Barrington Street

As I’m writing this post, I’m sitting at the corner of West Georgia and Bute in Vancouver, British Columbia. Yes, it’s true – I have moved across the country and left Halifax.

I planned on writing my “farewell” post to Halifax while still in the city but it felt a little too sentimental for my liking. In fact, even saying “farewell post” right now just made me throw up a little. I had been planning on moving for a while but recently the process was expedited and so here I am in Vancouver.

Poor, poor Barrington Street. So much potential yet so many empty storefronts. There is a lot I dislike about Barrington, and lot that I really and truly love. Freak Lunchbox is always a good time. Venus Envy has its charms. The Khyber and its Carbon Arc film series are injecting some cache back into the street (and they also let FPQT host the Oscar party this year). But I think my favourite spot, which comes as no surprise to my followers on Twitter, would be Obladee: A Wine Bar.

I have had far too many good nights at this establishment and the staff are unfailingly nice. There’s something about having a “local” where a few people recognize you and know your name. It’s kind of like the theme song for “Cheers” in that sometimes you really do want to go where everyone knows your name. Of course, when I want that to happen I go to Menz Bar which, lovely as it may be, is not Obladee in any sense of the imagination.

My friends and I were regular visitors to Obladee and if you haven’t been yet – GO. NOW. If you can find dissatisfaction in a place that serves wine, charcuterie and cheese by the board then I have nothing to say to you. All of that good stuff aside, I think my favourite thing about Obladee was the fact that I could write there instead of Starbucks and pay the same amount of money for a drink. Oh sure, sometimes you need coffee but that’s only sometimes; in my opinion you always need a glass of wine. Bonus points for Obladee: they’re active tweeters so follow them here.

So those are the highlights. Glimmers of promise and hope among a faded icon. I suppose you’re expecting me to write a list of what I would change about Barrington Street but I’m not going to do that for two reasons.

Number one: I live in Vancouver now. I’ve got enough on my plate.

Number two: There are far more capable people than myself like, for instance, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission (DHBC) who will champion the cause.

My only request to everyone is that you be open to any and all changes suggested for Downtown Halifax. The city has a lot of promise and even though I’ve only been in Van City for a few days, it’s amazing to note the similarities and contrasts between the cities.

But enough of that tripe – it’s time for the funny stuff!

Though my blog may not suggest that I am concerned with people other than myself – and let’s face it, generally I’m not – I do occasionally volunteer and try to make the world a better place. About two years ago, I volunteered with the DHBC and the Chronicle Herald Parade of Lights. I wanted to do something fun and local, and the parade is pretty high profile so it was a win-win-win situation. There were several positions you could apply for and being that I was in PR school, I was aiming for something communicative or organizational. You know, to prove myself or something. I indicated that I would take on the role of Route Supervisor (I can’t remember the actual title but that sounds close enough). So as I count down the days until the parade, I wait for the email with my job posting and think, “Oh this is going to be so easy”.

Easy would not be the word I would use to describe my experience. Perhaps the volunteer coordinator recognized something special in me because rather than filling the static role of supervisor, I was made a Parade Route Marshal. Sounds impressive, right? Well it was. Now my duties extended beyond standing in a fixed location, like I had planned, to walking the entire route of the parade and managing seven floats. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I took the neon vest and clipboard and owned that position. Have you ever come across a crossing guard who took their job a little too seriously? Maybe they brought their own stop sign from home? Or maybe they ran their assigned crosswalk with military like precision? Well, I’m mildly embarrassed to say that I was like that with my floats. The only saving grace I had to distract me from becoming the Il Duce of the Parade of Lights was the Z103 entry that was playing Daft Punk on a loop. If anything will soothe this savage beast, it’s the boom boom of some French electro house.

Aside from Z103, I was put to the test with my other charges. Between dodging questions about the true existence Santa Claus from the children in the Dugger’s car, tolerating the frustratingly loud band of musicians whose days in the sun are all but behind them and a group of surprisingly sassy library employees, I exercised every client service muscle in body that night. Finally the parade began and we set off from the dockyard to Barrington Street, spreading Christmas cheer and whatever else you may glean from a parade in November. As far as being a route marshal, I was doing a bang up job. I would even venture kick-ass but you all know me, I’m a modest sort of guy. Yes, all was going exceedingly well until the library folk started pandering to the crowd.

Now, when I’m in a position of authority, I can let a lot of things slide in the interest of maintaining harmony and productivity. As long as you do your assigned tasks and maintain a professional demeanour, I don’t see why you can’t have fun at work. That being said – when I’m your parade route marshal and you create a three minute gap in the flow of a parade, I’m cracking the whip. The library folks were dressed up as superheroes, villains and assorted characters so naturally the children LOVED what was happening. They joked, they played their characters, they brought life to the library association – it was a lovely thing to witness. However with a schedule to keep, I started to hurry them along saying that we can’t have gaps in the parade because it ruins the experience. Side note: I can sell ANYTHING.

Well, I met with some opposition to this initiative and a few snide comments from the library staff. If I may single two out: The Joker and Cruella DeVille. As a gay man, I love Cruella DeVille; she’s Disney’s first drag queen – come on. On this night, however, these two characters took their roles perhaps a little too seriously. Though, I suppose we were both guilty of this. At any rate while I was trying to maintain order among the walking floats, I neglected to notice the technical trouble the Dugger’s float was experiencing. Nothing too drastic but a few stalls are a red flag for any experienced route marshal. Despite flags of any colour being raised, I prioritized keeping the parade intact rather than checking out what was up.

The rest of the evening went on without any major hitches: the gap widened but then slowly closed, the band reliving their past droned on and on, I thought about lying in front of a truck to mercilessly end my tenure as most apathetic route marshal ever and the Z103 crew danced their collective pants off. Basically, it was shaping up to be a normal Halifax parade. Then we hit University Avenue.

In retrospect, I could/should have titled this last entry University Avenue but I feel the real drama started on Barrington Street with the library “float”.

Post script: You were a walking entry. Get your shit together and keep time with the rest of the parade. You knew what you were signing up for. Oh, and to The Joker, “The Dark Knight” was old news. “Why so serious?” Why so ridiculous? Hmm? Answer me that.

The Dugger’s car was nearing the top of University and suddenly those innocent stalls took their toll on the mini car leaving it dead on its feet…wheels…whatever. As the finest example of a route marshal EVER, I put these statuesque thighs to work and pushed that little Matchbox car to the end of the parade route. In fairness, that was about one city block which in Halifax consists of about eight houses. Regardless, I like to think I saved the parade. Children on the street were high fiving me. The kids in the car thought I was “really strong”. The driver kept apologizing as if I had any authority to punish him. I’m sure had Santa Clause witnessed my dedication, I would have been rewarded with what I’ve always wanted for Christmas – a sack of money with a dollar sign on it and my own HBO special. I left the car with the driver at Subway on the corner of Robie and Spring Garden after he assured me that my job was done and triumphantly walked back to Parade HQ to turn in my neon vest.

And that, my friends, is about as farewell as I will get. As you are reading this, I am exploring what Vancouver has to offer and accumulating stories of embarrassment that I will post on a new blog. When will that launch you ask? I have no idea but at any rate it will launch. Thanks for reading thus far and I hope you continue to follow my antics because I’m going to keep writing them down.

I just realized I haven’t seen the blue Dugger’s car since that parade…

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Granville Street

If there is one thing I love about Granville Street, it’s Tribeca. I have spent far too many nights crammed into the brick covered, low ceiling, alcohol soaked, fairy light adorned, sweaty dance space listening to some of the best DJs in Halifax than I care to remember; or could even attempt to remember. I wish this post was a recap of one of my mad nights out where I was overcome with the urge to rip my shirt off and dance like a future YouTube sensation but it’s not. Notice that I like to tease you all with future stories? Seriously, go back and check to see how many posts I start with a tantalizingly juicy story of debauchery and topless-ness only to say, “I wish this post was about ___”, and then launch into something embarrassing.

It’s happened at least thrice.

In 2007, I worked as a legislative page for the province of Nova Scotia and had one of the best experiences of my life. It seems a little overly nostalgic to say that but I really mean it. I met some great people, experienced our government first hand, witnessed a throne speech and I got to wear a rather smashing tuxedo every day. To say that my job was glamourous would be stretching it because my daily duties did include such tasks as setting up folding tables, steaming out wrinkles in tablecloths and making coffee. However, one of the highlights of being a page was strutting around Downtown Halifax in my tuxedo and confidently sashaying through the office buildings of our city. I felt like a sexy butler with security clearance.

This is not sexy. Nor is it me.

When the House is in session, pages are required to do document runs to different government offices with notices and other official papers. I loved going on the doc runs because I got to show off my suit and visit people – it’s win win, baby. As if I wasn’t already obnoxiously confident, running official errands in my uniform inflated my ego to epic proportions.

“Hi there. Yes, I am a government employee, no need to dance around the subject. Why yes that is the official coat of arms on my blazer, thank you for noticing the attention to detail. I’d love to dally and chat some more but I need pass this documents on post haste. It’s kind of a big deal.”

Most of the government offices are located in the block around Province House so the distance covered on these document runs is nothing to hang your hat on. However, as I have alluded to before, Halifax can be an incredibly difficult city to traverse in the winter time. Aside from ice and licensed drivers who pay less attention to the road than Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder on a road trip, there is an inordinate amount of slush puddles on our sidewalks. I’m talking puddles that you think are only a centimetre deep until you actually step into one and get soaked up to your knee.

Just wait until we actually develop roads that drain properly, you bastard.

My shoes for my page duties were awesome Dr. Scholl sneakers that weighed less than a unicorn kiss and looked like I was a gym teacher who gave up on life. While aesthetically pleasing and practical they were not exactly waterproof so I was especially mindful of the leg swallowing puddles that littered Granville Street that winter. One fateful morning on a routine doc run, my Dr. Scholl’s and I had no idea that we would be in the fight of our lives.

Granville Street runs behind Province House and luckily there is a back door that provides easy access to the offices required for a doc run. After gathering the necessary papers and slinging my totally hip messenger bag over my shoulder, I walked out the front door of Province House and began my document duties. I had mapped out a strategy that took me in a circular pattern around P-House, cutting through buildings and thereby limiting m exposure to the frigid temperatures we are blessed with in Halifax. There had been a recent snowfall followed by a blast of arctic air so rather than lovely white snow, the city was treated to frozen chunks of dirt and ice adorned with garbage on the sidewalks.

Pretty.

Near the end of my run, I noticed one of the bottomless puddles near the back door of Province House and made a mental note of said puddle, the BP sized ice slick covering the staircase and the parked car that was masterfully hiding all of this from the opposite angle. Sometimes I think I would have been better suited as a spy rather than a communications professional. I mean, consider the detail I provide for a blog post: it’s astounding. Do you know anyone else who manages to remember such asinine stories with staggering detail years after they’ve happened? Honestly, if I didn’t have a flair for storytelling and memory, these anecdotes of my life would be the most boring collection of sentences since “Adam Bede” by George Eliot. If you don’t get that reference please do not try to follow up on it. I’d hate for you to have to experience that book like I was forced to.

These little rambles I digress into serve a purpose, friends. If I can write a paragraph about icy streets and my lost vocation as a spy then it only stands to reason that I must be prone to daydreaming. You might even say that I can be easily distracted for a fleeting moment before I snap back into task mode and get on with my work. Of course, it is in these fleeting moments that I manage to make a fool of myself.

The parked car from earlier? Yeah, that came back to bite me in the ass. I happened to catch my reflection while passing it on my way to the back door of Province House and noticed that my shirt had come un-tucked. Horrified, I tried to fix it while carrying my messenger bag and wearing the dapper, but very restrictive, tuxedo blazer when my foot suddenly began to slide. It all happened so quickly that I didn’t notice I was moving closer and closer to that damn puddle. At the last second, I leapt into the air like a graceful gazelle – or jumped like a drunken gymnast at a barbecue, who’s to say – over the frigid water onto the pavement ahead. But this was not the end of my battle to save face because I overpowered the jump and was suddenly about to fall into the ice ridden staircase. Utilizing my momentum, I ran up the first two steps only to lose my balance and slide backward toward the sidewalk.

OK, this one is a stretch - I'd never wear red spandex.

Now this is the part I still have trouble understanding. In any other scenario I would have slipped on the last stair and fallen ass first onto the sidewalk. Today, however, some rogue angel was guiding me to safety and with the reflexes of a cat, I whipped my body around and managed to land feet first on the pavement. Still blessed with momentum (thank you, physics), I stumbled a few steps forward into the street. Thankfully, Granville Street is usually devoid of traffic so I caught my breath and walked victoriously to the rear entrance of Province House.

Only to step into an ankle high puddle of dirty, icy, winter puddle water.

I stood in the spot for a moment, reviewed everything that happened to me and came up with one final thought,

“Well this sucks.”

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Lower Water Street

Surprisingly, I’ve never fallen down on Lower Water Street. I have definitely been drunk there but have managed to avoid embarrassing myself on this street. So why am I writing about it today? Well, aside from regaling you with my many misadventures in this fair city, I created my blog with the intention of introducing Halifax’s unique character to readers outside of Nova Scotia.

Yes. I have readers outside of Nova Scotia, there’s no need for that surprised look on your face.

Yes, they are people that are not part of my immediate family.

One of my favourite things about Lower Water Street is the Bishop’s Landing compound. I’ve wanted an apartment there since they were built but I’ve also wanted other essentials like food, clothing and liquor; maybe I’ll live there someday but not any time soon. I have a total love on for Cafe Ristretto and it has become my adopted office while I am currently employed only by my sense of humour and Netflix account, though I have not exactly explored outside of their walls. That is until this past Friday when I and four other fabulous bloggers – Amy, Renee, Shelagh and Laura – were asked to Shop Fashionably Late at Bishop’s Landing.

When Ben contacted me about this blogger shopping summit, my first thought was “Say what?” followed by a resounding, “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. I don’t know if you know this about writers but when we feel our work is recognized, I can only imagine it’s what a puppy feels like when their belly is scratched.

So what was my mission? The five of us were given $50 to spend on each other in a delightful Secret Santa challenge within Bishop’s Landing. After a meet and greet, we drew names and I picked Amy: smart, sassy, recently married and pretty freaking adorable. I’m a confident shopper so going into this I thought I couldn’t possibly be stumped until I realized one flaw in my plan: she’s a girl. I can’t shop for girls. Who does shop for girls? What do girls like? Luckily, Jake tagged along to take some photos and serve as a sounding board for ideas.

Girls like this stuff right?

Obviously my first stop was going to be Bishop’s Cellar. Apparently you can start a file there according to Renee which poses the question: how do I start a file? I browsed in the shop with the excitement of a gay man at a Cher concert merchandise table but decided to explore more. Walking across the parking lot, I found myself in Turbine owned by the wonderful Lisa-Drader Murphy. A few weeks ago, Lisa premiered a showcase covered by Ally and L-A and I have to say I am sad I missed it. Looking around her shop I couldn’t believe that one woman was behind the whole operation; Lisa is prolific. I love me some shiny things and there were plenty to be had at Turbine. Bob Fosse would have had an inspiration explosion with some of the clothing found here.

Upholding my reputation, one glass of wine at a time.

Yet even before I purchased anything, I visited one more shop in the piazza and discovered the One Stop Wood Shop. I sound like such a tease breezing in and out of each store but to quote a classic song about shopping around and what my Mama told me, “You better think”. Didn’t see that one coming did you? Feeling antsy about not buying anything yet, I remembered Amy saying that she recently bought a home and figured a wood handicraft is always a welcome addition to a living room, study or bedroom. I figured her home was decorated with more refinement than my living room with a couch, Nintendo and empty Pepsi Max cans. Plus, girls love candles right? My in depth research of recalling every candle commercial I’ve seen led me to this conclusion. With the help of my new friend Debbie, I picked out a candle holder that was made from a downed elm tree from Hurricane Juan. Socially responsible, creative and adorable? Yes, this is why we love Debbie.

Stop in for the wood works. Stay to talk to Debbie.

I finally had a purchase under my belt and was feeling pretty great but when Jake suggested we check out Sugah!, I began to feel amazing. How could I forget about that bastion of ice-creamed goodness and all things that are happy in my life? I’m single, unemployed and I have two cats – if you don’t let me have baked goods then I don’t have anything. In the back of my mind, I knew this was too good to be true,

“I’m shopping with someone else’s money, I’ve had two glasses of wine and now I’m going to the ice-cream store. No longer will I seek heaven.”

With trepidation, I walked to the door and pulled on the handle to no avail. Closed. Oh foul temptress, what have you tortured me so?!?! Typing this out, I’m beginning to realize some key elements as to why I’m single.

Sadly, Jake didn't even get me to pose for this.

There was no time to wallow in my failure so I headed back to Bishop’s Cellar where the knowledgeable staff suggested a great Pinot Grigio. With some cash left, Jake and I went back to Turbine and received amazing customer service from Lisa and a friend whose name I failed to catch; to Lisa’s friend, thank you! I couldn’t have been less helpful with my shopping directive:

“She’s a girl, she’s pretty and she was wearing a leather jacket. What do I buy her?”

Lisa armed me with a Turbine pink lip gloss and I was ready to head back to the gift exchange.

Everyone was very thoughtful with their gift choices and managed to buy something that spoke to each other’s personality. In a delightful twist of fate, Amy and I had to buy for each other and she picked out things that would suggest she either: 1) knew me for years or 2) read my overly descriptive blog and tweets about my life. A bottle of red wine, a killer glass dish made from recycled soda bottles and – wait for it – a rum cake! So let’s review: wine, a dish for candy and baked goods. It was too perfect. Also, I figured out that girls like candles, wine and lip gloss so to all my lady friends out there: this is my new reference point.

After the shopping party was over, I was kind of amazed at the quality (and quantity) of gifts we bought for $50. Cutting boards, wine, fashions from Turbine – I honestly thought the only thing I would be able to find would be something from Bishop’s Cellar. When I walk around Halifax, I like to putter up and down side streets hoping that I’ll discover a hidden treasure i.e. a new bar or bakery but I was more than impressed with what Lower Water Street had to offer. I felt like Indiana Jones only less rugged and more cardigan-y. If this all sounds like you need to see for yourself, Bishop’s Landing is going to have another Shop Fashionably Late evening this Friday, December 10. Even if you’re one of those smug, prepared people who is finished their holiday shopping that I refuse to believe even with presentation of a receipt, I suggest you check it out. As for me, I’ll be face deep in another rum cake from Rumrunner’s Cake Factory.

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Inglis Street

Well here it is – the impetus for the blog. Out of all my stories that I have, my friends agree that this is the funniest; or at least in the top three. When I think back about this story, I realize that it shouldn’t have happened. No one was seriously hurt, there were no long term consequences that resulted from this story but it could have been easily avoided. Then again, many of my stories could have been easily avoided but I do have a knack for finding the most awkward route available to me. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I tell this story at least once a month. Did I mention this happened to me over two years ago?

Winter time in Halifax is slowly descending upon us and it is this time of year that my memories of this story come flooding back in vivid technicolour. The trees are bare, the pavement soaked with rain or snow or a disgusting combination of both, coats are buttoned up to the collar and everyone has that scrunched look on their face like scowling at the weather will suddenly make it less cold. This was the year I lived on Queen Street and attended Saint Mary’s for my honours studies in English. My walk from Queen to SMU was not a long one, nor was it treacherous. Oh, wait sorry, in the winter it was indeed treacherous. Trying to walk down the hill to Victoria Road was like navigating a maze created by some madcap super villain from the campy Batman television series in the 1960s. Cars whiz up and down that street like they’re in a road rally and the people walk around like they’re four years too early to audition for “The Walking Dead”. I hated walking to school in the winter.

Every day it was the same slippery routine and every day I made it to school in one piece. Believe me, you do not want wet pants when your first class is British Theatre After 1960 – there was a bit of movement required for that one. If you’re not familiar with Saint Mary’s campus on Inglis street let me warn you that the grounds by the TESL Building and the church turn from a lovely compact meadow into a sea of ice and danger once the winter comes. I would suggest that they work out some sort of drainage system there to avoid this but I feel like there is a conspiracy, nay a betting pool, with administration to see how many people will fall in the run of a day.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you can figure out where this story is headed – I fall down on the ice. “But Anthony, you just gave away the punch line!”, you’ve naturally just screamed. Fear not my friend, this story is much better than my usual falling down story…and you’ve still got about 1000 words to go. I’m a descriptive writer, sue me. Picture it: Inglis Street, 2008. A young man struggles to get across the tundra so he can get home in time to eat a staggering amount of cereal before he heads to work for the evening. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s less than a fifteen minute walk but this guy is dramatic and lollygagging like nobody’s business.

*I have always wanted to start a story like Sophia Petrillo*

Running late, I’m dashing through McNally trying to find the path of least resistance and failingly miserably. SMU students have a penchant for sauntering through the halls like no one behind them has places to go and people to see. Yeah, I’m looking at you chick in the low riding sweatpants that are tucked into your socks; you are an enigma that I care not to solve. Running across the campus is the easy part because the pathways are usually clear of ice and snow so I got a little cocky.

“I am so on top of this. I’ll probably get home with an hour to spare. I might even be able to make chicken fingers instead of eating half a box of Cheerios! I was born for success.”

I was so impressed with myself that even when I saw the phenomenal amount of ice on the Inglis Street walkway, I only slowed to a trot and thought that if I moved fast enough I couldn’t possibly fall. It worked for Super Mario, why not me? I was so focused on my goal that I neglected to notice the two Asian girls in front of me.

“Why did you have to mention they were Asian, Anthony? Is that pertinent to the story?”

Yes. Yes it is. Very pertinent.

I think I was about 4 meters from the girls when I finally realized we were on a collision course. Bearing down them, we locked eyes and I could see the terror in their face. I shifted to the left, they followed. I dashed to the right, again they followed. Trapped in this deadly dance, we got closer and closer until I was at the point of no return. Bordered by a flat patch of ice and a mound of snow, I had two choices: I could barrel into these girls and look like a total jerk OR I could be a man, take the bullet, and plunge into the snow pile. Being a natural gentleman, I knew that there was really only one choice available to me.

My opponents could not have been cuter all dressed up in their winter gear, their books in hand and smart looking backpacks that popped with colour. I noticed that the girl closest to me was wearing a Hello Kitty backpack and I took a brief moment to muse on her fashion choice. Unfortunately this was one brief moment too many and I found myself entangled in the poor girl’s arms. Failing in my intention to fall so the path would be cleared, I unwittingly created a mess of scarves, limbs and screams.

What happened next is not my proudest moment. Remember that I had noble intentions. Caught off guard by the series of events, I panicked and rather than throwing myself into the snow bank, I threw the girl down first creating a landing pad for my own body.

Yes, you read that correctly – I used an Asian girl as a human shield to avoid getting wet.

As soon as we hit the ground, her friend just kept screaming and trying to pull me off my victim. I popped up immediately and tried to help the snow covered girl up but her friend kept hitting me and pushing me away. I looked down and there was the girl, face down in a pile of dirty, shovelled snow with her Hello Kitty backpack staring back at me with judgement in its eyes.

“I’m SO sorry! Oh my god, I didn’t mean it! Please forgive! Oh god, I’m so sorry! Are you OK?!”

It was looking at me. With its eyes.

The girls did not have total mastery of the English language and I did not understand what the angry, dry friend was yelling at me but I did make out a tearful whimper from the Hello Kitty girl,

“So wet. So wet.”

I did not know what to do. Clearly they did not want my help but I couldn’t blame them. The Hello Kitty girl seemed to be OK and refused to look me in the eye while her friend continued to berate me for, I’m assuming, being a total ass.

After more profuse apologizing, I left the scene of the crime and walked home with my head hung low. Once there, I looked at my schedule to see what time I was due at work and to my horror realized that I wasn’t scheduled until the next day. That poor girl bore the brunt of my tardiness and ended up a soaking wet mess who probably grew to be distrustful of tall, thin men who attempt to run on ice. Feeling guilty, I went to my friend’s apartment to recount my horror story and, hopefully, receive some comfort. As I told the story, I could see my friend and his company’s eyes growing wider with dread. When I finally finished the tale we all sat there in an uncomfortable silence until he finally spoke up and said,

“Anthony. Casey. That just might be the funniest story I have ever heard in my life. For the love of god, write that down.”

Well, I just did. Finally. After living with the memory for two years.

And now you know the inspiration for this blog.

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Allan Street

There have been times that I have, shall we say, not behaved like a proper gentleman. I am not ashamed by these moments, we all have them and those stories serve to entertain and enrich our lives; case in point, this blog. The problem with these moments is that sometimes they are witnessed by the general public. Falling down? Yeah, that sucks. Spilling your drink on yourself? Embarrassing but who hasn’t been there. Getting caught in a make out with a less than desirable partner? Well, I could write a whole other blog on that subject covering my life from age 20-23. I think the worst time to get caught is when you’re doing something so incredibly lazy, something so pathetic, something SO preventable that the look you see in the accusers eyes stings your very soul.

It’s this look I felt on Allan Street.

This is a proper country gentleman. This is what I am not.

Last year was a great time to be living in the Quinpool area: I was in the Tower, Becky was in the Courts, Sean lived on Allan, Mel was on Duncan Street and we all loved to drink wine. One particular night, a Christmas themed potluck night, where we dressed up to get down, the four of us plus a considerable amount of others were drinking all the wine at Mel’s place. I’d love to give a hilarious breakdown of the night’s events but being that it was a year ago and, like I said, we had consumed all the wine so I’m a little fuzzy on the details. Suffice to say, when you mix a roomful of PR kids with hors d’oeuvres and liquor you are guaranteed a good time.

Also, I provide the sparkliest conversation after a bottle of Viognier.

I believe THIS photo sums up the evening.

As the party was winding down and I had exhausted all of my most patented dance moves like “Gesticulate Wildly But Never Spill a Drop” or the “Try To Pick Up An Unwillingly Cat”, I decided that maybe it was time I dragged myself home. It was a magical night – crisp, pitch black with a fresh crystal snowfall that made even a sun loving, greenhouse gas emitting monster like myself appreciate the glorious east coast winter that descended upon us. Being cold is not something I am fond of – or even interested in but once in a while you have to accept the fact that you live in Nova Scotia where dealing with wet feet, cold hands and that tension in your neck while you try to hunch your shoulders to keep warm (because that works?), is a fact of life. Of course, in the state that I was in that evening I also would have found the beauty in walking on dirty needles or being trapped in an elevator.

The walk home was going smoothly, the scene was picturesque and I was in company with Sean and Becky, giggling and chatting about…well, probably about total nonsense. We all parted ways and I continued my snowy walk down Allan Street. One of my favourite things to do when I’m walking in Halifax is look into windows. I’m not climbing in them or trying to snatch your people up, but Halifax houses seem to have this weird aversion to window coverings. Even in my own apartment, I only have books covering the view to my bedroom.

Sidebar: I could put up a shade or something but I feel that if you’re going to take the time to perch outside my window and stay there until I do something enticing, then have at it. I guarantee you all I’ll be doing is typing, watching cartoons and eating, or sleeping – and I am not an attractive sleeper.

As I’m walking and looking at the various holiday displays in the windows, I started to feel a warm glow inside. Could this be the Christmas spirit I’ve heard so much about? I mean, Christmas is alright as holidays go but I’ve always found it incredibly stressful trying to visit people and prepare everything. My favourite holiday has always been Thanksgiving because everyone just wants to drink and have a good time. I stopped in front of one house that had an elaborate Christmas tree in the window, every inch decorated in ornaments or bulbs with the fervour of a Stepford Christmas. As I stood there for a moment, bathed in the lights from the tree, I felt flushed. I must be having a holiday epiphany. I feel all tingly. Have I finally connected to the joy of Christmas?

Hmm. Nope, I just REALLY need to pee.

When I say really I mean REALLY. It was intense. I had the strangest feeling like my molars were floating in my head, like everything around me was moving in this odd fluidity; kind of like those calming ocean see-saw things from the late 80s that you would put on your desk along with your rock garden and pendulum balls. I needed to relieve the tension but I was at least five minutes walking from my apartment. Five minutes when you need to “go” is an eternity. What could I do? Where would I run to? Why didn’t I take care of this before I left?!

Imagine if you will that Joan of Arc represents the intense feeling I had.

After about 45 seconds of sheer terror, I realized that my only option was to find a dark alley and just go for it. Sadly, this is not the first time (nor the last) that I would resort to this but desperate times call for relieving yourself in the alleyway between two houses. I scoped out the situation, made sure no one was around, threw my tie over my shoulder and got to business. I don’t think I have to describe exactly how liberating it felt, we’ve all been there before.  Now, I’m sure you wondering where my mistake comes into play. Well, as I scoped out the outside situation, I neglected to check the inside situation i.e. any windows for onlookers. Just as I was finished, I looked over my shoulder to see an elderly man, up far past his bedtime staring at me while I defiled his neighbour’s alley.

Remember that piercing look of shame that hits you in the soul from earlier? Yeah, this guy had that down. What could I retaliate with? Even as he stood there with a swollen beer belly, shirtless and possibly drunk, I couldn’t say a word to him because I’m the coming out of his buzz, wearing a suit and peeing in an alley.

If the old man was a cat...need I explain more?

Check. Mate.

After this little incident, I’ve enacted some serious strategies to prevent it from happening again. As I said, I’m not the first person, nor the last, to do what I did on Allan Street but if I can avoid the look that was cast on me that night, well, I wouldn’t be opposed to that.

Seriously lazy. Seriously embarrassing. Seriously judged.

 

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Green Street

The summer I lived on the corner of Green and Barrington Street was one of those, “When I have a kid in their twenties, I’ll regale them with tales of the crazy stuff their old dad did one summer”summers.

Maybe it didn't look EXACTLY like this...

I was living with three very good friends in the heart of the city and had recently developed a taste for wine. One of the best perks of that address was the proximity to where I was working – across the street. Literally, I walked across the street and was at the front door of the shop. Being this close made stumbling to work hungover much less of a problem than it would become at future addresses – and it helped with the house key situation on Green Street.

To make what will inevitably be a long story short: we only had two sets between four of us. Now some would see this as a problem but, where one roommate was a nurse who worked 12 hour shifts and another had a regular healthcare employee schedule, it was really up to myself and roommate number four to work out a plan. Since I worked across the street we all figured I wouldn’t need a set of keys because if anyone was coming or going they could drop into the store and leave a set with me. Perfect, yes? Indeed it was.

Of course the best laid plans never work out 100 per cent of the time. It was bound to happen that one day, one of us would be without keys to the apartment. I was prepared for this moment. I had mentally broken down the situation:

Go to the door and call upstairs.

No answer.

Hoist yourself onto the balcony to find spare key.

Not there.

Text roommates.

No answer.

The flow chart has about four more protocols until I decide to call it quits.

(Note to readers: I HATE QUITTING.)

Obviously the point of this story is that I was locked out one day. I had followed the above flow chart and was about to resign myself to giving up and eating lunch in the staff room when I remembered one sparkling tidbit of information: sometimes we left the door unlocked.

Was it safe? Good heavens no.

Did I care this day? Good heavens no.

I couldn’t have been happier about our naive negligence at this point. Being the creepy, unassuming gentleman that I am, I decided to wait near the back door until someone was either entering or leaving our building at which point I would regale them with charm and wit about this gangly buffoon who lost his outdoor key but still had his apartment key. Who could turn down such a story? Or such a face? When I was 21, I was adorable. Now I’m a self-deprecating old cynic with a beard; the charm loses a little in the translation. I figured with a genius plan like this I wouldn’t have to wait more than ten minutes until victory.

This is the kitten equivalent to my adorability back then.

Twenty-two minutes later as I refused to give up, I was finally afforded some human contact from a family that I had seen in the foyer before. They were super cute with two little boys, one protective Asian mommy and your typical country-club Caucasian daddy.

“I live in such a cool building. Look at this family – cultures blending together, raising kids in the city – it reminds me of when I grew up in Boston.”

I barely even finished my thought when I locked eyes with the father. About to launch into my semi-prepared bumbling speech about losing my key, being on my lunch break and now scheming how to work in my admiration for their choice to raise their children in the city, he shot past me like a dart in and English pub.

“Oh, wait! Excuse me! Hi, I know this is going to sound strange but I forgot mykeyanddoyouthinkyoucould….”, I rushed to say before he left me standing alone and frightened on this balmy 26 degree summer day.

“Oh, I’m sorry I don’t know you. I can’t let you in.”

“Oh no, it’s OK! I live in number 209 and my roommate has our outdoor key and I have one for inside. See?”, as I triumphantly jingled my key ring. I didn’t mention that the keys on my ring were actually for my mom’s house…in Cape Breton.

“Yeah, sorry. This is a family building; I can’t let a stranger inside.”

“But…but I’m not a stranger. I saw you last week in the foyer! That’s my balcony right there!” (please pay no attention to the pile of wine bottles that are not helping my case to get into said family friendly building)

“Look, I’m not letting you in. Sorry for your inconvenience.”

To say that I was shocked would be an understatement – I was livid. You’re not going to let me in? I’m in a Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation uniform and weigh about 130 pounds with good intentions, what possible trouble could I cause? I understand that you want to keep your building safe and sure, as harmless as I look (and am), you don’t know me personally but I had tried to explain myself with a Hugh Grant charm. When I lived on Quinpool, my building was turnstile for strangers and no one batted an eye at the traffic that lobby saw.

So angry. Livid, if you will.

I slinked away feeling somewhat sullied and ashamed that a stranger would look at me and think, “Hmm, now that’s a train wreck waiting to happen. I better keep him away from my china and Persian rugs”.

Weeks later, I ran into the wife of the bouncer that rejected me in the garage and she gave me a sheepish smile. Obviously she recognized that I was indeed a resident of the building, validating me and easing the pain. Let that be a lesson to everyone: I never forget a slight on my reputation. After our run in, I decided to let go of this memory and get on with my life. I had almost completely forgotten the embarrassment and shame I felt until the tables were turned one day when I was leaving the building only to see the husband locked outside. As he yelled through the glass door, “I forgot my keys!” with a hopeful look in his eye, I mimed that I couldn’t hear him and yelled back, “Sorry, I don’t know you! This is a family building!” and took the long way out through the garage.

I never said I was good person, just a person with good intentions.

Also, I’m champion grudge holder. Jerkface.

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Tower Road

Many years ago my friends, I lived on Tower Road and since that time it seems to be an anchor point for my life in Halifax. Oh sure, I dabbled in Quinpool and the North End but the majority of my apartments have radiated from Tower Road. There’s been Queen Street, a brief stint on Wellington Street, and now I’m settled on Victoria Road so we’ve determined one thing: I like change but it better not be drastic. My apartment on Tower was the first time I lived away from home and a terribly confusing time. I was at a new university, trying to make new friends and I was trying to figure out why I just didn’t want to date girls anymore. I bet you didn’t see that last one coming, did you? Heaped with that pile of anxiety, along with school and trying to find a job (which proved much more difficult than I imagined), I was what you might consider a mess. But don’t feel bad for me yet, I was still hilariously awkward.

I thought since I was at a new school, I would experiment with my classes and register for subjects that appealed to me. This misguided “I’m going to find myself!” notion resulted in me taking French class. Now, it’s not that I don’t like French culture, I actually find it fascinating, but the language kind of kills me. I get it, if I sit down and try to learn it, I’ve proven that I can…but I just hate it. You have to conjugate the noun but then change it if it’s masculine or feminine, then there’s the formal intonation, the slang, the dialects, the needing to love Celine Dion, it’s bloody madness. Give me angry German any day.

My French class was large and full of mostly beginner students so the days were long and tedious thus setting the tone for my academic year. Also adding to that tone was the fear I had of all the strangers in my class. The previous year, I went to university with all of my close friends from high school and had a great time – book learnin’ is much easier when you’ve got someone sitting next to you who wants to talk about movies. Now, sitting in a room of about 80 strange faces, I realized I did not want to be there.

“Why am I doing this? I hate French! I don’t know anyone. I bet they don’t even like my sneakers. I like my sneakers. I always have cool sneakers. My friends would think they’re cool. Oh my god, I don’t have any friends. I live with one friend and the other is making new friends rapidly. I have to cook my own meals, do laundry, clean and I don’t have any friends. Je suis…ummm…fuck.”

About a month into the class, I resolved that I didn’t need to make friends and that my studies were going to come first. If people didn’t want to talk to me then I did not need to talk to them; my books would be my friends. I was a lone wolf. A loup solitaire, if I may. Who’s going to stand in my way? No one! I would not be hindered by pesky social interactions and by the time Christmas break would come around, I would be more than bilingual – I’d be freaking Charles De Gaulle! Concentrating on school also distracted from that lingering attraction to the Greek boy that sat next to me.

So everything was going well, so I thought, until the day she talked to me. I don’t know why professors force group work on their classes when translating a piece of writing would be more beneficial alone but one day this is what was on the agenda. Against my will, I turned around to face a group of five girls who all seemed to know each other. Fantastic. I have, however, recently discovered that girls don’t have to know each other to “know” each other due to the weird global sorority of vaginas. Being the only guy, I already felt awkward until Sarah spoke to me.

“Hey, I really like your bag”

“Oh, thanks. I bought it at West49.”

“I know”, she says with a flirty laugh as I realize we have the same black Dickies bag.

“Ah, I see what you’re doing here.”

We began to talk to, share information and laugh at how eccentric the professor was. Just as a sidebar, this prof was not eccentric – she was out of her mind. After class, Sarah said I should sit near her next time. I agreed and walked away carried by the chariots of Apollo with bluebirds following after me. Finally, I could ditch the whole lone wolf business and actually talk to people. Over the next few weeks, Sarah and I became school friends, seeing each other in the library, walking to classes together and forming the basis of what I thought could be a super fun friendship time. Of course, there was still that thing about cute boys. Maybe I could tell Sarah? Maybe not, I mean it’s only these two guys I find interesting. I read somewhere that everyone has homosexual thoughts once in their life. I never read how long they were supposed to last but it was in a book so I must OK.

Mulling it over in my room one night, I had a brainstorm,

Sarah = Girl

Me = Boy

Girl + Boy = Dating

Sarah + Me = Dating

Dating = No Cute Guy Thoughts

It was perfect math and so I resolved that the next time we were walking together, I was going to ask Sarah out on a date. The thought of it excited me to the point of nausea. Leaving the cute boy(s) as factorials to be eliminated, I felt better about myself. The next week my French class had our first midterm. Sarah and I sat next to each other, whispered good luck and got down to business. I finished rather quickly because those three and a half weeks of being a one man study group actually paid off but Sarah was only halfway through. I couldn’t wait any longer so I got up to leave. As I handed in my midterm, I looked back to see Sarah shoot me a friendly smile with eyes that screamed, “NOW I KNOW WHY YOU HATE FRENCH”. Outside the classroom I had a trademark epiphany of poor judgment,

“Wait for her! She’ll be impressed that you cared and then while you’re discussing the midterm you can casually slip in that you’d like to go to dinner sometime, you sly dog.”

So I waited. I waited fifteen minutes. Then I waited ten more minutes. After that, I waited another nine minutes. Finally after waiting a total of 43 minutes, Sarah walked out to see me sitting in the hallway like a lost puppy waiting for someone to take it home.

“Oh! Hey! Why are you still here?”

“I waited for you to finish.” (“I was waiting for you my darling! I want to whisk you away to my modest apartment where I will cook you a bounty of tacos, preceded by appetizers of Corn Flakes and/or Plain Ruffles! Do not swoon yet, my love, save that for the boudoir where we will listen to U2 and kiss with tongues.”)

“Wow. Sorry, I didn’t know you’d be waiting.”

“It’s cool. Are you walking home?” (“Ha Ha Ha, oh you always were the jester of the court my little turtledove! As if I would not wait to escort my maiden home after she proved her mettle against the harrowing task of a beginner’s French midterm. What absence of chivalry has occurred in your life? I will rectify this by slaying the beast of your choice!”)

 

And so we walked. Leading her down Tower Road, I listened to her talk about the midterm and school until I finally grew the balls to ask her if she had any plans for the weekend. She listed some bands that she might see, perhaps a movie, dinner with her boyfriend’s parents, laundry and grocery shopping, and maybe some drinks with her girlfriends. It all sounded like a typical college girl weeke- BOYFRIEND?!?!?!

Boyfriend. Who’s not me. A boyfriend. She had a boyfriend.

Either she could see the devastation on my face or heard my heart plummet out of my chest, through the pavement and rest in the cold, wet soil beneath us because then she followed it with,

“I know I never mentioned him before but I think you’d like him. What about you, do you have a boyfriend?”

Quickly, at light speed even, my devastated face switched into one of shock. Did she just ask me if I had a boyfriend? Oh, she obviously can’t do math because it’s Girl + Boy not Boy + Boy. Silly girls, they can’t do anything right. Not like that Greek boy. He seems good at math…and wears tight t-shirts.

Tower Road kicked me in the face that day. I had planned to remember it as the street where I first asked out this girl from French class. It was going to be a romantic spot, one of those places that always has a happy memory attached. Instead, Tower Road became a street that forced me to look at the truth, no matter how hard I fought it. I was 19 that day and it would be another year and a half before I would say the truth out loud to someone other than myself. After that Sarah and I remained school friends and I never thought about hanging out with her outside of class again.

I wanted to share this story in light of recent tragic events that have occurred in the United States. Suicide as a result of homophobic bullying has existed for decades and it’s unfortunate that it is only receiving the attention it deserves now. My story goes much further than this lighthearted post but I wanted to share with anyone who may be reading the struggle and anxiety I placed on myself because I refused to accept the truth. I had known that I was gay long before I met the girl from French class but it wasn’t until I heard her ask if I had a boyfriend, without really knowing me, that I realized it was obvious to more than just myself. Even after Sarah there were other girls – one fabulous, loving and understanding girl especially. There is no shame in coming out early or late and I didn’t realize it at the time. After that day, I spent many nights tossing the notion over in my head, wondering who I could tell or if I could tell anyone. I wish I had told someone back then, even just that it was on my mind because I would have saved myself a lot of worry over nothing.

Talk to someone.

Talk out your feelings because analyzing them on your own exaggerates whatever you’re feeling one hundred fold.

I am gay and trust me, it gets better.

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