Last winter, when I had the pleasure and privilege of being the Writer-In-Residence at Berton House, I did regular blog posts about my impressions of Dawson City and northern life. Although I feel my journalism training served me well and my pieces were by-and-large accurate, they were, I now know, skewed by the season in which I was writing. Having subsequently had the opportunity to experience Dawson in Spring, Summer, and Fall as well, I do think there are a couple of addenda to my past blogs worth posting.
Addendum to Bellying Up to The Bars of Dawson City
Although I still retain my fondness for The Pit, I was able to explore several other local drinking holes that were not open during the winter. I found that The Midnight Sun, which almost rivals The Pit for general charming scuzziness, offered Soul Sundays, with a great local band performing Soul/R&B classics on Sunday nights, resulting in much enthusiastic dancing. Alas, Soul Sundays, like so many things in Dawson, are now a thing of the past.
For those who enjoy patios, The Triple J, the Aurora Inn, and the Westmark Hotel offer outdoor decks during the Yukon’s short-lived patio season, with the latter overlooking a beautiful courtyard garden.
My new favourite establishment, though, is Bombay Peggy’s. Maybe it’s because it reminds me a lot of some of the West Queen West bars I used to frequent in Toronto, or perhaps it’s the Klondike Bohemians that frequent the place, but I feel quite comfortable there. The building that houses Peggy’s is actually a former brothel, and the owners have converted it into a beautiful little boutique hotel that preserves an aura of Victorian naughtiness. Happy Hour on Fridays is especially popular, and Peggy’s periodically offers live music, usually featuring local musicians, who proliferate in Dawson City. After the bar closes for the season in November, it lends its name to ongoing Bombay house parties, which take up the slack during the dark days.
Addendum to Stick Me Where the Sun Don’t Shine
Speaking of which …. The winter darkness I was speculating about in my very first Yukon post did indeed take some getting used to, but the fact that there was still a handful of hours of light each day allowed for sense of normalcy. It was, in fact, a lot easier to get used to than the constant daylight I subsequently discovered in summertime. I never fully appreciated how important the arrival of darkness was to my daily routine. Without twilight, it makes it hard to know when to call it quits and start heading to bed if you’re, say, sitting in a bar, or working on a construction project. Once, on a drive back from Whitehorse, the setting sun was so in my face that I had trouble seeing the road … at 11:50 p.m. “Welcome to the Land of the #@%&! Midnight Sun,” I caught myself growling. The one thing I’ve learned about soldiering through both light extremes is that you have to actually clock watch, and use the time, rather than external cues, to structure your day.
Addendum to Dawson City Goes to the Dogs
My blog post on the Yukon Quest took place while that famous sled dog race was still in progress. Since then, I’ve come to truly appreciate just how ingrained the event is in the local collective unconscious, and even clued in as to what that diamond-shaped motif the dog on the logo is sporting means (it’s the pattern the dog harness makes). But what was truly amazing for me was the conclusion of the 2012 competition. Within sight of the finish line, leader Allen Moore was passed by Hugh Neff, who went on to win by 26 seconds. Think about it … here’s a race that went on for over a week, covering 1000 miles, and the time separating the top two finishers was less than a minute. Now, admittedly, that was the closest finish in the event’s 29 years, but it still boggles the mind.
Addendum to Ghost Town
When I wrote about the closed-up buildings that you’ll find throughout Dawson, I didn’t realize I’d be working in one. Last August, though, I got to participate in the Dawson Daily News Print and Publishing Symposium, which was held in the old Dawson Daily News building, now owned by Parks Canada, and graciously opened up by them for the occasion. While many locals came through because of the workshops and demonstrations that we held at the symposium, a fair number were also curiosity seekers wanting to see the inside of the old building, which had not generally been opened to the public before. Many of the vintage printing presses were also still on the premises, making us feel like a bit of living history.
Addendum to Cold Cuts
It was -35°C this morning. That’s pretty darned cold for early November, even by Yukon standards, but we humans are nothing, if not adaptable. The thing is, you know it’s going to be cold, so you just dress for it. However, during the summer, the Dawson weather was a lot harder to figure out. It flirted with 30°C a few times when I was visiting, meriting t-shirt and shorts, but in a matter of hours you might find yourself shivering. I saw meteorological mood-swings on several occasions of twenty degrees or so over the course of a day. I know there’s a lot of other places on Sol III that joke, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes,” but during the Klondike summers, they really do live by it.