Monday, October 31, 2011

After the storm...

A doggy reunion and Lebanese brain food

On Saturday Hapi and I went to Ingramport on the South Shore where Sam and Hiro have been living for the past month. The weather forecast for Sunday was wet and stormy and Saturday was cold but sunny, and since Sam is leaving Ingramport on Hallowe'en I thought it might be my last chance to visit there. Sam told me about the Rails to Trails trail he has been walking Hiro on and I thought I'd like to see it. Not to mention Sam's delightful cottage on the sea there.

We separated Hapi and Hiro at the end of September, to see how it would go while Sam was still in the province. Hiro and Sam moved to Ingramport and has only been back to visit once, at Thanksgiving.

Hapi and Hiro had as excited and happy a dog reunion as you can imagine when we walked into Sam's cottage. They leaped on each other, an orgy of licking and biting and jumping on each other. Then Hapi did the same for Sam. Hiro's a bit more reserved with humans, he rubbed against my legs and leaned heavily against me, almost toppling me with his weight.

Sam and I left the dogs to their reunion and went out for a late lunch at a local Lebanese restaurant. I don't know what its name is, a kind of ramshackle stop on the highway that sells groceries and ice cream cones and advertises its Lebanese restaurant that does not appear much used. The entrance to the restaurant was locked, and only led into the kitchen in any case. We went around to the grocery store and entered through there.

The woman who runs the place unlocked the door to the kitchen to let us in, but we were already in. She gave us menus and directed us to the dining room.

The menu said, "Lots of Lebanese Food!" and that was it. No prices, no hints as to what exactly they served.

I asked her what kind of Lebanese food she made, and she listed off Hummus, Tabouleh, and a bunch of other things I did not recognize. So then she offered to make a Combination Plate for us.

Sam and I sat down and chatted a bit, then the woman's husband, a large mustachioed fellow with a rather grim look arrived at our table.

He laid his load on our table and said, "Empty plates."

I said, "Oh." and he responded, "What, you no want?" and made to take the empty plates away again.

"No no! We want!" I said.

Then he laid down another plate and said, "Bread."

It was broken strips of pita bread, which we nibbled on until he arrived again with a large platter of food. I recognized hummus, tabouleh, stuffed grape leaves, and some kind of rice and noodle mix. There was also something I don't remember the name of, little footballs of deep-fried ground meat and grain.

The man came back with two little plates, each one with a sombrero-shaped piece of bread. He put them down and said, "Eat this. Make you smart."

A little later he came back with two tiny bowls of soup with a ball of something floating in it. He said, "You eat this and live to 110. My grandmother's recipe, she live to 104."

It was all great food, and there was so much of it that it took us a long time to eat as much as we could handle.

The man came back and Sam told him he really liked the bread, he felt smarter already. The man said, "You smart now? You rich yet?" Well, maybe not so much.

After lunch we went back to the cottage and put the two dogs in the back of my truck to go to the trail. It really is nice to see them trotting along together, side by side with tails floating like plumes above them. We walked for around an hour and a half, first one way and then the other. Nice views of the ocean, a couple of bridges over brooks and a short side trail to a picnic spot beside a "lake", more like a widening of a swift-flowing river.

We came back to the cottage and the dogs wrestled with each other while we chatted over coffee. I wanted to be back home before it got dark so pretty soon I had to leave, I was worried that the dogs would be upset about that. But no, they seemed very matter-of-fact about Hapi jumping into the truck while Hiro stood by and watched us leave.

They seem to understand the shape of their new lives apart; they are delighted to see each other but not heart-broken to part. Watching them together though, they seem like perfect buddies. I can't say how Hiro is doing, but I think that Hapi is pleased to have me to herself, she doesn't have to compete with Hiro for attention.

Sam is in Wolfville for Hallowe'en and is not sure how long he will stay, but then he is headed back home to BC with Hiro. The dogs will not see each other again for a long time. We wonder if they will remember each other, I kind of think they will. Sam hopes Hapi will remember him, in a good way. He sometimes wonders if she feels that he abandoned her, but I don't think she does.

Compared to Hapi, Hiro seems much more like an oversized playful puppy. I miss that, and I miss his big fuzzy head. He is the fuzzier of the two, he looks more like a giant stuffed dog than a real dog. I imagine them to be the bossy older sister and the mischievous little brother, even though he is quite a bit bigger than her.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Girls night out

I got a Groupon coupon for a night at Milford Lodge last spring and it was about to expire so I booked a night last weekend and invited a couple of women friends along. I brought Hapi too. Our cabin had a big stone fireplace and three bedrooms, and the bare minimum in walls (you could see daylight through the cracks between the wall boards). We set a fire in the fireplace first thing and kept it going the entire time we were there as it was our only source of heat. The fireplace was so inefficient and the cabin so cold that I swear we went through in less than a day enough firewood to keep my house in town warm for more than a week. And still we froze.

Lin brought a bottle of her homemade wine which she and I valiantly tried to polish off. It was great wine, very smooth and easy to drink, but nevertheless she had to take some of that wine home with her. As a result of all that drinking we were up frequently during the night for trips to the washroom, which was a good thing as the fire needed to be tended to frequently as well. We piled all the spare blankets on the beds and it was not enough. I'd have taken Hapi to bed with me but she is not into sharing sleeping quarters.

The afternoon of the first day we walked some of the trails at the Lodge, it was a gorgeous fall day and we all enjoyed walking in the woods. Dinner at the Lodge was huge and delicious. The next morning, after another large and delicious breakfast, we took a canoe out on the lake. There had been a lot of rain a couple of days before so the lake was very full, and it was actually even fuller the second day we were there because of water draining down from other lakes. Val was going to go for a walk instead of paddling, but the trail we walked the day before was now under water.

The morning was very foggy, we set out in the canoe in the fog and it was marvelously quiet and eerie. As we paddled the fog gradually lifted and the water was like glass, reflecting the fall colours in a way to take your breath away.

Lin kept bugging me to take photos, but I was steering the canoe and every time I attempted to focus the camera on a particularly beautiful view, the canoe would veer away and I would be left trying to take the photo over my shoulder, or else trying to click the camera and simultaneously fend us off a submerged rock.

There was this one view of the remains of the foggy mist rolling off a raft in the lake, but because you could only see the mist while facing into the sun my photos of it did not turn out at all. And another view that I thought was one of the most amazing I have ever seen I didn't even try to capture, I knew I'd fail and just wanted to enjoy it.

What it was was a rock emerging from the water and perfectly reflected in the glassy surface. Together with its reflection the rock appeared to be a giant arrowhead on its side, about eight feet long. What made it particularly amazing though was the fact that it appeared to be a giant rock arrowhead suspended in mid-air. The water surface was that smooth and reflective.

Lin and I drove home the long way, we stopped in Annapolis Royal for lunch and then took Highway 1 back to our end of the Valley. The highway meanders down the Valley past many farms and through a lot of small towns. Very picturesque. En route Lin got a call from a friend inviting her for dinner, and her friend kindly extended the invation to me. So I dropped Hapi off at home after a walk at the reservoir and then headed off for another great dinner at Lin's friend's place.

After dinner we played Bananagram, a great game that is kind of a freeform Scrabble. I think it is great because I won, repeatedly. I suspect that I won't be allowed to play again though. Oh well, fun while it lasted.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I was in Halifax yesterday for Occupy Nova Scotia, down on the Grande Parade. Surrounded by "tall" (for Halifax) bank buildings, probably a few hundred people and a handful of cops. My friend Val and I arrived a little late, it was supposed to start at 11am and we got there around 11.30am, but in time for some of the formal speeches and then some informal speeches. We recognized one guy, Ernie, from Wolfville who got up to speak. Later I talked to another guy from Wolfville, Marke, who was taking photos.

There were Union people there, lots of CUPE flags. One kid with a purple ribbon that we spoke to said his parents work for Air Canada and they were legislated back to work, they weren't allowed to go on strike and he didn't think that was right.

They were using the Human Mic, and that worked fairly well, but sometimes I couldn't make out what they were saying. It helped to stand next to some young person with a good clear voice repeating what was being said.

Val said that today was 40 years to the day of the time she took part in an anti-war protest in Washington DC, 1971, and she felt heartened that after all this time real protest was finally, finally! happening. Worldwide!!

Marke said, This is the passing of the torch, and I agreed with him. The young people at Occupy NS were so great, and all the greyheads there were so happy to be seeing this.

At the Medical Station there was singing and dancing, there was a guy strolling with a ukelele, and another guy sitting at a spinning wheel spinning out a very fine wool thread while chatting with whoever stopped to watch. A group strung up a "high wire" (only 3 feet off the ground) and were doing acrobatics on it, to the amusement of the cops at that part of the Grande Parade. Must be kind of boring to have to watch a few hundred people milling around, a little diversion is a good thing. There was a Food Station with free food, a Comfort Station with an air mattress and lots of pillows and rugs, and maybe a dozen tents set up on the grass.

We wandered around a bit, spoke to a few folks with interesting signs and it was all just so heartening. There was this one big black cop wandering around too, chatting with folks. Two little kids were holding hands, the smaller kid, a boy, was trying to make his big sister let go of his hand and the cop came up to him and said, Hold her hand, that's The Right Thing To Do! The little boy looked way up at the big cop's face in utter awe and stopped fighting his big sister.

My friend Val made a sign that said Affordable DAYCARE, NOT Super Prisons. The cop was reading it and nodding his head. Val said, You agree? and he said, Well I'm sure not in the 1%. I asked, So what do you think of all this? He laughed and said, I'm not paid to have an opinion! Ask me another time, maybe over a cup of coffee. Then in a low voice he said, I agree with a lot of what these folks are saying.

I would have liked to have stayed for the General Assembly at 7pm but Val was tired so we went home around 5pm. It was all very cool, exciting, heartening. That's my word for the day, heartening.

I was in Paris in May 1968, and when that fell apart it was so disheartening, my first real taste of cynicism and despair. And now, 43 years later, I feel like things are finally, finally! happening. We crossed some threshold, some tipping point, and the future looks possible.

Up until yesterday I was watching Occupy Wall Street livestreaming. I got to see and hear Naomi Klein address the occupiers, live. I got to see participatory democracy in action.

Now I am watching Occupy Toronto livestreaming and that is so cool. Right now it's early morning there and some media person came and asked the guys at the livestream camera for an interview; after she left they debated the issue of giving interviews, who should do it, what they should say, and why. All the while there was a live chat going on the right side of the screen and the guys on camera were responding to suggestions and comments there. It was really interesting to see them work it through. All wearing classic Canadian revolutionary garb: toques and "Thunderbay Tuxedos" (plaid flannel shirts).

What Occupy means to me is taking back what is ours, this world, our government, our economy, our culture. "They" say it is ours but "They" don't really mean it, We do. We speak for ourselves, we occupy what is ours. It is no longer any one issue, any one political party or any one class of people. Everything is connected, social justice and the environment and the economy is all connected and we don't have to work for one at the expense of the other. Naomi Klein talked about the myth of scarcity, there is no scarcity just really bad distribution. There is enough for all and enough to make it all work, not just for humanity but for the whole planet.

My friend Val brought along some reading material for the trip into the city, and one of the articles was one about Canadian billionaires. Among other things, they are rich enough that they could easily have paid off the 2010 Canadian federal government deficit with only 20% of their wealth. And their much touted charitable giving---in the millions of dollars---is actually a pittance; that a single mom buying a $2 chocolate bar as part of her kid's school fundraiser is contributing more of her wealth to education than any of those wealthy givers lauded in sycophantic business magazines.

You can go on the internet anywhere now and find those horrific statistics about just how rich the rich really are so I'll shut up about that. And as Harper says, folks in Canada are by and large better off than those in the USA. But that's not good enough. The USA is so far off the bottom of the chart that comparing ourselves favourably to that country now is silly. And our government would very much like to follow the USA off the bottom of that chart, so, 'nuf said.

One of Val and mine's favourite signs at Occupy NS yesterday was We Can Do Better Than This. On the ground someone chalked, This Is Where We Start.

The photo is from the Halifax Media Co-op, someone there took our photo at Occupy Nova Scotia on the Grande Parade.