Ragged Ass Road, Dog Island Film Festival, and Other Interesting Things About Life in Yellowknife

1. I now have friends who live on Ragged Ass Road.  Yes, that really is a street name in Yellowknife!   The old part of Yellowknife, (Old Town, in local parlance), near the houseboat community, is a very eclectic area.  At one time it was the only part of town, and housed numerous commercial buildings and residences.  Things like airline offices, the government ferry dock (back in those days before road access), banks and bars and stores, lawyers and miners and surveyors and the like.  That legacy remains, and today Old Town is a random, jumbled assortment of homes with some interesting businesses interspersed.  (It seems nothing is really prosaic in this part of the country – one of the things I love about it.)  There are three float plane companies, complete with their numerous planes, taking off and landing at all hours of the day, Weaver and Devore, (at the corner of Weaver and Devore Streets), the most amazing general store and outfitter ever,  the famous Bullocks Fish and Chips restaurant, the fur store, assorted mechanical and artisan shops, falling down dwellings and high end, custom architectural homes that wouldn’t be out of place in Barcelona, next to Gaudi’s buildings.  Old town is a small out thrusting into the lake, so there is lots of waterfront, mostly undeveloped marshland.  The roads are decided odd, being irregular, often narrow, one way, and mostly unpaved.  (They paved one the other day and I thought ‘there goes the neighbourhood’.)  One such road is Ragged Ass Road.  You can buy your own street sign if you want.  (They started to sell them after people kept stealing the originals.)

The homes are closely crowded together, in random ways  The yards are small – not many lawns, as they are mostly under snow in any case, and if they aren’t, there is so much to see and do that it would be a shame to stay home and mow! There are some cool gardens however.  The houses are generally old, small and quirky, with bright colors.  There is probably not a single carport or garage in all of old town.

2.  We’ve just been to the Dog Island Film Festival.  Dog Island is a small island, or large rock, near our house.  I expect it’s so named because one of the houseboats has a bridge to it for the pleasure of the dogs.  And one Friday night in August, as its starting to get dark in the evenings, you can go to the Dog Island Film Festival.  If you have a canoe, that is.  The projectionist sits at a picnic table on a small rock, and projects onto a giant screen mounted onto a houseboat.  The audience, some 100 people at least, come in canoes, and they gather in the water in front of the screen and raft up together, creating a gently bobbing mass of people, sort of like an aquatic traffic jam.  This works pretty well but there is some movement of the boats in the water, a gentle and slow floating back and forth, a strangely beautiful boat ballet, when some on the edges float out slowly and are eventually brought back in to the fold.  A congo line of sorts, where everyone is connected.   The boats are loaded with kids and adults, with blankets and pillows, life jackets and toques.  Admission is free, as is the popcorn.   We watched NFB and local films, all with a northern twist, all the while gently bobbing. I confess it made me slightly seasick, but I put that down to the legacy of the storm and wind of a few days before, with its rough water.

3. I understand what it means when folks wave as they walk by.  While they are no doubt friendly folks, mostly they are just waving away the swarm of small bugs you can acquire walking down the street.

4.  I’ve been in a home here with an original Christopher Pratt painting.  Now, that was unexpected.  A light filled home graced with wood, air, space, modern furniture and amazing art.  One of the architectural delights I mentioned, with, possibly, the most beautiful view from a shower that I’ve yet seen.  What do you think?







5.  My blog has inspired someone!  Being in YK has allowed me to meet Barbara, a friend of a friend who I’ve long wanted to meet. Its been a great pleasure to get to know her – she is thoughtful, funny, articulate and very interesting.  After a trip to Houseboat 28, and reading my blog, she says she was inspired to find a way to bring more wilderness into her life.  So she conceived of the camping project, which is her plan camp out once a week for an entire year.   Isn’t that a fantastic idea?  I might have to try it myself sometime.   As Barbara says, what is camping really?   Barbara has some interesting ideas about this, and will try them all out this year.  She is currently on about week ten.  I’m encouraging her to write a blog too, mostly because I want to hear about them all.  I’m hoping I may even get a chance to spend one or two nights out with her on her camping trips, as she comes north from time to time and will need to do a couple of trips here over the winter.  This might just be the perfect opportunity to sleep in an igloo.!

Reader, I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been inspired to make any changes in your life as a result of this blog.

6.  Forget domineering mother-in-laws, or an evil boss.  My life is now dominated by the wind.  Wind direction and speed is becoming increasingly important.  Apparently its been a more than usually windy summer, and September is known to be windy in any case.    Wind direction makes a big different to how much our house bounces around, and how big the waves get.  (The big waves come with the southern winds, as there isn’t much between us and 300 km of open Great Slave Lake.)  And, it turns out there are 365 ways to launch a boat from the house in the wind – every direction calls for a different strategy.  One needs to pay attention all the time.

But its not uncommon to have winds of 20 km/hr, and probably once a week we get winds of 50 km/hr.  I paddled off to work the other day in my kayak, straight into a 20 km/hr wind and had a hard time making headway.  It made me realize that I won’t actually be able to paddle into wind that is much more than that.  You may be happy to know, (Mary, Grandma) that my good friend has offered me a house key for any late nights I find I can’t make it home after work.  I must admit, it is a comfort to have this option.

I’ve never really liked wind.  I’ve always found it quite unsettling, and associated with a nagging, persistent feeling of impending disaster.  ( and if I was writing fiction, that would be true.)  Most unsettling, especially when I’m out in the wilderness, in a canoe or tent, or on skis in the mountains.  But I’m becoming accustomed to it, and much less affected.  I’d still rather take any day a warm, calm and splendiferous fall day, where the still leaves of the birches glow with their own golden light, over a cloudy, windy, cold and downright unfriendly fall day, ( and armed with the knowledge that I haven’t seen anything yet) but at the end of the day, I like that wind too.  I like the fact that I’m not in charge, that I am at the mercy of the elements, that I must bend my life to them, that patient submission and acceptance is the only force greater.  I like that I live in a world where the wind matters, where I must pay attention to things like wind and waves and light.  One can’t help but to feel fully alive at such times, and in this complicated world, that is a blessing and a gift.

About Tandi

I love my morning coffee, reading, the wilderness, paddling, poetry, my Spanish husband, and being a doctor. I also love writing my blog, and reading yours.
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1 Response to Ragged Ass Road, Dog Island Film Festival, and Other Interesting Things About Life in Yellowknife

  1. Penny and Bob says:

    We love your blog Tandi and wait anxiously for the next installment. Hope to see you this trip south.
    Love Bob and Penny

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