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Meeting the Mayor

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How misled we became by a false impression last night after taking a spin around the town on arrival. All we could see in our Dempster-fatigued state was abandoned streets, metal-slabbed buildings on stilts and the empty lobby of the Nova Inn – the last resting place on Our Longest Drive. Today, the view is much clearer.

We descend on Town Hall with Dan presenting the Mayor with a Chicago Cubs baseball cap and a two-gallon tin of Chicago Mix Garret Popcorn. Denny eyes the Garrett Popcorn and tells a little white lie about sharing it with others. From the width of his waistline and the size of his ample face, we can tell that he won’t. I make a lame joke about having the same kind of appetite and the same size of head. We have found something to bond over.

It’s hard to tell when a person as diplomatically-skilled as Denny really likes something. But our next gift – a signed proclamation by Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel naming tomorrow “Our Longest Drive Day” in Chicago – seems to please him especially. With that done, he takes us for a tour of the town – first stop, the Igloo Church of Our Lady of Victory; second stop, a converted hockey rink that’s been turned into a greenhouse where the townsfolk plant flowers and vegetables, and, finally, the Rec Center – a building with a swimming pool, squash courts, hockey rink and curling court that invites wedding receptions, conventions and public entertainment.

All Inuvik’s buildings are Arctic-friendly, utilitarian in appearance, standing up on their pilings. With climate change causing the active permafrost to enlarge, the pilings are now being driven down as much as 50 feet into the earth. Once you dig three feet down, there is ice. Having ice so close to the surface of the land requires “utilidors” which, in effect, form a system of above-ground pipes that spread across its neighborhoods like spider webs.

Building methods are not the only changes occurring. A road to Tuktoyaktuk from Inuvik is being considered. Denny and others have convinced Canada’s federal government to allocate $150 million toward a $230 million highway construction project that, when the natural gas pipeline is built from the ocean to northern Alberta, would mean jobs and prosperity. Denny considers the development the fulfillment of John Diefenbaker’s dream to connect Canada by road from sea to sea to sea.

A young Invaluit with a wicked tattoo on his hand named Kurt Wainman believes that his company has a shot at a contract to build the road. Before we head out to the golf course, Kurt invites us to tour the MacKenzie River on his jet boat – a black, foreboding, twin 502-horsepower craft with a music track of songs played in Hades. Kurt arrives on the dock in a truck that sits two feet above its tires. Vrooom, we set out on the glassy water with a roar that shatters the sound barrier.

Thanks for following our journey,

Vic