25th

I’m just about to leave Halifax after a little milestone celebration. About 18 months ago my friend Brian started organizing a 25th reunion of our Dal undergrad class, and it was held this past weekend. I was a little nervous headed into it — I wasn’t super-close with more than a handful of people in the program, and I knew a lot of them wouldn’t know me — but it turned out to be a good time nonetheless.

WED

I flew Porter from the island airport to Halifax, which I’d normally do anyway, but especially now that Pearson is a gong show. CBJ was on the same flight, by coincidence, so we could share an Uber to downtown Halifax.

Unlike most of the reunion attendees (who stayed at the Westin) I stayed at the new Muir Hotel on the waterfront. It’s part of the stunning new Queen’s Marque development, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be my new home when in the city.

I knew I’d be hungry, so I’d made a reservation at Drift, the hotel’s restaurant. My sister-in-law was able to join me, and we got a table outside next to the crowds and harbour. We shared the Maryann’s brown bread w/ organic honey butter, and I had the iced digby scallop crudo w/ charred dill pickles and sherry and slow-cooked sustainable blue salmon w/ Nova Scotia oyster & bacon dashi, fried butterball potatoes and roasted radishes.

THU

I woke up early-ish, considering I was on vacation. It was for a work reason though — I drove around with my company’s regional head to see some of the local store formats and understand the market a bit better (from our company’s perspective of selling wine; I’m something of an expert on actually buying it here). I bookended that activity with breakfast (blueberry pancakes w/ fresh blueberries, espresso crumble, chantilly cream and maple syrup) and lunch (fish & chips w/ frites, tartar sauce, malt vinegar and mushy peas) at Drift.

That afternoon I went up to the Dal business school to meet up with the other attendees and have a small ceremony for a new scholarship our class created. It was fun to see the new building (though I’d seen it before; I finished my last MBA class there in 2008) and awkwardly re-connect with people I hadn’t seen in 25 years and who barely knew me then.

After that, we made our way down to the patio at Garden for drinks, and a few more folks showed up. We were there for quite a bit, enjoying the perfect weather, before heading downtown to…Pacifico? Seriously?? We all remembered it as a…um, less than classy place in our youth. But it has (a) moved to where Merrill’s used to be — a bundle of memories unto itself — and (b) become a fairly classy live music venue. We took over a little corner and caught up, and more people arrived. We wrapped up sometime after midnight and wandered up the hill to Pizza Corner, for much-needed Sicilian slices.

FRI

I slept in a bit and missed breakfast, but that pizza slice was still holding court. The Canada Day crowds on the waterfront were already plentiful, so I had a throwback lunch at the Split Crow, walked around for a bit, went to Weird Harbour for a coffee, and retired to the room where I watched the new Stranger Things episodes.

That night I went to more reunion stuff, starting with dinner at the Agricola Street Brasserie. I had seared scallops w/ fennel, lemon slaw, radish & maple, and dry aged duck w/ duck fat confit, fingerling potatoes & duck jus. I’d wanted to try that place for a long time, so I’m glad we finally had the excuse.

After dinner we went down the street to Chainyard Cider, where we drank mostly beer. After last call there a few of us somehow ended up at an awful joint called the Roxbury. I bolted almost immediately.

SAT

I crawled out of bed and caught a ride over to brother #1’s house for waffles and coffee and some nephew hangout time. I got a ride partway home and walked the rest, in light rain, grabbing another capp from Weird Harbour before getting back to the room. I watched The Boys, read my book, ordered room service lunch (the Drift burger: a 200g chuck patty, Avonlea cheddar, thousand island sauce, iceberg lettuce, Branston pickle, brioche bun & onion ring w/ frites, and a glass of cab sauv) and generally relaxed.

Later on I went to dinner at Rinaldo’s with brother #1 where we shared crispy brussel sprouts tossed in a lemon aioli w/ chili crisp & pecorino, and a Detroit-style pepperoni pizza. We drove around a bit, then headed downtown and walked along the waterfront before deciding to check out BKS, the Speakeasy in the hotel. It’s a cozy spot inside, and a spectacular waterfront patio outside. I was rather smoothly upsold a pricey glass of Little Book bourbon, but the beautiful view & great weather more than justified it,

SUN

Up early again to meet brother #1 for breakfast, this time at Robie Street Station. Stuffed completely full, I got dropped back at the hotel for one last bit of chilling in the room before strolling around the Queen’s Marque area a bit more and then heading to the airport.

We’ll be back in Halifax next month. Hopefully it won’t be another 25 years before I see this class again.

Returns

A few scant weeks after brother #2’s visit, brother #1 and his family were in town yesterday. They came over for a bit of a hangout before said brother and I went to see Sigur Rós play at Meridian Hall. It was my first time since seeing them in September 2001 and October 2002.

It was worth the 20-year wait. They played for a combined 2.5+ hours, and had all the magic I remember. They swung from delicate to punishing with little warning. They seem as tight as ever, with the maturity that comes from two additional decades of touring. Jonsi still emits alien whale song from a slender body in such a way that it beggars belief. I got choked up during “Svefn-g-englar”, but the final movement of “Popplagið” was so overwhelming that I teared up.

The setlist, according to setlist.fm:

  1. Vaka
  2. Fyrsta (>)
  3. Samskeyti
  4. Svefn-g-englar
  5. Rafmagnið búið (>)
  6. Ný batterí
  7. Gold 2
  8. Fljótavík
  9. Heysátan
  10. Dauðalagið
  11. Smáskifa [followed by intermission]
  12. Glósóli
  13. E-Bow
  14. Ekki múkk
  15. Sæglópur
  16. Gong (>)
  17. Andvari
  18. Gold 4
  19. Festival
  20. Kveikur
  21. Popplagið

Today the brother + fam are wrapping up their visit to Toronto, and we’re off to Montreal for a week. It’s my first work break since December and and our first time back in Montreal together since Lindsay finished her Masters there. À bientôt!

Overporked

Brother #2 was visiting this weekend. Amidst the hangs and watching The Matrix: Resurrections (imdb | rotten tomatoes) — which wasn’t great — we drove out to Oshawa a couple of times to visit the niece. The first time we had steaks at The Keg; the second time we drove up to Port Perry, ate lunch (including a pulled pork sandwich where they massively overstuffed it and apologized for “overporking” me) at The Pub while looking out at Lake Scugog, went for a little random drive and ended up at Pleasant Point Park where we saw pups and an osprey and a water snake, then had a hankering for ice cream which led us to the nearest Kawartha Dairy. A nice little swing through Ontario.

Cover photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Xmas 2021

Well, we made it to Nova Scotia. We thought hard about not going, given Omicron, but decided NS was a better place to ride things out than Ontario. After a fun few days & two negative tests in Bedford I’ve come to the farm (Lindsay stayed there; we’re trying to limit the household interactions) where it has been perfectly quiet and still. Lots of reading, eating, watching TV, crib…and not much else.

Funny story: the day before I arrived at the farm my parents had to get the septic tank fixed. The last time it was fixed was the day I was born.

.:.

Cover photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

It was one of the moms from Bend It Like Beckham

It’s been a busy ten days. Last week I got to go to the Leafs home opener against the Canadiens. It was my first sporting event in a crowd since…I have no idea when. The Canadiens lost — they’ve only lost so far this season — and after the game I saw a drunk Leafs fan get hit by a car. So there was that.

Earlier this week Lindsay’s mom was in town. On Tuesday we had a tremendous birthday dinner at Ascari Enoteca:

  • cocktails
  • bread
  • olive oil poached tuna w/ apple, fennel, cashew, and chili emulsion
  • Wisconsin burrata w/ heirloom tomatoes, romesco, pine nuts, and focaccia crisps
  • arancini w/ nduja sugo, basil, and grana padano
  • glasses of La Rondinina Lambrusco
  • linguine w/ octopus, nduja, tomatoes, red pepper, and caper bread crumbs
  • spaghetti alla carbonara w/ house made guanciale, grana padano, pecorino, egg yolk, and black pepper
  • ricotta gnocchi w/ hen of the woods mushrooms, sunchoke, chives
  • bottle of 2017 Palmento Costanzo ‘Mofete’

On Wednesday we went to see Blindness, my first play, or something resembling it, since…I really have no idea when. It was a very intense sound & light experience, to the point where I was worried I might pass out or be sick. But still really interesting and good.

Nova Scotia 2021

I’ve just spent the week in Nova Scotia, my first time home since December 2019, and my first time anywhere outside of Ontario since January 2020. It was a quiet, chill time…exactly what I needed.

SUNDAY

I waited until Porter was flying from the island again before I flew, to avoid Pearson. I wasn’t sure how messy the check-in experience would be, so I went early. Too early, as it turns out — I had about 45 minutes to kill in the lounge. Oh well.

I expected flying to feel weird, but it didn’t really. The old muscle memories kicked in, and apart from the fact that I had a mask on the whole time and the plane was mostly empty, it felt like the hundred other times I’d taken that flight to Montreal. (And, sometimes, onward to Halifax.)

After landing in Halifax I had to contend with a pretty ferocious rainstorm for most of the drive home. It was tough going, but the sun broke out just before I reached the farm. I hugged my mom and dad (for the first time in 21 months) and my brother and sister-in-law, and scratched their dogs, and immediately felt relaxed. We ate dinner together, and then my mom and dad and I played crib. I finished second both times while they traded wins.

Because I’d been traveling, and because I hadn’t had coffee all day, and because it’s the farm, I fell asleep by 9:00.

MONDAY

Early to bed, early to rise, it seems, so I was up and about by 7am. I felt pretty accomplished until I realized by dad already had an hour of work under his belt by that point. Thus began my day of perfect nothing.

I mean, not nothing, but…pretty close to nothing. Dad and I went for a short drive in the woods, to see a dead tree occupied by bees, and to grumble at a beaver dam. I walked around the farm a bit. I did crosswords and ask my mom a bunch of questions that I got from PostSecret. This was incredibly interesting, and I asked my dad some of them too, learning the amazing story of Rathburn Lovely and his twin daughters Shirley and Lurley. Yeah, it sounded made-up to me too, but I’ve verified it.

The five of us went to dinner in Parrsboro at the Pier restaurant (or whatever it’s called now) at high tide, then retreated home for more crib (I won both games this time) and a Leafs-Habs exhibition game.

TUESDAY

Another day of serious chill: crosswords, more questions for my parents, a couple more walks around the yard, more dog scratches, dinner at home, and a Jays game.

WEDNESDAY

I packed up, said my goodbyes, and started a long drive. I wanted to stop off at some wineries on my way to Halifax…which, if there was a bridge across the Minas Basin, would be exactly what would have happened. Alas, there is not, so I drove 220km around it. But I drove the scenic Glooscap Trail both ways, so it wasn’t all bad.

I had a 2pm tasting appointment at Benjamin Bridge, and pulled in just in time. Kyla led me through a tasting, letting me try some of the newer things that have been released since I left the wine club, showing me the vines and the barrel room (badass barrels too!) and just indulging my wine nerd questions. It was a lovely time…not the warmest, sunniest day, but when there’s no rain or fog, you just shut up and enjoy it.

After that it was on to Halifax, driving downtown and depositing the car at the new Sutton Place Hotel. I unpacked, cleaned up, and went over to brother #1’s place for family dinner. After that we went for an evening constitutional, in which he showed me some of the new developments downtown since I was here last. We ended up having a drink at Lot Six, where a server misheard my request for “Chenin” as “Chambly”, so I drank a Blanche de Chambly for the first time in yonks.

THURSDAY

My suite, and bed, were pretty comfy, so I slept in to the decadent hour of 8ish. I decided to enjoy said suite fully, hanging out, watching TV, doing some work, reading, etc. I picked up a lobster roll from Gahan House and ate it with a bottle of Cab Franc rose I’d snagged from BB the day before. I tried to work more in the afternoon, but ended up watching more TV. Then brother #1 called and said they were heading to an event at the Grand Parade to commemorate the first annual Truth and Reconciliation Day. I joined them, and enjoyed the drum circle, as I always do.

After cancelled (though no one told me) reservations at Obladee, I had a quiet dinner by myself, thinking and making notes, at Barrington Steakhouse. My steak, the veg, and the ratatouille were all quite good, my wine was just okay, and the piano player singing mostly-Canadian classic rock was exceptional.

FRIDAY

I met brother #1 at Cheeky Neighbour Diner for breakfast, an enormous collection of food that I didn’t nearly finish. After almost running over our nephew (!) he dropped me at my hotel where I did my one meeting of the (vacation, mind you) week. After that, I really got to enjoy Halifax: walking down to the waterfront, enjoying the sunshine, checking out all the new developments, sitting down at the Stubborn Goat / Garrison Brewing beer garden for a Hefeweizen and milk stout and currywurst, and grabbing a cappuccino from Weird Harbour on my way back to the hotel.

I met back up with the brother in the late afternoon, strolling around a bit again until visiting Obladee, where I was overjoyed with their wine list. So much stuff to try, so little time. But I did my best, running my way down their list:

  • L’Oiselinière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie
  • Meinklang Burgenlandweiss 2020
  • La Baronne Le Grenache Gris de Jean 2018
  • Caruso & Minini Frappato Nerello Mascalese
  • Lustau Oloroso Don Nuño Sherry

I could have spent all night there, sampling stuff I don’t know well. By a country mile, this is the best wine list in the city.

We walked back to his house, where we ate sushi and just hung out. Halifax, which I’ve always loved fiercely, is made that much better by the family presence here, vs. just university memories. I walked back to my hotel after, enjoying the cool air and dodging the usual Friday night Halifax silliness.

SATURDAY

Bad news to start the day: our flight was cancelled and we (my mom flew back to Toronto with me) were moved to a flight 3 hours later. We had some time to kill so we drove back to Wolfville just for kicks; Lightfoot & Wolfville was packed for a private event, and the downtown was manic for…homecoming, we guessed? Anyway, we had brunch at some non-descript pub, drove back to the airport, checked in, and flew home. I forgot how long Porter flights can feel, and our leg from Halifax to Ottawa was sardine-crammed. We got in late, and crashed. A day, but a wonderfully chill week overall.

Cover photo by Barbara Courouble, used under Creative Commons license

An early preview, hopefully

Brother #2, his lovely wife, and (temporarily) a niece — the same niece we brought to school last year — were in town this weekend, transporting said niece to university. We had a short but fun visit, eating at Brickworks Cider House‘s curbside patio, hanging out in the back yard, playing Exploding Kittens and Bananagrams, ordering from Chula Taberna, coaxing Kramer into the living room for a visit, and — after the uni drop-off — sabering open some sparkling out back before going out for dinner at Gare de L’est.

They’re gone <48 hours after arriving, but it was still good to see family again. Fingers crossed, we’ll see more in a few weeks.

.:.

Cover photo by Barbara Courouble, used under Creative Commons license

The switch to repose

Now, a week after I posted about starting vacation, it feels like we’re probably able to relax. On Sunday of this week we drove out to Oshawa to pick up my niece, as she can’t fly home to NS. The early part of the week was filled with errands and Christmas prep (and a bit of work) but also some games, like Pandemic and crib and Snakes & Ladders / Climb to Emotional Maturity.

On Christmas Eve we made sugar cookies from XO Bisous, then roasted a duck & sides that came in a kit from Avling Brewing. I didn’t get the duck quite right, but the Bouchard Père & Fils 2011 Premier Cru Pinot Noir almost made up for it.

On Christmas Day (a white Christmas, for the first time in recent memory) we baked scones, opened gifts, chatted with our families, played Mario Kart on the niece’s new Nintendo Switch, and roasted up a pretty damn good chicken.

Today we did…nothing. Pretty much, anyway.

Finally.

Cover photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

Another redhead comes west

I’m writing this from a substandard hotel room in Oshawa. (So, saying “substandard” might have been redundant.) We’re here helping my niece move in to her new school.

After some seriously confusing airport-COVID adjustments at Pearson she found us. We sucked down some Jack Astor’s lunch and were on our way, with the Google directions lady helping us nimbly sidestep some serious traffic. Before long we were in Oshawa, pulling off an incredibly efficient (and therefore only minimally terrifying) Walmart visit before visiting her campus, doing some more shopping, hanging out on the quad (memories!), grabbing another meal at Baxter’s Landing, and finally getting her set up in her room. We let her get settled in and headed to our room for the night, getting here just in time to watch the Raptors tie the series up at 2-2.

We’ll be here a little longer today, to gather up some more things for her room and stuff her full of more food before heading back.

.:.

Cover photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

Cover photo from the CBC

Portapique

I’m still having trouble getting my head around what happened in my home province on Sunday.

Death toll from Nova Scotia gunman’s rampage climbs to 19

That it happened at all in Nova Scotia is hard to believe. That it happened in a place which occupies a hazily-familiar spot in my childhood memories, and where some members of my extended family currently live, is surreal.

We used to have family reunions at my aunt and uncle’s place in Great Village, the next community down the road. We’ve driven that way countless times, as it used to be the primary way to get to Halifax. It’s a name as built into my kid brain as how my dad used to gleefully mispronounce it every time we drove through, as dads do.

My family all seem to be okay, but I imagine they — like the rest of the province — are in shock. Not that. Not there. Not now.

.:.

Cover photo from the CBC