Archive for September, 2009

Street work day and night, but results….eh

September 30, 2009

When I got back to my street last evening, dusk had turned to dark–but the area in front of my house seemed to be throwing off huge showers of sparks. By the time I could see what was going on, I no longer had to imagine because big flood lights had been flicked on to show that welding was in progress on one of the yellow steel monsters that seems to have moved into the area where once traffic flowed.

Welding is a quiet, although bright, activity, and so I didn’t notice what time they quit.

But this morning, I could hear the gears grinding up curbside–inside the public excluding fence–well before the magic okay-to-perform-public-street-work hour of 7 am.  Here’s what was arriving:


So, my expectations were high upon returning to the street this afternoon.  Would there be that paving stuff that other streets have?  But no, just men walking, men staring, machines parked, engines running. It all appears to have left the unfinished roadway undisturbed by change.


Bubbler mythos

September 29, 2009

Years ago I worked in a then-50-year-old building with a water fountain (bubbler, drinking fountain) in need of replacement.  And replaced it was, although the project took an entire (hot, thirsty) summer and seemed to require that every journeyman level plumber work on the job in order to qualify for licensure. It was a well used appliance, a fact made more obvious by its regular unavailability that season.

Here, on the other hand,water fountains–newly required in public places–seem to be scorned.  Otherwise intelligent, rational people seem to want to go to the mat exchanging urban legends about the disgusting nature of the beast and many my age claim never to have drunk a drop from one–as I suppose they’ve never used a latrine (although they may be dedicated campers) which is far more off-putting in my book (and yes, I’ve even cleaned and diug the latter).

There are places in the US where toilet seat covers, in public restrooms, are de rigeuer, but I’ve never met so many folks who won’t drink from a spout that, correctly operating, shoots its charge high and far from any “common source.”

I am old fashioned, American, thirsty. Give me a public (operable) drinking fountain any day over this hyper fastidiousness…..

September weather always raises my eyebrows

September 28, 2009

So, in Halifax today, it was 18 degrees Celsius, which is two degrees–only two degrees–warmer than it is in Wisconsin, where I am headed on Thursday.  And, at this hour, at least, it’s the same temp here as in Berkeley, california, which had a horrendous heat wave over the weekend. It’s almost enough to confuse me.

But not so fast:  here the mild temp is accompanied by a monsoon, while it’s sunny in Janesville and Berkeley appears to be its happily normal slightly overcast self. Behind Door #1 we have autumn; behind Door #2 we have autumn; and behind Door #3 we have the land of almost sempeternal springtime.

I remember Septembers in which it snowed (once, cruelly, on the first day of the new school year) and others that were so hot (can we say Los Angeles?) that any thought of summer ever passing was burned to cinders. If it’s September, the weather must be insistent, whatever else it is and wherever one is.

There up, here over

September 26, 2009

In the East Bay, many middle class hosues seemed to get lifted in the 90’s real estate boom:  severed from their foundations, with cross tie pillars built to hoist them aloft, another story was built beneathe, thereby doubling the floorspace and often leaving a front door with strangely tall stairs leading to it and remodeled into a second floor window.

Not all of these projects went quickly.  I remember one place on the east side of MLK, around Cedar Street, that remained up in the air for four or five years, eventually coming to light on top of a first story that increases its girth as well as its height, and turning what had been a single family bungalow into a trio of condos. In another block of the same street, or where it has merged with The Alameda, another house sat up in the air for less time but more breath-holdingly, as the apparently expensive Chinese urn in the living room was hoisted with the house and sat there precariously over the abyss until the first floor solidified the house’s attachment to Earth again.

Here, I discover, houses in need of foundation work don’t go up but get put aside.  I discovered this as I walked along the southern most block of Dresden Row and was shocked to see what at first seemed an open lot where a Victorian had stood last week.  But then, as I passed, I saw the house is still there, only moved back several dozen feet on the property, while something occurs in the pit of its basement that involves ladders, a small backhoe and such.

Presumably the work will be completed before winter arrives.  Stepping out onto a frozen pond, from the set-back front door, wouldn’t be fun.  But, on the whole, more copable than getting out of a tower-in-the-sky come the East Bay earthquake.

Easing into autumn

September 25, 2009

September is one of the prettiest and gentlest months here–at least as I’ve seen it, in whole or in part, during three different years. The gardens are still in full and deeply coloured bloom, the temperature is mild and even the rainy days–like this one–are almost windless.

There are a lot of folks on the street, even early in the morning these days: college and university students, winter drivers who are trying to get some pedestrian or bike time into their schedules, cruise ship passengers. Some are dressed in outfits they’ve pulled from moth balls while others of us refuse to yet surrender short sleeves and chinos.

Bike riders fly past wrapped in scarves; I guess it’s windier up there.

Metal and wood bike on Hollis Street

Metal and wood bike on Hollis Street

Want fries with that form?

September 24, 2009

Besides it being Water Turn On Day on South Park, yesterday brought an unexpectedly soon phone call from Immigration Canada. I called them back, via the number and instructions they’d left for Bob and was faced with possibly the most laid back human since 1969.  I had to perform a reference interview in order to find out what was wanted/needed/on offer and then provide my translation of his slightly fuddled phrases until I was fairly certain that the message was: “Your papers have come through jsut fine so come on down and pick ’em up. Oh, and don’t forget to bring a couple headshots that will make you look like a psycho killer.”

The one detail about which the fellow was firm and unwavering was that I could do this at any of three specific points in time, two of which also happen to be when I will not be in Nova Scotia.  The third option was this afternoon at 3, so I jumped on that one.

The immigration office here is suitably anonymous looking and located in a tourist bar area of town.  I got there promptly at 2:52–and discovered that the office itself is strangely unmanned.  There are invitations (mostly in English only, although there is a sign or two, about retaining your Canadian citizenship, that appear in French as well) suggesting you dial an 800 number in Saskatchewan in order to get info. Since that seemed so counterintuitive as to be laughable I took an alternate approach:  I waited a minute and a half.  And I was rewarded with the appearance of a guard who told me he would go find someone to help me.

He returned and asked my first name.  Told me to be seated.  Then returned again to ask my last name.  I sat.  I stared at the really interesting paint combination used on the walls–taupe and purple–and wondered if I ahd enough reading material with me.

But before I could dig any out, another door opened and Mr LaidBack himself popped out and invited me into a room that was stripped of any possible orientation: cell like in size and proportion, white walls, a high ceiling on which was mounted the blue bulb of a security camera, a completely empty desk and two stained interview chairs.  We sat.  He pulled out the fabled form–the one that cost me dozens of fingerprint efforts to say nothing of the energy spent trying to imagine how to respond to the request for engagement party pix that the original paperwork had required.  He stared at it.  I stared at him.

“I have two questions for you,” he finally intoned, still sounding sort of laid back.  “Have youe ver been convicted of a serious crime in the United States or in Canada?”

Well that one was easy.  I awaited the second, which turned out to threaten any power I ahd over giggling:

“Did you tell me the truth when you answered the first question?”

And that was the end of the interview.  He stamped my passport and wrote something inscrutable on the stamp itself. We each got to sign the form. He confiscated my headshots and let me know the “real” card will appear in the mail in one or two or three months.

Ten minutes after I’d walked into the building, I was on my way again. Like wow man.

Wow! running water!

September 23, 2009

Okay, we may be out of heating oil, but today we got ourselves back on the city’s water supply–right through those brand new pipes under the yet-unpaved street.  One small step for thirsty kind…. The “umbilical cord” attaching us to the water at our front step–a plastic hose loop that is not very firmly cemented into place–remains present.  Wehther this emans that the “regular” water supply is just a test or that someone will come along later and cut the cord is yet to be revealed.

Summer’s returned already

September 22, 2009

in my four-day absence, Halifax apparently ahd two autumnal days, but now summer is back full on.  We are lucky, in that regard, as we have now bled the oil tank dry and won’t be able to get more home heating fuel until the road is put back together.

And that doesn’t seem to be likely.  The crew has moved back to Fenwick, leaving us high and gravelly–with fences.

Take one giant step?

September 21, 2009

When I was a kid, we played an outdoor version of “Simon Says” in which “Simon” was replaced by a”mother” who both invited and granted permission to advance across a long field.  S/he might call out to one or another of the assembled “children” to take a baby step or threes giant step or a scissors step or even two backward steps.  Before obeying the command, the addressed had to be sure to ask, “Mother, may I?” and the “mother” would respond “Yes, you may, ” or even, recalcitrantly, “No, you may not.”  If one stepped before asking permission, one had to return to the start line.

This game came to mind today with the mail:  first there arrived a letter to Bob announcing that he is fit to be a residency sponsor.  The next piece was a letter to me saying that I have almost cleared the processes in place to allow me to be a resident of Canada.  Almost.  If I ask, “Immigration, may I?” and do that in the right venue in response to a phone call.

So, we still wait, but, at least, there is some movement in the game.

Chinese food at last at last

September 20, 2009

Although Japanese food is good and plentiful in HFX, there is a strange shortage of Chinese. So, an invitation to go down to old City Hall (Chambers Street) and walk back uptown via Chinatown and lunch was  a warmly received one by me.  Yesterday’s weather was just as brilliantly blue and walking-comfortable of temp as the previous two days here.

IMG_2674Little Italy’s streets were crammed with San Genaro festival goers but Mott Street was slightly less overflowing and we could find what looked like a suitable restaurant: big and with lots of Asian parties coming and going.

The Grand Harmony Restaurant lives up to its former appellation of the Crystal Palace by way of the chandeliers in a huge expanse of tables for between four and ten.  It was dim sum time, being Saturday midday and we were seated at once.  And then we waited.  And waited.  And every single cart bypassed us.

After 20 minutes, Michael hailed a waiter who agreed to bring us a bowl of noodles but not two.  And then a cart carrying broccoli rabe did stop and the waitress lifted a plate of it toward us–and then walked away.  The noodles had yet to arrive.  We drank tea.  We stared at other diners, all well served and plump and stuffing themselves.

The waitress returned with a double portion of broccoli. We descended on it.  Then the bowl of noodles arrived–enough for 11 or 12 of the two of us.  Okay, we got Chinese food at last.  Patience, as Michael used to quote often, is indeed a virtue.