Archive for May, 2012

Bag Boy

I’m finally starting to relax a little here in Fort Mac, as I get settled in here and accustomed to my new home.  It just keeps on getting better-looking around here as Summer comes closer, which I think is helping the process.  I will be posting photographic evidence of this claim, so look forward to that.

My drive home.

I got to spend the day checking out a full-scale wildfire exercise the other day, which was pretty cool, and I will possibly – I cannot stress the word ‘possibly’ enough here – be golfing, which would be the first time ever, on behalf of the Fort McMurray Today, for charity on Friday.  If this does happen, I will be sure there are plenty of cameras on site to capture the most hilariously embarrassing moment of my life.  I suppose there is a remote possibility that I will just turn out to be an indescribably talented golfer, a la Happy Gilmore… but don’t hold your breath.

Gregoire Lake

Anyways, now the reason you all clicked this link.

The bag boy’s name is Sean Graham, and it took me all of about a week to learn his name, so I guarantee you that every single citizen of Fort McMurray knows who this guy is.  It’s not a terribly long story, and I don’t have all of the details, so here it is:

Gregoire Lake…

Mr. Graham, probably a little younger than me, proposed that all plastic bags found in grocery stores, or any stores, be removed permanently.  I assume this was some sort of enviro-friendly-fueled suggestion. Council, obligated to take all requests from their citizens seriously, said, “Okay, we will put this suggestion to a vote on Date X.”

Date X came around, and apparently only a couple of councillors actually cared enough to show up for the vote, and of course, the ones who DID care enough to show up, were the ones who were in favour of the suggestion.  The vote passed, and Fort McMurray is now a plastic bag black hole.  Only in a small town, folks.

…Gregoire Lake…

Hmm, have I written enough to be able to stuff all of my photos into this post?  I have no idea.  If not, I’ll just throw the rest down below.  Have a good night!

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“We Are The Mac… Are You The Mac?”

Call me. …or email me… But don’t fax me, the world has forgotten about that.

So my first couple weeks at the Fort McMurray Today are in the books.

I’ve been having a good time here so far.  It’s pretty tough to pack up and move to a new city, and then try to figure out what exactly people care about here, and report it within about 48 hours of arriving.

I often find myself asking “Is this new information?” to some of the people who have been here longer than I have, because I simply don’t know.  But with everyday that goes by, the job gets easier, as I learn where things are, what goes on there, and the things I write about start to be follow-ups or add-ons to things I’ve written about maybe a few days ago, so I actually know a moderate amount of information on the topic.

I think part of what I love about this industry, and maybe this is going to sound bad, but as a journalist, it’s your output that gets measured.  Nobody really cares what the hell you do all day long, as long as you have good content at the end of the day.  Some days, yes, that might mean lunch doesn’t even cross your mind, but other days maybe you give’r and get four interviews done before noon, and take a nice leisurely lunch.

My beat has been pretty interesting thus far.  I’ve covered everything from a stolen excavator to a city council meeting.  Duncan, I think you should consider sending the first years to Fort McMurray city council from now on, things got pretty heated.

I also get to take a lot of photos here, which is something I hadn’t actually considered when looking for a job, but am definitely glad it’s something I’ll be doing a lot of here.  I don’t think I used the college’s cameras once in CreComm, but I practically slept with an HD video camera every night, because of my IPP.  I really came to love shooting video, and taking photos isn’t all that much different.  It really helps round out your portfolio too, if you can have an article that you wrote, accompanied by a photo that you took.

My living situation is what will take more getting used to than my job.  If you’ve met me (or, maybe more appropriately, not met me) you know I’m a pretty solitary person.  I enjoy being independent, and not having to answer to anyone except myself.  So living with people is an adjustment, but luckily the people that I live with are pretty nice. They bought me a fridge for my room so I mean… what more is there to say?

The actual city is beautiful, and I live in a pretty quiet, nice neighbourhood.  My drive to work every morning is more scenic than anything you’ll ever see in Winnipeg.  Also, if anyone’s wondering, that whole thing about Winnipeg drivers not being able to merge? Myth confirmed. It’s a Winnipeg thing.

So I think that’s pretty much it for updates since I last posted.  There’s a pretty ridiculous story about a kid who single-handedly got plastic bags removed from all of the stores here, making grocery shopping next to impossible, so maybe I’ll tell you about that next time around.

Leg 3 – Fort McMurray

*written May 1, 2012

Sorry this is a day late, but after a nerve-wracking five-hour drive, and unpacking all my things and getting settled, I found myself suddenly quite exhausted and called it an early night last night.

Finally nice out.

I hadn’t heard about the huge crash on Highway 63 until my mom told me about it while I was in Edmonton.  It was definitely good for me to know about it, so that maybe I’d be a little more careful than usual on the drive, but it definitely raised my stress level and made me quite anxious to just get on the road and get there.  Especially reading all of the user comments on various stories, calling the highway a “death trap” among other things.  Not gonna lie, I probably envisioned over 50 varying incarnations of my own death before going to bed that night.

The drive itself wasn’t as bad as I was prepared for it to be.  As a responsible driver, the worst part about driving on that highway now is fear of the not-so-responsible drivers.  There are so many inclines and declines on that highway that a lot of the time you can’t see the road directly in front of you because you have to make it up the incline first.  Those are the times you hold your breath and just wait for a car going 150 km/h to appear right in front of you, passing someone in the other lane.  That’s exactly what happened last Friday.

Yes, a house.

Then there are the “wide loads”.  Flat-bed trucks carrying anything from huge machinery, to ready-to-move homes.  Yeah, they’re going about 40 km/h, and on the highway it’s enough to drive the most patient motorist batshit crazy.  The worst part is, when you finally decide to pass them, you’re starting from 40 km/h and you spend so much more time in the wrong lane, when a regular pass is done in about four seconds.  Not to mention that all of the wide loads have entourages in front and back of them to notify the world that they’re there.  I call it “School Bus Syndrome”.  Why do school buses need the strobing blinding light on top of them? They are gigantic and yellow, people don’t need a flashing light to notice them.  I digress.

So I got into Fort McMurray pretty early in the afternoon, and found out that it would be about five hours before I’d be able to get into the place I was staying.  So I took the time to walk and drive around and check the place out.  It’s an absolutely beautiful city.  You actually drive way down, off the highway to get into the city, so the entire place is surrounded by these big, wooded hills.

Pretty standard shopping centre, near where I'm staying.

They’ve got pretty much every standard chain you’d find in any other city, whether it’s a restaurant or a grocery store, but I was dismayed to find they do not have an Applebee’s.  Which means I have zero places to take a girl on a first date.  I’m actually embarrassed to have just written that, but Ashley made me.

So I’m staying in a house with three other people, but it actually turned out to be a pretty sweet deal for the city I’m living in, where a standard one-bedroom apartment will run you about $1,800/month.  I have access to everything in the house, and a bedroom and my own bathroom, which is what I’ve found is a rarity when rooming with people here.  All for only a couple hundred dollars more than I was paying in Winnipeg.

So many of the residential areas here are just a massive jumble of houses/condos.  Fort Mac is a “boomtown”, and you can tell with one quick look around that when it suddenly became a boomtown, it was a mad dash to develop residential areas.  Houses are just crammed one next to the other, no driveways, park wherever the hell you can, oh, look over here, a random paved area off the side for parking, and six houses just in the middle of nowhere.  It’s definitely not like anything I’ve ever seen before.  People are there to work, not live. And I don’t mean that in a bad way or anything, I just mean that getting to Fort McMurray is the first priority for most people, and comfort of living is second.

The area where I’m staying is nice though, quiet, and will be great for rollerblading  in when it gets a little warmer out.

But this post is getting a little lengthy, so I’ll stop there, and will try to post again once I have a few days of work under my belt.