January 27, 2008

The Gold Range

I wasn't in Whitehorse for long before I had to fly to Yellowknife. For some reason, -20oC always seems to feel colder than it does in Whitehorse.

I was there for just a couple of nights and didn't have the time to visit any of the old friends that I was hoping to see, but I did get to meet up with others from outside of Yellowknife who were also in "North America's Diamond Capital" for meetings.

For the past two nights, at the invitation of a colleague, I've been visiting a northern institution: The Gold Range Hotel. The "Strange Range" has a reputation unlike any place I know. One of Canada's most famous bars, it is known for being a rough - even dangerous - place. There is a mystique about it that causes some to shudder in fear at the very mention of its name. Of those that shudder, few will ever enter, even if it's just for a minute to see if the impression they have built of the place in their mind's eye is true.

In the patchwork of experiences that is "the north", the Gold Range holds a special place for many. Built in 1958, it has been around long enough for it to become part of the North's collective and communicative memory. Mention its name to many a long-time northerner, and you're likely to see a wistful look as a flood of memories from old times resurface. Mention it's name to a visitor who has been only once, and they're likely to start recounting stories of "that time I was in Yellowknife and went to the Gold Range".

The Gold Range has become legendary.

As for me, I've only been to the Gold Range about five or six times now, but I like the place. This might sound strange if you know me - I don't drink and generally don't like bars - but there's more to the Gold Range than the booze (The Range reportedly sells more beer than any other bar in Canada).

I like the Gold Range because it is a gathering place, where people from around the NWT (and beyond) can get out of their hotel rooms to reconnect with friends, to relax with their co-workers, or to make new friends.

Not only that, but the Gold Range has great music.

It seems that live bands, especially good live bands, and especially good live bands that play almost every night of the week, are a rarity these days. The band at the Gold Range is good live band that plays almost every night of the week. Whether they're playing rock or country or a jig, the four-piece band is tight and they know a huge selection of tunes.

Last night, George Tuccaro was in the house and was invited up on stage to play. The dance floor was hopping as people two-stepped around each other. George wasn't the only one invited up on stage. People in the bar were going up, making requests, and singing. It was like karaoke, but with a live band! When was the last time you saw something like that?

Most importantly, the Gold Range has character.

It doesn't just have character, it oozes with character.

Character is something that you can't buy. It's that mystique that keeps some out and other going back for more.

In spite of its reputation (I've never seen anything that even closely resembled violence there), I'll have no hesitations about going there again.

OK, maybe one.

$5 is a bit steep for a glass of ginger ale, even if it is good ginger ale.

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