An American in Canada: Heart in Halifax!

[In an attempt to expand his insular perspective, Rendar Frankenstein became An American in Canada! Join Rendar as he tells of the wonders encountered while traveling through North America’s most jovial nation. It’s one-third travel guide and three-fourths misguided interpretation!]

For those of you with a shaky understanding of Canada’s geography, Yarmouth is on the very tip of the Nova Scotian peninsula. Consequently, getting there from Boston by car means driving through Maine and New Brunswick, and then traversing the entire province of Nova Scotia. Not wanting to push my luck, I decided I’d stop for the night and pick up the journey the next day.

Thus, this episode is archived under the title Mr. Frankenstein Goes to Halifax!

Before I hop into my adventures, here’re some key HaliFacts! Once just a mere city, Halifax is a regional municipality with the honor of being Nova Scotia’s capital. It’s known as being one of the cultural centers of Canada’s Atlantic provinces, and it has the highest population east of Quebec City. Also, modern day superstars Ellen Page and Sidney Crosby hail from Halifax.

Full disclosure: I didn’t spend more than five waking hours in Halifax, and some of that time was dedicated to the run-of-the-mill hotel procedures (finding the joint, checking-in, checking-out, debating whether or not to crack open the mini-bar). As such, I can hardly claim to have had anything other than a cursory glance at Halifax. With that being said, that glance was enough to warm my heart.

After checking into the hotel, I hit the streets for a stroll. While walking around, I was particularly impressed by two different qualities. First, in a relatively small space, there’s a butt-ton of stuff to do. There’re restaurants and bars and a big-ass hill and an event center and probably a bunch of other things I didn’t get to see. My second heaping of praise is awarded for the overall cleanliness. Nowhere to be found was the urban debris that decorates far too many cities.

The tagline I’m going to submit to Halifax’s tourism bureau: There’s stuff to do and it isn’t trashy!

Anyways, my leisurely stroll saw me heading to the waterfront. I don’t know if there was an event going on, but there were tons of boats just chillin’. I’m going to assume that Halifax (like all of Nova Scotia) is down with the nautical vibe, because I found a playground designed to look like an orange submarine. Mariner dopeness!

As I walked by the playground, I overheard the following conversation between a father and his two young sons:

Older Son: What’s a beaver tail?
Father: It’s a treat, really delicious. C’mon, we’ll go get one.
Younger Son: I want my own beaver tail! Can I have my own!
Father: We’ll all get our own!

Only in Canada.

As I started trekking back towards my hotel, my beer-lovin’ eyes were drawn to a sign advertising “60 BEERS ON TAP!” Caught in a tractor-beam, I was led to The Maxwell’s Plum, a homey pub with a solid crowd and a good vibe. Travelin’ solo, I snagged myself a spot at the bar, perused the extensive beer list, and ordered a St. Ambroise Cream Ale. I was expecting a pint, but the bartender brought me a small pitcher.

That’s when I knew I chose the right spot.

I wasn’t too deep into my mini-pitcher that I was invited to join the party of three to my right. This trio consisted of Darren and Deena, not only an alliteration but also a Canadian couple in their mid-thirties, and Bob, a weatherbeaten Englishman who was in town to work the docks in Halifax. Although I can be a pretty reserved guy, I was won over by the affability being directed at me.

We drank and laughed and shared stories with one another. Deena and Darren told of their frequent relocations, the regular upheaving of their lives for the sake of job opportunities. Deena lamented the fact that her company made her an offer she couldn’t refuse, the promise of a huge promotion at the price of abandoning friends and loved ones in Calgary. Darren, on the other hand, was far less ambivalent, having no qualms about expressing his disdain for the work he does as a mechanic.

And despite these workplace-woes, they kept falling into one another’s arms and proclaiming that they’d never been happier.

Further down the bar, Bob served as a walking reminder that the United Kingdom is the responsible for birthing legends like Black Sabbath, Warren Ellis, and Bruce Dickinson. In his blue jeans and work boots,  Bob revealed himself to be a workingman’s hero, throwing back pints and crackin’ jokes and singin’ louder than anyone else in the bar. But in the lulls between the roars, this British lion wistfully told us of his desire to return to England, as he deeply missed his sons.

Our spirits strained when he took out a photo of his youngest son and told us that he was missing boy’s prom that very nite.

Looking around, I saw crimson puddles dripping from everyone else’s cufflinks. Not wanting to be the American outsider, I decided to join them, ripping out my own heart and skewering on my sleeve. Hoping to live up to the unabashed courage shown by Deena, Darren, and Bob, I told them about my aspirations of being a professional writer. I explained that I’m a hack and I’m crude and I ignore laws of syntax, and even though my writing isn’t fine art I’d like to see how far I can take it.

And to that, we drank.

Maybe it was the buzz I’d worked up, but this was one of those moments in life when faith could be put into humanity without hesitation. Complete strangers, communing with one another, sharing joys, fears, loves and hopes, extending offers of genuine kinship, even if ephemeral.

Drunk in Halifax, I was reminded that there is incredible goodness in humanity.