pulling into halifax, the first impression was not what everyone told me it’d seem like. then again ‘everyone’ really was a very skewed sample – namely, the bostonians, who assured me that halifax was going to be ‘a canadian version of boston’. well, the way you enter halifax when you’re on the train, you run along the shoreline all the time. through truro you marvel at the number of streams and gullies, the stubborn melting ice and the bubbling snowmelt washed in all directions; sometimes you see reaches of fens and marsh, and, if you’re like me and unfamiliar with such terrain, you draw a blank. but then it all opens up and you see the container ports, and my first response is, hey, that’s a kind of singapore.
of course, that response has to be biased. but my first impression of halifax is patently not boston. it is much closer to anchorage in terms of character. a few steps out of the train station, poring over a map and wondering if i should first make a beeline for my airbnb place, a couple greet me. ‘are you lost?’ clearly i was exuding that clueless aura that i try my best not to in absolutely foreign cities – but then again i think halifax struck me – and still does – as a place where one doesn’t need to be on tenterhooks all the time. it certainly helps that it’s easily navigable, and that by that time i had figured that all i really wanted was a good meal. so i said no, thanked them, and headed off in the direction of downtown.
now, i think i’ve been to far more bars than the average singaporean; at least, in terms of variety and location. a two hour layover is well enough time for me to toddle out of a station and find the nearest watering hole. but this one i randomly entered still caught me off guard. i should have known, really, that halifax has a large scottish population, but a scottish bartender heartily greeting a singaporean is the last thing a singaporean can handle without some kind of mental preparation. even more so when what seems like a normal liquor shelf behind the bartender turns out to be an awe-inducing rack of whiskies, row upon row of rarities, each going at but CAD 6 or 7.50 a shot.
needless to say, i had a great time. the bartender – taylor, i believe – was skilled and knew his wares; i entirely believe him when he says that he bought 2000 dollars worth of whiskies when he returned to scotland last summer. as for the conversation, well, it was of the anchorage pedigree. in cambridge people talk about thesis and job applications; in boston people talk about themselves; in anchorage people just talk. here in the loose cannon, i suspect that most of the clientele are sikorsky affiliates or canadian navy. thus this tidbit of conversation from the two female canadian navy engineers beside me at the counter, ‘he was such a catholic… sex was complicated. he might have been a virgin.’ and then a man, ‘i’m gonna set sail for two weeks, probably. [in response to general congratulations] what’s so fun about that. i don’t envy myself at all. i can’t even drive a humvee on this ship, it’s that small.’ such conversation, really, is what bar conversation should be: a frank lack of fucks. and obviously it doesn’t exist where people by default care far too much about frivolities.
but that’s but half the story: headed out again because the bartender assures me that the only thing to halifax is nightlife. there’s martini mondays at the bitter end, followed by late night drinks at the halifax alehouse. here’s to having what already seems far too little time in this place.
[EDIT: Did not head out past one; liver and common sense won the day. I live to fight another morning.]