Time to Say Farewell to Nova Scotia (Part 3)?

Halifax Chateau GhettoPart: 1 2 3 4 5

Because my 1987 move to Halifax was Ma-and-Pa-sanctioned, pretty well the whole family pitched in to help me settle into my downtown apartment in what I would eventually refer to as “Chateau Ghetto.” At the time, it was the kind of building where there were signs that sternly declared, “No spitting and swearing in the elevators.” And I still remember how mortified I felt as my father — rest his soul — gleefully read one such sign out loud as this towering, menacing, “don’t fuck with me” black dude was standing by us as we all waited for an elevator. Spot the Bumpkins.

But how I found this apartment would seem like an implausible stretch of the Armistead Maupin Tales of the City variety, yet I assure you: All my stories are true!

I can’t get much more ’80s than this, and given how cooky this part of my story is, what better than a cooky song!
Rita Mitsouko: Marcia Baila (mp3, 5.2 MB, 5:34)

When I had lived in Halifax in ’84-’85, I had been in a relationship with Hardluck. Although I shared an apartment a block away from work on the Bedford Highway with JD, whom I had met through my Summer of ’84 Boyfriend (a.k.a. Park Bunny), I ended up by November or so always staying at Hardluck’s dumpy apartment in Central Halifax. I guess at the time I was confused and thought I was a lesbian, bringing a U-Haul on her second date. Anyway, Hardluck also had a roommate, a really nice straight guy in the Canadian Navy whom we named Fitz and who had the unfortunate tendency of bringing back crabs (of the Kwellada variety) after each of his tours of duty. Fitz and Hardluck’s landlord was an unspeakably vile piece of work who believed he was within his rights to tell his tenants that they could never have company, especially overnight. Inevitably, of course, one evening in February just a few days before Fitz was to return from one of his tours, Hardluck and I got busted big time because not only was I there, but so was a friend of mine visiting from Moncton. Arriving to find out he/we had been evicted from that dump, Fitz frantically began searching for a new place and found one posthaste.

In Chateau Ghetto.

Hardluck and I ended up breaking up about two months before I was to move back to Moncton, plus Hardluck moved out of Chateau Ghetto around the same time to live with a short-term flame that lasted about four minutes. Fitz and I left on good terms — quirky as he was, he was the one who introduced me to Mike Oldfield — but I never saw him again and we didn’t keep in touch. I learned from Hardluck about a year later that he got engaged.

So back in Moncton one day in June ’87, I bought what turned out to be my first and only copy of the local Halifax rag, The Chronically Horrid, to find myself an apartment. I would have to find myself a roommate once in Halifax, but first I needed to find a place I could afford. And there it was, in black and white: an apartment to sublet whose general description fit Chateau Ghetto and whose (dirt-cheap) price had not changed much since ’85. And yes, you guessed it: when I called the number, the young lady who answered the phone confirmed that [a] it was the same building in the complex of three high rises, [b] in fact, it was the same apartment in which Hardluck, Fitz and I had moved, and [c] she was Fitz’ wife and they were being transferred to British Columbia.

But if that’s not enough for you, allow me this digression. Three years later — in 1990 — I had graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University the year before and had become the managing editor of Atlantis: A Women’s Studies Journal. I regularly hired students as part-time proofreaders, and two of them at the time were living in the dump from which Hardluck, Fitz and I were evicted. Not only that, but one of them became Pouponne’s partner for 9 years. And in the apartment next door to them dwelled the inimitable Cypriot Fruit with whom the polar-opposite Hiker had a fling that same summer.

Please understand that Halifax is not THAT small of a city to have that many coincidences occur. But you have to agree that if you’d read this plot in Tales of the City, you would have busted your eyes out of their sockets. Yet I assure you: All my stories are true!

Moreover, the coincidence of 1987 especially served to assure me I was doing the right thing. For you see, when I had decided to apply for the PR program at MSVU, I questioned my motives. I kept asking myself whether I was doing it because I really I wanted to study in that field, or because I wanted to come back to Halifax. I asked myself the same question from multiple angles. I recognized that prior to my ill-fated choice of translation, I had thought of becoming a journalist, and prior to that, a writer, so PR wasn’t a choice from left field given its emphasis on writing. I also recognized that MSVU offered the only undergraduate program in PR and I was given less than glowing reviews (perhaps undeservedly) of the program at Humber College in Toronto. And I recognized that the PR program seemed broad enough that, unlike translation, it wouldn’t lead me to one narrowly defined kind of job. In short, it seemed like it was mere coincidence that the program I wanted was in Halifax.

So, the Chateau Ghetto coincidence came as a kind of confirmation — a flaky confirmation, perhaps, but a confirmation nonetheless — that I was destined to return to Halifax.

Except this return was for the right reason.