Tim Falconer began his residency at Pierre Berton House in Dawson City in March.
But, if you were looking to find the writer during his three-month stay, the childhood home of Pierre Berton nestled under a spruce tree on 8th Avenue is probably one of the last places you should look.
You could check the trail on the Moosehide Slide, the KIAC Ballroom during the Dawson City International Short Film Festival, the Westminster Lounge, the Dempster Highway, Eagle Plains, Elsa or Keno, or, at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoons you could tune your radio to CFYT 106.9 FM in Dawson.
“It was always a lifelong dream of mine to have a radio show, that’s the great thing about Dawson, lifelong dreams come true,” says Falconer.
His show, “Face the Music”, covered a new theme every week, and featured his favourite topical tunes.
He sits with ease in the DJ’s chair in the CFYT station, wearing bermuda shorts and a straw fedora.
The station floor is covered with dust from Dawson’s streets, and though the sun is shining, the mood and the music is melancholy. This is Falconer’s last show, and one of his last day’s in Dawson.
“I’m leaving on June 27. I know the date because I’m leaving on my birthday, isn’t that terrible?”
Falconer is based in Toronto, where he teaches Journalism at Ryerson University. He is the author of four books, Watchdogs and Gadflies, Drive, That Good Night, and Drop the Worry Ball.
Drop the Worry Ball is co-authored by Dr. Alex Russell and launched in Toronto during Falconer’s stay at Berton House.
Three months have gone by quickly and been long in the making. In 1979, Falconer, who was studying mining engineering at the time, spent a summer working in the Elsa mine.
“I met a lot of people, made some great friends, even if I only ever saw one of them again,” he says.
The Yukon captured Falconer’s imagination, but he returned south to continue his studies at McGill University in Montreal, this time in English literature.
“I saw a lot of people running away, I didn’t want to do that, I saw the chance to do something I loved, and so I did it. But I knew I would come back, I just didn’t know it would take me 29 years.”
And what does Falconer think of Dawson, now that he is doing the thing he loves, but has the chance to do it here in the Yukon?
“The skies, the light all day and night, the scenery, is beautiful. But, it is really about the people.
“From the moment I got here, people were generous and welcoming. People say the locals don’t like to invest much in ‘summer folks’, or artists in residence [people who aren’t here permanently], but if this is not investing, I don’t know what it does look like when you do invest emotion.”
In planning his residency, Falconer hoped to adapt a piece he’s been writing about his experiences as a tone-deaf music-lover into a book, but says that during his time here he’s tried to focus on the experience instead of a task list.
The community of Dawson has made focusing on the experience of this place, instead of the desk in Berton House, easy.
In his second weekend here, Falconer found himself blogging for the Dawson City International Short Film Festival, and later participating in their 1 Minute Film workshops, though he hesitates to call himself any sort of filmmaker.
Falconer says he appreciates the blurring of expectations and labels in this small northern community—as a writer he can make films and host a radio show.
In addition, he values the way people from different backgrounds and professions, of all ages and interests, interact.
“I teach, I work closely with young people, I get along with them. I enjoy the same music. But in Toronto, it’s odd to go to a club and be the oldest person there.
“But, you forget you’re old in this town. In Toronto, you’re always aware you are.”
Meanwhile, Falconer has found himself working on pieces about the Yukon, his time here in the past and his experiences of Yukon present, some of which will be published in southern publications this summer.
Falconer maintains he will come back, and this time he won’t wait 29 years. Before and during his time here, he was told he had all the “signs” of someone who would have difficulty leaving the territory and the town.
He admits that in different circumstances, he could see himself staying here, that he would love to do a full year.
But, he worries.
“In three years, how many people will leave? And would they remember me?” he asks.
As his hour on air draws to a close, Falconer addresses the mic, “I am leaving, unfortunately and sadly.”
He introduces the next song, the last song, as the song he would like played at his funeral.
He stays quiet as Joe Strummers breaks into the opening lyrics of “Silver and Gold”, “I’m gonna go out dancin’ every night, I’m gonna see all the city lights, I’ll do everything silver and gold, I got to hurry up before I grow too old.“
I can’t help thinking that in his time here in Dawson, Falconer has done a fine job of meeting those goals.
While not marvelling at the midnight sun or belting pop songs at aurora borealis, Rian Lougheed-Smith designs, prints and co-operates the Klondike Drawing Company in Dawson City.