Saturday, October 13, 2007

Eastern Edges

Halifax. My friend Marcin, (who you may remember from our Kyoto adventures) was living here now, teaching at the local university. The morning after I arrived, we had breakfast at the hip Blower's Paper Chase cafe, then walked around the city and along the waterfront. After beers at Garrison brewery, we had lunch at the old Henry House, then drove out to Peggy Cove to hop along the huge granite stones of the shoreline. The sea beyond was teeming. The heads of seals bobbed just offshore, sharing their meal with the seabirds who would dive into the frigid water from great heights. Further out were the fountains of spray of a pod of whales migrating south along the coast. Incredible. Back in town, we chilled out a bit at Cabin Coffee amidst the lounge music and powerful scent of maple. That night was band practice. I met the other three members of the group--all Japanese. Within seconds my body language and style of speaking changed. It is amazing how at home I am in Japanese culture, and how it, not my native North American culture surrounding it, dictates how I act. Rehearsal was fun, watching them run thru some pieces with flute, taiko, and voice. The last hour or so I joined in for a jam session. Later were the obligatory beers.

The next day I was solo. I had a quick swim in a waterfront pool open this late in the year due to the warm weather. I spent most of my day zigzagging up and down the hills of Halifax, looking around the Khyber Gallery and the Art School, hanging out at various coffee shops like the Paper Chase and Just Us!, and tripping over the piles of used books in the bookshops. I probably walked every square meter of the city's sidewalk, seeing the same people again and again. Halifax seems to have an overabundance of the dreadlocked and the homeless. My favorite character was this happy-go-lucky guy that seemed like a drifter with his big fuzzy Abbie Hoffman head of hair, who I most often saw begging change, though I once saw him walking with great purpose down a steep hill toward the waterfront. (To buy a beavertail maybe?) That night Marcin and I met up with the Japanese again to go see the performance Drum! The music was terrific, but the message of harmony through music was a tad overdone and somewhat naive. (Ask the indigenous people their opinion, if you can find any.) Later we all went up to Rogue's Roost for Pub Quiz. Walking home past a centuries old graveyard, I couldn't help but think that the hard work of the dead lying there had a direct correlation in my day.

Another cemetery closed out my visit. I'd been to the Maritime Museum the day before and was surprised to find that many of the Titanic's dead had been brought here since Halifax was the closest port to the site of the wreck. On the outskirts of town I found them, about half lying in graves unmarked for nearly a century. The taller stones told tales of valor and duty that no longer exists, which is perhaps just as well since it led to so many fatalities. Heading back to the waterfront, I looked out into the rainy mist and imagine the Titanic rescue ships coming in, bearing horrors yet unknown to the people watching from the shore.

On the turntable: Prem Joshua, "Water down the Ganges"
On the nighttable: Richard Ford, "Women with Men"

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