Oops, forgot to hit Publish last night.
From last night’s writing session;
It was our second day in Dawson city. We had moved from one of the apartment-style rooms to the renovated Gold Rush cabin. I loved the cabin, with its odd mix of old rustic and new modern. I liked to put one splayed hand against an exposed log on the wall, and the other against the fridge or TV and pretend that I could feel the years channelling through me, that i could send a vision of the room in the luxurious now to its former occupant in a wild and rough past.
We had spent the day exploring Dawson City. We had taken the ferry back across the river and looked around the ship graveyard, where most of the old steamships that plied the Klondike river had been pulled to shore and left to disintegrate. In any other place, in any other national park, there would have been an interpretation centre, and paths with signs to tell you the history of each one. Not here. The first person we spoke to at the Dawson City visitors centre didn’t even know about it and had to go ask. An older woman managed to find a much-photocopied hand drawn map and gave us the instructions to “take the ferry to the campground, walk all the way through it and follow the path”. The path proved so long and so overgrown that we began to wonder if perhaps we’d missed something when the prow of a paddle wheeler, rusted and covered with moss, appeared from undergrowth.
We poked around the wrecks for an hour or so. We only found 5 of the 6 or 7 before the drizzle prevented us for delving too deep into the thick underbrush. we went back to town and had lunch in former bordello. What is it about former bordellos that lend themselves to becoming restaurants? We’d seen the same thing in Skagway and Haines. Bars, maybe, but a restaurant?
But I digress.
We tried to avoid the bus groups taking tours of old part of town, and found ourselves walking in and out of the residential areas as we wandered up and down the dirt roads. We found the liquor store and a grocery store in our travels and decided to make dinner in the cabin than eat out yet again. We made it back to the cabin in time to watch the opening of the Beijing Olympic games before grilling our steaks. We sat on the porch overlooking the Klondike, and as we ate we talked about what it must have been like a mere hundred years before.
“just think” Keith said. “there must have been a time at this very spot with someone eating steak and beans outside. We could be like an echo”.
“Yeah, an echo with propane, a four piece bath and hot and cold water on demand.”
I’d seen photos during the day that stripped away any of the period’s romance. Would we even have been among the ones that survived it?
After dinner, I headed to Diamond-toothed Gerties, a gambling hall at the north end of town. Every vacation, I pick someplace, state I want to fill in the blank here, and make that a goal of sorts for the trip.
On this trip I had decided I wanted to go to Diamond toothed gerties, play some poker and add another poker chip to my collection.
The gambling hall itself wasn’t really what I expected; from the pictures I’d seen of the stage where they put on old dance hall shows and of the casino floor, I was expecting it to look like more of a period building on the outside, as had the other buildings we’d looked at during the day. Instead, it had the look of a small town hockey arena or community centre, with white painted cinder blocks and siding.
I’d just made it through the external door into a small foyer and was beginning to greet the two employees inside when the power went out. Immediately, thin back up lights came on, and my way into the casino was blocked by the larger man, the one in the period outfit with Gerties embroidered on the pocket.
“sorry ma’am, I can’t let you in while the power’s out.”
Over his shoulder, i could see dealers quickly cover and lock the chips and cash boxes. Their movements were smooth and practised, and the casino patrons seemed to be taking it all in stride. I wondered how often it happened.
“No, I understand” I told him. “I know this is a stupid question, but any idea how long?”
“it’s been going off periodically all day. Give it a few minutes.”
I walked back outside and past a group of men, standing by a side door, smoking and listening to one guy complain about a bad beat in the last poker hand. I hid a smile as I past and wondered if the same rule applied where you had to pay your listeners a buck after forcing them to hear your bad beat story, your poker tale of woe.
I walked around a few blocks, and took some pictures of abandoned and decaying buildings and of a very friendly cat that twined itself around my ankles but soon ran off in the direction of a woman calling “blackie, dinner!”
I headed back to the casino but could see that the power was still off. The desire to complete my goal of playing some poker in a Gold Rush town was still there, but it was starting to wane. The combination of waiting around outside in the damp and knowing that I had beer in the fridge and bubble bath for the cabin’s claw foot tub won out over standing around, waiting.
It will give me a reason to come back, I thought as I abandoned the goal I’d had in mind for months and headed back for the triumvirate of beer, book and bubble bath.
The streets were deserted on the walk back, even by the ferry landing that had been busy all day. I found it kind of surprising until I looked at my watch to find that it was well past 10. The light in the land of the midnight sun made it seem like much earlier.
I was close to the cabin when my attention was caught by two ravens on a street light above me. The one on the left had a large piece of food firmly gripped in its beak, and the one on the right was being very vocal. I had to anthropomorphize, but there seemed to be something very questioning about the raven’s gurglings and caws. As I stood watching and listening, I realized that there was a pattern, there were three distinctive calls repeated over and over.
Watcha got? Where’d ya get it? Whatcha gonna do with it?
The raven with the food stared straight ahead, ignoring the other. This went on for a quite a while and I was just about to give up and continue down the street when the raven on the left suddenly ruffled its feathers and turned to caw at his neighbour, and so dropping the food it had had in its beak. The vocal raven immediately launched off the street light, swooped down to grab the food and flapped off over the trees. I couldn’t help but laugh at the the look the remaining raven gave to its now departing companion, earning me a blink from a beady eye and a rough gurgle in my direction before it flew off in a different direction.
I was still smiling about it later as I lowered myself into a bubble filled antique claw foot tub in a renovated Gold Rush cabin.