During the Spring of 2017, I separated from a forty year marriage and began planning a new life for Holly Golightly and me. And as much as it pains me to write about such a private matter, I wanted to be very clear about one thing – it was not because of infidelity or anything nasty or sinister. It’s been something I’d been wrestling with for several years and I was very unhappy, which resulted in an unhappy relationship for both of us. I am not coming out of any closet – and I am totally straight – I just want for both of us to have happiness in our lives.
I decided to wait until my wife retired in December before leaving and we continue to share the same house, although we’ve had separate bedrooms and haven’t been intimate for many years. We decided to list our house in the New Year and expect to have it on the market within the next few days. We will be dividing everything equally, but I won’t be purchasing another home. I wish her well, and that’s all I have to say on this matter.
In December, during one of my walks with the Surrey Trekkers and Vancouver Venturers Volkssport Clubs, I was chatting with my friend Frank S. about my future plans regarding housing options in Vancouver and he came up with a few recommendations that were very interesting. But first, I had to resolve a pressing question, namely: ‘Where do I want to live?’ I had already decided to rent instead of buying but knew that it would be a challenge to find a place that allows dogs. And I wasn’t sure if I wanted to remain in Vancouver – despite the fact that it is the best place on Earth – it is also very expensive. So I started thinking about Vancouver Island and/or the Sunshine Coast. But there was this silent voice from within, that urged me to consider my birthplace in Southern, Ontario. That same voice reminded me of the secret dream I’ve had for many years, but shared with no one. And now, I could begin chasing my dream!
But first, I had an appointment for a CT Scan on my lungs on January 12th. A year and a half ago, they found two small spots on my right lung, and my oncologist wanted to compare the size of the spots after six months. In February 2017, the CT Scan showed that the two spots were still in the upper chamber but now there were two additional spots on the lower chamber of the right lung! Dr. K. scheduled my next CT Scan for September but by August, I was going through a lot of stress because of the separation and Holly’s illness and subsequent surgery. I decided not to go for the scan or the follow-up appointment. And I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even call to cancel those appointments.
I stopped my daily walks and continued to slide into a deeper depression, aka feeling sorry for myself. I had stopped communicating with my brothers and sisters for more than a year but fortunately, I still had my family at the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre in Surrey, whom I love dearly; and my best friends’ Norm and Robert – who I consider the older brothers I never had but always wanted. But as close as these people are to me – I haven’t shared my dream with anyone – it’s always been a secret.
They say there are three types of secrets that we all possess, namely:
- Secrets we share with family
- Secrets we share with best friends
- Secrets we keep hidden deep within
But all of that changed in early October when I learned about the Surrey Trekkers Volkssport Club. And just as the BC Cancer Agency had saved my life eight years ago – this walking/hiking club dragged me out of the darkness and into a world of smiles and friendship! We walk three times a week at various locations in the Lower Mainland and Washington State. I also joined the Vancouver Venturers Volkssport Club and I’m a member of the Washington Trail Association. Walking with these clubs has been an effective treatment because amazingly, I lost the depression during my first walk with the Surrey Trekkers. It has been the best thing that I have done for myself – in a very long time and I’ll be writing a lot more about it in the future!
Chasing a Dream
The snowbirds had already begun the migration to a warmer climate in early December, and several other flocks would be leaving in January, after spending the Holiday Season at home with friends and family. But I, on the other hand, decided to travel to a colder place – Toronto, Ontario. You should have seen the look on the faces of my fellow walkers when they learned about my plans to visit the land of ice, snow and frigid temperatures (and people).
‘Danny, why are you going to Toronto?’ they’d ask politely while trying not to roll their eyes in shock and disbelief.
Someone once said, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought of as a fool – than to open it and remove all doubt!” But I’m not sure the warning applies to the written word.
But in any event, here are the reasons why I’m visiting Ontario for three weeks in January. I want to find answers to the following questions:
- Would I be able to live in Ontario, after leaving thirty-six years ago?
A lot has changed over the years. I’ve always liked Ontario but I like the West Coast best, followed by the East Coast.
- Could I live in ‘downtown’ Toronto?
I last lived in Toronto in 1974. It was in a high-rise apartment in Etobicoke at the end of the subway line. But I want to stay in the heart of downtown Toronto, preferably in the harbor area with an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario.
- Would Holly and I be happy living in a high rise condo or apartment rental?
Holly is twelve years old and needs to be able to go outside when Nature calls. But I’ve seen lots of people in Robert’s old apartment building with dogs, so it’s a possibility. But my preference would be something on the ground level with a bit of an enclosed patio or balcony, so it will be easier for both the dog and me. The experience will be valuable regardless of what city I choose to live.
- Could I give up my vehicle and rely on transit?
I’m getting older and finding it more difficult and stressful, driving in rush hours and/or in heavy traffic and driving in the dark. I also have less patience with ignorant drivers, who seemed to become more plentiful in recent times. I’d rather just rent a car for the day when I need it and walk or take transit as my normal mode of travel. You also see more when you’re a passenger.
- Could I endure the cold, cold winters?
I’ve already answered that question. NO! But I’m hoping to go south during the winters, so this isn’t a factor.
But Danny, how are you going to afford a hotel in downtown Toronto for three weeks?
Relax, Spanky – I’ve done some online research – comparing the cost of hotels vs AirNB. And in so doing, it didn’t take long to realize that I could rent a condo for about half of what it would cost to rent a hotel room, as well as other advantages, including:
- Avoid the cost of staying in a hotel with no refrigerator or stove to make my special meals
- I also compared AirNB vs Craigslist
- AirNB gave much more info and pictures and better variety of choices and only featured listings that were available Jan 13-31st
- No idea if Craigslist listings were accurate vs AirNB – so I went with the better known of the two choices
- I’d be living with condo residents vs hotel guests – because they’d be friendlier if they thought I was a new neighbor
- Having a washer and dryer was an added bonus to avoid dry cleaning bills – pack fewer clothes
I found a condo in a high-rise on York Street and Queens Quay – with an unobstructed view of the lake and just a few blocks from Union Station, Air Canada Centre and of course, the iconic CN Tower. The cost per night was $113. But the fee was non-refundable after I took possession, so I hoped the pictures and info were accurate. I booked the condo from January 13 – 3oth and paid in advance. I also planned to stay in a hotel at the Toronto Airport on January 3oth to avoid the next day rush to get to the airport.
I also booked my flight and chose Premium Seating vs Economy. I used to travel Business Class when I was working – but that was when I had Super Elite and Elite status with Aeroplan and had lots of upgrade certificates.
Friday, January 12, 2018
I went to Surrey Memorial Hospital at 8:00 AM for my CT Scan. They inject a dye intravenously into you and then you feel a sudden, warm rush throughout your body. The dye reacts to any cancer cells that are present and makes cancer visible. The scan doesn’t take too long – and I’ve had many of them over the past eight years. I asked Dr. Karvat’s secretary to book the follow-up appointment for February 2, 2018, so I could do the trip to Ontario. All I could think about during the scan was my trip to Ontario the next day and finally, chasing a dream – my dream!
Now that you’ve got a little background but before we start this journey together – you might want to fasten your seatbelt, stand behind the sneeze guard and hang on tightly because I have no idea how or when this story is going to end!
Saturday, January 13, 2018
The Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge was the perfect place to wait for my plane to begin boarding and I was thankful that I had upgraded to business class. During the last fifteen years of my career with General Motors of Canada Limited, I was a frequent flyer and obtained Aeroplan Elite or Super Elite status every year – which meant lots of free upgrade certificates – priority boarding and unlimited access to the Maple Leaf Lounge. So even when I had the lowest fare – I still had all of those benefits.
The lounge has a self-serve bar & beverage service, food, and snacks; workstations, desks, magazines, newspapers, and television to watch while waiting for your plane to board. Although retired for thirteen years, and I no longer have access to free upgrades – there is the option when traveling by Air Canada to purchase access to the Maple Leaf Lounge for $50 – even if you’re flying in Economy Class. It’s a great option, to consider when traveling economy class.
We boarded the 787 plane, and I had a private domain – complete with a seat that became a bed, TV monitor and desk; headphones, remote control – and the unit is both a window and aisle location; with nobody sitting on either side of me. The flight attendant soon arrived with a glass of orange juice and a breakfast menu. I explained that I’m not able to eat solid food but if they had a yogurt or ice cream – I’d be happy with either. She also offered me a newspaper from Australia – which is where the plane had originated from earlier.
Soon we were 39,000 feet in the air, and I had my headphones on and listening to one of my Eagles tunes, and they began serving breakfast. I could tell by the heavenly fragrance – they were serving pancakes and sausages. The flight attendant brought me a yogurt with the saddest expression on her young face.
‘Are you sure that I can’t bring you something else?’ she whispered.
I thought about asking for a cocktail, but I seldom drink alcohol anymore because it burns my throat. Back in the day, I would have ordered a double vodka on ice, with a dash of 7Up for color.
‘No, but can I ask you a question?’ I whispered, ‘do you know Captain Joe G.?’
Immediately, her eyes lit up, and she was smiling from ear to ear. We talked about our mutual friend and how Joe and his wife, Brenda, were my neighbors when I lived in Bedford, Nova Scotia (1989-’92). Joe has been an Air Canada pilot for many years; we used to run into each other when he flew Dash 8’s with Air Nova in the 80’s. It’s why I usually fly Air Canada – to support a buddy’s employment – and he always drove a GM product. Brenda’s father was the regional manager of GMAC, which was also a connection.
I tried to configure the seat into a bed but couldn’t sleep a wink – I was too excited. I decided to listen to one of the playlists of music on my laptop. Next, to breathing, music is a ‘must have,’ and I have a library of over 10,000 songs – all of which I purchased. I have never downloaded music or movies for free – artists deserve to get paid for their work and pirating is unconscionable. Would you work if your employer decided not to pay you? Me thinks, not!
The pilot’s voice suddenly shattered a hot daydream I was having. He announced that we were about to land and the temperature was minus 35 degrees Celsius, with the windchill factor! A large gasp of shock and disappointment erupted from the passengers. ‘Where did they think we were landing – Hawaii?’, I thought.
Soon we were at the gate, and I was first off of the plane and racing to the luggage carousel to retrieve my suitcases. After getting my bags, I went outside to get a limo and just about froze!
On the drive downtown, I called Ramy G., the owner of the condo apartment, to confirm the address on York Street. He told me to ring his buzzer when I got to the lobby of the building, and he would buzz me in. He said that the apartment was open and the keys were on the kitchen counter.
The condo complex was actually two large high rises connected by a large lobby on the main floor. It appeared to be a fairly new facility and it had two security people on the lobby desk, so I felt safe and secure. ‘So far, so good!’ I thought.
I rang the buzzer to Ramy’s suite. He buzzed me into the building and I headed to the elevator. The apartment was on the 35th floor. I had no sooner opened the door to the apartment when I heard the sirens from the street below. I quickly dropped my suitcases on the floor and ran to the balcony door to see if the fire trucks were stopping at this complex.
And that’s when I got the next shock!
To be continued…
Today’s tune from Danny’s library (purchased):