Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What follows

February 3, 2010

So, after more than two years of lots of words with a few pictures, I’m reversing the makeup of content at

See you there.


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.

What’s the big dig about anyway?

October 30, 2009

Marg, a librarian on the West Coast who reads this blog with a fair degree of faith, it appears, and whom I ahve never met, points up that my scrupulous reports on the heck the street work is causing has overwhelmed any explanation of what plan was behind the mess in the first place.  So ehre’s a quick recap:

Back in the 18th century, the British used the south mouth of a clear stream they named Fresh Water Brook to restock their ships with potable water when in port.  Fresh Water Brook (which in the Western US would pass for a river and in the Eastern US would be a deep creek) flows roughly southeast across the Halifax Peninsula.

At some point in the mid-19th century, sewer lines were laid on the Peninsula and were set to roughly trace the route of the brook (perhaps because it had cut through the rock?). Then a grid pattern of streets was laid over it–the grid running due east-west/north-south while the brook and sewer line ran southeast.  Buildings were placed on top of the brook/sewer line….

A hundred sixty years later, no surprise, the sewer pipes had had their day and needed replacement.  And some wise person decided to straighten ’em out to follow the streets (makes sense) and straighten the now undergrounded brook, too….

A couple problems with this scenario:  “underground” here means 30 feet or so, not six; and “rock means like solid not stoney…..

Thus the big dig-explosion-crater began.

And that, Marg, is your scary pre-Halloween story.

Complaint department gets stranger

October 11, 2009

Various places I’ve lived as an adult have come complete with a “community” newsrag that offers the sludgy underside to contemplate.  I’m not taking British tabloid quality, but local wags who like to have others peruse their complaints and can somehow afford to publish widely enough that any inveterate reader at one time or another falls over the print.  Many years ago, the Newton Tab started and was headed in that direction but righted its course to become a kind of shopper publication with occasional articles. The Berkeley Daily Planet started off the other way–relatively real news and delivered daily–but underwent a change of leadership that took it to twice a week with a cudgel.

Here, it’s Frank, a biweekly that lives up to its name by putting out such scoops as who stole what from the bridal wear store. Or, more recently, investigates the case of rats on public property, not because there are simply rats on public property–hey, it’s an old urban area and there are gonna be rats–but because the rats appear to be sluggish.  Who looks at a rat long enough to determine sluggishness as opposed to vector-reportability?

I’m never sure what folks think will happen when such complaints are levied: that the rats, whether sluggish or no, will be properly deported from the property? that the rats will be allowed to share in the benefits of multivitamins and overcome their sluggishness? And why would folks want to read about someone else’s complaint? Too sluggish to go find one’s own nemesis? Hard to believe that there aren’t greater issues in the world–nay, in the community–warranting careful attention.

My guy Curtis

September 17, 2009

Flying to the US from YHZ begins with preclearance by Homeland Seurity.  The carpet in the security area is woven so that a cream coloured line tracks straight across the otherwise blue/grey/green pencil stripes: the international border.  There are booths for about 10 or 12 customs/immigration agents on its far side, and usually half the booths are occupied by agents and the number of folk with whom I am crossing numbers half that.  IMG_2539

But this is cruise season and lots of folks seem to be flying back to the US from here after disembarking at Pier 21, so today I am behind a couple from the Philippines–carrying a well-packaged lobster–and an airline attendant who is carrying her amazingly high patent leather heels; behind me are three women headed to Enfield, NJ, and out of their minds excited about that fact.  And there are only two agents on duty.

I stand in line and notice that the drill seems to have been changed: folks are being photographed and thumbprinted, interviewed at length, and even turned back (with the lobster).  It’s my turn and I am waved over to the booth on the west end…

…and yes, it’s my guy Curtis!  The last half dozen times I’ve crossed to the US from YHZ, he’s been the agent I’ve drawn.  The guy must be a reader because he is always enthusiastic about books, libraries, library conferences. He does the interview and asks me tricky questions but they are all easy and show he’s got all his mental ducks nicely lined up: what have I read lately?

It’s like being seen off at the gate, like the old days, to have this be my last conversation in the airport.  Bye, Curtis; see you next month!

IMG_2538 IMG_2537

The whisky of rearending fate

August 15, 2009

The weather continues to be spectacular in terms of views and slightly wamish unless one stays near the water–not a hard thing to do in this Bay’s-edge location.  After a crawl looking for–and finding–good local colour-in-signs along Telegraph Avenue,

in the Hat store window on Telegraph, near Blake

in the Hat store window on Telegraph, near Blake

detail from the Free Speech Movement mural on Dwight at Telegraph

detail from the Free Speech Movement mural on Dwight at Telegraph

IMG_2052 Carole and I headed north to Richmond and had a hike from the Point Isabel dog park to the Rosie the Riveter Memorial and back.  Part of this is a rail trail nicely converted for pedestrians.  Replanting and other eco-reclamation has been done and–due to a dodder infestation–is underway.


We stopped at the liquor warehouse on San Pablo to check out the Islay whisky collection and I was quite pleased that I could get a bottle of my favourite Bunnahabhain there as a departure gift for Carole and Sally. If only I remembered the last time I was in the Bay Area, thrilled to find access to Port Askaig….

We got at least a dozen blocks up Solano before getting rearended, a bizarre deja vu of when I tried to get the same whisky for Sarah, in Sarah’s car, more than five years ago.  What is it with the confluence of this delicate, rural whisky, Berkeley traffic and my friends?

In spite of the fact that this round the offending driver proved to run as well as hit, the case got sewn up within less than two hours. (That his license plate imprinted itself on the bumper was satisfying). Yes, the car sports enough damage to warrant professional intervention. But nobody got hurt and the earlier relaxed quality of the day was at least partially salvaged by slaking our thirst with a bit of northern Islay.

Winnarainbow or two

July 6, 2009

One of the wondrous and benign legacies of the 60’s is the over-30-year summer camp Wavy Gravy runs on the hot side of Mendocino County.  This is Fred’s tenth year there, his first as a recognized adult. And one of the perks of adult status at camp is being able to leave the grounds during his time off.  He’s been writing to me about that, which is both endearing and slightly eyebrow-raising, given that I am, after all, a parental unit.  So far, no harm, no foul, but a bill for a motel in metro Garberville (a place where the word “metro” is completely nonsensical).

Added to these messages from hippie summer camp, I got another kind of wonderful rainbow blast this morning when I discovered nearly 100 photos from Janice and Mo’s wedding, a Berkeley event stuffed with late-20-somethings who literally span the rainbow of human diversity.  The beauty of that particular rainbow–besides the fact that, at least while the camera was snapping, everyone was having great good times–is its lack of self-consciousness. These pictures couldn’t have been taken in the 60’s; they show a post-modern eclecticism that runs through the core of the subjects’ beings, not donned like costumes for a trip to the country.

My faith in the next generation wasn’t in doubt, but this morning they are, indeed, looking as promising as Noah’s rainbow.

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.

Stars and stairs

November 12, 2008

I spent the day hithering and yonning and enjoying the fact that it was a clear day on which to be doing so.  I sampled lots of transit types and most of the folks with whom I had business to do were cheerful.  How little I sometimes need to feel buoyant myself!

One snippet that had some in a buzz today was the likelihood that a particular movie star might be filming up the street.  I have never seen adults be so excited by this prospect–probably because I went to school in movieland at such an impressionable age that I tend to forget that stars are called stars for a reason.  When I try to put Hollywood and Halifax into the same sentence, it seems utterly preposterous.  One is a fable and the other barely wears makeup.

Saturday evening, Bob and I spent the generous gift certificate our Berkeley realtor gave us (in collusion with our local one) at Fiasco.  Now, folks in there did look a bit like Bel-Air, but Bel-Air on a dress-down sort of day.

By contrast, let’s take up the stair project again.  This evening, as I hustled home (that being the “by foot” part of the work around day), I noticed that the bottom step–yes, all the risers are momentarily in place–has been fully boxed!

As Bette Davis said–was it in Now Voyager?: “Why ask for the moon?  We have the stairs!”

There we went again

October 26, 2008

Like the cloud of dirt ever-encompassing the essence of Charles Schulz’s Pigpen, my traveling days–especially eastbound ones–now seem to come guaranteed to be bumpy.

My e-ticket clearly spelled out my flight as being on United, which, coincidentally, was the airline that had taken me to Chicago. I arrived at O’Hare, stepped as smartly up to the kiosk to check in as one can step at 6 am with less than four hours of sleep to one’s name, and went through the first steps of the read-and-touch process. Until I came to the screen that told me, rather personally, to pick up the phone and talk with an agent. The agent told me that the flight was actually on Air Canada and that I should hie myself there and check in with an agent rather than use the self-check. She could not, however, tell me which terminal holds Air Canada at O’Hare.

So I found a security guard, asked, and was sent quite determinedly to Terminal 4. And when I got there, I saw no Air Canada and another security guard told me, without promising positive results, that I “might try terminal 2.” Ah, sure, why not give ’em all a try–and maybe there’d be a map somewhere along the way…..

After that, things bumped along: the Air Canada agent told me that my ticket was fine as far as Toronto “and then you seem to go away.” Well, the idea was indeed to go away to Halifax, but her phrasing didn’t sound so promising. A bit more backing and forthing and new assurance that now I could get from Chicago to Halifax on this ticket, all in the time outlined on the original itinerary.

Until the first plane was loading and the agent was taking my boarding pass. “This has a note,” she announced ominously, while staring at her screen. “You must have paper.” Well, yeah, I had lots of paper with me but my thought was that YALSA notes weren’t the ticket, so to speak. She gave up easily, however. “Oh, I’ll just do it later,” she barked, shooing me on along so she could get through the restive crowd behind us.

Since I was already anticipating a bit of a bump in the border crossing, I rested up on flight one so I could present a pleasant, patient face. The Customs agent riffled through my passport for some time and asked me if I had started work on renewing my work permit. Yes. Did I have the papers proving that? Yes. I started to extract them from my briefcase. “Oh, I don’t want to see them!” she told me, sounding about as anxious as if I had threatened to withdraw a live frog from the bag. And then, she returned the passport to me, unstamped. Uh-oh. I am smart enough about that now to know to hang onto the boarding pass that got me onto the plane back in Chicago.

Boarding the plane for the last leg home went shockingly smoothly. In fact, I was beginning to think that I could simply kick back for the final two hours of travel. Until one flight attendant said to another: “I’m looking for a Gxxxsmith. She’s on my list.”

Surprise! The list, for whatever reason, turned out to be of passengers who were entitled to $7 of free junk food each. I tried to turn it down. they looked at me balefully. I came home with cashews and candy bars. But I did make it all the way home.