Welcome to Yellowknife

and believe me, I NEED that Flak Jacket lately

and believe me, I NEED that Flak Jacket lately

Keep your shoes on. You’ll see why.

In Vancouver, when we go into someone’s house, we generally take our shoes off; it’s something we probably picked up from Asia, and for those of us who don’t enjoy vacuuming, which is all right-thinking people if you axe me, it makes a great deal of sense.

Not in Yellowknife.

Judging completely by my own experience, for I cannot judge by anyone else’s, not being anyone else (except for icecoaster) and thus not having had their experiences, I would say not only don’t take your shoes off, but you might want to keep that jacket handy as well, and not just because it’s getting chilly lately.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the history of my Great Yellowknife Adventure, here is some background which should fill you in, right up to the present moment. You may want to keep a sick bag handy as well; I don’t make up the facts, I just report them.

So…in Vancouver I live in a co-op, which is both extremely well-situated and extremely affordable, my earnings since I got sick last fall being of the minimal variety, and co-op rates being tied to income. When people ask why my earnings have been minimal, I explain that being self-employed and having to take several months off for health reasons, then, while recovering, jumping back into a market where social media trainers outnumber social media students by a ratio of about two to one is precisely what I believe Forbes defines as your basic “challenging business environment.” So, earnings being minimal, and Vancouver being somewhat less enchanting of late for various and sundry (although, alas, not tawdry; that would be more entertaining) reasons, I cast my eye abroad. Or along. Or above.

And ended up in Yellowknife. My friend Nancy, whom I met on Twitter, sent me a message that Kellett Communications was looking for a digital project manager. We chatted via Skype, they checked me out on LinkedIn, and after a few back and forths they came back and said they’d hired someone with more direct project management experience, but would I be interested in coming up and learning it while they built up the social media side? Well, given the chance to start basically the first social media agency in the NWT, I said Yes! Well duh, of COURSE I did. There’s nothing someone who’s good at something hates so much as not doing that thing, and god knows, I wasn’t doing it in Vancouver, but Yellowknife was like stepping back to, say 2002 in Vancouver in terms of social media: everything was just about to start happening. An awesome opportunity, and while I was up there, I could get involved with a nonprofit or even start my own, bringing the power of the digital revolution to remote communities just as I had to the homeless and the marginalized on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

I got a start date (which I managed to miss by a day: my own damn fault for not allowing enough time at the airport, yes, even at 5am) and a sublet; the sublet was amazingly handy. Four blocks from work, fully furnished, and (for Yellowknife) a good price. I should explain something: a good price for Yellowknife is approximately what a Yaletown condo would cost. This is not a place that one could describe as “reasonable” by any means. Or on any level: read on.

The sublet was courtesy of a commenter on Crasstalk, and she’d be gone from June through to the start of October, which was perfect, as I’d know by mid-September whether or not the job would be a go; after you’ve been self-employed since the last century, going back to working for someone else is a big adjustment, and so it proved. Over and over and over again, but more of that anon…

All was going swimmingly for a couple-three weeks, or as swimmingly as anything can go when it involves me waking up before the crack of noon, when I got an email from the woman from whom I was subletting: things weren’t working out down South, she was coming back. Hokay then: we briefly considered her subletting my co-op in Vancouver but:

  1. I’d left it in No Sublettable Condition, having recently taken delivery of a bunch of extra furniture I was supposed to sell (guess what I didn’t have time to put on Craigslist before I left?) and me being at the best of times no great housekeeper; when you add being seriously ill for a period of months and then in recovery from surgery, you have one epic hell of a messy apartment.
  2. My housing agreement (indeed, ALL co-op housing agreements) specifically outlaw subletting, to discourage profiteering.

So. Back she was coming and what was I going to do about it? Well, as it happens I stayed on the futon in her living room till, with Nancy‘s help, I found a shared house with a sympatico-seeming hippie type at a wicked good price for Yellowknife, and arranged to move in August 1. When we parted I said, “So, unless I hear something from you that everything’s gone sideways,” for lo, I am way cautious, verily dudes. For that carpet has been pulled out from my feet already here in YZF, as you can conclude from the above and if you can’t, take some smart pills and read it again, but where was I? Oh yes, “we’re on for the first of August, right?” She nodded and said, “right,” and we were in business.

Cut to August 1.

There I am, trundling up the walkway to the door. There Nancy is, leaning against her mother’s car, ready to help me with my things. And there the hippie is, walking out the door towards me with a shit-eating grin on her face…take it away, icecoaster:

Who YOU calling a tramp, buddy?

Who YOU calling a tramp, buddy?

Oh, guess what. Sorry I didn’t get back to you. I’ve been offline. Camping, actually. So you couldn’t have gotten in touch with me but, anyway, when I didn’t hear from you I just, you know, sort of figured I’d just go ahead and change my mind. Sorryyyyyy. So, yeah.


It’s a good thing I’ve been scouting out charities to volunteer for, because at least I am well-informed about homeless shelter options in Yellowknife.

Cut to August 2.

There I am, beavering away (does not mean what you think it means; you have a dirty mind. That’s why I like you) at Kellett, doggedly learning that Project Management isn’t my favorite thing in the world but oh well, it must be done. And there I am, doing it. Right there on the lunch table. Because I don’t really have a desk, but that’s another story; well, I have a desk, but it’s in the boardroom, which is down the stairs, down the sidewalk a couple of doors, up some other stairs, and down the hall, but that’s neither here nor there, not either desk which I have.

Make that had a desk.

I get an email from the boss: could I come and see him for about 15 minutes? Sure, of course I can; I may be newish to this “employment” thing, but if there’s one thing I know it’s when the boss says, “could you” you say YES. So I said Yes and was even on time when I got there and when I got there he laid me off.

“Not enough social media work, sorry.”

Imagine my joy.

And then he clarified that, no, he wouldn’t be getting me a ticket back to Vancouver.

Being efficient-like, I went back and packed up my lunch supplies and papers and such (although dammit, I did forget that fresh new case of mini-yogurts in the fridge, and when you’re homeless anything you don’t have to heat up is bonus points) and went back to the place I was couch-surfing until I found a house-sit, and emailed the co-op, figuring, not unreasonably, that they would revise their estimation of the housing charges.

No such luck: because I was employed on August 1 (the holiday) I had to pay over $700 for the Vancouver place. Which wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t also had to pay $1400 for the Yellowknife place in July. Between the two of them, my housing charges for the four weeks I was employed exceeded my net pay by a significant amount. And that’s why I can’t just buy my own ticket back to Vancouver.

Today I got an email that because they don’t yet have the ROE from Kellett proving that I was laid off, my housing charges for September are also over $700.

Ah, but there’s more, if you’re still with me. And if you’re not with me, you’re agin me, as old people with single tooths in their heads are wont to say. Why would anyone wont to say that, though? I ask yez.

So. Thanks again to Nancy, I got a really good house-sitting gig for most of August: handy to stores, three stories, jacuzzi, cushy sofa, big tv, lynxes walking down the driveway. Sweet. After that gig ended, the deal was, I stay with Nancy a few days, house-sitting while she was down South, and then on September 1 I crash on my friend’s futon; this was the place I’d originally sublet. She felt bad enough for me to let me crash there for a few weeks until I fly back to Vancouver on the 18th for Social Media Week.

Cut to today.

I open my email and there, in #000000 and #FFFFFF, it is: the email that says Sorry, you can’t stay here.

Indeed. Apparently I cannot.

But wait, I just thought of something...Teepee for me

But wait, I just thought of something...Teepee for me

Guess what just happened!

Neither Maria nor I are impressed at this point

Neither Maria nor I are impressed at this point


Seriously, people. Anybody got a cardboard box I can borrow for a couple of weeks?

Sunrise over Condorizon, Yellowknife

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This was two house-sits ago, out in what I called Buttfuck Nowhere, which it is if you don’t have a car, and I don’t. Also known as New Newfoundland, for the influx of Newfies: such an influx that the local grocery store carries big white plastic pails of “beef navels”. Those are actual beef navels, not some kind of seagoing bovine, because it’s a popular food in Newfoundland, or so I surmise from the fact that the bucket has a map of such on the label. I found a recipe for beef navel pastrami, but otherwise I’m not sure what you do with them.

While I was out there, housesitting at a far too nice place on a perfectly ordinary road surrounded by condos, Walmarts, and Tim Hortonses in all directions, I decided to take the garbage out. In the middle of the night. Well, normally who cares, right? Only on my way back from the dumpster I saw something move under a car, something doggish-size, and being from Vancouver and used to raccoon and skunks and coyotes and such, I just made growling “giddoudahear” kind of noises and something shot off into the brush.

A lynx.

I knew a woman from William’s Lake who used to go out hunting grizzly bears in the woods, just her and her two bear dogs (the kind they tell the white people are extinct, but aren’t). The only thing in the wilderness that scared her was the lynx: apparently they’re just as crazy and aggressive as wolverines, and will attack pretty much anything.

So yeah. Even taking out the garbage can be a bit of an adventure up here.

Oh, what does HE know?

Big words, coming from a man who lived in Los Angeles most of his adult life.

The Strange Range Tweetup: the aftermath

The Strange Range tweetup featuring the styling talents of the late Edward Hopper!

The Strange Range tweetup featuring the styling talents of the late Edward Hopper!

The Strange Range Tweetup is history; the question now is, will the Strange Range be?

YOU can help answer that question by showing up at City Hall on Monday, August 22nd, 7pm sharp, when there will be a public meeting on the bylaw to buy the entire block. Here’s the sign that was hanging by the bar; once I explained what we were there for, the bartender practically begged us to take pictures.

Strange Range Hearing Monday at 7pm

Strange Range Hearing Monday at 7pm

I called the tweetup to hear the stories of the Range, to get a real sense of its history and what it means to the town. Unfortunately, literally everyone else who showed up showed up for the same reason, not because they had stories to share. That’s unusual, given that some of them are lifelong Knifers.

If you have a story, even an apocryphal one, about the Range, please please please PRETTY PLEASE post it in the comments (you can use a fake name: what the hell do I care, I’m not Google+) or hunt me down in person and whisper it to me, but if you do that you’re probably gonna hafta buy me a martini to calm my nerves down, and if you REALLY alarm me, probably a couple for yourself, too, besides the wound dressing for the compound fractured arm.

But where was I? Oh yes. As you can see from the slideshow below and the pix on Flickr, we didn’t exactly have to fight for space. The crowd outside was, as the bartender pointed out, about twice the size of the crowd inside; the Range has a problem like the Carnegie Centre in Vancouver: the scary throngs that block the door and hang out on the sidewalk, looking for all the world as if they’re going to pounce on you. And they might, too.

If it didn’t get down to -40, I’d suggest putting in one of those garden-misting apparatuses to keep the entranceway clear, but it does indeed get to -40 and besides, where else are these people gonna go?

If you axe me, which I note you did not, the problem isn’t the Range: the problem is that black hole of a parking lot across the street. Clean it up, make it into a park, put on some activities there so there’s something to do other than get high or drunk, and suddenly with eyes on the street and stuff happening, it’s not such a nexus of dysfunction. As for the throngs outside the door, well, does -40 not take care of that?

So ends today’s “lessons from an uppity Southerner”. See you Monday at 7?

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