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Toys For Boys

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There are a number of reasons why a man might be single and reasonably well off in Fort McMurray. Until recently it was perceived, somewhat unfairly, as a gold rush town; the place where men came to make their fortune, sloughed up to the trough of greed and gargantuan excess with other like-minded guys. It is thus somewhat of a disappointment to the wide-eyed and slack-jawed rube when he disembarks at YMM International airport and finds that the streets are not paved with gold and the only yellow brick road to be found is in the library, under W for Wizard of Oz or E for Elton John.

Be that as it may, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single person in possession of a good attitude can make an excellent living in our community. So let’s play a game of what if? You’ve been here some years now, you have become reconciled to your shift, you bought an apartment or a condo that cost you the GDP of Fiji but may one day be converted into a retirement plan: What do you do next? You already have the requisite truck, enough ball caps for every day of the winter, and the Metal Mulisha jacket. You were nearly tempted to get a set of bull’s balls to hang off your rear tow-hook except that is rather 2012. Your seadoo sits next to your ATV and your skidoo in front of the pool table you bought but can’t get up the stairs of your condo, all in your lock up at the bottom of Confed.

 You don’t do drugs because it would cost you your job, and the Ladies of the North just don’t turn your crank. They’re a somewhat sleazy way to waste your hard-earned money, and you like to think of yourself as a caring, compassionate man. Besides, they’re hellishly expensive, and boy do they have an attitude.

There are plenty of other appetites to indulge though, but after all the beer you can drink and all the steaks you can eat you still need to fit on the seat of that shovel or truck you drive or else the fat pay-cheques will disappear. So you do what any 21st Century-elitist member of the consumer society does, you go shopping for more toys. Now, more than ever before, Fort McMurray has plenty to find.

Everybody, at some point, needs to dress up. Even if it’s for your hick fourth cousin’s wedding and the only reason you’re going is you promised your mother (and there’s a third cousin from Wetaskiwin who was veering towards really sexy looking four years ago and you need to know how she turned out), Bob at Bob Barrett Men’s Apparel can get you kitted out in a fine suit, shirt, belt, tie, socks, and shoes; and eight hundred bucks will make you look like a million.

Even better, if you are dressing to marry that same third cousin, a little more than double the price will have you in a top-of-the-line Samuelson suit, Florsheims, Lipson shirt, and Dion Italian silk tie. How could she resist?

Still on the big occasion, Dickinsfield Liquor carries all you need to impress, starting with Champagne; Louis Roederer, Veuve Clicquot, or Moët & Chandon, among others. Follow that up with Gran Patrón Platinum Tequila, Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still Canadian Whisky, and (I’m not kidding) the drink with the best name in the world, Effen Vodka. And even though the Bruichladdich single malt is now calling itself ‘organic’–what else could it be?–forgive them, for it is still a fine tipple. Top that off with some strangely named wines: Dirty Laundry, Layer Cake, The Game Reserve, Painted Turtle and Eroica to name but a few. I can’t tell if they’re good, or merely a product of good marketing, but Anthony the manager can and he’ll be sure to share his knowledge.

On to the big stuff. Northstar Ford’s Ainsworth Wisdom, aptly named, can have you seated in a Ford Mustang for as little as $25,000, but if you want the Shelby GT500 with all the added accoutrements you’re looking at about three times as much, as well as a waiting list. Of course you’ll be buying an instant classic; even without the performance package it has 662bhp, which will get you from zero to trouble with the Mounties in about 3.7 seconds. And it’s not even the most expensive vehicle on the lot. That dubious prize goes to the oilsands-excess size F350 Platinum Diesel. A fully tricked out one will run close to 10 grand more than the Shelby. What do you get for that? “Everything,” says Ainsworth. They’ll even throw in a baseball cap, but only if you wear it pimp style.

When a person first arrives in Fort McMurray there are three rumours that you hear, braggart-like, as if to show that the consumption here is as conspicuous as legend would have it. The first is that Northstar Ford sells more trucks than any other Ford dealer in the world. The second is that the local Harley guys have the biggest dealership in Canada, while the third involves a secret hairdressing salon in Gregoire where, if you know the right codes and have enough money, the ladies are very, very friendly.  All three are bunkum, trust me. I’ve had my hair cut everywhere and was never offered anything untoward. And the math just doesn’t work for the other two tall tales.

Does Northstar Ford sell a lot of trucks? Well, yes, I hope so. On the other hand, can they compete with the megadealers in Texas? Unlikely. As for the bike guys, well they’re just a medium-sized privately owned shop. There are likely more than a 100 dealers bigger than them, which is why Matt told me they work harder, and yet still sell at the same price.

So if parking is limited and your company is already paying for a pickup for you, then maybe what you really need is a motorbike. In this town, unless you’re 19, don’t want to see 20, and can only afford a Japanese wiener-whiner rocket, the only motorcycle worth having is a Harley. Matt Voigt can put your bum on the leather seat of the USA’s only real icon for as little as $11,000. That’s a steal when you consider there is no such thing as a bad looking Harley-Davidson. Even the names exude clinging awe. You won’t find anything called a VFR1200FA DCT here; these bikes have real handles. There’s a Softail, an Ultra, a Road King. You can buy a Super Glide, a Sportster, a Switchback; even an Electraglide, which sounds almost sinful.

There is the romance of the open road associated with these names. They link you to Fonda, Hopper, Nicholson: Easy Rider; “Get your motor runnin’, Head out on the Highway.” Try that Suzuki.

The best story? Just before Christmas two young ladies, sisters who looked to be barely out of school, came in and bought their mother her dream Christmas present; a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. Leaving aside all the fun Freud could have had with that (and it could have been a Street Bob or a Night Rod instead), the message is you don’t have to leave your hometown to get a deal. Harleys range all the way up to about $45,000, and Matt will price match anytime. Although the local shop is certainly not the biggest, not by a long way, they are the best at what they do and their showroom is a guy’s toy heaven. Go there and indulge yourself. You know you want a leather jacket, a bandanna, a Harley hunting knife or pool cue. And you might even buy a Black Line or a Forty-eight as well.

So you’ve bought the flash wheels, either two or four, what’s next? It’s easy to get them dirty in the winter, or the summer for that matter. Spring and the autumnal season are also never short of weather guaranteed to put mud on your pride and joy. Sure you can go and hose it off, maybe run it through a car wash or spend time doing it yourself. The trouble is that four hours of washing and waxing means you’ve wasted a morning and you’re now reluctant to drive it anywhere in case it gets a speck of dust on it. Whereas if you pay someone else to do it, you know that if it gets dirty again, which it will, all it will cost to clean it is more money; which you have plenty of or else you would not have the toy that is worth cleaning in the first place.

This is where X-treme Steam comes in. Andrew Ali will bring your interior back to showroom condition and the exterior up to Concours d’Elegance standard. Now, my idea of washing a vehicle usually involves a torn-up Stones t-shirt, a bucket and some dishwashing liquid so I’m not one to judge. However, if I had an Aston Martin in my driveway then I would like Andrew and his ‘clean’ verbs to do me. He doesn’t just wash; he steams, details, restores, protects, polishes, purifies, conditions, redresses, and even adds lustre. He can also safeguard your bodywork with a 3M patented film, and later this year he’ll be able to apply that same stuff to the glass. Is that not your definition of heaven? Living in Fort McMurray and not having a cracked windshield?

But enough of that. It’s all very well protecting your stuff except we really haven’t explored all the gear you need. Audio Dezigns have a showroom that is so righteous you want to rent it for parties. They have most of the biggest and best flat screen TVs, projectors, sound systems, and gadgets in Alberta, and what they don’t have, they can get. Again the price can be surprising; a mounted and fitted flat-screen can be on your wall for less than $1,000. Of course from there, the sky’s the limit. One installation they recently worked, a completely wired and sound-set-up new house with a link in every room, ran north of $120,000.

It’s also not unusual for people to bring in their brand new vehicles and ask for a sound system/ touchscreen /radar /navlink /boombox package that costs nearly as much as the truck. Steven Marshall will find ways to make your wheels as loud and proud as possible and if you sacrifice some seating space he will give you a wall of sound so complete Phil Spector might as well be locked up.

After all that, you’ll need some daylight under your vehicle. MXC racing are the premier ‘lifters’ in town and they can start you off with a 2-inch kit if you’re but a beginner, all the way up to, well, how high do you want to go? There is one limitation, though. Adam won’t do anything unsafe. As an example, requests for lift kits on family vans are turned away. Although MXC is a full service shop and does everything from tires through exhausts to oil changes, it’s the lift kits that are the toys for men in this town, and you can jack just about anything you want. The strangest one we heard? They make a lift kit for a Mini. That’s about as odd as a tow-bar on a Smart car.

Back to the wall of sound, which always needs an armchair of compassionate padding, the Brick has the ultimate manly chair for those two-day Call of Duty marathons,  DVD collections, or four-game Sundays. It’s called the Heirloom Black Robotic Massage Recliner and it will rub just about every part of your body into fumbling near-ecstasy.

Too much? Try Timberlea Furniture for lounging opulence. How good is their stuff? Well, they stock the Ashley furniture range and the ‘Lena’ oversized chair and ottoman was so comfortable there’s one in front of this writer’s TV now. Try them, and then try getting out of their store. Once you’ve sat down, it’s hard to leave.

You don’t need to hit 63 to get your gear anymore. Live local, stay local, buy local.

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Kevin has been writing for YMM since the first issue. Many of his articles have been pseudonymous, hidden behind the tags Keyano writer or YMM staff. Kevin has been a columnist for many years, working for some of the leading newspapers of the world, including the New York Times and the Devon Dispatch.