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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's getting close to show time.  
I've been busy mixing the soundscapes and am very pleased with the results.  Can't wait to play a couple on the 16th.  I've been stringing up my new antlers and they should be ready for a test
performance along with other surprises.

I am putting together the video and slide presentation BUT most of the stuff is on MC's computer and it is not working.  Cross your fingers that we get it fixed before it's too late.There is also a possibility of having Yukoner, Bernie Phillips at the show.  He is in town at that time.  He and I could jam out on the antlers together. Sweet.

See you there.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Thanks to Dave Haddock for the amp and Barbera Chamberlin for the speakers.
Steve and Thea for getting us to the airport and back.

Hitchhiker, Bison dinner, Credits

Heading to Haines Junction

We were over 5 hours from Dawson on our way to Haines Junction on the Alaskan Highway and picked up, a young girl named ,“Lucie” .  She was from France.  She hated Paris.  Lucie was 5 months along hitchhiking around Canada farm woofing and couch surfing.  Turns out we crossed paths in Dawson at a party and a film festival two nights earlier.  Turns out Mary Clare and I also missed an amazing show of elusive northern lights the night after we left Dawson.  She asked us what we thought of the movie, “Into the Wild”.  We told her and dropped her off at a gas station in The Junction where she was immediately swept up by a trucker.  He was probably going all the way to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Mine is better

At the precise moment that I exclaimed, “Where’s my old truck in this town?” a blue and red 50’s GMC pickup, just like mine, emerged from between other part trucks with a sign in the back of it.

Jammin' with students and their awesome music teacher
The school in Haine’s has a music program.  We were welcomed in and introduced to everyone, including children.  They were just finishing up their community Bison dinner in the gym where I was to perform. 

A parent had bagged 2 Bison this winter and wanted to share the extra meat with the community.  While young and old consumed the beast stew, they were showing a movie of the parents skinning and bleeding it in the snow.  It reminded me that one of the teachers

They gave me all the musical instruments from their music room.  We jammed.  This presentation even smelled good.  One kid yelled out, “ You are amazing!”  Another, “Do you sell CD’s?”  to which I replied, “ Not very many.”  This school gave us permission to film their students.  (plug) I’ll put together a highlight reel for my show and tell presentation on May 16th at Homegrown Hamilton.

I can’t tell you about the mountains.  It was foggy and about to snow again on our trip back to Whitehorse.

Early morning flight back to Toronto. 

Our flight on Air North was, once again, a pleasure.  We were accompanied by over 20 high school aged girls from a dance team.  The two young lads at the front of the plane looked shell shocked and happy.

I discovered an amazing gluten free beer in the Edmonton airport.  It is Mongozo GF Pilsner.  It may be available in Ontario liquor stores this summer.  Ask for it by name and maybe they will get it in.  It’s really good.  But this is a first world problem.

Air Canada wouldn’t let me sit there and finish my movie at the end of the flight.

When I entered the humongous baggage terminal at the Toronto airport, I couldn’t help but think about the positive effect that a giant wall of art would have on people’s first impression of the city.  Right now it is projecting advertising videos on it’s walls.

Steve was there to pick us up to take us home.  I had to unpack my antlers to get them in the PT Cruiser.  It was raining and it was warm.  My garlic is 6” tall and it is 28 degrees outside.

It was a fabulous trip.  Both Mary Clare and I love the Yukon and want to thank all the wonderful people that helped us out along the way.  We are working with the folks in Dawson to go back and do more music with the community. 

Lynne Sofiak and the Community School Touring program for their support.  
Conrad Sichler for lending me the H4 digital recorder.
Lori Lemare for the video camera.
Doug, David and Jennifer for watching my home and cat.
Dave Haddock for the amp and Lynne Sofiak for the speakers
Charles, Barb and Ralph for putting us up.
Gordie Tentrees for encouraging and helping make this trip a reality.  Gordie not only helped with the application process but also leant us his van and house.

When I get my computer fixed, I'll put all the video and photo’s into a presentation/performance at Homegrown Hamilton on May 16th.

Thanks for reading my, "Yukon Gould Rush!" Blog


Wildlife sanctuary and noisy bridge

The area around the town of Teslin is a National Wildlife sanctuary for it’s abundance of it.  Snow capped mountains on the horizon, lakes and young girls handing out flowers.  We drove over the super noisy metal Nisutli river bridge.  It is so noisy we crossed it three times to record the rhythms each way.  The school there didn’t have a music program.  At the end of my presentation, they all lined up to try my, “Texas Twister”.

When Mary Clare and I bought snacks and souvenirs at the Nitsuli Trading Post during school hours, the (apx) 8 year old boy cashed us out while his (apx)16 year old sister gave Mary Clare a rose.  Entering the parking lot there was a young retro hipster couple on their way from Colorado to Alaska in an all original 1940’s beige coupe of certain make.  

We drove out of Teslin as soon as we could because we didn’t want to miss the Whitehorse closing hour of 6pm.  

Sometimes I wonder what creates such a huge contrast of spirit and feel from town to town.  Sometimes I wonder about noise pollution and it’s effects.

When we tell people we are going to Haines Junction the universal response is, “Oh. You’re going to love the Junction!” That’s our next and final show.

Monday, April 15, 2013

More on Mayo, Carcross and Pelly's Crossing

No Vacancies
1st Show complete
North of 911
Smallest desert in the world -Carcross

Headed out of Whitehorse on Hamilton Rd. with the van full of gear.  Next stop was Carcross (Caribou Crossing) for the first show.  This town is beautiful.  Scattered with small quaint log houses and a tiny train, it is nestled on a gorgeous lake between huge snow capped mountains.  The show was a success.  I played their rock climbing wall.   One kid asked, "If we make a video of us playing the wall, will you come back?"

Stopped at Montanas for bean soup and fries and back to Whitehorse. This isn't the same Montanas as the franchise.   It's a service station with a deep fryer, wi-fi, grocery and off sales acohol.  In the Yukon, if you have a license to serve alcohol you may also be allowed to sell it like the liquor store would.  This way if people miss the short liquor store hours, they can get their case of beer at the off sales in the tavern for a couple more dollars than regular.  Kind of like legal bootlegging.

Back in Whitehorse I was disecting my show and retooling it for Pelly's Crossing when we found out that there were no vacancies in Mayo for the next 2 nights.  Call after call.  No billets.  No BnB.  Gordie didn't give up and eventually came through. He contacted a friend of a friend who knew someone who had a friend musician that stayed somewhere in Mayo.  We had a place to stay.  Then Gorie told us some horror stories about unknown digs while touring. Thanks Gordie.

Drove north for hours.  Trees went from everywhere to nowhere to birch bark to everywhere.  Every hour or so there was a sign dating the last forest fire.  Mountains went from full on snowcaps to Klondike foothills.  Next stop Pelly's crossing.  Another great school in Pelly.  I did a conducted improv piece with the kids. One kid asked if music had to rhyme.

After the show we realized that all our technology was letting us down.  The video camera wouldn't use the memory card and it's memory was full.  The computer was dead dead dead.  The still camera had a defective memory card.  We were a mess for documenting.  We met Donna Connolly in the staff room where we were making lunch and trying to download manuals.  She fixed us up big time. She took one look at our sorry faces and fixed all our technical woes.  She is a film maker and sits on the board for the Klondike music society.

The HWY comes to a T at the base of a mountain. Dawson is to the left and Mayo is to the right.  We headed right to Mayo.  It is also the hottest recorded place in the Yukon.

Town of Mayo is doing something right. Services and feel of this town is awesome.  The School is beyond reproach when it comes to it's design, environment, staff and principal.  I performed for the biggest age gap yet.  Gr. 1 to 12.  They nailed the improvised composition piece.  I can't wait to hear it.

We got locked out of the school because I let the gym door close behind me.  All the other doors were closed because there was rumour of a crazy lady in town.  The story goes:  A little while ago, a lady hitch hiked to Mayo from Ottawa.  She was on a mission to save a child. She walked right into the school and started feeling the walls and stuff.  Eventually she ended up in Nunavut where a Dr. institutionalized her.  She was seen back in town the day we arrived so they locked up the school.  I asked how often that has happened.  They said never.

We went to the Mayo dump in search of bears and ended up seeing 2 bald eagles.

Mayo to Dawson City

Rangers dieing out
Ice Road trucks
Winning at slots
Joining the Sour Toe Club
Top of the World HWY

Canadian Rangers are a group of people who learn the land along with survival strategies.  They assist the RCMP and Canadian Military in search and rescue. They prove themselves an asset wherever their skills can be of service.  They meet regularly and do drills and excursions.  In an emergency in a remote area a Ranger can be a life saver.  

I spoke to a veteran Ranger in Mayo and found out that there are virtually no young people joining their ranks.   Approximately four years ago, he noticed a big shift away from young people joining the Rangers as a sort of rite of passage.  Now they simply want to text, surf the internet and disengage from the northern reality around them.  During my performance, I had to pry a couple teens away from their cell phones.

Our stay in Mayo (the heart of the Yukon) was awesome.  The school is brilliant.  Our hosts Ralph and Barb were fantastic.  Barb cooked us up a couple tasty meals of Bison that Ralph hunted. Mayo is a neat spot with geothermal energy to keep their city water from freezing.  It is the coldest recorded place in Canada (-62).

We left Mayo with plenty of time to be in Dawson City.  What we didn’t know was that there was a snow storm that hit the Alaskan HWY the night before.   It was a 4 hour white knuckled snow drifted ice rink drive.  We were aggressively passed by an 18 wheel Ice Road Truck like we were standing still.  He left us in his snow dust on the mountain highway while honking his horn.  I guess they can be like that now that they have their own TV show.

Dawson is to the Yukon like Quebec City is to Quebec.  Unreal!   Robert Service School was amazing.  Katheryn Johnson had everything organized and I had a great show with the biggest audience yet.
The difference in temperature from Whitehorse to Dawson is huge.  There is still plenty of snow there and 27 below zero at night. 

The kids were wide eyed and very receptive.  The teaching staff there are filled with passion and are super organized.  They have an amazing music program and scheduled 7 workshops for me the next day.  I was able to do something different with each age group and capture some real cool recordings.  On Saturday, the amazing Peter Menzies brought me to a youth drop-in centre where I jammed with some teens.  Peter is working around the clock trying to engage the students in his community.  He is building guitars and thumb pianos in shop.  He is taking their bands on tour. You name it, Peter is on it.

Dawson City is like stepping back in time. Every ten feet is a photograph.  There are no corporate franchises.  The snow covered streets are busy with snowmobiles and dogs.  The bars are full of people after work.  Live music fills the air on the weekends.  Everyone stops  on the wooden sidewalks to say hi.  There is even a famous casino, "Diamond Tooth Gertie's".  Thanks to our house mate Charles, I pulled a slot machine arm and it spit out $360. He was a fantastic host who introduced us to the haunts. We attended the Dawson City Short Film Festival and had a blast at an artists in residence party at KIAC. One of them was the Downtown Hotel where I became a member of the Sour Toe Cocktail Club by swallowing a shot of Yukon Jack with a real human toe in it. YUM!  We met way too many great people to mention them all.

We took a walk up the "Top of the World HWY".  This is the highest north by HWY you can officially get.
Top of the world to ya Homegrown Hamilton

Next we drove the Alaskan all the way back to Whitehorse to prepare for Teslin.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dead Wolf and Outdoor Swim

So I’m gassing up the van and this guy pulls up beside me in a brand new 5L Mustang GT.  He opens up his trunk and reaches under the dead wolf to get his gas line antifreeze out.  He looks over at me starring and says, “Hey.  How’s it goin’ ?”  To which I replied, “Good! Cold eh?”

It is true about what they say about the north.  There are a lot of characters up here.

We drove a few miles out of town to go swimming outside in the Takhini hot springs.  The water that pours into the pools 24/7 365 days a year (at 340 litres per minute at 40°C (104°F)) was too hot to touch for more than a few seconds.  It was like being in a giant hot tub.  Sure was awesome.

We took Gordie’s kid, Jaxon to a movie in a cool little theatre down town.
I spent the rest of my evening with my hand saw on the back deck trying to make the openings in the PA speakers bigger to fit the handles.  After borrowing a bunch of tools and buying screws and drill bits, the mission was accomplished.

This is an amazing piece by Shane Wilson.  The entire moose skull and antlers are carved with images of the four seasons.

Now all my ducks are in a row to start performing.