Archive for June, 2009

Sic transit gloria not today*

June 30, 2009

*this is not real Latin….

Transit fares are increasing on the first of the month, which is tomorrow. It’s a hefty little lift, which I am willing to pay but not so willing as to fork over daily cash instead of the optional discounted tickets or even more discounted monthly pass. So, as I left work this evening, the last evening of the month by which the current fare structure is in place, I stopped at the ticket booth to get some of the new scrip…and good luck with that.

“Can’t sell you thsoe until the fare changes.”

“Doesn’t it change tomorrow.”

“Yup, changes the first of the month.”

“And won’t you be closed tomorrow for the holiday tomorrow?”

“Yup. I can sell ’em to you tomorrow but we’re closed tomorrow, so come back Thursday.”

“Oh…hm.”

(Trying to be helpful?) “I can sell ya a sheet of 20 of the current price tickets.”

Let’s see, could i actually burn my way through 20 tickets, each of which also gets me a free transfer, by the time buses stop running before the fare changes?  No.

“Thanks, no.”

I am reminded of two stories:  Alice in Wonderland facing the dictum: “Jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam today“; and also a wonderfully funny story about the need to keep trains running exactly per the rules all the rules all the time, in which the refrain was “Pigs is pigs” and some poor schmuck wasn’t allowed to ship his pair of guinea pigs as pets because the rail line had a rule stating that pigs are livestock.

Maybe I should put jam on a guinea pig and offer that as my fare Thursday morning?

Campaign cluck

June 29, 2009

Although Nova Scotia has a few small cities/large towns, Halifax is the one and only dense and intense urban area (and both “dense” and “intense” are comparative to Atlantic Canada only, not to Urban Areas I Have Known).  And that means that a lot of Nova Scotia is rural.  The climate, if not all the soil, being what it is, there is farmland out there.  The Halifax Farmers’ Market  shows the bounty every Saturday year around.

But when it comes to promoting agriculture products, Nova Scotians haven’t shown the bravado and sectarianism that California agribusinesses seem to delight in sporting: the happy milk from happy cows, the singing and dancing raisins, there’s probably a marketing campaign for California cauliflower and I just haven’t seen it. Here, on the other hand, local produce and product is touted, true enough but without Madison Avenue flair.

Until now with the darn chickens.  Now I am being sold Nova Scotia chickens from the sides of buses, on the radio, in every public venue. I am counseled to include chicken in my diet in order to maintain good health.  The cure for ants is to buy a chicken because the only byproduct of that manner of pest removal is eggs. On the other hand, chickens and city neighbours got into enough of a face-off a few months ago that the urban chicken retainers (who said the chickens were pets, not food on the foot or pest removal agents) got a large spot in the newspaper when they tearfully bid adieu to the fowl who were going off to rural pastures.

The Nova Scotia Chicken website, referenced in all this hoopla (www.nschicken.com) sends me error messages so I haven’t been able to explore the impetus behind the campaign.

Since I don’t eat chicken, would I have been persuaded to change my tune if I could get more than the one-liners on transit and strange tales from urban yards? Oh, well, for now, the campaign, at least as far as this potential consumer is concerned, is out of cluck.

Listening to frogs at Pt Pleasant

June 28, 2009

This morning’s weather managed to realize both mild and tending toward eventual storm, with air so full of microscopic drops that they were omnipresent (nearly requiring the ability to breathe underwater) and invisible.  A good day to go to Pt Pleasant Park, where the trails have just been relined with cedar chips and smell better than earth itself.

The blackberry flowers haven’t given over to fruit yet, but all the trees, of course, are in full leaf, dripping noisily among themselves. There weren’t many people around and as many dogs as walkers.  And the joggers, of course, in this joggingest of all cities in the world.

Following Birch Rd (which is a secondary path in spite of the denominator) up from the container port, there’s a pond held in the curve of the land.  Pale lavender irises are blooming in it now (in contretemps to the yellow water lily buds closer to the park’s entrance) and, around the curve–after the joggers have gone by and their talk has faded–the aural evidence of frogs.

These are not the deep throated bullfrogs that shout across New England in July.  They engage in something closer to call and response, with gaps between each effort.

And then more joggers call as they round the curve and the frogs hide.

City parks

June 27, 2009

Victoria Park, which runs a long block length near my house, is one of those formal-but-not-severe boulevard parks that date from the era of its name. It’s got a few small monuments, all to Scottish icons, including a Scott Memorial that is the dead opposite in grandeur from the Edinburgh‘s, for which the visitor earns a certificate for having climbed 280+ steps up a cramped spiral stone staircase. Here, the “monument” is small, completely approachable and with a bas relief face that is just about life size. There’s a cairn sort of monument at the south end of the park, built of stones brought from a Scottish castle.  And the north end has the largest memorial bit, the obligatory celebration of Robert Burns. [The picture linked here must be from this past winter as the the three Victorian houses razed in order to start building the Trillium are already gone from view in the background.]

But the part I love is the middle: three straight walkways, with a few angled cross paths, cut through the length, under–in summer–a canopy of elm trees. park benches are lined up in Victorian-straight rows along the centre walk, where the trees meet overhead. The benches are green (and peeling), the trees are green, the grass is green and lush and smells differently as the weather changes.  

The view from the sidewalk along South Park delights me at this time of year:  the elm trees wear ground-brushing skirts where this year’s twig growth has sprouted full-sized leaves.  That is one of the delights (for me) of elm trees:  how they put forth twigs along their trunks, no matter how old the tree.  I suppose squirrels and birds and gardeners clean away the middle bits but the level that reaches about a foot and a half from the ground is left green and wrapped, almost like hula dancers.

The view from Tower Road is different as is the elevation and perhaps I don’t favour it simply for lack of habit in walking along that side of the park. I know this: it takes me some time to come to love a city park like this one but then I do and am very picky about which vantages through it are “best.” I almost got to this point with Cornwallis Park, for all my days last year cutting through it between ferry and apartment, but, in the end, its dimensions and quiet failed me. (The protests there, too, seem to be centred entirely on the park’s namesake, while Victoria offers a rallying point for anyone-everyone with a cause and the skill to draw a chanting crowd).

There’s something familiar about Victoria Park; I’ve met it at another time, in another city, or else other times in other cities. The denizens are different:  last evening there seemed to be a shoving match between two groups of adults that looked remarkably like a bloated satire of a grade schoolyard power struggle; when I sit in the park and read, there’s no sense of watchfulness either required or emanating from the other readers (of whom there are many); there’s never the sound of amplified music.

The park is there, as rooted as the trees that make it, and beyond just the trees, and I’m glad for that.

I cannot explain Americans

June 25, 2009

Most of the people I have met since moving north of the border have been circumspect in talking about Americans in generalities–far more circumspect than many Americans I have heard across the years as they  happily paint with a wide and blurring brush across cultural characteristics of virtually anyone. But, lo, the day would come–and apparently today was that day:  on at least three occasions I was presented with unanswerable–but not imponderable questions about the why’s and wherefores of the Americans as though Americanness could be analyzed from the examples.

Why, for starters, do American governors crash and burn, as did Mr South Carolina yesterday?

Explain how populism became so deeply rooted in behaviours, in two sentences or less.

Why do Americans fail to acknowledge health care as a right?

Now, I can put forward all sorts of opinions about any of these but not in cocktail party soundbites and certainly not in a manner that gives tacit agreement that the propositions behind the questions truly reflect the nature of Americanness. I am failing to be properly American, somehow, by failing to be able to explain aberrations that occur in America.

Ah well, nothing for it but to ask equally broad questions about wounded moose and the debate between whether it’s better to snare rabbits or shoot them. Such questions don’t search; they simply serve as jousts.

Humid with a high yuck factor

June 24, 2009

A friend of mine has, for years, regularly called for the intercession of the aesthetic police to quell matters of rampant bad taste.  Oh wherever these forces were today, it hasn’t been in my neck of the woods.

Through a heavy fog that left the landscape silver and dark (and pretty, especially compared with what else was to be seen), I got out to Musquodoboit Harbour, a village that loves its signs.  They are everywhere and at all levels for the wandering eye to behold, with a an ad for fishing tucked up under the street sign and another for free AC/DC tickets plastered across one for bingo.  While in the public building I was visiting, I washed my hands, an act that led to the discovery of this sign:

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I still am not sure whether handwashing in water that should not be used for washing produce is acceptable but suppose as I ahve advanced beyond the thumbsucking years, it suffices.

There are regionalisms for what I grew up knowing as “milk stores” and what, in inner city Boston are called “spas.”  These are the little neighbourhood places that have a little of some essentials and a lot of options of particualr sorts of stuff that make no sense (such as wax candy).  In these parts, they seem to be called “meat markets,” a moniker that always leads me, after years in Hollywood, to raise my eyebrows.

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But, just to make sure that I could still tell one meat purveyor from another, I also was granted the opportunity to see this place, replete with more double entendres than any sign should sport:

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And then I went indoors, worked hard and hoped that the trip back to Halifax would be tasteful. If only.

It is, of course, summer and tourist season.  That means that McDonald’s has a menu special: the McLobster.  Signs for it everywhere.

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I walked faster, got to my street, in sight of my house, when the whoopie cushion warning went off and blam…dynamite time at my doorstep.  Oh fine.  Just keep walking…right across the spilled quart of viscous red paint on the sidewalk.

Enough.  Where are the aesthetic police when ya need ’em?

Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day

June 23, 2009

Yesterday Kodak announced the retirement of Kodachrome film, the kind of news that sends me to the edge of nostalgia. Yes, the luxury of the images it could make and did make in the right artists’ hands, which gave me views of other people, other places, other ways of seeing the composition of the most mundane landscapes or most exotic interactions.  And the old Paul Simon song I so recently fell across again, and which every business writing pundit in the land is referencing when announcing the corporate decision on the film company’s part.

But the process, too:  I’ve been a sucker for years for the actual physics of how this film is black and white and becomes a rainbow through process.  It’s a kind of testament to possibility, or possibilities, that deviate from the obvious.  Or was. Or can be in some place in Kansas, where processing Kodachrome pix will continue into 2010.

A Tibor Gergely Day

June 22, 2009

Operating on the likely questionable assumption that the exceedingly wet weather may indicate a lack of explosioning in front of my house, I dared come home while the crew out there is still hard at it. The open trench–which approaches the width of a small canyon rather than a mere crease in the pavement–has now progressed to the point that parked directly at my door (okay, on the other side of the pretty chain link fence erected on the curb) is a happy man in his dump truck, straight out of a Tibor Gergely illustration.  The truck’s the same green, almost the same vintage (and good old Tibor was illustrating donkey’s years before I was reading his great works) and the driver as squat and content-looking as Mr Happy Man.

And this isn’t the first time today that Mr Gergely’s views of the world have been reanimated before my very eyes. Needless to say, I’ve seen his tugboats on the harbour (along with a random and inappropriately un-Gergely submarine), as happens every day.  But today I also chanced onto the village where his jolly firefighters hang:  same architecture, same palette, and, with breath-taking oddness, no exterior detail (garden choices, window treatments, general curb appeal) seeming to date from a period beyond Tibor’s own flourishing.

I took a walk at lunch and wound up in this Gergely wonderland almost immediately and certainly without expectation: if you just turn where no cars go except to get there and no further, there you are.  Tibor probably would ken that readily.

Of course, it helped that the light quality today was that bright grey that can shine on warm, wet summer days between the actual cloud bursts. And that I was in what’s known as “old Dartmouth” rather than in anyone’s more urbanely slick neighbourhood.  And since the streets were narrow as well as deeply sloped, they aren’t the sort that developers grab up to rebuild in the new.

Who knew the land of Gergely was so close at hand?

Summer rain

June 21, 2009

Although this year is bringing unusual June showers to parts of California, standard issue annual weather cycles there are such that precipitation in any great degree is a winter event.  So much so that kids who grow up in California look with mild sympathy for the doltishness of the parent who packs an umbrella when planning a summer trip to New England.

Yesterday’s rain here was that wonderful summer rain, the kind that seems to cycle through symphonic movements, from the first prelude of condensing warm air to periods of drops so abundant but so small that they barely splash when landing together on the asphalt or bricks. It rained all night and Bob’s garden is littered with the last of the elm blossoms, the papery pinkish white “snow” he wondered about for days before finally asking if I had the faintest idea….

The wind is still spinning through this morning, but in spite of that, his flower baskets all look fine and the tree branches beyond my study window simply bounce, not shake. It’s enough that I can hear them pass each other, and hear the wind pass through them, as well as the gentle dripping of the world as puddles are rearranged on less than horizontal spaces and some contents sluice over their sides.

This isn’t a rain that keeps one indoors or even requires gear in which to go abroad in it. It does change the light, what with the cloud cover and the refraction off the wet green leaves of all the trees. And it’s easier to hear the combination of tones–the drips, the breeze–inside than once I’ll be in the street, where, even on a Sunday morning, a bus will pass, joggers certainly will, an city life goes on.

Trees before the likely storm

June 20, 2009

It’s good to have “my” trees back in full leaf.  Right outside my study window the elm’s so close that I can see the vein leading to each serration on each of dozens of leaves.  Just behind it, the chestnut’s final blossoms of the season show a few pink streaks through all the green.

We’re supposed to have rain all weekend, but, so far, that weather system has created only the stiff breeze of ever changing direction that makes the leaves dance, the ones on the higher boughs occassionally showing their paler bottoms. The light  creates iridescent echoes on the many possibilities of green.  All that’s left of the solid reality of other buildings behind this one–the large brick apartment complex on Tower Road at South Street, the smaller houses between here and it–is the bottom of the plank fence that bounds the neighbours’ parking lot.

How completely I missed these silent, green and flapping giants, with their new twig growths evident as heralds of the new year: the only time grey seems to be a bright colour as it connects between its now somewhat hoary parent branch to hold the newest of the not-quite-slick (as maples can be) leaves.

Later, after the rain, they’ll drip, serving not only as forecast but also as memory of wet weather.

The hum of the generator in the street, on the other side of the house, where all the digging and mess and heavy machines have come to stay, is a rude counterpoint that almost–but not quite–blocks out what I can hear from the stirring leaves as boughs brush past each other.

 

my same green friend, on a sunny day last week

my same green friend, on a sunny day last week