Jul 26, 2006


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?

No way.

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...


  1. Just for the record, we were on the Alaska Highway when the wolf ran across the road.

    Also, just for the record, of the dozen or so times I've driven the Alcan and the Cassiar, this is the one and only time I didn't see any moose. You draw mosquitoes straight to your ass, but moose seem to flee.

    Probably a metaphor there, somewhere.

    And I forgot to ask: did you take the mossie spray to the toxic waste site, as the label instructed? That label you were reading right before you sprayed it straight up and tried to blind us both?

    Don't try this at home. Amanda is a highly trained professional.

  2. Would that be the label that says, "do not spray directly on face"?

    No, I didn't take the plant-based product for toxic waste removal. It's packed, so I can blind myself and other in Honduras.

    Probably a dating technique there, somewhere

  3. So, I was a little embarrassed about my mosquito confession.

    Then I saw my horoscope in "The Stranger". Clearly, the entry was fate...

    This week I highly recommend that you NOT sit on a photocopier to create images of your buttocks. For reasons too complex to go into here, doing so would put you out of alignment with the cosmic flow. However, now is an excellent time for you to make other strong statements that involve your backside, at least metaphorically. For instance, you will attract fate's favors whenever you get your ass in gear to get to the bottom of things. Luck will also flow your way in direct proportion to how earnestly and rigorously you kick your own butt.

  4. So now, because of a horoscope and mosquitoes biting your crack, you're going to start walking into rooms backwards?

    Now there's a dating technique.

  5. Good way to wind up a spinster, I reckon.

    In my case, at least...


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