I happened to be down in our favourite place to hangout on weekends, yes, Val-d’Or. And it just so happens that over a span of three weeks and three round trips, I had stayed in several hotels in the area and on each trip, I met Hizzonner, Mayor Fernand Trahan. You see, Hizzonner and I go a back to the days before Crees owned hotels or anything for that matter – besides AirCreebec and Cree Construction.

In those days, Hizzonner was an entrepreneur, who welcomed visitors from the North. He even went on a great adventure using one of the most versatile machines ever invented – the intrepid Argo, the eight-wheeled wonder of the world. In case you’re not up on your Greek mythology, the Argo was the ship that was used for numerous adventures, involving gods and other odd creatures that battled the hero. Of course, the hero always won, otherwise there would be no story to pass down as legend.

I often wondered why Hizzonner made such a trip, other than perhaps a midlife crisis. But I suspect he did it just to meet the people of the North. The very people who stayed in his fine hotel in Val-d’Or returned the hospitality when he arrived at the northernmost tip of Quebec in the land of the Inuit. After looking at photos of Hizzonner’s frozen, bearded face, I came to know this man who always welcomed me to his place.

Today, we do a lot of business and have even gone into partnership with this man. His big back slaps and huge smile always made me feel welcome to my old stomping grounds deep in the heart of Abitibi. Of course, there was always the question of whether or not I still wrote for the Nation, of which, I am proud to tell him, yes, of course.

Of what I know of Hizzonner, he may have come from a background completely different from what we experienced growing up in the North, but, in many ways, we share a common bond, the love of the lands that make up this great country of ours. Perhaps, this is his calling card to us as a people and to me as a friend.

One day, when I go back to Val-d’Or, I will treat the man of the hour with grateful respect and I promise not to bother him again about fixing my parking ticket, which I always ask him to do for me. But he won’t break any rules, even though it may cost two bucks, it’s still breaking the rules of engagement. It may also be related to the basic rule that a penny saved is a penny earned, but he quickly reminded me that if you can prove that you come from outside of Val-d’Or, you can always get a free parking pass from the tourism office on the south side of town. When you look at things in perspective, the Nation costs two dollars too, so maybe we can exchange magazines for parking tickets and call it even.

Finally, he mentioned in passing that the newest hotel in Val-d’Or had received not one, but two prestigious awards within the first eight months of operations. I noted that it was always full, so I guess we are in good hands when it comes to this partnership. How about spreading out to the communities and making a top-notch hotel in each one?