Wednesday, April 27, 2011

misty morning thoughts

I realize I haven't done much diarizing about Halifax since our first few weeks here early last fall. The reasons for that are several, high among them is the fact I'm not a very good photographer but what good are stories without pictures? I've noticed there's a very big difference between what my camera sees and how I prefer to interpret what it sees. Neither is necessarily truly real. The picture at the top was taken here from our 7th floor balcony at 10am Atlantic Time this morning and then spent 3 minutes in my sample photoshop elements program. Although this is exactly how it looks on mornings when the sun is burning through, the view as my camera saw it looked like the next one and would be called by Haligonians a misty rather than a foggy spring day. When the fog does roll in I might manage to get a picture of my hand at arm's length but certainly not of the park across the street.

So let me tell you what you're seeing. In the forefront is a fence encircling a big green box. Underneath that box is the base of an old fountain protected by the parks department until tourist time - known as The Season around here. Further away to the right is a cathedral where a bagpiper played for an hour our first Sunday morning here but who never returned. I'm not sure if that was because of the rotten tomatoes my husband threw at him or not. Left of the church is a rather elegant retirement home handily placed next to Victoria General Hospital, the more shadowy building further left.

Had I pointed the camera more to the right you'd see a construction site next to the cathedral where they're taking an enormous amount of time building.. you guessed it, another retirement home. I could equally have shown you the hazy forms of more low-rise and high-rise apartments. Next door to us they're building The Trillium, a luxury condominium where a penthouse will cost $4.5 million. Next door to that is Halifax's famous Lord Nelson Hotel where the Queen stays when she gets bored with the palace. Right next to the hotel is the local YMCA.

Halifax is a small city of many contrasts. In the misty haze beyond these buildings is the enormous main campus of Dalhousie University where approximately 50,000 students are working on degree programs. Considering the fact there are 5 other universities here in the south end you can imagine the balance between the elderly, middle class, and boisterous students is pretty stark.

The autumn and winter months belong to the kids and keeping in mind our huge 1960's building is relatively inexpensive for people willing to share and double up in apartments the weekend winter parties that spill out into the halls can be both loud and disturbing. Drunken fights well after midnight were the norm during the cold months as was seeing the glass doors at the front and back of the building smashed every other week. Management try their best to keep a lid on the recklessness but considering there are 420 units here it's often impossible for the small night security staff (one guy) to find the culprits.

We lived in Portland apartments near the medical school for a number of years and thought it would be okay here too. What we hadn't taken into account was never having had to share space with undergraduates in their Animal House stage of social development. I'm not even going to try to describe the stench from the garbage room that permeates the elevator lobbies, nor the fact our walls are painted brown or the carpets stained and burned by previous tenants.

When we arrived last September we were lucky to get the place at the same time the main student body was returning. Yes, we'll move eventually but we want to keep our current address until the Canadian immigration service sends us the documents for my husband's permanent residency which might not be until August. Bureaucracy is getting worse everywhere (take a look at the proposed new regulations for a US passport). Since we have to sign our new lease in June it's likely we'll be here another year. Much as I'd like to unpack the artwork and the other boxes of goodies stacked in the closets that will have to wait.

Now it's almost May, most of the students will be leaving for the summer and 'The Season' will begin. All the open air cafes, pubs, and shops are preparing for the tourists and the Public Gardens just up the street opened a few weeks earlier than planned. The sail boats and novelty ships are out of dry-dock ready to carry their passengers on short trips around the harbor and part way out to sea. Last week the first cruise ship was docked at Pier 21 right next to our grocery store.

It will be our first full spring and summer here. Now we've gone through a winter with the locals we're accepted as true Maritimers and we'll make the best of it. In case I made too much of the rowdiness I should mention most of the other tenants are relatively normal, considering I have a wide view of what constitutes normal.

ps: May 1st is International Sunflower Planting Day as called by the Guerrilla Gardeners. I finally remembered to buy a few packets of seeds that will be in my pocket on Sunday for planting in likely spots. Maybe I'll remember to carry a pencil for poking holes in the dirt.

I promise to take more pictures too.


marja-leena said...

Your photos are lovely, especially that top one! Nice view too. Sorry to hear your apartment building is a student dorm! At least hopefully it will be quieter in the summer and you will also enjoy the outdoors more.

Liberality said...

no wonder you aren't as happy as you can be! rowdy students who don't care about anyone but themselves are very poor neighbors indeed. the summer months do sound more promising. love the top photo :)

Pagan Sphinx said...

From a visitor's point of view, Halifax is quite pleasant in the summer. The Buskers Festival was great fun but it changed the city in a way that I'd like to avoid seeing next time, in an effort to see the real life of the city. I'm sure there are plenty of interesting nooks to explore.

We won't be going to Nova Scotia this summer in favor of a different destination that is still in the planning stages. But I know we won't want too many summers to pass before we return.

I've been wanting photos and you have not disappointed, my friend.


susan said...

marja-leena - You're too kind about the photos. I'm really a very lazy and impatient photographer. The place is more like one third dorm but it can be a raucous third. Happily, they don't all go crazy at once.

liberality - I must admit I was imagining an apartment somewhat more unique and elegant than this one - quieter too. The thing that troubles me about some of these kids is knowing they come from good homes and their parents would be shocked. Summer should be very nice. Glad you like the pic.

pagan sphinx - We were here for the end of tourist season and since it's a relatively short walk from our place I'm sure we'll catch some of the Festival. Nevertheless, it's been really nice to walk along the empty boardwalks on fine days this spring and past winter.

I'm not surprised you've had enough of NS for a year or two but I'll either post or send you more pictures just to keep you interested enough for another visit. We're planning a trip to Cape Breton and then to Newfoundland by ferry this summer. There'll be other trips too.

TheCunningRunt said...

Nice job on the fog photo. I also find that the camera misses much of the eye's impression, and a little tweaking can render a photograph truer to the experience of the observer/photographer.

And please, don't sell yourself short as a photographer - you have marvelous eyes, both inner and outer, and that's far more than many others will ever have!

Lydia said...

Fantastic post! More, more! I loved the first picture and am so glad you did the whizzamagingy photo thing to it because it shows the buildings you pointed out in the tour much better than the one that is pure fog. Nice job.

It sounds wise and reasonable to stick with that address until all paperwork is finalized. And maybe next winter's term of animals will be a bit tamer! And this is a classic line: ...I should mention most of the other tenants are relatively normal, considering I have a wide view of what constitutes normal.!!

Suppose I should follow the link to read up on passports, not that I expect to be needing one anytime soon...

jams o donnell said...

I love the photoshop effect. It mimics a grd filter nicely. I daresay being a student is much more fun than listening to them being student!

gfid said...

it's been a long and trying winter for you.... oi! you're living where the wild things are. quite likely the parents of the rowdies are blissfully unaware. i'm sure i was sheltered from the worst of my kids' animal stage, but i thought they all seemed to center their parties around gaming or ourdoor adventures or some other shared interest with friends - not blind, destructive drunkenness.

Halifax looks like a gorgeous city - especially in comparison to our northern Alberta location where almost nothing is more than 50 years old, and most buildings are made of sheet metal.

so, hopefully, many of the wild things will be elsewhere for the summer. enjoy the street cafes and pubs, the trips by ferry to explore .... i'll be following vicariously. happy spring! i saw my first crocus last week!

Spadoman said...

Thanks for that glimpse into your surroundings and your life in Halifax. I haven't stopped by in a while and seems I came just in time. It was like you nwere glad to see me and wanted to talk.m(Let me think of it this way even if it isn't, okay?)
I love the park. I coiuld see me during The Season, sitting on a bench, pulling smoke from a stogie, watching the world go by. (I'm one step from one of those old folks homes you know, I wonder if they'll let me smoke). I live in a college town. The University of Wisconsin River Falls is reight bejind my home. In fact, my yard is attached to the experimental farm, (UWRF has a large agricultural college with fruit trees and a horse/livestock program). Town is filled with students until May, then it's Summer, but we have no 'Season' as the Mall of America is 40 miles away in Minneapolis. The students here seem to be exactly the same as where you are, rowdy drunks.
I can go on forever. Good to visit here. I've missed you.


susan said...

cr - There have been mornings I've woken to see magical light at dawn but previously it was often too cold for me to step out on the balcony. I am a lazy photographer though and really can't see the viewscreen in bright light so often just point in the chosen direction and click. Thank goodness for auto focus and my sample of photoshop. Thanks to you for such kind words.

lydia - I opened it in photoshop because there was too much sky and before I knew it I'd made a couple of other small adjustments with this result. I've often seen it look much this way. One of the funny things that goes on around here is seeing the tourist wagons being drawn by beautiful horses with cars lined up behind as they drive at walking pace.

We went through much confusion when the apartment rented from Portland fell through so we know to wait much as we'd like to go. There were even a few times when I considered Vancouver or Victoria during the winter. My bottom lip got so chapped from a mix of the cold outside and the dry heat in here it swelled up for most of four months. More Angelina Jolie than Charles Laughton but I wasn't happy.

Possible new US passport rules would make it impossible for many to obtain one.

jams - Okay, I'll be happy to look at it that way rather than as cheating. Thank goodness it was never all of them acting out their student mania all at once.

gfid - There were lots of good parts too and it certainly doesn't get as cold here as where you are. Halifax really is a very pretty town, most certainly in the south end where the tourists congregate. A lot of the old neighborhoods have been bulldozed but the ones that are left are wonderful. We looked at a little bungalow on a nice street not far away and learned it was for sale for $625,000. Geez.

What troubles me about a number of these kids is the heavy drinking. I thought that went out of style when their grandparents generation mostly died of liver cancer and cirrhosis.

I'm glad to know you have some spring flowers too. I promise to take a few more pictures for you.

spadoman - I'm glad you stopped by. I've been meaning to visit but sometimes I get hung up for weeks at a time with the long walks, general outings, reading and painting, housework and all the rest. It's amazing how the days fly by - must be something about the ageing faster all the time syndrome.

The little park across the way was still a beehive of activity on the weekends when we first arrived. It spreads out toward the huge public garden a block or further up the street. The main shopping street is just a block away too so we're very central to what passes for urban culture out this way. Did you notice the eye roll?

From what I've read public drunkenness among young people of college age is rampant in the west. I think it's very sad and getting stoned is a better option for us and them.

Keep well.

Randal Graves said...

Beautifully eerie, but in a non-eerie way, if that makes any sense. The photos, not the drunken yokels. Have you thought about setting traps for them? I'm sure their pelts fetch a pretty penny in Sri Lanka.

Mary Ellen said...

Great photo's, I loved the first one.

Thanks for telling us about the International Sunflower Planting Day. My granddaughter planted a couple of sunflowers last summer and kept them in a pot on my patio. I loved seeing her tend to them and watch them grow bigger than her. I have lots of pics of her and told her that we could do it again this year.

susan said...

randal - I understand the Sri Lanka pelt exchange is rising by leaps and bounds on the Dow.

nunly - It actually looked like the second one and has all week. I'm sure better days are coming.

I've sprouted some sunflower seeds in little pieces of damp paper towel and kept in a baggy. They're all ready to go on Sunday but I'll be planting dry ones too. It's great your granddaughter had such a wonderful time growing them. Hope it will be just as much fun for her this year.

Linda said...

"I should mention most of the other tenants are relatively normal, considering I have a wide view of what constitutes normal." For some not-so-odd reason, this made me laugh...loved the first photo! oxoxo

Steve Emery said...

This was a vivid slice of your new life - thanks for sharing it. Sorry you have to put up with the student rowdiness... it seems students are the same everywhere. This kind of behavior is documented for the brand new institutions of Oxford and Cambridge, back in the late Middle Ages.

susan said...

linda - People are fascinating, aren't we?

steve - When young people are first let loose upon the world their exuberance can be a bit tiresome - particularly when they consume large quantities of alcohol. I guess that's always been true.