Chasing a Dream

My temporary digs in Toronto                                                                                                             (Photo by Danny)

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 was very unhappy, which resulted in an unhappy relationship for both of us.  I am not coming out of any closet – and I am totally straight – I just 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 future 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 – despite the fact that it is the best place on Earth – it is also very expensive.  So I started thinking about Vancouver Island and/or the Sunshine Coast.  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 spots after six months.  In February 2017, the CT Scan showed that the two spots were still in the upper chamber but now there were two additional spots on the lower chamber of the right 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 deeper 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:

  1. Secrets we share with family
  2. Secrets we share with best friends
  3. Secrets we keep hidden deep within 

But all of that changed in early October when I learned about the Surrey Trekkers 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 I’m a member of the Washington Trail Association.  Walking with these clubs has been an effective treatment because amazingly, I lost the depression during my first walk with the Surrey Trekkers.  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 politely 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 of as a fool – than to open it and remove all doubt!”  But I’m not sure the warning applies to the written word.  But 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 it will be easier 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/or in 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 rather just rent a car for the day when I need it and walk or take transit as my normal 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 an added 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.   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 – 3oth and paid in advance.  I also planned to stay in a hotel at the Toronto Airport on January 3oth to avoid the next day rush to get to the airport.

I also 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 do 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 787 plane, and I had a private domain – complete with a seat that became a bed, TV monitor and desk; headphones, remote control – 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. 

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 pay you?   Me thinks, 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 first 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 just about 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 actually two large high rises connected by a large lobby on the main floor.  It appeared to be a fairly 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 apartment 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 balcony itself was only 18 inches wide!  Not a lot of space to do anything but stand – and it was definitely too cold to do that! 

And although the sirens weren’t for this building, it made me wonder how I would ever be saved 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 thirty-five floors, either!

I looked around the condo and although it was very small – 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 only a menu to view Netflix and other video/game options.  I tried various options but couldn’t find an option to view 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 explain 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.

Morning sunrise from condo

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 and I was able to get a great deal with Enterprise, which had a location across from Union Station – which was within a few blocks of 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 was surprised to hear.  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/or say hello.  But everyone avoided eye contact and ignored my greeting, except one person with a large dog – the dog growled at me!  It’s not often that I’ve had a dog growl at me – I normally get along with all dogs.  But the 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 spoke 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 how wonderful it was to meet another dog owner and 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 actually 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 freezing 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 the car that was reserved for me?  Did you rent it to someone else?’ 

I was starting to get upset. 

‘I just about froze my kahunas walking here in the freezing 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 freezing 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 vehicle. 

‘No, I called to complain.  I want to speak to your supervisor so I can lodge a formal customer complaint – so that this isn’t repeated again.’  But he put me on hold and I waited and waited.  I was getting too upset and decided to just 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.  This is what 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 it was at my door or the neighbors but whoever was knocking – he/she seemed angry.  And then, 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?  Or
  • maybe it’s a police raid and they’re about to bust down the door? Or
  • maybe it’s a jealous husband or wife?  Or
  • maybe I’m just hearing things…

Suddenly, the knocking became louder and more aggressive. 

I quietly tiptoed to the door and peeked through the peephole and noticed a short, elderly 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!  You like 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 longest moment and then suddenly his smile returned and he walked over to the balcony door.

‘You like view?  Very pretty, yes?’

‘No, I mean yes, it’s a nice 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 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 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 started 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 guys I hadn’t even 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 nice 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 just 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 vehicles 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:

  1. 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 fee – but you have to negotiate for this option.
  2. Never let them make you pay for upgrading a vehicle. They probably don’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.
  3. Don’t pay for Sirius or WiFi – they charge $10 minimum per day. The vehicle you get will probably already have these – so why pay extra? 
  4. 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 was 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.  Originally, 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 and pulled up to the underground parking door, which was closed.  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 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 a 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 to 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

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.  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.

However, I always 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 really bother my Dad because he thought I was being disrespectful.  He 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 my special term of affection for her.   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 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 and board.  This house used to be the home of her 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 with a stranger taking pictures.  So I left without taking the picture 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 have driven 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.

But I really was shocked at the changes in the downtown area – it no longer resembled the once vibrant center of what used to be my Universe.  But then 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

Good morning, Toronto!

 Even though I didn’t have my dog, 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 lives 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.

Danny & Aunt Fern

Thursday, January 18, 2018

It was colder than I was used to 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 printed several years ago, and much had 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 policeman 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 awesome 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).  

Osgoode Hall Law School

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:

Eduardo the Pigeon Man (Part 1 of 2)

Eduardo the Pigeon Man (Part 2 of 2)

 Next, I walked to the offices of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.  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.  Met with some of my friends and 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 woke up 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 because it burns my throat.

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 excited!  

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 is a couple of video clips:

Visit with Grandma & Grandpa Puffer

Visit with Grandparents and Uncle Ron & Aunt Kay


To be continued…




Today’s tune from Danny’s library (purchased):  


My First Blind Date

I was finally moving into my new apartment and it had only taken me a week to find it despite the numerous ‘No Vacancy’ signs hanging outside most of the high rises in the West End.  It was located on Alberni Street, a few feet from Stanley Park and it had an awesome view of Coal Harbour and the north shore mountains.  It’s probably a lot easier to find an apartment or condo to rent in Vancouver today than it was when I first moved here from Etobicoke, Ontario in 1973.  Back then, the vacancy rate in downtown Vancouver was less than 1%.

We had just started a business in Toronto and I would be living in Vancouver, Bobby would be in Montreal and Jack, the senior partner would remain in Toronto where our office and warehouse were located.  Basically, we were a textile company that sold to department stores and fabric stores.  Jack, the senior partner, was somewhat famous because he was the person who first brought polyester to Canada from Japan.  Back then, polyester was known by various names such as crimplene, crimpknit, trevira, dacron, terylene, and others, depending on country of origin.  We were importers and converters of textiles but most of our fabrics came from the United States.  But this story isn’t about fabrics… I just wanted to explain why I had moved to Vancouver.

I had been a manufacturers’ agent (self-employed salesman) that represented a number of companies in the textile industry.  I had a button and zipper line (HA Kidd & Co); trim and lace line (Morgan Uster Ltd); velvet line (Martin Fabrics) and my territory included Central and Northern Ontario.  I called on all of the established customers as well as constantly looking for new customers.  I was on a draw against commission – which means that each of these companies sent me a monetary advance on the first of each month.  I had to pay all of my expenses (living and work-related) out of that draw and hoped that my commissions for the month covered the advances.  My work-related expenses included leasing a vehicle, gas, meals, hotels, entertainment for others and dry cleaning bills for the suits I wore.  My living expenses were the usual – rent, utilities, clothes, and girls.  It was those combined expenses that made me become the best possible salesman I could ever be – I was too terrified of not covering my monthly expenses!

I can remember filling my car up with gas in Toronto and paying 39 cents a gallon!  I didn’t have a CHARGEX credit card at the time, so all of my purchases were in cash.  My monthly draw worked out to $175 per week – with no deductions for income tax etc.  And it used to cost me one hundred dollars to travel on the road for a week – gas, hotel and food.  Now you can better understand the source of my financial worries.  But I was happy – and within a few months – making good money!

Over the course of a few visits, I became friends with many of my customers in northern Ontario.    Later, when I went into business I decided to give my customers a phone call to thank them for their business and advise them of my upcoming move to Vancouver.  One store owner in Timmins became a close friend – she was like an aunt to me.   She said that although she was sad to see me moving, she did want me to know that her best friend had a daughter who now lived in Vancouver and she knew that the girl would really like me.  But I wasn’t interested – except – how do I say no to my friend (and customer)?  So I agreed and was given the girl’s name and phone number.  My friend, whose name I forget, said that she would call the girl and tell her to expect a call from me.  When I arrived in Vancouver, the last thing I wanted to do was call this girl – after all, I didn’t believe in blind dates (for both’s sake).  Besides, I had to get a new vehicle and find an apartment to rent in the West End – where the vacancy rate was less than 1%.

My priorities were like any self-respecting single guy – car first; pad second; business third; romance fourth.  I walked into BOWMAC – if you’ve lived in Vancouver – it used to have this huge sign on Broadway.  It was a GM Dealership and that’s all a kid from Oshawa would ever drive.  Anyways, I met Jim, a salesman about my age and within minutes, I had leased a ’74 Trans Am.  He invited me to his place on 10th Avenue – it was a large house and he shared it with three other guys.  Did I mention that it was a stone throw from the nurses’ residence?  Each of his roommates were also salesmen, so we had a lot in common.  And the nurses’ residence was nearby – but I probably already mentioned that.

That weekend, Jim and the guys and me did a little pub crawling – it was the first titty bar I’d ever been in and I was somewhat shocked.  It also gave me a sudden attack of loneliness.  But I was staying in a hotel and needed to focus on getting myself a place to rent.  Jim or one of the other guys would drive me around the West End, looking for a  ‘Vacancy’ sign outside, until one night we found the place on Alberni, close to Stanley Park.  I paid the rent and security deposit and waited until my furniture arrived before I could truly feel I was now a resident of Vancouver!

Sometime later, while sitting alone in my apartment, I pulled the paper with the girl’s name and number.  I fumbled with the paper – staring at it and wondering – should I call?  I gave into the loneliness and called her.  

Although it’s been many years, my memory only seems to remember important events and personal incidents – as opposed to remembering people’s names.  But I always remember a face and the memorable experiences things that I associate with that person.  So, if you asked me what this girl’s name was – I couldn’t tell you.  But I remember a number of things about her and I certainly remember that phone call and the date that followed.

She answered my phone call with a pleasant sounding voice and our conversation went something like this:

Girl:  Oh Danny!  [Timmins store owner] told me all about you.  I was expecting to hear from you weeks ago – I assumed you weren’t interested in meeting me.  

Danny:  Oh no, I’m sorry but I’ve been busy getting some wheels, finding a place to rent and conduct business at the same time.  I would like to get together with you – if you’re interested – but I know that blind dates are scary and …

Girl:  Yes, how about Friday night?

Danny:  Okay, yes, uh-duh, what’s your address?

She gave me her address and then quickly said goodbye.  She didn’t ask me anything about myself – which I thought was a bit weird.  And that’s when the doubts and fears started to ebb and flow inside my tiny brain. 

‘She’s probably desperate’ I thought, ‘maybe I’m the first guy that’s even called her in months!  Why did I ever agree with [Timmins store owner] to go out with her friend’s daughter?  I am such a ‘mark’ for a sob story!  But what the heck did I have to lose – being stuck with someone with whom I have nothing in common with? 

My new friend Jim almost answered that question for me, when I told him about the phone call and pending blind date.  Because after I told him that she lived in Surrey, he threw his arms up into the air and screamed that it was geographically impossible to have a girlfriend, who lived that far away from downtown Vancouver.  (Remember, this was 1973 – before the new bridges and skytrain!)

I bought a city map from a gas station and looked for her address.  I gauged the distance to be the equivalent of driving from Oshawa to Toronto (30 miles), which was a ‘piece of cake’ for a kid from Ontario!

I parked in the parking lot of her complex and then rang the buzzer to her apartment.

Girl:  Hello?

In the background, was the sound of either a baby crying or fifty fingernails scratching down the blackboard at school!  Now, don’t get me wrong – I love kids!  It’s just when the pitch of their crying is so high that it breaks windshields, that I get a little uncomfortable.

Danny:  It’s Danny… uh, duh…

Girl:  I’ll be down in a minute! I’m just giving the babysitter instructions.

I stood in the lobby and waited for the elevator door to open.  It did several times but not with anyone resembling a twenty-something-year-old girl.  After about ten minutes, she appeared – and I was shocked – she was nothing like what I had imagined.

I’d almost talked myself into believing that my blind date would appear wearing a t-shirt with a ‘eat your heart out – I’m married’ slogan; a cigarette hanging from her mouth; her hair in curlers, no makeup, and no front teeth.  Was I ever wrong – because the girl that appeared in the lobby was as beautiful as any girl I’d ever dated.  And although I still can’t remember her name – I can remember her face and body, and both were stunning!

She appeared to be surprised as she gave me the once-over, but her eyes seemed to light up and suddenly she flashed a beautiful smile – and she had teeth, too!

Girl:  Hi Danny. 

Danny:  Hi (Girl).

I didn’t want to appear too interested or anxious, but I couldn’t keep from smiling – from ear to ear. 

Danny:  You’re the prettiest girl I’ve seen in 3 weeks! 

I cringed immediately after saying it – even though it had always been my most effective ‘opening line’.  You should never let a person know you’re interested in them by acting too anxious.  ‘Try to maintain a little mystery, you jerk!’ I mumbled to myself.

Girl:  You’re not what I’d envisioned.

Danny:  In a good or bad way?

Girl:  I’m not sure.  It’s just that I’ve never been on a blind date before, but my Mom’s best friend kept calling me and insisting that I go out with you.

Danny:  I hate blind dates, too!  So, do I pass the test?

Girl:  I don’t know – it’s too early.  But I’ll know soon enough – it’s my job to be a quick study on people.

Danny:  Are you a cop?

Girl:  No.  I’m a customs officer.

Danny: ‘WTF!  (Why That’s Fascinating!) I shouted out loud, [The other WTF hadn’t been invented, yet] my Dad’s a customs officer in Toronto!

Oops!  I instantly regretted opening my big pie hole.  ‘Try to maintain a little mystery, you jerk!’ I mumbled to myself, again.

But she liked my car and within minutes we were on our way downtown.  I had found an awesome multi-level nightclub called Oil Can Harry’s at 752 Thurlow Street and it had live bands playing on each of the three levels.  I was hoping that she’d be seeing the place for the first time – because I knew it would impress her – and that is what any self-respecting guy would do on a date.  But as we entered the first level, the bouncer at the door – a giant of a man – suddenly started hugging my date and within a few seconds they were laughing and hugging and laughing and hugging and I was standing there like one of those wax figures you’d see in Madame Tussauds Famous Wax Museum.  I wasn’t jealous – I’ve never been jealous – but I felt kind of left out. 

February 25 1975 Vancouver Sun advertisement for Oil Can Harry’s on Thurlow Street [PNG Merlin Archive]

We grabbed a table and ordered drinks, but it was too loud to carry a conversation – so we just drank and danced.  I remember that she was a very good dancer and she smelled pretty good, too.  I was hoping for a slow dance, but the band kept playing fast songs.  But when they played the first slow song, I reached my left hand out to grab her right hand, but she instead put both of her arms around me in a hug – so I followed and soon we were standing alone, almost motionless on the dance floor.  I’m sure that there were people watching us and thinking that we should leave enough room between us for daylight, but we were both oblivious to the surroundings.  There’s something about a slow dance that if done properly, can be a green light to other, more passionate activity. 

Suddenly, she stopped hugging me and grabbed my hand and led me off the dance floor.  Within minutes, we were heading back to her place in Surrey.  I don’t remember much about the drive, but I do remember what happened when we arrived at her place.  How could I ever forget?

My date paid the babysitter and then put on some music.  I remember that it was Barry White, her favorite singer – whose songs were perfect for the evening.  Soon the living room was dark, with only the light of a single candle.  I could feel the excitement and anticipation growing, as she threw a couple of cushions on the floor.

Soon our eyes locked and she began moving closer until our faces almost touched.  Her eyes began to close, and I knew that she would be waiting for our lips to meet.  As we kissed, a debate began inside my little brain – should I try for more or just be content with kissing and hugging?  Most guys faced with this type of dilemma would think with their ‘other’ brain and make the mistake of trying to get to first base too soon (as though making out is like baseball!).  Nope, a person once told me that you should wait until you’re both ready to make a commitment to each other – such as going steady or marriage.  But just before our kissing got to the point of no return – she stopped and looked deeply into my eyes and said:

“Do you think I’m promiscuous?”

I stared back into her eyes, but I didn’t know how to answer her because I didn’t know what the word ‘promiscuous’ meant!  I had never heard the word before but in the heat of the moment, and somewhat out-of-breath, I guessed that it meant someone who was attractive or desirable – so I said YES!

It was the first time that I have ever had my face slapped and I was shocked and confused! 

‘WTF!’ (Why The Face!) I shouted, ‘I didn’t mean to upset you.  To tell you the truth, I don’t even know what that word means.’

But she was already standing and soon all the lights in her apartment were on and I was driving back to Vancouver.  She never told me what the word meant and we never saw each other again. 

The other mistake I made that evening was telling my new friend Jim about what had happened.  He couldn’t tell me what the word ‘promiscuous’  meant because he was laughing so hard.

And that, dear reader, is when I learned a new word.  True story.


Dedicated to my friend Doug Jackson – The World’s #1 Salesman (Retired)!



Gifts of Love

I never expected to receive a Christmas gift this year but I did.  In fact, I got two gifts and both came as a complete surprise.  They were the first gifts that I’ve received at Christmas, in a very long time and at first, I hesitated about opening them.  But I’ll get back to the gifts of love in a moment because I need to tell you, dear reader, another story from my childhood.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had mixed feelings about receiving gifts but I’m not sure why.  It’s not that I’m fussy or difficult to please – I’m not.  It’s just that I feel awkward and unworthy – but I can’t explain it better than that.  But I love giving gifts – so I’ll never be accused of being a Scrooge.

As one, of six children, we always had a gift to open on our birthday or at Christmas but they were seldom toys or other neat things that you’d see advertised on TV.  One Christmas, we got an oversized toboggan – but who wants to share that with two older sisters?   But we always had a great Christmas feast and always lots of company to share the excitement.  And my Ma would always bake a birthday cake on our birthdays – so I’m not complaining or ungrateful. 

But there was always a little part of me that was jealous of my friends at school when they described all of the stuff they got.  The gift I got most often, was something that my Ma knitted for me – such as a pair of mitts, a toque (knitted cap) or socks.  My Grandma Puffer used to also knit things for my sisters, brothers and me.  It wasn’t until later years that I realized how much time and love were spent by Ma and Grandma knitting things for us.  And Ma used to make my sister’s blouses, dresses, and skirts.  She was very talented and I always received compliments when wearing a sweater that Ma had knitted me.  I still have the sweaters and I treasure them, although they no longer fit.

A few weeks before Christmas, one of the walking groups that I belong to was having a party and everyone brought a gift.  I didn’t stay at the party once the meal was served, so I wasn’t there when the gifts were distributed.  Everyone brought something inexpensive that would be suitable for either a man or woman.  A week or so later, one of my walking buddies mentioned that he had saved my gift from the party and it was in his car.  He gave it to me last week, after Christmas but I never opened it until yesterday.  It was a generous gift certificate.  Again I felt a pang of guilt for receiving a gift.  

The other gift that I received was really unexpected – and it too warms my heart just thinking about it. 

My friend Sannie had started a new job in Vancouver, so our get-togethers were becoming less frequent.  But she is like a daughter to me and I was hoping we could see each other before the holidays.  We made arrangements to meet for lunch on the 23rd.  I had gathered a bunch of goodies from Trader Joe’s for her as an unwrapped Christmas gift because I didn’t want her to feel bad for not getting me anything.  But she told me that she had a gift from me, so after we had lunch and got back in the car, we exchanged our Christmas card and gift.

Sannie’s gift to me was neatly wrapped with two ribbons on each end of the gift.  I read the card – and then with my hands trembling with the excitement of a ten-year-old, I opened the present.  It was an awesome toque that she had knitted for me!  And although I never asked her – I imagined that she probably thought about me, as she knitted it.  I held back the tears until we had said our goodbyes and had started the drive home.  Her boyfriend Kuba, is a very lucky boy!

This was the best Christmas I’ve had in many years!  

Sannie and Kuba (Jacob)





Message from Santa Danny

Leigha Rock, Dr. Denise Laronde and Santa Danny (December 19, 2017)


Yesterday, Santa Danny went to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to present a cheque towards oral cancer research at the university and BC Cancer Foundation.

He also visited with the staff in the Faculty of Dentistry, which is where Danny gave his speech during their Research Day in January 2016.  It was Dr. Laronde, who invited me, as a cancer patient/survivor to give a speech about oral cancer.

Here is the link to the presentation:  Danny’s speech at UBC Faculty of Dentistry

And Leigha Rock is a Ph.D. student (soon to be a doctor!) who I attended a number of evening dental study groups with.  In the recent ranking among doctorate students – Leigha ranked 3rd out of 900 in Canada!

I’ll be posting all of the pictures from Santa’s visit when I get back from my Wednesday walk with my friends at Surrey Trekkers.

Wishing everyone an awesome holiday season and a healthy and happy New Year!

Hugs & Luv,

Santa Danny


Eleven Oh One

Originally published on November 11, 2012

It must have caused quite a commotion when he arrived in this world.  Come to think of it,  I’ve never heard of it before (or since) – being born with different colored eyes.  But it’s true – although I never saw them myself – his wife told me about them.  She also told me that he was just a teenager when he left school to join the army – the Ontario Regiment to be exact.  She said that his mother didn’t even kiss him goodbye when he left for Europe to fight in the Second World War.  It was a long journey – boarding a train in Oshawa for Halifax – and then by ship to England.  But he had his guitar with him, and his buddies from the neighborhood, so he probably wasn’t lonely.  His wife also told me – with a look of pride – that he played his guitar on the BBC Radio, although it didn’t make him famous.  After a few months, his regiment was shipped to Sicily, Italy.   

She told me that he was badly wounded – shrapnel from a bomb or grenade had struck him in the eye.  She said that the medics placed sandbags around his head to keep him still while they removed the metal from his left eye – the operation took place on the battlefield.  But they couldn’t save his eye – there was nothing left of it.    He returned home to Oshawa – but the war for him was not over.  There would be many sleepless nights – reliving the horrors of war.  He wore an eye patch for quite some time – until he was fitted with a “glass eye”.  Nobody could tease him about his different colored eyes anymore. 

His wife told me that they had met each other after the war – and it was love at first sight.  She said they married and then went to Montreal for their honeymoon.  They started a family – their first child was a girl – and they named her Linda Mae.  Their second daughter was born a year later – they named her Leslie Heather.  A year later, they had their first boy and named him Daniel James.  Nobody ever called me Daniel though – it was always just Danny.  My brother Frederick (Freddy) was born a year later and then several years later, the stork brought Eric (Ricky) and then returned a year later to bring Randall (Randy).

I remember asking Dad about his experiences in the war but he would always remain silent.  In fact, he never talked about the war until I was an adult but even then, he would only talk about it in general terms – never the gory details.  My Mom explained that most of the soldiers that had seen action would never talk about their experiences.  I remember my cousin Jim Little from Calgary once telling me that he was a young boy when my Dad had returned home from the war.  Jim and his parents were living in my Grandparent’s home on Ritson Road, and he remembers that whenever there was a bad storm – with thunder, my Dad would be in the closet – taking cover.  My Mom told me that for years my Dad would wake up at night, screaming.  

My Dad was sick for the last year of his life.  My Mom called me after he had been taken by ambulance to the Oshawa Hospital.  I made arrangements to fly to Toronto the next day and took a taxi from the airport directly to the hospital.  My family was all gathered in his room – he was laying on the bed – his eyes were closed.  I asked my Mom if he was sleeping, but she sadly shook her head and told me that he wasn’t conscious. 

I went out into the hall and spoke to the Head Nurse – “Is my Dad going to regain consciousness?  Is he going to be okay?”  She told me that my Dad could probably still hear – but he wouldn’t be able to respond.  I remember walking back into the room and over to his bed.  I stroked his head and told him that I loved him.  I had never ever told him that before.  And my Dad had never ever told me that he loved me either.  

I had just sat down beside my Ma, when suddenly, my Dad sat upright and looked directly at me and pointed and tried to say something but it all came out garbled.  It lasted only a few seconds – and then, just as suddenly, he laid back down.  I ran over to him and stroked his forehead, trying to reassure him that everything was going to be okay.

My Mom suggested that we leave for the evening.  My brother Randy would be staying in the room with Dad and then I would return to the hospital in the morning.  We said goodnight to Dad and as we were leaving I glanced at the framed picture of my Dad in his army uniform – taken just before he left for the war in Europe.  My Mom had brought the picture to Dad’s room because it was Remembrance Day – November 11th.

On our drive back to their apartment, I told Mom that I had never told Dad that I loved him before and I hoped that he was able to hear me.  But I knew that he loved me – because my Mom told me so.  He was brought up in a family that didn’t show their emotions – so it just wasn’t in his nature.   We had just walked into their place and the telephone rang.  I answered the phone, it was Randy – he said that Dad had just passed away. 

Yes, he passed away on Remembrance Day, November 11, 2001 – – how befitting for a veteran. 

And my Mom, who was just a bit superstitious, would often comment on how strange it was that when she moved sometime later into a condo in Ajax, that it happened to be #1101 (eleven-o-one) and that Dad had died on 11/01.

And on September 26, 2010,  Mom was reunited with Dad.

Rest in Peace, Dad.

Rest in Peace, Ma.

All My Love Forever and Ever,


Today’s Tune:  The Band Played Waltzing Matilda ~ The Dubliners


Dedicated to my new friend Dale C., a veteran.


Rambo and His Kids

Although we had never met – they were perfect strangers, it hurt to see them there in their temporary shelter.  They weren’t much older than teenagers, and yet, there they were all bundled up under an assortment of mix and match blankets and towels – sleeping on the sidewalk.  Laying beside the young couple on the sidewalk, was a large dog.  The dog was all covered up too, with just his head showing.

All three of them were asleep, as I stood and stared at them.  They had a cup and a handwritten sign asking for a donation and another cup beside the dog with kibbles, and a small bowl of water.  I reached into my pocket but didn’t have any cash on me – just credit cards.  I felt guilty as I walked away – heck, these were just children, I thought.

I had come to the city to attend the Crazy8’s Film Info Session at the RIO Theatre on Broadway Avenue, just a few doors down from where the kids and their dog were sleeping.  I checked the time – it was at 11:30 AM – and the event was supposed to end at 4:00 PM, so I doubted that I would ever see them again.  Their reason for being on the street is probably similar to many of the homeless, but I can’t imagine how their current living condition could be better, than what they were trying to escape.   I wanted to stay and wait until they awoke and at least say hello and be a friendly face.  I also wanted to meet their dog.

But the information session was crucial, and I needed to get a good seat, so I rushed into the RIO with my buddy Robert Mahe, with whom I recently started a film production company.  We met as actors on set in 2008, and have been great friends ever since.  We both wanted to produce films and will be using one of my published stories from my website as our first film project.

One hour later…

Although I was really enjoying the session, my mind kept wandering to those kids and their dog, laying on the pavement in the doorway of some building, on a cold and damp October afternoon.  I got up and quickly walked outside the to see if they were still there.  And they were!  So I approached them and said hello.  They looked up at me and smiled!

The dog appeared to be their spokesman because he suddenly gave me an evil-looking stare and then started to bark at me!  I cautiously stepped back to reassure the dog, but that just seemed to make him angrier!

I asked if I could pet their dog, but now the dog was standing and on full alert!  His stare became even scarier and his barking continued – non-stop!

I knew that a barking dog doesn’t mean that it’s vicious – or that it doesn’t like you (unless it’s my dog, Holly).  Barking is their way of communicating.  But it wasn’t his bark that gave me a bit of a chill.  It was his eyes – I’ve never seen eyes like that before in my life!  This was definitely, the scariest-looking dog I’ve ever seen.

“I’m sorry that I upset your dog,” I quickly uttered.

The young man politely explained that the barking indicated that the dog wanted me to pet him!  And although that sounded somewhat counter-intuitive, their love for that dog was apparent, and it was all the reassurance I needed.

“May I take a video clip of your dog?” I asked.

“Sure!” they cheerfully replied.

I asked them for their dog’s name, and then I softly clapped my hands and said: “Come here, Rambo!”

Here’s a video clip of what followed:

Click to view – Rambo and his two kids

But Danny, you took me away from my hectic life to read about two homeless kids and their dog?  Your stories used to be almost interesting, but now they’re redundant.

Relax,  Spanky. And stop picking your nose!

Anyway, I posted this because I told the kids I would post the clip on my Facebook page and gave the boy my card.  But it wasn’t until I got home a few hours later that I remembered that my Facebook page isn’t under my full name; I changed it several months ago.  The library on Georgia Street is probably where they access computers to view their social media pages, and it bothered me that they might be disappointed when they can’t find my FB page.  But my business card also has this website address, so that’s why I’ve written about them and their dog, Rambo – in the faint hope, that they’ll visit my website or email me.  I went to a nearby ATM to get some cash and then returned and gave them $20 and wished them well and then walked away.  The three of them were huddled together in the blanket, and that’s how I’ll always remember them.

It’s heart-breaking to see kids that young on the street and homeless.  And yet, the Little Danny in me admired the fact, that these kids would rather be homeless than be apart.  When I was their age, I too made a sacrifice to leave home to be with the one I loved and worked my way through the last year of high school just so I could be with her.  There were many days I went to bed hungry, but it was worth it.  But here’s the difference: when my girlfriend’s father forbade her from seeing me after we got engaged, she obeyed him, and I never saw her again.  I didn’t know it at the time, but her father did me a favor – because his daughter didn’t love me enough to run away with me.  I heard that she married a rich guy, which now makes sense.

So in closing, I hope that the kids get to read this and see the video.  I also wanted the kids to know that I would have made the same sacrifice for love as they have and that they and their dog will always be my heroes!

And now the sky is crying!  Bye, Rambo!


Little Danny

Today’s tune from Danny’s music library (purchased):  Positively 4th Street ~ Bob Dylan


Lyrics:   Positively 4th Street

You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend
When I was down you just stood there grinning.
You got a lotta nerve to say you’ve got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on the side that’s winning.
You say I let you down you know it’s not like that
If you’re so hurt why then don’t you show it.
You say you’ve lost your faith but that’s not where it’s at
You had no faith to lose and you know it.
I know the reason that you talk behind my back
I used to be among the crowd you’re in with.
Do you take me for such a fool to think I’d make contact
With the one who tries to hide what he don’t know, to begin with.
You see me on the street you always act surprised
You say, “How are you?” “Good luck” but you don’t mean it.
When you know as well as me you’d rather see me paralyzed
Why don’t you just come out once and scream it.
No, I do not feel that good when I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief perhaps I’d rob them.
And I know you’re dissatisfied with your position and your place
Don’t you understand it’s not my problem.
I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment, I could be you.
Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is to see you.
Songwriters: Bob Dylan
Positively 4th Street lyrics © Bob Dylan Music Co.

Little Danny (1952)

Moonshine in the Maritimes – The Final Chapter

My Ruthie

Readers of this blog will remember my original Moonshine in the Maritimes posting from November 8, 2016 –  a blog that was both painful to write and impossible for me to complete a final chapter.

But all of that changed this morning, and now my heart is racing, and my legs are shaking, and I can’t believe how excited I am!  And now, the final chapter is pulsing through my body – from my brain to my heart – and from my heart to my brain.  There’s so much that I want to say…

It’s currently Thursday, March 2, 2017, and I am leaving to go to the Promenade in White Rock to do my walk.  Walking helps me think, and I need to put all of these highly-charged emotions into words, sentences, and paragraphs.  And it has to be believable because frankly, it is – but I’ll leave it to you – and your judgment to decide for yourself.

But don’t ask me to re-publish the original blog – I deleted it one night when I was deep in a depressed state – missing my cousin Ruthie and feeling sorry for myself.  Isn’t that why we cry?  We’re hurt and feeling sorry for ourselves – wondering how our lives will ever be the same without our loved one.

So, my story will resume on the morning of  November 12, 2016, just before we said goodbye to my cousin Ruthie and witnessed her passing while holding her in our arms.  That moment changed my life forever, but it left me with more questions than answers.  But now I know for sure, that Ruthie is still with me – just like my Ma and Grandma Puffer are – and now I have proof!

Stay tuned kiddies, fasten your seatbelts and stand behind the sneeze guard – the ride is about to enter the dark tunnel, and you’re trying frantically to get out before the ghouls and goblins appear from the shadows.

The Last Chapter

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The trip to Moncton to visit my cousin Ruth had been planned for early Summer 2016 but I had a few medical issues that I was dealing with, so it wasn’t until that Sunday, that I booked my flight to Moncton.

Ruth, or Ruthie as her friends and family called her, is my first cousin on my Mom’s (Puffer) side.  Her Mom and mine were sisters.  We were never very close because Ruthie was ten years older than me, but we always seemed to have a connection.  My earliest memory of her was when she came to stay with us for a weekend visit; I was probably seven or eight years old at the time.  And she was the most beautiful girl that I had ever seen in my life.  At the time, I was hopelessly in love with Annette Funicello the Mouseketeer, on the Mickey Mouse Club Show on TV.

Annette Funicello – Mouseketeer



Annette Funicello 1942 – 2013









But Ruthie became her replacement, and I was now hopelessly in love, with a much older girl – who probably hardly knew I existed.  And that’s how little Danny first fell in love and began to dream and believe in the impossible.  Because sometimes, impossible dreams do come true!

Later in life, I would sometimes see Ruthie at weddings or funerals, but I never spoke to her as an adult until we saw each other one night, at her brother Terry’s house in Bramalea, Ontario in the 70’s.  It was a family get-together, and I was there with my parents and was in my twenties, and Ruthie and her husband Mike were standing in the kitchen with a crowd of people, laughing and enjoying themselves.  I told her that I had had a life-long crush on her – and still did.  She giggled and then hugged me and gave me a kiss on the lips.  I have never forgotten that moment – and how excited she made me feel.  I also remember telling Mike, her husband, how lucky he was to have her as his wife.  I never saw either of them again until I saw Ruthie at my Dad’s funeral in 2001.  She and her sister Patty and Patty’s husband came to the funeral together – and we sat and talked for quite a while about our lives and loves.  Once again, I told Ruthie that I still had my boyhood crush on her!

A few years later, on the week that my youngest brother Randy was getting married, my cousin Patty’s husband passed away.  And although I had only met him once – at my Dad’s funeral – he was a Newfie, and my family and I liked him.  So on the day after Randy’s wedding, I went to the funeral home in MisterandMissesAuga to pay my respects.  Most of the Walkers were there, but as I scanned the room, I couldn’t find my Ruthie.  I was standing at the coffin with Patti, and she gave me a white rose, which she explained meant ‘goodbye.’  It’s why I dislike white roses – because some goodbyes are forever and are often accompanied by a broken heart.  It’s also why I’ve always been frugal in saying goodbye – to loved ones.  But as I turned to walk away from the casket, I saw her!

My heart started thumping as I quickly made my way across the room to where my Ruthie was standing.  She had been talking with a couple of her lady friends and gave a shriek when she saw me.  And then she introduced me to her friends.

Ruthie:  This is my cousin Danny.  He used to wack off while fantasizing about me.

My face turned a scarlet red, and I became tongue-tied.   What could I possibly say in reply to that embarrassing introduction?  But without missing a beat, I shrugged my shoulders, turned to walk away and waved, saying…

Me:  And I still do!

And then I quickly ran outside to my car and drove back to my hotel in Toronto.  We never hugged or kissed, and it was another secret that I had planned to take to my grave.  But instead, I’m sharing it with you because I know that you can keep a secret.  Promise!?

I was on a plane home to Vancouver the next morning, still shuddering with embarrassment at Ruthie’s introduction.  But it made me smile and chuckle all the way home.  And it’s making me grin again this morning, as I write about it.  I mean, how did she ever find out about my secret fantasy?

Several years later, in June ’07 or ’08, I learned that my Ruthie was now living in Moncton.  I gave her a call and told her that I was planning a trip to visit my buddies Bill, Scotty and General and asked if she would like to get together.  A few weeks later I was staying at Junior’s place in Moncton.  I had set his father up in business years ago and then hired his son, Allan, as one of my District Managers for Western Canada.  HIs nickname was Junior, and he was now married and living in Moncton and had invited me to spend a few days with him and his wife, Jennifer.

While there, Ruthie and I got together and went out-on-the-town and partied until the early morning hours.  She came out to the couch where I was sleeping at about 5:00 am and suggested that I should probably leave before her daughter’s family wake up (they lived in the upper part of the duplex).  I was supposed to come back later to meet her daughter, but I time didn’t allow, and I returned to Vancouver, the next day.

But that night that we spent out-on-the-town, was like a first date and I learned so much about Ruthie… and our family’s history.  We never spoke again until after my Mom’s funeral in September 2010, a year after my cancer treatments had ended.  And it was at my Ma’s funeral that my family learned that I had cancer.  I hadn’t told anyone about my cancer because I was afraid that they’d tell my Mom.  And my Ma’s health was too fragile to withstand the news.  View Danny’s Cancer, Story

After Mom’s funeral, I returned to Vancouver and called Ruthie in Moncton.  News of my throat cancer had already reached her from the family grapevine but she still seemed surprised when I told her.  It had been less than a year, since my last treatment and I wasn’t sure about my future.  I was still clinging to the belief that I was in the “40% Group” that survives my type of cancer – but I was also a realist, and needed to have some basis in fact, to continue believing that I would survive.  And Ruthie was just the medicine I needed!

Ruthie had battled three different cancers over a 42 year period – and survived!  In fact, while I was going through my treatments in 2009, Ruthie had a part of her lung removed (lung cancer).  Years earlier, she had both breasts removed.  She was such a positive voice – and her words of encouragement were just what I needed to help me in my own battle.


To be continued.




Snowflakes and Ice Cream

Danny’s place February 6, 2017


Nobody knows when it happened – but everyone knew that it had snowed during the night.  It’s an excellent example of the legal term ‘circumstantial evidence’ – although you didn’t see it actually snowing during the night – when you awoke and looked out the window – you accepted it as a ‘fact.’

But it seldom snows in Vancouver.  At least not like it has in the past three days!  In Seattle, yesterday was the second largest snowfall ever recorded in the past seventy years!  I’ve used my snowblower four times in the past two days – and now another five to six centimeters of snow this morning!  

I’ve been waiting for the ‘right’ time to resume my writing.  I can’t remember a year in my life when I had more hurt and disappointment than the past year (2016).  Usually, I bounce right back from setbacks but lately, I’ve found it takes much longer.  Life can sometimes seem to be like trying to put toothpaste back into its tube or feathers back into a pillow.

I recently returned from Montreal, where I had attended a meeting of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Measurement Steering Committee – Person-Centred-Perspective.  Our committee’s five-year term ends in March 2017 but the mandate of CPAC has just been renewed for another five years by the Government of Canada.  I am hoping to be invited to serve as a patient advocate on one of the new committees.

So, now that I am back at the keyboard – and anxious to reveal all of my ‘uppers and downers’ of last year – where should I begin?

To be continued…




A Secret Whispered

Today was going to be very special – I had everything ready except for checking my computer for new emails.  Most nights I go to bed early but not before I check for phone and email messages.  But sometimes I am too tired or just plain forgetful, so when I checked for my email messages today at 4:10 AM, I was saddened to learn that my friend Finley, who had been fighting cancer for the past several months, had passed.  He was a volunteer at the Cancer Centre in Surrey and several hospices and palliative care facilities in the Lower Mainland.

I had just fed Holly her breakfast and decided to leave a little earlier for my daily walk on the Promenade in White Rock.  On Fridays mornings, my friend Norm and I meet for coffee at the Whitby’s Coffee House, across from the beach.  We usually get there by 8:30 AM and stay until 10:00 AM.  And that’s when I usually start my walk on Fridays.

But today I began my walk at 6:30 AM because at that time there usually aren’t as many walkers/joggers, and I didn’t want anyone to see the tears that were streaming down my face as I thought about my dear buddy Finley.  Some people can hold in their emotions – I can’t.  I used to try to ‘man up’, and conceal my inner feelings but I don’t do that anymore – life’s too short.  If you don’t like to see a 66-year-old crying, find another place to walk!

My daily walks usually last for an hour but today I was just going to walk until it was time to meet Norm.  Norm was also a good friend with Finley, and I knew that he too, would be sad at the news of Finley’s passing.

I usually listen to music while I walk – but not today.  I didn’t want to enjoy anything today – I just wanted to think about my buddy.

My thoughts took me to the day I met Finley and Claire at the Cancer Centre during one of my volunteer shifts.  At first, they were both a little shy but after a few minutes, we were all friends.   It’s easy to become friends with other people who share a common interest, but this friendship was different.

Now most people who know me, know that I am a hugger – I like to hug.  If I know you – and like you – I’ll probably want to hug you.  But if you’re a guy, I will probably wait until we’re good friends because some men find the act of embracing too “girlish.”  But within a minute of first meeting Finley, I reached out my arms to him, and we hugged!

The other thing that I do when I hug someone special is this:  I whisper a few words in their ear – something from my heart.  If a person has just learned that they have cancer – I whisper words that will both comfort them and give them hope.  If it’s a friend who appears sad, then I’ll try to find something uplifting to whisper.  But I will never ‘whisper and tell.’ My particular hug/whisper is for you and you alone – it’s a secret that I’ll never share with others.

So there I was hugging Finley and whispering in his ear at our first meeting!  Everyone at the table suddenly stopped talking and stared at the two of us – embracing like life-long buddies.   And when I looked up at Claire I saw a tiny spark in her eyes – the type of look that only comes from a proud parent or partner.  She never asked me what I had whispered to Finley, but I knew by her smile that she knew what I was doing.

Now, the one thing that volunteers do when they get together for coffee is talk about current events and work-related stuff.  We also share many personal stories, and there are many concerning Claire and Finley that are memorable.  Here are a few of my favorite ‘Claire and Finley’ stories.

But first, let me clarify something about Claire and Finley – Claire is married to Bob – although it’s no secret that they both loved Finley as though he was their son.  And although Finley was 35 years old and born without the ability to speak, it never stopped him from communicating in his special way.  And there was always a sparkle in his eyes whenever he made eye contact with you.

So here are some of the stories about Finley, but I know that there are countless more.  I have already received several email messages about his many contributions from patients and staff from the BC Cancer Agency, Surrey Memorial Hospital and several Lower Mainland hospices.

Claire and Finley were also volunteers with St. John’s Ambulance and were recently awarded both a Gold and Silver medals for their dedicated service.  I am glad that he was still alive to receive the awards, but he probably wondered why everybody was making such a fuss about him.  And although it wasn’t an award, I gave Finley my four-year volunteer pin on the last day I volunteered at the Cancer Centre in December 2015.

Claire and Finley’s neighbor Donna recalls Finley licking her tears away as she was trying to come to grips with her cancer – and credits him with giving her the strength to continue.

At the cancer center and hospices, Finley was welcomed by staff, visitors, and patients.

One patient said that was the only time they felt whole again was patting and speaking to Finley.

Finley was asked by another patient to come back again so they would have a reason to ‘live.”

And there was one palliative patient who had been very distressed at the thought of dying alone and was only able to calm down when he met Finley.

But my favorite story is the one Claire recanted about a patient’s family member greeting Finley and her at the door when they arrived at the hospice and asked us to see their Grandpa, who had just died.   But before Claire could respond, Finley went over to the bed and licked the dead man’s hand.

Finley then did something memorable –  he turned to the window and looked up into the sky.   Claire, the daughter, and the son-in-law didn’t think it was remarkable until the grandchild cried out “Finley sees Grandpa’s soul leaving!”

The family asked Claire to have Finley accompany Grandpa to the awaiting hearse.

And as the funeral coach pulled away, Finley stood by the little boy’s side as he cried out “Bye Poppy!”

And I’m pretty sure that Finley was crying his heart out too.

Goodbye, dear friend.  You won’t be alone – Doug and Captain are there to show you around.

UPDATE:  Saturday, July 23, 2016

This has been one of the most painful stories that I have ever written.  Finley was one of my dearest and closest friends, and his passing has left a legion of fans brokenhearted.

My heart goes out to Claire and Bob – I know your pain.




Dedicated to Claire and to The St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dog Program.