On one of my few forays out of the cold white north, I ventured down to seek out new life forms and technologies to bring back to my home town. I discovered some things look new, but are really the same old things packaged in flashy wrappings. I also discovered that some old things really do look better when all dolled up in new veneers. The new technologies that I came to see were the transparencies of all wheel drive and what good old dynamite can do to a hillside.

I went down to buy a new vehicle and, lo and behold, there it was, just the way it looked on the internet. There was only one catch, and that was to find the trusty block heater, which is indispensable north of 50. After a trip to the garage, it was found nestled away behind a plastic covering where the fog lamps were supposed to be. I also noticed that many buttons that were supposed to be on the dash board (last years’ model) had completely disappeared in favour of under-the-hood doodads and, in discretional fashion, left up to the mechanical whims of the vehicle. This meant that I was never, ever to exit the vehicle to lock up all four wheels into traction, never to flip a switch and never to wonder whether I was in all wheel drive or not, because a little idiot light told me so when it engaged. I have yet to see that little light; maybe I have to wait for extreme weather and road conditions before it will ever show.

Another technological marvel came to my attention when I bumped into Wernie and Neil Diamond at a gas station in Matagami (pronounced Ma-taww-ga-mee). In a show-offy way, Neil Diamond offered to burn me some music while on the road. After marveling with wonder and expectation, we discussed how, back in the day, the art of photography had evolved in leaps and bounds. It used to be that the expression, “you’ll have those pictures in 10 days or so” had changed to one-hour services, and now to instant results in any format you want. This works the same for music, although, after 250 kilometres of useless blabbing, I never got my compact disk burnt by Neil Diamond, so he offered me his disk as sentimental compensation. As long as the road is there, the music will follow (and adverse hearing disabilities soon after).

While readying the vehicle for a trip overseas (at least on the bays of James and Hudson) in Wemindji, I was amazed as to what had transpired there since my last visit about six or seven years earlier. Structures, roads, a swimming pool and pavement everywhere had created a community with the new ’burb look and feel. Somehow, it all made me feel good about the town, in which the population has soared from 250 or so back in the 70s to six times that today. Wow, no wonder we don’t see the Wemindji-ites out too late at night, they must all be busy creating a baby boom. I also liked the way the neighborhood looked and the sense of construction and busyness, like a bee-hive in a way. Much to my astonishment, I only saw a few guys hanging around town, apparently enjoying the sunlight and nice weather. This is an indicator to me that there is little unemployment, or the hanger-outers were allergic to sunlight and came out only at night. I guess I’ll have to spend a little more time in the Painted Hills to find out. All in all, I liked the transformation of this community, a lot better than a veneer job, I must say.

Back to traveling, in an amazing stroke of luck, due to high winds and bad weather, I made it back home the same day I arrived in Wemindji. Lousy weather does have its merits and I logged in 3,000 kilometres in 48 hours in record time. Now, I just have to wait for the vehicle to catch up, on the high seas.