May 31

I had to get out of the house so when I heard about a concert featuring Brahms at Dalhousie University, I decided to go. I also decided to walk. I find living in a city with good public transportation novel, and I am trying to limit my use of the car. The concert was at 7 and I left around 5:30. Walking and leaving when I did were in hindsight both bad ideas. Another was my choice of footwear. That afternoon, I looked at what I thought was appropriate concert wear for the weather in my closet and decided I needed accessorizing. Went back to the marvellous Value Village and bought a yellow scarf to wear as a belt and a lavender girly purse. I wore my aurora borealis skirt, a black linen sleeveless blouse and a black cardigan (de rigure in NS changeable weather). My third mistake was my choice of footwear: I broke out my ‘dress Birkenstocks,’ rhinestone-studded thong sandals and headed out.

I had wanted to grab a bite to eat, too, but not knowing how far the theatre was, I kept walking. Halifax is a pretty cool little city, with lots of little ethnic restaurants and funky boutiques, all uphill. The hill that I kept walking up and up. I have been reading Halifax, Warden of the North, by Thomas Raddall, and he describes the question of where the fort and town should be situated. The army wanted it to be in Bedford Basin, the governor wanted Point Pleasant. The New England traders and fishers objected to both sites: Bedford Basin was eight miles from the harbour mouth and Point Pleasant too rocky for dockage. The governor compromised by picking a site two miles farther up the harbor, a  deep area screened from northwest winds “with the result that the inhabitants of Chebucto and their descendents were fated to cling to a slope as sparrows cling to the easterly pitch of a roof.”  By the time I got to the theatre, my feet hurt terribly. The skin between my first two toes were not used to the friction and every step uphill jammed my foot against the thong. I thought I should carry my little journal with me, since the girly purse held hardly anything. As I walked, a caught a glimpse of myself in a storefront window and thought I could pass for a Salvation Army lady with her bible and little girly purse! (Is this mistake number four?)

I passed a grand hotel, the Lord Nelson, a statue of Robert Burns, an old graveyard and a lovely public garden that I must check out one day when it is sunny. I passed a rehabilitation hospital and there was a woman, about my age in a wheelchair out front, smoking a cigarette. I wondered if she had been in a car accident. As I approached, we smiled at each other and she said “I just love that skirt that you are wearing!” I thanked her and we smiled again, each a little warmed by the moment, and I was glad I wore the skirt with the blazing colors.

When I (finally) got to the theatre, I bought the very last ticket. When I called earlier, the woman on the phone said there were plenty of seats. The woman selling tickets explained that there had been a huge rush for seats that just ended. She offered to sell her own ticket to the woman who entered just after me (she must have been the manager, then I thought, this being the situation any house manager loves: SRO.)

I went principally for the Brahms. Brahms has a way of bringing you to the depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy and then aurally smashing you into the rocks again that I like, especially in a chamber setting. This was no exception: opus 25 was lovely and everything it ought to be, but that was the second half. I was equally pleased with the first performances of the evening. Robert Uchida is fabulous, and Bach’s Sonata in G major was beautiful. I did grin inwardly between the movements when the audience sat perfectly silently, contrasting this with the ‘culture vultures’ at Tanglewood who applaud during each pause in the music. The Berio and Bartok were also masterful. I found the middle piece, by the McGill Percussion Ensemble, Percussion Sextet by Reich admirable for its precision and synchronization, but the timpani or vibraphone or xylophone or whatever it is isn’t my favorite instrument, and I was rather relieved when it was over. I demonstrate my ignorance of these instruments to underscore the fact that I am in no way qualified to be a music critic (but I know what I like!)

The walk home was kind of lonely. I wished I had someone to discuss the concert walking next to me. It was a beautiful night (and quieter than I expected for a city of 400k) and I ignored my aching feet to take a detour by the public gardens, rather than via the busier spring garden road (remember, I still looked like the church lady!) This is a good time to bring up how safe I felt walking alone at night in Halifax. I have a very keen ‘spidey sense’ that I keep on full alert, and I never felt any tingles.

Because I took a different way back to the pier, I wasn’t really sure where to go, but kept going downhill and saw the waterfront before long. My feet were glad to move from pavement to wooden pier. As I neared the ferry terminal, I passed a woman serenading the tall ships dockside with her trumpet. She clearly wasn’t busking, or she wouldn’t have been in such an empty area, but the acoustics were wonderful as the trumpet (or cornet) resounded back from the water and the ships. I tossed a coin into her case. I could tell by the sound it made that it was a toonie, but it was as satisfying in its own way as the concert was, and well worth the price.

At Alderney Landing, I paced back and forth on feet that felt like bloody stumps waiting for the bus for about 20 minutes. I kept looking across the street at an inviting little spot called Celtic Corner. When I saw the sign saying Strongbow Cider on tap, my mind was made up; Bus transfer be damned! I entered the bar and ordered a pint and a taxi. While I drank my pint down (it was a thirsty walk!) I made a friend. Counting the bartender, that makes five people I’ve met so far in Halifax. I suppose I could include the taxi driver as well. I realized during the ride that I might not have the fare, between tossing money to musicians, swilling cider and overtipping the bartender. He kindly stopped at gas station so Icoudl get more money. I gave him $5 ‘for security’ I said. What are you going to do, run back to Massachusetts, he laughed. Inside, I bought two Coffee Crisp bars and got cash back. When I got back to the cab I gave him another five and one of the candy bars. He laughed again, thanked me and bade me good night. When I got home, I put my feet up, ate the other candy bar and thought Halifax is pretty cool.

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