Saturday, November 22, 2008

Get in the Car

The first time I went to Whitehorse I went on a whim. It's probably the coolest thing I've ever done.

I'd been living in Toronto for over a year and I'd ended up there accidentally in the first place. I had taken a plane from Halifax to Toronto with a friend of mine, and we were planning to hang out there for a couple of weeks before hitchhiking across North America, but stuff happened, and that trip never did.

There's a thing I notice that happens to me when I spend too much time in Toronto. I start to think about myself like I did when I was a Torontonian, and I receive the things that my family and friends say to me in a different way than I do through telephone wires. I start to think that things like hitchhiking through the United States just to see it and with no real destination in mind, or much money to speak of, are kind of crazy. So I did an equally but oppositely stupid thing: I stayed in Toronto and I got a well-paying job at a call centre.

I did, however, meet a pretty great guy while I was in Toronto, and though he promised to move back to Halifax with me, I got impatient with the waiting and with the crappy customer service job, and so I spent a couple of months traveling across Canada on a Greyhound bus. In stupid Vancouver I made the decision to travel further north before heading back east. I didn't know anyone in the Yukon or have any idea what it was like out there, but I figured I had nothing to lose, and all kinds of time, and so I went. I took the Alaska highway north to Whitehorse.

Being on a Greyhound bus in Canada was not so whimsical; it was something I'd been planning for several months. I had friends in Sudbury and Regina and Vancouver and Victoria and Kamloops and Montreal and Sydney, and I wanted to see them all and the places they had come from or come to before I settled back down in Halifax.

I have never been able to sleep well on buses, but I love them anyway. I love four o'clock in the morning at the side of the highway outside of an Irving or an Esso. Stars and the moon and the sting and smell of winter. My fellow, non-smoking, less anxiety-ridden passengers sleeping soundly in their uncomfortable seats. I move in slow motion, half asleep, exhausted, but invigorated by the cold and empowered like a secret by the blanket of night and the nothing else in sight. What an enormous country I live in. It's twenty hours from Whitehorse to Edmonton.

"Get In the Car" is a song that Kim Barlow wrote for her album Luckyburden, a concept album in which she tells stories about the fictionalized residents of Keno City, Yukon, a town just outside of Whitehorse that boomed briefly and his since become a virtual ghost town.

I don't seem to have much in common with the girl who is the subject of the song. I especially don't know what it's like to live in a town as small or as rough as Keno City, and to spend my teenage years desperately wanting to see something bigger. But I sure do know what it's like to want to get the hell out of a place where I feel stuck and uninspired. And I sure do know what it's like to be young and hopeful and excited by adventure. And I sure do know what it's like to miss Mom.

I promise to actually write about Whitehorse here one of these days.

Get in the Car - Kim Barlow

"Get in the car," Chrissi said, "Let's get the hell out of Dodge."
Steve jumped in fast with a few things stuffed in his backpack.
And they fish tailed down the dusty road, eight o'clock on Saturday morning,
Fresh out of high school and leaving.

"Where are we going?" Steve said, "Are we going to Whitehorse?"
Chrissi laughed, "Hell no, Whitehorse is the biggest town I've ever seen."
Warm sand, rock stars and bookstores, food that doesn't come in a can.
We're going to LA, follow our stupid dreams.

Nothing left to stay for everyone we know is crazy,
They just drink and work and fight,
Let's change our names it's time we're moving on.

When they got to Liard he asked her, "Where'd you get the car?"
And he studied the fading bruise on her cheek and she said,
"My dad won it at poker last week."
And they floated with the hippies and the tourists who had
Flower vans and RV's, romantic notions pointing north.

In the wee hours, and the stars were shining, they nearly hit a young moose,
Running down the middle of the highway.
But they passed it in the passing lane, neither of them said a word.
Both of them were thinking of their mothers.

Nothing left to stay for every one we know is crazy,
They just drink and work and fight,
Let's change our names it's time we're moving on.

Alaska Highway, mile zero, the end and the beginning.
They stopped for a pee and nailed their graduation photos to a sign.
Chrissi leaned out the window and screamed, dust swirled in her hair,
And Steve knew he would follow her anywhere she asked him

Get in the car,
Get in the car,
Let's get the hell out of Dodge.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

That has to be one of my favourite Kim Barlow songs ever... beautiful.