The air is alive, rustling with songbirds. Is this what they mean by a cacophony?
Only now, and for a few weeks, can we hear the gorged creek from the chair of the front porch. Soon it will recede into its stony silence of crayfish and minnows.
There is still snow – some – in the pine stands, and on the north face of the hill, and an early morning fog emerges from off the side of the hill, as if the snow decided to get up and float away.
She smiles at the sight of little garlic sprigs poking their way up through the cracks in the garden sand, as the old cat, full of kitten, chases a fly around the yard.
Like an advancing army the grass grows greener by the day –
get down, close, hear the buzz of awakening insects, walk in this spring rain, under the gentle tapping of your umbrella, a hundred, a thousand tapping heartbeats.
Resurrection, re-awakening, a rebellion against death – call it what you will.
Spring is here,
it all begins again,
as it always has,
as if for the first time.
Ah Halifax, how you bemuse the outsider.
We have arrived to the event of the season, the event that has young people abuzz with excitement. Whether real, imagined, or driven by the herd instinct, the buzz amounts to the same thing – the large consumption of “gourmet” hamburgers.
Yes, we have arrived to Burger Week in Halifax – to breakfast pancake burgers, the Athens (Greek) burgers, the British Bulldog burger, Thai burgers, double and triple-decker burgers – to a cornucopia of meat, more meat, layers and layers of meat.
Nothing tells you more about the core cultural substance of this Maritime student town than the rapacious devouring of hamburgers, of which some hearty lads will consume 20, 30, even 40 burgers on the space of seven days.
Yes, there is even a burger bus!
On your mark. Get set. Go!
Was this what it was like to first set eyes on the Titanic?
To look up at that great bough – against a blazing blue sky – and believe (like you’ve never believed before!), as if in a fairy tale, that if this was possible, than anything was possible? That man’s triumph over Nature assured our greatness, our sense of History, our immortality!
This Beast! This cudgel that has been slammed into the heart of the old city defies reason and all all sense of proportion. I’m gobsmacked!
Nothing says inferiority complex like the old town fathers building a Monolith – this faux bough of a colossal glass ship – just as the oceans are dying and the great fishing industry that was sustained this city has been sucked dry and has now vanished forever…
If I could, I’d build a glass iceberg on the kitty-corner, an equally absurd gesture to Freudian impotence and self-indulgence.
Egypt has the pyramids. Paris the Eiffel Tower.
Halifax took a great glass dump in the heart of its city.
Irony (classic definition): At a morning Heidegger lecture of first year students (that we had been invited to sit in on), the professor notes that Heidegger argued back in the 1930’s that we are not masters of technology, rather, technology is the master of us.
I look around the room and note students who are surfing their Facebook and Instagram accounts on their cell phones. Other students dutifully take notes – on their laptops – a few still doing the old pen-and-paper routine.
“How many of you,” the prof points out, “could put away your cell phones and laptops for even a week?”
Everyone laughs, nodding in agreement. (Some, I am sure, don’t understand the question.)
Some of the young women in my row diligently tap the prof’s question into their laptop notes.
Oral exams start in 2 weeks.
I’m sure many are wondering if this will be on the test.
The one thing that has not been crushed by modernity in Halifax is the passing smile on the street, the fact that if you make eye contact, many people will smile at you, and a surprising number will say hello.
Coming back from Ontario, where eye contact is tantamount to assault, it is a bit disconcerting, I feel self-conscious, as if I have food on my face that I have not yet realized.
It would be a mistake for an outsider – especially a middle-aged man like myself – to assume it means anything more than local civility – but having just come back from Upper Canada – that province of wealth and indifference, where eye contact will have a person nervously thumbing their 9-1-1 button, this small gesture of human contact still warms the heart.
Surrounded as we are by the 24/7 media white noise of Trump, Putin, Netanyahu, Brex-it, Dakota Pipelines, and the ever-beaming face of our Prime Minister Shiny Pony, it is a sweet pause to smile at a passing face – letting you know you are not alone, that we’re in this together.
Is the Halifax street smile just conformity to local cultural traditions?
Maybe it is. But so what? Spring is not yet here. Any human warmth after 5 months of winter is welcomed by me.
We’re staying at my father-in-law’s for the weekend, and because he’s a vegan, I always forget that there is no cream for my morning coffee. I have to either drink it black, or settle for almond milk…
This month’s Harper’s Magazine is packed full of fun!
A look at how Americans are colluding with Russians to fight back against LGBT rights.
A look at Trump in light of Obama’s legacy (or lack thereof).
A look at how Democrats are beginning to take back Texas.
A look at American conservatives who oppose the death penalty.
A deconstruction of M.F.A. programs.
Trump’s grandfather’s letter pleading with the Prince of Bavaria not be exiled to the US (1905) – rejected by the Prince.
The brilliant writing of Alexander Kluge, David Szalay, and Tanya Gold.
America’s oldest and one of it’s most intelligent magazines is rising to the challenge of the Trumptime.
Check it out at a newsstand near you!
Last week, John Stewart made a guest appearance on Stephen Colbert’s Late Night show. During the show Stewart suggested that after Trump’s breakup with the media that it was time journalists took up a hobby.
He suggested journalism.
As I reviewed the range of Monday’s daily newspapers and looked at how everyone was talking “wiretap” – and not talking about the 20 or so new bills Republicans will be introducing into the House to effectively dismantle modern governing – de-construct environmental protections, public education, food and drug regulations, emission standards, coal mining standards (the list goes on), it really makes me wonder what stake the mainstream media has in covering, to such a large extent (on the frontpage) the blatantly obvious bait-and-switch Trump threw out there to distract from the investigation of his Russian connections, and the rapid actions in the House?
Trump can now say that his wiretap accusation is true (at least to his base) because “the media is talking about it, everybody wants answers.”
How convenient. Make an accusation, the media covers it, and then you say it must be true because it is in the news.
This is what constitutes truth in Trumptime.
Strangely, weirdly, for me, nothing epitomized the new hillbilly white trash approach of the Trump administration as photograph of Kellyanne Conway sitting on her knees on an Oval Office sofa while numerous people meet with the president around his desk.
Does it make me an elitist to expect better decorum?
Am I old fashioned to want her to be sitting with her feet on the floor?
In Grade Two I had a teacher pull me by my ear to the principal’s office for spitting in the hallway. She said that civilization had standards, and that those standards were all that separated us from acting like feral cats.
When you look at the pic of Conway texting with her feet under her, don’t you get the urge to pull her out of the office by her ear and give her a tongue lashing about style and composure, and respect for 200 years of History?
Or, am I just being old fashioned?
These three days that we are currently in the midst of (yesterday, today, and tomorrow), will be the three coldest days of the year (-10, -13, -15C).
They are like a lecture you once got from a snarky teacher for not paying attention in class. For, despite ourselves, despite knowing winter wasn’t over, we couldn’t help ourselves, and we had started talking poetry with Spring; only to discover that we had in fact been day dreaming and the lesson in Home Economics wasn’t yet finished.
Our cats, who had been happily roaming the back yard again, lolling in the spring sun, are back to sulking on the couch, watching the snow fall outside the window, with that look of disgust that only cats have.
The wild geese, who came early, too early, riding on the promises of last week’s warm air, looking for first dibs on habitat space (ever shrinking space), now scrambling to survive the next couple of nights and temperatures that will be dropping to near -30C in some places.
Irony: reading a letter in this month’s Harper’s Magazine that was sent from Donald Trump’s grandfather to the Prince of Bavaria in 1905 pleading with the Prince not to exile his family from their homeland.
The Prince refused to listen and so they came to New York as refugees.
Donald Trump is the grandson of a refugee fleeing persecution.
On the day after we watched Donald Trump address his nation, and declare, as the Nazis once did to the Jews, that his government was now going to publish a list of crimes committed by illegal immigrants – that he was creating a new program for the Victims of Immigrant Crime (VOICE), we were in Toronto and we went see the beautiful and powerful documentary I Am Not Your Negro.
Trump, it is reported, is especially interested in publishing crime lists from those cities who have declared themselves sanctuary cities – cities that refuse to go along with his anti-immigrant rhetoric (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles).
But as we saw in I Am Not Your Negro, lists are not new in America. James Baldwin, the brilliant African-American writer whom the doc centers around, was also on a FBI security list. Along with Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King who were, in various ways, friends of Baldwin.
White America has never stopped being paranoid of the Other.
The fact is, is that the world of the ’50’s and ’60’s has now been mostly forgotten.
More people have been born since their demise than who are hear to remind us of those times.
And those that are still here, their memories have clouded, lost context, are out of order, have been mythologized at the Altar of the Individual, are remembered in words no longer used, and exist only as black and white photographs piled in a box at the back of the closet, or worse, moldering in a storage locker somewhere in an old industrial part of town, or out in the suburbs somewhere.
How great our forgotten feats! How outraged we now are at the downtown traffic jams caused by the angry generations behind us who demand their moment in the sun, who claim that their lives still matter.
We’d prefer to sit around and drink our lattes and discuss our colonoscopies, resigned to the nihilism that it all has to end someday anyhow. So why not now.
How easy to pass judgement on the planet, and the young, for none of us have sinned; reconciled to our narratives of what could have been, if only someone had noticed our greatness.