June 14, 2009


I was just past Carmacks, en route to Dawson City for the Commissioner's Ball, when I suddenly realized that I'd left something behind. Having just gotten into Whitehorse from Ottawa the night before, I was tired when I packed for the Big Band's latest gig.  

I'd managed to remember my trumpet.  I'd packed my trumpet mutes and my music.  I'd managed to remember my black dress pants and my dress shirt.  I'd remembered to pack a change of clothes for the day after.  I'd remembered my toothbrush. I'd even remembered to pack a water bottle for the over four-hour-long gig.  What I had forgotten was my dress shoes.

Running shoes and concert dress don't exactly go together - and they're definitely not appropriate for a gig as prestigious as the Commissioner's Ball. 

I got into Dawson City just before 16:00.  The gig was scheduled to start a little over three hours later.  I had to find some dress shoes and I had to find them fast.  

Buying a new pair of dress shoes at a store wasn't an option; Dawson City doesn't have one that sells dress shoes.  I decided to call my friend, James.  He would be about the same size as me, I figured, and I was certain he'd be willing to lend me a pair for the night, if he had them.  He's just that kind of guy.

When I called, his housemate answered the phone.  He didn't know where James was, but his car was in the driveway, so he was likely around somewhere.  I decided to walk over to his house just in case he came back.  He still wasn't there by the time I walked over, so I left a message and went off in search of another acquaintance who I knew had a habit of wearing dress shoes.

I knew something wasn't right when I approached my acquaintance's house.  Through the window on the door, I could see a toddler playing on the floor.  A confirmed bachelor, I wondered if my acquaintance knew that his house had been invaded by a child.  I walked away from the house to be sure that I had the right one (I did) and knocked, tentatively.  The new occupant (the toddler's mom) informed me that my acquaintance had moved to one of the outlying subdivisions.

I was out of luck.  I didn't have time to go traipsing around outside of Dawson City's downtown core.  The gig would be starting soon.

Earlier, one of my band-mates had offered to place a wager that I wouldn't be able to find a pair of dress shoes in Dawson City on such short notice.  I assured him that I could and I would. 

"It's the Yukon!" I declared, "If you need something, just ask around!"  I was wholly confident that the people of the Yukon would come through.  They always did.  Always.

Now, as I walked back to the Palace Grand, defeated, I was glad that I hadn't placed that bet.

I had one more option, but it was only a mediocre solution at best.  I stopped into one of the tourist shops and bought a pair of dark, dark blue Crocs.  At least the Crocs wouldn't stand out the way my light grey and green running shoes would, I reasoned.

With about fifteen minutes to go before the show started, I modeled the Crocs for my wagering band-mate, displaying what was, simultaneously, a modest failure and a modest success.  From a distance and in the dimly lit dancehall, they could pass as dress shoes.  Up close, they were still Crocs.

Not ten minutes after that, however, James showed up.  He was dressed to the nines for the Commissioner's Ball.  Standing regally in his tuxedo, he held up his hands.  In each hand, he held a pair of black dress shoes - one hand with a larger pair of dress slip-on, and one hand with a smaller pair of black lace-up shoes.  I chose the larger pair of slip-ons.

Once again, the Yukon worked its magic.  The magic of the North isn't he spectacular scenery, the wildlife, or even the northern lights.  It's not the fresh air, the phenomenon of the frigid winter cold, or the miracle of the midnight sun.  The magic of the North is the hospitality of the people:  People who are always willing to lend a hand and who expect nothing in return: People who always come through when you need them:  People who, friend or stranger, look out for each other.  

Thanks to that Northern magic and, thanks to James, my fairy godmother (who is neither a fairy nor my godmother), I had slippers for the Ball, after all.


YF said...

Very nice story! I was waiting for your updated events :) What a great people you have there in Youkon. It must be nice to see your family. Love you all

Jennybell said...

Nice to be able to depend on others!
I wish someone would show up looking for shoes at my house! Isaiah is 10 and now wears a size 8-81/2 mens. I have a bunch of size 6 1/2 that were barely worn!

Carolyn said...

Great post Michael!
Blessings and smiles

Shockr said...

Now you own a pair of Crocs! ;-) I never thought you would own a pair since you always told me how ugly they looked. Haha. Btw, I just bought a new pair of Yukon Crocs last week. You might like the look of them.

Scientific Chick said...

That was a great story! You sure make the Yukon sound attractive...

Elis said...

Ha! I'm only 16 months old, but I knew from the start how the story was going to tried to make it sound dramatic, but you didn't fool me! I was certain it would all work out in the end, 'cause Yukoners are such friendly folks.

And could you really lose a person in Dawson City, anyway?


Anonymous said...

hee hee haw hooot giggle giggle. I was there - I saw your face as you showed off your dark blue crocs. It was priceless! An odd mixture of distaste and resignation and oddly placed pride. lol!

Meandering Michael said...

Anonymous, your description of how I was feeling is spot on. I couldn't have said it better myself.