It was the morning of Christmas Eve and once again it didn’t feel like Christmas.
It had been years since I last celebrated Christmas – but I remember it well. It was in 1983 at my Mom & Dad’s place in Midland, Ontario. My family always got together to celebrate Christmas at my parent’s place – but I had missed the last couple of Christmases because I was living in Vancouver. My Dad came to the Toronto airport to pick me up – I had yet to see their new home in Midland – but I was more excited about seeing my Mom and brothers and sisters and my niece and nephew. That’s what Christmas was all about to the St. Andrews family – being together and enjoying our own special traditions. Some of those traditions included arriving on Christmas Eve and spending the night – so we could all get up together – just like when we were all growing up at our home in Oshawa and then later in Georgetown.
At my parents home in Georgetown, my Dad had built a wonderful bar in the rec room and he would wear a Christmas hat while he served drinks from his perch on a stool – behind the bar – which he considered “sacred” ground. You NEVER went behind the bar when Dad was on duty – the words “self-serve” did not exist in his bar. So as we arrived on Christmas Eve, the first thing you heard when you entered their house was the laughter and shouting from downstairs. A few hugs and kisses with Mom and then you would head downstairs to reunite with the clan.
Early on Christmas morning – probably no later than 6:00 AM, my Dad would be the first one to awake and ready to act as Santa. We would all gather around the Christmas Tree in the family room and my Dad would give each person one gift to open – beginning with my Mom. Everyone would watch quietly as each person opened their gift – and then there would be loud outbursts of “ooh’s and ahh’s”. My brothers, sisters and I would then prepare a large breakfast for everyone – and let Mom have the day off from the kitchen. Immediately after breakfast we would all gather at the Christmas Tree and continue to open all the gifts.
About mid-morning, Dad would announce that the bar was open. Later, Mom would bring a platter of Scotch Eggs for us to snack on. And then about mid-afternoon, we would all gather in the dining room for a sumptuous turkey dinner. Later, my brother-in-law Brian – a professional photographer, would get everyone together for a family portrait – which we would all receive framed copies. Then some of us would start to leave to go to our respective homes – which always made my Mom cry. She was happiest when she had every one of us together – as a family – and always pleaded with us – “Do you have to go so soon?”
So, on this morning of Christmas Eve, I was having a coffee and looking at one of those family portraits – and I got homesick. Homesick because I missed my Mom and Dad – and family – and those magical Christmases we shared together. And I missed not having that special feeling that I used to get every year – at Christmas. Two years ago, I went to Costco and bought a ton of outdoor Christmas lights – and decorated all of the hedges, evergreens, and fence – I had just finished my cancer treatments and didn’t know how many more Christmases I would be around for – and desperately hoping that the lights would bring back that special Christmas feeling. But it didn’t.
Last week I wrote a blog about buying a complete Santa Claus outfit – so I could visit all of the patients at the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre – where I was treated – and where I have been volunteering every week for the past 16 months. And as I made my way through the various clinics – almost all of the patients’ eyes would light up with excitement. I was hearing voices from all sides – things like: “Hi Santa!” and “Merry Christmas Santa” and “Hey Santa, can we get a picture of you with us?” Within five minutes that special feeling returned – and I was a kid again. I didn’t rush home and decorate the house with lights though; in fact, within hours of leaving the Cancer Centre, I lost the feeling – which made me really sad.
So on the morning of Christmas Eve, I decided to get dressed as Santa Claus, again – and go to the Cancer Centre and to Surrey Memorial Hospital. As soon as I walked into the hospital lobby a woman ran up to me, pleading, “Oh Santa, could I get a picture with you and my Mom?” I said “Sure – Ho, Ho Ho!” The mother slowly walked up to me – she was in her patient gown and was wearing a Christmas hat. I gave her a hug and was posing with her for the picture – when her daughter suddenly said: “Mom, why are you crying?” Before the mother could answer, I squeezed her closer to me and asked her why she was crying. She stared up at me and with tears rolling down her cheek, she cried, “Because I never thought I would ever meet Santa Claus!” I kissed her on the cheek and whispered into her ear “I will always be with you”.
I toured the Cancer Centre and then walked down the hall to the adjoining Surrey Memorial Hospital and took the elevator up to 51 North – the Oncology Floor. I had been a patient there several times during my cancer treatments – when I was at my lowest point. I walked into each of the patients’ room and wished them all a Happy Holiday. On my way back to the elevator, I noticed a Palliative Care sign over the entrance to another wing of the floor. “This is where the very sick and/or terminally ill patients are”, I thought to myself. I walked into the ward and all of the medical staff were surprised to see Santa. After posing for several photos I asked if it would be okay to say hello to the patients. They replied in unison “Of course you can – you’re Santa Claus!”
I made my way around the ward; entering each of the rooms and then holding the hand of each of the patients. I didn’t know what to say but what suddenly burst out of my mouth was “I know that you’ve always believed in me, and I just wanted to drop by to say hello”. One patient – an older man – was wearing a Christmas hat and said that he had awoken that morning excited with the hope that maybe a friend or family member might drop by for a visit. But none had – until Santa Claus. He held my hand for the longest time and just stared at me and then muttered: “Thank you Santa – Merry Christmas”. I turned to leave his room – my eyes were filling with tears and I didn’t want him to see me cry. After all, he believed in Santa Claus.
And now so do I.
Santa Danny in the Chemo Room, December 24, 2012
Today’s Tune (from Danny’s library of purchased music):
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
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!”
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!
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.
The mystical Nickel (5 Cents) CANADA 1962 – I found on the Promenade in White Rock, BC
A few weeks ago, I found a nickel during my morning walk at the Promenade, in White Rock. However, I didn’t realize the significance of that five-cent coin, until today.
It has awakened a quiet voice from within – which has been silent for too many months. And it’s not that I’ve been sulking or feeling sorry for myself – it’s just that I had given up on a beautiful dream, and couldn’t imagine anything that would excite or inspire me enough to want to write again. I haven’t written a blog since my cousin Ruthie passed, in November 2016, although I did post a few photos of an exciting day walking on the edge of the CN Tower in Toronto, this past April.
But back to the nickel.
After finding the coin and almost dismissing it as of little value, I suddenly remembered a saying my Grandma Puffer used to tell me: “A penny can be the difference in your ability to pay a bill on time.” I’ve never forgotten that or the many other words of wisdom that came from her lips. But that was back in the ‘60’s – we don’t even have pennies anymore – here, in Canada!
And yet, as I stood there, beside the totem poles, I had a pressing urge to leave the coin there, on the bench, in the hope that a child, might find the nickel and be filled with the excitement of their sudden good fortune!
When you’re a kid, with nothing in your pants pockets but holes, finding a coin – of any denomination – is like finding sunken treasure! And for a brief moment in time, you’d hold it tightly, in the palm of your hand, for fear of losing it before you could share the news of your good fortune, with family and friends. But greatest of all, was the fact, that a nickel could buy a lot of candy at Pop Taylor’s store on Mary Street when I was a kid.
Little Danny (1952)
So, in an impulsive urge of shameless, self-promotion on various social media sites, I grabbed my cell phone and shot a short video clip of me leaving the nickel on a bench by the totem poles – stating that I hoped a kid might find the coin.
I remember smiling at those thoughts as I continued my daily walk along the Promenade.
After walking for another thirty minutes or so, I reached the halfway mark of my walk and turned to head back to my starting point, 1 ½ miles down the walkway. It wasn’t particularly busy, so I wondered if the coin would still be on the bench. And the more that I wondered, the more I became worried that the coin would be gone!
“Danny, why would you be so worried?” I asked myself.
“I don’t know,” I answered to myself, “but my worries are now becoming panic!”
But as I approached the totem poles and saw the bench, I noticed the coin basking in the sunlight! My heart was racing, and I was almost gasping with excitement, as I picked up the nickel. I was excited but didn’t know why? I studied the coin carefully – the usual beaver on one side and the Queen on the other. It was one of the older designs, with the octagon shape, and dated 1962. It was in good shape, so I shrugged my shoulders and put it in my pocket. Later, I put the coin in my wallet – as a good luck charm. Who knows what drew me to the nickel? But finding it sure made me feel like little Danny, again!
This morning, I was having a coffee and emptying junk from my wallet and noticed the coin. And when I held it in my hand, my eyes were drawing my attention to the date – 1962. And that’s when it all made sense!
Danny’s first bike (used) at age 9.
Chapter 2 – ’55 Pontiac, Camp Samac, Duck Lake, Violet & Public Hair
A penny for your thoughts…. a nickel for your memories… and a dime for a coke!
I began to smile as my mind raced back to the year 1962. I was twelve years old and full of piss and vinegar! Or as one of my uncles used to say, “loaded for bear,” although I never knew what the term meant. Nevertheless, it became one of my favorite sayings, at the time.
Most of the mornings in 1962 were pretty hectic – especially, with six kids in the house! But my Ma was well-organized, and she would have made us our breakfast and then packed a lunch for the four oldest of us, and we headed out the door for the bike ride up Simcoe Street to Camp Samac for our swimming lessons. And inside our bag, Ma would put a dime for the Coca-Cola machine beside the pool area. And we would be there for the entire day: a lesson in the morning, followed by paddling the canoes during the two-hour lunch break and then back to the pool with our swim classmates for the afternoon.
And if we were lucky, and Ma had given us each a quarter (twenty-five cents), we could stop by the Tastee Freeze across the street from Camp Samac, for the long, exhausting ride home.
I also remember some mornings, when Ma would drive us, I would get the car keys from the counter and within a minute, I would be sitting in the driver seat of our ’55 Pontiac, with the radio on, listening to Dave Mickie, the AM jock from CKEY – which was the most popular radio station in Toronto in the early 60’s. Of course, I didn’t know how to drive – I was only twelve years old. But I would hold the steering wheel with both hands and pretend I was driving – complete with simulating high-speed racing along dangerous, mountainside roads and then faking a head-on crash but jumping from the car – just in time, as the car rolls off the cliff and down the mountainside, into Lake Ontario – at the same time that my two older, and infinitely more mature sisters, stood in the driveway, shaking their heads and waiting to tattle tale (rat on me).
But I loved that car. And I loved listening to the songs on the hit parade. I knew the words to every song – and would even perform them if I was alone. And one of my first major purchases with money from my paper route tips was a $6.00 Sanyo portable radio – complete with a blue leather case and a shiny, pop-up antennae. I remember laying in bed, every night, listening to CKEY until I fell asleep.
But Danny, this was supposed to be about 1962…
We were at a turning point in our life, anxiously awaiting becoming teenagers and having that almost-grown-up ‘teen’ word added to our age; we would be thirteen years old! And that, was “Cool, Daddy-O,” as Maynard the beatnik used to say on the Dobbie Gillis Show.
Camp Samac was also the place that I learned that teenagers had everything that grownups had and they got to do grown-up things, too! But the most shocking thing I learned at camp that summer, was that teenagers, like my swimming instructor, had hair growing in places that you only got to see if you were in a change room or nudist colony, and as far as I can remember, there weren’t any nudist colonies in the Shwa in ’62.
Camp Samac Pool (the 1960’s)
When I wasn’t swimming at Camp Samac, I would be playing sports at Connaught Park, but I was also beginning to notice girls. My cheeks are turning red, as I write this – I remember that feeling – of seeing someone special for the first time. Our eyes would meet, and a sudden spark or flash of interest would be exchanged – without a word spoken!
Her name was Violet M., and she was from Toronto.
But I met her at my uncle’s cottage on Duck Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. The grownups were all gathered in the cottage, drinking beer and enjoying their holidays and suddenly they decided to become ‘match makers, ‘ and then, there we were – face-to-face in front of adults who endlessly tried to embarrass us. We’d leave and take a walk along the lakeshore. And we would talk – which was a first, for me. The only time I ever spoke to girls before then, was with my sisters and then ONLY if I had to. But talking to Violet was like talking to a grown up and being treated like I was a grownup, too! Afterall, she was already a teenager – and a very mature, thirteen-year-old, at that!
I still remember one of her questions – which at the time, I didn’t have an answer. She asked me whom I thought childbirth was the most difficult for – the mother or father? At the time, I didn’t know anything about the birds and bees; I just remember when my Ma was expecting my youngest brothers, that she had a big stomach. So of course, I answered that childbirth was most difficult for the father.
Violet simply shook her head and explained the complete birth process to me. It was obvious she had been told the facts of life (I still prefer the babies are delivered by a stork theory). And I remember feeling like a five-year-old. But she was a sweet person and made me feel… kinda… like a teenager!
Violet and I were together for the rest of our time at the lake that summer, and she was my first kiss. And I guess that it’s okay to kiss and tell now, these many years later. So here goes:
We were sitting at the end of the dock, with our legs dangling in the water, holding hands and I was fumbling at trying to kiss her without being too forward. There may have been a full moon that night because I have this image in my mind, of the moon’s reflection in her dark eyes. And then she quickly kissed me. And then we kissed again and again.
And that was also the last summer that I played sports or took swimming lessons. I achieved my Bronze Medallion which qualified me to be a lifeguard the next yearafter I turned thirteen years old. And little Danny’s mind was already thinking about the many, many girls that will surround him, as he sits high above the water, on a lifeguard tower, with a whistle on a rope necklace, hanging around his tanned neck and hairless chest.
Hairless? I thought back to the boys’ change room at Camp Samac and the teenage boys with armpit hair and hair around their you-know-what. At the time, I probably wondered if they’d still be able to make the farting noise with their hand under their hairy armpit, while the other arm moves up and down on the hand, resulting in an almost perfect duplication of the sound? (By the way, you can!)
I wondered if girls grew hair in their armpits and the other place(s), too? But I was very shy and awkward, in those days, so I never thought to ask Violet. But she would have been happy to tell me, in detail. So instead, I asked my Ma and learned that the hair that grows in that hidden area of the body is called ‘pubic hair.’ But that word didn’t make sense to me, so I figured that she must have meant to say ‘public.’ And for many years, it’s how I referred to it, although it wasn’t a subject that came up too often. And one last thing – why are public washrooms, not called Pubic Washrooms?
Anyways, after that summer, Violet and I used to write each other letters, but our worlds were far apart. She lived in Toronto, and although Oshawa is just 40 miles east, it might as well have been 5,000 miles when you’re a twelve-year-old kid with holes in your pockets. She was my first girlfriend and my first kiss. And up to that point, our talks were the closest I ever got to learn about the ‘birds ‘n bees.’ I used to hear my Ma arguing with my Dad about him not wanting to tell me the facts of life. And every time my Ma tried to tell me, I’d be too embarrassed to hear that kind of stuff from my mom, and I’d run out the door. I don’t think anyone ever told me the facts of life.
And although Violet and I never saw each other again in future summers at the lake, I never forgot her. And believe it or not – many years later, when I was in my twenties, I was in a store in Parry Sound and bumped into her at the checkout. Our eyes met, and for a brief moment, we stared at each other. The child in the stroller she was pushing began to cry, and that’s when I noticed that she was a mother and probably married. And at the time, so was I. So, I quickly glanced away and pretended not to recognize her. But as I passed her and opened the door to leave the store, I heard a faint… “Hi, Danny!”
I never turned around to answer and kept walking, but I wanted to take her in my arms and tell her that I still remember our first kiss. It was my first kiss – I’m not sure if it was hers or not. In baseball terms, I had finally made it to first base – with her as my coach – in the summer of ’62.
I can’t remember why I joined the 8th Oshawa Sea Scouts because none of the kids in the neighborhood were in Cubs or Scouts. And although the scout hall, where we had our meetings, was located next to the church that my family attended on Hillcroft Street, it wasn’t associated with any particular church or faith. But I remember that I liked the fact that the sea scout uniform was very different than what the regular boy scouts wore. Our shirt, shorts, and knee socks were all dark blue, and our neck scarf (tie) was black and white. And the white hat we wore was the same as the Sea Cadets and sailors in the Navy.
I don’t think that any of my classmates at North Simcoe school belonged to the 8th, but many of them were in regular scouts. And the 8th was the only sea scout troop in Oshawa, at the time.
The scout hall building where we met every Wednesday evening (during the school year), was torn down in the 70’s and the 8th was disbanded at the same time. I don’t remember why but I’m sure that it had to do with money. The 8th also had a small fleet of wooden rowboats (each held 6-8 scouts) that were kept in a lockup at the Oshawa harbor. We used to go there for some of our meetings in the summer and were taught how to row together, as a team.
The leader of sea scouts was known as the skipper or skip, and his assistants were called troop leaders. And within the 8th, there were smaller groups that each had a leader and assistant leader. The skipper and troop leaders were usually grown-ups – some married, some single, some who had kids in either the 8th Oshawa Cubs, Sea Scouts or Rovers. And one last thing about the 8th Oshawa Sea Scouts – we had two separate and distinct troops, namely Port and Starboard. I belonged to the Port troop, and our meetings were on Wednesday nights. The Starboard troop met on Thursday nights.
My greatest joys as a kid came during my years in the 8th Oshawa. There was only one low point – my Dad decided to get involved in scouting but became a troop leader into the Starboard troop! Their skipper’s name was Derek. I remember my Ma questioning my Dad’s decision to be in the Starboard troop and not my Port troop. I never heard his reasons, and I never asked my Ma, but I remember how hurt I was. But I kept the hurt hidden – maybe I was too proud to reveal my feelings. But it was just one more reason to feel rejected – the last boy to get picked on a team in the neighborhood. But there was one joy in having my dad being a scout leader in a different group – many of the ‘cool’ guys at school – none of whom, ever had time for me – suddenly became friendly. The reason for their sudden interest was my Dad. They were in the Starboard troop, and they would ask me what it was like to have such a cool dad! My Dad was a lot of things, but at the time, to me, he wasn’t so cool. I wonder if it ever bothered him that Skipper Derek’s son was in Starboard and it wasn’t a problem for father or son. But Dad’s reasons went to the grave with him. My dad wasn’t a bad person – he just wasn’t the type of father that little Danny needed. And if you don’t have an older brother to teach you things or to look out for you – who do you have?
And although I seldom mention people’s last name in my stories, I want to mention the Skipper of my Port troop. His name was Don Thompson, and he lived across the street from the scout hall. His mom and dad were very friendly, and they would be sitting on their front porch every Wednesday night and waved to us as we arrived for our meetings. He had a greater influence on me than any other person in my youth, and I know that he is probably in his late 70’s now and still involved in scouting.
My first date was also to an 8th Oshawa Sea Scout Christmas Party at Camp Samac that year. There was a girl at school that I was crazy over but although I was somewhat financially secure from my paper route, grass cutting and snow shoveling revenues – I wouldn’t have any means of transportation to get to her house in North Oshawa and from there, to Camp Samac. I don’t remember the girl’s name or much else about her except that it was my Ma who chauffeured me on my first date. But at least she didn’t see me holding the girl’s hand, much less, witnessing us kissing. But I remember the joy on my Ma’s face as she drove the car and tutored me on the “do’s and don’ts of dating.” My track record was beginning to improve – two girlfriends and lots of kisses in 1962.
North Simcoe Public School (now Dr. SJ Phillips School)
But I also broke my leg playing football at my school that year and had to wear a cast for two months. It left me with a slight limp, which I still have to this day. I mention it because it meant that I couldn’t go outside for recess with the rest of the kids. I had to stay at my desk, with my teacher – the feared Mrs. Trotter. Most of the students referred to her by her first name, which was ‘Amy,’ but never to her face. But I became very close to this grade-eight teacher, and I owe her for an amazing lesson she taught me.
Mrs. Trotter’s appearance could be quite intimidating. But not because of her stature – she was shorter than most of her students. She also appeared to be very old. At the time, she seemed to be much older than my Ma and she may have even been older than both of my grandmothers. But that wasn’t why she was intimidating to me – it was because she never seemed to smile. And as a rambunctious, twelve-year-old boy, there were lots of things in life worth smiling about: namely, weekends, scouts, sports, Summers, candy etc.
But after a few days of silent and boring recesses spent sitting in the classroom alone with the ancient Mrs. Trotter, the silence was broken by her sudden outburst: “Danny!”
The school year had recently started, so I really didn’t know her at all – other than the rumors about her mean spirit. I don’t remember if all of the kids were afraid of her, but I was!
“Yes, Mrs. Trotter!” I stuttered, wide-eyed and surprised by her sudden interest in me.
But she didn’t say anything at first. She just stared at me and then it happened! Her stern face suddenly softened and a smile appeared on her face. It wasn’t the kind of ‘ear-to-ear’ smile that people get when they’re eating candy or doing neat stuff – but it was a smile, just the same!
Mrs. Trotter then began asking me about my family and what I did during the summer recess. Suddenly, I felt the warm glow of making a friendship with no boundaries. Yes, she was much older than me and there certainly wasn’t any physical attraction involved – although, she may have been the only woman teacher that I didn’t have a crush on. But after one of two recesses, I’d told her all that there was to know about ‘me’. And although I don’t remember her ever talking about her personal life, I felt like she was my first grown-up friend.
During subsequent recesses, I would amuse myself by walking around the classroom on my crutches; going to the boy’s washroom and/or by staring out the classroom windows. But our grade eight classroom was on the third floor and the windows didn’t face the playground – my line of vision was limited to Simcoe Street, which was one of the main streets in Oshawa. The other main street in Oshawa worth noting is King Street, which ran east to west. And the intersection of Simcoe and King Streets was known as the ‘Four Corners’ which was a popular landmark. But that’s another story.
I spent much of my youth on or around a ‘Simcoe’ either Simcoe Street, Lake Simcoe or Simcoe, Ontario. And in the Shwa, if you had lots of coins, you probably lived on Simcoe Street between Adelaide Street and Rossland Road. And if you were really affluent, and your backyard bordered on Alexandra Park, you could get into the Oshawa Fair and other neat events for free! You just had to climb your fence and then sneak into the park. Some of these wealthy tycoons even had gates that opened into the park!
The other thing you should know about Simcoe Street is that one of the prettiest and most popular girls at North Simcoe School was Beth R., the daughter of a prominent doctor, and they lived in a beautiful house on Simcoe Street. And although I was getting interested in girls, I didn’t have a girlfriend at school and Violet lived in Toronto, which although only thirty miles from the Shwa, it might as well have been 1,000 miles to a twelve-year-old, socially-awkward and insecure in the ways of love. And although Beth R., wasn’t in my class, she might as well have been at a private school because she had a boyfriend, who was also the most popular boy in school.
His name was Grant O., and I knew him fairly well, although we never hung out together. He lived down the street from me on Jarvis Street. Grant was very athletic and was interested in running. I used to see him running all of the time but can’t remember if he pursued it after leaving school. What I do remember about him is that he sold me his Oshawa Times newspaper route. And that paper route was an improvement over the Toronto Star newspaper route that I had had for a couple of years – because the Times was much lighter and the customers were more numerous, so your route wasn’t as large as the less-populated Star subscribers. I had that route until I started high school and then got a paper route at the Oshawa General Hospital.
Grant was in my grade nine class at OCVI but that was in 1963 when I was a grown-up teenager! The last that I saw of him was on a city bus, during my senior year at high school. He was working full-time and we chatted about stuff but I don’t remember what else we talked about.
But back to Beth R., the prettiest and most popular girl at Dr. SJ Philips elementary school (formerly North Simcoe School).
I didn’t know Beth, any more than I knew Grant because we traveled in different social circles. I don’t even recall ever having a conversation with Beth, although I think that she was in my sister’s class in high school. But I remember delivering newspapers to Beth’s family home on Simcoe Street. I wonder if she ever saw my buddies and I sneaking into the Oshawa Fair at Alexandra Park by cutting through her family’s backyard and jumping over their fence? If she did, at least she never ‘ratted’ me out! Because even in 1962, nobody liked a tattle-tale!
The next thing that I remember about Beth is crashing one of her parties when I was in high school. I was with a couple of my buddies and we were hoping to find where the good doctor’s booze was hidden. We were in the downstairs billiards room which had been locked and ‘off-limits’. One of the guys had used his comb to open the door (credit cards weren’t invented yet) but there wasn’t any booze. Come to think of it, I don’t remember seeing Beth or Grant for that matter – perhaps they were hiding in a secret room guarding the good doctor’s booze?
The next time I saw Beth was in the 70’s at the nurse’s office at the General Motors Truck Plant. I was both surprised and pleased that she recognized me and I asked if she and Grant ever got married? We exchanged family updates and said our goodbyes. She was still very pretty and married at the time but not to Grant. I asked who the lucky guy was? I’m not sure but I think it may have Bill H., who had been one of my fellow 8th Oshawa Sea Scouts.
My next Beth sighting was ‘virtual’. I had joined an internet social media group called Classmates, in hopes of connecting with some of my friends from the area. I hadn’t lived in Ontario since my move to Vancouver in 1982 but was getting more proficient on the internet. We became friends on Classmates and then our virtual friendship migrated to MySpace and then later to Facebook. We’re still friends on Facebook and we keep in touch and I think she’s read some of my blogs. I’m hoping to meet up with her for a plate of ‘shoestrings and a Coke’ at the Globe Restaurant on King Street, if and when I ever get to Ontario again.
As for the title of this blog – On The Nickel. Its meaning is also tied to the Tom Waits song by the same name. When he wrote the song, the title referred to a street where the homeless, alcoholics would gather. The street was 5th Street and when you were on it – you were ‘on the nickel.’
Not all of the homeless, alcoholic people On The Nickel, are strangers, though.
Because I have a younger brother who’s been battling addiction his entire adult life. He probably doesn’t remember much about Oshawa or North Simcoe School and I haven’t had any contact with him in almost two years. But I hope that there is still a little boy inside of him that has a lingering memory of what it used to be to like to have family, friends, love, and dreams. Having me as an older brother didn’t help him much and for that, I will always have regrets.
Brothers Ricky and Danny (2015)
And finally, I know that this story began with a nickel that someone lost – and so now, I’m going to be searching for a ‘penny’ – because we no longer have pennies in Canada. And if I find one dated 1969, I’ll save it because that was the year of my first broken heart. But then again, I probably won’t write about it because the wounds are still deep, almost 5o years later.
Correction: I know of one penny that might still be in circulation in Canada. – and that penny is the former Mrs. Vitale of Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding fame – my dear friend Penny D., a gal actually from the Jersey Shore! I haven’t seen her for several years – I wonder how she’s doing? If you see her, tell her that Nunzio says hello!
Nunzio (Danny) and Mrs. Vitale (Penny) at a Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding show (2008)
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.
Danny will walk on the edge of the CN Tower in April
“In the dark of the broad daylight, I promise I’ll be there” ~ For Whom the Bell Tolls ~ BeeGees
It started the way all great trips start – with a simple plan. Get to the CN Tower in Toronto – home of the Blue Jays – and do the Edge Walk outside the top – suspended by a leash. It’s the kind of excitement that’s been missing in my life and I’ve convinced myself that it will restore the flame that once burned passionately in my soul. But I couldn’t get passed the main obstacle to fulfilling this bucket list item – I’d already said all of my goodbyes to my hometown in Ontario, last Spring (see My Last Visit ).
And it’s hard to justify the cost for hotel and airfare just to satisfy a silly need or whim, right? Of course, it is Danny. But all of that changed when my phone rang.
I looked at the call display and didn’t recognize the number, so I just disregarded it as I do with all unknown callers (telemarketers, scams etc.). But this one left a message. And the moment I heard it, I got excited – really, really excited!
It was the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer calling to confirm my attendance at the upcoming cancer conference in Toronto in April. I had not understood that I had been invited to attend but the phone message was a request to discuss my flight and travel arrangements and meeting schedules etc. And as excited as I am about anything related to cancer – I was selfishly happy to know that I might get to fulfill one of my last bucket list items, after all!
But then, I remembered what my buddy Billy used to say – “be careful what you ask for – ’cause you might get it!” Scared, Danny? Yup! Still going to do the walk, Danny? Yup!
And then today, as I sat watching my Blue Jays first preseason game on television, I decided to buy a ticket to their home opener on April 11th. I was going to get the best seat I could get – who knows if I will ever be back to see another game. I share the same philosophy on concert tickets – why watch the artist from the nose bleed section if you can afford to sit in better seats? I mean, if I don’t smoke, and don’t drink, then surely attending a few concerts or sporting events in nice seats is not extravagant. Well, it’s not to me – money has never been important to me. It’s why I dislike being around people who appear obsessed with it.
And isn’t it great that I can order my ticket online and choose my seat? And when you only are buying one ticket – you will always get better seats. But then my heart stopped beating – the home opener is already sold out! WTF? (Why The Face?). Of course! The whole city of Toronto will probably be closed for the day – to celebrate the home opener. And right they should!
I quickly moved my cursed cursor down to the next game April 12th and quickly grabbed a lone seat, a few rows above the Dugout on the first base line! And including my donation to the Blue Jays children’s fund, it only cost 80 bucks, all total!
In high school, we used to have a saying for being outrageously happy. It was “YIPPEE SHIT HEMORAGE!”
And although I’m not really going to camp, it sure feels like shouting “YIPPEE SHIT HEMORAGE!”
And it’s what you’ll hear me shouting when I get the CN Tower Excellent Adventure, captured on my cell phone camera – and posted to this page in early April.
UPDATE 4/4/17: I will be in Toronto for one week and will be visiting the following:
Terry Fox, and his family saved my life and millions of others!
In September 1981, I ran in the inaugural Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research. I was thirty-one years old and living the dream in Oshawa, Ontario. At that time, I didn’t know anybody who had the disease, but I was touched by this young man’s Marathon of Hope, and I wanted to raise money in his memory.
Over the next four decades, I lost many friends and family to Cancer and then in June 2009 it came knocking on my door. I was rushed to the hospital with blood rushing from my mouth. It was Stage 3 Throat Cancer, with a 40% chance of survival. I received daily radiation treatments for the next seven weeks and also had chemotherapy. And I am still here!
I am alive today because of dedicated people at the BC Cancer Agency and the staff of the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre in Surrey, BC. They have become like family to me, and I love each and every one of them!
Last Fall, after undergoing a CT Scan, two spots were found in my lungs. In a subsequent scan in 2016, the spots were still there. I will be having my next CT Scan in few weeks, but rather than sitting around W&W (waiting and worrying) I’ve decided to register for the 2016 Terry Fox Run 10K Run – on September 18th – but this time, I’ll be walking.
My goal is to raise $1,000, and I’ve started it off by pledging $100. I know that everyone is asking for money to support this or that worthy charity – but this fundraiser is for cancer research – and your financial help will save someone’s life! I am alive today because of research – and your entire donation will go to research.
If you would like to support this worthy cause – why not walk with me or pledge a couple of bucks – or both! No donation is too small (or too large).
Sometimes a tiny, almost-invisible spark appears in a girl’s eye when she is about to say ‘yes’, but even the eldest boys at the dance often miss this important signal.
As a young boy, all of the kids from the block would gather on the street and teams would be formed by Teddy H. and Bobby R. the two best athletes on the block, who would take turns choosing players for their respective team. I was never the ‘best’ at sports, but I enjoyed playing all of them. I remember standing beside 14 other boys, hoping I wouldn’t be last. It didn’t matter how good a friend you were with Teddy or Bobby, you stood there anxiously waiting for one of them to look at you and nod.
But it wasn’t their nod that made you feel good for being selected early – it was that small spark in their eyes when they caught your hopeful stare – that ignited a flame inside.
“Good afternoon, Sir!”, chirped the lady at the front desk.
“Oh, uh, yes,” I suddenly awakened, “I have a reservation.”
“Your name please?”
Saturday, April 23, 2016
I arrived at the airport in Toronto in the late afternoon and was waiting for the Hilton shuttle bus to take me to the hotel in Mississauga. After about 20 minutes a Hilton Airport shuttle bus arrives, and I asked the driver if he goes to the Hilton Garden Hotel in Mississauga. He says that he only goes to the Hilton hotel on the airport strip.
‘But isn’t the airport strip in Mississauga?’ I asked politely.
The driver just shrugged his shoulders, rolled his eyes and then drove away.
So I get out my hotel reservation and call the hotel only to learn that you have to make a prior reservation/arrangement for their bus to pick you up. I angrily hung up – which is hard when you’re using a cell phone – I miss the satisfaction of slamming a phone down onto its cradle and hearing the thunderous sound that echoes in the other person’s ears for minutes afterward.
I decided to take a limo and after the driver loaded my luggage I told him that I was going to the Hilton Garden Hotel on Matheson Ave in MisterandMissusauga, Ontario.
I checked for messages on my cell phone during the drive to the hotel, and when we arrived, I paid the driver $38 plus a $7 tip. I got a cart, loaded my suitcases and was standing in line at the front desk. I was daydreaming about the spark in a particular girl’s eyes, when suddenly…
“Your name please?” The lady behind the counter appeared to be getting annoyed at me.
“Sorry, yes, it’s St. Andrews” I answered, my mind racing to the present. I looked around the hotel lobby and guessed that the hotel had only recently opened for business. It still had that “new home” smell that makes it seem all the more ‘special’. The smile was just beginning to form on my face when I heard…
“Are you sure you have a reservation at this hotel sir?”
“Yes!” I snapped back almost rudely. “Is this not the Hilton Garden Hotel in MisterandMissusauga, Ontario?”
“Yes Sir, it is one of three Hilton Garden Hotels in MisterandMissusauga, Ontario!”
A crowd of onlookers began to gather in the lobby… making the scene both tense and stressful. But I was the winner here! Yes, and I have a copy of my hotel reservation which I am waving frantically over my head…
I approached the front desk and confidently leaned on the counter and stared into the young lady’s dark eyes and slowly, with my most excellent voice ever… whispered the following our lips just inches apart…
“Is this not the Hilton Garden Hotel on Matheson Avenue in MisterandMissusauga, Ontario?” I boldly and somewhat proudly demanded in a delivery identical to Donald the Trumpster.
“No Sir, this is not Matheson Avenue. This street is Traders Blvd,” she replied somewhat apologetically as the crowd roared with laughter at my stupidity.
“Oh!” I tried hard to swallow, but I guess that my foot must have been between my new teeth implants.
There didn’t appear to be a spark in the young lady’s eyes, but she did come out from behind the counter to hug and console me. I was a broken man, without a lot of options, and was hoping for a miracle.
When the front desk lady was finally able to break free from my hug, she quickly jumped back over the counter and offered to honor the reservation at this hotel if I paid the $21 difference. It was cheaper than spending another $45 on a limo to get me to the right hotel – so I happily agreed.
I got to my room, undressed, and then fell fast asleep.
Sunday, April 24th
A continuous beeping noise was the first sound that I heard, and it appeared to be coming from under the bed. Seasoned travelers know that you should never look under a bed in a hotel room, but I was no longer a seasoned traveler – so I got out of bed, got on my hands and knees and peeked under the bed…
It was my cell phone that was beeping! But why was it under the bed? I remember plugging the phone into the electric outlet in the bathroom – so how the heck was it under the bed?
I looked at the time on the clock radio; it was 2:15 in the morning! Why was my cell phone under the bed and why was it beeping? I looked at the list of callers, checked for new emails, updated my status on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus but couldn’t find a reason for my phone to be beeping – or a button on the damn thing to stop it from beeping.
And then I woke up. The room was frigid – I could almost see my breath. I sat up in bed and stared at myself in the mirror – and wondered what had just happened.
I quickly jumped out-of-bed and raced into the bathroom – and to my surprise, the phone was still plugged into the wall. It had all been a dream! I breathed a sign of relief and opened the door to the mini bar. So many choices.
I looked at the time on the clock radio. It was 5:15 AM, which reminded me of a song by that name. I closed the mini bar door and decided to have a bottle of water instead. But first, I will jump into the shower.
I was drying myself when suddenly I heard a beeping noise!
The same noise from my dream!
I looked around the room but couldn’t find the source of the beeping. And then it suddenly dawned on me – it was coming from under the bed!
This time, the search under the bed yielded the noise culprit – it was my notebook – giving me my wake up call. Back in the day, I would have relied on getting a wake-up call from the hotel operator – usually, a hot-sounding front desk bunny softly whispering something like:
“Good morning Danny, it’s me, the gal of your dreams. Please wake up, have a shower and shave – and meet me poolside (in the hot tub) in 20 minutes.”
Now, in the age of Star Trek, we are all a bunch of Captain Kirk wannabees – yelling into our flip phones and talking to our computers/laptops/notebooks/tablets or iWatches.
I quickly got dressed and called my youngest brother Randy, who lives in Oakville. I would be staying at his place for most of my stay, and he and his wife Alice would be picking me up at my hotel. I wasn’t able to give him directions because I didn’t even know whereabouts in MisterandMissusauga I was staying. But Randy has a university degree and is unusually smart (despite being married 13 times), and he assured me that they would find the hotel.
I should probably point out to those of you readers who are wondering why I didn’t stay at Randy and Alice’s place when I arrived. It’s because I am usually so tired after a long flight and by the time that I arrive that I just want to chill and go to bed early. – and staying at a hotel is the easiest.
We had lots to discuss and plan during the two-week stay. I was hoping to find answers about my past life in Ontario and learn more about my family and friends.
I would be attending a Lodge Meeting on Monday night – which would be my first time back since June 1982.
I also wanted to visit my parents’ grave site, see my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends in the Southern Ontario area.
And of course, I wanted to see at least one Blue Jays Game while in town. I was also hoping to take a trip to Haliburton to my Grandparents gravesite in Ingoldsby.
Monday, April 25th
I was driving to Whitby from Oakville to visit with my parents and then go to my brother Freddy’s place in Ajax, where I would be staying for the night.
I stopped at the florist shop in downtown Whitby and it was then that I noticed her! Could it actually be her? The Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s lookalike that I wrote about a few years ago?
Our eyes instantly met and it was then that I saw a tiny spark…
I entered the shop without thinking about what I would say or do. It’s one of those things that you do on impulse – let the moment take you. I could feel the excitement flowing through my body – but this time, I wasn’t going to let it end as it had before (see Danny’s previous post).
I stood in line searching for her but she wasn’t anywhere to be found! How could she have disappeared? Was I imagining this? Yes, of course! It was that re-occurring dream of mine: I was the “Fred” character and she was the “Holly Golightly” in my favorite movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Do dreams ever come true or do they all die?
I laughed at my silly and ongoing fascination with romantic and adventurous dreams and walked into the flower shop. I recognized the lady behind the counter – she served me last September when I bought the roses. She knew that I was from Vancouver as I had given her my actor/writer business card.
Once again, I purchased two roses for my parents. But this time I noticed a display of beautiful butterflies, which I have always loved – so I had the sales lady include them in with the flowers. Neither of us had to say what the roses or butterflies meant – she had obviously been on a similar journey in her life or maybe she has been reading my blogs – the website is listed on the business card I gave her last September.
I meant to make a mental note of her name but forgot. And although I could see the faint outline of a tiny spark in this lady’s eyes, perhaps it too had been extinguished by a broken heart. Who knows what burning secrets are locked in the deepest corner of anyone’s heart?
I had tears in my eyes as I left the flower shop and so did the nice lady. I waved goodbye, wondering if I would ever be back to her store? It’s funny but I am sure that I’ve known her from a previous life. Or maybe she just reminds me of someone. She never returned the wave, she just stood there staring as I drove away.
I pulled up to the Dad and Ma’s place on Thornton Road in Oshawa. It’s just a short walk to their resting place but with each step, a new tear would fall onto the flowers that were clutched tightly in my trembling hands.
And as I laid them down, the butterflies seemed to flutter their wings – as though they wanted me to follow them – but sadly, it was just the wind.
I sat down and stared at the gravestone and wondered why it didn’t hurt so much this time. Had time finally healed the scars? Was it time to finally let go? Would this be my final visit to see them?
As I got to my feet to leave, I noticed the shadow of a person standing beside me. I quickly turned to see who it was but there wasn’t anyone there! I looked at the ground beside me – and the shadow was still there! I stared in disbelief – was I finally losing it?
Suddenly, the sky darkened and a single beam of sunlight streamed from the heavens to the spot in the cemetery where I had parked. And there beside the car was a little boy on a bicycle. He looked strangely familiar and so did the bike he was riding. And then it dawned on me…
It was me!
And I was staring back at me – the 9-year-old on my first bike that my Ma had bought me with money that she had saved from her housekeeping fund. It was a used bike – just like all of the skates and most of my clothes – hand-me-downs that no longer fit any of the original owners.
I watched as Danny got on his bike and started riding out of the cemetery. He was just leaving the gates and then he stopped, turned and waved at me to follow him! He had a serious look on his face – it was neither happy or sad – but why was I seeing this obvious hallucination – this blast from the past?
I quickly started to walk back to the car – forgetting to even say goodbye to my parents. Danny wanted me to follow him – I don’t know why or where but I knew that if I didn’t, I’d probably regret it.
I had no sooner gotten into the car when I noticed a beautiful scent and it appeared to be coming from the back seat. I quickly glanced in the rear view mirror and found myself staring directly into the eyes of you-know-who. She had a concerned look on her face but there didn’t appear to be a spark. In fact, her eyes were dark – very dark and they seemed to be pleading with me to do something. She finally pointed her finger at the younger Danny and I knew that she wanted me to follow him.
I turned to see Danny frantically pedaling his bike down the street towards Rossland Road. And every block or so, he would turn to see if we were following. And we were!
Within a few minutes, we arrived at the Midtown Mall in Oshawa. I turned to the Holly Golightly lady sitting beside me but she was just sitting still, quietly staring at the back of a house that overlooked the mall. Tears started flowing…
It was Mrs. Simpson’s place! This was the place where I had rented a room – no meals – just a room in the basement. This is where I lived during my last year in high school in 1968/9. My parents had moved to Georgetown but I stayed because I was in hopelessly in love.
It wasn’t until I had gotten out of the car that I noticed that little Danny had disappeared! I turned to see Holly approaching the mall entrance and caught up with her just as she reached the door. She waited quietly while I opened the door for her and she smiled at me as she entered.
I wasn’t ready for what awaited us inside.
‘To everything… there is a season’ (or so the saying goes), is definitely true because everything I remembered about the mall had changed. The Dominion Store, Gambles Department Store, Shoppers Drug Mart, Country Hearth Restaurant and even Dino’s Men’s Wear – where I worked after graduating high school – were no longer there! There were only a few people wandering around the mostly deserted mall of my youth. It made me sad but then I saw little Danny waving for me to follow him. Again, he began to pedal his bike like he was going to a fire.
I ran back to my car and within minutes, I was traveling to the next old haunt on my bucket list – Sutherland Avenue – the street where I grew up on. I parked outside our old home and searched up and down the street for a familiar face but the street was very quiet.
Our old house looked great – she had aged well with time. I wondered how we all had managed to live in such a small home – with six children and two adults sharing a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom home and only 1 telephone on the wall in the kitchen.
I wanted desperately to sit on the front steps – just as I had all of those years ago but didn’t know if the people living there would mind. I looked beside me and then behind me but the Holly Golightly lady was nowhere to be seen.
And as I looked back at the house, I saw my dear Ma – a much younger mom – sitting with me as a baby.
My Ma and me on the front steps
She was probably in her late 20’s at the time. I wonder how many of today’s ‘Moms’ could do as well at raising a family as our moms did back in the day.
Little Danny at the front door
Those front steps were wonderful to see again and I decided to knock on the front door and ask if it would be okay to sit there to take a ‘selfie’. A young lady answered the door and I introduced myself. She smiled and seemed very happy to meet one of the home’s original inhabitants.
Her name was Nancy and she could tell that I was getting emotional. She offered to take a few pictures of me sitting on the steps. I handed her my cell phone and then sat down on the steps – for the first time since 1968!
It didn’t matter that the entire street had changed. The chestnut trees were all gone and most of the homes had had updating done. But there was something missing. I was just about to say goodbye to Nancy when it dawned on me to ask her if there were any of the original neighbors still living on the block?
To my surprise, she said yes! She went on to say that Mrs. Mills from 3 doors up the street, was still alive; was 96 years old and still drove a car! I asked Nancy if she thought that Mrs. Mills would mind if I knocked on her door to say hello? She said she thought that Pauline would be thrilled to see me.
Wow, I didn’t know that her name was Pauline – my girlfriend in 1968 was also named Pauline. She was the one who had broken up with me shortly after our engagement. I heard that she’d married well and was living happily ever after, in Toronto.
I almost ran up the sidewalk – the same sidewalk that I had slept on as a young boy. Ma said that she could never get me to take an afternoon nap and that she would often find me fast asleep on our sidewalk.
I knocked on the door and a tiny lady answered. She was much shorter than I remembered. But I was much younger back then and grown-ups always seemed so much taller and older. ‘She probably won’t remember me,’ I thought.
“Hello Mrs. Mills, I don’t know if you remember me – I’m Danny St. Andrews from down the street.”
“Oh my!” she cried, “It’s so great to see you!”
She was still very alert and seemed quite independent. We talked and talked and then I said goodbye. She told me that Kerry, Ronny, and Philip all lived on Vancouver Island! Kerry was the oldest of her boys and we had been the best of friends. I have not seen any of her boys since 1968. I gave her my business card and told her that I would keep in touch.
“Danny, I remember when you were a boy, there were 16 kids living on this street and they were always outside – from morning to night – playing. Now, although there’s still the same number of children (if not more), and yet there is never any of them outside playing. They are all inside their homes playing video games or watching television!” she said and then smiled as she waved goodbye.
Just as I was getting into my car, little Danny pulled up beside the car. I rolled down the window to speak but couldn’t get a sound out. I wanted to tell him so much. But seeing him finally gave me something that I’d lost all of those years ago. In 1968, I went from being an 18-year-old kid to being a grown man, with too many responsibilities and nobody to guide me but “me, myself and I”.
This is where all of my dreams were born and soon, I will be able to put them all to rest.
Danny in 1968
It has taken me a lifetime of searching to find what I was looking for and now, I was starting to ‘get’ what I had never been able to understand.
And as I drove away, I could see little Danny in the rear view mirror. He was pedaling as fast as he could but he couldn’t keep up. I tried slowing down but the car kept going faster. I started screaming “faster! faster! and pleading for Danny not to give up but his poor little legs weren’t strong enough. My eyes were filling with tears as I whispered a goodbye to him. Our eyes met for one brief moment and I watched as the tiny spark in his eyes flickered and then he disappeared. I hope he thinks I turned out okay or mostly okay. Goodbye, little Danny!
Seeing little Danny made me realize, after all of these years, that he was always afraid of not being accepted or loved. And for a brief moment, an overwhelming sense of sadness returned; it was like a knife to the heart. How unhappy that little boy must have been.
I drove around my hometown for the rest of the day. And I knew that it would probably be the for the last time. Maybe it’s true – that you can never go back?
Saturday, April 30th
It will be hard to ever forget this date.
They say that ‘sad things come in threes’. Well, on Saturday, April 30th, it sure did.
The first shock of sadness came when I opened Facebook and saw my cousin Donna’s daughter Leila’s picture, holding her newborn son Zion before saying goodbye to him. I cried when I read it and I am crying now as I write about it.
Can’t sleep, today is going to be a hard day. Saying goodbye to our little man, Zion. ❤ Wish this was all just a dream and I could wake up and hold you forever. ❤ R.I.P Zion ?❤
I drove to Donna’s house, knowing that she would be at the hospital. I sat in the car in her driveway and thought back on all of the happiness in that house. I left my business card and a lot of teardrops at the front door. Little Zion was loved by many, many people and we will cherish him forever. I wish that I could have given Donna and Leila a huge hug. So very sad.
Later, on my way back to Randy and Alice’s place, my brother Freddy called to tell me that his best friend Geoff had just passed away that morning. The funeral would be in Georgetown on Tuesday. I told him that Randy and I would go to the funeral with him.
The third sad event that day was when I got an email message that my friend Harold’s wife had just passed away that day from cancer. I sent him an email with my condolences. Harold works at Surrey Memorial Hospital/Fraser Valley Cancer Centre and I know that all of his co-workers are with him and share his sadness.
I can’t remember a day or week so sad. It sure wasn’t turning out to be the exciting trip that I had planned.
Monday, May 2nd
On Monday, I drove to Cambridge, Ontario to meet with three of the guys that used to work with me in Western Canada.
Western Region Alumni (L-R) Maurice, Gerry, Danny, and Allan.
We worked hard, played harder and always got out of town before anyone could catch us.
I asked the waitress to take some pictures/video of us.
Happy to meet…
sorry to part…
and hoping to meet again…
Tuesday, May 3rd
Randy and I drove to Georgetown to attend Geoff Parker’s funeral. We paid our respects to his wife Nancy and their children and grandchildren. It was great to see his brother Greg, who I used to hang out with in the early 70’s. It was the first time we’ve seen each other since 1973!
Before leaving, we decided to visit the house on Delrex Blvd. in Georgetown where my parents moved to in 1968 (I remained in Oshawa to finish high school).
Delrex Blvd., Georgetown
Another sad goodbye…
Randy and I then returned to his place in Oakville to get ready to go to the Blue Jays game that night.
The baseball game was a thrilling, nail biter. I bought some souvenirs and then Randy and I headed back to Oakville on the train.
(R-L) Sister Linda, her son Russell, Danny and Randy. Freddy is standing above.
It was on the GO Train that night that I realized that what I had come to Ontario searching for, was no longer there. The burning questions had all been answered. The flame was dying… a tiny spark continued to flicker for a few painful moments… and then everything became quiet and at peace.
It was finally time to let go of that Holly Golightly lady. The movie character I loved as a teenager and my life-long crush was just a silly fantasy – and it finally dawned on me why. Little Danny always dreamed of things that he could never hope to ever have but it never stopped him from trying, because quitters seldom win. Besides, Audrey Hepburn passed away some years ago – why chase a dead dream?
And it was also time to finally store away all of the other memories from that period of my life.
But saying goodbye to my little Danny was the hardest part of my past to let go of – and I couldn’t. Because little Danny is who I was; who I am; and the who I hope to always be!
The next morning I returned to Vancouver – to my Holly Golightly.
My Holly Golightly – she’s a Coton de Tulear
And that is where a spark always shines – in her eyes and in my heart.
Although I have been writing a blog (a journal of my stories) for several years, they haven’t always been with the same web-hosting company. I have changed hosting companies several times but a few years ago, during the transition to the new site, I lost a blog that I had initially posted as a 3-part series titled My Holly Golightly & Audrey Hepburn (April 2012).
Well, today I was going through some files on my old desktop computer and found it hidden in an archive folder titled My Holly.
Now I’m not very superstitious, but it’s interesting to note, that I will be traveling to Toronto, Ontario next month on the same day as that magical trip I took there several years ago. So what better way of celebrating an anniversary than to re-post the series again!
So if you’ve already read this story – you might want to refresh your memory. If you haven’t read this series – well, hold on to your toupee – things are going to get weird!
My Holly Golightly & Audrey Hepburn – Part 1 of 3 (Originally published April 2012)
Last night, during a deep and peaceful sleep, I suddenly awoke to the most bizarre sight ever. I sat upright on my bed and began hugging my pillow in terror. There on my bed was
But first, let me give you a little background.
My Holly Golightly
Holly Golightly is a Coton de Tulear. I named her after the character Audrey Hepburn played in the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s (my favorite actress and movie).
Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn)
Audrey and my dog Holly have two things in common – they both have beautiful eyes, and they both have a magical connection to me.
But Danny, Audrey Hepburn passed away several years ago – and Holly, your dog, is just a dog. What magical connection could you possibly have with either?
Patience, dear reader – patience!
A few years ago, I spent a month in the Land of Toronto – on a highly-classified and very secret mission. The organization that contracted me cannot be named – I signed a non-disclosure agreement – and I am, if nothing else, a man of my word. Let’s just say they have a significant influence on global entertainment matters.
I rented a furnished condo in the downtown (Yonge St & College St) area under the assumed name of I.P. Knightly. The condo building was very secure – with a security guard stationed at the front door – 24/7.
I also chose the condo because the Metropolitan Toronto Police Headquarters is right next door. I scanned the surrounding area and noticed the SWAT snipers on the rooftops of adjacent buildings. Naturally, there was a Donut Shop on the same block. However, I have already mentioned too much – so I’ll just get to the part about the Audrey Hepburn and Holly Golightly connection.
About two weeks into my mission, I decided to take a day off. I had been working long hours in a very dangerous part of the city known as Yorkville. It is a corridor of trendy boutiques, galleries, and restaurants – where the rich and famous would gather to shop, dine and giggle. But these people don’t live in the city – they come from the surrounding suburbs such as Mr. and Mrs. Auga, Niagara Falls And Sometimes It Doesn’t, Union and NonUnion Ville, Dorothy Hamil-ton, Bow Man Ville, and Oshawa (birthplace of the Kardashian Sisters). But I wasn’t going to spend my day off in Yorkville – I needed a change – some place different.
I was walking on Bloor Street, just west of Yonge, when suddenly I noticed the ghostly image of a beautiful woman – and she appeared to be staring at me. I took off my mirrored sunglasses and began rubbing my eyes. Was I having a drug flashback from the ‘60’s? Nope, there she was – as real as real could be. As our eyes met, she waved for me to come closer – but I stood there – frozen in fear. She smiled, and it was at that moment that I became sure of her identity – it was Holly Golightly – the character I had worshiped since the ’60’s!
And there she was – about to open the door to a store. As she entered the store, she briefly turned and looked at me. Her eyes seemed to be telling me to follow her. I quickly glanced at the sign above the shop window – Tiffany & Co. Could this be possible?
I entered the store and was immediately captured by a beautiful scent of perfume – coming from this mysterious woman. No, it couldn’t be Audrey Hepburn – heck, she died several years ago. Who was this woman?
She stopped at the elevator and turned to see if I was still following – I was. We entered the elevator together – and then the door closed. Neither of us reached for the “floor buttons” – we just quietly looked at each other. She smiled. My body started to shake and tremble with an excitement I hadn’t felt since my first day of High School. Who was this woman? She pressed the 3rd Floor button – and then continued to smile at me. I took a couple of steps closer to her – close enough to hear and feel her breathing. But before I could say anything, the elevator door opened. The mysterious woman then motioned for me to follow her. I was in shock – she appeared to be Holly Golightly – but how could this be possible? Who was this woman?
She was standing by a glass display case – with an assortment of rings. She looked at me and pointed at one ring in particular. “This one,” she whispered. And then she vanished. My heart stopped – and so did the time. I just stood there – numb and in shock.
“Would you like to try it on?’, asked a salesclerk.
“Yes,” I replied, “but first tell me who that lady was!”
“What lady?” he answered.
To be continued
My Holly Golightly & Audrey Hepburn – Part 2 of 3 (Originally published April 24, 2012)
“The lady that was…. that was just… ” I stuttered, “she was just here … a few seconds ago!”
“I am very sorry sir, but I’m the only sales clerk working on this floor today” he replied. “Are you feeling alright? Would you like me to bring you a glass of water?”
He appeared to be genuinely concerned. I knew (based on my many years of sales experience) that I was dealing with a real professional. He was well-dressed – Brooks Brother suit and patent leather shoes – probably from an exclusive haberdashery in Yorkville. He also appeared to be “edgy” and somewhat “needy”, as most salespeople paid on a “commission basis” tend to be.
“No thanks. Maybe I’ll just try on the ring.”
The ring was very unusual – it was flexible, comprising of many small, interlocking-silver chains. Inside the ring was a small plate with the inscription “T&Co.”
Danny’s Tiffany Ring
The salesclerk carefully took the ring from the display case and gently handed it to me. He then stood back (as per the Tiffany & Co. protocol) and allowed me to try on the ring. He began smiling – which was his way of telling me that he knew he was dealing with a customer from a foreign land.
“Forgive me for asking, but you don’t appear to be from the Land of Toronto – are you here for a visit?” he asked.
My body stiffened – questions began “racing” through my mind. How did he know I was an outsider? Was it because I had licked my finger several times, before trying on the ring? Or was it the “Eagles – Hell Freezes Over Tour” t-shirt that I was wearing? (Torontonians are die-hard fans of Hank Snow, and rock ‘n roll hasn’t gone over there yet).
“Yes,” I answered, “I’m from Rochester, New York – on a bus charter to see the CN Tower and Ontario Place.” I felt a bit guilty for lying – but only for about 3 seconds.
“I’ll take the ring,” I told him. “Don’t bother to wrap it; I’m going to wear it.”
Later that afternoon I returned to the condo. As I walked through the lobby towards the elevator, I noticed one of the doors closing – I shouted – “Please wait for me!” The door suddenly stopped and then opened. I was surprised to see that the elevator was empty. “Hmmm, must be high tech voice-sensors” I muttered to myself. I pressed the 33rd-floor button and waited as the elevator started moving.
Suddenly I felt someone’s presence behind me – I quickly turned – and there she was – Holly Golightly – or Audrey Hepburn – or her ghost! She stared at my hand – and when she saw the ring, her eyes started to twinkle. She held out her hand – and the ring that Fred had given her (from the Cracker Jack box) suddenly and miraculously changed and became identical to the ring I had just purchased. Our eyes met, and it was at that moment that I noticed the tears running down her cheeks. And before I could say anything – she vanished!
As I left the elevator, I noticed a couple leaving their condo and walking down the corridor towards the elevator. With them was a small white, shaggy dog – who started running to me. It had the most beautiful eyes, and it was very friendly. I introduced myself to the couple (using my alias) and asked them what their dog’s name was and what breed. They told me it was a Coton de Tulear, and his name was Buddy. The woman reached into her purse and wrote the name of the breeder on a piece of paper.
“Are you in town long?” they asked.
“No, I will be leaving in a week or two” I replied.
“Maybe you can join us for dinner or drinks?” they shouted as they entered the elevator. Buddy, the dog, turned and stared at me – with the same sad expression as the Holly Golightly mysterious woman I had just seen (or hadn’t?) in the elevator.
There was something oddly familiar about that dog – but I wasn’t sure what it was.
To be continued
My Holly Golightly & Audrey Hepburn – Part 3 of 3 (Originally published April 26, 2012)
“Why not join us for drinks sometime?” they shouted as they entered the elevator. Buddy, the dog, turned and stared at me – with the same sad expression as the Holly Golightly mysterious woman I had just seen (or hadn’t?) in the elevator. There was something oddly familiar about that dog – but I wasn’t sure what it was.
I saw Buddy several times before leaving the Land of Toronto – he was such a friendly and lovable dog. Being with him made me miss having a dog – Beau (my Pomeranian) had passed away the year before, and I was still grieving his loss. However, I decided that if I was to ever get another dog, it would be a Coton de Tulear – just like Buddy.
Fast forward to the next year. I returned to the Land of Ontario to house sit for Linda (my sister) and Brian at their home in Ajax. They were vacationing in the Land of the Free and had tickets to attend a live taping of the Jerry Springer Show. Each day I would visit with my Mom at the Parkway Retirement Home in Pickering – and we would faithfully and eagerly watch the Jerry Springer Show in the hopes of seeing Linda and Brian in the audience. Although we never actually saw them in the audience, we were pretty certain that we heard my sister’s distinctive voice screaming of “Jerrrrreeeee – Jerrrrreeeee!”
One day while visiting my Mom – we were talking about Beau (who was named after my Mom) and how much I missed him. We were watching television and the Wheel of Fortuneshow had just ended (my Mom’s favourite program). We flipped through the channels – when suddenly – there she was! No, not my sister, silly! It was Audrey Hepburn (Holly Golightly) being featured on the Biography channel. I went numb with excitement and could barely speak. “Mom, that’s my favourite actress of all time” I explained. I then told her about my visit to the Tiffany & Co. store in Toronto and buying a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” ring. I didn’t mention the Holly Golightly/Audrey Hepburn sightings – she wouldn’t have believed me – in fact, who would?
But seeing Holly Golightly/Audrey Hepburn reminded me of that dog Buddy – and that was the connection! They both had dark and mysterious eyes. I quickly checked my address book and found the listing for Buddy’s breeder. It was long distance – a western Ontario area code. I dialed the number and a man answered. I asked him if he had any pups available and he indicated that he had just one left – and it was a 4 month-old female. I told him that I was very interested and would it be possible to go there the next day to see the dog? He agreed and then proceeded to give me directions to his farm – it was in the Land of the Mennonites (which explains his rather odd accent).
Early the next morning I headed out on the “401” – which at that time of the morning, was a continuous 50 mile traffic jam. I finally reached the breeder’s farm and saw the pup. She was beautiful – and had eyes just like Buddy! The breeder told me that she was the last in the litter – and had an issue with her hip – but she was otherwise healthy. The kennel was a building beside the barn – the dog had never been in a house. I paid for the dog and as soon as I got her in the car, I called her by her new name “Holly Golightly”. A few days later we were on our way back to Vancouver – with Holly in a soft pet carrier, under the seat in front of me. She never made a sound and despite being confined for several hours – she didn’t “mess” the carrier.
But Danny, what about that mysterious Holly Golightly/Audrey Hepburn woman or ghost?
Well, it’s like this….
Not long after getting Holly, I saw another Audrey Hepburn movie “Two For The Road” for the first time – and was “crushed” by the character she played. She was having an affair – and not being faithful is the one thing that neither Fred or I would ever be able to forgive – regardless of how much we loved her. It shattered my attraction for Holly Golightly although I am sure that Audrey Hepburn was in fact, a beautiful woman/person – and nothing like the character(s) she played.
As for Tiffany & Co. – it lost it’s wow factor for me when I learned that Newt Gingrich had a $500,000 line of credit there. I haven’t worn my Tiffany & Co. ring since.
But Danny, what about the terror you mentioned in Part 1?
Well as I stated, I was in a deep and peaceful sleep when suddenly I awoke – frozen in terror. The TV in my room was on (I always leave it on during the night – it helps me sleep) and Holly was awake and staring at me. At first it was the music – and then I saw the TV screen – it was the scene in the movie where Holly Golightly is on the outside of Fred’s bedroom window in Breakfast at Tiffany’s! What are the odds? Spooky!!!
And at the same time, my dog Holly Golightly was staring at me – with the saddest expression – as if she was trying to say “Don’t give up the dream”. I got up from the bed and went to the dresser and got my Tiffany & Co. ring. Holly watched as I put it on my finger – and then she laid her head back down and went to sleep. And as I laid there beside her I thought about the mysterious woman from that day, five years ago, on the elevator at Tiffany & Co. in the Land of Toronto.
Hopefully, Fred will never see that Two For The Road movie…… it would probably break his heart too!
NOTE! – The part about the Jerry Springer Show is not true – my sister Linda would never watch that show… but my brother Freddy might…… I’m just sayin’……
Holly Golightly hiding behind Danny at sister Linda’s place in Ajax, Ontario (2007)
UPDATE: March 14th – I’ll be wearing the ring when I visit Toronto in April – and who knows? Maybe I’ll see her ghost again…
Okay, so maybe I haven’t hugged you (yet). But here are a few of the reasons why I hug people, dogs, cats, horses, cows and even the rare, elusive, flying squirrel that I sometimes see in my backyard (although not so much since I stopped mixing Scotch with Orange Juice).
Editor’s Note: Danny doesn’t drink alcohol very often – he just likes taking shots at Scotch drinkers).
I have found that people who don’t like hugging are usually the kind of individuals that I have nothing in common. It’s proven to be an efficient and reliable ‘friend filter’.
It’s a good way of checking to see if the person that you’re hugging is wearing body armour or a concealed gun.
It’s sometimes needed and can feel more sincere and meaningful than other means of greeting friends and family.
It’s the perfect thing to do to that cop who has just pulled you over for speeding. The cop will still give you the ticket, but there’s a good chance that he’ll want to be your friend on Facebook.
However, you might not agree with my rationale – so let’s look at what the science experts are saying about ‘hugging.’ The following is a (paste and copy) of an article I read in the Vega One newsletter this morning. It gives the scientific argument for hugging, and it’s quite compelling – so here it is – read it and start hugging!
Both romantic and platonic touch can be very healthy. Cuddling releases all the feel-good hormones we know and love: dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. All of these increase our sense of well-being and happiness, and today we’re going to highlight the main touch hormone: oxytocin.
Your New Favorite “O”: Oxytocin
Hugging and cuddling initiates the release of the hormone oxytocin – which is linked to social bonding (especially between mother and child). But it also has other health benefits.
Here are the top four benefits of oxytocin:
Oxytocin helps to reduce our blood pressure and stress levels—almost instantaneously.
Oxytocin is anti-inflammatory
Oxytocin brings us closer to those we know and love.
Oxytocin enhances your overall well-being—beyond just a five-second hug.
In the majority of research, it appears that these benefits happen when you are familiar and trust the person you are touching. Hugging a stranger is likely not to have the same healthy benefits.
Ways to Get Your Cuddle in:
Hug a friend!
Next time you see a good friend or family member, give them a good, solid hug. You’ll both feel more connected.
Find a cat café
Can’t have a pet in your apartment? Cat Cafés are popping up around the world. Why NOT sip a cappuccino while you pet a furry friend?
Volunteer at a pet shelter
Besides granting immediate, unconditional love, cuddling with a furry friend is bound to make you feel good. Most pet shelters are in need of long-term volunteers. Committing to walking, socializing and caring for pets until they are adopted helps everyone out.
Get a massage
Not only will getting a massage make your sore muscles feel better, but the massage can also stimulate the release of oxytocin.
Take a warm bath
Don’t feel like being social? Pour yourself a hot bath and let yourself relax. Give yourself a shoulder massage. Phew—feeling better already!
So now that I’ve given you proof – beyond a reasonable doubt – that hugging will not only brighten your spirits – it’s free, and there aren’t any calories. So why are you still sitting there? Get up and run out into the street and hug the first passer-by that you meet!