Clap for the wolftrap

Despite it being nearly three days shorter than I’d intended, the trip to Nova Scotia Nellie and I just wrapped up was a pretty good one.

We arrived in good time Wednesday night, and spent Thursday catching up with family whilst enjoying sunshine, taking walks, observing hummingbirds (more than a dozen frequent my parents’ kitchen window), playing catch, scratching dogs and eating everything in sight. We were also quite glad we were not back in Toronto for the 51-degree heat.

That evening many people stopped by the house to say hello and catch up with my parents and brothers. My friend Adam came, and we caught up for the first time in years.

On Friday some of that Toronto heat made its way east to us, and we had to take shelter from the sun and humidity as best we could. That meant crib, playing catch in the shade and (naturally) more eating. We couldn’t escape the heat entirely though, as we helped our dad make three batches of maple cream and bottle some syrup while the ladies were off at the spa.

That night we drove into the town where we went to high school and met up with a few of my brother’s old classmates. We soon switched locales from the old tavern to Bare Bones, the lone decent spot in town as far as I can tell, where they had live music (Jenny MacDonald, on this particular night) and better wine. It was there that I had a completely random bump-into with a friend from high school, who I hadn’t seen since he graduated in 1992. But we recognized one another right away and, in the few minutes that we had to catch up, realized that we share a favourite beer: Maudite. It’s a small, tasty world.

Saturday morning we got up early and drove back to Halifax. Along the way we saw a deer walking along a riverbank, a young bear running into the woods and five cattle running down the Trans Canada median. I can’t explain that last one; I just know what I saw. Our family and our sister-in-law’s family had a get-together planned for the afternoon, but our early appointments at the airport (approved for Nexus passes…woot!) meant we had a few hours to kill, so we checked in to our hotel and found a spot on the Hart & Thistle patio. We’d been meaning to try out the new gastropub since we heard it opened. The food was nothing to write home about, but the beer was good — we each had a brewed-in-house Preacher Man’s Daughter hefeweizen to start, followed by a Propeller hefeweizen. It was just a hefeweizen kind of afternoon, apparently.

Rain hampered the family get-together somewhat, but we piled into someone’s lovely home to catch up and break bread. It brought back memories of France four years ago, when we were all together last, and the times we had there. Except with kids this time. Nellie and I said our goodbyes to everyone just after dinner as we had plans with friends, plans that involved me finally having a couple of drinks after so many nights of being on medications and/or acting as designated driver.

Another new Halifax joint we wanted to try out was Obladee wine bar. Four friends joined us there, and we perched in the window (the same table as the ladies you see in the picture on their website) trying several glasses of very yummy wine. I had an Alsatian Riesling whose name I can’t recall right now; a Bonterra organic Chardonnay; a Domaine Bernard Beaudry Chinon; an Arboleda Carmenere; The Wolftrap, from Franschhoek South Africa; and a Luigi Bosca Reserva Syrah. All were terrific, even the Riesling which was — as advertised — bone fucking dry.

It’s too bad we were stuffed from the family do — they had lots of charcuterie and cheese on offer too. Ah well; next time.

All in all it was a great, if abbreviated, getaway. Lots of family time, a few old friends, some excellent new finds in Halifax and, maybe most importantly, a gentle reminder that I really did grow up someplace beautiful.

"This isn't going to have a happy ending."

Yesterday Roger Ebert made his case for Se7en (imdb | rotten tomatoes) to be designated a great movie. There was a question? It’s been one of my all-time favourites pretty much from the day I saw it, but Ebert — naturally — does a much better job of describing why it’s great than I ever could. He made me remember all the things I love about it. Sure, the obvious elements like acting and script are there, but it’s little things, side things, nuances, style. Things like:

  • R. Lee Ermey, who had auditioned to play John Doe but instead wound up playing the captain, and thank god. He’s amazing, and the lone spot of levity* in the film: “Wake up, limber twins!” and “This isn’t even my desk!”
  • Mills is a terrible dresser, because of course he is. He’s just moved from a small town and has no money and so his ties don’t match and his jackets and pants are old. It would have been easy for Brad Pitt to insist on looking dapper for the movie, but I’m glad he didn’t.
  • The way Mills tells his impromptu tipster “You eat something. You eat.” with all the hopefulness of a cop who hasn’t spent much time around crack addicts.
  • The way John Doe says “Detective…detective…DETECTIVE!!!!!!” and the ~20 seconds that follow.

I’m watching it again as I type this, and I actually saw something new. Something I’d never noticed in the dozens of times I’ve watched it. In the dinner scene in the Mills’ apartment, when Somerset asks Mills for a glass of wine Mills bring about a quart of it in a highball glass. Somerset is engrossed in the case file and doesn’t pay attention until a passing subway makes everything shake; when he reaches for his wine to keep it from spilling, he realizes what kind of glass Mills has brought him. His expression makes a perfect transition from “What the hell?” to “Sweet Jesus, this kid is an idiot.” in the space of about a second. It’s brilliant.

The whole film, goddamned all of it. Brilliant.

* Except for one line from Mills: “Heeeeee’s aaaaaaa nutbag. Just ’cause the fucker’s got a library card doesn’t make him Yoda.”

Sweet Feeling

These are the songs which will make up a new CD I’m going to bring home for my dad:

  1. Robert Plant . “Central Two-O-Nine”
  2. Rogue Wave . “I’ll Never Leave You”
  3. Joshua James . “Mother Mary”
  4. Band Of Horses . “Bartles + James”
  5. Basia Bulat . “The Shore”
  6. Uncle Tupelo . “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down”
  7. Sharon Van Etten . “I Wish I Knew”
  8. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club . “Sweet Feeling”
  9. Low Anthem . “The Horizon Is A Beltway”
  10. Camera Obscura . “Country Mile”
  11. Fleet Foxes . “Sim Sala Bim”
  12. Sufjan Stevens . “Chicago”
  13. Wanda Jackson . “Shakin’ All Over”
  14. Junip . “Don’t Let It Pass”
  15. Soulsavers . “You Will Miss Me When I Burn”
  16. Decemberists . “January Hymn”
  17. Middle Brother . “Blood And Guts”

My predictions: he will love Robert Plant, Uncle Tupelo and Wanda Jackson songs, and possibly the Fleet Foxes as well. He will not care for Junip or Basia Bulat (though my mom might, as there’s autoharp involved) or Sufjan Stevens. He will want to like The Low Anthem but he will hate the guy’s voice too much.

Note to self: buy "iPus" trademark

I should be on a plane right now. I should be flying home to my family’s farm, to join my parents and my two brothers (one of whom flew in from Sydney on Saturday night) and their families. But I’m not. I’m still in Toronto. I changed my flight from this morning to Wednesday because I’ve been sick since last Monday, and showed no signs of being able to fly today. My head, she would have asploded.

This is, without a doubt, the sickest I have ever been. I had strep throat (wtf?) and a sinus infection at the same time. Sneezing, coughing, dry throat, severe headaches, dizziness, fever, and — the pièce de résistance — pus coming out of my eyes. For serious, people, eye pus. Oy.

Anyway, last night — for the first time in a week — I slept for more than a couple of hours, and today I feel a lot better than I have. Still not 100%, and certainly my sinuses would not have tolerated a 3-hour flight involving two descents, but it’s improvement. At this point I just want to feel normal again, and then go see my family.

On the plus side, being at home this much has allowed me to read the first two Game Of Thrones books, and I’ve just started the third. I don’t think I could have done that on a backlit screen, what with the headaches, but Nellie got me a super-awesome early birthday gift: a Kobo eReader touch. Thank the gods, I’d have gone mental otherwise.

"Kids grow up."

Yesterday was a day for doing errands (morning), doing work (afternoon) and doing movie watching (evening). Battle: Los Angeles (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was rubbish to be sure, but I’m kind of curious to see whether they could make another one based in another afflicted city — which must surely have been the plan, given the title — and do a better job of it. We also watched Hanna (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which didn’t suck nearly as badly. It was quite entertaining, actually, especially if you like kids who can kill the bejeezus out of bad guys.

On Friday we took a second crack at Against The Grain, the waterfront pub we tried last weekend. We met CBJ and wife, who’ve recently completed their move back to Toronto, and enjoyed the patio on a fairly perfect evening. My food wasn’t the best (they overdid my burger, and I didn’t notice the accursed blue cheese in the menu description) but it has enough variety to keep me going back, especially with that beer selection: I had two pints of Blanche de Chambly and a Schneider Weisse; Nellie had a Mill St. Organic, a Beau’s Lugtread and an Urthel Hop-it. It should be clear from her last order that Nellie is a hop fiend; our friend, Mrs. CBJ, is not at all a fan of hoppy beers, so she declared the two of them to be “hopposites”. Adorable.

With the grain

Oh, it’s been some kind of long weekend so far, yes it has. My brother and his wife arrived early yesterday morning; we met them at the airport and — a little car-location trouble aside — got on our way down to wine country. Traffic was pretty awful with all the people headed for (presumably) the border, but once we jumped off the QEW we were fine. We stopped at Hidden Bench, where they also had sausages and burgers on the grill, followed by Fielding, Thirty Bench, Rosewood, Daniel Lenko, Tawse and Megalomaniac. We filled our bellies with charcuterie and cheese from Good Earth and then boogied back to Toronto.

That’s eleven different bottles plus a case of Daniel Lenko White Cabernet for Nellie. Not bad for an afternoon’s work.

The wine theme continued that night as we settled in for dinner at Wine Bar. Excellent as always, with the scallops and short ribs being the stars of the night, along with a German Riesling whose name escapes me. We came home full and happy.

Today has entailed: greasy breakfast, St. Lawrence Market, the Distillery District, food trucks (too crowded, alas), Soma drinking chocolate and lunch at Against The Grain Urban Tavern, a new pub down by the waterfront. They have one of the few lakeside patios I can think of in the city, and a very good beer list, and pretty decent food on top of that. It’s a bit of a hike — perversely, Toronto’s waterfront isn’t easy to reach — but I can see that we’ll be back soon.

Tonight we head to Fieramosca, where I am required by law to bring any family members within Toronto city limits. So…blogging may be sparse tomorrow.