The dinner party, part one

Dear Uma: Congratulations on your horse show; you will be running out of room for trophies and ribbons, if you haven't already.

Dear Uma:

Congratulations on your horse show; you will be running out of room for trophies and ribbons, if you haven’t already. I don’t know why you were surprised that Bonny and Dan didn’t enjoy the gathering afterwards; having attended horse show “after parties” with you in the past, I can only say that horseless guests are in for a thin time of it, and that is one couple who are not accustomed to having less than a very good time. If you were worried about having them visit you, how do you think I am feeling about their impending descent on my world?

From Beverly Hills to Watson Lake may prove to be more of a stretch than our already tenuous friendship can withstand. I say tenuous because I’ve gone from having a few things in common with Dan and Bonny to having practically nothing in common with them. It’s one of those friendships that is left over from another life, the one they are still having.

They are coming for three days and the only thing I can think of that might be something they haven’t seen better somewhere else is the hot springs, a jaunt that could be stretched to fill one day if we drive slowly and stop to look at the bison. A day in Whitehorse, either when they arrive or when they depart, should fill some time; that leaves one entire day with just me and Pete and our visitors. Actually, Pete is waffling; he is almost ready to tell me that he’ll be staying in camp to catch up on some work. I can read that man like a book, or rather, a cartoon.

I know I ought to have told them not to come, but I lack that sort of nerve and I am thinking when they’ve spent some time in my new life they may recognize that now the relationship can be allowed to gently taper off. The whole problem solved without me having to say anything. It’s not that I dislike them; it’s simply that I find them an effort to be with. They were more Dean’s friends than mine and I will never understand why they kept me on their list when Dean and I went our separate ways.

I hosted a gathering the other night, a pot luck; practise for when Bonny and Dan are here. I want them to meet some of my new friends.

The conversations were thought-provoking and left me with much to mull when the party was over. For instance, great debate over who has the better life: Baloo the bear, or the Lion King. I was surprised to learn how many guests thought the latter had the finer life when to my mind Baloo is clearly the winner. When I presented my argument, dwelling at length about his lack of duties and responsibilities, the others thought the power wielded by the Lion King made his life more meaningful and therefore superior to Baloo’s philosophy of the ‘bare necessities’ in exchange for personal freedom. Of course, they believed the power of the lion’s position would be used only for good and would result in a better life for everyone. I mentioned that lions eat meat, and that many of the king’s subjects are meat; Baloo, on the other paw, is largely a fruit and insect eater. Despite these excellent points, Baloo and I were outnumbered.

Some of our guests were longtime residents of Watson Lake and the talk inevitably turned to the good old days. From all I have heard about this era, it really was a fine and fun few years, at least for the white folks. There never seems to be much mention of what the Kaska were doing while these good times were rolling.

One of the things talked about was how differently the RCMP is these days. People remembered that as children growing up in Watson Lake, the police were regarded as friends, largely because they were visible in that role. They were generally very involved in all aspects of the social life of the town, and indeed were good friends with local families.

These days, they live with their families in a sort of compound of houses clustered around the RCMP office building, and jail. One person told of being stopped at a roadblock, with his young son anxiously chanting “please don’t shoot, please don’t shoot” the entire time the policeman was checking out her licence and papers. This is not a family who has experienced trouble with the law; their children have not witnessed their parents being arrested or even reprimanded by police.

The parents don’t badmouth the police to their children; they say to them “a policeman is your friend,” and their kids don’t watch TV programs or movies that involve bad cops. Obviously there are other influences at work.

Someone said having the RCMP in a compound is like living with a Hell’s Angels clubhouse in the neighbourhood; you’re safe if you are associated in some way, but be careful if you are not.

Another discussion was about the video on the internet that showed Obama coping with a locked French door at the White House. He tried to open the door and finding it locked he immediately moved on to the next one which was open. This was followed by a clip of Bush Jr. at exactly the same door in the same locked circumstance.

The difference between the two men’s response was the subject of much hilarity. Bush tried again and again to open the door, his struggle ending with him banging on it before standing there with his accustomed mouth-hanging-open face, utterly stopped and stymied. There are few recorded moments that so capture the essence of two men in less than a minute.

There were a few bites of gossip, from a crowd that doesn’t indulge much in talking about other members of the community. Nothing worth passing on except a remark about a woman in town of whom it was said has a taste for men rather like the proclamation of the statue of liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses….”.

I offered to contribute to the evening’s excitement and furtherance of deep knowledge by sharing the news about Mazda’s auto recall. At first, everyone groaned; no one in the house owned a Mazda, and any talk of auto recall is not considered worthy in this crowd. They changed their tune when I told them that this recall was prompted by the activities of a gas-loving spider.

The Mazda 6 has two pipes coming out from its gas tank, a rare feature, and one meaning that the smell of gasoline is strong enough to attract this particular spider but not strong enough to kill it.

What possible harm can a spider do to a car? Was the question on every set of lips in the room, and I was happy to tell them. The spiders do what spiders do; they build webs. A build-up of webs is eventually strong enough to restrict a vent line, which could cause the emissions control system to increase pressure in the fuel tank. Fuel tank cracks and possible leaks are the result; a threat that led to recall of 52,000 Mazda 6 cars. The dealers will install a spring to prevent the spiders from entering the vent. Once again, Mother Nature reminds us how easily she can mess us up.

Next question: why do some of us find that a comfort?

I’ll leave you with that great philosophical query, and a reminder to send me the recipe for pressed duck. You mentioned it was a hit with our Beverly Hills friends and I am going to attempt to duplicate that gustatory experience for them. I shall finish with a chocolate mousse for dessert, the whole meal to be washed down with lots of wine.



Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.

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