Thursday, January 7, 2016

Love This Town: A very long list of my favourite things to eat, buy, see, and do in & beyond Halifax

 Art Gallery of Nova Scotia / Herring Cove Polar Bear Jump / random roads

So… my other post got a lot more notice than I thought.

It always surprises me which things I do gather attention, and I am endlessly appreciative for all the kind words and encouragement I received because of it. I teared up several times reading stories of other people experiencing similar situations and trying to reconcile your love of a place with the reality of your life there. I leave for Toronto this Saturday morning. I am excited. If there’s one more thing to say about Halifax, it’s that people only try hard to help fix things they truly love.

In my last post I said I would give you a list of things I love about Halifax for those who are fortunate enough to be there. Here is a list that I will update with forgot this gem! forgot this favourite! within 30 seconds of pressing publish, because that’s how scattered iPhone lists turned into blog posts always go.

The next caveat is that you may recognize a lot of these things already. Halifax is small, it will happen, and I tried to make this as enjoyable for someone new to the city as much as for someone who knows every step on the from Africville Park to Schmidtville and what’s in between and what's beyond.

As someone leaving Halifax, I know the feeling of meaning to that plagues us. We mean to go to the café before it closes. We mean to catch the sunset someday. We mean to stop into that charming place, but we never find time because we’re on our way home.

Most of the joy of Halifax, what I love about Halifax, is the community. But I don’t say this tritely; to love this place, you have to throw yourself into whatever you love and do it yourself. Build it yourself. Actually go. If there isn’t a kind of restaurant you want, host a dinner party. If you’re bored of the nightlife go to bed early and actually drive out to catch the sunrise. Fun in a small city isn’t always as straightforward, it isn’t always as easy, it’s not always going to be planned for you, and that’s the best part of it.

I have no agenda, no reason to tell you why I love the following things, I just do. And I thought you might like if I shared them with you. I didn’t put them in order because I wanted you to get over your notions of what sections were for you and which weren’t.

Here are some things I like about Halifax. I hope you do too, or you find something better and share it with me next time I’m back.

Elsie's Used Clothing / downtown Halifax / Cranberry Lake

The all time greats

The very best ~*place*~: Elsie’s Used Clothing. I also used to work a Saturday shift here (#hustle.) I came here on my 14th birthday when I was a goth. I am now decidedly not goth and love it just as much, and even more. Maureen leant me a suit when I needed one for a co-op interview. Her clothing ranges from expensive vintage Dior to a 2$ bin and she has an excellent taste in wallpaper. Go here.

The very best lemon square of all time: Jane’s Next Door. Just tart enough, just sweet enough. I used to work here. It is still the best lemon square of all time.

The very best unique experience: The polar bear dip at Herring Cove. Last year was my first dip and I can honestly say it was amazing. I wanted to participate again this year but I had a bad cold and couldn’t risk getting more sick before the move. You may dread it, but show up New Year’s morning to a tiny wharf in a picturesque community and jump in. You’ll feel proud. You’ll feel free. You’ll feel cold. Bring a blanket.

The place I will probably miss the most: The library. The library.

Lake Torment / Inkwell Boutique / Seaport Market Roof

Other favourites

-As new distilleries burst into the Maritimes, Ironworks is found in my favourite gin & tonics.

-The rose macarons at Le French Fix.

-Fort Needham Park is just far enough away from main areas like Quinpool and Agricola that few students ever make the quick trek past the Hydrostone to see it. There is simply no better way to spend a summer’s day. It has the best smelling dusk.

-Take the ferry. Take the ferry to Dartmouth. Take the ferry to Woodside. I don’t care. Stand outside on top even in the middle of winter. Take the ferry.

-The Board Room Café which offers more board games than you could ever imagine, are actually fun to play, and serve very delicious, unique, healthy and reasonably priced snacks and beer. A true gem.

-I know I mentioned the new library, but also, the roof of the new library.

-Kayaking is one of my favourite activities in the summer and there are so many places to do it in Halifax. The Shubie Canal is without question the most scenic, but if that’s a bit of a trek for you, you can rent on the Arm quite affordably.

-The Canteen for amazing local lunches that change daily.

-The COLTA trail that starts by Ashburn golf course, continues on to the BLT through Timberlea, and hits the SMB all the way down to southern Nova Scotia. My favourite spots to pass are Cranberry Lake and Jerry Lawrence Park that has wheelchair accessible fishing piers.

-Brooklyn Warehouse’s dinners are second to none in the city. They do truly innovative things but I’ve never had a meal taste anything less than awesome. You know a place is good when it’s my favourite hungover lunch and fancy date night.

-Actually use the Oval. It’s there. Skating is free. Renting skates is free with photo ID. They will teach you how to skate. Use The Oval and plan to end your skate at sunset, so you can take in the best view just before it gets cold.

-The Anna Leonowens Gallery always has something interesting happening.

-Patch Halifax has Liberty of London fabric. It feels like it’s own charming world.

-Steak, latkes, & chili at Hali Deli.

-Gio does phenomenally good drinks. I always have a big of a stigma against hotel restaurants but they bring it.

-The Green Space is a strip of a park between the Fairview trailer park and behind the houses on Lacewood drive. I spent most of my childhood walking around there and it now has a community garden at the foot of it.

-Best brunch in the city: Edna. Edna Edna Edna. Also good for date nights, but really truly ideal for friendship dates where you want to get maturely drunk while still hearing each other.

-Quinpool Shoe Repair is one of those charming cash only businesses that you can’t believe still exists in 2016, but does, and for it you are eternally grateful. I wish I owned more broken shoes just to take them to Quinpool Shoe Repair. I’ve taken high heels with broken caps to have them returned looking shinier than when I bought them new. They apologized that they didn’t have the exact same shade of black thread when they fixed the strap of a purse I thought was dead forever. They tried to fix the zipper of my coat for free when I brought it in, and were horrified by the idea of doing something that involved charging me money. I picked up said coat on the day before New Year’s Eve and they were inviting every customer to a party at the shop the next day. I couldn’t make it, we were packing up our apartment, but I wish I could’ve. Sometimes the most lovely people do a few things remarkably well and they are able to make a business out of it. Mess up your shoes, even your nothing special bought on sale shoes, just so you can take them to Quinpool Shoe Repair.

-MacCormack’s beach park, right next to the colourful shops in Eastern Passage is delightful for swimming, or not. One of the few Halifax beaches accessible by bus, there is a wonderful boardwalk, and the water is very shallow for quite some time.

-Inkwell Boutique sells handmade mostly printed art that is as stylish as it’s charming owner, and that is very high praise.

-The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is free on Thursday nights. The space is beautiful with frequently changing exhibitions and regular artist talks. My favourite wing is the Inuit art.

-Many people like to walk through the old South End to spot gorgeous houses, but many of the neighbourhoods around Lake Banook are just as interesting to look at, and you have a reason to take the ferry to get there if you’re coming from Halifax, which we have established you should do.

-Halifax Cookie Cravings is a cookie delivery service that also appears regularly at the Halifax Forum. The combinations are unique, and the presentation is a food instagrammer’s dream.
-A chicken tostada at Pete’s Fruitique is 2.99$ and the tastiest thing in the entire store. Get it heated, and grab an apple for a lunch that comes in at under 5$.

-I recently went to Wasabi House with two tall, broad men who had never been there before. They insisted on ordering 7 elaborate rolls, even though I explained that Wasabi House regularly brings free, unique, complimentary chef’s specials. Our stomachs burst, but the quantity does not come at the expense of creativity or quality. If you’re willing to wait, which you’ll probably have to, this is possibly the best value in the city, especially if you order take out (-10%) and pay in cash (-10%.)

-The roof of the seaport market is unique and colourful. I go up on it after getting a lobster roll, apple cider, and a bouquet of hydrangea from the market below.

-It’s old, but Dalplex is effective. It’s a no nonsense, basic gym with plenty of room for a variety of activities. As the partner of a Dal student, my monthly pass comes to a laughable 15$. Although the draw for me was the pool, the part I actually enjoyed the most was the sauna, deeply relaxing and frequently filled with hilarious senior women post water aerobics classes who would ask lots of questions about whatever book I was reading. I’ll miss them a lot.

-You shouldn’t put off a trip to Deedee’s ice cream, even in the winter.

-The Bike & Bean is very much worth biking to.

-Actually go to the Dingle. I know you went when you were 5, but now you’re tall enough to actually see the view, so go again.

-For two summers in a row I’ve brought picnics to youth baseball games with friends. The Robert Lenihan Memorial Ballpark in Bedford offers the most wonderful sunset, but it gets cold fast, so pack a blanket, even in the middle of August.

-There is a commuter bus to Lawrencetown that I wish would run on weekends in the summer. The area is home to my favourite beaches and the Salt Marsh Trail, but also offers brunch (the charming and tasty Rose & Rooster) and remarkable vintage clothing and housewares (Fancy Lucky & Midcentury Mania.) You couldn’t ask for a better Saturday.

-Everyone knows Stillwell is The Place to get beer, but you probably don’t know how frequently they change the taps, so go regularly.

-Speaking of beer, I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite, but I’m always excited to see Tatabrew at Rockhead, Big Spruce’s Kitchen Party is a hard to find treat, and Propeller is my safe bet available almost everywhere. Also, as someone who doesn’t get excited for flavoured beer, Propeller makes a surprisingly delicious pumpkin ale around Halloween. The trick is that it’s just pumpkin! No ‘spice.’

-Pure maple syrup makes you rethink how you use maple syrup. Their sampler pack is a delicious combination of syrups perfect for chicken, stirfries, salmon, ice cream, and yes, pancakes.

-On the way to Queensland Beach is a series of delightful antique stores. The most diverse offerings come from Rural Roots, which is cluttered and well curated at the same time. You will recognize it by the bicycle sign. A few minutes past this is the ‘church of pyrex’, a store whose name I don’t know that sells a huge selection of vintage cookware located in a tiny one room former church.

-On the way to Peggy’s Cove is the largest hammock in Canada, and sitting in this hammock is a better vacation picture than anything you will take at Peggy’s Cove. (Just kidding, Peggy’s Cove is beautiful, keep off the black rocks you idiots.)

-If you are a student, there is something interesting happening at your campus’ art gallery, and you should go.

-Have I mentioned the library? (First priority: get a Herring Cove Fog at Pavia. Second: check out the excellent selection of cookbooks.)

Outside of Halifax

Martinique Beach / Lunenburg / Blue Rocks

-Lunenburg is lauded for its charm, with excellent hipster staples like Dots & Loops and The Lunenburg Makery. Often overlooked is Blue Rocks, which is a mere 5-minute drive outside the town proper. You’ll drive up some roads that look like drive ways but the ocean views will be worth it. While you’re on the South Shore, the LaHave Bakery is a place that can only be properly described as magic.

-Many people think of White Point when they think of Liverpool, but Lane’s Inn is well worth a night. The property is stunning and it’s only a quick walk to a small but good outdoor farmer’s market, a retro bowling alley, and Hell Bay Brewing.

-Even if you don’t think you’re interested in the historic aspects, you are, and Grand Pre is so worth a visit. The property is completely stunning and the recently updated museum is kid friendly, engaging, and interesting. You can grab delicious noodles from the Wolfville Farmer’s Market on the way there.

-Dempsey Corner Cherry Orchard is a cherry and berry U-Pick with tiny baby chickens and dogs running around. Truly all ages, there is a playground and petting zoo for hyper children and the orchard is big enough for adults to walk around stress free. There are few things more satisfying than climbing up a ladder and seeing stone fruit bearing trees for as far as you can look.

-Masstown Market is infamous, but many are unaware of the look off at the top of the lighthouse that is especially majestic in the fall. One of my oldest friends has a cottage in Economy that I’ve been trying to make it back to since I last visited. Anything near the Bay of Fundy will be worth going to.

-Antigonish is home to my second favourite public library in the province. The impressive buildings at St FX are also well worth a wander.

-Although I spend a considerable amount of time in Cape Breton, most of it is with family. Every single guide book will tell you to do the Cabot Trail, and they’re not wrong, but my favourite drive is through Isle Madame. If you pass the co-op, get a cinnamon bun. A close second to Isle Madame is the Ceilidh Trail, which can be taken to Inverness, whose recently updated golf course hotel is on a really lovely rock and sand beach and is not a far wander from the delicious Downstreet Coffee Company.

-If you unabashedly use the expression ‘watch the leaves turn’ (I do) and are willing to go somewhere to do it (I am), the Eastern Shore is your best bet. Yes, there is really a town called Mushaboom, and perhaps family from there makes me biased, but it’s only a 10 minute drive from the spectacular Taylor Head Provincial Park, so why not throw on some Feist and drive through.


Somewhere near the Eastern Shore / Mahone Bay / Inverness Beach / Port Hawkesbury

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Farewell to Nova Scotia

Halifax, I tried.

I am very excited to pack up my little family and head to Toronto in January to work an amazing, amazing contract. It’s a great gig in a great city that will help me decide what comes next.

Halifax, I tried.

This city has been my life and I have poured myself into it.

This is the city where my entire body grew in and outside of my mother, but never very tall, the city where I skinned my knees and biked around nowhere in the fourth grade just because, the city where my best friend and I built forts in forests so thick they might still exist somewhere, the city where I’ve buried time capsules, the city where I felt worthless, the city where I learned I was worth something, the city where I fell in love, the city where I first cried.

This is the city where I co-chaired then chaired the Active Transportation Advisory Committee, the city whose food feels like a full body experience, the city where I went to school, the city where I gained skills outside the classroom, the city where I got my first job, then my second, then another… where I spent that money in local shops, the city that I was always happy to come back to, the city where I started my little family, the city where I met amazing people who did amazing things, the city where I poured countless hours a week into volunteering for people and things who could help me stay in this city, the city that helped me bring visions to life, the city that has helped me so much, the city that I helped whenever I could.

I fought really hard for what we needed to stay in Halifax. I saved my money, I got the best job I could, I worked a second in my spare time. I started interviewing for the next contract before the current one ended. I cobbled together a happy life here that is great, but entirely unsustainable if I ever want my little family to be any bigger. If you’re doing okay in Halifax, you can have the best brunch you’ll ever taste every weekend but you can’t have a baby.

I worked a very short contract in Toronto this past fall. My first weekend, I walked across the entire city, as my step counter can quantify. I got bagels, I got dumplings, I saw friends, and at 7 in the evening, just as I was about to go home, I took the bus to High Park to see the sunset, because I had a transit pass, and I saw the bus coming, and the bus said High Park, and I knew that another bus home would just show up.

In Halifax, there is so much greatness but also so much to consider for every single action. 25 years in this city have made me an exceptional planner, mastering a transit system that is neither consistent nor logical, preparing for work that won’t last, finding new best friends every year because no one stays. In Halifax it's hard to be present; if you're not thinking ahead it's your fault for not being prepared.

Halifax, it is breaking my heart and my identity to leave. I know what happens when people leave. I know we turn against them, we say it was their problem, not ours, we pretend they just had to try harder. I’m not saying that if situations change I won’t be back, I’m just saying it’s looking harder than it makes sense for me to admit to myself. I took my love for this city and made it a series of verbs that I practiced every day to try to stay here.

Halifax, I am your latest unlovable, ungrateful daughter, but don’t you say I never tried.


Here is my personal check-list of things that Halifax needs to consider to retain youth.
I have worked hard on all of these issues. Perhaps you can take up the fight. Perhaps someone might read this and think this makes sense now that I’ve left.

-Transit. Every other bus trip makes you feel like you would be better sawing off a arm with a spoon. The transit system here is so bad for a city of it’s size it almost feels like an insult. Recently, my partner and I decided to try to buy a tablet as a present for his grandfather. Halifax has gutted its downtown to the benefit of large business parks, so we tried to take a bus to said large business park one Friday evening. Three busses, all headed in the same direction all came within the same 2 minutes. The next ones came in 30 to 40 minutes.

We did not buy the tablet that night.

-The cost of rent. I know, I know, I’m moving to Toronto, how dare I complain about rent? Unfortunately, with the transit system being so bad in Halifax it really limits where youth are able to live without a car, making the cost of rent on the peninsula and now even downtown Dartmouth completely out of whack with the available salaries here. We could move further out of the city but car payments and gas gobble up any savings. Youth can't afford the home boomers want to retire out of when rent for a one bedroom apartment can easily eat up half of your income.

-The insistence that entrepreneurship is the answer to everything. Lots of entrepreneurs are strong, smart people with lots of grit that can drastically improve the economy, but being repeatedly told that this is the answer for youth with sky rocketing debt is a slap in the face. You can’t pay student loans with hustle alone. This is often a solution tossed out in a talk with very little tangible support, just a little suggestion to imply that we're just not working hard enough. I admire the amazing entrepreneurs in this province. You have worked so hard to make Nova Scotia amazing, sometimes against very difficult circumstances. Entrepreneurship is wonderful.

But if an upper middle class white person with a pension never says the word hustle again it will be too soon.

-The idea that every time someone does something different it’s an affront to others instead of a lifestyle that works for them. This one is a little harder to explain, but I think it resonates well. If you bike as a hobby, that’s great, that’s a hobby. If you bike in the city to get from A to B, it means you might use a bike lane, which might lead to more bike lanes. And that is deeply political. So fuck you. There is a very deep-rooted fear of the other here. Sometimes it manifests itself against a method of transportation, and sometimes it’s against entire races and cultures of people. I do believe in Maritime hospitality, but frequently we love the person and fear the idea. We lose so much in not realizing that ideas are what make communities great.

-Speaking of political, I hesitate to pin all of the problems of an economically depressed region on one particular government, so I won’t, because I would be wrong, but I will say this: damn this provincial government is terrible. It’s not scrapping the graduate retention rebate and not reinvesting a comparable figure in youth, it’s not the tuition reset that make education even less affordable, it’s not the arbitrary axing of credits that drive my friends out of province… it’s all of those things and more. I don’t think the government actively hates youth, I just think they don’t care about us very much, but both net the same results.

I am the kind of person who believes in the importance of government and respect the people who put themselves forward to be part of it, but I have so many angry qyestions. Why are you picking a fight with my healthcare worker mother? My best friend who is a teacher? My drinking buddies who all work in the film industry? That random person out there who just wants to cross the street? And they’re not logical fights, they’re not fights that seem all that well thought out, and the recent budget forecasts suggests they’re not effective either. I can’t settle down in a place where the direction of the government feels like a drunk person waving a knife around, but with my new salary I can donate some money to people I think will make competent politicians so that I might one day be able to return.

-No Bruce Springsteen. I have spent 25 years in Halifax and have yet to meet Bruce Springsteen. It’s time to move.

Every city has its problems and I believe many have issues that are similar to Halifax’s. My problems with the city are an inevitable part of loving a place so much and being so excited to meet a new place while wanting so badly to stay.

Here are some things I will miss:
  • The close knit community. So many people. So, so, so many people have made this home feel even homier, and plenty of them weren't even 'from' here. 
  • Our amazing apartment.
  • Getting a lemon square from Jane’s and a London fog at the new library and looking off into the water.
  • My family.
  • The beer. It is truly the best beer. Fight me, Ontario.
  • My current sense of identity.
  • Probably you. 

Before I leave the city, I will share a very, very detailed list of my favourite places and things to do (beyond just the new library, I promise.) (But it will be on the list.)

Halifax, I love you. I’ll be back for more than a visit one day, I hope. Halifax, I'm sorry and I understand if you don't like me, and if you'll never treat me the same way again, because I'm one of those who left. 

Halifax, I love you. I promise I tried.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

On Small Changes

Something that's struck me a lot, especially since living in Toronto is how frequently we mistake progressivism for some sort of brand to be consumed instead of a movement dedicated to tackling hard changes to save the planet and make humans more equal. When Conservatives decry the latte sipping elite it's a facile stereotype but they're not wrong: social justice is not about what kind of coffee you can afford to drink, even if it treats its workers better. 

This is not to say that you shouldn't drink coffee that treats its workers well! This is good. This is important. But this is the one of the smallest parts of a social contract that needs to change. Businesses that exist in this type of economy need a competitive edge to justify their cost & continue their existence so they amplify their social good as a form of marketing to make you feel like this small choice is what you needed to to do end inequality, save the planet, justify your spending 3$ when there's cheaper coffee elsewhere. And if you spend that 2-3$ at a locally owned business that treats its workers well, that's even better. 

But that's still not social justice.

I use coffee as a relatable example but it's not the only product to feel skeptical about. If you own a really nice bicycle and bike to work, it's awesome that you're not in a car! You're saving gas, you're saving the planet! I mean, kind of, but not really until enough people are also able to bike. With housing costs increasing so dramatically and people getting pushed further and further from cores of neighbourhoods the bicycle is not practical for people living in poverty the way it is in many other countries. But biking is still great!

I don't bring this up because I want us all to feel crappy & hopeless, but I want to illustrate that we need to undo the idea that it just takes one small stand to change the world. This is not to tell you not to take small stands. This is to say right now we are at a crux where we need to take much bigger stands: social justice takes work. And I'm not saying you're not doing that work in addition to these small choices, but I do worry about how satisfied businesses are making us feel by making only small choices. 

Over and over I see workout plans and juice with vegetables being described as some kind of movement. I see capsule wardrobes and apps that let you boss people around for much less money and "the sharing economy" that involves little sharing as some kind of beacon of progressivism because we made they small choices! We're life hacking society!

But for who?

Movements mean moving people out of poverty, not into it with the expectation of precarious labor so we can have cheaper rides around. Movements are not a groundswell of cute tiny condos that are 'efficient' but still priced too high for a family living in poverty, or hell, even families. Movements are not the coffee you drink. Movements mean moving. 

This doesn't mean I'm saying what you're doing, what I do, is bad. We have this obsession with good and bad, that there's a box we should be able to put each decision in to feel good about ourselves. But that's the problem, it's not about feeling good about ourselves, it's about making major structural changes to acknowledge that we live in a world where the illusion that we're nice to a huge group of people we call minorities is taking precedent over structural inequality that has existed for decades and decades and we're calling our society less racist, as if the water on reserves improves or carding decreases with white people smiles. Where buying organic food is that little thing you do instead of asking why it's so hard to get any groceries at all in some neighbourhoods. Where some stupid spin class (I love spin classes) is some kind of movement. 

It's okay to do things because you like them but don't kid yourself that these small choices make enough of a structural change to ignore that social justice takes a lot of work, and some of it is easier, and some of it is harder, but if it's done it will benefit all of us. 

Voting tomorrow is the easiest thing you can do. (Unless you live in a place that it has strategically been made harder, i.e.: you live on a reserve, you are homeless, etc.) All of these campaigns have been made to make you feel like voting is a big important task, and yet there is literally nothing easier. You are asked to take a lead writing device and MAKE A MARK ON A PAPER for who you LIKE MOST after showing people some ID. Unless you're in a marginalized community, that is really, really easy and I'm not going to patronize you and tell you you're making the difference by doing it.

What's hard is making the decision, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make it. Copping out is easy. You're not communicating some grander narrative by rejecting everyone. Not voting because you're too so fashionably disengaged is the dumbest 'movement' I've ever seen. Because you can't tell me social programs don't make a difference in people's lives when they've changed mine. You can't tell me funding for healthcare isn't important when it's saved people I love. You can't tell me even seemingly small differences won't make a change, because that's the thing: the biggest differences frequently start with the smallest change, but the biggest choices.

I voted for Megan Leslie because I believe in Megan Leslie's choices. I know what pharmacare will do for people I love. I know what universal childcare will do for people I don't know.   I know what protecting the environment will do for people I'll never know. I did not vote for the Conservatives because I don't believe people are struggling because they're not working hard enough. I did not vote Liberal because they are campaigning against social programs in the guise of progressiveness to make up for the fact that they didn't delivered on their promises for them while in government. I did not vote Green because without proportional representation (promised by the NDP) little change can be made. These are my opinions and these are why. This is the decision I think about a lot, and this is the big choice small change big different I see in my community every time I see Megan yes biking but also championing affordable housing initiatives, every time I see Megan shopping local but also working on poverty reduction strategies. But this is not about Megan.

This is about asking you to demand a movement greater than consumption. I don't care if you take a selfie at the voting booth, there's nothing wrong with that, but these decisions make the core of our country, not some addition to a personal brand. People tell you to vote because it's important, but the X on the paper isn't important, the thought you put into that decision is. 

It's such a farce that so many corporations have co-opted the language of activism to make you think that small, consumption based changes make a big difference but big changes like voting are just lost in the system, as if democracy is actually achieved by picking the next flavor for whatever. We let the word community apply to what we do with our time instead of our neighbors. We all think we're smarter than marketing, but we keep building unaffordable condos instead of parks and feeling good about them because the design is nice & they're eco friendly! 

Parks are also very good for the environment. 

Tomorrow you can make a small action and a big choice, but in the scheme of your life it won't define you. Make the choice that will make it possible for other people to make big choices. 

And then enjoy some coffee that treats its workers well.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

These Best Adventures: Summer Podcast List 2015


"Before everything, before even humans, there were stories. 

A creature, at a fire, conjuring a world with nothing but its voice and the listener's imagination. And now me, and thousands like me, in little booths and rooms at mics and screens all over the world doing the same for a family of listeners connected as all families are, primarily by the stories we tell each other. And after, after fire, and death or whatever happens next, after the wiping clean or the gradual decay... After the after, when there are only a few creatures left...

There will be one. At a fire. Telling a story to what family it has left.
It was the first thing and it will be the last.
Stay tuned next for more stories being told to you aaaaalll of the time whether you are away of them or not.
& from whatever fiction it is that we happen to be living together tonight:
Good night, Night Vale, good night."

-Welcome to Night Vale


Nothing calls my soul higher than an exceptional piece of radio. This nerdery is more and more open ever since Serial broke the internet in a way Kim Kardashian's (gorgeous) bum never could and I see more and more podcasts getting the cred they deserve, which is beautiful. But that being said, all of the top ten lists I see are always the same ones, over and over, and honestly I don't love most of them.

There are very few shows that I like that are two people blabbing about one of their lives. Interviews are fine, but also... confining. I am aware that I am sitting at my desk or on my run or cutting vegetables or trying to fall asleep at night as people who are cooler than me talk about how much cooler than me they are in a series of semi inspirational quotes that frequently sounds like a pinterest board given a voice.

I love stories.

Hearing other people's stories is the fastest way for me to travel, the only chance I get to escape my life most days. I love learning through what other people have learned. I love ideas that are shown through a collage of human voices. Fiction is great, but that's not quite what I'm talking about. I love hearing about lives that give each other context, that help me see a bigger picture in the world.

I love road trips.

I love pulling over because I need a sunflower, I love my linen shirt sticking to the back of a leather seat. I need to stop at the very old bowling alley on the way, and I will go kayaking even if we reach our final destination a little too late. I love the thin red stripes on the boxes all fries seem to come in, the pulpy green cartons that hold roadside raspberries. I love the #AllisonSparlingLemonSquareTourOfTheWorld hashtag, which is a thing. I love the freedom of following through on whims.

So you've heard a lot about how great podcasts are, how cool, how hip, the skinny jean wearing cousin of your concept of public radio. Here are some ones you can download that give you a taste of what the shows themselves promise. And then when you arrive wherever you arrive you can download every single episodes of your favourites.

Here are the pieces that I like most, the ones you probably haven't heard of already. The samplings of them I picked are about adventures physical and emotional. This is my attempt to try to celebrate the beautiful & the badass.

I hope these stories are great friends to you. Have a great summer.

Bayard Rustin: Who is this man? by State of the Re:Union

"Bayard Rustin was a man with a number of seemingly incompatible labels: black, gay, Quaker . . . identifications that served to earn him as many detractors as admirers. Although he had numerous passions and pursuits, his most transformative act, one that certainly changed the course of American history, was to counsel MLK on the use of non-violent resistance."

Al Letson's voice ties up the most phenomenal tribute to a man who deserves to be heralded beside Martin and Malcom. State of the Re:Union usually visits geographic areas, but this broader concept of community is one of it's greatest.

400,000 Stars by the Memory Palace

"These women ordered the heavens without ever having to look up."

If you're ever having trouble seeing the magic in math, listen to how what we know about the world was discovered by some truly badass mop wielding women. Play this around a little girl you love a lot.

Riss Park by The Heart

"In the summer of 1960, Joan Nestle was 20-years-old and in love. At the time, she lived in a Lower East Side tenement. The city was hot, sweaty and humid. Joan and her girlfriend Carol would ride the subway for an hour-and-a-half to Riis Park. Riis Park was, and still is, an easily accessible queer beach in New York City."

Young love in a time that's sweet & scary.

Mystery Man by Snap Judgement

You thought Serial was good? Listen to this story about a guy who discovers who his father actually was... maybe.

Fried Chicken: A Complicated Comfort Food by Gravy

"Fried chicken has both been the vehicle for the economic empowerment of a whole group of people—and the accessory to an ugly racial stereotype. How can something so delicious be both?"

Food politics peppered (HAHA GET IT?) with the stories of some truly inspiring female entrepreneurs.

What do Txts do to Actual Writing? by Note to Self

"In answer to the question of whether the digital age has changed her process, novelist Margaret Atwood simply said, “Do chickens have beaks?”

But there's plenty of (metaphorical) ink to be spilled on the subject of why writing has changed. To answer this question, we've decided to talk to a guy who wrote a pretty big deal book on the subject."

Manoush Zomorodi is the friend you wish you had.

The Compton's Cafeteria Riot: It was so more than Stonewall
Sylvia Rivera: Uncompromising Trans rights activist
Maria Tallchief: First grand ballerina of the United States

all by Stuff You Missed in History Class. I could listen to these charming ladies talk about absolutely anything, and the amount of effort they put into researching each episode really comes through in the careful way they explain even the words they use and their historic context.

Hark! Kate Beaton by Canadaland

Cartoonist Kate Beaton is an exemplary weirdo. Her webcomic about Canadian historical figures and literary ephemera has gained a global following of one million monthly readers. She has published an acclaimed book and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, but she still is largely a self-published online creator. Jesse tries to learn her secrets.

I don't love a lot of Canadian media circle jerks. I expletive-ing love Kate Beaton.

Case #2: Britney by Mystery Show

"Andrea's a writer no one reads. Then she makes a shocking discovery."

I never thought an episode centered around tracking Britney Spears would make me feel like my heart was smiling.

Dinner at the Afterglow by Lore

"Deep in the forest at the northern tip of a small island near Vancouver Island, there is a stone monument standing amidst the trees. How that structure came to be, and what it meant to those who built it, are both interesting stories. But it's the unofficial reports — the sightings and experiences of those who visit it — that truly deserve to be told."

Some Summer Stories by Home of the Brave

"These stories from the Home of the Brave archive have nothing in common, really, except they remind me of summer."

Well Scott, that's great. I also love his recording of Bernie Sanders.

The Friendliest Town in Texas by Here Be Monsters

"Shoppingspree Clark showed up on the side of the road outside the “Friendliest Town in Texas” with nothing more than a sketchpad and the burnt-out ruin of the RV he’d just bought.

Coleman, Texas’ self-claimed title is true because it used to be on a billboard above the highway. And the people that live there are diverse, troubled, religious, unusual…and friendly."

I've closed this off with what might be the boldest attempted road trip of all time. Here's to you, Shoppingspree Clark.

If you are looking for a roadtrip to enjoy these on, my friend Gillian of The Local Traveler has some great suggestions for 10 day trips within two hours of Halifax.

Friday, March 27, 2015

We Shall Never Rebuild Halifax Unless Everybody Shovels

I’m sorry.

I cannot make Halifax weather suck less, but we can all make Halifax as a city way better. Inspired by a combination of Waye Mason & @ProSkates, let’s clear our side streets and support our main streets, and I’d like to give you the opportunity to win an awesome date / hangout / huge meal all your at some awesome local restaurants for doing so.

Here’s what you can win:

  • 25$ to The Red Stag Tavern! Excellent pub classics with a bunch of twists to make it unique. Also, on a personal note, a great place to watch college sports if you don’t have cable. Enough money for you to have food and a beer or beer and a food.
  • 50$ to Agricola Street Brasserie! Perfect for a romantic date with your significant other or a romantic date with yourself. Make sure you get the jojos even if you have no idea what they are, and the Agricola 75 is my JAM.

For such amazing prizes I bet you think you’re going to need to single-handedly melt all the snow in HRM, right? Well, if you can do that I will give you that and my next pay cheque and my eternal adoration. BUT if no one does, you can be entered into the draw just by:

  • Shovelling part of a street! Take a picture of your handiworks and tag it #ShovelSelfieHfx and get 2 entries and eternal love from pedestrians. Extra love to those helping neighbours or schools.
  • Attending local events: Go to a concert, school fundraiser, play or other community event. Tell us which one and how much fun it was by tagging it #ShovelSelfieHfx for 2 entries.
  • Supporting a local business: Tell us where you went and what you got and tag it #ShovelSelfieHfx for 1 entry. Also tag the business and let them know you love them.

And because there’s seemingly limitless snow, the number of entries (for new snow clearing / events / purchases) are limitless to.

I will use an internet generated name picker. This contest is limited to public twitter & instagram accounts because it’s easier to track.

The contest starts now! It ends on Thursday, April 2nd, at 5 pm so you can use your winnings next weekend.

Many people rely on active transportation such as cycling or walking to get where they need to go. It’s important to encourage this to be proactive about healthcare in our province. I feel I need to indicate that the city really screwed up here. Their reaction to the most recent storm seems to have been as good as it possibly can be, but the last 3 months of miserable sidewalks where people can barely leave their house has been embarrassing. This winter was full of abnormal weather, but not so abnormal that it couldn’t have been managed better.  We need political action to ensure that this does not happen next year, but right now we just need to make it through this season. It’s important to note that these are my personal views, and not the views of any other people / businesses, but I want to highlight that this is a stop gap, not a solution.

Okay! So now you want the sweet, sweet gift certificate and you know how to get it. Good #ShovelSelfieHfx-ing and...

Happy Spring!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A list of some of the men who hate women

There are many important points to take away from the extremely misogynistic comments made by some Dalhousie Dentistry students. Having worked on sexual assault prevention campaigns has exposed me to some interesting misconceptions some people have in defining modern sexism. During the rape chants I heard a lot of people dismiss it as the work of 'dumb jocks', as if bigotry is the culture of one socioeconomic class, one lane, one calling, one talent. 


There isn't one kind of man who hates a woman. 

Men who are dentists hate women. Men who are sensitive poet types hate women. Men who are brothers and fathers hate women. Men who 'respect' women but make the 'joke' anyways hate women. Men who are teachers, lawyers, and lovers hate women. Rich men hate women, poor men hate women. White men hate women. So do men of other races. Christian men hate women. So do men of other religions, men of no religion.  

Men who say they don't hate women hate women. Men who only hate Trans women hate women. Men who think they don't hate women hate women. Some women don't understand the ways they are trained to hate women. 

And if you are one of "not all men!", I don't care. You not teasing me, harassing me, assaulting me has never stopped the ones that did. Show me how you will stop the ones that do: stand up. Don't tolerate the joke. 

Learn more about how to unlearn hatred of all women at the White Ribbon project.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A list of times I cried at the new library on its opening day:

  1.  When a woman dressed up as a movie princess was reading with three little girls also dressed up as princesses. I saw children excited to see the characters from screens read books to them and realize how special it is to let your imagination fill in the blanks, and I cried.
  2. When I was standing in a room watching 3D printer demo surrounded by little boys of girls who thought it was SO COOL. I heard four different languages being spoken (English, French, Arabic, and possibly German? I couldn’t identify the last ones.) I realized how multicultural Halifax is, and how even though we still have lots of deeply ingrained bigotry, we unconsciously fight to celebrate our differences when we share in a remarkable common experience each in our own way, and I cried.

  3. When I saw my younger kind of cousin and her feminist punk band bussed in from the suburbs to check out the new recording studio with plans to create their first album. I didn’t cry, because crying isn’t punk.
  4. When I sat down in a black leather chair in on the very top floor, which felt like a very glamorous spaceship, looking out the window, and stuck my book plate dedicated to my grandmother into Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, thinking of the traditions I created with her when we read together. Then I thought of all of the traditions that the families who read this book would already have, and would go on to create, as they created their own stories around this story. I pulled my sticker off my backing, I admired the pattern of the book lining, I thought of the woman who made me appreciate everything in my hands and everything around me, and I cried.

I had seen the building before. It was remarkable, it was special, it was exciting. But what makes the Halifax Central Library important are the people in it; climbing the infamous stairs, sitting in the modernist pods, dancing in groups at the video game stations, watching authors give presentations in the prayer circle, gasping at the view on the roof. Thank you for being my neighbours in the shelves. Thank you for bringing this magical space alive. I hope I see you all there again soon.

Thank you for the library staff who made the first day so magical. You can support Halifax's beautiful shared space and make a meaningful contribution by buying a bookplate for 25$. (What an amazing Christmas gift!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"No time for books! We're at the library!"

I am at a loss for words.

Earlier this year I lost my home away from home. Katherine had brought her instax camera and took a picture of me, standing in the familiar stacks of the building I knew would be torn down and then we heard the message. The final message. Not a five minute warning. Just a warm, oddly welcoming goodbye that ended with "the library is closed."

Katherine caught a picture of the exact instant I started to cry.

I shared my stories with a stranger that day. I wrote them down on a card and told the building what it meant to me: freedom from my parents, the suburbs, the 'authority', and the start of my downtown adventures.

I heard back from that stranger this week, and she invited me to come see the new library, which will open December 13th.

Here is what this library is: open, beautiful, stark, homey, accessible, classic, friendly, warm, modern, innovative, classic, completely different while maintaining what is important about a library, accessible, eco friendly, and truly world class. A recording studio. A theatre, An auditorium. A lecture hall. A sound production studio. A play place. A kitchen. A place with lots of privacy. A place with lots of open space. A rooftop patio. A puppet place. A place for children. A place for seniors. A place for everyone. A home away from home.

A lot of people, myself included, like getting lost in old libraries and finding all of the hidden nooks and spaces. You cannot do that in this library, and that is a good thing. Secrets mean inaccessibility. But the lack of "lost" does not mean a lack of nooks; children can play and scream and not be heard from another pod despite all of the beautiful wide open space that lets in the light. There is always a new place to wander, something new to discover, even if you can always see all of it. It's special like that.

I ran through the halls, savouring every minute in this building that was too beautiful to comprehend. I had been consistently positive but secretly a little skeptical about some of the designs but they all came together perfectly, ever floor bringing a new gasp. And I mean that I ran. I ran up and down stairs and touched all the tiny details that made this building so special. A librarian, clad in a wonderfully stereotypical smart wool sweater, caught me panting and grinned. "You look... so happy."

I kept getting sidetracked by all of the amazing books I wanted to pick up, but I reminded myself that this time, this time only, that wasn't what I was there for.

I took well over 100 pictures. None of these will do the space justice, but hopefully these will excite you just enough that we will bump into each other at the opening.

Donate now to get your own customizable book plate! I got one in honour of my grandmother and will place it in a Roald Dahl book. What a perfect Christmas gift!