Archive for August, 2008

Janus weather for tourists

August 31, 2008

A storm blew in quickly just as we crossed the MacDonald en route to Eastern Passage early this afternoon. We drove from blue skies into a moment that was a near perfect split between bright sun and clouds as dark as dusk and then, as we turned onto Pleasant Street, the rain came pelting fast, harder by the time we got to Fisherman’s Cove.

We sat out three passing electrical bursts, one complete with hail as well as lightning that jagged through the windshield and clapped far away. A car of frustrated readers, we had only one map to share among the three of us, and no other literature with which to pass the washout.

And then it cleared. Within the hour the skies were blue, the clouds fluffy, and even the boardwalk was drying quickly.

We walked toward the open ocean as far as the boardwalk went (which is not very). The tide was low and Mcnab’s isalnd seemed almost within reach–although the remaining water in the channel was a visible reminer of why the danger signs are posted.

South tip of McNab's and open Atlantic beyond the harbour

South tip of McNab's and open Atlantic beyond the harbour

Walking back to the commercial fishing wharf, where the boats were tied up for the day, we got a charge out of the “Hummer,” a small power craft that appeared to be a reconstruction of the Govenator’s vehicle.

The weather holding, we went along Cow Bay Road as far as the Moose. When I was here, once last January, there were surfers in the ocean, but, on the last day of August, the only others around were some folks playing cards near the statue. They raised their eyebrows at our front license plate, which remains unchanged since Berkeley. And that encouraged bob to play all out tourist and pose with the moose.

Open Atlantic

Open Atlantic


After a novel’s last page

August 30, 2008

All my life–or at least since I was three–newspaper comics have been essential to my orientation in the world. I’ve lived in times, and cities, where the daily strips inhabited as many as two and half full pages and the Sunday section was a heady 10 pages. Here, the Chronicle offers me a more moderate dose: a page a day, but with the weekly Sunday comics section packaged a day early, with the Saturday paper, and featuring a slightly different array of options. (Yes, I read comic strips online, too, but here I am talking about a sensory habit akin to washing my face every morning).

So, I am a day ahead of what many other readers will see tomorrow in the Sunday comics (and which isn’t yet online today): Lynn Johnston tells us what happens to the extended Patterson family after the end of the story (which appears online and in a lot of papers today).

Sitting at my kitchen table, I didn’t want to be reading that epilogue alone, but even most of the rest of this country hasn’t seen tomorrow’s strip yet–I’m an hour east of Toronto. And the person I really want to talk about it with, although he’d be awake in his West Coast yesterday, if he were still alive, isn’t there at all. I’d love chat about what happens to the future Elizabeth and Anthony, and to Michael’s kids, and to the imaginary April, with Rory, but his is another story ended.

The course of travel rarely runs smooth–or cheap

August 29, 2008

Imagine having just turned 18 and finding yourself living in a strange city for a month with your parents, while some of your best friends have just gone to New York. Imagine that you’ve just had a rather rough go with obtaining your student visa, during which time your passport had been removed from your possession and the possibility of ever being able to leave and go anywhere seemed dim…and then your passport (with visa) is magically restored–and you still have three long weeks in parental purgatory.

If my son were a whiner, it would be an ugly three weeks coming up, but he’s not and so last evening I sprung for a trip to NYC, mindful that his friends have just started school and that I, too, want to see him as much as possible before he leaves for the year. But, heck, what a mother would like and what an 18-year-old would like are not on the same path and I am content that our paths at least intersect around a variety of topics and options.

Of course, getting a flight from here to NYC and back, for next week, didn’t run to the cheap. But he pitched in some funds he earned over the summer and we both went away from the computer happy.

And then, during the night, his cheap flight to school, booked ages ago for next month, became dust. Oh, joy, another ticket to find and fund in double time.

At least, after last evening’s bout of ticket shopping for something in five days, the luxury of purchasing three weeks out isn’t lost on me. And the price even went down by $50 between selection and booking–enough to cover his second suitcase.

To your good health

August 28, 2008

Since I arrived here with a work permit, my status has remained unaffiliated from Bob’s citizenship.  And when he arrived last month, he went merrily on his way acquiring such personal accoutrements as a Provincial health card as though independent of legal attachment to me.  But it was when that health card arrived the second week of his residence here, along with another for our son, that the penny dropped for me:  I’d been told that I had to wait six months for such coverage, but, hey, he gets it right away?

It must be my lack of citizenship, I thought, but a few questions later and we discovered that, no, it’s a six-month wait if one moves from another Province–and unexplored territory, timewise (just to really mix up a metaphor in the time/space continuum), if one arrives from not-another-Province.  In his case, and our son’s case, the elapsed time was literally 48 hours from initiaion of the paperwork to cards in the mail.

So, yesterday I called the health people and queried.  They were nice but could do nothing for me “because the computers are down.”  I asked how long that condition might last and it was suggested I call back again today.  Sure.  So I did.  And, after only one phone tree branch and two rings, I got a real person who walked me through the application process in 90 seconds (literally).  She also gave me more info on applying for permanent residency than any other government official has.  She was a veritable reference librarian.

“Your card should arrive tomorrow. And by the way,” she concluded the 2-minute phone call, “you’ve been eligible for this coverage since November 4.”


Homecoming to history

August 27, 2008

The last time we moved from one house to the next, we didn’t fully unpack. The three of us were chronically busy and it just got away from us. Most things did get out of packing boxes, of course, but apparently some well-wrapped pictures didn’t. Or was it the move before that? Or the one before that?

However long the lapse, I was stunned to be confronted, upon getting home from work today, with images I hadn’t seen in years and years and years. In some cases, I’d completely forgotten them: the gorgeous gelatin print of autumn leaves on a pond that suechrystal took and printed; the flock of flamingoes at the Oakland Zoo (and they don’t even show up on the zoo’s roster anymore!); photos I took of buildings in Boston and NYC. Bob’s been unpacking and, because the hallway is already studded with picture hangers, he sorted his finds onto the walls there, so the effect at the moment is a strange gallery of trite, true, and bizarre.

On one side of the front door is a fingerpainting produced by our son well over 15 years ago. Across from that is a silk screen print that had walked out of my mind entirely:

It was created by a girl named Susi Taub, in a high school art class when we were 16. She’s facing the viewer and I am facing her. We would have been dressed in navy blue herringbone wool skirts; it looks as though she’s wearing the uniform blazer while I am wearing the uniform (v-neck) cardigan. It seems remarkable to me that I now remember clearly that the cardigan was v-necked in spite of the fact that I am seeing it here from the back and haven’t seen it–any other picture of it–in about 30 years. As to Susi? The last I heard she had followed her artistic interests at least into college, but I lost track of her somewhere around Arizona (maybe?), in the last century (definitely).

The happy reader

August 26, 2008

Among the dozen or so books I read “on assignment” each month, I expect to find the occasional total gem, one that is not only written beautifully, with an engaging narrative, but isn’t on a topic I’d consider choosing if left to my own discretion in a library or bookstore.

While I haven’t yet completed the book, I did stumble across such a chapter in one today: Rose George’s descriptions of the Japanese toilet industry–from technology research and innovation to personnel–is a total hoot! Here’s someone who can turn a hilarious phrase over and over–well, a series of phrases–so that reading becomes akin to watching an aerialist perform a stunt routine that seems both spontaneous and endless. Instead of a punchline, the chapter is an origami box of punchlines.

Darn good thing there’s a three-day weekend upcoming: I’m inspired to believe that all the waiting piles of books around here might be hiding more jewels like this. I suppose that’s how greed happens….

Remember that sunny weekend?

August 25, 2008

The rain fell in great greasy drops all morning, with puddles for the buses to splash five feet back from the curb. It wasn’t much cooler than it had been during our spectacularly sunny weekend, just wet as a sauna.

In order to share the vestige of memory remaining of the sun, here’s a picture of the view from Saturday–or from my front door Saturday morning–with apologies to E. L. Konigsburg.

That nice pathetic fallacy

August 24, 2008

Indeed it’s turned gloomy and I wish it would get on with the rain already. My computer seems to be on its last legs; my household is cranky (and some are getting headcolds), and reviewers are so late with their stuff this month that I don’t have a column to submit, and it’s due tomorrow.

The good news, on the other hand, is that it really is getting way too dark for the hour so the rain should arrive momentarily.

A day in the country, no walk in the park

August 23, 2008

Since Bob’s–and the car’s–arrival, I had been looking forward to getting out of town on a weekend. We tried that today but didn’t meet with stellar success as none of us had taken the time to do any planning whatsoever (and, given that we don’t know our broader surroundings at all, to say nothing of well, planning would be necessary to getting anywhere) and then the provincial map seems to have gone missing, leaving us with only one of Halifax and one of the Atlantic Provinces.

The weather is totally gorgeous and it’s still very much summer so the roads were understandably chock a block with tourists. Making this a kind of zero sum game in which we didn’t know where we were or where we were headed and neither did anyone else around us have a clue about their own goals or passages to them.

We did manage some fine sandwiches in Chester Basin–after walking away from a nasty waitress in Chester–and then a walk along a small part of the rail trail. It was bright hot there but smelled well of apples. We saw a fox, as well as a motorcyclist and three ATVs–the ratio of wildlife to engines not a happy one.

Colour design by paper cup availability

August 22, 2008

Now that all three of us are in residence, the true size and dimension of the new house is becoming evident. I never thought a day would come when any kitchen of mine seemed “too big” and this one does only because its square shape and location of cupboards and appliances keeps one traveling in a generous triangle while preparing a meal.

There is plenty of space for bookcases, another first in my life. (Although, in fact, my childhood home had enough space for bookcases as well because we were limited to only three other sticks of furniture throughout four rooms: a sofa bed, a couch, and an overstuffed chair that had lost virtually all its stuffing).

The main bathroom in this house is painted a rather neutral beige/sand. It wasn’t until I bought some new Dixie cups and found the only “design” available was brown and pink polka dotted that the right colour scheme appeared. Is it acceptable–either in the eyes of Martha Stewart or Debbie Travis–to have one’s room “brought together” by the Dixie pattern on offer? I think not, but then, I have never before in my life spent any time thinking about a room’s general colour scheme, nor about the likely concerns of either MS or DT.

Perhaps this is a sign of impending middle age??