Thursday, March 29, 2007


had a good chat with CBC's Russ Knutson yesterday afternoon about poetry, Dawson, and A Bad Year for Journalists...nice to meet one of the radio faces i've been listening to in Dawson.
later at the Capital bar, i was intrigued by one of the video lottery machines...apparently trying to lure errant writers, it has a keyboard image game. but, unfortunately proving that poets aren't always technologically-minded, i couldn't understand how the game worked, so i didn't play...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


reading tonight at the Whitehorse Public Library...looking forward to it. i spent yesterday at the "Burning Cold" exhibit at the Yukon Arts Centre and took this photo in the parking lot outside the gallery. i can't decide if the sign is a conceptual art piece or a rather clever bit of vandalism...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"the Horse" so very different from Dawson! went out last night to the Capital, a hotel bar that seems, well, very normal. admittedly, the place does feature a mummified cat, in its own glass box on display at the bar (they found the cat during renovations, it's from the 1898 Gold Rush here). couldn't get a decent photo of the cat...

Monday, March 26, 2007


flying to Whitehorse later today, and it's a gorgeous morning (went for a long walk down the river with dog). to celebrate my fabulous three months here, three souvenir photos of my stay at the Pierre Berton House...first, the kind of shop that just has to exist in Dawson (in fact, it's the most interesting shop in town next to the bookshop)...nearby, this weathered building (with some old tin ceilings nailed on for good measure)...and my worktable, teapot, & dog...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

dog cabin

this belongs to a lovely husky down the road from here. it's a perfect miniature cabin (rather like pianos here, all cabins MUST have antlers over the door--i think you get a fine otherwise). the husky doesn't seem to use his cabin very much, as he prefers curling up in the middle of his yard, in the snow. he guards an elegant wooden house from 1901.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

book of bread

one wonderful aspect of the winter here is that we have been inspired to make lots of bread. i found The Book of Bread (by Judith & Evan Jones) at the library back in January, and we've held onto it until today...i have to take it back, reluctantly. fortunately i can order my own copy. it's a wonderful bread book...first out in 1982, no photos but lots of line drawings (after's bread, you can guess more or less what the result should look like!) very straight-forward, not obsessive, all the recipes but one have worked marvellously, including a recipe for English muffins where we had to use an empty water chestnut can as a mold.

Friday, March 23, 2007

0 degrees

people are starting to bet on when the ice in the river will break up...probably not until late April or early May (there's a raffle every year--buy a ticket & write down your chosen prediction to see if you win). but already they've started plowing the streets...which over here is a sign of spring. because once all this snow starts to melt, we're going to have slush up to our eyebrows. to save us from that fate, the two trucks in town are dragging away the snow...i had no idea there WAS that much snow on the street, but it's a good couple of feet, packed down from driving over it for months. they better hurry...yesterday was exactly 0 degrees.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

raven angels

the ravens keep a sharp eye on all the goings-on in town--if anyone drops a bit of food or feeds their dogs outside, within a minute a raven will circle in at a distance, deciding if it's safe to land. occasionally, the food falls into deep snow, and when the raven swoops in, it leaves these wonderful marks. i've made a couple of snow angels myself since i got here, and it's difficult to get up i sympathize with the ravens.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


walked down the river a little way from Dawson yesterday, to look at the ruined steamboats there. five river boats are decaying into the riverbank (in summer, they're overgrown with shrubs). because of the snow, we could only see two of them clearly. the strangest detail is that part of the rigging is still intact--steel cables running this way & that). walking back, we stopped to look at the Keno, which is a small restored steamboat right on the Dawson waterfront, which gave us an idea of how the boats once looked, paddling up and down the river. it seems such a civilized slow way to travel...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

icicle melt

this morning i went down the frozen river to see how Owen Williams' icicle "I"s are progressing. today is his final working day on them (and so far it's a beautiful sunny day). soon the icicles are going to start melting--the snow slid off our roof yesterday afternoon--so i suppose it's a good time to finish. in our radio interview on Friday, Owen explained that his inspiration for the project came from a trip down the Alaska coast from Skagway. from the boat, he saw rows of posts from ruined docks, standing in the water, marching away from shore. the posts were definitely capital "I"s, taller than the icicles he's working on, but similar.

Monday, March 19, 2007


fireworks at 9:45 last night, just as the last traces of sunset disappeared. usually i don't care too much about fireworks because the crowds make me crazy...but here, we stood on the bank & watched all the pretty colours light up the reflecting snow. thawdigras was well-timed: yesterday, the icicles began to drip all along our roof, and it's supposed to get up to +1 here later in the week...i'll be too hot in my huge sheepskin coat! clearly time to head home...

Sunday, March 18, 2007


just north of Dawson is the amazing Dempster Highway, the only highway which leads to the Arctic Circle. it's gravel, not pavement, but at the moment it has a nice packed-down ice & snow surface and yesterday we headed up. these photos are from Tombstone Park, where the Arctic tundra begins--not even two hours from Dawson. though it seems so white & desolate, there are moose tracks everywhere, ravens flying past, and while we didn't see any caribou, we saw several lovely foxes--one, sunning himself outside his foxhole (this photo is shortly before he dove into his den...and yes, we politely stayed in the car & didn't get out to disturb him).

Saturday, March 17, 2007


the infamous lipsynch contest was last night at Gerties, so everyone in Dawson will probably be waking up with a hangover this morning...perfect timing for St. Patrick's Day. we started the evening at The Drunken Goat, eating great Greek food and listening to Cowboy (yes, that's what people call him). the 'Nam vet talked about dogsledding, horse breaking, his brand new bankcard, and the unfortunate fact that the price for marten fur is down this spring, while Tony, owner of the Goat, smoked & reminisced about growing up on the island of Lesbos. by midnight, the lipsynch contest had been handily won by the guys in hardhats & hazmat suits, and the whole gang had moved over to the Pit to play pool & dance, because Willie is back on the fiddle. by the time we left, percussion was being played by a guy with two empty beer bottles. one of the regulars swore by his ponytail that the fights would start soon, so we headed home under a skyful of Northern Lights.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Dawson mostly listens to CBC...since it's the only radio station we get. BUT on the weekend, there is the Dawson City radio station, which has unpredictable reception on the radio, but you can listen to it just fine on television (on a channel which broadcasts Dawson community listings that have no sound, so the radio takes up the slack). i'm heading down to the station later today, along with icicle-artist Owen to chat with Holli, the afternoon radio host.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Percy de Wolfe

the local Percy de Wolfe race just set off, following the last mail route from Dawson City to Eagle, Alaska. i only remembered at ten to ten that the dogs were set to leave at ten, so we leapt out the door like batman & robin and rushed downtown to watch the teams head out onto the Yukon river. in the first photo, the dogs are waiting impatiently in their coats (and there's a truck with dog hutches & an extra sled in the background). the route takes about 24 hours, there & back, and starts in front of the original Dawson post office. the race is named for the most famous of the Dawson mail carriers, Percy de Wolfe, known as the Iron Man of the North for his ability to mush through any weather, three times a month...the last photo shows him with one of his sled dogs.

and in other race news...fresh from winning the Quest, Lance Mackey & his comeback kennel won the Iditerod two days ago, despite a broken sled runner on a brutally icy bit of track. Mackey says he's planning to spend the winning money on a new dog truck. the Iditerod doesn't seem to give the winning dogs a big steak...the lead dog just gets a flower wreath to wear (which doesn't taste as good as a steak.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

chicken bowling

last night, i passed the side-pit cafe and in the window there is a new 'whiteboard' announcing Frozen Chicken Bowling for Thawdigras. at least i know that Thawdigras is coming up, a late mini-Mardi Gras to encourage Dawsonites to survive until spring (which only starts at the end of April--bets are currently being taken in the ice pool, to gamble on when the ice in the river will finally break up, presumably in May.) but frozen chicken bowling? the mind seizes up.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Lunch Break, the CBC radio show, today featured a segment on skidoos...which apparently first hit the market as "Autoboggans" in the 1950s. people first thought they would be a passing fad...but they're so popular up here that a recent study says that Northerners are actually condensed by extended skidoo use (the vertebrae in your spine fuse after repeated bounces...gee, i still want to try one...)

i took these photos during one of the skidoo weekends in Dawson, when a whole slew of American snowmobilers buzz into town. with its hood up, the skidoo really looks like an insect.

Monday, March 12, 2007

piano bar #4

before Diamond Tooth Gertie's became a casino, the music hall building was called the Arctic Brotherhood Hall...and this was its piano. more than a century old, the piano must have been shipped in by steamboat. it now stands in the KIAC performance space & occasionally gets a good jazz workout. so far, this is the only piano in Dawson that doesn't have caribou antlers above it...but it does have a nifty brocade cover to keep it toasty on cold winter nights.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

medicine woman

last night, in honour of International Women's Day, the women's shelter in Dawson hosted a great soiree of readings & music. i was lucky to meet Danielle, who talked about the past six months she has spent travelling around the world, meeting different healers and shamen in South America, Ireland, Canada, West Africa and Asia. she's hosting a 13-part television series called "Medicine Woman". the title is problematic (as soon as you google it, what you get is pages & pages about Jane Seymour!) but the series is going to be fascinating. Danielle is Native,and is a young doctor here in Dawson-- she grew up in Winnipeg but her father's roots are in the Dawson area-- and she said that during her medical studies, she felt frustrated by the disconnection between much of Western medicine and the traditional arts of healing. her trip has been a revelation to her, and sounds simply amazing. the show is going to be aired on VISION & APTN sometime this summer. stay tuned...

Saturday, March 10, 2007


heading over to the Dawson City Museum today (it's open for the skidoo group that's in town). i've already peered in the window of the train barn, where there are old steam locomotives. the museum used to be the government building for the territory, before the capital was moved to Whitehorse. there's still a great deal of animosity between Dawsonites and the capital: the 'Horse is considered less classy in every way...though i have to say, i really like Whitehorse, and i'm looking forward to being there for a few days at the end of the month. in the meantime, though, i'll go check out the photos, gold mining accoutrements, and other items from the heyday of Dawson, when it was the Paris of the North.

Friday, March 09, 2007

birch syrup

a new food product: birch syrup, made right here in Dawson. apparently the concept was imported from Finland, where i imagine there are more birch than maple. very similar to maple syrup--except that you need more than twice as much sap to produce it--birch syrup is a dark red colour, tastes a bit like molasses, and it's for sale here in the grocery store. so this morning we tried it on saskatoon-berry pancakes--saskatoons are a bit like blueberries, and they grow locally too. i think i prefer maple syrup, and banana pancakes., but i'm always up for a new food. and i like the "Uncle Berwyn" label here.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Kurt Weill

Bremner is performing Whiskey Bars, featuring the wonderful cabaret & broadway music of Kurt Weill, tonight at KIAC...we're heading over at lunchtime to check the sound levels (i get to be the official sound pressing "play" for the piano track on the cd player). And Bombay Peggy's has donated the requisite empty vodka bottle as a stage prop.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Canadian Pacific

the Berton House comes with its very own toy honour of Pierre Berton's many railway books. there is too much track to keep it set up all the time (unless we put the extra leaf in the kitchen table & simply dedicate the room to trains, which some afficionadoes have suggested). however, tonight's the night: move the furniture, adjust the rugs, and we're going to get that train moving through the living room. (i can't wait to see what the dog thinks...)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

piano bar #3

major news: there IS a cafe in Dawson's in the impressively-tumbled-down Westminster Hotel--not the Pit Bar, but the side-pit, down the hall. now i 've glanced into the side-pit in late afternoon & been rather scared by the sheer quantity of cigarette smoke. but in the morning, it's merely hazy in here & the coffee, if you order it "with everything", is perfect--sweet with evaporated milk in a classic white mug. if it weren't so smoky, i would take my laptop down to the Side-Pit & work here every morning, gazing at the birchbark canoe hanging over the bar.
Barnacle apparently plays piano here on weekends during Happy Hour. like every other piano in town, there are caribou antlers on the wall overhead. i think there might be a law in Dawson: no piano is safe without a talismanic antlers.

Monday, March 05, 2007

cabin fever

a quiet start to the week...
though it's gradually warming up a little out here, i'm staying in today, writing about houses in Dawson. here's one of my favourite s, a the end of my street: the perfect Canadian cabin in the woods.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

piano bar #2

Diamond Tooth Gertie's was filled with skidoo-drivers last night (complete with Hawaiian shirts & feathers)...but I spent my time photographing the piano. It's actually an electric keyboard, sitting in a piano case--as you can see in the first photo. But for atmosphere, from a distance (as in the second photo), it looks pretty good by the side of the old music hall stage.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Parisian garrets

another curious link between Dawson & Paris: turns out Robert Service, bard of the Klondike, spent some time living in Paris, both before and after World War I (by his second stint in the city, he had married a Frenchwoman; they lived in an apartment near the Pantheon).
even during his first stay in Paris, he was a successful poet (those Klondike poems had made him so much money that he was actually fired by his bank manager in Dawson, for earning more than his boss). but he knew that angst in a Parisian garret sounded poetic: "April 1914, Montparnasse..." (he writes in Ballads of a Bohemian) "...I have stayed in my room all day, rolled in my blankets and clutching my pen with clammy fingers....For hours and hours anxiously I stared at a paper that was blank; nervously I paced up and down my garret; bitterly I flung myself on my bed. Then suddenly it all came...another of my Ballads of the Boulevards. Here it is: You've heard of Julot the apache, and Gigolette, his mome / Montmartre was their hunting-ground, but Belville was their home..."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Danger: Falling Letters

last night at Bombay Peggy's, i learned that Owen is experiencing difficulties with his giant icicle "I"s (see feb 22nd post). perhaps it's the extreme cold, he isn't sure, but for some reason, the icicles are developing cracks. one of the 8-foot sculptures actually shattered and hit him in the head yesterday while he was adjusting its position in the line-up...wounded in the line of art. he is considering setting up a warning panel nearby. i'm waiting to see how he phrases the sign...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

International Polar Year

today is the launch of the international polar year...which i first heard about at the Yukon Quest, because each dogsled carried a package of stamped envelopes to be mailed in honour of the Polar Year.

what is the International Polar Year? i'm still trying to figure that out. seems to be an excuse to study polar conditions, seguewaying into the climate change on everyone's agenda. their website breaks things down into atmosphere, people, land, ice, oceans, & space...polar space?!? there's apparently an event in Paris (not because it's a polar city but because of the French Antarctic explorers).

unfortunately, so far the main IPY event i'd like to see is an exhibit "From Polar Bears to Penguins"...which is being held in Sudbury, Ontario.