Archive for the ‘Yukon’ Category

In memoriam

1 March 2011

Todd and I testing out the then new to me pick-up truck on Haeckel Hill near Whitehorse, Summer 1996.

Seven months ago, on July 28, my best friend Todd Hardy died at the age of 54 after a long battle with leukemia.

Last March, I described how my friend Rómulo, the musician I met in Panajachel, Guatemala, got me to donate money to build tables for a school for special-needs children. We eventually found a carpenter by the name of Ricardo who agreed to make the tables and chairs for the school for the amount I had agreed to donate. Well if you go back to that blog entry, you will find that Ricardo turned out to be a drunk. (A drunk is just someone who is too poor to be an alcoholic.)  Nevertheless, he was apparently a very good carpenter.  He was supposed to have the tables done within a couple of weeks. They were nice children sized tables and he said he would also make chairs. He started on the work but eventually gave up.

When I got back to Whitehorse in May, I wrote to Marvin, the president of the society – and also the husband of the teacher – asking for pictures of the tables which were supposed to have been done by then. He told me they were having considerable trouble with Ricardo, who had not finished the work and who wanted more money. He wrote that they were looking for somebody else to finish the work and that it had been a big mistake on Rómulo’s part to give him the work. In any case Ricardo eventually built the tables and here are the pictures.

I had asked Marvin, actually I gave him a piece of paper with a dedication stating that the tables should be built in honour of my friend Todd Hardy who at the time was dying of leukemia. The dedication should have read: “In honour of Todd Hardy carpenter, union activist, member of the legislative assembly of the Yukon, and founder Habitat for Humanity Yukon.” In Spanish “En honor de Todd Hardy, caprintero, sindacalista, diputado y fundador de «Habitat for Humanity» en Yukon, Canadá”. Marvin emailed me that he had lost the paper and asked me to write dedication again. In the meantime Todd died. So here are the pictures Marvin sent me of the tables and of the dedication which is now in memory of Todd rather than in his honour.

Praying for world revolution? or a new Lee Valley Toys handplane?

The tables are made out of pine and the top is covered by white Arborite (Formica or high pressure laminate to all you non-Canadians) so the kids can write on it. Part of the chairs is also visible. They are quite simple and also made out of pine. But I hope they will work well and I think they are a fitting memorial to my friend, who was first and foremost a carpenter. Our socialist politics might have brought us together, but the love of wood and of woodworking glued up our friendship.

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3Ms — Panama’s good side

28 February 2011

In my last post, I excoriated Panama for being a dishonest place and I could have mentioned a few other things, but I wish to protect the guilty. But Panama was not all bad. There are three things that are better than just good; they are great: Molas, Maito and Mitch.

Molas

Kuna woman selling Molas in Casco Viejo (the old colonial town), Panama City

Molas are a fabric art form made by the Kuna women of north-eastern Panama, in an area formerly known as the San Blas Province but now officially referred to as the Kuna Yala. The Kuna are a First Nation people still living a more or less traditional lifestyle in the home area. They had a revolution against Panama in 1925 and defeated the Panamanians, so managed to keep their autonomy, political structures and culture intact.

Molas are made by stitching several layers of different coloured cloth and cutting out designs and then sewing the cut-outs to the lower layer. They are traditionally part of Kuna women’s clothing, but are now also made and sewn for sale, including large one with various designs of birds and wildlife.

Marilyn with Kuna woman in traditional dress, in Casco Viejo, Panama City

Marilyn totally fell in love with them (She is a textile art freak after all, went crazy in Guatemala and also has a trunk-full of antique Canadian quilts from the Maritimes). When we were in Panama last May, Marilyn bought a large one which is hanging in our hallway and a whole bunch of small ones which she framed or turned into pillows. This time she again bought many of the smaller ones. I have to keep on telling her: “You like it, buy it!” whenever her Puritan instincts start taking over.

Luigi talking to two Kuna men selling Molas in Boquete in May 2010. Marilyn bought $400 worth of Molas from them. I think they liked us.

Maito
Maito is an absolutely great restaurant in Panama City, one our best dining experiences on this trip, probably second after Izote restaurant in Mexico City. If you go to Panama City, go eat there. We had a fabulous meal and I wrote a review of it on Trip Advisor.

Mitch

Mitch doing the pizza thing, a familiar sight to many Yukoners. But this was in Panama. No, Yukoners, the drum is not a weird barrel stove, it is a Panamanian pizza oven. They don't need heat in Central America.

Actually, it should be Doug and Mitch, but Mitch fits better with the M theme of this entry. Whitehorse residents will be familiar with Mitch née Cormier now Dupont who founded the best pizzeria North of 60, Bocelli’s Pizza in Whitehorse. She sold Bocelli and opened a boutique hotel B&B in Chame Panama. They are also opening another resort B&B on Tagish Lake in the Yukon. So winter months in Panama, summer in the Yukon.

Anyway, the Panayukana hotel in Chame was absolutely wonderful as were Mitch and Doug and their daughter. If you go to Panama, you have to stay there. While I worked, Mitch took Marilyn to the beach in Santa Clara, we had great meals by the pool, and just a great good time. Their slogan “Come as a guest, leave as a friend” certainly applied to us; we had known Mitch through her restaurant but we were never close in Whitehorse. This all changed and we look forward to seeing them in Whitehorse and Tagish this summer. We were also planning to go to the San Blas islands in Kuna Yala together, but my disgust with Panamanians after getting tossed out of the country sort of put a kibosh on that plan. I am not sure I want to go back there again.

I should add that, last May, Mitch did offer to let me leave my truck and camper at their place, but the camper is too high to fit through the entrance. She’s great! If you go to Panama, you have to stay there! Remeber Pananyukana: the http://www.panayukana.com/

Actually, there are other cool things in Panama, like Boquete in the North and the Casco Viejo old colonial town in Panama City, which is now being restored. And there is the Panama canal, which is extremly impressive, even for someone like me who was taken to see the Saint-Lambert and the Côte Sainte-Catherine locks in operation many times on lazy Sundays while I was growing up, or Marilyn growing up not far from the Welland canal. Plus, I have to hand it to the Panamanians who are running the canal more efficiently than the Americans ever did, putting more ships through and earning more money. Panama will also be adding a third wider “lane” to the canal, which I have no doubt they will manage to do well.

But I still don’t like being lied to and bullshitted repeatedly.

Back in the USSR

15 January 2010

Actually in Soviet Kanuckistan facing Siberian cold. Yup, we got back to Whitehorse yesterday from Guatemala. We will be here for a month or so while I complete a couple of contracts and earn some money to continue the trip. I gave the driveway a blow job as a lot of snow fell in Whitehorse in the last few days and our housesitter–Belinda Harrow–didn’t have time to clear it all and she did not know that we had a snow-blower.

Coffee beans set to dry

The truck and camper are in Finca el Pintado just outside Antigua in Guatemala, an organic coffee farm. Philip and Christine Wilson were generous enough to let us leave the truck there. In addition to working as a coffee farmer, Philip also manages a company making appropriate technology water filters, Ecofiltro, which I think could also have applications in Canada’s north in exploration, hunting and fishing camps and other remote areas.

I also got together with Lars Pira, a good friend from our grad school days at McGill. Although we hadn’t seen each other for almost 30 years, we just picked up our old relationship immediately.

Sleepy in Seattle

21 November 2009

November 20

Woke up around 8:00AM despite the late night. Had the two coffees from the room coffee machine. Only one guess for what the brand of coffee was.

Went to get my new glasses, had a really good coffee and muffin at the shopping centre where the eyeglass pace was. Went back to the Pike Street Market, has a prosciutto & parmiggiano sandwich for lunch. Boy, I love that place!

Luigis placeI went to the RV park in Bellevue, signed in ($25.00) and had a long nap. Woke up around five PM and drove downtown to Pioneer Square where they have Seattle’s underground. Walked around the area but most places were closed, despite it being a Friday night. Had an Italian supper at Luigi’s place. The waiter did not want to give me a discount because of my name. I had a so-called piadina, which was like a small pizza cut in four. This is not the real piadina from Rimini, which is more like a calzone or pocket filled with yummy stuff.

wooddorkers store

Wooddorkers' store

Got my tickets at 7:00 PM for 8:00 underground tour. Walked to Chinatown and found a cellular place that I need to investigate tomorrow morning. Another place to check out is a furniture place catering to local craftspeople.

Just one bit of oversharing, but I won’t get into graphic details: it’s nice to have a camper when you can’t find a public washroom. J

The underground tour was replete with references to prostitution and drugs, especially around servicing and fleecing the Klondike Gold Rush hopefuls. On a more historical note, I had not realized how important the Klondike was to Seattle. In the words of the tour guide: “It put Seattle on the map. Before that, Portland and Tacoma were more important.” Imagine, if it wasn’t for the Klondike, we wouldn’t have Starbucks and Microsoft.

Camera is, as we say in Quebec, complètement fuckée. It won’t close or take pictures.  I’ll have to buy one today.

Then on to Oregon and the Willamette.

Departure day: caribou, hotsprings and bison

13 November 2009

Left home at 9:15 after loading the food & last minute stuff and I made it to Liard Hot Springs at 7:35, 657 km.

Early on, I realized my headlights were not working. Checked the fuses & they seemed OK. I got worried & tried to figure out what I would do if I had to drive at night. I would have to drive at night if I wanted to make it to the hot springs as the sun now sets around 4:00 PM, I was going east, and it is an eight-hour drive from Whitehorse in the best conditions. I debated whether I should chance it, but good sense finally prevailed. When I got to Teslin where I gassed up, I decided to get the vehicle checked out in Watson Lake and if I had to stay there if need be instead of going to the Liard Hot Springs.

So I drove on, almost non-stop (except to pee) to Watson Lake. It was extremely windy until pas Watson Lake and the wind sometimes made the truck sway uncomfortably. There were flurries around Whitehorse and through the Cassiar Mountains, although, surprisingly, the road was completely dry east of the mountains. As I reached the Liard Plateau, I started seeing blue sky.

Caribou before Watson Lake

Caribou along the Alaska Highway before Watson Lake

About 20 km before Upper Liard, I saw quite a few (about 6 or seven) woodland caribou by the side of the road. I stopped to take the pictures, and a truck that was on my tail honked at me.

I saw three more caribou just a few kms before Upper Liard, a truck stopped to let them cross the road, but one headed back. I guess they must be suicidal caribou to hang out a few kilometers from a First Nation community. On the other hand, they are probably part of the Finlayson herd and the Kaska people have been doing their best to reestablish the herd over the last ten years or so. So they might have lost their fear of humans. For now anyway.

Caribou crossing Alaska Highway at Upper Liard

Caribou crossing Alaska Highway at Upper Liard

I got the truck lights checked out at Rudy’s in Watson Lake at 3:00PM. I thought I knew exactly what was wrong, and that we would have to go fix the connection to the camper clearance lights under the truck. Well, guess what? The mechanic checked the fuses and one was burnt. After the fuse was replaced, all the lights worked fine, although I might have to replace some of the rear clearance light bulbs.

Past Watson Lake, it soon got dark despite our long northern twilight and my speed went down to 80, then 70 (klicks that is). I did manage to take some pictures of bison before it got too dark. By 5:15 or so I was getting really tired and looked for a place to stop. Just before the Fireside lodge at 5:30, there was a turn-off. I stopped there, turned on the propane heater and tried to take a nap. Although I did not sleep, I did rest so that by 6:30, I was ready to go again.

Bison on Alaska Highway

Bison on Alaska Highway

At Fireside, there was a lit sign that alternated saying “Drive Carefully” and “Buffalo on the road for 90 km”. I tried taking a movie of it, but it did not turn out.

At the hot springs, first things first: grabbed my towel & bathing suit (bathing au naturel is frowned upon, silly Anglo puritanism) and headed for the pools. heavenly after a day’s drive.

Arctic char with garden fresh thyme (actually window box fresh, but whose countin’) and wine for supper, along with Maryel’s foccaccia to mop up the juice and half a bottle of Rosso del Veronese.

I gotta figure out a way of recording my thoughts while I’m on the road. I had a lot of great ideas while driving but I forgot most of them.

PS. Pictures coming later as I forgot the stupid wire to connect the camera to the ‘puter in the truck & I don’t feel like going out again. I am inputting this on Friday night in a hotel room in Fort Saint John, BC.

Departure day

12 November 2009
Truck and camper

Truck and camper in Whitehorse

Today I leave. Cloudy with a chance of snow flurries and in Whitehorse, -1 degrees Celsius. We got a skiff of snow yesterday. Along the way today, Teslin should be cloudy with chance of flurries period, 0 degrees and -2 and a chance of flurries  in Watson Lake.  Destination planned for tonight is the Liard Hot Springs (BC Provincial Parks web site). Tomorrow, Dawson Creek or Prince George depending on road conditions and how I feel. No internet access along the way, so I might post again on Friday night.

Love and kisses to all.

More delays

9 November 2009

Well, I didn’t leave today. I spent all of Saturday and Sunday morning with David Ashley doing electrical work on the camper: wiring a new battery in the camper charged from the truck, installing  inverter so I can use 120Volt stuff. I still have to fix the connection to the camper clearance lights, but that involves going under the truck and neither David nor I relished the thought of lying in the snow.

This morning (Monday), Del Young came over & fixed the propane heater in the camper so I don’t freeze to death at night on the way south or up high in the Andes. The pilot flame was very weak and difficult to light. Del took the heater apart and reamed out the pilot with a very thin reamer. Works great now.  Last time we needed it while moose hunting, Malcolm & I could not get it going, but we did use the stove burners to generate a bit of heat.

Lots of shopping and running around this afternoon: groceries, coffee, maple syrup, truck registration, health insurance (cheap @ $128 for 3 months), travellers’ cheques, Crappy Tire yet again, steering wheel lock & a padlock & good security advice from Eamonn Campbell at Locksmith Services, etc.

I just installed Skype on our computers (my ID is luigi.zanasi if you’re interested).

A bunch more stuff left to do: installing shelves in the camper, finish cleaning up the camper & the truck, getting the bolts on the winch tack welded so it can’t be easily stolen,  and making sure I have everything I need to take. Tagliatelle with ragu’ tonight, the last for a while, I guess.

Maybe I won’t leave tomorrow; well, not before the afternoon anyway.

Delay in departure

6 November 2009

I realized that i have to renew the registration on my truck as it expires November 30. Fuck hostie porca puttana!!!! I can’t leave until Monday instead of Sunday as I was hoping. Tomorrow, David Ashley is going to help me with the electrical stuff on my camper & truck so I can recharge my laptop, shaver & keep my koolatron fridge going. Today, I got a few tools at Crappy Tire, like a cheap drill and drill & screwdriver bits, and a new propane tank so I can use the old one on the camper.

Getting ready slowly

5 November 2009

Today,  I went to the GM dealership for some advice on what parts to take: oil filters, gas filters, air filter, water pump, belt. I also got the biggest deep-cycle battery they had at NAPA.

Male menopause

3 November 2009

A number of my friends got motorcycles, other dumped their long term spouse for young bimbos. But I am not suicidal, so I decided to drive to Chile and Argentina from Whitehorse, Yukon. I am driving on my old 1990 Chevrolet 3/4 ton 4X4 pickup with a winch, and an old Okanagan 8-foot camper that probably dates back to the 1970s.  The plan is to meet my friend Giuliano to celebrate New Year’s in Patagonia.

I still have a bunch of stuff to do before I leave, like bottle the wine so Marilyn can drown her sorrow at my absence, some electrical work in the camper, etc.   So far I have replace the windshield (it had the usual Yukon cracks), tuned up the vehicle, got Wade Stephenson at Country Lane Auto to replace the uncomfortable bench seat with bucket seats, got a portable shitter for the camper, etc.