Sept 2: Glooscap and Rouge Ordinaire

Halifax to Saint John
Left home in the Tibetan manner – in my own time – about 10:30 am. Don’t seem to have forgotten anything. Made sure to say a loving goodbye to my son, Zeb, since I may be gone for two months.

“When will you be back?
Six weeks?”

“Well, about.”
“In October?”
“Yes” (sigh) Mid to late October.”

Really packed the car up, making a nest in the back seat – foam, Kagyü-red soft blanket, sleeping bag, pillow – for snooze breaks, when I hit those “sleep zones” on the road.

I’m now typing at the Colonial Inn in Saint John, NB. Looked it up in the CAA book while eating my tuna sandwich at a golf and country club at Magnetic Hill (which I didn’t see).

Dang hotel supposedly had wireless, so I could begin to blog. But they didn’t – “we’re having trouble with it. You can use that computer,” pointing to a kind of nice looking flat screen version across from the front desk. Um, no. I need to load software and use my own computer and I like using it in my room on my own terms. Gad.

They didn’t have the lounge or steak house advertised. Or rather they did, but they’d recently been closed down. Red velvet rope across the route downstairs. But they did seem to have a church going in one of the salons. I heard live music from my room and went to investigate, tried the door, but someone was sitting in a chair on the other side. Thought I’d interrupted a rehearsal of some kind (maybe for the lounge – before I knew it was closed). Nope. Turned out to be a church. Probably good I didn’t get in, though I suppose you never know who might proselytize whom.

Had a “special” ($11) of loin steak, baked potato, and corn. I asked for a salad to go with and about what kind of wine they had. The perky young waitress said, after a few second’s thought: “white or red.”
I said, “OK. How about some rouge ordinaire?” No response.
“de la maison?” No response, but looking a tad more earnest.
Decided not to be cruel. “Red will do.” Relief.

She did confess she’d only been working there two days. But this is Nouveau Brunswick, only province in Canada with two official languages. Must be a complete Anglophone. Ooops.

She’d shown me to her favorite table, in a kind of bower of plastic roses and potted plants that overlooked the interior garden courtyard, with an eeny fountain and a small light-brown, glazed dog looking inquisitively in the window from a bed of orange flowers. This part of the restaurant had a kind of paned greenhouse-looking kind of window that extended from about six feet of ceiling to the floor, so I could watch the clouds and sky slowly darken. The waitress told me this was her favorite spot, where she could sit and do her crossword puzzles during slow times, though she did say that she wasn’t really supposed to be sitting down at a table.

She finished taking my order and left for the cash register. I started to read my book “Day Watch” about Russian vampires and “Others,” but had to hop up and run over to make sure my steak would be rare, but not raw (nor well done). “Oh, right, I forgot to ask,” she said.

I saw I could order a DVD, so chose “The Constant Gardener” directed by Fernando Meirelles, based on the Le Carré book, and found out that I couldn’t take it to the room with me, but that it would be played for everyone on Channel 61, after a Bobby Darin movie. Ah, well, there was a nice flat screen TV in my room. The movie was really good. Ralph Fiennes and Weisz played their characters with subtlety and passion. I understood the plot a lot better than I did when reading the book. The African scenes were very vivid and the message about big pharma using Africans to beta test TB meds by tricking them into giving “Informed Consent” to get AIDS drugs was saddening. True? I don’t know, but, of course, being relatively paranoid about corporate greed, decided it definitely could be.

However, my day really began back in Nova Scotia, at the Glooscap Trading Post on the Millbrook Reserve off 102. I first stopped at a brand new official Tourism Nova Scotia building kind of shaped like a yurt, where an older blonde tour guide was sharing German ancestry anecdotes with a couple of tourists. Didn’t pay the $3 for the tour, but spent quite a bit on my first hoodie and a sweatshirt. Got something for my brother. Outside there was an enormous statue of Glooscap himself. Initially the statue had Glooscap’s hand holding the torch at a 90 degree angle coming straight out just below waist level, which looked rather evocative from behind and to the side from the highway, so they changed it to what you see in the photo. Go to to http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/ne/al/al06.htm to find out more.

The reserve has built quite a few new buildings since I’d been there last. An Empire multi-theatre Cinema, gas stations, couple of restaurants, including a root beer chain. I was trying to find the old trading post, which used to be the only building in the area, which you could only get to from traveling on 102 South. I saw a small new building that looked promising that I thought might be an upgrade of the old trading post. Turned into the parking lot and went in to a lobby with a cash machine. The door inside was covered in warning signs so I peeked in, and saw a line of video gambling machines. Rather hurriedly backed out, got back in the car and turned further down the road. I don’t have a very positive attitude about gambling. It’s bad enough when you have credit cards that are stacked against you, but to take money and actually give it away into a machine is somewhat incomprehensible to me. I’d much rather just throw it in the street and be done with it.

Finally found the Glooscap Trading Post in the last parking lot. Spent about an hour there having a great time looking at things and laughing with the proprietress. Bought three sage bundles after discussing the merits of various kinds of grass, which differed depending on the purpose. I told the story of beginning my mom’s sukhavati (Buddhist funeral ceremony) with a lhasang, by explaining to my mom that it was like a “sweet grass” ceremony. My mom had a distinguished collection of southwestern Navajo and Hopi artifacts. Told the proprietress I was going to perhaps do another when I went out to visit my brother who’s staying in a group home in Oregon. My brother and I spread my mom’s ashes around a three-trunked tree in the Jedediah Smith Redwood Forest in California. Perhaps we’ll go back there when I get to him.

Got a great black fur hat with flaps that I put on backwards to begin with, thinking the big flap went on your neck, it but went on your forehead instead, and some matching furred gloves for those still cold Canadian winters. Joked about how I now had four one-handed gloves at home. She asked which hand, maybe I could make two mis-match pairs. I think I’m going to put a string between the right and left hands that I can put through the sleeves of my jacket like little kids do so I won’t lose these.

Spent about an hour there talking with the proprietress and joking with a few band members who came in. Not all Mi’kmaq. Discovered that she was a dual citizen and that there was an “Indian” passport that allowed free access for status “Indians” between the U.S. and Canada according to the “J Treaty.” I discovered this because we got to talking about being dual citizens. I’m dual American and Canadian and have two passports. She was too.  Then Mr. Johnson, a handsome dark-haired older man with sparkling eyes, and a gap in his middle lower teeth that showed when he laughed, which was often, who’d come in to get some smokes, said he was also a dual citizen (but his other country was First Nations — Chapel Island). Chapel Island, I found out, was not off “Pictou” as the Texan-Indian said, but off the Membertu reserve, probably in the Bras d’Or Lake area in central Cape Breton.

Decided to get a book on Mi’kmaq history, that I’d checked out earlier, that the proprietress said was really good First Nations History: We were not the Savages by Daniel N. Paul, third ed. (see: http://www.danielnpaul.com/WeWereNotTheSavages-Mi’kmaqHistory.html for more.) There’s too much I don’t know about my province. Perhaps I’ll share some of that as I go along (if I don’t get too distracted).

After that, we got in a big discussion about laser eye surgery, which she’d had done in Halifax, for a sale price of $1,500, lifetime guaranteed. I asked her to describe it since the ophthalmologist said I blinked too much during his exam and he thought I’d never be able to get it, but it sure would be cool. She said they put a kind of suction cup over her eye to hold it still. (I was wondering how they kept your eyes open.) She laughed, saying how her left eye kept twitching during her first operation. She said they gave her something to relax her. I asked if it put you out (you can see I want to get this done, but not be there when they do it). She described how they made these little cuts with the laser on the sides of your corneas. I’d noticed that her eyes had a narrow light blue border around the edges of her deep brown irises, which were almost the same hue as her pupils. She said that wasn’t a result of the operation, that everybody had a band of color around their pupils like that. She got out a mirror to show me that – yes, I have a dark grey band around the lighter grey of my irises — but it blends in more and isn’t as delineated a band of color as her iris, nor as great a contrast in color. Hmmm.

You can see why I spent so long there. Did get my Maine friend, Annie, her menthol cigarettes. Only got four packs of Cravens, at $10/pack. Found out later that they really had to be Virginia Slim ultra light menthols or nothing. Don’t know what I’m going to do with $40 worth of menthols. When I used to smoke, I didn’t smoke menthols. Maybe on the way back, I can trade them for Benson and Hedges –- no, the trading post didn’t have those. Oh well.

Better get going. I seem to be into this writing thing, which is fantastic actually. Hope you don’t mind all the reading.

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Got to get to Brunswick, Maine, and my friend Annie’s this afternoon. Weather’s supposed to be good. Time to check out.