YUKON, Canada: My hummus sets the register blaring. "What's that?" I ask. "A hippie alarm? 'Security, we've got a garbonzo-bean-eatin' longhair here...'."
The clerks chortle. It's a slow night in the supermarket, clearly.
Later I examine the receipt. My wisecrack earned me the cheapest pureed-chickpeas short of free: $1.20 Canadian.
Today I saw a wolf streak across the Cassiar Highway. And bears rummaging in roadside berry patches. People laugh at my jokes here. I like the Yukon enormously.
Until the campsite.
We cower in the truck, as mosquitos shadow the cab. My friend Edward observes: "I've written about high latitudes and the Arctic for nearly 20 years. I've never seen this many bugs."
They resemble the passenger pigeons of yore in density and mass. The insects form a haze, distinct from the gathering dusk. Wings and whines blend into a bagpipe drone.
"Ernnnnnnn-er-ern-nerrrrnnnnn:" the tremolo lovesong of the Yukon Mosquito surrounds us, vibrating every nerve. It's a midnight-sun horror show staged by Franz Kafka and Edward Gorey, then performed on cell phones.
All too soon, we are immersed in the maelstrom.
"Why did you buy this bloody all-natural insect repellent that doesn't work?" Ed demands.
"Cause I'm a long-haired, hummus-eatin' freak. But I'd be the freak who remembered to bring bug spray. Play nice."
"My tent," he sulks. "My truck. Your weak vegetarian bones would be stripped bare if I left you here."
Somehow, we squabble the shelter into place. As we're pegging the fly, I realize how horrible these monsters truly are. Grown fat on Gen-X, they've adapted to hip-hugger jeans and aim for any poorly defended backside.
Thus I yelp this terribly, horribly, wretchedly ridiculous thing. I screech it loud above the raga baseline buzz.
And what I holler is: "They're biting my plumber's crack!"
Not one of my better moments, this.
Later we're lying in the tent, each mummy-bagged and irritably awake, cataloguing welts. Every now and then, Edward mutters "crack" and starts chuckling afresh.
Can I rest on my laurels?
Enraged by the slow, pudgy parasites coating the roof ventilation panel, I lose those final strands of self-restraint.
A decisive blast of lemon-scented-ethically-harvested insect repellent flares those buggers right off the netting. Ha! Take that, you bloodsuckers: a veritable supernova of citronella!
And then it showers straight down into our eyes, even before my triumphant shout stops echoing...