Tuesday, February 26, 2008


back at the ranch...well..back in Toronto for now. it's snowing & slushy outside...the perfect day to curl up on the sofa & READ A BOOK. especially, READ A BANNED BOOK. because this week is

there are a slew of interesting websites about this...check out the official Canadian site or this library's Banned Book Challenge (their banned book list is in the right-hand column as a pdf).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quest wrap

the Yukon Quest sled dog race is now officially over for another year. at this weekend's closing banquet, awards were awarded, speeches were spoken...and the winning lead dogs were given grade A steak. so it wasn't exactly the Academy Awards. but did Hollywood have a marriage proposal, live on stage? we did--Bill Pinkham asked his girlfriend & dog handler Jodi to marry him (looks like she accepted.) and we had some teary-eyed, surprised award-winners too...including 4-time Quest winner Lance Mackey, who was chatty and cheerful when he got his trophy for 1st place, but actually choked up when he was called back to receive the Vet's Choice Award--given to the musher who shows the best dog care. "This means more to me than winning the damn race," he said. his dogs, Handsome & Rev, made no comment, but they sure looked as if they enjoyed their steak... (the photo is from the race, during a pause at Braeburn)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sourdough Rendez-Vous

gorgeous weather means the turn-out for Rendez-Vous weekend events has been fantastic.

there are competitions galore--from the silly (hairy-leg contest, anyone?) to the serious (snow-sculpting--these are photos of my favourite entry, by the Sundogs team). And all kinds of short sled dog races.

but i'm leaving my room with a view at the Edgewater to head home...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sourdough Sams & Lake Laberge Marj

it's Sourdough Rendez-Vous in Whitehorse this weekend...an excuse for everyone to wear feathers...participate in strange competitions...admire Lake Laberge Marj & her snowshoe shufflers (yep, snowshoe-shod dancers making appearances in bars across town)...

and dress their dogs up in garter belts...

"Every self-respecting lady has to have one this time of year," said one dog owner. this dog looked unconvinced.

Friday, February 22, 2008


amazing day mushing on Lake Laberge with Ned Cathers. he's been living on the far side of the lake for twenty-five years; he and his daughter Jennine have both run the Quest multiple times, and you couldn't ask for better company. Ned got us each set up with a sled of our own and four dogs (the more dogs you have, the faster you go, so four is about right for beginners!) and off we went...across the frozen lake under a clear blue sky. this is the view, standing on the back of the sled as you drive:
we paused for a campfire picnic on the edge of the island in the middle of the lake...this is Ranger, rolling in the snow to cool off (it's only -4 in the sun today, so the huskies are a little warm). the sound of the sled runners and the dogs' running feet on the snow is magical...

Thursday, February 21, 2008


the McBride Museum in Whitehorse is currently expanding and renovating its collection--and in the process, the curator is creating a "clutterorium", a joking name for a room with shelves loaded with cool stuff. they're also making space to exhibit some of their 15,000 historical photographs. in the new extension, there's also a great series of walk-through rooms, installed with all kinds of Gold Rush souvenirs & strange artifacts. to see them, i had to step through a fair amount of sawdust and dodge some ladders, but this second photo shows my favourite installation: a Klondike-era bar that looks like a cross between Aladdin's Cave and Hernando's Hideaway.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mackey wins 4th Quest

worth staying up until 1:30 in the morning: Lance Mackey and his Comeback kennel have won the 2008 Quest...their fourth win in a row...Mackey (in the white parka, center of the photo) looked tired but understandably pleased, saying: “[Win number 4] was so challenging, it feels nice...Hats off to Ken too. He really kept me on my toes.” after the immediate media scrim, he stood by for a few extra minutes to congratulate Ken Anderson, who arrived fifteen minutes behind him. a good close difficult race that started in impossibly cold temperatures & has finished with the mercury hovering at zero.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Braeburn: cinnamon & huskies

Braeburn Lodge (population 3 or so, not including 3 horses and a few dogs) is only 100 miles from Whitehorse, so today i got a lift to see the top two Quest contenders head down the trail.

Braeburn Lodge is the last official checkpoint on the Quest Trail--famous for its fabulous cinnamon buns (which are enormous) & for UFO sightings (maybe cinnamon buns, flying through the air?) here's a photo of my lunch--note how the cinnamon bun dwarfs the teacup...
Lance Mackey left Braeburn not even 20 minutes ahead of Ken Anderson. the snow is soft coming towards Whitehorse and no one's sure who will win, but i'm planning to be at the Whitehorse finish line around 2 am when they finally get here. this last part of the trail follows a section of the Trans-Canada trail (the old Overland Trail through the Yukon)--that's the sign behind Mackey's head, as he talks to his lead dogs in Braeburn.

Monday, February 18, 2008

the whorehouse

before leaving Dawson, i spent the night in a former brothel...Bombay Peggy's, esteemed martini bar & guesthouse, named for a mysterious madame/bootlegger who really did own & live in this house. she was known for her generosity and her androgynous taste in suits. her old whorehouse--and home--was abandoned & literally sinking into a swamp when it was rescued & reinstalled on Princess street in 1998. my lovely green room was appropriately appointed with Klondike-era furniture & a fabulous claw-footed bathtub. with bubble bath. if only i'd had a bottle of whiskey under the bed, i think Peggy would have entirely approved...

(the Klondike highway between Dawson & the Horse)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Paris of the North

Barnacle Bob playing piano at the Pit "cafe"--really only a little bit different from cafes in Paris.

(and a no-comment thank you to the Lady known as Lu, for her truly-Antigonish expression there in the corner...yep, saturday was a long day at the checkpoint...)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

and they're off...

long exciting day at the Quest check-in desk as teams finished their 36-hour layover and headed up the river towards Whitehorse. Lance Mackey led the pack, leaving Dawson a bit after one in the morning, and throughout the day, crews made the trek across the ice bridge to the musher campsite, to cheer people as they left. here's Brent Sass--currently holding down third place--chatting to his lead dogs at the departure line. Sass sings to his dogs when they're travelling along the trail "Maybe that's why they keep running," he jokes.

by 9:30 at night, the last three mushers had made it to Dawson City--three local teams, who can relax for 36 hours before continuing to Whitehorse. they're now competing for the Red Lantern, awarded to the last person who finishes the Quest. meanwhile, other teams were packing up. this is how sled dogs travel by truck--notice the little face looking out of her hutch...

Friday, February 15, 2008

hazy Yukon

lunchtime, looking towards Alaska...where the dog teams are coming in from the Quest. thirty-six hours of rest, relaxation, and dog food, and then they hit the trail towards Whitehorse...

the dogball highball

the Dawson humane society hit upon a hideously effective advertising campaign to encourage residents to spay or neuter their pets: in honour of Valentine's Day, the only martini bar in town, Bombay Peggy's, promoted the Dogball Highball at its annual Night of Northern Naughtiness...

yep...exactly what it sounds like. after all, this is the town that proudly serves the Sour Toe Cocktail (a preserved severed human toe masquerading as an olive in the alcohol of your choice). so as a fundraiser for the humane society, a fair number of Dawsonites stepped up to the ghastly challenge of drinking a whiskey or vodka garnished with dog testicles. if they allowed the pickled dog ball to touch their lips (no need to do anything worse), they were awarded the Highball certificate.
i have to admit, i'm a coward & couldn't bear to try one. there are strange things done under the midnight sun indeed...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mackey first to Dawson

a smidgen after 1 pm this afternoon, three-time Quest winner Lance Mackey arrived at the Dawson checkpoint, winning the gold poke reserved for first into Dawson...just minutes ahead of Ken Anderson. fissures in the ice have made this stretch of the trail especially harsh, and the dogs seem pooped. everyone must be looking forward to the 36 hours of rest and repairs; both teams will be leaving in the wee hours of Saturday morning. today, Mackey came in with one dog in his sled (what seems to be a pulled tendon)--because of the cold, it's hard for the dogs to get warmed up after stopping for a few hours' break, Mackey explained: "It's easier to go slow and steady than for them to completely stop."

one of Mackey's dogs, looking forward to a well-deserved break. while from on high, a local husky kept an eye on goings-on on Front street...yes, he really is on the roof.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

the horse

yes indeed, back in Whitehorse, where everyone's relieved that the temperatures are back up at a relaxing -6. i'm heading to Dawson shortly, the drive should be gorgeous if it stays clear.

by the sounds of it, the Yukon Quest had a harsh starting weekend--exceedingly low temperatures, nasty winds--so by Monday night, six mushers had left the race. a hard decision to make, but usually a wise one, especially since the Yukon River has frozen in a wild series of formations this year, making the current part of the trail extra-challenging. i'm really looking forward to getting to the Quest checkpoint in Dawson, to catch up on conditions & see the teams coming in.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

green gables

centenary for Anne of Green Gables...Lucy Maud Montgomery created the effervescent redhead in 1908, and this month kicks off a whole year of celebration for the best-known fictional Canadian heroine on the planet. though i'm now in the Yukon, about as far as you can get from PEI while still being in Canada, i still noticed the promotion this morning in the Pearson aeroport of the new Anne prequel by Budge Wilson...not sure i'm going to read that...

Monday, February 11, 2008

lost city, a lost opportunity

just back from a stunningly dull talk about Toronto--a classic example of good intentions gone awry. the evening was called "Lost Toronto", built around the current "one book" theme of February's reading month in the city (we're all supposed to read the novel Consolation, by Michael Redhill. i'm fascinated by the suggestion to get a whole city reading a single book...will it work? i'm going to read the book on my flight tomorrow--assuming i can find a copy to buy at the aeroport--because it seems impossible to get ahold of in the public library system. which might mean people are really out there, reading it).
Tonight's talk had fascinating guests--ex-mayor Barbara Hall, Spacing editor Matthew Blackett, columnist Christopher Hume, & real estate tycoon-in-the-making Brad J. Lamb (you've seen him: the ad with his head on a lamb's body that was plastered all over the garbage bins last year).
i was curious about the idea that a city could be lost, and i was looking forward to exploring that idea. but Moderator Matt Galloway of CBC didn't really focus the conversation, or push anyone's buttons. what is Toronto's relationship to its heritage? who knows...based on the conversation tonight, we're still swamped by petty bickering about whether tall buildings belong, whether anyone should tear anything down, ever, and whether politicians know anything.
i'm going to focus instead on the best line of the night--Matthew Blackett's comment: "The City needs to have some chutzpah."
i think the city of Toronto has chutzpah...it just gets bogged down in anxiety. maybe it's all the slush.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

pub democracy

because i live with an American, and because somehow i've ended up knowing a whole slew of Americans who have escaped to Canada, i found myself at the Democrats Abroad event last night at Toronto’s Elephant & Castle pub. no one could explain why the Dems found themselves at an elephant-logo pub instead of one with a donkey logo...but there we all were. during the day,a voting booth was set up so that Americans living here could vote in the primary—in the old-fashioned pencil & paper way. no fear of electronic vote tampering...
there was beer, and there were a lot of televisions. so once we got the sound turned up, we had constant confusing coverage of how the primaries were going, with predictions, frenzied analysis, and harrassed journalists trying to get the channel changed from CNN. just before we left, this guy made an appearance: the rather dark photo is Toronto Mayor David Miller talking to the chair of Toronto's Democrats Abroad. i hadn't realized he's a dual citizen...but i should have known the Mayor was a closet American: he's a thousand times friendlier than the Canadian politicians i’ve met.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


i often walk past one of the strangest buildings in town...the Ontario College of Art & Design by Will Alsop. i like it...and i like it even more now that i've read this little snippet culled from the Torontoist blog... from The New Yorker, October 2007:

...the neighbors in the apartment block objected to losing their park views and the college was eager to avoid confrontation. Alsop met with the neighbors and someone suggested lifting the addition into the air to allow views under it. “I don’t want to sound like some Communist here, but ordinary people do have some good ideas,” he told me recently. “Architects left on their own can’t break away from their preconceived notions.”
here it is as i usually walk past, with the CN Tower in the background (though the photo is a little grey--blame yesterday's weather)