*Cymbals crash, man coughs uncomfortably, single baby begins sad-crying*
Okay, I’ll see myself out now!
*Cymbals crash, man coughs uncomfortably, single baby begins sad-crying*
Okay, I’ll see myself out now!
Both the loose – so loose – inspiration for these nails (the album cover art of the Basement Jaxx’s Where’s Your Head At?) and also a valid question for this blogger and nail artist: Where exactly WAS my head at, because this manicure is pretty terrible! Bad colours, cruddy brushwork, ugly lighting. And this was actually my second attempt at this design today; you should(n’t) have seen the first one. Eh, sometimes these things don’t work out, but a bit of practice never hurt (and I’m sorely out of practice; too much post-vacation reminiscing and not enough nail art-ing.) 😉
When we last left off, I was breaking promises left, right and centre regarding the eventual end to this epic tale of my two-day anniversary blitz trip to Walt Disney World. If you’re at all interested in catching up on the first four installments, in which I blab on endlessly about our resort, food, rides and Gaston’s Tavern, you can find those here, here, here and here.
But last we actually left off, we were discussing Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and how a late night run proved that maybe our stomachs just ain’t what they used to be. More on that in a bit.
But earlier on, following our not-so-nauseous afternoon run of Big Thunder, we swang it across to Fantasyland and hit up two sweeties, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, a cool 4D musical, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Pooh is an absolutely adorable attraction, a classic Disney dark ride, but holy cats, what an uncomfortable ride! You get into these honey pot carts that bob from side to side when the rain, rain, rain comes down, down, down in rushing, rising rivulets, and also sproing up and down when you go bouncing with Tigger, and I never stop feeling like I’m about to just slide off the seat, straight onto the floor. Pooh could stand a bit of grip tape.
“I don’t know what to do with my hands.” Mr. Finger Candy versus the Tomorrowland Speedway, these gas-guzzling little go-carts on rails. Thankfully, unlike Ricky Bobby, he kept his clothes on and didn’t dash about the track in his underpants screaming that he was on fire. Or at least he didn’t on this particular trip.
The People Mover! Also known as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, a magnet-powered Walt original. I semi-joke that you know you’ve gotten old(er) when you consider the People Mover a pretty great time. I don’t know, 10 seated minutes of amazing views, great breezes, cool park trivia, bit of air conditioning – that’s 40-year-old pay dirt right there.
An insincere thumbs-up for Astro Orbiter (eh, you go up, you go down, you go fast – it’s fine, but not worth the 25-minute lineup) and yours truly pretending to be that nagging cow Sarah from the Carousel of Progress (an entire rotating stage show filled with animatronic nightmare fuel, and a song that’s somehow more of an ear worm than It’s a Small World. Everybody sing it with me now, “‘Cause it’s a great! big! beautiful tomorrow! Shining at the end of every day!”)
In the midst of all this Tomorrowland fun we took a break to dash back to Liberty Square for another run through the Haunted Mansion, before doubling back to the future for target practice on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Buzz is a hoot, one of those shoot-the-target rides (also an excellent candidate for a FastPass, because its lineup is long, cramped and boring.) A super nice cast member (again, there is really no other variety) snapped this photo of us just outside the ride.
Ah, but inside, actually on the ride, the attraction snapped this photo of us mid-action. I call this one “The Gamer and the Goof.” This is admittedly not the best photo of either one of us, but this is what happens when you put a hardcore gamer on a shoot-the-target ride – intense concentration and laser-like focus. Or at least until your wife suddenly shouts, “This is where they take your picture, SMILE!” and you try to pretend like you’re not SEVERELY committed to ridding the scourge of Evil Emperor Zurg from the galaxy. All the same, he got something like 400,000 points his first run out and I got, oh, 9,600.
After conquering Buzz (or just sitting there making “Pew! Pew!” noises) we thought, “Hey, there’s an hour until the projection light show at Cinderella’s Castle. Let’s hop over to Pirates of the Caribbean for one final boat ride of the day.” Which would have made for some pretty tremendous timing had the ride not broken down, leaving us in semi-darkness for the next 40 minutes.
I say semi, because after 20 or so minutes of the pirates yo-ho, yo-ho-ing in their normal fashion, they turned the sound off, brought the lights up and then began resetting the pumps that push the boats along the tracks. It was very cool to see how much the water line dropped when the pumps were turned off – probably a good three inches. And the water’s only about two and a half feet deep to begin with! At one point I thought we were going to be evac’d off the ride; wondered how that was going to happen when we were all out floating in little boats. And through it all the pirates continued their revelry, albeit now in static silence. Being temporarily stuck on a ride may sound like a nightmare to you, but I loved this unexpected peek behind the Disney magic; it was practically its own attraction!
Following our misadventure in Adventure Land, which did indeed cause us to miss the projection light show, we hightailed it over to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to take advantage of the substantially decreased wait times during late night Extra Magic Hours (another perk that comes with Disney resort life – extra in-park, on-ride hours either before or after regular park open or close. Which is how you sometimes find yourself stumbling out of the Magic Kingdom at one in the morning!)
We snapped this photo in front of the Dwarfs the following morning when we realized we had forgotten to take one the night before. Two somewhat unenthused thumbs up for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, another super zippy roller coaster (this time with individually rocking seats) themed to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was fun, but nothing I’d wait in line any longer than 20 minutes to enjoy (which we did, while we watched the fireworks that now seem to be launched from about six different spots in the park, making for a very fulsome, awesome experience, no matter where you’re standing.)
After exiting the Mine Train, we jaunted on down to Space Mountain. Why not keep the roller coaster love flowing? Oh, because Space Mountain has never not been an exceedingly rough ride, and one in the pitch dark, no less. I was joking the other day that I don’t always enjoy putting up my Christmas tree every year because we have history, and my dad is the same way with Space Mountain – there’s a dark past there I think neither one wishes to acknowledge! My parents were – and are, even as they approach their 70s – super game for any and all theme park fun…so long as it doesn’t involve a roller coaster. Even then, my dad will still go on the zoomers like Big Thunder (but only after thoroughly checking to ensure that the ride absolutely, positively does not go upside down.) But Space Mountain has always been off the menu; she’s just too rough.
And after suffering through our own rough ride on Space Mountain, I’m not sure she’s on the menu for US any more either. Oof, I felt quite unwell as I exited the ride – barely spared a glance at the fun (and so appropriate) mock ad for SPF 3500 sunscreen bearing my screaming, on-ride likeness on some nearby screens (this is also why we have no photo of this attraction!) Mr. Finger Candy actually fared much worse, getting hit with a double dose of first motion sickness and then panic sickness when he thought he had lost his very expensive prescription sunglasses somewhere in the bowels of the ride. A couple of seconds of frantic casting-about in the bottom of his cart thankfully turned up the missing glasses, much to everyone’s relief, but the anxiety-ridden damage was done.
So what better time to ride one more roller coaster of the evening? And preferably one as far away as possible. So to the very back corner of the park for one last ride on Big Thunder! Which is the ride I spoke of before that just completely did us in. I’m a real arms-up kind of roller coaster enthusiast – I love that feeling of gravity pulling you out of your seat. It’s normally a very fun way to enjoy a roller coaster, but not this evening. Should have just enjoyed the stars and the scenery! We were both listing sideways as we made our way toward the front of the park.
But not listing so much that we didn’t stop by the Haunted Mansion for one last close-er-out ride of the night. Which was also maybe a mistake? You know you’ve overdone it when even a Doom Buggy’s slow, stately funeral march through the Mansion is setting you off. And that, my friends, is what you call theme park overload!
Which is what you might be feeling at this point in the tale, which…DRUMROLL, PLEASE!…is finally at an end. What a fun time! Such a fantastic experience, one I hope to recreate very soon. 🙂 And to everyone who was kind enough to like and comment on these posts with their own fun Disney experiences, thank you for coming by and sharing *your* Disney world with me. May we meet up in the parks someday!
And here we are, finally – “FINALLY!” they all cried – at the end of my Disney World travelogue (Editor’s note: Lies!) a tale that has taken longer to tell than it did to experience all that excitement and wonder in the first place. Ah, but half the joy (or at least a solid one-third of the joy) is in the storytelling after the fact – and there’s still tons of fun fuel in that particular tank. 🙂
So, baby baby, it’s ride time! Let’s get down to this thing. Day two was largely spoken for by our 13 rides through the Haunted Mansion. But on day one we worked it like the rent was due, or at least like we had 14 hours in the world’s most popular theme park – no time for dilly-dallying, we’re here to DISNEY! And here are the attractions we enjoyed, roughly in the order in which we experienced them.
A fairly hard and fast rule among my little flamly growing up was if your weirdo kid didn’t drag you on the Haunted Mansion as the first run of the day, then that inaugural ride had better well be Peter Pan’s Flight. A 1971 original (that has gone through precious few updates over the decades) Peter Pan’s Flight is a sweet, gentle lark; my mom always clapped with joy when we’d burst through the Darlings’ bedroom window and set sail over London. And my favourite part of the ride is technically not even part of the ride – just a little table set for teddy tea tucked in a tiny nook just outside the Darlings’ bedroom. I sighed with contentment when I glimpsed it after a 13 year hiatus.
The easy joke about It’s a Small World, another ’71 original, is that it’s insanity-inducing, although I’ve never found it 1/1000th as annoying as everyone says it is. And neither did Mr. Finger Candy, on his first It’s a Small World voyage – it was closed for refurbishments when we were last down on our honeymoon. He actually said he found it pretty tolerable. See, that’s what happens when you get old and you cherish each and every moment you can spend sitting on your butt in a theme park, even if you have to endure thousands of vaguely demonic-looking animatronic figurines singing the world’s most relentlessly cheerful song at you in 89 different languages in order to do so.
Out of focus? Or did I accidentally drink the It’s a Small World Water? No, definitely out of focus – I wasn’t arrested after tearing off all my clothes and declaring myself the Lizard Queen. 😉
Straight chillin’ in front of my dream home, the Haunted Mansion. And I got as close to actually living there this time as I have any other visit – 13 rides (actually 16 over two days) took a not-insubstantial amount of time. Gave me plenty of opportunity to choose a room, though, should the Mansion break down and, in the most likely of scenarios, I’m forced to live there until the end of time. It’s actually behind the last door on the left as you climb the hallway of M.C. Escher-esque infinity staircases.
I’m a Pirate, wikid! Pirates of the Caribbean is never not a good time, not even when the ride breaks down and you spend 35 minutes watching the pirates yo-ho, yo-ho in static silence. But more on that awesome experience in a bit. Otherwise, the day’s first ride on Pirates went off without a hitch. Unless you count the fact that Mr. Finger Candy did NOT buy that awesome tri-cornered hat, even though I begged him to because he’s wanted one his entire life. Hey, I shouldn’t be the only one fulfilling my childhood dreams here!
I really liked the new-ish Jack Sparrow update to the end of the ride, and I was pleased as punch to see that Disney has not yet removed The Redhead (as in “We wants the redhead!”) Pirates is long overdue for a pretty major tonal shift – the multiple references to physical and sexual violence (the pirates “wants” The Redhead because she’s the hottest piece being sold at auction) cast a perplexing, momentarily unwelcome pall across an otherwise goofily enjoyable ride. Anyhow, I was glad to get one last glimpse of The Redhead in her native, 1973 state before she and her auction-mates are rightfully retrofitted into a girl pirate gang. I can’t wait until they round up all the men and then sit around drunkenly speculating on their price per pound – “Shift yer cargo, dearie, show ’em your larboard side!” Squid pro roe, pirate dudes, it’s your time to be objectified for the next 40 or so years!
Journey of the Little Mermaid was a new ride for both of us, and oh, what fun! I’ve never been the biggest Little Mermaid fan (Prince Eric is a stone cold moron, easily the dumbest guy in the Disney canon) but I love, love, LOVED this attraction, classic Disney dark ride styles. The gigantic Under the Sea set piece was fantastic, and the even gigantic-er Ursula animatronic? Ca c’est encroyable! She’s mended all her ways, you know – repented, sympathized and made a switch. True? Yes.
I loved Journey of the Little Mermaid so much, I even liked the lineup, which winds below Ariel and Eric’s castle in a series of underwater caves at “low tide.” And my husband liked it so much, he…oh my. And it’s not even Hug a Merman Day! Well, I’ll try not to be too jealous, though they do make a pretty fetching couple.
Jungle River Cruise! And I have no cute on-ride photo from this attraction, because we were too busy guffawing like a couple of hyenas at the guide’s round-the-jungle boat trip of sad trombone jokes. I also guarantee you that on any given ride, we will be the only people laughing; nobody gets this ride! I also think it’s one of those ones that’s totally lost in language translation – not sure how much non-English speakers would get out of “Eating zebra would be like white meat, dark meat, white meat, dark meat…” jokes. My favourite bit, though, is when animatronic hippos attack the boat and the guide drives them off by leaning over the side and shouting things like, “I love you! I’m ready for a commitment! Could you possibly dress more like my mother?!” Heh. Also, who’s not laughing at THE BACKSIDE OF WATER? Everybody but us, that’s who.
We hit up Big Thunder Mountain, a zippy coaster, twice our first day, including one incredible end-of-night ride that’s remarkable both for being unbelievably gorgeous (what a sight to see the first stars of the night just begin to pop into existence over the fake buttes of Big Thunder as all of Disney lay glittering beneath us) and also for being the straw that totally broke these camels’ backs – hot on the heels of two other pretty intense coasters (the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain) this is the ride that did. us. in. Not so for the little girl who plowed into us as we exited the ride, bellowing, “Sorry, sorry, but I’m on a mission!” as she entered the lineup for her seventh straight run. I feel nauseous just typing that.
Right, so how much would you all hate me if I said it looks like I may have to split this final ride post into…two posts? Because – everybody sing it with me now! – IT’S THE STORY THAT NEVER ENDS! Really, by the time I finish up this tale, we’ll be due for another trip to Disney (this is an actual possibility; we are looking at another visit, and soon.) But this only encompasses about half of the rides we rode the first day, and there’s so much more to show and tell. So I hope to see you back here for more Disney fun, next time with the added bonus of a conclusion!
“They see me ridin’/my Buggy/Magic Kingdom ’cause I’m just a nerdy girl at Disney/just a nerdy girl at Disney/look at me, I’m a nerd at Disney!” No, not how that song goes? Huh, strange. 😉
Welcome, friends, to the third and penultimate installment of my is-it-ever-going-to-end? series on our recent anniversary trip to Disney World. Today we finally get down to the good stuff, the rides! If you’re at all interested in hearing me blather on about our stupendously gorgeous accommodations and the tasty nibbles we picked up whilst running the theme park gauntlet, you can find those posts here and here.
First, as detailed in this post, we rode the Haunted Mansion 13 times on our 13th wedding anniversary, which falls on Halloween. HUGE, crazy accomplishment, this – a lifetime bucket list item nicely checked off (one that’s been cooling its heels on my list since I was a wee, weird little lass of just two years old.) We actually rode the Mansion 16 times over two days. It’s my favourite spot on the planet; sounds
a bit a lot strange, but nestled in the dark in a jittering little Doom Buggy, passing the hall of endless staircases as the Ghost Host intones not-so-dire warnings about the restless spooks who inhabit the Mansion, I am complete. Giant goober alert here, but our last ride, I cried. It all felt very overwhelming. See, Disney nerd!
That was our second day at the Magic Kingdom. Thirteen runs through the Haunted Mansion ate up the majority of the day, but we did find time to squeeze in a couple of non-Mansion rides, in addition to a mid-day repast at Gaston’s Tavern. I wish the big tool himself had made an appearance; Gaston’s just the worst, and I love him for it. But this lady waits for no man, not even the super bulgy, dim bulb variety, and I had places to be, bucket lists to conquer! Next time, Gaston, next time. Maybe we’ll even sit in your chair together.
But our first day at the Magic Kingdom, we hit it HARD – 8 am to 11 pm, TAKE! NO! PRISONERS! You know, except for the 40 minutes or so we were held hostage on a broken-down Pirates of the Caribbean, but more on that (surprisingly fun adventure) in the next, final installment!
Our first day at the Magic Kingdom we banged out 17 rides. We also dropped in on a couple of stage shows, caught the midday parade, watched most of the evening’s fireworks display, shopped up and down Main Street, got stuck on Pirates for the better part of an hour AND made our inaugural visit to Gaston’s. So how did we cram all that fun into one day? Well, here’s a few tips:
1: Be as serious about your footwear AND care as Lieutenant Dan screaming into Forrest’s face about fresh socks. You won’t get anywhere if you’re hobbling around with sweaty, blistered tootsies, so plan ahead and pre-game your feet – comfy shoes (Vans for me, Chucks for the Mr.) and adhesive callous pads applied to known trouble areas kept us up and comfortably pounding the pavement from rope drop to park close.
2: Abandon any notion of sleep or peace or rest. That goes double for you lazy sods all crashed out in the middle of the day on the Hub grass. You’re at Disney – why are you napping?! Just come to terms with the fact that to experience all that Disney has to offer, you’re going to have to temporarily sacrifice the routines and comforts of home. We certainly did – I don’t know what else you call being up and on your feet from park open (8 am!) to close (11 pm the first day) each day. Bonkers? Yeah, that works!
3: Work those FastPasses. Disney hands out a large – but limited – number of jump-the-line passes every day for nearly every attraction in the park. You can book three FastPasses per attraction, per guest, per day; a particularly useful little perk for those rides with stubbornly long wait times (Peter Pan’s Flight, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) that hold fast throughout the day. And not everyone knows this, but after you’ve used your third and final FastPass of the day, you can then begin booking additional FastPasses, one at a time. And once you’ve used up that fourth FastPass, you can then book a fifth, and so on, until they’re shooing you out the front gates with brooms!
4: Most importantly, stay flexible. If you roll up to the Mine Train at 9 am to find it offline, with a two-plus hour lineup already snaking around the entirety of the ride, say, “Oh, bugger this, we’re not starting our first day in a friggin’ two-hour lineup!” (actual quote) and move on. With the exception of one 30-minute wait for the Mansion on Halloween, we never waited any longer than 15 or 20 minutes for any ride, and many of them were virtual walk-ons. But we maximized our ride time precisely because we were willing to move – as in move on to something with a slightly more manageable wait time. And invariably, we’d come back a short while later to find the wait time halved or better. This is also how we wound up walking at least seven miles our first day; we crisscrossed the park more times than I can count!
5: Also, in as much as you can, stay out of the sun, particularly if you are of pasty, Celtic-Canadian descent. I ended our first day at the Magic Kingdom with a chest redder than Sebastian the crab and Merida’s hair combined. Wear sunscreen. Buy some dorky matching hats, if you must (and we really did!)
Okay, so it would seem I didn’t actually get around to really talking about any of the rides this time, but I think I’ve given you a good overview of how we accomplished so very much in such a short amount of time (“Really dragging this out, ain’t you?” some of you may be thinking. And the answer is yes, YES, I AM! I had the very best time on this impromptu little trip, and I’m going to storytell it into the ground, yo.) Next time – the last time, though definitely not the last Disney time – we finally go ridin’!
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, it was a dark and stormy night. So dark and stormy, in fact, the power had gone out, and you had naught but a handful of scented three-wick candles with which to light your way. As you crept down the darkened hallway of the cabin in the woods along the picturesque shores of Crystal Lake that you and your randy teenage friends rented from the eerily helpful maintenance man back at the abandoned service station with all the weird pelts hanging outside, you caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of your eye. Whirling madly about, you brandished your glass jar of Pumpkin Cupcake Crunch, set to square off against any number of undead, masked killers with nothing but the three-wick in your hand and your own blazing moxie. Then, with a chuckle of embarrassed relief, you realized it was just your lucky Chucky Doll figurine – must have fallen off the shelf when that puzzle doodad covered in all the bizarre symbols you found in the basement behind the walled-up root cellar tipped over. Pressing a hand to your fluttering heart, you shook your head as you contemplated the massive, flammable waxcident that nearly was – heavens, THAT certainly could have been messy!
And then THAT’S when one of your friends came banging through the swinging door of the kitchen, catching you square in the back, throwing you forward and the candle up, and out, and then eventually down, where it exploded in a geyser of molten wax, covering everything in the livingroom with burnt orange pumpkin spice, including the creepy two-way mirror and the snarling wolf head affixed to the wall. Congratulations; now you’re really in a horror movie!
Oh, we’ve all been there, and not just waxies, but anyone who enjoys a hobby that occasionally errs towards the messy and dangerous (jest not, glitter glue burns are a real thing!) So this month, in honour of Halloween, we’re taking a look at our most monstrous pastime nightmares – the waxcidents and beauty blunders and crafting calamities that haunt our hobby dreams. What’s the worst hobby hazard you’ve ever suffered? And do you have any magical tips for cleaning Pumpkin Cupcake Crunch out of carpet fibers (or wolf fur)?
To put it bluntly, years ago, my husband and I did not exactly have our acts together. Both of our jobs were stressful and time consuming, and we each spent about three hours on public transportation every day simply trying to get to and from our jobs. By the time we’d straggle in the door in the evenings, there was barely anything left in the tank with regards to socialization or non-cheese-based nutrition or basic maintenance of our home. We were just beat, and it was really starting to show itself, not just in our expanding waistlines and Netflix backlog, but around our apartment, which was beginning to take on the air of an 850 square foot, dust-covered storage space. We “lost” one of the cats one day; turns out she was just napping under some abandoned construction materials.
All that to say I wasn’t particularly surprised the day my husband, carrying a fully-liquid glass jar of some pumpkin-based scented candle from the livingroom to the front door, tripped over the detritus of our lives, hurling the entirety of the candle directly into the coat closet doors, where it rapidly solidified into a burnt orange waterfall stretched out over about two and a half vertical feet. Sweet.
Okay, so rust-coloured pumpkin shit happens, that’s life. But as some sort of testament to our “Everything’s crap; I’m out!” approach to life, we NEVER cleaned it up. Not then, in the moments after the waxcident, and certainly not over the next TWO YEARS. So every person who came to our door – the only way in and out of our home – got a gigantic eyeful of what looked like burnt orange vomit running down our cupboard doors. Our friends are such kind people; they never uttered a peep about their neglectful friends. We eventually just replaced the doors altogether (you’ll also be glad to know we ditched a number of the bad and stressful habits that were dragging us down, and life is – knock on wood – much calmer now. Cleaner, too.) But, you know, as is always the case, that friggin’ candle mess smelled amazing for YEARS. Talk about throwing power (and I don’t just mean my husband’s overhand lob!)
Today, in honour of the now-upon-us haunting season, I’m finally breaking into this clamshell of The Rumpkin, a lavender-pumpkin blend from Moo Scents. I’ve been saving this sweet and delicious herb and spice blend for ages now because of the spooky label, with that adorable little witch alighting off the cupola roof. Also because Moo Scents is regrettably no longer in business, so when she’s done, she’s done. What a great scent, though. Pumpkin and lavender, who knew?
If you have a story to share about the worst hobby-related catastrophe you’ve ever suffered, please leave a cringe-worthy comment in the section below! And we hope you’ll visit these Band of Bloggers blogs and help support the blogger community.
Amanda at Thrifty Polished
Jaybird at The Candle Enthusiast
Julie at The Redolent Mermaid
Lauren at LoloLovesScents
Liz at Furianne
Sandra – me! – at Finger Candy
If you are a blogger and would like to join us for our monthly Band of Bloggers posts, please feel free to contact us.
Welcome back to the September Band of Bloggers! It’s that time of year again. School is starting back up. Trees are starting to turn. North America is recovering from the apocalypse brought on by the eclipse. Wait, what?
The eclipse that visited most of the United States on August 21st has been described as a once in a lifetime experience. The next eclipse to cover the US from coast to coast will not come until 2045.
That brings us to our question this month. What is your once in a lifetime experience?
Fifteen or so years ago (so another lifetime; in the case of my friends with children, many lifetimes) I was floundering. Fresh off a journalism degree I wasn’t using and wracked with grief over the end of a four-year romantic relationship, I had moved downtown with some dear high school friends for a fresh start. Except (probably much to the annoyance of my friends) I was having a terrible time starting over, at least for the first couple of months. I’ve always been one of those serial monogamy types, and this was the first time since I had started dating at 16 that I didn’t have a boyfriend. That the relationship had never been a grand one was totally besides the point, and despite the best efforts of my too-patient pals and parents, I was determined to be lonely and miserable, and I was obviously going to die alone and then be eaten by wild dogs. It was all so very Bridget Jones. I clearly needed to get the hell out of town.
At the time I was working as a court reporter. Bored, terminally frumpy woman (they’re always women) clacking away in the corner of the courtroom? That was me (except I liked to think I was fashionably frumpy.) I worked out of an office that acted as a sort of neutral courtroom for the lawyers and their clients doing pre-trial examinations – that’s the deeply boring, paperwork-intensive side of the law. They’d also frequently send reporters on out-of-office cases to such exotic locales as three blocks away, but sometimes to places a bit farther flung.
And THAT is how I wound up standing in the pitch black, -25 degree chill of a frozen Iqaluit afternoon three days before Christmas, contemplating the seriousness of the gigantic “DO NOT FEED THE POLAR BEARS!” sign that greeted me on arrival.
Iqaluit, for the unaware (and that would be everybody; Canadians barely know it’s there) is the capital city of Nunavut, a territory in the far north that used to go by the name Frobisher Bay. It’s Nunavut’s largest city – nay, its ONLY city – and bears a population of about 7,500 people, most of them employees of the Government of Canada (that’s why I was there, to take the testimony of some people involved in a lawsuit with the GOC.) Despite sitting well outside the Arctic Circle, Iqaluit’s climate is a tundra one – lots of snow, little vegetation and no trees (the permafrost won’t allow their roots to take hold.) During the winter months (so everything that’s not June, July and August) it’s not unusual for the temperatures to dip into the -30s or -40s, and when I was there at the end of December, the sun had set to full black by two in the afternoon. There is an ice road that leads out of town that is literally called The Road to Nowhere. It is, by virtue of the unforgiving climate and its remoteness, a rather ugly city. Also, there are apparently polar bears, and we are not to feed them.
So what once-in-a-lifetime things does a fish out of Ontario water do when she’s thrown head-first into the frozen, turquoise waters of the far north?
Well, I did my job, for one, but even that came with its own “Only in Iqaluit” moments, such as when I stood outside the courthouse in the deep, snow-muffled silence of an early Arctic morn, sharing a cup of coffee with the courthouse clerk as he explained how this frozen spit of land had captured his formerly city-dwelling heart. Or when I glanced out the window of the courtroom later on that day and saw a mangy dog dragging a severed caribou head down the street.
In hindsight, the entire trip was an exercise in surrealism. My flight in was a delight, the likes of which I will probably never enjoy again – totally empty plane, save for maybe nine other passengers, three seats to myself, a really fantastic lunch, nice little post-nosh tipple(s) and a low, low approaching altitude that allowed me to gaze out the window at the wonder of all that neon turquoise water showing through the cracks in the ice and snow.
I walked the town in snowpants and Kodiak boots for three hours until I realized I had already seen everything. I bought a $9 bag of potato chips at the North Mart (not making light of the very real problem of food deserts in the far north.) I stood in a 6 a.m., two-person scrum (which itself was considered quite the turnout) as an accused murderer was brought to the courthouse. I watched the sun rise at 10 am, cutting a weak, low path across the horizon, before setting to pitch blackness again three hours later. I sat in my hotel room one night, blissfully crunching overpriced chips and watching silly teen movies on cable, and put together a scrapbook gift for a friend. Every cab ride in the city cost $5, no matter where you were going or how long you were in the vehicle. I shared a delicious breakfast of Arctic Char eggs benedict with a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in the diningroom of a four-star hotel at 6:30 in the morning. Later on that day we marched up to the Subway together for lunch; at the time it was the best performing franchise in Canada, and was a top five contender for all of North America.
On the day I headed out of town, two days before Christmas, I joined a city-wide exodus of bureaucrats fleeing the frozen north for (barely) warmer holiday climes down south. It seemed like the entire city emptied out in about five hours. After checking my bags and securing my seat home, I spent those five hours in a nearby coffee shop/karaoke parlour/tanning salon, where I sipped tea, ate a scrumptious blueberry scone and contemplated asking the proprietors if they’d be willing to rename their establishment the Fake ‘n’ Bakery.
On the flight home – no empty plane this time, that’s for sure – through a massive snowstorm, I experienced turbulence so extreme, I really thought my end had come. I suppose that’s normal when your plane is bucking wildly from side to side and dropping what feels like 20 feet at a time. Also when the cargo hold is packed full of howling dogs and screaming cats and the flight attendants suspend all food service when your chicken cordon bleu flies up to the ceiling and then just sticks there.
My favourite part of the trip, though? Like everybody, coming home. Seeing my parents’ smiling, relieved faces at the airport, and then walking through the door of my apartment late on the evening of the 23rd to find that my friends had prepared an amazing holiday dinner and decorated the molting ficus. Home really is where the heart is. No place like it, as Dorothy might say.
That, coincidentally, was the moment I decided to drop my whole “woe is me” romantic bullshit and rejoin the human race as something other than a mopey dick. The people I loved were making every effort to boost my fragile self-esteem, and I could certainly do likewise. Besides, I had just conquered the far north! Severed caribou heads, man – that kind of thing changes a person! Four fun-filled, glorious, halcyon months later I met Mr. Finger Candy, and the rest is happy history.
So there we have it, that once-in-a-lifetime event that I was actually fortunate enough to experience firsthand. Never saw a single polar bear, though. 😉
If you’d like to play along at home, please feel free to answer this question in the comment section below, and we hope you’ll visit these Band of Blogger blogs and help support the blogger community!
Amanda at Thrifty Polished
Jaybird at The Candle Enthusiast
Julie at The Redolent Mermaid
Lauren at LoloLovesScents
Liz at Furianne
Sandra – me! – at Finger Candy
If you are a blogger and would like to join the Band of Bloggers for our monthly posts, please contact us.