High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

That Province . . . Took ADVANTAGE OF ME: The Halifax Report, Day 5, pt 1

Thursday was the last day of the conference, and it was really only a half day with the most appalling excuse for 'science' packed into it.

Truth be told, I spent most of the first morning session catching up on my e-mail. As I mentioned in my first report, the Lord Nelson's lone flaw was the lack of free wireless in the rooms; fortunately part of our conference schwag packet was a login and password for the Dalhousie wireless network. However, I'd been mostly too lazy to carry the New Hotness to campus most days.

Anyway, caught up during the first session so that I was able to devote full attention to the second. It had some hoity-toity title like "The Phenomenological Post-Kantian Repercussions of How Totally Awesome it Is to Be Human," which was not confidence inspiring. Fortunately, the chair, who was also the first speaker said, "I have no idea what's up with that title . . . but all the papers in this session kinda sorta deal with humans. Let's rock and roll." (I paraphrase.) Most were good, even one by a member of the legion of our sworn codon-model enemies. (Diabolically good, because convincingly presented and completely devoid of any of the criticisms we've been leveling, which amount to: "Yes, and? What the hell difference does this actually make to anything we're looking for?"

But there was a truly appalling paper in this session. Worse, it was a truly appalling NIH-funded paper. It had ridiculously hand-waving hypotheses, a good 20 years out of sync with current literature and thinking, that were not even being tested by the data collected. True crap and very disappointing to see it anywhere, let alone at an otherwise high-quality meeting. It was especially unfortunate that this was in the last session and left me with a bad taste in my mouth. A bad taste that could only be removed . . . by shopping.

Most of our walkabouts were at night, and most nonhospitality businesses were closed at that time. This had absolutely zero effect on my drooling over things in windows. Specifically, there was a small hosiery/lingerie shop that had a to-die-for grey scarf with a skull-and-crossbones motif. Had to have it. Also had to have some superfly skull laces for my Doc Martens as it turns out. Who knew?

While I was merrily shopping, J drew the unenviable task of not only shopping with me, but simultaneously trying to sort out why the hell we couldn't check in for our flight online. We had discovered this unfortunate fact just as we discovered that the Lord Nelson really is not very smart about these Intarwebs things. (Even in their business center [which comprises 2 PCs], they required that you call down to the desk for a 45-minute key to log in. Blegh!)

As we wandered away from the hosiery store and further down Spring Garden, J scored (a) a live person at United (SPIT!) Airlines and (b) a fabulous shirt befitting Puffy D (you probably don't want to ask). Still further down the street, there was a shoe store that, at first glance, I thought was called Ka/Ks. (It was, actually, Kas Footwear, which is weird enough, and if you know why, I either pity you or scorn you as one of our legion of sworn codon-model enemies.) Some Campers totally wanted me there, but I remained strong.

Continuing on, we decided that it was probably a good idea to fortify ourselves with at least a bit of lunch. We shared a tasty enough bagel sandwich and I recaffeinated. Always a good idea.

We soldiered on past the Commonwealth's most baked library. As we were heading down the diagonal path toward the store next to Mary Jane's Smoke Shop (not a smoke-shop, a hippy clothing/jewelry/fabric/tchotchke store; ah, thank you, google, it was called The Black Market ), J took my elbow, and stepped us off to the side of the path, muttering "Rickshaw." I was just on the verge of laughingly saying, "I'd have sworn you just said 'rickshaw'," when a man pulling a rickshaw passed us by. Though slackjawed, I was able to repeat, "Rickshaw?" And being Canadian, he politely offered us a ride. We did not, however, take him up on this.

I got a cute wrap skirt and a red belly-dancing top at the Black Market. Why a belly-dancing top, other than to make all who have seen me scream, "MY EYES! MY BRAIN! HOW COULD A SUPPOSEDLY BENEVOLENT GOD ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN?" Well, (a) because it was $9, (b) because if I ever do get off my butt early enough, I want to take the Middle Eastern Belly Dancing class at OTSFM, and (c) because Puffy D was watching out for the interests of the ZK.

From the Black Market, we continued on along and down, passing the Press Gang 15 or 20 times as we made our way northeast. The most notable stop we made along the way was at Peep Show Girly Boutique (I have to tell you I loathe that article, which I'm glad I didn't see before we went in). Rather than being . . . well, anything at all like what that article purports it to be, was eerily like stepping back into the shopping fugue I experienced in New Orleans last fall. The staff were over-the-top friendly (even for Canadians), but were far from attempting the hard sell. Rather they kept urging us to have fun and look at things.

There were easily 7 different bags that I really, truly, needed to have. And dresses. And skirts. And kneesocks. And jewelry. And shoes. And then there was this completely awesome shirt that had a guy with giant mutton chops and the caption "I like boys in punk rock bands," (tragically, it did not fit). How I had the willpower to leave there with nothing more than a bright blue shaving kit decorated with the Warhol skull (I'll use it as a toiletry bag, which I honestly needed) I will never know. Probably inciting J to purchase items as gifts helped.

We'd sort of had a vague intention of going down to the maritime museum (and there just HAPPENED to be a store down there we wanted to pop into), so we headed waterfront-ward. At the store that just happened to be there, I picked up some neat little hexagonal hoop earrings and a necklace with an interesting brass pendant. We tried hard to get a luscious silk blouse for Wire Monkey Mother, but sadly, the sizers in this store were working on the "teeny, rackless" Asian sizing model and there was no room at the inn for The Girls. Pity, because that charcoal blouse was smokin'.

The outbreak of capitalism rather derailed our plans on the cultural front. By the time we got to the Maritime Museum, we realized that we'd only have 45 minutes or so to wander around. Now that might be enough to time to taken an exhibit called, simply, Pirates, but once you add in the exclamation mark, you're in for the whole day. We decided instead to walk up toward the Citadel.

There was a last gasp of running-dog-ism at a jewelry store (and I'm glad there was, as we found a great pendant for and I got a bit giftie for a friend) and then a real trek. You must remember that J and I are not used to topography at this point. It wasn't especially hot that day, but the sun was bright and the grade impressive.

We were puffing more than a little bit by the time we reached the level of the Clock Tower. WE rested a bit there on the pretense of reading the text, then made the big push up to Citadel Hill itself. We were destined to be completely culture free (there's also a charge to get into the Citadel proper, and the guards wear the fluffy hats of ultimate seriousness regarding their duty. But it was well worth the climb, as the view of the city and the harbor is absolutely breathtaking from that height.

We headed back to the Lord Nelson along a road just north of the gardens, which was not our usual route. That's how we discovered that the Highland Games were going to start without us. Curses! Back at the hotel, we cleaned up quickly and went to catch a cab for the Hydrostone Market, where we had dinner reservations at Rogi Orazio.

Our cab driver was a very chatty lebanese guy, and we bonded over pizza (he told us where to get the best pizza in Halifax and had a good handle on the fact that this was a local rendition of pizza, and a good one, rather than being any kind of attempt to imitate Pizza) and garlic. The restaurant just happened to be right next door to LK Yarns and we just happened to arrive with about 10 minutes to spare for yarn shopping. I yarn shopped, obtaining some lovely mohair in a lustrous navy color for something out of the Sublime Very Gorgeous Kid Mohair book, and another odd skein in a colorway I just couldn't resist.

Although it had felt hot during the day, by the time we sat down to dinner, it was breezy and lovely, so we sat outside. Have I mentioned that Halifax builds these boardwalks on to the fronts of their streets so that outdoor seating doesn't completely bugger up pedestrian traffic? Well they do. So as we sat enjoying champagne, a large number of extremely cute dogs walked by for the petting. We also realized while sitting there munching on awesome red pepper bruschetta and spicy, cornmeal crusted calamari (no, I'd have never thought of combining cornmeal with calamari, either, but it was fabulous) that I was staring at a wine supply store, and J was staring a brewery. Oh, and there was a massage therapist on the upper floor of the yarn shop's building. In a lesser city, this would have looked desperate.

I knew nothing about the Hydrostone Market, and J only knew that it was historic in some way, so we asked our server about it. As so many things are, the market is tied into the Halifax Explosion. The neighborhood was built on the Garden City plan as temporary housing after the explosion under the supervision of Thomas Adams. Our server thought that all the stone for the neighborhood actually came from Boston, but I can't seem to find confirmation of that, just indications that Boston and Massachusetts in general were of great help around the time, and Halifax still sends them their giant Christmas tree every year.

After appetizers, J had a soup and I had a salad, both quite luscious. For my entree, I had a fabulous mediterranean pasta dish with chicken, shrimp, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives, and J had something spicy (as a final safe indulgence in a context that would not kill his lovely wife). We had another very good bottle of wine and I could barely make a dent in my dessert, which was some kind of will-sappingly-scrumptious brownie concoction.

And then, suddenly, it was very nearly 8:30, and we needed to get back to the Lord Nelson, but quick, for our date with the pirate (who had actually called during dinner to confirm that the hike was a go for that evening). The hike and the pirate deserver their own entry, and this one's long enough, but I just have share our opening conversation with said pirate. He gathered folks up and handed out tickets, then said we'd wait a few more minutes, both to let it get a bit darker and to accommodate any stragglers. In the meantime, he said in an unmistakably Newfoundland accent, "I've got to get a coffee. I am useless on the tour without a coffee. Does anyone want one?"

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