I rediscovered a favourite journalist/writer this week, in the kind of happy happenstance that doesn’t occur for Presidents, when a rain day cut climbing short and led us to the Squamish library for an afternoon at the magazine stacks with the latest issue of Vanity Fair and a profile of Barack Obama.
Prior to snagging the journalistic coup of 6 months access to the President, Michael Lewis wrote about Daniel Kahnenman (Thinking Fast and Slow), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s in Moneyball. He wrote The Big Short, The Blind Side and a brilliant memoir of fatherhood Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, that my husband and I still talk about.
He’s a beautiful writer.
I think, he’s my guru. I think, I’d like to be him.
Then I think, I live in Pemberton.
A little tricky to get access to Presidents and Governors from Pemberton.
And I’m not inclined to leave my little patch of Coast Mountains dirt-paradise for the corridors of power and cynicism.
Anyway, what’s significant here isn’t the same as what rates to the editor of Vanity Fair.
But it still matters.
Our small town and our modest lives matter.
As much as Obama and Arnie and Moneyball.
The ripple of our actions might not go as wide, but they are felt as profoundly, sometimes more so, in our little pond. Jess and Graham and their crew of volunteers building a BMX track, or Anna and Niki galvanising farmers and artists and chefs and community leaders to host another Slow Food Cycle, or the crew at the Mt Currie Health Centre looking after all the new babies and new parents, or Jeff and Annika committing to the 10 year incubation of a Skate Park… all have an impact here.
And those stories and people are worth writing about too.
So thanks for your beautiful craftsmanship, Michael Lewis, and your insights into the Oval Office and Wall Street and all those power-bases that I will never go to. And if you ever want to know what’s happening in my ‘hood, give me a call.
You never know. If you find yourself sick and cynical of the traders, the greed, and the hyperpace, you might even find yourself wishing you were me. (Teehee.)
Local honey, a bag of fresh greens and peppery little radishes – that was my haul from the first Pemberton Farmers Market for the season. (Wednesday nights, 4pm-7pm, outside the Pemberton Valley Grocery store.)
So, now we’re fully stocked on salad greens – exposing the joy and the challenge of eating locally, in season – the tomatoes are still weeks away from being ready. But if refraining from eating tomatoes out of season will keep the polar bears alive, I can suck it up. Michael Pollan backs the eat-local-for-climate-change call up with an invitation to also “Eat your View” – to preserve agricultural landscapes by eating from local farms.
As a soft-core locavore, I have been gradually eating myself local for a while now. Which is why it’s so exciting to see Pemberton’s food ecosystem flourishing with local restaurants like Western Promises, Mt Currie Coffee Co, The FoodLovers Bistro, the Pony and Mile One Cafe popping up, sourcing produce from new farmers like Ice Cap Organics, Rootdown Organic Farm, Riverlands Market Garden, Skipping Rooster Organic Farm, the Bathtub Gardens (joining the local stalwarts Helmers, Across the Creek, North Arm Farm, and Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef) and from local food producers like Blackbird Bakery, Bubbees Honey, the Flour Pot and Schramm Vodka. Especially when all of those new growers, makers, movers and shakers are under forty years old.
When Feet Banks, editor for the award-winning Mountain Life magazine, asked me to do a summer write-up of cool local foodstuffs, I was stoked. I love turning the spotlight on these passionate producers. The hardest part was deciding what to leave out. So I focussed on smugglable foodstuffs – the stuff you could take with you if you’re visiting family or friends this summer. The angle was inspired by an old ski client who seriously had smuggled 1kg of English breakfast sausage into Canada, because he did not believe that Canadians could make sausage good enough to fuel his skiing’s caloric requirements.
I’m going to Australia for a visit in the fall, so I began to wonder what will I be stuffing in the pockets and crevices of my pack? I imagine me and the Customs dude at our inevitable encounter: “Ma’am, do you have anything to declare?”
Innocent face: “No.”
“Well, why is your bag clinking?”
Break out the dumb and confused face.
“How about I ask you again? Do you have anything to declare?”
“Actually, I do. I’m a locavore.”
Spent Monday night chasing the light, working with photographer Robin O’Neill, to capture the second “story” for a campaign for the Pemberton & District Economic Development Commission. This shot of our kick-ass local models was eliminated from the final cut, mostly because of the vertical orientation, but it sure fit the branding requirements of showcasing Pemberton’s “natural beauty.”
Spent the week in the laboratory, cooking up a little creative campaign, alongside some of my favourite collaborators, photographer Robin O’Neill, designer Lisa Komuro, and the gorgeous Megeney/Lambrecht clan.
The creative will roll out this summer and is anchored by a website showcasing the Potato Nation, and all its growers, makers, movers and shakers.
Verbal snapshot of One Mile Lake at 6pm on a Saturday: a 6 year old boy casts for fish beside his dad off the floating dock. Half a dozen kayakers paddle across the lake. Dog-walkers enjoy the new boardwalk. A family gathers around a fire in the great metal fire-pit. Someone sits in meditation as the light over the mountains shifts and softens.
The goal is to spread the word that Pemberton is a place worth investing your time, your money or your enterprise.
One of the community’s most outstanding assets is its social capital. It’s a hot-bed of creative, enterprising, fascinating folk. Home-based studios and cottage industries are producing some niche, but highly acclaimed products. A good number of these creative enterprising people just happen, simultaneously, to be ridiculously good-looking. So, we didn’t have too look too far for models to infuse the campaign with genuineness and local character.
While the kids stole our hearts during the shoot, the silent star of the session was Andy Lambrecht’s hand-crafted custom stand-up paddleboard.
A surfer and a wood-worker, Andy has brought his passions into alignment in a way that also serves his values – to tread lightly, to do no harm, to liberate the inherent value in material things by not casting away what is still valuable, to have, as William Morris famously proclaimed, nothing in life that is not both both beautiful and useful.
All Andy’s hollow wood surfboards are built with reclaimed wood.
Andy built a custom board for Norm Hann, who is paddling an epic 300km stand-up paddle journey in the Great Bear Rainforest to protect the region from a proposed oil pipeline. With BP still spewing 40,000+ barrels of oil a day into the ocean, the potential risk of running pipelines and supertankers into pristine environments is apparent to everyone.
Johnny Foon and I have been playing phone-tag. (It might be the only game I can match him at.)
“Uh. that’s okay, Johnny. I’ll just go around and meet you at the bottom.”)
The ski mountaineering legend has become Pemberton’s chief trail-builder, and he’s getting ready to make some noise.
“I’ve been playing in these mountains all my life,” he told me when we managed to connect. “I’ve been in the zone since ’68. For a period of time in my thirties, I was sponsored [as a ski mountaineer], and there was enough funds coming in that I could do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted. After coming to Pemberton, I was doing less and less. I was looking more locally, because everything I wanted to do was right here. This place is the hub of the wheel.”
“If you look at Pemberton through Google Earth,” says Foon, “it’s a hub. All the spokes of different ranges go off from here into the Chilcotins, the Duffey to Lillooet, up to Whistler. Geographically, Pemberton is the place. Whistler is just a spoke off it.”
Their aim is to raise at least $2500, to bring the trail-building funds for this summer’s work to $30,000.
The SLRD (Squamish Lillooet Regional District) has committed $15,000 to the PVTA’s summer trail-building project, provided the PVTA can raise matching funds. So far, contributions of $5000 from the Village of Pemberton, $5000 from the Area C discretionary fund and $2500 from the Pemberton Wildlife Association have brought them a hair’s breadth from their goal.
“We need to show the politicians that we are trying hard to raise funds and that we have the support of the community,” says Foon.
Given that the PVTA’s summer priority is to complete the MacKenzie Mainline trail – a trail that will link the top of MacKenzie Ridge above the cell-tower and new paragliding launch, with Owl Lake, over on the Birkenhead River side of the ridge, it’s hard to imagine they’ll have trouble rustling up the support.
Foon envisions the “MacKenzie Mainline” as a line down a centre of a leaf, connecting the Pemberton and Birkenhead trail networks, that would branch off like hundreds of little veins or resurrected trappers’ and miners’ and packers’ trails, turning the entire ridge into the Land of Epic Rides.
Tickets are $10 in advanced at the Bike Co, $12 at the door.
I took a cruise once. I needed to interview the ship’s doctor for a travel article I was writing for a lifestyle magazine for physicians. He dodged me. He demurred. He point-blank refused.
I persisted. For days. I thought about feigning illness. Or poisoning my mother. But eventually, I prevailed upon him to speak to me, sans recorder, off the record, deep background.
And the stories he told, as if he’d been waiting, all this time, for someone to pull the stopper out of his mouth… Stories of staff members falling overboard, of dead bodies stored in the freezer until the boat got back to port, of family members who would check their elderly ailing parents onto back-to-back cruises as a sort of subsidised assisted living.
Of course, they didn’t make the article.
As Porter Fox, a writer who has contributed to The New York Times magazine and Salon, laments, real narrative is disappearing from travel journalism, replaced with top ten lists and spa service beta.
So, Fox is dishing up an alternative. Nowhere magazine is about getting lost, about disappearing and discovering a real sense of place – places as uncensored as the anonymous co-pilot who reveals just what pilots and flight attendants get up to with all that duty free liquor.
Places like my favourite little patch of nowhere, Pemberton BC… which our feisty mayor defends in this month’s British Columbia magazine. The highway doesn’t end in Whistler, he pronounces. Whistler is tinsel. In Pemberton, the adventure really begins.
Typically, I suffer a burst of motivation during an Olympic Games – it usually gets me as far as one lap around the block or a couple of days at the pool before it fades and I revert to form. But hope springs in the shape of biathlon – where athletes are still peaking in their thirties and the stop-go combination off sprinting and shooting seems like it would be well-served by years managing panic-inducing deadlines.
Pemberton-kid and former provincial team biathlete Sydney Van Loon was gracious enough to encourage my delusions when I hustled her and freeskiing legend Dan Treadway up to Pemberton’s shooting range for a Boxing Day shoot-out with Squamish photographer Mark Gribbon.
Having stepped away from competition so she can enjoy University life, Van Loon figures she has time later to get back into the sport at a competitive level. For now, she’s coaching Prince George’s Caledonia Nordic Ski Club team while studying glaciology at Thompson Rivers University.
When I interviewed her for this Mountain Life story, Van Loon said shooting offers a unique “sense of having everything stopping. You feel full body control. Everything slows down – your lungs, your heart. You’re in the zone.” The mastery required to go from skiing at full tilt aerobic output to slowing down enough to focus on the target makes biathlon one of the most challenging sports. “I don’t think people realize how much is behind it.”
I probably don’t have that much time to figure it out. At least not if I’m going to learn how to shoot, first.
Debate is renewed about who the final torchbearer for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be after organisers announced that it won’t be hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Furlong said spectators will find out the final torchbearer’s identity on Friday night: “You can think about this as long as you’d like and you can think about the last moments of the ceremonies as long as you’d like and you’re not going to figure it out.”
Whoever makes the final run, I’m more excited that Olympic gold medallist and Pemberton resident Hugh Fisher will take up the torch on Friday February 12, passing it from dragonboat to Voyageur Canoe, in the middle of False Creek for the next-to-last leg of the relay.
Dr Fisher won Olympic Gold and Bronze with Kayak partner Alwyn Morris at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. He might be Canada’s most understated Olympic celebrity – a small-town family physician who is the quiet force behind the Laoyam Eagles dragonboat success, coaching Pemberton and Mt Currie kids on a lake the size of a puddle to take the Alcan Dragonboat Festival championship ten years in a row.
I talked to Hugh for this Pique feature - “Is any of this interesting to you?” he asked, as he cracked me up with the story of getting left behind at the venue after the competition because it took three hours to provide a urine sample to doping control, or explained the impact that a wave of Hungarian expats had on Canadian paddling.
“Yeah, Hugh, you could say that.”