Archive for August, 2009

Circumnavigating time and space on a weekend afternoon

August 31, 2009

Once the storm sorted itself and the lights were restored yesterday morning, we found ourselves plunged back into a bright summer intercession between a heat wave and autumn.  Each of us went off in a different direction for the morning, mine being into Point Pleasant Park, where water was flowing in every gully as well as through a few stone walls.  Ponds had become deeper and swamps had appeared where there had been recently dry ground. The paths that are wood chipped smelled of the wood’s core.

We joined up again for an afternoon trip to the movies because no one else in Nova Scotia would be the right fellow travellers for Taking Woodstock. Fred’s just a week away from Wavy Gravy world in Mendocino and, just to show off the cultural balance in his life, a bit part in the movie went to a former ballet partner of his. I can see, a little, why the critics have been luke warm about this flick, but the heavy handed visual references to documentary footage, the fairly cute main story (made up) and the mud worked for us.

Bob’s forever torn between remembering being Fred’s age now when he first saw Country Joe McDonald, in a dress, bringing war consciousness to Occidental, an almost always standing in line with him at Oakland Kaiser whenever either of them needed to have their kids’ prescriptions filled.

We were all a bit loopy when we went back into the late afternoon sun.  At Bayers Lake.  The middle of suburban Halifax. A car ride from anywhere real. No mud. Even after Danny.


Danny boy

August 30, 2009

Post tropical storm Danny was said to be “disorganized” as it blew into Nova Scotia yesterday.  More troublesome, he turned out to be  in this neighbourhood than was storm-behaving Bill.  We seemed to have lost power shortly after midnight and I kept being wakened by blasting wind that smashed rain into the window and its screens. Dawn was a nonevent, a paling of the grey.  I went out to see the extent of the outage (still out at 6:30 am) and found streets strewn with wood and bits of aluminum from awnings. It being Sunday morning, the fact that all the traffic lights were blank seemed of little issue.

For once, being on the hospital grid was no charm: the VG was running on a generator and that didn’t cover the gate into and out of its parking lot.  It being the shift change time of day, cars were being shunted and stopped at odd angles, creating a ghost of a traffic jam on an otherwise deserted street, right where the South/South Park pitworks has its northern boundary.

By seven, artificial light was restored, but the natural light is still a pool of slate filtered by the dark greens and soaked dark brown of the trees.  The fountain in Victoria Park, which always seems to be flowing only when least useful, is shooting its spray sideways, but there are no dogs loose to be shunted away.

The skinny Sunday paper has only US news on its front page:  Senator Kennedy above the fold, the Antioch kidnapping case below. Somehow, these add to the displacing sense of all the wind and grey. It should be a good day for a long walk.  Not a dry walk but a long one. A walk that doesn’t have any particular sense of time because the sky isn’t giving any clues.  And one where the sense of place, too, is very nearly ambiguous. Like hearing “Danny Boy” in a bar in Queens.

A hole is to dig*

August 28, 2009

*with apologies to Ruth Kraus and Maurice Sendak


The workers were looking disconsolate when I came home today, staring into the deep hole they’ve managed to carve where once there was an intersection.  Although chained beams and tops of concrete culverts are still partially in view, the fact is that it appears that the hole is decreasing in size, or at least depth.  Perhaps this saddens them, that digging time is nearly over?

No, that would be wishful thinking of the most extreme on my part….


South at South Park 7 am

South at South Park 7 am

Time was….

August 27, 2009

Gathered up the son at the airport this morning and he was already wondering if living on the verge of a rock quarry–what he seems to have imagined our street has become–was possible.  Ah, there was a time when he would have been overjoyed to have this panoply of diggers, movers, beepers, tooters and pounders a finger’s width from his doorstep….

The difference between a 4-year-old with chicken pox and a 19-year-old with a tendency  to tidiness?

I still think Grey Lines, or a competitor tour company, could make a killing here with Tractor Tours for Tots.

Another bend in the universe approaches

August 26, 2009

After complaining about a thorough-going winter, a nonexistent spring, a month of unceasing rain and then another of searing heat, the locals seem now to be happy that “fall is really on the way” because the heat has given over to what, in the East Bay, would be a normal summer day: fog, a bit of sun, some breeze. I am glad that fall is something that is acceptable to appreciate; there was a time when it was my favourite season (now each in turn, and the turns themselves, are favourite).

This particular seasonal change also brings the son to roost briefly in Nova Scotia before shaking the dust of North America from his alrgely-California feet and jetting off to the old country and the young fellow students. He heralded in today with a sad note that it is now his “last 24 hours in California.”  Well, yes–until next time.  The universe won’t stop bending.

Slip sliding yuck

August 24, 2009

Bill seems to have flushed up all the vile stuff in the harbour, making it the most odiferously foul water I’ve smelled since the Cuyahoga River in the mid-60’s.  And the Cuyahoga was polluted with inorganics in the main, while the sewage in the harbour is definitely on the was-once-alive side.

In a sympathy statement, the pit in front of my house seems to ahve been left in a precarious position this evening:  its sides are slipping down so visibly that just walking by one catches the slumping of brown and red and black dirt and can hear the rocks fall and plunk into the depths.  A caterpillar tractor has been left askew atop the hole, too, and I have visions of it sliding slowly, through the night, below the surface as well.

Or was a similar “industrial accident” what called out the big machines this morning at 5:45, when they began scraping and mewling on my doorstep?

Dirt and grime and putrifaction…oh my.

Hello, Bill

August 23, 2009

Between the time I decided to take a last relatively dry walk for the weekend and the moment I stepped outside–about 13 seconds had elapsed–the trailer for the coming storm had arrived: curtains of warm rain, gusts that swirled every elm tree branch between here and Spring Garden Road and Summer Street. After a quick cup of coffee–somebody had to make the poor wait staff’s day by showing up for their troubles of opening–it was back through what was then just a storm.  

An hour later, I can see only the undersides of the leaves beyond my window as the wind has them held up, with only the occasional bounce down to the more typical eye-level view. Environment Canada bumps out little updates to assure me that they are watching the state of affairs, which have gone from relatively dire predictions to warnings that one shouldn’t play Iron Man.  Apparently the storm’s eye is now turning, a function of moving tropical to subtropical, so Cape Breton and southwestern Newfoundland will take the brunt.

So, as long as the poor street trees, stressed by the summer’s excavation, can maintain, we should be fine: got power (as well as batteries and candles on hand); got water (free! through our work around for the street project, plus packaged just in case the hose gets collapsed in the storm); got books…and, for the moment, even have communications all up and running.  A veritable holiday of a hurricane.

Serendipity on a Saturday morning

August 22, 2009

With the calm before the storm coinciding with the weekend, it’s no surprise that folks are out gathering each household’s idea of “necessities.”  There are those dragging carts holding 25-gallon water jugs and others toting demure six-packs of designer water. Going  down to the harbour to check out the waves, I found it remarkably still, especially in light of yesterday’s cresting wave action and pools of eddying tide off the tip of Point Pleasant.

As ever, there are the sounds of banging: hammers, jack hammers, drills, big construction projects, minor ones, and numerous destruction projects as well, including the gargantuan one happening at Nova Scotia Power, on Lower Water Street.  I thought I was still hearing the pounding from that one when a bunch of tent tops came into view in a parking lot by the boardwalk.  Tents and oncoming hurricanes don’t seem to be a healthy combination so I took a second look–and listen.

And that turned out to be one of the more surprising events of the week:  the tents house the National Canadian Carpentry Apprentice Contest and yes, it’s open (and free) to the public.  There seem to be three–maybe four–areas of competition: carpentry (each contestant seems to have to build a wood frame); drywall (with each contestant working that with an aluminum frame); and millwright (with the contestants setting and working through machinery needs as well as production work).  Each province has a contestant in the carpentry part and they are arranged as the nation’s flags are:  from east to west; not every province seems to have an entrant in the other contests but it is, as one might expect, a noisy tent.

Judges troll through and ask contestants technical questions.  A couple of lady volunteers (all the contestants and judges are men) seem to be charged with keeping refreshments–Tim Horton’s coffee, Timbits, cold pop–flowing.  They had no scoop and were showing incredible skill at shoveling great armloads of ice cubes from one ice chest to another without getting frozen up to the elbows.

Wow. There’s so much to see for the first time….

Diluvian prediction

August 20, 2009

The public ramp up for the weekend weather prediction is now in full swing.  The latest seems to be tidings of rain, whether or not Bill blows ashore.  100 mms of rain!  Since 20 mms is “a lot” 100 is 5 times a lot (and translates to about four inches, which would, if snow, be four feet).

I wonder how the hole at my doorstep will take on this bath effect.  Will shovels float?  Will there be a rocky mudslide? What of the various electrical cords that now seem to litter its interior at the itnersecition of South and South Park?

And what about the fact that the intersection is now blocked at more angles than jsut where the streets cross?  En route home on Thursday, I cam acropper of a new bit of chain link fence traveling west on South Street, so that one now has to walk up South and around in order to gain access to ye olde homestead.

Yes, it begins to seem a bit homesteady:  the line to a water source around the corner, the increasing mounds of crushed gravel that seem to indicate “new routing of public works services,” the dust….

Haven’t yet seen a plague of frogs but after Sunday’s rainfall, that could be in the offing.

Mysterious arrival

August 20, 2009

I happened to be home yesterday when a UPS delivery person rang the bell. Only as I opened it to find him trying to juggle an enormous (about 28 cubic ft) box did I remember that deliveries on this street must be hell on the delivery workers.  Basically, they have to park some blocks away and then schlep things in manageable lots–and this carton’s size precluded juggling any second item–to the intended.  In the sweltering heat. And my household alone receives upwards of 10 boxes and bags of books a week through the ministrations of these folks!

In this case, the further surprise that it apparently was not books–a carton that size would have killed a fellow twice the size of this guy, who was not puny–and, unlike any publisher, the sender had somehow managed to create a situation in which I was to be charged $100 COD (turns out to be for import fees, an unintentional gaffe, I think, on the part of the sender’s customs statement.

As I was on my way out of the house immediately after this initial transaction, I dumped the carton–very very light–and took off, only to rediscover it this morning. The sender’s an old friend–which is why I am confident there was no intention to saddle me with a surprise $100 demand on my doorstep.

Inside, the packing was of that UPS-store hypercareful variety, with enough planet-unsafe styrofoam and bubble wrap to sink a small ship.  And inside all that carefulness are two lovely-but-not-my-taste china platters. One is large enough for a Thanksgiving turkey intended for a party of ten or twelve and the other only marginally smaller.  The pattern is a classic, Bavarian rosebuddy thing, and the edges are both gilded and crenelated.  I am trying to imagine the household in which these would fit. To say nothing of why I am the recipient. To say nothing of why they look as familiar as they do other-worldly (Old Worldly?).

It’s a bit like receiving someone else’s amazing wedding present. Wonder if the sender has just pissed off a bride by failing to get these goods to her, whoever she is?