tuktoyaktuk

I didn’t write from Inuvik since our time there was pretty short. I wanted to spend as much time there as possible, and there just wasn’t time for writing. Actually, I wanted to spend much more time in Inuvik. I felt comfortable there. But travelling with a group, sometimes you need to move on.

I like the folks I’m travelling with. Bob Hoover is bluntly honest, arrogant but wise. He rubs folks the wrong way, and doesn’t seem to give a damn. And he hates being beholding to anyone. Christa and Tobin are almost one unit, very close and very much part of one another. They’re also very sweet people. I like them a lot. And Christa gives good hugs. Their kid will be very lucky to have such parents.

Jorge and Yvette are two kids on the loose, partying their way from Puerto Rico to Inuvik. They stay up later than everyone else and get up in time to hit the road. Jack Stafford doesn’t say much, and when he does talk, he tends to be interesting. He seems to have hooked up with Yvette and Jorge and they sit around the fire at night.

Neil and Niniek Wigley seem to have buddied up with Pete and Sallye Clark. They seem to be wonderful people, though I haven’t talked much with them at this point. Niniek has wonderful indonesian food, and loves to feed people. My mom was the same way (with Canadian food), and I think Niniek is really sweet.

The Freeman’s (Freemen?) caught up with us in Eagle Plains, and they’re a great group of people. They’re the classic nuclear family, except Dad drives around in coveralls and always looks ready to climb under the bus and fix something. Their son Ross is already a hearthrob at 15, and their daughter Lynn is beautiful like her mother.

The Kanes are wonderful people. Don lent me his Duo for as long as I need it, and I’m using it to type this dispatch. Alan is a little ball of energy, buzzing around camp and giving us all gifts of rocks. He’s very sweet, except when he’s covered with marshmallow or playing ‘see-food’. Vivian is quiet and shy and pretty. I think that in a few years, she’ll be breaking boys’ hearts left and right. Bess (Don’s wife) seems to be a great person, though she’s often so busy watching over the kids that I haven’t gotten a chance to talk much with her.

Gary Millang has a great smile, and a sort of midwest friendliness. His wife Corin is equally friendly, and somewhat of an artist. She’s also a massage therapist (this may be why Gary’s always smiling.) Their daughter Lauren is a nice quiet kid who seems to love taking the dogs for walks.

Dennis Gentry is a hell of a nice guy. He’s easy going and push-starts his bus about half of the time. He has that quiet hacker arrogance. When I wrote earlier that he was helping to find the problem with the Kane’s bus, he corrected me, “No, actually, if I had been diagnosing the problem we probably would have found it. I’m very good at finding problems.” If I were to pick one other person on this trip besides John to share a bus with, it would be Dennis.

Eddie and Bob Hintz are both cool people. Eddie is a texas opera-singing hippie, while Bob looks like a grizzled mountain man. Besides Bob Hoover, Bob Hintz looks most at place in the Yukon. Their relationship is classic father-son. Reserved, respectful. I’d love to hear how they relate to one another on the long drives between campgrounds. Seeing Eddie and Bob together leads me to miss my own dad, who couldn’t make this trip. I know he’d get along with most everyone.

Dave Williams left for Anchorage yesterday, but he has the lifestyle I most envy. He lives in Bethel, Alaska. There are no roads in Bethel, nor any leading there. He keeps his Syncro garaged in Anchorage, and flys in occasionally to drive. He lives out in the bush, trying to give kids a better life.

John Schirano is my co-pilot, and I like him a lot. He’s interesting, very cute, and drives reasonably well. We respect one anothers’ space, and we work together in the camper without bumping into one another constantly.

So with all of these great people on the trip, why do I feel so lonely? I think it’s because I want to be close to someone, but I don’t have the social skills necessary. In a group this size, I feel like an outcast… like I don’t belong. It’s not anyone’s fault but my own. People scare me. I’m so afraid of being rejected that I freak out in groups. I think that people sense that in me, and in turn don’t allow themselves to get too close.

When we were all flying to Tuktoyaktuk, I felt this strongly in the airport. Everyone had broken up into little groups, and I really felt alone. I wanted someone to spontaneously throw their arm around my shoulder.

When we got into town, I headed north on my own, trying to go as far as I could. I got out alone onto a spit of land that curled out into he arctic ocean, and sat down on the polished rocks.

Tuk is a lonely place, and I felt very lonely. From where I sat, I could see a few women searching the beach for artifacts that may have washed ashore. I could also see a dozen sled dogs, chained to stakes all in a row. But generally I was alone there, with the arctic ocean. I’d gone as far as I possibly could from people. The only way I could proceed further would be to swim.

After sitting there and feeling sorry for myself a while, I headed back to ‘downtown’ Tuk. I passed Eddy on the way. (He’s the hitchiker we picked up in Dawson City.) He told me he was going for a dip. I started walking by myself towards the airport. I was desparate for some sort of human contact, but I also was afraid of being disliked. The lonely part of me won out, however, and I went back to join Eddy.

He started stripping, first pulling off his shoes, then his shirt, then his pants. I wanted to skinny dip, but I always feel uncomfortable getting naked in front of straight people. ‘Will they think I’m coming on to them?’ I wonder. Eddy took off his shorts, and waded out far into the ocean, skinny and buck naked. I stripped down to my undies, and wondered what to do. The native women were not so far from us, and I’m sure they saw what was happening. Did they care?

Eddie asked me to grab his camera and take his photo. Okay, I’d always wanted to shoot male nudes. I took a few shots of him, and he waded in to shore.

I asked, and he agreed to take my picture. Still in my underwear and feeling like a damn fool, I set up my tripod and camera. Then I stripped and waded out. I didn’t go as far as Eddy, but got to the point where I was waist-deep. The water surprisingly wasn’t cold. I’d swam in much colder. Standing out there, with the sunset behind me, I posed for a few pictures.

I felt a little better. Eddy and I had shared something.

Gaw, I’m feeling a little fretty today and wanted to be honest about my feelings. I figure it’s more interesting when the author isn’t always perfect, and I’m far from that.

I’m in love with Inuvik. It’s a small town, and literally the end of the road. The town seems full of interesting people, which sort of makes sense. If you’re not *from* Inuvik, you have to be at least somewhat interesting to move there. You have to survive the 2 months of night, and the bitter cold. You have to learn to live in a town of 3,000 where everyone knows your business.

It has a small college (Aurora College) where Brian McDonald works. He’s one of Inuvik’s two Vanagon owners. Brian tells me that Inuvik has some of the best and worse that humanity has to offer. Folks are kind and support one another. But there are also a large number of cases of physical and sexual abuse. The long winters are hard on some people. Inuvik has the highest per-capita birth rate in Canada, and AIDS and other venerea
l diseases are spreading quickly.

On the other hand, Brian tells me that Inuvik also has a fairly large gay community. The news shop not only carries two gay newsmagazines (the Advocate and Out), but also carries two gay porn mags. I wish I had met some of the gay residents of Inuvik, but I didn’t. Next time I visit, I’ll try to make contacts before I head up.

Inuvik also has its share of good places to eat. The Blue Moon bistro serves some of the best pizza I’ve had. Yummy. They were out of anchovies, and the cook got a little weirded out when I told him to put garlic on the pizza. “Are you sure?” he kept asking. I ate at the Sunriser for ‘brunch’, for the sole reason that they offer bottomless coffee (at $1.75 a cup.) The food was classic diner fare, and I had a tuna sandwich and fries.

Brian tells me that vegetarians don’t last long in Inuvik. First, fresh veggies just aren’t available for most of the year. Secondly, even if you don’t buy or kill meat, folks give it to you. Brian hasn’t bought meat since arriving, but he has a fridge full of Caribou and Musk Ox steaks.

I couldn’t live in Tuktoyaktuk, however. Inuvik may be the end of the road, but Tuk doesn’t even have a road until the river freezes. And there just doesn’t seem to be all that much to do. Unfortunately, there *are* drugs. Within 15 minutes of getting off of the plane, a thin goth native girl tried to sell me pot or heroin. She was tripping on something. According to the RCMP, joints sell for $20 each in Tuk. I can’t even imagine what heroin sells for.

Yesterday we left Inuvik around 2, after giving an interview to the local paper. John and I and Dennis decided to keep driving when we got to Eagle Plains, and arrived back in Dawson City at around 1:30am, just as the sun was rising.

Today we’re taking a lazy day. Dennis and I found a couple of log rafts on the river, and we’re thinking of taking them downriver a ways. We’ll see where the water takes us. I wish we could get the vans up onto he rafts.

More later,
Ron

VWTrek

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