Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 321

here it is. this is the hitch hiker's guide to fernie. i've only got a couple days left to write about this place.

so, as you wait with one arm extended towards oncoming traffic there is no need to make any indication of your destination. if you're at the hitching point just across the bridge then the passing traffic assumes your destination is out of town and for the ski hill. don't get too excited for just any car, either, because your best chance for a ride is heard before seen. rumbling engines and crawling rust directly increases your chance of a friendly youth who's willing to give you a lift. my two favorite rides were in the cab of a semi truck and laying with my board in the bed of a truck. i always dropped my thumb for a cadillac escalade or audi. they always did just pass. they wouldn't even give a frown or upturned palm to indicate that they were already full. sometimes the woman in the passenger seats would stare at the line of snowboarder and skiers bordering the highway as they cruised past in their alberta license plated luxury vehicles. can't depend on them folks for much of anything. our band wrote a song about them.

if you wanna get around town then being without a vehicle still isn't a bad thing. fernie itself isn't even a mile long if you follow the highway from the hitching point away from the ski hill and across the bridge to the church and tim hortons on the other, furthest side of town. our house is in the middle of this distance and, conversely, in the middle of everything in either direction. the stop 'n shop, organic market, ice and curling rink, edge of the world snowboard shop, hostel, power mountain inn, snow valley motel, pub, currie bowl restaurant, bargain shop, car dealership, red tree lodge and restaurant, sporting goods shop, dentist, salon, fly fishing business, subway, yama goya sushi restaurant, and 7-11 gas station were all within a three minute maximum walk from our driveway. our place was the ideal place to live, really. as a group of friends and collective strangers to this place we were truly blessed.

today was my last day as janitor for the church. even the church is an eleven minute walk from our house. there's a new man taking over the janitorial duties and he told me about a workshop he had to go to about oil and coal. many men in this valley work for elk valley coal in some way, shape, or form. jeremy, from our band, works as an engineer. so does jesse. other younger guys, including another band mate ian, work construction for the fernie 901 projects around town.

seasonal work is really objective and most australians, kiwis, brits, swedes, and canadians work for the resorts of the canadian rockies as a liftie, ticket checker, or instructor. rcr. the man. the ski hill. working for the ski hill gives you a staff ski pass and 96% of the people are here to ride mountain powder so they take these minimum wage jobs for free riding. downtown is filled with renovated old buildings that house various ski/snowboard stores, outdoor outfitters, coffee shops, bars, grocery, and general store kind of businesses owned by locals or year-round denizen. the tea house. mug shots. commit snowboard shop. the guide's hut. extra foods. overwaitea foods. iga. and many others.

i'm not sure i ever saw a homeless person in fernie and i always wondered how so many people would afford going to the bars every weekend on their meager salaries. drinks in bars aren't cheap here. then again, most of the ruckus-raisers are foreign seasonals without any long term goals. dozens of these friends have plans to work on yachts in france or road trip the states as their next big adventure.

'bill', the man i mentioned a couple days ago in the tea house, told me that the average population of fernie is around three thousand people. in the winter it breaks down to maybe six hundred australians, four hundred kiwis, a couple hundred brits, and another hundred or so swedes. the rest are canadians. i was the only full blood american that i met in this town the entire season. maybe except greg, the legend who owns edge of the world, who was originally from the carolinas. people always asked why i was here. the blog was sometimes the easiest answer. that or ''living with a group of friends.'' i was always tempted to make up some yarn about being from one of the tiny northern towns that dot the canadian map that hangs in our kitchen.

a bank lady told me once that this 'was a tight-knit community.' a couple of my friends who are locals say that they've gotten used to the winter influx of people and friends and the massive flow of spring goodbyes. many come back winter after winter. now that the end of march is here, people have begun streaming out of town as fast as they had back in december. the 'season' lasts until april eighteenth. we're not far off at all.

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