Archive for December, 2007

Haligonian sushi

December 31, 2007

After literally decades of swearing I “couldn’t” eat sushi on the East Coast, several realities conspired to send me into a Japanese restaurant today for lunch–and it was, after all, a very happy experience. Those realities included: New Year’s, a time when sushi seems to be particularly imperative to my diet; the sweet little book by Aimee Steinberger, Japan Ai, which I just finished reading last night; general homesickness in light of the family’s departure back to the West Coast on Saturday; and talking with Sandy last evening, during which conversation she mentioned having gone to lunch the other day at Nanayiro; plus, it was a half-day of work and the weather is god-awful.

So I stopped on my way home, through precipitation that is swinging wildly between rain and snow, at Momoya. In keeping with having just read Steinberger’s paeon to cutitude, one of the assistant cooks was wearing a bright pink Hello Kitty apron. The sushi chef’s sartorial choices made me feel right at home: like any of his North American West Coast compadres, he was wearing a hapi coat–and like at least a third of them, the de rigeur New York Yankees baseball cap that seems to have become an international symbol for Western Hemisphere chic.

The ohitashi (as opposed to to Nanayiro’s oshitashi) tasted fine, although the shaved bonito had the appearance of big pencil shavings rather than delicate curls or dust. The red dragon roll was absolutely fine, although I paid a dollar extra for the “spicey” version and didn’t quite notice much spice. The hot sake was only luke warm, which meant that none of the alcohol content had dissipated. The green tea was heavenly and nearly worth the price of lunch in and of itself.

So, in contrast to my less than successful attempt at finding reliable Thai food for Bob, I now do have a Japanese food option for myself. Oh happy day.

The world is glass

December 30, 2007

Yesterday’s precipitation froze during the night to coat the entire neighborhood in ice of varying thickness. When I first went out early this morning, the least challenging places were those in which the stuff had been churned before refreezing, creating traction by way of ice ridges and valleys. In many places, however, it was a frightfully smooth rime.

In a couple spots along Morris Street and across from the drug store/post office on Fenwick Street, I slid for several metres at a time, and saw others windmill as they nearly toppled during a skid. Even now, after a morning of sun, there are large slick places that are better avoided than attempted by thsoe of us uncertain of how absolutely we can remain upright. Tomorrow morning will be hellish walking to the ferry terminal.

In the midst of all this, the joggers continue. I cannot figure out the physics of their success: they wear regular track shoes and never seem to slide or even hold back or go around sheets of ice.

Since physics isn’t providing me with a reasonable explanation, I am put in mind of Miki Prelog, who, when I was 5 and he 10, showed me how to climb along snow and ice clogged ravines and slide along frozen creeks without ever falling. The only rational part of his teaching that remains with me is to step lightly. I don’t know if the strange loose knees and tiny steps I go to in these underfoot conditions also come from his suggestions.

It is a good time of year to think of Miki. One big adventure we had happened three days before Christmas, 1962, my mother’s birthday, and the day on which she always set aside for obtaining and decorating a Christmas tree. That year, Miki and I and a friend of his named Mike took my sled through a patch of woods to collect the tree at a nursery. As we walked, the boys alternately told me scary stories and ignored me, leaving me to find useful footholds on the slopes…

…until we came across a small trail of blood dotting the snow. Not much further on, under a small bridge, we found an opened briefcase, its contents scatterd in the snow. Although different in age, Miki and I were like-minded enough to share a single set of Hardy Boys books, so our imaginations and willingness to get involved went into hyperdrive. We loaded the briefcase onto the sled and continued on to the Dixon (!) Nursery, from which we called the police…

…who didn’t come to talk to us there for nearly an hour because, as we found out in an impatient follow up phone call, they were in the midst of roll call. When they did arrive, they seemed interested in our find and story and took us back to the site of the briefcase dump. We then showed them the blood, several hiking minutes away. They then showed us the dead rabbit someone had shot with a BB gun and left.

Several days later, my mother called the police to find out what the final upshot of the briefcase had been. An insurance salesman, she was told, had parked his car on the bridge (But why? Miki and I wondered aloud and often for at least a day) and when he had returned to it, the contents were gone.

That was another ice age, in another place, and yet today’s glass city walk brings it back of a piece.

Going, staying

December 29, 2007

More snow arrived and the guys left, the two events almost a single action. This morning we had a chance for a final schlep to Tim’s and then time was out except for staring out the window at the snow which, at that point, was picturesque. Since then, it’s turned a bit sleety and they are sitting at the airport. (I know because they called just as I returned from my post goodbye walk. They’re watching big equipment; I’m in a very quiet apartment).

My closets and cupboards have some odd remains of the visit: in deference to lightening their loads both for the return trip to Berkeley and the ultimate move next summer back to here, they’ve left their snow boots, some gloves, and a hat. Also, there remains an enormous box of English Breakfast tea and the dregs of egg nog. The latter’s carton offers up a pun, the French side of it identifying the stuff as “poule lait.” Ha ha.

They’ve taken back “Love Actually” but left me “If,” hardly a cheer inducing trade. But by our collective powers and differing degrees of tenacity, the long overdue monitor has found a home and made a great venue for the screening of the two brand new episodes of “The Vicar of Dibley” the other evening.

My former dining area, which I’d converted into a spare bedroom for my son, has now been again reborn as a nicely serviceable office. So, I might as well get some work done in it this snowy afternoon…or maybe finishing the murder mystery I bought in last week’s snow might be a better order of the day.

Snow in time

December 28, 2007

 I seem to have been bitten by the Canadian (or is it Nova Scotian? Or Maritime?) Christmas indolence bug that infected others here weeks ago. Already given half Monday and all day Tuesday and Wednesday off from work by dint of the place being shut for Christmas Eve, Christmas, and then Boxing Day, I have taken off today as well. The 24th and 26th were the quietest city days I remember ever experiencing. Everything was closed on Christmas Day except gas stations and a couple convenience stores. Boxing Day saw the reopening of only some restaurants. A good thing that our Christmas stockings had been stuffed with snacks.

  

Wednesday night, on the way to the theatre, we had our choice of four eateries downtown (out of the customary couple dozen). We went for the Economy Shoe Shop. Bob and I ahd been in the bar there last summer (and the Rolling Stones had done the same the previous summer, we’re told) but the dining room portion of the place has the most extraordinary decoration: full sized, autumn leafed “oak trees” made of something along the lines of papier mache and silk, full sized, and very realistic in the glow of the “street lamps.”

  

The weather had steadily warmed since my family’s arrival, reducing the snowy streetscapes outside first to ice and then to a few dirty mounds of plowed ex-snowbank. Happily, especially for my son who has a hankering for winter scenes, the weather turned again yesterday, and after some freezing rain, snow fell again. This morning it’s still clean and decoratively coating tree limbs and roofs as well as blocking sidewalks where the Chistmas indolence bug still rages full force among shovellers (but in front of other houses, the cleared walks speak to sterner stuff among those householders).

But, in keeping with his age and the length and difficulty of his trip, he sleeps in today. Bob, too, sleeps on. Indolence or acculturation? Well,as lng as they wake up in time to believe there’s clean snow here.  

Street surprises

December 25, 2007

After a morning spent slowly opening chocolates, books, and souvenirs from both coasts, we went out for a walk around my new neighborhood.  Since both husband and son continue to suffer some exhaustion from the unprecedented length of their journey, I took a longer walk this afternoon on my own.

 

The world is very quiet here; they seriously take the holiday shut down. In the hour we roamed at midday, we encountered less than a dozen other pedestrians. This afternoon, given the quiet, I decided to take on the exploration of a small street that has made me wonder but which, in the dawn and dusk I usually pass it, has never seemed inviting.

    

Where Barrington ends at its south terminus and Inglis runs into it, there is a small spur of a nameless road, less than a full block in length. The corner of it with Barrington and Inglis has some sort of utlity structure that is sheathed to resemble a building which would have inhabitants: windows painted in rows, etc. It isn’t labeled but there is a propane tank on one side and the iron shaft of a hoist on the other.  Beyond that is a very new condominium building, with stone as a primary exterior building material. it’s called The Foundry, leading one to imagine that a “real” foundry once stood here. The train tracks and street nearly converge at this pont. Beyond the condos is an old stone building, quite large and imposing with a sign that isn’t large enough to read until I’m almost next to it: Chinese Christian Church. According to signs on its door, this is a busy place, with Bible classes every weeknight, services in English and Chinese, and more. The building looks like it might once have been a factory or a railway hotel.

   

Across the narrow roadway from the church is one of those under-track walkways. The concrete lintel says “Pedway 1935” but as these walkways often do, it looks unlikely as a place to explore alone. In this case, the dark, the unknown, and the deadend neighborhood are joined by another daunting element: a gas pipe actually runs through the pedway. A great place not to be.

  

So home again. Where, unusually, there are people, each of them working on projects, only one of which involves the use of my laptop. And he cedes that (after wrapping up whatever is happening in that world) gracefully.

You can get there from here–or here from there

December 24, 2007

The miracles of cell phones, phones that forward, and email all helped a lot yesterday.  My family checked in whenever whatever plane they were currently on landed.  I called Carole as soon as the magic 6 pm free phone calls kicked in.  What a relief to be talking to someone who was sitting in her own back yard instead of in an airport!  In between, I responded to emails from folks catching up with correspondance that had lagged as we all worked our ways through daily lives in California, Virginia,  New York, and Nova Scotia.

At noon, I bit the bullet and headed to the mall–yes, two days before Christmas in a country famous for its shopping enthusiasm.  However, neither circuitous bus routes (not so bad really) nor frothing shoppers should get in the way of a woman needing to provide for family who already have been told by the airlines that their luggage has been rerouted to a city that isn’t en route to where they are headed.

Finding the mall was really easy: I just followed the herd. Once inside, a map clearly showed me where to find Sears, that all purpose store when you need everything from sheets to socks and are more interested in expedience than long lasting appeal. However, once inside the three story Sears, there was no directory, so I travelled across and then down and finally up and up again (where, on the third floor, the directory was cleverly stashed). Since my “fully furnished” apartment comes with only one set of sheets, my son had packed himself a set for the visit–but then they, along with his jeans, boots, and Christmas stockings, had taken that turn off the path to Boston.  So sheets were indeed part of the order of the day. 

I had just spied them when clanging gongs began to burst from every wall of Sears. Unlike the British Museum, where my son and I once had a similar experience with surprise alarms, Sears staff didn’t seem to be much interested in guiding any response to the sound. Eventually, everyone was herded out, or we herded ourselves out. By then, the all clear signal was being passed from person to person and we all herded back in.

Home again home again jiggety jig, in just under three hours, I was in time to get another call from the family: their departure time from JFK had been pushed back several more hours. Okay, so they would land about midnight…or so we all pretended to believe until the next phone call, which came about 10 pm, with word that it was highly likely they would be arriving at Halifax around 2:30 this morning.

And lo and behold, they did. But the big surprise was that their luggage was there in a heap waiting for them.

All of which goes to show that you can get here from there–and your luggage can, too!

Another day’s wait

December 23, 2007

Here in Halifax, we are having our second gorgeous day in a row:  sunshine, slightly warmer temp.  The holiday spirit which has infected seemingly everyone across the past month is still in full bloom, so even errors (coffee shop opening late, empty prawn display at the supermarket) are met with good cheer by those who, I can imagine, might be sharper tongued in other times and definitely in other places.

To my own diappointment, my family is missing today’s good weather and tomorrow it’s supposed to rain.  My family, however, probably doesn’t care about impending rain at the moment.  The flight they were supposed to take from SF last night didn’t happen and so they spent the night–well, until 3 am their time–bunkered in an airport hotel.

Meanwhile, their luggage apparently did depart for Boston.  The drill, they’ve been told, is that they can complete some forms once they arrive in Halifax (scheduled for nearly midnight tonight) and then the luggage will be sent up from Boston “later.” Bob, who has lived through this extension of coming to Halifax-minus-luggage the last time he travelled here is probably swearing a blue streak very very quietly.

So, my day’s plans take a small detour: I’m now off to buy changes of clothes for them and have already indulged us in a dozen new drinking glasses as this is a family who breaks glasses frequently even when everyone’s at his or her best. Oh, the course of family reunions never runs smooth….

December 22, 1913

December 22, 2007

About every five years, I am reminded of the fact that my mother and her favorite word game were born on the same day.  This year the “On this date” blurb that rides the top left corner of the Chronicle Herald‘s second page each day serves as the reminder.  On this day, 94 years ago, the first crossword puzzle was published in a New York newspaper called The World…or so says the local paper today.  However, according to Fun with Words.com, the crossword’s publication happened on December 21.I don’t know when my mother was born–the time of day–but it was also in New York, so I can’t argue for a time zone difference.  I do remember her positively bragging that she and the crossword came into the world on the same day, as though she had somehow inspired the fellow who upped the ante from magic squares to momentously proportioned grids.And there is irony involved here, too.  The Chronicle Herald prints Sunday’s New York Times crossword on Saturday morning, giving me a whole day’s head start over my Western friends.  But in my coffee shop reverie over the fact that my mother would be 94 now, I left today’s paper behind.  And so I go puzzless.

Elizabeth the mermaid

December 21, 2007

In the pedway at Alderney Landing there is a wonderful statue that makes me smile every morning and evening as I pass.  A fiberglass mermaid, about 6-8 feet in length, is posed jauntily on her left side,  arm extended above her head, a nice curve to her torso and tail.  Her blue hair–studded with Van Gogh Starry Night whorls–streams out to her right.  Across her shoulder is a jaunty Nova Scotia tartan, belted at her waiste and with a dagger slid through the belt.  Best, however is the end of her tail:  it’s a red maple leaf.  Elizabeth arrived some time between my September visit and November move, but her sign didn’t catch up with her until about 2 weeks ago.  It seems she comes from Norfolk, VA, and that Norfolk is Halifax’s sister city.  Elizabeth is named for the Elizabeth River, in Norfolk, but is one of a pair of sculptures, the other being Peggy the Lobster, left in Virginia. When the Christmas decorations started going up like mad in the Alderney Landing building, I worried that someone would throw a wreath around Elizabeth’s neck in a fit of overexuberance.  Happily, decorum has been maintained, and although she currently has a wreath behind her, hung on the south window of the pedway, Elizabeth remains floating free. 

City sidewalks

December 20, 2007

When I was a child, my mother would go ballistic if people didn’t shovel their walks (in winter) or if they parked their cars across the sidewalk (in summer). And one of my favoriate Christmas songs (secular) was “City Sidewalks”–or is is “Silver Bells”? That song absolutely captured the scene of the Strauss-Hirshberg Department Store’s north side, on Phelps Street. In all those ways, we’ve reached that time of year again.

The snow started around mid-day today, falling on top of Sunday’s snow, Monday’s rain, and Tuesday’s slush. This is when you separate the true shovelers from the pikers. One of the odd things about my way home from work is that I don’t actually hit sidewalk until about 15 minutes into the trip, when I leave the Halifax side ferry terminal and step into–slush? ice? snow? cleared bricks? Today it was firmer and whiter than slush, but by the time I reached the corner of Lower Water Street and Duke, it was what, in childhood, I thought of as “cake mix” (and I had one of my first existential moments of horror, at about age 6, when I confronted the thought that such dirty and turbulent snow predated boxed cake mix, and to call the former by the latter was somehow anachronistic, although, unlike the word “existentialism,” I hadn’t yet met the word “anachronsim”).

ANWAY…..

Today the going was very slippy and slidey as I climbed the hill to Barrington Street, and there were some blocks, as I walksed south, that seemed just this side of precipitous. I began to take stock of who shovelled and who hadn’t:

A fellow was going at the sidewalk with veritable hammer and tongs, in front of the maritimes storefront with the ship models, and he didn’t even notice when I said “excuse me” intrying to get past him and the flying snow;
the Mac Store had shoveled;
so had the Spin and Tumble laundymat;
the Olympic Confectionary (which looks like a Christmas card in the snow) hadn’t;
the Resolutes Club had (finally–Monday their walk was treacherous)

And the snow has stopped anyway, so from here it’s either going to be frozen cake mix or wash away.