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The perils of long-term parking

23 Nov

On Monday, Michael had to fly to Ontario. He had to be at the airport very, very early, so even though we live close to the airport, he took the car down and saved his sleep-deprived self a few minutes and a very cold, very windy walk.

That morning, the winter temps in Whitehorse had dropped down to below -30°C (that’s -22°F for you dark ages, uh, old-fashioned folk!) and I didn’t relish the idea of walking down to the airport and bringing the car back, especially after spending the entire morning running from bank appointment to hardware store to big box store and then back to the bank because the advisor had made an error.

Next day, the temperatures weren’t any better, plus the dog injured his knee, plus it was my birthday, plus the piano tuner came to work on my new piano (SQUEEEE!!!! DID I MENTION I HAVE A NEW PIANO?!?!), plus I had a rehearsal, and anyway, to make a long story short, I didn’t get the car.

Parking rates at the Whitehorse airport are very cheap, as you might deduce from my laissez-faire attitude.

But also, our car generally doesn’t LIKE to start at 30 below. And it’s not really a good idea to try to start a car with such a cold battery. One ought to have it plugged in for a couple of hours. Which you can’t do at the airport.

Michael flew home today. And it warmed up to +1°C. (That’s just above melting.) So I finally walked down to the airport to get the darned car. Actually, I walked down twice because I was almost there the first time when I realized I hadn’t brought along my credit card with which to pay the parking fee.

As I approached the area where Michael had told me he’d parked the car it hit me that not only had we had a week of 30-below weather, we’d also had a huge dump of snow. And yesterday was an incredibly windy day, with snow drifting across the highways and building up on inanimate objects.

Do you see where this is going?


Well, the photo is not that dramatic, I suppose, but there is a snow drift a good 20 inches deep there. (Oh, there I go using Imperial measurements. Canadians are nothing if not inconsistent with measuring conventions.)

Thank goodness we always keep a small shovel in the back of the car. I spent a good 10 minutes tunnelling my way through that drift so I could get the car out. My anticipated 25-minute errand to get the car turned into an hour-long saga.

But at least parking there all week only added up to a whopping $9.00.

Camera magic

10 Jun

One occupation I never thought I would take on in my life is that of model. To me, “model” has always meant someone taller than me, thinner than me, and, now that I’m thirty-three, likely younger than me, too.

So it came as some surprise when I was asked to model for a photo shoot earlier this month.

The photographer was Christian Kuntz. I first met him last year when I hired him to take some professional promo shots that I could use for business cards, posters, website, and so on. I had seen a lot of his portrait work on Facebook and I was very impressed with his use of lighting (even as a photography dunce, I could tell it was magic) and the element of fun in so many of his shots.

We met for coffee and I found out that he comes from Strasbourg, France. My Oma grew up about a two-hour drive away, in Haguenau. Both cities are situated in that fascinating region of France known as Alsace, which changed hands between the French and the Germans four times in the 75 years before the end of WWII. Long story short, I was delighted to discover this common ground, and to learn that Christian speaks both French and German, alongside the attractively French-accented English we ladies find so charming.

I hired Christian again earlier this year to shoot photos when I put together the Swing Street Band. I built 1940s-style bandstands for our 7-piece band, and did up my hair in 1940s-style victory rolls. It was too much fun not to document.

That’s just a small sampling of the over 200 photos I got from the event.

It was after that shoot that Christian surprised me by asking me to model for him. His photographic specialty is portraits and headshots, and he’s developed a signature style that you might call glamour or classic Hollywood. He wanted to try some studio shots of me with the 1940s look.

I discovered that some of the most beautiful poses feel completely unnatural, and I was a wee bit stiff and sore the next day. Also that “Hollywood eyes” come from kind of glazing over one’s field of vision. It’s a bizarre thing, but you can’t argue with the results. They say the camera adds at least 10 pounds, but Christian’s magic lighting seems to have done the opposite and made me thinner than I see myself.

Christian came and saw the Frantic Follies earlier this week, and of course he had his camera with him. I have never met a photographer more passionate about his work. I just can’t wait to see what kind of magic he conjured out of the lights and colours of the show!

You can check out Christian’s website here, and his Facebook fan page here.

Horseshoe nails

21 Apr

On the way from the playground back to my house to make supper tonight, I stop to talk to Tom over the fence.

“We’re taking that big pine tree down this summer,” he tells me. It’s impressively tall, towering at least 20 or 30 feet above the height of his bungalow. The roots are starting to threaten the basement, and the ground beneath the tree moves when the wind blows. It stands barely two feet from the wall of the house, and I can understand why it’s time for the tree to go.

“It’s full of horseshoe nails,” he adds.

“The tree is?” I ask in astonishment.

“Yes,” he says matter-of-factly, an amused smile twitching his moustache.

Our neighbourhood is 70 years old. In days gone by, before there was a playground behind Tom’s house, there was a corral, with dozens, if not hundreds of horses. The Jocko Brothers (I think he said) used the horses to move freight. In fact, that path we use almost daily in the summer to run down to Paddy’s Pond is a horse trail, one of the trails they used to take freight out to Fish Lake and beyond.

With so many horses around, it was inevitable that some horse would lose a shoe. Horseshoe nails were cheap, and they were sharp.  So the men who worked there would just stick a bunch into whatever was around — a nearby tree, for example — so there would always be some nails handy for reshoeing a horse.

Over the years, the unused nails were simply absorbed into the tree as it grew, wrapping its woody flesh around intruding metal.

I stared at the tree some more. Imagine that tree, holding 70-year-old nails. That’s a piece of living history right there.

For a little while longer, anyway.

Julie London in Whitehorse

1 Nov

Jazz in the Hall, November 3, 2011

Tonight is the final rehearsal for the concert I’m giving at the Old Fire Hall on Thursday.  I am thrilled and excited and totally battling butterflies.

Once a month from September to May, Jazz Yukon holds “Jazz in the Hall”.  It starts with an “educational vignette” by Steve Gedrose (who used to have a jazz show on CBC radio), then there’s a 45-minute set by a professional local jazz group.  Then there’s a jazz jam to close off the night.  This month, I’m the featured act.

The butterflies are pretty significant because not only am I being billed as The Professional Act of the month, but the whole concert is going to be recorded and videotaped.  That ups the ante right there.  I’m trying not to think about it too much, though, and just focus on have a great live gig.

Fortunately, I have a fantastic band to back me up.  Dave Haddock on guitar, Anne Turner on upright bass, and Ken Searcy on drums, are an ah-MAZE-ing rhythm section.  Plus we’ll have Colleen McCarthy for a trombone solo on one tune and Lisa Preto on flute for another tune.

I am singing all Julie London tunes; she’s the one who first recorded “Cry Me a River”, which I recorded as a demo this past summer.  If you Google her, you’ll find YouTube videos, of course, and lots of pictures of her in all sorts of fabulous gowns.  I wish I could have a costume change between each song!

So, if you’re in Whitehorse, come on out to a great night of jazz.  If you’re not in Whitehorse, send some good vibes my way on Thursday night, would ya?

Fawn at Arts in the Park 2011

7 Jun

Arts in the Park, June 14, 2001, LePage Park, noon to 1. Featuring Fawn Fritzen with Marg Tatam on piano.  Hot vocal jazz in the summer sun.

Here’s one of the projects that is keeping me busy this month: rehearsing for a one-hour set at Arts in the Park next week.

Please keep your fingers crossed for good weather, as this is an open-air concert!  The show will go on, though, come rain or come shine.

Spread the word!  And if you’re in Whitehorse, I would love to see you there.

Where in the world is Fawn?

16 Aug

My Oma berated me for neglecting my bloggy duties.  Oops!  I have been dropping that ball quite a bit this summer, haven’t I?

Highlights for the last few weeks:

  • Visiting with Gran and Buddy (Michael’s parents)
  • Playing tourist in our own town by visiting the Beringia Centre, the S.S. Klondike (as documented by Michael), and the Takhini Hotsprings
  • Sailing on Atlin Lake (check out Michael’s picture-ful posts of Day 1, Day 2, Day 2 continued, Day 3, and Day 4)
  • Letting Jade ride our neighbour’s horse, which she took to like a duck to water.  Everyone exclaimed that she was so comfortable on Rocky, it was clear she is destined to be a rider.  I wish I weren’t so darned allergic to them.  (Horses, that is, not riders.)
  • Lots of musical activity, including playing at Arts in the Park twice.  The second time at Arts in the Park I was part of the finale show, which was broadcast on CBC radio, which was exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
  • Having a girlie morning with my mother-in-law getting pedicures
  • Trying to mentally prepare myself for returning to work which starts… tomorrow!  Ack!

As you can see, Michael has been blogging, and I have not.  However, somebody has to do the dishes.  Plus Marian and I were too busy visiting with each other while Michael and his dad worked away on their respective computers.

I had to take Gran and Buddy to the airport today after what seemed like and all-too-short visit.  (I must insert here that I completely lucked out when it comes to in-laws.  I love Michael’s family!)  They were flying out on the very aircraft that brought up four more visiting family members: my aunt, uncle, and two cousins from Germany.

I am so happy that these guys have tacked on a few extra days to their three-week holiday in the US of A just to visit me.  I also find myself at a loss to explain to them why I love living here.  They’re bewildered as to why so many Germans come to the Yukon every summer and wonder what the heck there is to do around here, anyway.  How can anyone stand to live so far away from everything?  (Just what exactly is the “everything” that is missing?)

Of course, the stuff that you do when you live here is not necessarily the same as the stuff that you do when you are a tourist, and the answers get all jumbled up in my mind.  But either way, I truly cannot comprehend the idea of being bored in Whitehorse.  I know I’m a bit of a Debbie Domestic these days, what with cooking, sewing, dog-walking, child-rearing, and some flirtations with gardening, and that might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  But, the music scene here is amazing.  Okay, not everyone loves jazz as I do, but there’s also folk, rock, country, classical, and hip-hop, just to name a few.  We have belly-dancing.  We have breakdancing.  We have roller derby.  We have a kick-ass recreation centre with swimming, yoga, soccer, hockey, skating, volleyball, and Lord knows what else.  It’s true that we don’t have a Princess of Wales Theatre, but there is theatre and there is film, with some pretty awesome cutting-edge stuff happening.  We have artists and artisans galore.  And history.  And culture.  And community.  (Okay, so that’s not something to do, per se, but I’m reeling myself in from a full-on lecture here.  And I haven’t even mentioned the hiking or other “bush” activities.)

Anyway, I’ve got two days to show them what the Germans, Austrians, Swiss, and Japanese flock here to see every summer.  Just a whiff, if not a taste, of Yukon life.  In between some good old-fashioned visiting, of course.

Oh, right, and that going-back-to-work thing.

Northern lights

7 Mar
Photo by Bjørnar G Hansen, stolen from Tromsø – the Gateway to the Arctic

I don’t remember the first time I saw aurora borealis.  In fact, it seems that my memories of specific aurora displays are pretty sketchy as a rule.  What I do remember is how they make me feel. 

I remember seeing them, half a lifetime ago, walking to Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit for an evening music class.  The lights were so bright and active I had to stop and watch, even if it made me late.  It was quiet around me, not a soul to be seen, and I was sure I could hear a faraway tinkling and crackling.  It was just me and the sky and the frosty air and it was absolutely magical.

Far and away the best northern lights I ever saw was on a 9-hour drive that Michael and I took, travelling from Yellowknife back to our home in Fort Liard.  It was early November, I think, and chilly, but the lights were so spectacular we had to stop driving and get out, resting against the car, snuggled together for warmth.  The aurora rippled across the sky faster than sweeping searchlights, and they burned not only green, but scarlet, too.  It was awesome in the truest and most reverent sense of the word.

Since moving to Whitehorse, the only time I remember seeing northern lights worth any mention was during a drive home from Atlin back when I was pregnant with Jade.  Our friend Lara was visiting and we’d spent the day hiking Monarch Mountain and exploring Atlin.  On the way home we were forced to stop driving because the aurora were so distracting, we simply had to pause and enjoy them.  I was so pleased that Lara had the opportunity to see such a quintessentially northern phenomenon during her visit, and I was delighted to be sharing it with her.

Aurora borealis, we are told, are caused by “solar wind”, which evidently has an eleven-year cycle.  These past few years have coincided with a low point in the cycle, so sightings of northern lights are less frequent and less spectacular.  That’s why last night, when someone posted on Facebook, “Quick! Go outside! Northern lights!” Michael and I sprang into our boots and scurried out into the night.

At first all we could see was a dim band of green low in the sky to the north, but it had been so long since I’d seen northern lights, I wanted to watch them for a while, even if they weren’t spectacular.  The dim ribbon slowly lifted higher, brightening as it ascended.  And then the rippling started.  At times streaks of pale green shot upward, reminding me of footlights in a theatre; at others, they would “wave” across the sky, like a diaphanous curtain blowing in a summer breeze.  The night sky was beautifully clear, with sparkling stars punctuating the darkness between the veils of northern lights.  I was caught up in their spell again, in the wonder and admiration and simple enjoyment of witnessing something beautiful.  Magic.