Monday, January 31, 2011

Treasure hunting at the dump

So Yellowknife has this weird tradition. People literally go to the dump to salvage, or as I like to call it, treasure hunt.
I have been a few times and I have written numerous stories about it for the paper.
Although digging through piles of garbage seems gross, the city has a system to make it more sanitary than rummaging through people's kitchen waste.
There is a whole section specifically for salvaging.
People drop off things that they think other people might like in one spot and put their garbage in another spot.

I know a lot of you are judging me for taking part in garbage picking, but it totally speaks to my upbringing and my love of a good deal. My mom is a die hard bargain hunter and I have totally taken that on. I love thrift stores, flea markets, dollar stores, garage sales and clothing swaps.
Seriously, whenever I plan to move to a new city, one of the first things I do is look to see if they have a Value Village. Then, if they do, I figure out how to get there from where I'm living.
Yellowknife is lacking in the Value Village department, but there is a half decent Salvation Army and a pretty fantastic flea market in a church on the weekends... and of course, there is salvaging, which wouldn't be as successful if Yellowknife wasn't such a transient city.
There are always people coming and going here and with the price of sending things down south so high, at the end of the month, there are always goodies to be found, especially if you have a creative mind.
There are so many strange things at the dump that could be morphed into something completely different and awesome.
For instance, Ian has created a lamp out of a mounted trophy fish, a fish bowl and some plastic tubing. He calls it space fish.
It's basically the coolest thing in his house and since I saw it, I've wanted something equally as cool for my wall, so we hit the dump on Saturday in search of supplies.
We didn't have much success, aside from finding two old lamps that we can use for parts.
That's the fun of it though, you never know what you're going to find.
Like the last time I was there with Kira, I found a Nintendo Power Glove. Do you remember those???
If you don't remember the glove, you must remember the movie Nintendo produced called The Wizard. The Power Glove was totally in it. That's actually the only reason I know what it is... I've never actually played with one. They kind of seem stupid, aside from looking cool. Also in that movie is the song Send Me an Angel -- so good. Oh yeah and Fred Savage is in it.
Anyway... not the point.
The glove is totally worth having, and I hope Ian finds a way to incorporate it into my new lamp.
A Power Glove lamp sounds pretty wicked right!?
Yay for free stuff and being "green."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

First impressions.

Every two weeks, you can find a sliver of my life on newsprint.
I've been writing a column called Adventures of Nicole for the last year and a half. It started when I posted a note on Facebook recounting my J-School orientation.
The editor of my hometown paper is a Facebook friend, so he read the post and then told me he'd love to print it as a column.
Since then, I've submitted a story for nearly every issue.
Today I looked back at what I've submitted since moving to Yellowknife, and I started thinking about the many first impressions I've written about.
There was my impression of London, my impression of J-School, my impression of radio and T.V., my impression of my first newsroom experience, my first time on air, my first front page story, my first time on the east coast and of course my impression of Yellowknife.
Here's what I wrote Oct. 2, 2010 after my first day in the Northwest Territories:

I went from 27 C to 10 C in a matter of hours.

I guess that’s what happens when you leave Canada’s California for ‘The Knife.’

I arrived in the capital of the Northwest Territories at 11 p.m. on Friday night to find myself at an airport with one gate and a giant polar bear statue.

There to welcome me was an editor from my new paper. He quickly picked me out of the crowd with some assistance from a friend who happened to be on my flight.

She had overheard me explaining to my seatmate that I was relocating to Yellowknife to be a reporter for the local newspaper.

Having arrived so late, there wasn’t much to see as we drove away from the airport, but rather than driving straight home, Derek took me for a quick tour of the city’s downtown.

We drove past our office, a few crowded bars, a Shopper’s Drug Mart, a Subway and some small local shops.

It was nice to see there was still life in the community at midnight on a Friday night.

I was also relieved to see some familiar stores. I know it’s silly, but I didn’t imagine Yellowknife as a real city, with chain stores and restaurants.

I guess that just shows how ignorant I am when it comes to the North.

I spent today, my first day, exploring with Derek. He took me to the office, showed me my desk and introduced me to the only guy in the newsroom.

To get downtown, we took a trail that is partially made of huge rock slabs that you climb until you reach a bridge that crosses Niven Lake, a small body of water where people bird watch.

It was a beautiful sunny day, making the yellowing autumn leaves glow on the trees and the ground.

The landscape here is gorgeous in a very different way from B.C.

There aren’t mountains or huge lush fir trees, but rather immense blocks of bare rock surrounded by small birch trees.

Within the city, there are a number of lakes, which makes for a stunning view with all of the rocks and colouring trees.

I was so nervous before my arrival, but now that I’m here, walking the streets and meeting the people, I think I’ll fit in just fine.

I’ll let you know if my feelings change once I need my parka, insulated boots, fleece toque, ski gloves and face warmer.

Well, it's been four months and my feelings haven't changed. I still find myself in awe of the city's beauty and it's incredibly friendly people. I can only hope those feelings continue, but I guess when they stop, I'll know it's time to move on to another first impression.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dog wash

I started house sitting for my boss on Saturday, and usually I'd be super pumped about having a whole house to myself, but sadly, I don't really get the house to myself, I have to share it with two dogs.I've never been an animal person. I look at pets like babies, they're cute for five minutes and then I'm exhausted and annoyed. They jump all over you, lick you, bark, whine and pout when you don't give them enough attention. Plus you have to feed them, wash them and clean up their shit. How any of that sounds appealing to anyone is beyond me. I'll admit they're cute. But they're definitely cuter at a distance. Of the two dogs, the older one, Skipper, is much more laid back, although he's been moping around the house for the past two days because he misses my boss and his wife. Don't ask me what kind he is because I have no clue, nor do I honestly care. The other one, Jenny, is a little terror who nips at Skipper, who is much bigger than her, and constantly crawls all over me. To make things worse, she also gives me allergies. So the boyfriend and I took the initiative to wash her yesterday. Well, he did. I just took photos. I know it might seem like I got the easy job, but if you read my last post, you'd know that I'm in desperate need of practice.
Anyway, we couldn't find dog shampoo, even though it was sitting on the edge of the bathtub, so we made our own from a recipe I found online. Did you know people shampoo is too harsh for their skin? Well it is, so we used a mixture of Dial hand soap and vinegar. When we started, we thought it was going to turn into a huge, messy ordeal, but, aside from shaking herself on Ian's face, Jenny was calm. Well at least until we let her out of the bathroom. Then she went nuts! She was running all over the place, rolling around and rubbing her fur against the carpet. I don't know what the hell she was doing, but it was damn entertaining. The only downside was, when she was finished, she didn't smell nearly as good and she was back to licking my face. Ugh...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Polishing turds

“I’m not a photographer. I write.”

That’s the excuse I give people every day as I take their picture. It’s good way to lighten the mood as I fumble my way around my new camera in an attempt to take a photo worthy of the paper.

Although I’m already improving, I find playing both roles – photographer and reporter – is actually really difficult, especially without any formal photography training.

My friend and coworker Kira, who worked as a freelance photographer in Victoria for the past two years, started teaching me about ISO, aperture and shutter speed last week.

Basically all I managed to retain from the lesson was that they all have to do with light.

If I recall correctly, aperture is how much is in focus. Shutter speed determines how long you let light in. And ISO changes the camera’s sensitivity to light.

Now that’s just me spouting out what I think she said, so don’t take my word for it.

If I’m right, then I think I can handle the concepts, it’s just when the numbers get thrown into the mix that I get really confused.

I think I must have said, “Huh?” about 30 times during Kira’s forty-minute lesson.

No one ever told me photography involved math. I thought you just had to have a creative eye and the ability to point and shoot.

I think learning will require a lot of fiddling, frustration and yelling of profanities.

I’ve been assured by all of my coworkers and many of my artistic friends that it’s not that hard, so I hope if I stick with it and practice, I’ll be taking award-winning photos in no time.

Well maybe not award-winning. It would at least be nice to snap some shots that don’t make my photo editor, who also happens to be my boyfriend, groan.

He always says his job is to “polish turds.”

So my goal is to turn in at least a few photos that not only look more appealing than feces, but smell better, too.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

CD swap

So my newsroom has come up with the best idea ever, and I think everyone should hear about it and replicated it in their own workplace.
Basically we're having a monthly mix CD swap. There are nine of us, so we each make eight CDs, bring them in on a scheduled day and hand them out to everyone.
Awesome right!? Once a month walking away with eight CDs of music that, in a lot of cases, you wouldn't normally listen to...
We just finished our second round today. I'm listening to the first CD as I write this and already I've had to check the case for band names so I can make sure to research them.

As you can see, some people even get creative with their CD cases, which definitely adds to the fun. Mine were made of different coloured construction paper -- not quite as cool as the National Geographic photo Ian used for his.
The first CD I made was wrapped in newspaper and had 20 reggae ska songs, or as my friends say, white reggae songs.
To the surprise of many, there is a pretty big following for bands like Slightly Stoopid, Katchafire, The Beautiful Girls and Aaron Kamm and the One Drops.
By the reviews I got from my coworkers, some thought it was tolerable and others thought it was catchy and fun.
I personally think reggae is the best happy music. It's good for solo dance parties, cleaning the house, walking to work, working out, you name it.
Not wanting to push my luck, I switched it up for January's mix. It's a little more indie and includes some of my favourite lesser-known Canadian bands.

Here's my playlist for January:

Falling - The Cat Empire
Beat the Devil's Tattoo - The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Lay Down in the Tall Grass - Timber Timbre
I've Been Asleep For a Long Long Time - Hey Rosetta
Magic Show - Electric Owls
Messages - Xavier Rudd
I Got a Girl - Tripping Daisy
Boxes - The Steelwells
Feeling's Gone - Cat Empire
The Lengths - The Black Keys
White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes
Narceritos - Jay Malinowski
Through the Winter - Make Your Exit
Hey Now Now - The Cloud Room
Going to Hell - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
The Ghost Inside - Broken Bells
Coalmine - Armchair Cynics
A Happening - Hyperstory
In the Meantime - Spacehog

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Eugh... writing

So it turns out I suck at this whole blogging thing. I can make up a dozen excuses why it's been so long since my last post, but excuses are for pussies, so you won't hear any from me.
Basically, I just suck at putting aside time to write. I mean, I spend eight hours a day, five days a week writing, so by the time I get home from work I just don't feel like writing.
When I was younger, I was really passionate about it. In high school and even elementary school, I had these amazing journal entries. They were full of meaningful details about all the boys I liked, what I did that day, who was dating who, who was cheating on who, who I hated -- you know all the important stuff. But somehow in the last four years I have stopped writing a journal and have basically stopped writing all together -- except, of course, for school assignments and job related junk.
In light of this, one of my resolutions for 2011 (despite the fact that I hate New Year's resolutions) was to write for pleasure every day... and I'm failing miserably -- hence why resolutions are stupid.
I think part of the reason I'm so resistant is because of my parents.
Whenever we talk, they ask if I've been writing. My dad tells me time and time again that at the end of the day I should really sit down and write. I should describe the facial expressions and mannerisms of people I work with and hang out with, he says.
"That way when you write your book, you'll have notes to look back on."
Apparently it's a given that I'm going to write a book.
My dad seems to think that my adventures across Canada are worthy of a novel. I, on the other hand, think writing a book would be far too much work and would require too much discipline. Plus, who wants to hold the same train of thought for months or years.
I mean, I picked journalism for a reason -- you get to become an expert on something in a matter of hours and then forget it. It's a beautiful thing.
I've actually been thinking a lot about my chosen profession lately.
It's officially been a year since my first newsroom experience as an intern reporter at the Kelowna Daily Courier. Back then, reporting was so exciting and new.
Although it's only been a year, I feel like the excitement has really worn off. The butterflies are still there if I have to do an interview about a touchy subject, but overall, work is pretty blase.
It has me wondering if this is what I'll end up doing for the rest of my life or if it's just going to be a phase. It kind of freaks me out to think that the goal I've had since I was 15 has come to fruition and now I'm unsure about it.
Maybe I'm just going through my quarter-life crisis. Have you read about that?
The first time I read the Wikipedia entry I was in J-School and it made me cry. I was like, "OMG they're describing everything I'm feeling. Maybe I'm not going crazy. Maybe I'm just like everyone else -- a mess!"
Well it's been at least eight months since then and I'm still a mess. And what I'd like to know is how long these crises are expected to last. I have to say I'm over it. And I'm ready to start preparing for my midlife crisis, you know, the one where you get a fancy car, or get botox or go on exciting trips. That sounds a lot more appealing.
Maybe when I'm 50 I'll be like Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. I'll eat until my pants don't fit, travel the world and leave my husband behind. Maybe I'll even become spiritual or something.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Digging through a mound of clothes

I didn't intend to focus my blog on fashion, but again it's on my mind. This time it's not parka inspired, though. This time... it's an impending clothing swap. My girlfriend sent me a Facebook invite today for a swap on Sunday. I have to say, clothing swaps are one of my favourite ways to find new clothes - not only do you get to hangout with your girlfriends and drink wine, you get free clothes out of the deal... oh yeah, and it's the "green" thing to do. Anyway, with the swap on my mind, I'm staring at my closet and I'm debating if I brought anything in my suitcase that I'm ready to pass on. The thing is when I moved here three months ago, I already had to condense my wardrobe to my favourite pieces, so I really don't have a lot of excess goods. I mean, of course, I could give up my "I hate moustaches" t-shirt, but I feel like as soon as it's out of my possession, I'll be invited to another moustache party or some equally relevant activity... like a hipster gathering, god knows those guys love their "ironic" moustaches. I could also probably get rid of my incredibly ugly pink, purple and black striped turtleneck. I rarely wear it anyway. But what a bummer it would be not to have it in my closet when I'm invited to a nineties ski-wear party. It's quite the predicament. It makes me wish I had brought one more suitcase full of the clothes I was forced to get rid of when I moved here... but wishing won't get me any closer to a bag full of gems to contribute to the pile of goodies on the floor. I'm thinking the only solution is to get rid of a few things, not a lot, but enough to look like I contributed. They'll have to be things I still like, because that's all I have in my closet, but it'll only be enough to get me in the door. And then - and this is where it gets tricky - I'll have to make sure I'm the first one to dive into the mound of treasures on the floor, throwing t-shirts, jeans and whatever else around in a frantic rage in order to find the same number of lightly used gems I donated, in turn filling the vacant hangers in my closet. I think I'm up for the task and if not, after a glass of wine I will be. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Parka blues

I've never been a fashionista. I think the best example of that was the year I wore a dog collar almost every day. It was Grade 12. I remember when I picked out my grad dress - which in retrospect was a glorified witches costume - and my dad agreed to buy it on one condition. "I'll buy it for you if you promise not to wear that stupid thing around your neck," he told me as I looked in the mirror thinking I looked like a total bad ass. Good old dad even offered to buy me something to replace my black leather, silver studded canine wear. If you knew him, you'd know that was a big deal - not the negotiating, but the offer to spend a few extra bucks on something like a rhinestone necklace. (He's Dutch and a retired accountant. If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know, maybe the joke he used to tell will: "The Dutch - they have short arms and deep pockets.") Anyways, we're getting off topic. Like I said, I've never been a fashionista. But for some reason in the last few months I've started to care. I don't know if it's because I'm getting older (24. YIKES!) or if it's because my friends all dress well, or if today's fashion just speaks to me. To be honest, I'm starting to think my recent obsession actually has more to do with the fact that I'm living in Yellowknife in the dead of winter. There's just something about putting on the same parka every day for the last two months and knowing that I'll be doing the same thing for another four. Don't get me wrong, it's a rad jacket (right!?) - and it better be considering I spent $500 on it - but it gets pretty old trying to switch things up with a scarf or a toque or a bloody balaclava.

So it's the same-old-ness of my parka that has inspired me to suddenly care. But I have a problem. I don't actually know how to be fashionable. I can read all of my favourite fashion blogs, (which I promise to list at the end of my post), I can look at their outfits, I could even shop at the same stores (if they actually existed in Yellowknife), but somehow I just don't know how to put an outfit together. You'd think I would be good at the indie style all the cool kids are rocking these days, considering I worked at Value Village for two years, but sadly, at that time I was still in my skate t-shirt and hoody stage. So this is my predicament. I want to care. I think I'd even be willing to put in the effort, but it seems as soon as I put on my long johns, fleece shell, parka, mitts, toque and scarf, all is lost... I become a big green blob perfect for rolling down a hill. I guess this is Northern living. Maybe when all is said and done and I move back "down south," as they say in these parts, or when I can finally start peeling off the layers in May, I'll still be inspired to give fashion an honest go. I hope that's the case. But who knows, by then, vanity might have gone out the window. I guess for now I'll just continue reading fashion blogs for inspiration. Here are a few of my daily reads...