During the Spring of 2017, I separated from a forty year marriage and began planning a new life for Holly Golightly and me. And as much as it pains me to write about such a private matter, I wanted to be very clear about one thing – it was not because of infidelity or anything nasty or sinister. It’s been something I’d been wrestling with for several years, and I wasn’t happy, which resulted in an unhappy relationship for both of us. I am not coming out of any closet – I am straight – I want for both of us to have happiness in our lives.
I decided to wait until my wife retired in December before leaving and we continue to share the same house, although we’ve had separate bedrooms and haven’t been intimate for many years. We decided to list our house in the New Year and expect to have it on the market within the next few days. We will be dividing everything equally, but I won’t be purchasing another home. I wish her well, and that’s all I have to say on this matter.
In December, during one of my walks with the Surrey Trekkers and Vancouver Venturers Volkssport Clubs, I was chatting with my friend Frank S. about my plans regarding housing options in Vancouver, and he came up with a few recommendations that were very interesting.
But first, I had to resolve a pressing question, namely: ‘Where do I want to live?’ I had already decided to rent instead of buying but knew that it would be a challenge to find a place that allows dogs.
And I wasn’t sure if I wanted to remain in Vancouver – even though it is the best place on Earth – it is also costly. So I started thinking about Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, as options.
But there was this silent voice from within, that urged me to consider my birthplace in Southern Ontario. That same voice reminded me of the secret dream I’ve had for many years, but shared with no one. And now, I could begin chasing my dream!
But first, I had an appointment for a ct scan on my lungs on January 12th. A year and a half ago, they found two small spots on my right lung, and my oncologist wanted to compare the size of the nodes after six months. In February 2017, the scan showed that the two nodes were still in the upper chamber, but now there were two additional spots on the lower part of the lung!
Dr. K. scheduled my next ct scan for September, but by August, I was going through a lot of stress because of the separation and Holly’s illness and subsequent surgery. I decided not to go for the scan or the follow-up appointment. And I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even call to cancel those appointments!
I stopped my daily walks and continued to slide into a more profound depression, aka feeling sorry for myself. I had stopped communicating with my brothers and sisters for more than a year, but fortunately, I still had my family at the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre in Surrey, whom I love dearly; and my best friends’ Norm and Robert – who I consider the older brothers I never had but always wanted.
But as close as these people are to me – I haven’t shared my dream with anyone – it’s always been a secret.
They say there are three types of secrets that we all possess, namely:
- Secrets we share with family
- Secrets we share with best friends
- Secrets we keep hidden deep within
But all of that changed in early October when I learned about a local Volkssport Club. And just as the BC Cancer Agency had saved my life eight years ago – this walking/hiking club dragged me out of the darkness and into a world of smiles and friendship! We walk three times a week at various locations in the Lower Mainland and Washington State.
I also joined the Vancouver Venturers Volkssport Club, and the North West Tulips Volkssport Club in Bellingham, Washington. I’m also a member of the Washington Trail Association.
Walking with these clubs has been an effective treatment because amazingly, I lost most of my depression during my first walk with the club. It has been the best thing that I have done for myself – in a very long time, and I’ll be writing a lot more about it in the future!
Chasing a Dream
The snowbirds had already begun the migration to a warmer climate in early December, and several other flocks would be leaving in January, after spending the holiday season at home with friends and family. But I, on the other hand, decided to travel to a colder place – Toronto, Ontario.
You should have seen the look on the faces of my fellow walkers when they learned about my plans to visit the land of ice, snow and frigid temperatures (and people)!
‘Danny, why are you going to Toronto?’ they’d ask while trying not to roll their eyes in shock and disbelief.
Someone once said, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool – than to open it and remove all doubt!”
But I’m not sure the warning applies to the written word. In any event, here are the reasons why I’m visiting Ontario for three weeks in January – I want to find answers to the following questions, namely:
- Would I be able to live in Ontario, after leaving thirty-six years ago?
A lot has changed over the years. I’ve always liked Ontario, but I like the West Coast best, followed by the East Coast.
- Could I live in ‘downtown’ Toronto?
I last lived in Toronto in 1974. It was in a high-rise apartment in Etobicoke at the end of the subway line. But I want to stay in the heart of downtown Toronto, preferably in the harbor area with an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario.
- Would Holly and I be happy living in a high rise condo or apartment rental?
Holly is twelve years old and needs to be able to go outside when Nature calls. But I’ve seen lots of people in Robert’s old apartment building with dogs, so it’s a possibility. But my preference would be something on the ground level with a bit of an enclosed patio or balcony so that it will be more comfortable for both the dog and me. The experience will be valuable regardless of what city I choose to live.
- Could I give up my vehicle and rely on transit?
I’m getting older and finding it more difficult and stressful, driving in rush hours and heavy traffic and driving in the dark. I also have less patience with ignorant drivers, who seemed to become more plentiful in recent times. I’d instead just rent a car for the day when I need it and walk or take transit as my usual mode of travel. You also see more when you’re a passenger.
- Could I endure the cold, cold winters?
I’ve already answered that question – NO! But I’m hoping to go south during the winters, so this isn’t a factor.
But Danny, how are you going to afford a hotel in downtown Toronto for three weeks?
Relax, Spanky – I’ve done some online research – comparing the cost of hotels vs. AirNB. And in so doing, it didn’t take long to realize that I could rent a condo for about half of what it would cost to rent a hotel room, as well as other advantages, including:
- Avoid the cost of staying in a hotel with no refrigerator or stove to make my special meals
- I also compared AirNB vs. Craigslist
- AirNB gave much more info and pictures and better variety of choices and only featured listings that were available Jan 13-31st
- No idea if Craigslist listings were accurate vs. AirNB – so I went with the better known of the two choices
- I’d be living with condo residents vs. hotel guests – because they’d be friendlier if they thought I was a new neighbor
- Having a washer and dryer was a bonus to avoid dry cleaning bills – pack fewer clothes
I found a condo in a high-rise on York Street and Queens Quay – with an unobstructed view of the lake and just a few blocks from Union Station, Air Canada Centre and of course, the iconic CN Tower. The cost per night was $113 (USD). But the fee was non-refundable after I took possession, so I hoped the pictures and info were accurate.
I booked the condo from January 13 – 30th and paid in advance. I also planned to stay in a hotel at the Toronto Airport on January 30th to avoid the next day rush to get to the airport.
I booked my flight and chose premium seating vs. economy. I used to travel business class when I was working – but that was when I had Super Elite and Elite status with Aeroplan and had lots of upgrade certificates.
Friday, January 12, 2018
I went to Surrey Memorial Hospital at 8:00 AM for my ct scan. They inject a dye intravenously into you, and then you feel a sudden, warm rush throughout your body. The dye reacts to any cancer cells that are present and makes cancer visible.
The scan doesn’t take too long – and I’ve had many of them over the past eight years. I asked Dr. Karvat’s secretary to book the follow-up appointment for February 2, 2018, so I could make the trip to Ontario.
All I could think about during the scan was my trip to Ontario the next day and finally, chasing a dream – my dream!
Now that you’ve got a little background but before we start this journey together – you might want to fasten your seatbelt, stand behind the sneeze guard and hang on tightly because I have no idea how or when this story is going to end!
Saturday, January 13, 2018
The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge was the perfect place to wait for my plane to begin boarding and I was thankful that I had upgraded to business class.
During the last fifteen years of my career with General Motors of Canada Limited, I was a frequent flyer and obtained Aeroplan Elite or Super Elite status every year – which meant lots of free upgrade certificates – priority boarding and unlimited access to the Maple Leaf Lounge. So even when I had the lowest fare – I still had all of those benefits.
The lounge has a self-serve bar & beverage service, food, and snacks; workstations, desks, magazines, newspapers, and television to watch while waiting for your plane to board. Although retired for thirteen years, and I no longer have access to free upgrades – there is the option when traveling by Air Canada to purchase access to the Maple Leaf Lounge for $50 – even if you’re flying in Economy Class. It’s a great option, to consider when traveling economy class.
We boarded the plane, and I was thrilled at my almost-private domain – complete with a seat that became a bed; a large TV monitor, remote control, and desk; headphones, and the unit is both a window and aisle location, with nobody sitting on either side of me.
The flight attendant soon arrived with a glass of orange juice and a breakfast menu. I explained that I’m not able to eat solid food but if they had a yogurt or ice cream – I’d be happy with either. She also offered me a newspaper from Australia – which is where the plane had originated from earlier. It reminded me of my friend Ellen Suarez, who just moved back there last Fall. Maybe, she too was homesick!
Soon we were 39,000 feet in the air, and I had my headphones on and listening to one of my Eagles tunes, and they began serving breakfast. I could tell by the heavenly fragrance – they were serving pancakes and sausages. The flight attendant brought me a yogurt with the saddest expression on her young face.
‘Are you sure that I can’t bring you something else?’ she whispered.
I thought about asking for a cocktail, but I seldom drink alcohol anymore because it burns my throat. Back in the day, I would have ordered a double vodka on ice, with a dash of 7Up for color.
‘No, but can I ask you a question?’ I whispered, ‘do you know Captain Joe G.?’
Immediately, her eyes lit up, and she was smiling from ear to ear. We talked about our mutual friend and how Joe and his wife, Brenda, were my neighbors when I lived in Bedford, Nova Scotia (1989-’92).
Joe has been an Air Canada pilot for many years; we used to run into each other when he flew Dash 8’s with Air Nova in the 80’s. It’s why I usually fly Air Canada – to support a buddy’s employment – and he always drove a GM product. Brenda’s father was the regional manager of GMAC, which was also a connection.
I tried to configure the seat into a bed but couldn’t sleep a wink – I was too excited. I decided to listen to one of the playlists of music on my laptop. Next, to breathing, music is a ‘must have,’ and I have a library of over 10,000 songs – all of which I purchased. I have never downloaded music or movies for free – artists deserve to get paid for their work and pirating is unconscionable. Would you work if your employer decided not to compensate you? I think not!
The pilot’s voice suddenly shattered a hot daydream I was having. He announced that we were about to land and the temperature was minus 35 degrees Celsius, with the windchill factor! A large gasp of shock and disappointment erupted from the passengers. ‘Where did they think we were landing – Hawaii?’, I thought.
Soon we were at the gate, and I was quickly off of the plane and racing to the luggage carousel to retrieve my suitcases. After getting my bags, I went outside to get a limo and almost froze!
On the drive downtown, I called Ramy G., the owner of the condo apartment, to confirm the address on York Street. He told me to ring his buzzer when I got to the lobby of the building, and he would buzz me in. He said that the apartment was open and the keys were on the kitchen counter.
The condo complex was two massive high rises connected by a large lobby on the main floor. It appeared to be a relatively new facility, and it had two security people on the lobby desk, so I felt safe and secure.
‘So far, so good!’ I thought.
I rang the buzzer to Ramy’s suite. He buzzed me into the building, and I headed to the elevator. The apartment was on the 35th floor. I had no sooner opened the door to the condo when I heard the sirens from the street below. I quickly dropped my suitcases on the floor and ran to the balcony door to see if the fire trucks were stopping at this complex.
And that’s when I got the next shock!
There was a sliding door to the balcony, but the width was only 18 inches wide! Not a lot of space to do anything but stand – and it was too cold to do that!
And although the sirens weren’t for this building, it made me wonder how I would ever escape in the event of a fire? There isn’t a ladder tall enough in Toronto that could even reach the 35th floor, and there aren’t enough sheets in the condo to tie together to climb down, either!
I looked around the condo and although it was minimal – it appeared to have everything I’d need for my three-week stay. I was dead tired but wanted to catch the evening news on the television, and that’s when I got the next surprise – the tv didn’t get regular network or cable stations!
There was a menu to view Netflix and some video/game options. I tried various options but couldn’t find any regular channels, so I called Ramy and asked how to get the television working. He explained that it wasn’t a regular television, but he would come to the condo in the morning to teach me how to use it.
I was too tired to argue, so I started to unpack. But there wasn’t even a dresser for my clothes – just one small end table with two drawers, beside the bed.
‘Caveat emptor,’ I thought to myself and decided to unpack in the morning, instead.
But the bed was comfortable, and within seconds, I was counting sheep.
Sunday, January 14, 2018
I awoke very early in the morning – despite the three hour difference in time zones.
The first day of a vacation is like the last day of school in June or the last day of work before retiring – and the Little Danny inside of me was excited at the thought of watching his first sunrise from the 35th floor of a lakefront condo in downtown Toronto!
I finished unpacking, made myself a protein smoothie and then took a shower, and it was still dark! But after pouring my third cup of coffee, I noticed the first rays of sunlight break-dancing on the eastern horizon.
I grabbed my cell phone and took a few pictures but forgot to open the screen door, so the photo isn’t going to win any awards, but it will at least give you a sense of the location of the condo and the waterfront.
I tried to figure out the television again but despite my best efforts – I couldn’t even get the menu to appear on the screen – just an error message. It was too early to call Ramy, so I decided to start writing updates of my trip and posting them on my Facebook and Twitter pages.
I also started to send out emails and text messages to my friends in Southern Ontario – with invitations to get together during my stay. I even had a place to entertain guests! But there was one thing missing in the condo – and that was my Holly Golightly!
I have never been away from her for three weeks, and I know how much we’ll miss each other, but I also knew that I had to put thoughts of her away or I’d be torturing myself with guilt and despair.
I decided to book a car rental online and went to the Costco website because their rates were the most competitive. I was able to get a great deal with Enterprise, which had a location across from Union Station – a few blocks from the condo. I arranged to get the car at Noon and spent the rest of the morning trying to get the television working.
At about mid-morning, I called Ramy and asked him about the television again. I also told him that the condo didn’t appear to be very clean, which he seemed surprised to learn.
He said that he was out-of-town and wouldn’t be back in Toronto until the next day but that he would send someone up to the condo in ten minutes, to resolve any issues I had. He also said that the person would also give me a remote control to open the underground parking.
I waited until late morning, but nobody appeared, so I decided to walk over to the Enterprise office to pick up my car rental.
As I was going down the elevator, every time it stopped and people entered the elevator; I would nod and say hello. But almost everyone avoided eye contact and ignored my greeting, except for one person with a large dog. And the dog growled at me!
It’s not often that I’ve had a dog growl at me – I usually get along with most. A dog only learns what it’s master teaches and I was about to dismiss the incident when suddenly I heard the dog owner’s friendly voice.
‘He’s a rescue dog – from Texas, and we’re his temporary foster home,’ the man uttered quietly.
He was a tall, bearded man – about middle-aged and he was well-dressed. It was Sunday – I wondered where he was going with his dog but didn’t ask. Instead, I told him that it was nice to meet another dog owner and then I flashed a picture of Holly from my cell phone.
I was tempted to make up a story about saving Holly from some disaster, but the truth was the opposite – she was with me 24/7 during my cancer treatments and recovery period, several years ago, and she’s never left my side since.
We said our goodbyes and I watched the pair walk down the hall ahead of me. Every few steps, the dog would turn to see if I was coming with them. It made me both sad and envious.
I walked out the lobby door of the building and into the cold. I had dressed warmly, but nothing could prepare me for the frigid temperatures.
I walked up York Street to Front Street and then walked passed Union Station until I got to the Bay Street shopping mall. I was surprised at how quiet the mall was but remembered that it was Sunday – maybe everyone’s at church, I thought.
But when I arrived at the Enterprise storefront office, a sign on the door advised customers to go to the depot, located in the basement to meet the agent on duty. Within several minutes I was standing at the Enterprise Kiosk.
‘Good afternoon, I have a reservation,’ I announced, somewhat proudly.
‘Sorry, we’re all booked!’ the agent replied.
‘But I have a reservation!’ I protested, ‘I just booked it online a couple of hours ago on Costco. How could you possibly be completely booked? What about my reservation? Did you rent the vehicle to someone else?’
I was starting to get upset.
‘I just about froze my kahunas walking here in the cold, and you’re telling me you’re sorry? Well, I’m going to call Costco and complain about Enterprise double-booking rentals.’
‘Sir, Enterprise didn’t double-book; your issue is with Costco. If they had checked our inventory – they would’ve found that we had no vehicles available. And that’s not our problem – it’s theirs!’
I stormed out of his office, swearing under my breath and began the walk back to the condo. But I was so hot from being angry that I hardly noticed the sub-zero temperatures.
When I got back to the condo lobby, one of the security guards mentioned that the temperature was minus 35 degrees Celcius, with the windchill factor! By the way, am I the only guy who used to call it the ‘windshield factor’?
When I got back inside the condo, I called Costco Travel and spoke to an agent about the fact that I had just frozen my kahunas in the cold because Costco had screwed up on reserving me a vehicle. The agent I spoke to had little sympathy and offered to find me another car.
‘No, I called to complain. I want to speak to your supervisor so I can lodge a formal customer complaint.’ But he put me on hold, and I waited and waited. I was getting too upset and decided to hang up and reserve a vehicle on my own. But it was now mid-afternoon, so I decided to schedule the pickup for the next day – but this time with Budget.
I spent the rest of the day on my laptop sending and receiving messages. Later, I took a stroll to the Sobeys store to buy some supplies including fresh soup, yogurt, Pellegrino, ice cream and Ensure. These are the ‘food items’ that I’ve been living on every day, since 2009.
I noticed two pubs in the same mall and thought about going inside to watch the news, but both places had sports programs playing for their patrons – so I wouldn’t be able to watch the news or weather, for yet another day.
I’m starting to go through ‘withdrawal’ without being able to watch my favorite television programs (especially MSNBC, SPORTSNET & HBO). If I can last three weeks without watching network television – maybe that would be worth it. I spend far too much time watching television and following US Politics – so, it’s probably just as well.
Monday, January 15, 2018
After my usual morning routine, I turned on the laptop and began reading my emails and updating my social media pages. I called Ramy and told him that I would be picking up a vehicle and needed the remote control for the parking garage. I also explained that despite his promise that someone would come to show me how to use the television – nobody had come!
He assured me that he would make everything right but that he was in his car and outside the city but expected to be back at the condo in about an hour. He would bring me the remote at that time. I thanked him and said goodbye.
About thirty minutes later, I heard a sudden knock on my condo door. I couldn’t be sure if the knocking is at my door or the neighbors, but whoever was knocking – he/she seemed angry.
A few seconds later, the knocking started again! And now it sounded like it was coming from the neighbors. Or had it?
I began wondering things like:
- Maybe it’s the paperboy collecting?
- Perhaps it’s a police raid, and they’re about to bust down the door?
- Or it’s a jealous husband or wife?
- Maybe it’s my imagination?
Suddenly, the knocking became louder and more aggressive.
I quietly tiptoed to the door and peeked through the peephole and noticed a short, senior man standing outside my door. He had a remote control device in his hand. He didn’t appear to be the same person as the one pictured on the AirNB ad, but I wasn’t sure.
I opened the door.
‘Ramy?’, I asked.
‘No, Ramy’s dead!’, the man explained.
WTF! I couldn’t believe my ears – I had just spoken to him thirty minutes ago – and now he’s dead?! I felt an instant pang of guilt and genuine sorrow learning of his tragic death.
‘Oh my God! (OMG!)’ I was struggling to find words as the short man walked passed me and into the living room.
‘Nice view! Do you like the view? Yes?’
He was smiling, which I found a bit odd. But before I could say anything, the man picked up the tv remote and started playing with the buttons until he was able to get the menu. He became very excited and proudly proclaimed that he’d fixed my television.
‘No, sir. You don’t understand; I know how to turn on the television – but I want to watch the news and weather…’
‘See? You got Netflix and everything!’
‘Listen, buddy; I don’t want to watch Netflix – that’s why I have a computer. I want to watch regular programs like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC or Bill Maher on HBO, not to mention the NFL playoffs!’
The man suddenly realized the gravity of the situation and stopped speaking. He stared at me for the most extended moment, and then suddenly his smile returned, and he walked over to the balcony door.
‘You like the view? Very pretty, yes?’
‘No, I mean yes, it’s a beautiful view. But please stop for a second – what happened to Ramy? How did he die? Was it a car accident?”
‘Ramy not died,’ he protested, ‘he away today. You like the view?’
‘But you said Ramy’s dead!’
‘Yes, I Ramy dead!’ he blurted.
‘Oh, you’re Ramy’s dad? He’s not dead, then!’ I fought the urge to scream.
We both stood there, staring at each other for several seconds – neither of us knowing what to say. Suddenly, the man became excited and began smiling, again.
‘You happy, now? You like the view, yes? I tell Ramy you happy, okay?’
‘No. Please tell your son I am not happy.’ I then escorted him to the door – shook his hand and thanked him. I closed the door and stood there wondering, what the heck just happened? I glanced at my watch – it was Noon, and I still hadn’t done anything!
I went to the computer and checked for messages. I got a message from my friend in Oshawa, who suggested I join the Vintage Oshawa group on Facebook.
I went to that page and started reading some of the posts and viewing the many photos and posts of familiar landmarks. I even recognized some of the peoples’ names – and started leaving them messages. Some of them were people I hadn’t seen since high school.
Suddenly, I had to decide: continue reading stuff on the computer or walk to the mall to get my car rental. I quickly put on my coat, scarf, toque, and gloves and headed out the door. The temperature was still in the sub-zero range – and I now wished that I had a packed my balaclava!
But the frigid temperature was a nice change from the mild, Vancouver winter I’d left behind, and it was great to be able to wear my winter clothes, for a change! But that sentiment lasted for about two seconds, as my kahunas froze instantly, and I found myself walking up York Street on my tiptoes.
This time I got smart and took a detour through Union Station. Many of the nearby buildings and malls are connected to the train and subway stations, by a series of tunnels and walkways, and it was nice to feel warm and cuddly.
Soon, I was standing at the Budget car rental desk. I was almost afraid to ask…
‘Yes, I have a reservation for a small car,’ I said boldly. I was ‘loaded for bear’ and wasn’t going to get pushed around. I stood there stoically and waited for the rental agent’s answer.
‘Yes, sir. Your name please?’
‘Danny St. Andrews,’ I replied.
‘One moment, Mr. Andrew, Let me check that for you.’
‘Actually, it’s St. Andrews!’, I politely corrected him.
‘Yes, okay. Denny St. Andrew, right?
‘No, Danny as in Daniel,’ I calmly corrected him.
‘Do you put an ‘S’ in Andrews?
‘Yes, but only by habit.’
‘Oh dear, you’ve reserved a compact vehicle. Would you be interested in upgrading to a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), for an additional $10? They’re calling for snow this week, and you’ll want to have four-wheel drive.’
‘Is that ten dollars extra, per day?’
‘Yes, Mr. Andrews.’
‘No, I’ll stick with the compact. If it snows, I won’t be driving anywhere,’ I lied (without feeling guilty).
After trying several other tactics to get me to upgrade to a more expensive vehicle, he called to their garage and started speaking to someone about what cars they had available.
‘Sir, we don’t have a compact vehicle, so we are going to give you an SUV for the same price.’
‘Awesome! Thank you!’ Again, I lied. I have been renting vehicles for many years, and I know several universal rules on vehicle rentals, namely:
- Never rent from an airport location. There is a hidden ‘airport’ convenience fee that all the rental companies charge. Also, most locations will let you drop off the vehicle at the airport for no additional cost – but you have to negotiate for this option.
- Never let them make you pay for upgrading. The rental agent probably doesn’t have the type of vehicle you’ve reserved in their inventory – so don’t let them off the hook by agreeing to pay for an upgrade.
- Don’t pay for Sirius or WiFi – they charge $10 minimum per day. The vehicle you get will probably already has these – so why pay extra?
- Don’t pay for roadside assistance. That too is a $10 per day charge.
I stuck to my position and didn’t waiver. I ended up with a Jeep SUV – and it came loaded with options, including a heated seat and steering wheel! And it had Sirius Radio and WiFi, too! I could already feel my pair of kahunas growing back!
But I wasn’t through negotiating, yet.
Initially, I was only going to rent the vehicle for a couple of days – to drive to Oshawa to visit my parents and then on another day, drive to Angus, Ontario to visit my Aunt Fern. But I was getting such a great deal – I decided to extend the rental for a full week – at the same price! The agent agreed, and I drove back to the condo a happy boy; and proud of my negotiating prowess!
The drive back to the condo building took less than five minutes. I approached the underground parking garage, but the door wouldn’t open. I started pointing the remote at the door, but nothing happened!
I got out of the vehicle and started walking around the area – looking for a box or something to aim the remote at but there wasn’t anything visible.
Suddenly, the door opened, and a car emerged from the underground. I frantically began waving my arms in distress and hoped that the young lady driving, would stop.
‘Sorry, but I can’t get this remote to work. Is there someplace I should be aiming at?’
But I didn’t hear the words coming from her mouth because I was distracted. She was the prettiest girl I’d seen in several days. She had dark eyes – which reminded me of my gal pal Harinder. She was well-dressed, and her smile almost invited me to flirt. Geeze, maybe I should ask her what floor she lives on?
She started to explain how to work the remote – in a tone similar to the one you’d use when teaching a child something new. I cut her off in mid-sentence by shouting ‘thanks!’, while jumping back into my vehicle.
‘Why is it, that some people from the younger generation, feel it’s necessary to talk to seniors as though we’re senile or hard of hearing?’ I mumbled to myself, as I expertly parked the SUV in the tiniest of parking spaces.
When I got back inside my condo, I decided to make a few calls to schedule visits for the next few days, while I had the vehicle.
It was mid-afternoon, and it would be getting dark soon, so I decided to start writing a blog about this trip. However, when I tried to log on to my website – I couldn’t perform any of the edit functions. And although I could still access my emails and the internet – I wouldn’t be able to write or update this story about my trip!
I spent the next three hours screaming and swearing at my notebook.
I then turned my attention to the ‘wannabe’ television – wishing I could watch one of my favorite programs and wondering how I’ll survive without watching television for three weeks!
Suddenly, I felt alone and lonesome. I made a few phone calls and decided to call it a day. Tomorrow, I would be visiting my parents in Oshawa – I wonder if I’ll be able to find their place in the snow? I called my Aunt Fern in Angus and made a date to see her on Wednesday.
I also made a lunch date with a childhood friend – but that wouldn’t be until the next week. I went to sleep thinking about her and wondering what we’ll talk about after not seeing each other in fifty years!
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
It was nice getting into a warm vehicle, and within a few minutes, I was cruising up the Don Valley Parkway and listening to Howard Stern on Sirius Radio.
The temperature was in the sub-zero range, and it was cloudy, but I was excited to be going home. I decided to avoid the morning rush hour madness and arrived at the flower shop in Whitby, by mid-morning. I bought two red roses – one of for each of my parents and then headed to their place in Oshawa.
I still get anxious when driving down Thorton Road towards my Ma and Dad’s place. By the way, I’ve always called my mother, ‘Ma’ and it used to bother my Dad because he thought it was disrespectful.
Dad probably thought I was comparing her to ‘Ma Kettle’ of the classic Ma and Pa Kettle movies that I used to enjoy watching. But from my earliest memory – I’ve always called her that, and she knew it was just a sentimental term of affection.
Here is a video clip of our visit: Visit with Ma and Dad
I got back in my vehicle and decided to drive to a few of my old haunts in Oshawa and Whitby to take some pictures for this story.
The first stop was 109 Iroquois in north Oshawa, where I first boarded for a few weeks, during my last year in high school. My parents had moved to Georgetown in the Summer of 1968, but I stayed in Oshawa, to be near my girlfriend, and worked part-time to pay my room.
This house used to be the home of her older sister, Vicky and her husband, Jerry. They had a son named Danny, too! However, as I pulled my vehicle to the curb to take the picture, one of the neighbors came to their window and appeared to be concerned by a stranger taking pictures. So I left without taking the photo, but it was nice to visit a place I had not seen since 1969.
I then drove by the home on Sutherland Avenue where I grew up. I drive by this house every time I’ve returned to Oshawa for the past forty years. The only thing missing on the street was the Chestnut trees and children.
A few years ago, I visited the last remaining neighbor – Mrs. Mills, and she had told me that although there was the same number of kids living on the street now as there was in the fifties and sixties – none of today’s kids played outside! Their exercise now is limited to playing on their computers.
And I was shocked at the changes in the downtown area – it no longer resembled the once vibrant center of what used to be my Universe.
Next, I drove down Albert Street – past 275 and Fuller’s Store, and over the famous wooden, Albert Street bridge to Bloor Street, where my first wife’s family used to live. That house is no longer there.
I then headed to Whitby to drop by an old friend’s place for a short visit, and then I headed back to Toronto – to avoid the afternoon rush hour.
But Toronto’s rush hour begins at about 6:30 AM in the morning and lasts all day until about 8:00 PM! I used to think that Vancouver and Montreal had the worst traffic (and drivers!), but now the award goes to the big smoke (Toronto).
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Even though I didn’t have Holly to wake me up at two or three o’clock every morning to let her outside to go potty, I found myself waking up at that time anyway. Habits and routines are difficult to break, but I’ve always preferred being an early riser. Sometimes, when I travel and find myself unable to sleep, I’ll get dressed and take a drive around the city, while drinking coffee and listening to music. You’d be surprised at the number of people out at that time of night.
I probably should have left earlier than I did and I should have also relied on Google Map’s automated directions because, within a minute of getting on the Gardiner Expressway, I was in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam all the way to Highway 427. But I was listening to music and enjoying the scenery, so I didn’t mind the delay.
I arrived at Aunt Fern’s place mid-morning, and we had a nice visit. I learn so much of my family’s history from her. She was married to my Ma’s brother (Uncle Jim), who passed away in the 1990’s. She never remarried and lived happily with Amanda, her granddaughter (my second cousin).
I left in the early afternoon to avoid the afternoon rush hour but promised to come back to Angus for another visit before I return to Vancouver.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
It was colder than a politician’s heart, but I was anxious to do some walking. My friend Verni, from the Vancouver Venturers, gave me a copy of a 10 KM route of the downtown core that she had used when she had visited Toronto but warned that it was difficult to follow because it was from several years ago, and much had probably changed.
I wasn’t anywhere near the start point, so I just used the instructions as a guide. I used to work and live in Toronto, so I wasn’t worried about getting lost.
My first stop was at Union Station on Front Street. I stopped to chat with a police officer and was able to get a transit supervisor to take a clip of our brief conversation.
Here is the video clip of our chat: Danny and Toronto Cop
A few blocks later, I was standing at the Air Canada Centre – home of the Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey) and Toronto Raptors (basketball). The next video clip shows the impressive bronze statues of famous hockey players. The tribute to Johnny Bower was so touching, I got a lump in my throat, but that was because I almost swallowed my bubble gum.
Here is the video clip: Toronto Maple Leaf statues
Walking along Queen Street at University Avenue, I stopped at Osgoode Hall Law School – which moved to York University in the 1960’s. In 1980, I wrote my LSAT exam (and passed) and hoped to apply there as a mature student. But I decided to stay with General Motors, and the rest is history (no regrets).
I decided to take a detour from the route that Verni gave me and walked over a couple of blocks to Spadina Avenue. I used to work for a company (Morgan-Uster Inc.) that has long since moved or gone out-of-business. Switzer’s and Shopsy’s Deli are both gone, although neither was quite as famous as Swartz’s Deli in Montreal.
Here is a video clip: Morgan-Uster Bldg.
While walking south on Spadina, I met Eduardo. He feeds pigeons – lots of pigeons! My cousin Donna, who works in Toronto, told me that he is well-known but not well-liked by some. But I like animals – and the people who feed them. Here are two video clips:
Next, I walked to the offices of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC). I was a member of the Measurement Steering Committee for a few years, but our meetings were usually in Montreal – so, this was the first time I’d been at the head office. I met with some of my friends, and I made plans to return the following week.
Here is a video clip: CPAC Head Office visit
I continued my walk for another half hour and then got back to the condo for a hot bath – followed by an afternoon nap. I was meeting a new friend for dinner that night, and I wanted to make a good impression.
Friday, January 19, 2018
Today, I was supposed to drive to Coburg, to visit my friends since high school – Alice and Peter Hrehoruk. But I awoke with a touch of Montezuma’s Revenge (traveler’s diarrhea). Before leaving Vancouver the week before, I had heard that a lot of it had been going around, but it hadn’t affected me, until now.
However, it may have had something to do with the two bottles of wine that we drank the night before and the fact, that I seldom drink alcohol anymore.
So I called Alice, and we rescheduled our visit to next week. Alice mentioned that she had had the same stomach issue earlier that week.
I spent the rest of the day in bed – except for a quick visit to the pharmacy across the street – for some Kaopectate (Bismuth subsalicylate).
While in bed, I was reading my emails on my laptop and got a suggestion from my friend in Oshawa to join the Vintage Oshawa facebook page.
I couldn’t believe how excited I was getting from viewing the old photographs that people had posted! The pictures brought back memories I had not thought about in decades. It was because of Vintage Oshawa that I decided to visit both my public and high schools.
My friend Beth sent me the names of the school principals for Dr. SJ Phillips School and O’Neill Collegiate & Vocational Institute, and I sent each of them an email requesting permission to visit their respective schools. Hopefully, I’ll get permission from both because I was already getting stoked!
Saturday, January 20, 2018
I awoke, had breakfast, showered, shaved and was soon driving to visit my Grandma Puffer in Ingoldsby, Ontario. It would take a few hours to get there, but I listened to music and enjoyed the drive. I arrived in Minden before 9:30 AM and drove to the florist shop. I get the same lump in my throat when I think about my Grandma – she and my Ma were both heroes of my heart.
Here is a video clip: Minden Flower Shop
I drove down the road towards Haliburton – passed a few interesting sights along the way to the cemetery in Ingoldsby, including Puffer Road, named after my Ma’s family. Here are a few video clips:
After leaving the cemetery, I stopped by the home of Murray and Alice Hoag, who were neighbors of my Ma’s family. I’ve visited them in the early 70’s with my Grandma Puffer and the 90’s with my Ma. In 2015, my brothers and I visited them, after we visited the cemetery.
But there wasn’t a car in the driveway, and nobody answered the door when I knocked. I got a sick, sinking feeling that something wasn’t right, so I drove to the house next door to the Hoag’s.
A middle-aged couple was standing in the driveway. The man and woman stared at me as I got out of the car – they didn’t appear to be too friendly.
“Hello, I am a friend of Murray and Alice Hoag, and I knocked on their door, but nobody answered…”
But before I could finish my sentence, the lady interrupted me, stating “Murray died five or six months ago, but I’m not sure what happened to Alice.”
They didn’t seem to be very friendly, so I thanked them and got back in the car. They must have wondered what kind of a friend I was if I didn’t even know that Murray had passed.
I became filled with a sense of dread: my world was getting smaller. Another link to my past was now gone. I drove back to Toronto feeling sad and alone. I needed a hug more than anything but decided to go for a walk when I get back to the condo.
After getting back to the condo, I mapped out a 10 KM route to walk along the waterfront and downtown area.
Here are a few video clips: Walk along the harbor – skating rink
I mistakenly mentioned that it appeared that jets also land on the Island Airport, but the plane landing in the clip is a prop plane.
And finally, a ‘bird’s eye’ clip from the condo balcony…
After completing my walk, I spent a few hours on the computer checking out the Vintage Oshawa facebook page.
At the time, my facebook page was under the name Danny James, so not many people would have known that my comments and likes on the VO page were actually from ‘The Saint”. I was thrilled to get comments from old friends that I hadn’t even thought of for more than fifty years!
Sadly, I didn’t get to meet any of them – but I guess these folks prefer to stay in the shadows. But I did get comments from the daughters of two of my closest childhood friends: Kerry Mills and Eric ‘Nic’ Nichols. I also learned of the passing of two of my other childhood friends, Bobby Dove, and Dennis Mason.
As of this writing, I’ve made contact with ‘Nic,’ and we’ve exchanged contact information. Hopefully, we’ll get together at some time in the not-so-distant future. I wonder if he’d remember the Winter night in 1969 when we took our girlfriends to Toronto and then we ran out of gas on the 401 on the way home!
Sunday, January 21, 2018
The excitement started the moment I opened my eyes; because today, I was going to Oshawa to visit my cousin Donna and her husband, Kevin!
Regular readers know that Donna and I are very close and I love her like a sister. She and Kevin, her husband, are a great example of a couple made for each other. And Kevin has a bright spark in his eyes that betray his shyness and a loving hug that confirms his love for you.
The drive to Oshawa was uneventful, although the highway was busier than I had anticipated, given that it was Sunday morning. I drove in silence – no music – just the nervous, anxiety that I always get when I visit my hometown.
Most people, who’ve lived in Oshawa, have an enduring pride, based on its large, blue-collar community.
It is a General Motors town, and I remember hearing how my wealthiest relatives, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Jose, got their start in Oshawa after the war. He worked at GM – initially as the elevator boy at the head office on William Street; later he became the general manager of Stampede Motors, a GM Dealership in Calgary and was well-known in the automotive community. They are both gone, as are their two children – my cousins, Diane (car accident) and Jim (cancer). I was close to Jim and still stay in touch with Millie, his beautiful wife.
Donna answered the front door just as I pressed the doorbell. I was welcomed with a loving hug and kiss, and within seconds we were laughing and crying over mutual memories of loved ones and ones not so loved. After a couple of hours, we had a group hug, and I headed back to Toronto.
Monday, January 22, 2018
Today, was a lazy day.
To date, none of my actor friends had contacted me, and I couldn’t do much on my laptop, so I took a drive to Unionville. There’s a beautiful pond in the middle of a town that I used to like to visit whenever I was in the area.
It’s a sleepy, laid-back kind of town that’s probably filled with all types of Peyton Place intrigue. However, when I arrived on Main Street and got out to walk down the sidewalk, I got a sudden, sinking feeling – the kind of emotion that usually follows a deep and painful truth.
I walked into a crowded coffee shop but decided I would get my coffee ‘to go,’ instead of trying to find a seat. Besides, drives in a car, are always best accompanied by Tim Horton’s latte. However, the sinking feeling continued as I drove back to the condo.
Sometimes, it’s wise to ‘let sleeping dogs lie.’
By the time I got back to the condo, I was feeling much better. I could feel a growing excitement about my plans for the next day, which included a lunch date with Beth R., a childhood friend from school. You probably recall me mentioning her previously – she was the most popular girl in school, who married the most popular boy in school.
The boy’s name was Grant O., and we were almost neighbors. I inherited my Oshawa Times paper route from him when I was in Grade 7. Beth R. and I hadn’t seen each other in fifty years, but we’ve stayed in touch with Classmates, MySpace and Facebook.
We planned to meet at the Globe Restaurant in downtown Oshawa to order their famous ‘shoestring’ potatoes. I used to go there after dances and order a plate of them and a coke for 25 cents!
However, while at Donna and Kevin’s place, I learned that the Globe Restaurant had closed after a fire, and had relocated to Athol Street, as a new establishment.
I sent Beth an email informing her of the news, and we agreed to meet at the new place. Beth later wrote that she had checked their menu online and they still had shoestrings! And even though I wouldn’t be able to eat any, it will still be great to have lunch with her.
The second item on tomorrow’s schedule, is a visit to Dr. SJ Phillips School, on Simcoe Street, where I attended public school. Initially, it was North Simcoe School, but they changed the name when I was in grade six or seven. I had written the principals of both my public and high schools, seeking permission to visit the schools but had only received a reply from Dave, the principal of Dr. SJ Phillips. The last time that I had set foot in that school was when I graduated in June 1963!
That night, I hardly slept a wink. But before retiring for the night, I wrote a short piece on the Vintage Oshawa facebook page about my plans for the next day.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
I arrived in Oshawa a couple of hours early for my lunch date, so I parked on Celina Street, about a block from the restaurant and took a walk up and down the streets of the downtown core.
Here’s a short video clip: Downtown Oshawa walk
At Noon, I was walking up to the restaurant door as my friend Beth pulled up in her car. The restaurant wasn’t open, so I mentioned that we could always go for french fries and a coke at the Rainbow Restaurant on Simcoe Street. I explained that it was the first restaurant that I had ever eaten at and I remembered it was a plate of fries and gravy and a glass of coke. I was surprised to learn that it was Beth’s first restaurant, too!
We got into Beth’s car and drove to the Rainbow. The restaurant had changed since I had last been there in the 60’s and we were both surprised at the number of the framed 8X10 pictures on the wall of celebrities who’ve eaten in the restaurant over the past fifty years.
Our waitress explained that the same family had owned it and it was a custom of the owner to take pictures of famous local celebrities who’d eaten at the restaurant. I told her that Beth and I were there because it was the first restaurant that we’d ever eaten at when we were kids. I explained that we hadn’t seen each other in fifty years and that I was also in town to go for a tour of my public school that afternoon.
What happened next was unbelievable, but I have Beth as my witness! The waitress suddenly shrieked ‘I read about you on Vintage Oshawa Facebook page! Can we get a picture of you both, to post on our wall? The owner will be thrilled that you celebrated your fifty-year reunion at our restaurant. ‘
We agreed, and the waitress took a couple of pictures. If you’re ever in the Rainbow, have a look and let me know if you see our photo. I’ve meant to write Beth to ask if she had seen our picture. Maybe I’ll give her a call sometime.
After lunch, we dropped into the Wilson & Lee music store, which is across the street from the restaurant. Dave Wilson, the owner, was my neighbor in the late 70’s and it was great to see him again – we last saw each other when we were thirty years old; but that was many years ago – today, we wouldn’t have recognized each other!
Beth drove me back to my car, and I told her how much I enjoyed seeing her, and we wished each other well. She seems very happy with her life, and I am thrilled that I finally got to have lunch with a great friend – who is still gorgeous. Funny, but I forgot to ask her about her current love interest – but knowing her, he’s a caring and supportive man and probably ultra-handsome, too!
I drove up Simcoe Street to Dr. SJ Phillips School and had a fantastic tour of the school with David Robson, the school principal. Here are the video clips:
After leaving the school, I drove back through the downtown and stopped at Annie Fuller’s store, on Albert Street, for a bottle of water. I had met the current owner of the store a couple of years ago, but she didn’t appear to recognize me, so I just paid and left without uttering a word. Back in the day, if you were short a nickel or a dime, Annie would tell you to give it to her the next time you’re in the store!
But I didn’t drink the water while driving back to Toronto, because I’d probably end up needing to pee while being stuck in a twenty-mile traffic jam on the Don Valley Parkway!
When I got back to the condo, I called my Aunt Fern, to confirm that I would be visiting her the next day. She told me that it had been snowing there all day and hoped that the roads would be clear on Wednesday.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Today, I decided to take a different route to Aunt Fern’s, because the Don Valley Parkway is a route to avoid during rush hour. So, at 7:45 AM, I was driving on the Gardiner Expressway – or more accurately – the Gardiner Parking Lot!
Now, I know that all of my friends in Vancouver or Montreal would argue that their respective cities have the worst rush hour traffic in Canada – but in my humble opinion, Toronto is the worst! I decided to take a short video of the ‘circus.’
Here is the video clip: Gardiner Expressway at 8:30 AM
I finally reached Highway 427 and headed north towards Barrie. The sun was shining, and I was listening to Delbert McClinton on a blues mix, as the traffic continued its slow pace. I was in need of both a coffee and a pit stop, so I pulled into the first service center that I came to, on Highway 400.
Here is a video clip: Hwy 400 Pitstop & coffee
Listening to music, while driving on a highway, with the cruise control set at ten clicks over the speed limit and a cup of Tim’s dark roast coffee, is my idea of a ‘peaceful, easy feeling.’
Of the four times that I’ve driven to Aunt Fern’s place, this was the first time that I didn’t get lost! There was snow, and it was still freezing, as I pulled into Angus. Here’s a couple of video clips:
The drive back to downtown Toronto went well, and I arrived at the condo at 4:45 PM.
I took this video clip: From the condo at dusk
Goodnight, Toronto; pleasant dreams!
Thursday, January 25, 2018
I awoke at 4:30 AM, with a bad case of stomach flu – again! I remained in bed for the day.
However, I was thrilled to get a message from my buddy Pete Smeader, who is an actor, now living in Toronto. Pete was also a part of Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding theatre ensemble, in Vancouver. He has a full-time job with Air Canada and works the afternoon/night shifts, so we made plans to meet on Friday.
Friday, January 26, 2018
Felt much better when I got up this morning – and it looks like another beautiful day in the big smoke! Here is a video clip from the condo’s balcony: Friday morning high above the harbor
I drove to Mimico, a suburb on the west side of Toronto, to visit Pete at his apartment. We had a great visit and then at Noon, I drove him to the airport, for his afternoon shift. I didn’t realize until he got out of the car, that I never got a picture or video of him for this story.
However, I told Pete that I was saving a leading role for him in our first Empty Bucket List Production project – he is an incredible actor!
After dropping Pete off, I headed back to the highway to Oshawa, to visit Larry H., who is a long-time friend. We have only seen each other once, in the last forty years – so it was exciting, and I know that we’ll have a lot of catching up to do!
Here’s our selfie clip: Visit with friend Larry H.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Today, I hung out in the downtown area. No pictures or video clips. Just a quiet day with me, myself and I. Tomorrow, I’m going to my parent’s place in Oshawa and then I’ll head over to my cousin Donna and Kevin’s home.
Sunday, January 28, 2018
Today, I spent the day visiting my cousin and then driving around some of my old haunts. Here is a clip of my visit with Donna and Kevin.
Monday, January 29. 2018
The last time I visited the cemetery, the snow covered everything, so I couldn’t find exactly where Ma and Dad’s grave was – but today, the snow is all gone. The two roses that I left on the ground in the proximity of their plot, had blown away but I was surprised to see that someone had recently placed two poppies on their grave!
Here is a video clip: Visit with Ma and Dad
After leaving the cemetery, I drove to Coburg, to visit my lifelong friends, Alice and Peter Hrehoruk.
We had lots of laughs and some tears, and before we knew it, it was time for me to leave. I had brought a change of clothes with me because I was going to a meeting at the Masonic lodge in Whitby.
Before leaving Alice and Peter’s place, we hugged and promised to stay in touch. I love these two friends; every time I visit them, I get choked up with emotions and the sky begins to cry.
I’ve been a member of Composite Lodge since 1978, and I’m looking forward to seeing all of my old (and new) friends! But as I was getting out of the car, I noticed it had started snowing! It was 7:00 PM, and I hoped it wouldn’t snow too much.
After the meeting adjourned, I asked one of the brethren to take a photo of Ray Nash and me with one of the lodge’s newest members. Happy to meet; sorry to part; happy to meet, again!
After leaving the lodge at 10:00 PM, I spent the next two hours driving behind several snow plows on Highway 401. When I finally got to the Don Valley Parkway, I cringed; it was snow-covered, and there was only one lane open! And the traffic was stopped and go all the way until I got to the condo.
I stayed up until I got everything packed, as I would be checking out in the morning. Tomorrow, I was going to check-in at the Delta Airport Hotel.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
I checked out of the AirNB condo and then drove to the hotel at the airport.
Here is a video clip of the condo: Final condo inspection
Although I’ve stayed at the Delta Airport Hotel many times, over the years, this was my first time since they renovated their airport property. I finally had a television to watch, and I enjoyed staying at the hotel. Here’s a couple of video clips:
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
I awoke suddenly in the early hours – in a bit of a panic because I wasn’t sure when my flight was departing, and I didn’t want to sit around the airport all day, waiting.
Luckily, I checked – because I was able to take the 7:00 AM flight, instead of waiting until 5:00 PM, for my originally scheduled departure. I arrived at the airport at 5:00 AM and relaxed with a latte from Tim’s.
Here is a video clip: Message from Danny
Thanks, for your patience – it’s taken far too long, to complete this story but I’m glad that I visited Ontario, and wrote about the trip.
I am already planning a return visit to Ontario after we sell the house.
I wasn’t able to resolve the dream that I was chasing, so, I guess there is still one chapter left for this story.
But I won’t write the final chapter UNTIL I finally resolve my dream, or concede. But I have never been a quitter, so I’ll never quit!
By the way, I went to see my radiation oncologist on the day after my return, to get the results of the ct scan that I had just before leaving for this trip. Here’s a video link to the results:
After eight years – I’m finally cancer free! Let me leave you with something I learned: “Living with cancer isn’t a death sentence, but giving up on living is!” ~ Danny
Dedicated to my friends, Alice and Peter Hrehoruk
Hugs & Love,
Today’s Tune (from Danny’s library of purchased music):