Big Day Downtown!

As a Halifax blogger-type person, I was recently asked to participate in the Big Day Downtown event, an initiative started by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission. Basically, a bunch of us bloggy types were given $100 to spend at various downtown businesses, writing about where we shopped and generally promoting downtown Halifax as a viable place to spend your hard-earned sheckels. As a lifelong Halifax citizen, this is an issue that always concerns me—as more and more businesses pop us in remote (well, to non-car-driving me, anyway) locations like Bayers Lake Industrial Park and Dartmouth Crossing, and as less and less businesses are able to survive in once-thriving areas like Barrington Street, the downtown area is straight up Tumbleweed City sometimes. But where there’s life, there’s hope, and I found that it’s pretty easy to find cool spots to quickly spend a hundred smackers of the city's cash. Civic pride aside, who am I to turn down free money? Armed with a promotional Visa card that looks like something that would appear on a flyer in the mail, seeing as how the name on the front of it is "Valued Cardholder"—I kind of expected alarm bells to go off the first time I used it—I went out into the wilds of Halifax between Lower Water Street and Brunswick Street and enjoyed me some unfettered capitalism.

 First up was a place that I never have a hard time spending money at—my place of employment, and this blog’s sponsor, Strange Adventures Comic Bookshop (5262 Sackville St.). This spot is generally agreed upon as one of the best comic shops on the planet, and with good reason; you can find a comic for pretty much anyone here, no matter their age or taste. Strange Adventures carries the widest and wisest selection of comic book goodness of every genre and style, from the most mainstream of superhero slugfests to the most heart-wrenchingly confessional alternative autobiographical comics. There’s also tons of other kinds of cool merchandise to be found as well, like toys, statues, board games and RPGs, and clothing. For instance, where else can you buy a t-shirt to show your love for the unlucky bounty hunter who stands at the figurative and literal flashpoint of the whole “Han Shoots First” controversy brought about by George Lucas’s endless tinkering with the Star Wars films?


Next came DeSerres Art Store, 1546 Barrington St. If you grew up in Halifax, chances are you still call this place Loomis Art Store on occasion (or Loomis & Toles, depending on your age), but no matter what you call it, it’s your number one stop for brush pens, charcoals, sketchbooks, oil paints, or even a new drafting table. They’ve even got a handy framing section if you’ve got some cool art you want to hang on your walls. It’s pretty easy to get lost in this joint, with its seemingly endless aisles of brushes and inkwells, but just keep your eyes peeled for the ever-vested DeSerres employees and they’ll be happy to help you out. For my part, I picked up a new mechanical pencil and some fine-tipped pens to continue working on my pals Sean Jordan and Kody Peters' webcomic Snakor's Pizza, as well as my own online comic series, Slam-a-rama (never let it be said that I’m not above a little free plug for myself and my friends).

 At this point, I was feeling a bit peckish, so I took my girlfriend (and, as it turns out, unofficial photographer) Hillary out to one of my favourite lunch spots—Cabin Coffee, located at 1554 Hollis Street. The rustic atmosphere perfectly compliments a tasty menu of soups and sandwiches, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their excellent Nanaimo bars, as well as, in Hillary’s words, their “good-ass carrot muffins”. I recommend the Cabin Club, which can be had with an accompanying soup (my favourite is the Mulligatawny, and not just because I love saying Mulligatawny), or a handful of potato chips on the side. Careful, they’re ruffled!


Afterwards, I poked into United Bookstore, which can be found on 1669 Barrington. In addition to used books, magazines, and DVDs, United is also a Ticketpro location, so you can score tickets to plenty of upcoming concerts and events there as well. United is one of those cool stores that is dialed into the whole remaindered book circuit, by which they redistribute, at a considerable discount, some great reads that have been returned unsold from some of the bigger book chains. To this end, I picked up a half-priced copy of Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury’s insanely entertaining book Holy Sh*t!: The World’s Weirdest Comic Books, an indispensable tome that sheds light on freaked-out funnybooks like Godzilla Vs. Charles Barkley and Hansi, The Girl Who Loved The Swastika. I also grabbed a used hardcover of Stephen King’s Cell, which was at one point slated for a film adaptation by Eli Roth. Man, I hope that happens some day.


With less than twenty-five bucks left on my card, I decided to hit up Random Play, at 1587 Barrington Street. A veritable treasure trove of used CDs and DVDs, not to mention t-shirts, pins, and posters, Random Play is the kind of store that is dangerous to old-school dorks like me who still prefer owning music and movies as physical objects and not just as files on my computer. I wish I could say I bought something artful, or European, perhaps something from the Criterion Collection—Days of Heaven, maybe, or Fitzcarraldo—but alas, my weakness for lowbrow humour won out yet again.


And that was the end of my Big Day Downtown. I think I have about thirty-one cents or so left on the card, but I think I'll hang on to 'em for the memories. Thanks to the Downtown Halifax Business Commission for letting me in on this, to Hillary for taking pictures and joining me for lunch, and to Iain Deans for putting me on to this promotion. I hope that, in staying a minimum safe distance from both the casino and the liquor store, I justified your faith in me.