Accounts of living in Yellowknife (a work in progress, this site and my life)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What are Zoning Ninjas?

Zoning Ninjas are those brave, talented few who uphold the municipal direction on land use planning with their ninja skills. Someday you too may be a Zoning Ninja, grasshopper.

You may have inferred that I am reading a lot of zoning bylaws at work. You would not be far from the truth. I am in fact reading a lot of draft zoning bylaws at work to both have some input and proof them. By the time I go home my eyes wont focus on anything further from my face than my hands; but thats ok, Im honing my Ninja skills.

A Zoning Ninja has many enemies and must always be alert. I usually try not to fall asleep. In the afternoon between 1 and 3 this becomes the hardest and I am at my weakest. Today for instance, I was in a meeting and couldnt stop yawning. It was an interesting meeting - the outcome being that I get to do some analysis on a large city owned property and design some residential development schemes. Finally, some ninja worthy work.

So work is getting better. Im getting a new computer, a nice big new flatscreen monitor for my dirty mapping habit and a better workload. The apartment is good. Apparently I had 8 interesting people living in my building who are now living in an 8x10 cell - I didnt even get to know them! I was eating a big fat sandwich this saturday past around noon when lo and behold what did I see, but 4 natives being arrested out front my building. And then 4 more being escorted to an RCMP minivan. I dont know about you - but since when did any self respecting police officer cruise around in a minivan? "Oh, sorry I cant arrest you - I have to take the kids to soccer. Damn, Ill be right back. Do not go anywhere, or ill put your groceries in the back!"

The weekend was slooow. Joined a gym and went on saturday. The remainder of the weekend and monday was spent with me so stiff I could barely get dressed. Its been awhile Mr. Gym. That was basically the entire weekend.... lots of other crap, but nothing interesting. I have decided that this coming weekend is high time to check out some of the local bars. There is one particularly famous one downtown called the Gold Range that is a hallmark of the local scene. I will let you know how that turns out - should I survive.

Hopefully I will have more pictures for you soon.....

Friday, January 27, 2006

What about Stone Tree Andy?

Forgot to post this - I dont have a scanner so had to take a picture of this picture.

This guy was one of the characters I lived with in Owen Sound at the Stone Tree Golf Course in a converted motel room for the summer - one of the most memorable for sure. He was about 5 foot, missing some teeth, skinny as a rail and drunk all the time. Absolutely hilarious character. Had to share these pictures.

What happened this week?

This week I left behind my subsistence living and once again began living the life - my stuff arrived you see. It actually got here on the weekend, but despite the fact it was some 2 weeks late already they couldnt deliver until wednesday - but whos complaining. So this week was spent waiting, then getting my stuff unpacked and organized - I also bought some beer. The best part was the beer.

When I rented the place they were emphatic that I not put holes in the walls. I figure for the stupid amount I pay for rent (I could own a house for cheaper) I can put holes wherever I want - and so I did (for pictures, not just holes for the sake of seeing what in the walls- tempting as that is).

People up here are often retarded - but in a good healthy optimistic way (I should say) - and I am one of them now I guess. You see today was -44 and I walked to work thinking "Hey, this isnt so bad once you cant feel your face anymore. Also my legs sting like a thousand bees are in my pants, but it could be colder (somehow)." Overheard at the office was a conversation about not being able to wait untill it got colder - sarcasm? Perhaps.

Its interesting driving when its this cold because A) youre car is really cold; B) You cant see anything because the exhaust of cars in front of you is a hugely thick fog; C) By the time you get out of work its night time baby.

So "How's Work?" you might be wondering. Me too, because I really havent done a lot of it. Municipal life certainly is different from the private sector. I had a lovely 4 hour meeting today about some development scheme.... but that was ok - most fun I've had all week. I got my office with no windows somewhat personalized and strewn with random papers so it appears I am doing work. I think I am getting this all figured out. Friendly people, interesting work (when I get it. It will get busy sometime soon I think), and close to what i now call home. Not a bad setup all told.

Today was a good day. I got paid and its friday - 'nuff said.

Speaking of home - while I was getting my car/tennant insurance sorted out the person helping me at the insurance office started telling me about how one of her friends lives in my apartment somewhere. Her friend was telling her about the heroine addict who lives next door. So I told her about the couple fighting that I heard above me the other night. She then told me about this couple who lives in my apartment and has the cops over all the time with their fighting - i think they might live overtop me. Fun.

Also fun was 3AM last night. I woke from a deep sleep because my alarm was going off.... so I hit the snooze repeatedly and then some more for good measure but nothing happened. The alarm was still going. Thinking my clock was broken I went back to sleep, woke up 5 mins later realizing that the thing was still going off and was probably the fire alarm. So I faced the question do I really want to go outside in -40 weather and stand around or stay inside where its warm and could get even warmer. I stayed in. Good choice as it turned out to be a false alarm - just like rez in 1st year univeristy, or highschool, or any other place with juvenile delinquents. I now know it takes fire people 15mins to get here at 3am.

Anyway, thats more than enough writing and if you actually read this whole thing go get yourself a cookie - you deserve it.

This is the only view of the "skyline" of Yellowknife that I have so far. Yes, look Skyscrapers! We have tall buildings here. Some remind me of the dana porter library at UW with the small windows - Ill probably never go in them because of that.

WOah!! Main street, kind of. The downtown basically starts at the green building and goes for a ways then stops. Theres no suburban type mall here (there is one downtown in one of those tall buildings) so its usually real busy - especially when all the office pukes like me go for lunch.

My watch from Prague broke. I think it had something to do with me dropping it on some tiles and it being a piece of Czech-bought Russian-made crap.

Hey LOOK, its most of my living room in technicolour! Some of you may recognize the pirate flag thats been to more states in the States than I have or the smoking cowboy pic - good stuff both. Theres more things in this room but you cant see them - classified, you see.

Here is a crooked picture of the kitchen. Its small and the taps drip... Friggin exciting eh? I cook things here sometimes, but mainly just coffee or ice cubes.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I was getting tired of standing in my apartment all the time, so I bought a desk-chair. But, the novelty of that soon wore off. So I found a couch that actually fit through my door and bought it. Terribly exciting im sure.

This is a view of the front of my apartment - i was working on my drive by photography. My apartment is on the bottom floor of the far corner. No balcony, but its a bit cheaper than the other ones so im ok with it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

What eats your garbage?

So, in Ontario we are plagued by racoons. Here it would seem that the racoons have given way to foxes. Behind my apartment building there is a dumpster, and behind that dumpster is a hill (really a large pile of rocks) and on that hill lives a pair of foxes. I see them on the way home from work at night or if Im out walking. I have named them Fox1 and Fox2 (I was thinking Jack and Jill but thats lame, and its lame enough that I named them - cant cross the lame threshold).

There will someday be pictures of Fox1 and Fox2 on this blog as they in part live off the garbage in my dumpster - so plenty of opportunities to photograph them, plus I am going to train them to do tricks (like run away, steal food, and eat mice). All I need is some daylight (which is in short supply up here). Here's a story that a friend of mine co-incidentally enough emailed to me today about foxes in Yellowknife: - its short.

One work of week done - infinite to go. I was taken to my inaugural city-paid-for lunch today... and the joke was made that that's the last thing I have to look forward to until my free retirement lunch - a joke I hope. I started work on some housing study and I am likely to be the resident GIS expert until the Geomatics person gets back from maternity leave in 1 yr.

I actually got out of work an hour early today because the power went out at 4pm - ok by me. It was fun because my office has no windows (sadly enough I never see the sunlight except for lunch hours) and so I sat in the pitch dark for 5 minutes until the emergency lights came on and then we all got sent home.

The City runs on a hydroelectric damn and is supplemented by some diesel generators. The power has now gone off twice while ive been here. It gets cold and quiet when that happens.

My biggest gripe is with the moving company who STILL has not delivered my stuff. I think that this is a game they play - they bet on when their clients will freak out about their crap and then suddenly the shipment magically "arrives" and someone wins the pot (I have 20$ on me lasting another week). I now am hoping that they have lost my crap and pay me the $50,000 insurance which I will spend on underwear and warm socks no doubt. They now tell me it will be here on monday (probably). Ill believe it when I see it.

Yesterday I went and bought a chair so I wouldnt have to stand all the time at my apartment - i was getting tired. This weekend I am looking for a cheap couch - an impossibility I am coming to think. This town is where big expensive couches go to die. I dont know where all the cheap ones go, but its not here.

This is becoming a long post... peace out (N. Dynamite style), im done here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What's work like so far?

A word from the wise: If moving to Yellowknife tell your movers you are arriving 2 weeks before you are. Then you stand a 50/50 chance of having your boxed crap arrive at the same time you do. Mine is supposed to be here at some vague point later this week. We will see about that - I am not bitter at all, not even a little....

On another note - having completed a day of work at the City I feel sufficently experienced to make comment. Today: work day 1. I shook some hands, made some friends, invested my new social capital in creating an army of office drones, capitulated the government, spent a short time as dictator for life and concurrently bankrupted the city, then fled to mexico. Now I write my blog. Enough of this cold weather - where's my mai tai?

While the above is not literaly true, it was a daydream that kept me occupied this aft while I was being shown the intricacies of the corporate file naming/search system called microsoft DM (for dungeon master?) - I'm a slave to IT. It looks like I will be the go-to guy on mapping and computer crap for the planning department. You may now also refer to me as Officer Petch, considering I have been sworn in as a lands officer - drop that house or Ill shoot! I don't get to carry a gun, but I do have lots of pens.

The people seem nice, but then so do most people until you get to know them. I should actually be able to make a contribution here as well as make some friends. I was warned about the politics of the place, but all planning positions carry such inherent risk. I would hazard to suggest that most other professions do as well.

That said, they are currently looking for a new planning commissioner/director personage. If any of my planning confederates (actually take the time to) read this you should apply. Not that you are remotely qualified... but it would be funny to me to have the acting director ask me if I know you. If that happens I'll mail you 5 dollars and a bucket of blubber.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Whats Yellowknife Like so far?

People keep asking me this. So I will answer in some generic format. I havent really had a chance to get out and enjoy the city what with the -30 C temperature and the moving into my new apartment.

But, heres what I do know. This place has everything you might need - from Crappy tire to Walfart, its all here. Groceries cost about the same as back home (except for cheese, meat and produce which are a little more). Beer at the bar is like drinking in toronto for prices so far as I can tell - yet to find somewhere cheap.

People are nice, services like cable or internet are more expensive. And when stores know that you have no choice but to buy from them (i.e. furniture stores) they charge more.

The city looks nice, its got some tall buildings, small buildings, lots of lakes and trees. I will post some photos when I get some good ones.

More questions let me know.

The following is a review of my move from Lanark to Yellowknife. I started posting photos and realized I was doing it backwards... so it begins at the end and ends somewhere else. Following the pix read some text description of my travels. Enjoy.

Watch out for the bison. I didnt see a single one.... dissapointment is harsh.

My pimped out ferry ride across the Mackenzie river.

A sunset picture form the NWT.

This sign was a welcome sight.

Another sunset pic

Cold horses in northern alberta. Stark contrast to the white background.

White, blue and flat as can be - northern alberta.

Snow-covered trees in northern alberta.

This is a picture of Peace River. The town is in a valley with a river running through it. The cold made mist rise from the river, but it only rose so far and covered everything in frost.

Calgary downtown is riddled with alleys that run the legth of the city core. Probly a good place to get drunk on your lunch hour.

Some putz on a Segway. Who rides a segway, really? Those things cost 5000. Jackass.

Cagary Centre-City - Did I mention I like this City? Small blocks, alleyways, sketchy areas right next to the expensive ones. Good mix.

The Calgary Light Rail Transit. This thing was cool, and Im a planner nerd.

Some buildings near sunset.

Another picture of the prairies i think this one is in Saskatchewan west of MooseJaw.

I waited about 10 minutes for this train to pass. I took a wrong turn off the highway looking for food and found only a small impoverished prairie town. Funny thing was that despite all the rundown shacks passing for houses, all the driveways had hugely expensive trucks.

Even the boring prairies are pretty nice at times.

Since i didnt have to steer while driving the prairies I took some pictures instead of driving to illustrate my boredom.

Drove the wrong way down a 1-way street to photograph this restaurant.

Officer Ramathorn: "Hey Farva? What's that restaurant with all the goofy shit on the walls that you like?"
Farva: "Do you mean Shenanigans?"
- Super Troopers

This will give you an idea of the weather I drove thoguh on the 1st day.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Travels to Yellowknife - the long version

So began the journey from Lanark to Yellowknife. Climbed into the jeep and off I went. The first 2 hours were driven through familiar territory – my home turf. After that, came the freezing rain, sleet snow and a day of stressful driving. I made it after the first day of traveling to Sault St. Marie in what some southerners may consider to be northern Ontario. I saw one horrendous accident in which a tractor trailer wrapped itself around a diminutive minivan, and almost participated in an accident of my own when an oncoming SUV lost it in the snow and briefly visited my lane while the jeep and I paid a brief visit to Mr. Shoulder-of-the-road. I stayed in a nice waterfront hotel that night.

Second day I drove from the Sault to Dryden where I visited Ian, his parents, and Dawn (friends from school). Part of this drive was one I would recommend to anyone looking to understand the true beauty of Ontario. Drumlins, cuestas, mini-moiraines, winding roads, sparkling lakes, snow-bound trees, and a sunset to rival any were the sights that sped me on my way between the Sault and Wawa (a small town in the middle of northern Ontario. My friend Mat works there – no not you Mat or Mat, the other one). The rest of the drive was nothing special and I didn’t see a single moose to my disappointment (did see a bald eagle though).

My visit in Dryden was good when I finally got there after 12 hrs. Ate pizza, and talked with Ians funny father and mom. His dad brought out all his 30 year old maps to demonstrate to all where I would be traveling. This is where I was introduced to Fort McGarry Dark Ale by Ian – one of the best beers available – I recommend. Then off to drinks and a hotel for sleep.

Today I was wasted after 22+ hours of driving in the 2 days previous. I visited Soleil in Winnipeg, only a 4 hour drive. Arrived at about 3ish. Thought I knew where she lived so I tried to get there and when I called (lost you see) she told me not to get out of the car lest I get robbed and raped in the north ‘peg. Eventually made it to her place (not in the north) and got the grand tour of her apartment – very classy. She was as tired as me having been out partying till 4 or so the previous night. It was early to bed this evening after eating Eritrean food and having drinks yet again.

This morning I looked at my maps, considered my options and decided that any place called Moose Jaw couldn’t be all bad. So onwards I sped – and sped I did. After driving the twisting labyrinth roads in Ontario the straightness of prairie roads demanded I try and fly. They looked like a runway – so I obliged. Never did make it off the ground. Somewhere between Regina and Moose Jaw a cop started following me. I slowed, he passed, I followed – nothing beats a good strategy.

Arrived in Moose Jaw about 4pm and discovered where old busses go to die. I forgot my camera, but this place had busses straight out of the 60s - orange pleather seats, dirty exhaust, and stylish chrome bodies. The whole town was a modernity reject and had the bad Chinese food to prove it. My hotel was ok – it had internet.

On another note – if any truckers are reading this – tarp your load! Some jackass trucker carrying gravel launched an attack on my windshield and cracked the jeep’s 3 week old windshield with a goddamn rock – not happy.

Calgary! I liked this city. Showed up and found my friend Jesse’s sleek loft apartment. He was working on Sunday for TD bank making more money than I do (so he better be working Sundays). He showed me in and buggered off back to work. I spent 2 hrs on a self-directed walking tour of the city and was twice offered for sale any drug available to man by random people – I must look like a user. Jesse and I then went to dinner and drinks, and more drinks and wended our way back to his apartment for drinks and sleep.

Unequivocally boring driving. After a few days of prairie driving, it sucks. Today I realized that with cruise control the jeep would drive itself for 5 minutes at a time without requiring driver intervention. So I busted mad moves to my groovy tunes and drove faster than ever with nary a copper in sight nor a hand to the wheel. I drove till I couldn’t and stopped somewhere called High Prairie. It had a liquor store and a hotel – ok by me.

Today was nature day. Like a discovery channel documentary I was able to observe 3 fat moose eating, 1 stupid deer running (kamikaze style in front of the jeep, barely missing), a coyote and a fox. Then 8hrs hours later I crossed the NWT border and landed in Enterprise – no restaurant, no bar, nothing except some trailers, gas station and motel – boring (but I had beer .

I drove like the wind. I was close to the finish line, took the bit in my teeth and ran. All the way to the ferry that is. I stopped a ndwaited a half hour for the ferry to get back to my side of the Mackenzie river. Due to warmer that usual temperatures the ice bridge is not yet in use. While waiting, people in their trucks threw food for fat ravens frolicking in the snow. Drove onto the ferry and sat longer. Arrived on the other side and took off. Stopped for gas in a place called Rae-Endzo. Here at the gas station a funny converstion occurred between and a middle aged native guy and and older native woman in a crowded gas station.

Indian guy to old Indian woman “I will find you a man”
Old woman “I don’t need a man.”
Indian guy grabs my arm and says “Here’s a young one for you”
I laugh and he lets go my arm.
She says “I have everything I need at home.” At this point I pay the attendant at the counter for my gas.
While I was doing this the Indian guy says to the old lady “You have those toys?”
She says “what toys?”
He says “sex toys”
And so on…

I quickly left there and drove another hour to Yellowknife.