Archive for November, 2009

The last clear day of the year…?

November 29, 2009

So I took a walk….

A bout of irony

November 28, 2009

When it comes to food, I tend to live clean and easy.  That doesn’t mean that food poisoning never becomes a reality in my oh so charmed gustatory life. And it usually occurs with a healthy dose of irony on the side. Several years ago, it hit–and quite hard–as I was watching a live performance of Sweeney Todd–and no I had not been sampling the meat pies. This time, it was in the wee hours of the morning after American Thanksgiving–which I celebrated without the sometimes-iffy turkey.

So, I am now thankful to have recovered….

SINning on Thanksgiving

November 26, 2009

My brief entertainment of taking off from work for the American Thanksgiving holiday ground to a halt with the arrival of this week’s notice from the road crew: today our water is to be turned off–all day.  And, oh by the way, best to turn off the hot water heater, too, lest it be sucked full of sludge when the water works under the street are tinkered with during this stage.

Instead of a day off, then, I decided to take on another federal bureaucracy by renewing my SIN card in light of now possessing a permanent residency card.  I had been told–with strange excitement on one bureaucrat’s part–that my new residency card will mean that my new SIN card will start with a whole different digit!

Canadian federal offices are so very unlike American ones that it is a kind of Alice’s rabbit hole experience to enter any of them.  Today, a beautifully mild Thursday (it is not a holiday here), brought many people out to wander the streets of downtown Dartmouth just before noon.  The elevator to the 5th floor of the building where the closest Service Canada office is housed was packed (The building also houses many medical offices). Service Canada, however, was virtually empty–two young men worked on self-service computers and the receptionist smiled at me from behnid her desk that was at least 25 feet away across a shiney, empty floor.

She checked me in–by name–and asked me–politely–to have a seat “for a minute.” Less than that minute had passed before I was rounded up–also sweetly–by the case worker who took me to ehr private office space and worked her way through a form that might have had as many as four lines in it.  She then produced my new number, smailed and wished me a good day.

A grand total of 15 minutes had elapsed–walk to and from the building included–when I got back to my desk, new SIN at the ready.

So, who cares that the house has no water, the office has been hit by someone with drill, my Facebook page has been hacked and all my American friends are eating pumpkin pie while here it’s butter tarts on offer?  I have a new-digit SIN.

Courtesy

November 25, 2009

One of the things I really appreciate about Nova Scotia is the extensive and thorough courtesy the drivers show for pedestrians.  It never ceases to amaze me!  This evening was dark (at 4), foggy and rainy.  I approached intersections downtown with due caution.  And in each and every (of 9) cases, drivers ground to a halt, flashed their lights and made sure that I got the right of way.

This is curious behaviour for a pedestrian who has lived with the oblivious in Los Angeles and the threatening in New England.  Drivers who notice pedestrians? And give them way? It’s like a fairy tale!

Measure for measure

November 24, 2009

The deluge against we which we were warned this afternoon never arrived with force, jsut a piddling spit here and there making boots seem silly and even questioning umbrellas.  The prediction had been for 50 mm–and the question became “why is rain measured in millimetres while snow is measured in centimeters?”

Clearly, 50 sounds more dramatic than 5, but 50 anything of snow would paralyze us all in concept alone even before we hit the stuff.

I made the mistake of quoting the forecast verbatim to an American friend, who was none pleased at having to go find a conversion table to inches. Funny how we can imagine amounts best in the measurement system we first learned: I can never visualize a Canadian football field, for instance–going to metres from yards makes it too expansive to fit into a single “screen” for my internal eye.

Food here, however, seems to receive universally odd measure, with overall sizes offered in metric and portions in English (you buy a kilo of potatoes but each one weighs so many ounces). That should make the brain either flexible or schizoid.

Feed a fever, starve a cold–put sox on it

November 23, 2009

It’s been an evening full of local idiosynchrocies–from the moment I tried to negotiate the final block of my walk home. That was the block in which explosives were being laid in the street, while both directions of auto traffic were being diverted into a single lane and the sidewalk was closed off in both directions.

By now, however, I can tell how close we are to detonation by eyeballing the explosive layout so I knew I ahd time to round the block to reach my front door….

Much later, I got to hear from Bob about the rather stunning folk wisdom he’d acquired during the day: a woman had been regaling all with how she copes with a cold: she dons wet socks, wraps her feet in plastic bags before bed so as to preserve the sheets in dryness, and lo and behold the “attacker cells” are stimulated by the ensuing discomfort to the point of wellness.

Kids, don’t try this at home: neither the explosives avoidance or the wet sock routine. Some days, the ostriches have the right idea….

Down by the waterside and elsewhere

November 22, 2009

There were so many sights to see on my morning walk this bright blue Sunday that I almost didn’t regret leaving my camera at home–some of them defied the lens.

Yesterday, when passing along Lower Water Street, near the butt end of Sackville Street, I noticed huge masts well above Murphy’s on Cable Wharf.  Heading that way this morning, I first had to wait while a very large contingent of Norwegian sailors in full dress gathered to honour the fallen at the Norwegian Sailors Memorial, just south of the Maritime Museum.  The official photographer, a woman in skirted uniform, then popped the small Norwegian flag she carried onto the handlebars of her bright white bike and pedaled off, while the rest of the crew marched to street and headed north on Lower Water…all but the three pretty wags who ran up the tongue wave by the tourist map booth and posed for a buddy’s picture taking.

Down at Cable wharf, the tall ship proved to be enormous as well as tall, white and crisply gilt-decorated at bow and stern. There are free tours of it this afternoon, but I shall be virtuously working then.

Heading back downtown, I passed the Basilica just as the Archbishop, in full gold mitre and lugging crozier, stepped into the sunshine.  A couple blocks west, a very strangely mixed “religious” exercise was underway on view through the glass front of the Lululemon store: 25 lithe women kneeling east as though toward Mecca but in fact pursuing a yoga regime.

And just then Ellen Page walked by…reminding me that, after all, this is Halifax.

Farmers market turns to crafts central

November 21, 2009

Halifax boasts the oldest farmers market in North America and, indeed, at 250+ years, it is venerable.  At the moment, it’s housed in a brewery house built 170+ years ago–a stone cavern in which stalls are set up every Saturday along snaking halls that are at a variety of levels, some with natural light streaming through skylights covering what were once courtyards and others virtual and real cellars.

At this time of year, the bounty of the Valley is petering and syrup and roots are the extent of the fresh edibles, along with fish, meat and bread and pastries.  But crafts being pushed for holiday gifts bloom with surprising good taste: beeswax candles, carefully knitted mittens and sweaters, beautifully inlaid cutting boards.

And then there’s the hash chocolate man….

Oh the injured

November 19, 2009

It seems that the South Park Street construction/destruction project has been going on for so long and with such intensity that even the heavy duty equipment is beginning to feel the stress. For five months now, the street has been lined with diggers, dozers, tractors and trucks of all dimension–with a distinct slant toward the gargantuan. Komatsu seems to make stuff that only the gods may have dreamed as small boys.

And they appear to provide sporty little–as in tiny–repair vans to speed to the site of malfunctioning equipment. To wit, the giant sized excavator that seems to have developed a “sore” bucket arm.  Like so many vets at the zoo, they are parked near this poor creature, “practicing” its elbow bend repeatedly.  That this is happening at the verge of the VG Hospital makes it all the more apropos and pathetic.

Meanwhile, a few hundred yards away, the generator used to keep the sludge moving through the sewers even while they are being replaced huffs and puffs all night in front of our house.  This patient seems to be a bit less healthy than his big yellow orthopedic buddy.  Called a “WhispaWatt” the generator does for whispering what the average two-year-old might: confuse that pitch with a dull roar.

In short, the street’s now become some external ward of the VG itself.

National icons of all sorts

November 18, 2009

Coming home from work tonight I found myself swamped by pedestrian traffic intent on seeing Sidney Crosby brandishing the Olympic torch on its trip through Nova Scotia and on out to Vancouver for 2010.  By chance, I got to see the torch in progress too, although the person walking it was–I don’t know.

A good 15 hours earlier, I had had a laugh-out-loud dream in which a guy named Timmy Horton met up with a young lady named Betty Crocker.  Really.  Of course, it set my mind off gathering wool about how these two “national treasures” differ and how they share similarities:

One wants you to eat, or rely on comestibles gathered, away from home while the other wants you to imitate homemade. Both encourage a continental sweet tooth.  Neither seems to “really” exist while both ahve been around “a long long time.”

The unconscious mond is trumped only by pop culture…..