Checking out Whitehorse
A Summer 2015 Yukon Prospector Web Extra
What self-respecting Yukon-wannabe would I be if I didn’t spend at least a little time living in Whitehorse?
It’s a hell of a little town. With an odd dynamic. On the one hand, it’s small enough that you’ll start bumping into people you’ve met pretty early. But on the other, there’s so many transients that you’ll go your whole life without seeing many people again. This leads to a relaxed and welcoming disposition for many. At least the ones in the bars, when you’re buying drinks.
My first night started with a goat viewing, so I could pretend that I’m a respectable journalist who does respectable things. A pattern I continued through my week. Alternating between real reporting and some crackpot anthropology. After the goats, musicians, museums and getting high with kids, I’d head out to a local pub hoping to find the characters behind Whitehorse. My first stop was The Dirty Northern—lovingly referred to as “The Dirty” by locals. It would be my second-home for the next few days, thanks to a schoolboy crush I developed for one of the waitresses.
Standing around out front were a few guys. Wanting to make some new friends, I began the ritual chit-chat. With a few miners, as it turns out. One man, large and round with a few days of black stubble and a French accent started talking to me about Inuvik, where he worked. He described the ice road as a must-see feature of Canada. And I promised to make the ungodly trek up there.
Another of the miners, Nathan, hopped around with nervous energy emphatically agreeing with the first man. “You have got to check it out,” he said. Nathan told me all about ice. He’s mined on ice. He says the only ice to trust is clear ice. You have to count double if the ice you’re on is cloudy according to Nathan.
I nodded along, until a break allowed me to head in and quench my thirst.
Through the narrow front door sat around 20 people, waited on by a few gorgeous servers. One, short and brunette with gorgeous blue eyes, immediately set my heart a-pumpin.
As things go, I started being foolish with my money in an effort to make some fast friends. Drinks were had and stories were swapped. An English guy named Oliver, with long blond rocker hair, got in on the conversation. As well as a geologist named Jon, who was heading out with Nathan the next day.
Now I’d heard earlier that there was something called the Ginger Jam Session at The Boiler Room, and when I mentioned this the three men got very excited.
Oliver pulled out a guitar from his car, and Jon reach into his backpack to reveal a drum. It seems we had a makeshift band ready to go. So we grabbed a cab and headed across town.
Nestled under the Yukon Inn, the Boiler Room has some very divvy characteristics. It’s the kind of place you’d picture a metal-screen in front of the stage. It could have been an alt-location for a certain Patrick Swayze movie.
But the place has some sort of musical magical mojo going on. When we arrived things were already getting lively. The house band, was rocking out blues and funk riffs, while people tapped along. A couple guys got up for dance in the neons, and people cheered.
After they were done, another few guys jumped up and started rocking Pantera and Alice in Chains type fare. Sometimes the drummer would switch out, sometimes a new guy or girl would jump on the bass. It was wild, I’d never seen so many people with musical talent just laying around. And most of them sounded spot on. From what I hear the guys I came with put on a terrific show. I was outside fraternizing at the time, but they all got much praise from the people I spoke with.
The rest of my nights were much like the first.
Wednesday, I went and checked out The Midnight Sons band, once again at The Dirty. They rocked the house. After I was done with “work” I spent the rest of the night chatting with Oliver before heading to 202 Bar for Karaoke, hoping I could chat more with said waitress, who said she’d be there.
Thursday, a fine band with Latin influences played at The Dirty. I know every staff members name by now, and it felt like a cheers episode when I walked in after covering the museum event.
I started chatting with two American girls. They were on their way to a biking camp for rich people, and were looking to let off some steam. The three of us managed to get the entire bar dancing for the last few songs. After the band was done they told us to head to the Boiler Room as they were going to play some more. And being the good-time fella that I am I indulged them.
Once again with Oliver, as luck would have it. Who has also been making his home at the local bars, hoping to find some gigs for his one man guitar and vocals act.
As luck would have it, that night he made closer friends with the house band. He’ll be hosting the Ginger Jam next Thursday.
Whitehorse is a welcoming sort of place. A week spent at the bars will run you into some interesting people. Some you’ll see again, and some you won’t, ever. But everyone seems to recognize this. They know that most are there for a good time, not a long time. The hellos are easier, the chit-chat comes unforced. But after five days there, I was ready to get back on the road.
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