There’s really only one place in Yellowknife this could happen. I had just filled up my thermos with coffee and was in line to pay. The only guy in front of me was fumbling through his pockets to dig out a handful of change, swaying, but stubbornly keeping his feet planted.
He didn’t have enough change, so he uncrinkled a 50-dollar bill from his pocket, one of a few balled-up bills, mixed with worn receipts and ATM slips.
He paid, turned around with his box of wings and wedges and saw me and my thermos. He looked and swayed. I clearly saw the moment the light went on, the moment he realized he knew me. “Good morning,” I said, with a smile and nod as I moved to the counter to pay for my coffee. “Goohnide,” he said, a boozy mouth wrestling with the words.
Where this all happened, where my day was starting and his ending, is Winks. And I love that when I go there, at about 4:40 a.m. every weekday, it’s not yet today, but last night, by all decent judgement, is over. I won’t concede it’s still yesterday, and the guy buying wings and wedges with a slur won’t concede it’s tomorrow. It’s just Winks. I was never a morning person, preferring night time to think, talk, socialize, create, whatever. But hosting the CBC morning radio show, The Trailbreaker, I’ve had to become one. I’m off the air, DONE, by 8 a.m. When I got the job, I’d only heard the show a handful of times. It’s on too damn early.
But nearly two years into my gig as morning radio host, it’s grown on me. The words: “good morning,” have become my calling card, the foundation of my role in this community. We’ve all got to pull our weight to make Yellowknife work. The weight I pull is “good morning.” My intention is to say those words such that they stand an inch or two taller than whatever else I say, because I mean them so deeply.
In becoming a morning person, I feel like I’ve joined an elite Yellowknife task force: people who rise early to get the community ready for everyone else. There’s no end to the pleasure I get giving a casual drive-by salute to the Bromley and Sons water truck driver or the City snow removal crews that run plows, loaders and dump trucks before there’s any traffic.
But the early risers who prep the city for another day are only part of the picture. There are also those who haven’t let go of last night. There’s the walking-all-night downtown folks, the sex-on the-baseball-field folks, the young BMXers laughing at the sex-on-the-baseball-field
On one sunny July bike ride into work, a teenager making his way to who-knows-where on a longboard was jamming out to whatever was playing in his headphones. I wasn’t sure he noticed me as I biked towards him. But as we passed, he raised his hand and we instinctively highfived.
Did he have wings and wedges under his arm?
Which brings us back to Winks. The place where yesterday and tomorrow meet, and where it’s often not clear which is which.
There was a day this fall when I popped into Winks for my usual 4:40 a.m. thermos fill. Again, I saw someone I knew. He swayed, tightly clinging to a box of wings and wedges. I noticed the seat of his jeans was torn wide open and you could see his bare arse. So I asked, to be sure, if he was headed home.
“Hell ya,” he said, “I’ve got to work tomorrow.”
“Today, you mean?”
“No, I’m done for today, time to crash.”
“Goohnide,” he ended, swaying.
“Good morning,” I replied. And meant it.
Loren McGinnis hopes you’ll tune into his radio show, whether it’s to start tomorrow or finish up yesterday.