorb it all. Half because one day I want to go on Jeopardy and kick butt and know everything, and half because I want to retain knowledge about the world like my Dad, who I’m pretty sure DOES know everything.
It was always so easy to ask him things like, “So, what’s the Mulroney-Schreiber affair?” and have him answer in plain language in five minutes and have me understand enough to follow the news while forming opinions for imaginary, sophisticated cocktail party conversations I imagine myself having.
“So, this business in Kenya is quite something isn’t it?”
Real me: “Yeah ... it is? It’s a real...bummer?”
News-smart knowing me: “A travesty, but a pattern likely to repeat itself in the postcolonial aftermath plaguing Africa until its governments can stop relying on foreign arms and financial support and become self-educated and functioning, not to mention relapse from the AIDS devastation.”
I remember when I traveled to Greece, when the BBC was THE news source, and I was in awe over what got covered outside of Canada. For the first time, there was daily coverage on African countries’ politics, arts, health and business, beyond the Sudanese war headlines I was used to seeing, with declining frequency. It made me realize that just because Canada has news outlets, that doesn’t mean that I as a Canadian have to rely solely on what those sources tell me. And thus I began learning the value of perspective.
I also like to look at what BBC News has to say about Canada, which stories are worthy of spreading to people in Turkey, or Germany.
So today, while I may open the web site and not have the slightest as to what half the headlines are talking about, I take the opportunity to read them and learn them. If not for the ability to take advantage of such a resource and better myself, than for the betterment of my journalism, where my job is telling people what’s happening with some degree of authority. Any lower level of social awareness, and I’d feel like a fraud.
Today I challenge you to read one international news story and see if it doesn’t brighten your eyes, make you feel smart, to give you something of substance to discuss beyond the hideous outfit you think your coworker is wearing.
Viva la vie Boheme
All my friends knew the words to Rent songs, starting in grade 5 when one of them must have seen it in Toronto, or got their hands on a CD (or was it still tapes then?) of the soundtrack. I didn’t appreciate the “light my candle” references, and I didn’t think it was necessary to ‘moo’ with anybody because I ad no idea what Rent was. Some musical, I guess.
A tour of it came through Ottawa when we were in grade 12, and so many people liked it, I figured it’d be worth the $40 or so to see it with my diehard Rent fan friends. They brought along their CDs, and blared the soundtrack from my parent’s Subaru all the way downtown. I didn’t let on that I still had never seen it. I tried to sing along the way we all try to do when we don’t really know the words: I kept my voice low and faked each syllable, hoping decibel-breaching level of my friends’ singalong would drown me out.
We sat in our seats, and saw there was an empty balcony spot empty. Using our developed smarmy charismatic teenage girl skills, we filled up the balcony spot with our giggles, coats, jean purses and Orangina.
The show started. I recognized songs from my friends’ impromptu concerts, although these performers hit more ear-pleasing notes. :) The intermission came and the lights came up and I was lost. What had just happened? Some struggling artists had sang some songs and I know it was around Christmastime because of the stage props, but otherwise, I had no idea what was going on. Why did she need her candle lit? And were they really singing about killing a dog?
The play ended and all I could gather was that one of them had died, but even that was hard to “get” because the scene was played out with wind-blown white sheets, symbolic dancing and subsequent actors’ grief.
We left and I tried to play scenes over in my head, figuring out what Rent was about and secondly, why people liked a play that was so convoluted and difficult to understand.
Internet was around at this point, so when I got home, I researched Rent plot synopses. I really should have done that before the show, because a light bulb went off in my head, “oooh, they had AIDS...”
I read a few more and finally pieced together critics’ descriptions with the scenes I had just observed. It made sense, but my initial confusion was not saved, and I remained a tentative fan of Rent, for the sake of my friends.
It really wasn’t until the movie came out (this admission is lame and so not-cultured of me, I know) that I saw detail, facial expressions and finally understood the hidden meanings to things. “Oh! she dropped her bag of drugs...”
And it was like an awakening. As the movie came to an end I actually cried at the funeral and gave a little cheer when Mimi woke up. It was so nice to have some more clues, like figuring out who April was, and that Maureen was protesting something I now understood.
Either way, the DVD came out and I watched it and the behind the scenes features as I usually do. It was then I learned of the story of Jon Larson and the whole movie/play was elevated to a whole new level of appreciation in my mental realm of understanding.
The poor dude was writing about the life around him in poor New York: AIDS, poverty, Jewishness, making it. He based it on Puccini’s La Boheme, sure enough, but the play was his life, his songs, seven years of his work. And then right before it was supposed to open, he died of a heart aneurysm. He didn’t even get to see the labour of his love play for an audience.
Rent’s near 12-year Broadway run is scheduled to end, the New York Times told me today. Ticket sales are down and the diehard Rent head lineups aren’t as long every morning. (I know my friends would totally be in that line if we lived in Brooklyn).
It made me kind of sad that it won’t keep playing (live on Broadway, anyway). But at least now, community and high school theaters can start performing it, making it more accessible to the people who will likely “get” the play better than I. I hope.
So this is my ode to Rent, the songs I now sing in the shower and while stirring pasta in my kitchen. The words to which I reaad from my own soundtrack CD jacket and memorized.
Saturday Night not so Live?
There are some up here who don’t even own a TV. They have nature and skidoos and have no need for sitcoms, they tell me.
I need my MTV, as the saying goes. Especially since MuchMusic stopped playing anything but the O.C.reruns and VJ commentary shows. I need my brain-dead celebrity TV that robs my of intellect, and the sappy dramas that wind me in with their stylish actors and scandalous plot lines. I make no apologies-- I am a twentysomething who may have left behind her crazy bar days but will fight tooth and nail to retain the right to be a Gen Y-er who is sometimes apathetic and easily amused by what pop culture tells me is cool.
SaturdayNightLive is one of my favourite turn brain off outlets, and has been since Grade 6 when I was allowed to start watching it. I love “getting” all the witty refernces in Weekend Update, laughing at the bathroom humour and recurring characters. Last year’s addition of Digital Shorts was genious and has given me something fun to look up on YouTube and pass around the next day before they’re all taken down.
The situation with SNL and I was even better when I moved to the west coast, with its Pacific time zone and television show airings. Usually, I missed the truly live SNL episodes, being out and about (read: hammered) with girlfrends in the market. Now, it’s on at 8:30 p.m. my time. This is convenient because 1- I don’t have to worry about missing it most times and 2- I am lame and old and don’t usually stay up that late anymore, even on weekends.
But now, what am I to do? Like so many other outlets of entertainment that help me escape the monotany of my 9-5 and give my active, analytical brain some reprieve, SNL is in reruns. All the shows will soon be in reruns. Why can’t the stupid writers’ strike end already?
The Golden Globes were reduced to a press conference, people. I threw my hands up awhile ago, why can’t the writers and their bosses do the same? It is that easy, I’m sure. Is this a bore-off, whoever runs out of things to do first succumbs to the others’ demands? I suggest turning on the TV to speed things up, if that’s the case.
Bring back my TV! Leno did! I know in theory reality TV (among my fave brain-killing activities!) should be able to keep taping without writers, but for some reason they need them. Maybe so the hosts know what to say? Regardless. Stop not-working, writers, and let my shows come back. Get drunk at the staff party and get the boss to agree to a raise then! Or privately challenge them with a bogus sexual harssment suit like the rest of us do when we want extra cash! But don’t make me, the poor Yukon twentysomething whose husband is working night shifts, be deprived of the one thing that allows me to turn off my thought-maker, stare, eat chips without thinking until the bag is empty. I need that!
Back to it
Ah, the small pleasures of simple living. I alluded to them last post, and one has led me off on a tangent in my life I think would only be possible in the Yukon. Or in my Yukon life.
I’ll take this and back up a bit.
When I was “training’ for my 10k race last year (meaning, doing what all runners do: run with some regularity while sloooowwwly upping my distance), I remember getting so down on myself about ‘only’ running 3 or 4 times a week. That sounds lame, I know, but hear me out. It just seems like it was something to try really hard to fit into crazy journalism school schedules and interviews, work events and interviews, family visits, and the obligatory ‘we’re almost done!’ weekend drinkfests. Its a rough life, and busy.
I knew I could be doing more to reach personal limits and test myself. Granted, huffing and puffing and sweating and cursing were indicators that I was working hard on my runs, but I always knew I wasn’t really pushing it. I did my 10k and honestly, I didn’t feel like dying or collapsing afterwards. I just remember thinking how I had totally had it in me to get a better time. Competitiveness with myself? Maybe, and maybe my upbringing in a competitive, consumeristic, pressure-filled world is to blame. Maybe not?
So, anyway, I half-assedly brought running with me to the Yukon. First, I complained that the elevation change was too dramatic to keep at my regular running schedule and so I stopped. Or I’d run on the gym treadmill once a week and be satisfied I’d done something. It was a poor excuse for a fitness regimen. Granted, I’m not pudgy or jelly-ish (Destiny’s Child!), and it’s not like pounds were starting to pack on. But that’s not REALLY why I run, either. Its good for my heart, certainly better than sitting around not exercising my heart, and I wanna be a healthy old fart one day.
I went home for the wedding though, and had the whole, dramatic, I-don’t-fit-into-the-dress fiasco. That was the first time ever I didn’t fit in something. I used to be the stick-skinny girl people started bulimia rumours about, for crying out loud. I don’t GET bigger!! Well yes, I do. And I did. So I got back to running in Ottawa, and I fit in my dress and all was well and good.
I ran on my honeymoon, even leaving new husband alone at the hotel to run the Kelwona waterfront. I was so dedicated. We returned to the ‘Horse and I was still all ‘Ya, I’m totally for sure gonna keep up my running’ and thinking it wouldn’t even be hard because I’d already been running the last month regularly.
But then it got cold. Like, gross cold. So I didn’t run outside. And getting to the treadmill took some effort,.Like, the effort required to decide to go, pack stuff, run and come home. Exasperating! I’m not sure when, but ‘too cold’ and ‘too treadmill-y’ became solid reasons to return to the butt indentation on my couch and stay put.
For Christmas, my Dad got me a subscription to a women’s health magazine, which was really what I needed. In glossy, pretty pages, the message to me became clear: You are lame. Get up and do something. Wanker.
So I signed up for their online save your body or die program (although their name is more suitable and less scary) and began by logging what I eat to see how many calories I’m taking in a day. This was relative to little to no physical activity at this point. Baby steps.
That part turned out OK. I was eating enough. I don’t want to lose weight or anything so that can stay as is and I can stop logging calories for everything I eat, which is relieving. I don’t know how many calories are in Lindor chocolates but I don’t want to either.
This week, I got a gym membership at the Canada Games Centre, this awesome facility with an indoor track (real running! no cold!), a pool (I could so get back into that! And do aquafit hahaha!) so there’s step one. I replaced my broke-down old iPod with this tiny one the size of an eye shadow compartment so I had something to listen to on my runs besides the sound of my laboured breathing.
And my magazine web site thingy tells me what to do. When to run, how long, how hard. I can add in all the other fitness-y things I’m making myself do, like hikes with the puppy, yoga and well, that’s it for now. But soon swimming! I promise!
So the long and short of it is (if you were smart and skipped down to the bottom to avoid reading all of that) is that the simple pleasure of my magazine subscription has re-inspired me to get into running and being active, with a little bit of accountability involved.
I even signed up for pole dancing for fitness at the games centre. I wonder what I am supposed to wear to that? Anything? Anyway, I figure I’ll keep things interesting by switching things up, logging what I do, and planning in advance when I’m going to do it. Yukon time gives me a whole lot more to my day, even with the full-time j-o-b, so I know I can do it.
This is totally the year of seeing how far I can go. There are some extreme races here in the summer, so I’m excited for the chance to push myself and see where these legs can take me.
Wintertime, and the living is...harder. Grocery carts now must manoeuvre over bumpy snow, my car windows fog and then ice up in a frustrating daily cycle, the produce flat out sucks and when I leave the house, I look like the Michelin man, all bundled up.
When I do outdoor interviews, I take my pencil, because pens freeze up and then I can’t do said interviews. My oil heating bills come in at a whopping $500, and just when I need my sun friend the most, I cannot tan in the middle of a swimming pool because the sun is only up 5 hours a day and also it is usually -30 degrees Celsius.
That said, I have found some things I file under the Cheap Thrills heading in my brain’s organization system. Things that tickle my pickle (I never thought I’d be the kind of person to use that saying), that cost little and that surprise me.
Here, in no particular order, are the cheap thrills of the morning:
1- Finding the box of English Breakfast tea just when I thought a cup of tea at breakfast would be perfect.
2- Listening to the new Hilary Duff album on my way to work, singing along to “With Love” and even moving my head and shoulders as if I am performing, and the guy in the red truck next to me isn’t staring.
3- Laughing as a giant Grate Dane comes barreling at my puppy on our walk this morning, his owner hollering from about 100 metres away, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly” and my puppy whines and hides behind me. What a wuss! So I clearly moved out of the way and let this Grate Dane named Charlie run full throttle at Skylar and slobber all over her as she looks at me with fear. She’s fine.
4- The absolute silence surrounding my mountain house.
5- Ripping off yesterday’s page of my Living Green page-a-day desk calendar. It’s so fun, this little ritual, and to see what today’s tip will be. Maybe I won’t take reusable grocery bags with me to the store every time (gotta have something to pick up dog poop!) but it’s a thrill. :)
6- Satsuma body wash and body butter. A wonderful pick-me-up that keeps smelling awesome. It’s thrilling because of its sweet smell and because there is no Body Shop up here, so it kind of counts as a luxury.
It’s only 10 a.m. and I’m sure there’ll me many more cheap thrills before day is done. But it’s much more fun to sit and thin about those than to get back to work, which I must now do. Editor will notice if I’m typing all morning and don’t actually hand in a story.