Renovations - Princess

It's said that life is timing. No truer statement could be made about this massive renovation. I was on my way into Kelowna to pay the balance of my first month's rent on a basement apartment I didn't care much for, when, for some unknown reason I checked my email. There was an email from my Realtor telling me about a place in the Princess MHP that was about to go into default and he suggested, although it was a mess, I could probably just takeover the existing loan and renovate the place. I met him there and, well, there rest is history, none of it good.

When I first moved in I wish I had taken more pictures of what I found on closer inspection, but let's just say I ended up pretty well gutting it, redesigning the layout and completely rebuilding it from the ground up. About the only thing I didn't touch was much of the exterior cladding mostly because it was in good condition and fit in with my planned colour scheme.

They had two massive dogs who had basically destroyed whatever lawn there may have been at one time. What little work had been done was very shoddy. When I leaned against the railing on the deck they had it started to collapse and I nearly fell off. They only things that was done right were the two additions, one at the front right with what could be two bedrooms and one at the back with a bedroom and a bathroom.

The reno of the kitchen was total with all new plumbing, electrical, walls, new appliances, flooring and cabinets.

Originally there were two bathrooms, the "fish" bathroom which was the main bathroom in the original unit, and the bathroom in the add-on part at the back. Although I intended to demolish and replace the "fish" bathroom with a new bathroom location, I thought the bathroom in the add-on only required maybe a repaint and replacing the vanity. Boy was I wrong!

It looked like the taps had been leaking in the bathroom because the backboard had been cut out to make repairs. I intended to install a one-piece shower/bathtub unit so the cut-out around the taps wasn't really a factor, but I just wasn''t comfortable just covering it up without making sure it didn't still leak. It did, so we started pulling off the plywood to find the source of the leak. Soon we were down to the sub floor and there was evidence that it was wet. To our considerable shock, when we went outside after running the taps there was water dripping on the external wall. There was also some evidence that the studs had been wet because there was blackening on the bottom. It was becoming more obvious that this was not going to be a cosmetic fix and would require demolition and rebuild.

Once we had removed the vanity and the bathtub we went to remove the old vinyl flooring. Naturally I was hoping it would come up in one piece, so Chris and I got a hold of one side and gave it a tug and it did come up in one piece. To my horror the vinyl and the floor was covered in obvious black mold! I grabbed Chris and we ran outside. It was too late to worry that we should have had breathers on or, better yet, called the HazMat team in. The damage had been done.

With breathers on we removed the sub floor and bleached all the walls and floor joists where we had seen any mold. The plumbing all came out and was replaced with new. All together my minor cosmetic fix cost me several thousand dollars. Just proves you never know what will happen when you start a demo. There's often secrets lurking in those walls.

The Exterior

It's hard to describe just how bad the place was from the outside. It was either damaged or broken down everywhere. No question the place was an eyesore in the park. The first job was to demo pretty well everything. The shed, although in pretty rough shape and empty on the inside, was structurally sound. It had a door opening on the back which made no sense to me because it would only be perfect back there for break-ins. I knew from the start that I would need a place for all my tools and to work because there would be nowhere in the house for this, plus I was trying to live there through all of this. Although I seemed to always be working on a million things at once, I did find time to reclad the shed and build in some great shelving and a workbench. In no time at all it was full.

In general the exterior of the house wasn't too bad, with most of the cladding in good shape. The one exception was at the entrance where they had put the BBQ too close to the vinyl siding and it had melted. I was most concerned about the first impression of the place so this is where I focused on making it look better. The first major job was to remove the old, broken patio door and replace it with the french doors, which made a huge first impression. Then we built the stairs and railings. Then we added a window to make the living room brighter. Then we re-clad this part of the place with new board and the horizontal boards in the highlight colour. Some new eaves-trough and downspouts and some flowers and things looked pretty good.

I might mention that the concrete pad we added was the first time I had ever done this kind of work. I researched it on the internet plus I had help from a guy in the park who saw what I was trying to do and helped me out lending me some finishing tools. I was pretty proud of the job I'd done when it was finished.

I should also mention that there were a number of areas that it looked like it was going to be a problem growing grass. Some of the areas were also out of sight, like the side of the place along the road, so I wanted to make it as maintenance free as possible. I got the idea of creating what looked like a dry riverbed down the side and around the front. What I didn't realize at design time was just how many rocks this was going to take. I think the first full dump truck load was something like 20 yards and that's a whole lot of rocks. I figured that by the time I was finished doing the whole property I had moved and placed about fifteen thousand rocks in total. Yeah, grass might have been easier.


Jewl

Into every child’s life must come a first pet

To care for, love and cherish and yet

There comes a day you know they’ll regret

A day that will make you so very upset.

 

For no matter how much you love them to death

They don’t live forever. They will take their last breath.

To a child this loss is a whole new feeling

That makes them cry and sends them reeling.

 

It’s so hard to make them understand it’s okay

To grieve their loss in their own special way.

To them it’s a pain they have never had

It makes them confused and so very sad.

 

We all go through it and we remember the pain

Our first thought is we’ll never have pets again.

But time heals all wounds and we soon recover

We learn that to go on we’ll soon have another.

 

Millions of pets go unwanted every day

Unloved and put down in such a cruel way

But you gave life to one so special to you

She knows that it was the right thing to do.

 

She wants you to remember all the good times you had

And not to dwell on her passing and be so sad.

Think of all the fun and joy she gave to you.

Smile when you remember her and don’t be blue.

 

To keep her alive in pain would be cruel

Think only good thoughts of your friend, Jewl.

In the days ahead you’ll miss her so bad

But remember she doesn’t want to make you sad.

 

She’s in a better place, free from pain

And she’ll want you to love another again.

More little joys like her will come your way

To fill your heart with joy. You’ll be okay.

 

Jewl will never forget her good friend, Emily

Who loved her and cared for her as much as could be

No better could she have been loved by anyone

Have only good thoughts, like the heart she won.  


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

I shed a tear for a fallen soldier today

Why did a young man need to die this way?

I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me

But he believed in “stand on guard for thee”

Not since Dallas have I felt this way

Our innocence is gone too this day

We know that life will not be the same now

True Canadians share regrets, yet somehow

We must find a way to get through our grief

To hold onto our values and our belief

That our beloved country is still strong and free

And that we can handle the threats to you and me  

Our peace-keeper role has gone astray

Sad we have to pay for it in this horrible way

Our great “melting pot” has some cracks in it now

We struggle to accept that and yet figure out how

To guard ourselves against those who preach hate

And to all stand together before it’s too late

If you don’t like our country please don’t come

Keep all the violence back where you come from

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for those we didn’t know

Now stands in lasting memory of brave Corporal Cirillo


Back "Home" again

As my initial post on this site says the primary purpose of it is a sort of diary but mostly just in case any of my kids or grandkids ever want to know about me. My daughter, Heather, hasn't spoken to me in twenty six years, which breaks my heart. My son, Chris, hasn't connected with me in more than ten years, despite my attempts to reconnect with him back when I lived in London, Ontario. As for my grandkids I met my son's oldest daughter, Danielle, when she was just a baby and we did reconnect when I was in BC. We chatted quite a bit until I assume her Dad put a stop to that. I've never connected with his daughter, Merissa. I did connect with his other daughter, Mackenzie, back when she was fourteen. Again we chatted back and forth and we were even going to meet when she came to Mexico, but she cut me off when she came to Puerto Villarta and stopped chatting with me just a suddenly. The saddest part of this whole thing is that I have no idea what I did to deserve this. Not a soul has ever explained why they won't talk to me. No one was ever stronger about family than me and my kids know that. Sadly they not only cut me out of their lives but did the same for my entire side of the family. It hurt their grandparents, my Mum and Dad, terribly. My brother and sister and my kid's cousins never heard from them again. No clue why.

Being forced back to Canada, something I figured would never happen after moving to Mexico, started back when I was living in Riberas del Pilar, just east of where I was originally in Ajijic. First I lost one of my pensions because I had been out of the country for more than six months and this was about a third of my measly pension income. Then trying to get my critical diabetic meds turned into a disaster when my friend sent insulin instead of my dry meds. It took months to get to me because she mailed them instead of sending them courier as I had asked and, of course, it was garbage after not being refrigerated for months. I called the pharmacy back in Belleville to explain what happened but they refused to renew my medications without a doctor. I started researching getting my meds in Mexico but that proved impossible because of the costs. I did go through a very lengthy process with their version of public medicine and managed to get a one month supply of insulin. 

Then my landlord from hell who had given me nothing but grief since the day I moved in suddenly demanded two thousand pesos more a month and wanted it now! The fact that according to our lease he had to give me thirty days notice, plus he could only increase the rent annually by five percent meant nothing to him. The studio apartment was a nightmare with either no water, no electricity, or no internet and infestations of ants and, so much worse, cockroaches! Those little buggers are hard to kill! I was terrified chasing them around the apartment. 

It was at this point that I was ready to just give up. I researched whether an overdose of insulin would kill me. It wouldn't. Back when I was unceremoniously dumped by my fiancée by text message I was just going to swim out in the lake far enough that I couldn't make it back, but I was too much of a coward to do that. After crying my eyes out for days I managed to pull myself together and try to go on, but here I was in a desperate mess with no idea what to do. Just when I was thinking about getting the sleeping pills and just laying down on my bed and going peacefully a guy messaged me on Facebook offering me a free apartment for a month in Chelem in the Yucatan, about two thousand miles away. Desperate to just get out from under all this stress it seemed like a better option than going back to Canada. It wasn't. 

Getting rid of all my stuff was yet another nightmare. My new friend, Anny, in Guadalajara offered to sell my things for me, which would have been great if my criminal Uber driver, Salvador, hadn't stolen half my things in the move to Anny's place. Then my equally thieving dentist offered to buy my big screen, very expensive monitor and printer, but then refused to pay me, coming up with new fictitious bills he said I owed him. It took months to get my printer back from him but somehow he managed to destroy it. When my friend, Arnie, eventually managed to get it back for me it wasn't working and he couldn't get a dime for it. Another four hundred dollars gone. My four hundred dollar LG monitor was ripped off by the dentist, along with the executive two hundred and fifty dollar executive chair I gave him. I never calculated how much Salvador stole from me but it was at least my expensive desk, a coffee make that I had promised to Anny, and countless other things that the guys he hired stole. Add the cost to fly to Merida and that "free" month's rent cost me a fortune. The entire move was one of the worst mistakes I've ever made. 

Not only did I lose a fortune moving to Chelem I also hated it. Something that the owner forgot to tell me when he offered me the one month free rent was that the place was sold as of the end of November so I would have to move out. The US purchaser was going to be charging nine hundred dollars US so I couldn't possibly stay. Not only that but after living for the better part of two years in the most perfect climate in the world I was now living in an oven. It was unbearably hot and humid. Mid thirties and higher every single day. The place I lived was on the beach, which might sound nice, but it wasn't because the wind never stopped howling. It could have blown me off the balcony. When I managed to catch the little crowded van that was transit to Progreso to shop I nearly fainted walking down the main street. Just brutal! One day when I was trying to get my glasses fixed I did actually faint. The shop owner called for help and the EMT folks got me to the hospital where they gave me insulin. At the time I didn't realize that the public hospital that they took me to was miles from the downtown where I needed to catch the van back home. 

After not being able to find an affordable place to live, trying in vain to survive without one of my pensions, and running out my meds, particularly my insulin, I knew that I had to give up and go back to Canada, which broke my heart. I contacted everybody from the consulate to the Embassy trying to get help with the flights back to Canada, but that was just another disaster. I was trying to figure out whether to go back to the Okanagan or to Belleville. Although the flights back to Kelowna were cheaper, I think because the connection was out of Puerto Vallarta, I couldn't get answers from the CMHA in Kelowna as to whether they had the type of housing they had in Belleville. I was also under the belief that rents were cheaper in Belleville, which was totally wrong. Rents are insane, especially in a place as horrible as Belleville. I had been checking out flights every day and at one point found flights to Toronto that were as cheap as I'd seen. When you are checking these discount airfare sites nine times out of ten when you go to book them they are sold out. When I found these flights and expected to get the same "sold out" to my surprise the flights were actually booked. It was too late to change my mind and cancel them because there were no refunds. There went half my pension money to pay for the flights. 

Now I was booked out, flying from Merida to Mexico City to Cancun to Toronto. Worst flights ever. I was going to be in the air or sitting around airports for twenty-four hours. Even the lady at check-in at Merida commented that I had terrible flights, asking if I couldn't have done better? In a bit of a last minute panic I ended up donating most of the stuff I had bought to live. The lady I gave it all to said she could sell some of it, like my brand new coffee maker, but she never gave me a dime. She did setup a driver to take me to the airport for 600 pesos. The owner of the house had picked me up at the airport when I first came but he made no offer to take me back to the airport.

Naturally the first flight out of Merida was delayed hours. I wasn't too worried because my layover in Mexico City was something like ten hours. Despite the fact that I was connecting on the same airline all the way to Toronto I still had to get my luggage in Mexico City and check it in again for the flight to Cancun. That meant I was hauling my luggage around for hours at the airport. I might mention that there is nowhere to sit or spend time at the airport Everything was closed overnight and the Krispy Kreme donut place showed that it opened at three o'clock in the morning. I remember seeing all kinds of people lying on the floor and at the telephone booths. I couldn't believe that they had nowhere to even sit. Eventually I saw them getting ready to open the donut shop and I asked the guy when they would be ready. He was nice enough to let me get a coffee and donuts before they were actually open. The donuts, delicious as they were, proved to be a big mistake. 

It was something like six in the morning for my flight to Cancun. Again I had a very long layover before my final flight to Toronto which was scheduled to arrive around midnight in Toronto. I had already booked and paid for the bus to Belleville but it wasn't leaving the airport until six-thirty in the morning, so yet another long layover. Then disaster struck. I was sort of half sleeping on a bench, not realizing that I was actually going into a diabetic coma. A very nice airport staff lady shook me and asked me if I was okay? I guess my mumbled response raised concern and the next thing I knew was that I was being wheelchaired to their emergency clinic. The doctor there spoke good English and gave me insulin and brought my sky-high sugar levels down. They wheeled me back through security again and back to my bench. I still wasn't feeling great and I hadn't slept in quite a while so I guess I doxed off again. Next thing I knew another airport official was shaking me telling me that I was about to miss my flight. As she wheeled me down to the gate I heard my name being called over the PA system. They got me on the plane and stuck me in the first seat where I believe the flight attendants normally sit. 

After finally getting to Toronto more than twenty-four hours after first leaving Mexico I went through challenges with customs but they let me in. First trip after getting my luggage was, of course, Timmies for coffee, something I had missed for two years. It was delicious. Then it was a matter of finding somewhere to sit and wait the hours until the bus for Belleville arrived. When it finally arrived and I showed the driver my prepaid ticket he said that I was only allowed one piece of luggage, but finally agreed to load my two pieces. When I first booked the bus I assumed that it would be stopping at the bus depot downtown. Wrong! It stopped at a truck stop off the 401, miles from downtown Belleville. Staff at the store told me that it was a twenty dollar cab ride to downtown. I didn't have twenty dollars. In desperation I called my friend, Doral and she agreed to pick me up. She said her and her friend were on their way to a dance at the Legion so invited me to come along, which i did. I still can't believe that after two days of horrible travel and little sleep, if any, I was able to dance, but I did. 

The place I had to live just a few days ago, before I left Mexico, now wasn't available so Doral called the Ontario Works emergency housing number. They arranged for a taxi to pick me up and take me to a motel in Trenton for the night. It wasn't great but at least I got to finally have a much needed shower and sleep in a bed. In the morning I learned that OW took me to Trenton but they wouldn't take me back. I talked to the owner of the motel about staying but he was really disagreeable and said he wanted eighty dollars a night. He did say that people in another room were going back to Belleville and they would only charge me ten dollars. Thus started a couple of very crazy days with them. After we stopped downtown to get me a winter coat the police followed us to a parking lot and said that if the van moved they would arrest us. It had something to do with the muffler. Somehow we ended up on the reserve and they dealt with finding us a place. Off we went to Napanee to the Comfort Inn and they even paid for food for us. The next day we were supposed to get the van fixed but that wasn't happening. They went to the band office again to see about housing, but when they came back they said that I was out of luck because I wasn't native. I broke down crying. I couldn't take anymore. Then they arranged for me to stay the night at their daughter's place on the reserve. The apartment was disgusting but it was all I could do at least for the night. Then the police showed up because the landlord had seen me go in and I wasn't allowed to stay there. A very nice police officer called emergency housing again and then drove me to the Comfort Inn in Belleville. It was my first decent night. 

The next morning two staff from the CMHA picked me up and I did their intake interview. Their only condition was that first I went to the hospital. When I got there my sugars were out of control and I spent the next five days being picked and prodded every hour until my sugars stabilized. Then they took me to a disgusting room at 12 Murney where I had stayed years earlier at 10 Murney. The room had no closet, a broken dresser and a horrible single bed. I wondered how I was going to survive but at least I had a roof over my head and it was better than what I had been going through since i got back to Canada. I was only there a few days when they told me that I was moving to Dunbar, the senior's residence, because some guy living there couldn't handle the stairs. Well, home again, sort of.               

   


Why this website?

This website got its start way back in September of 2008 and I could only have wished that it started many years before. It is a diary of sorts of my life and includes various events, thoughts and photos from my travels. 

The primary purpose of this site is for my kids, who have long since abandoned me for reasons I have never understood, and my grandkids, most of which I have never met and they were told that I was dead. 

It’s ironic that no one is stronger on the value of family than me and my kids know that. Nothing will fill the emptiness in my heart being separated from my family. I have lost both of my parents and have nothing to do with my own brother and sister, both of whom did horrible things to me, which only serves to make my own kids and grandkids even more important. Every day I pray that any of them will find me and contact me. When my granddaughter, Mackenzie, contacted me on Facebook Messenger i was beyond thrilled, but after discussing meeting when she came to Mexico for a wedding she suddenly stopped talking to me. I have no idea why.    


Life Lessons Learned

This website involved a huge amount of research for every imaginable graphic, website, research paper, quote or news item about lessons that people had learned. I was hoping that it would help a lot of people avoid making the same mistakes that I and others had made and would become the portal for a lot of discussion on the issues I raised. Nothing ever became of it. 


Life Lessons Learned

This website involved a huge amount of research for every imaginable graphic, website, research paper, quote or news item about lessons that people had learned. I was hoping that it would help

You got it. They want it. They will take it.

Okay, so you’re asking how I could be so stupid trusting a Mexican “friend” when I had been ripped off of my jewelry by a young Mexican girl who I only tried

James Taylor got it right, but it depends on which “friends” you have

The very popular song from way back in 1971 expressed so very well the true value of real friends, but it also had an ominous verse, for me, at least. Ain’t it

Reflections. Too trusting or too stupid?

As yet another year draws to a close it’s time to reflect on life so far and try to improve in the future. In reacting to some of the truly bad things

Life Lessons Learned Too Late – irreplaceable things.

Several times in my life I moved to start all over again. Back in 1993 after my marriage of twenty-three years was clearly over and my mother in BC had been diagnosed

Living with pain

Not that long ago really, in terms of a lifetime, I was in great shape and very healthy. During my years in the Okanagan I was incredibly active. I ran a hiking

Know your parents’ finances before they’re gone

It may well be just how it was with my generation, but I suspect that children are still uncomfortable discussing finances with their parents.  Other than the obvious signs of jobs and

Life Lessons Learned Too Late – How one mistake can ruin your life.

When you are young and foolish you make mistakes in judgment that are just part of growing up. Sometimes you “get in with the wrong crowd” with peer pressure to do something

Moving on

As I said in my sticky post this site is part diary and partly for my kids and grandkids, just in case they ever want to know about me. My kids, Heather and Chris, abandoned me years ago for reasons I will never understand, and four of my grandkids have nothing to do with me. My one joy was Mackenzie, who contacted me on Facebook back when she was fourteen, but then she stopped talking to me, again for reasons I don't know. 

Many years ago my dear Dad showed me a thick binder that he said was his father's diary of his life and asked me to read it. I barely knew my grandfather, having only met him once when I was a kid, so I didn't have a high degree of interest in him. That said, now that I am a grandfather to five grandkids I wish that I had taken the time to read it. 

This post is about where, why and when I have lived where I have in my life. It starts way back when I was maybe two or three years old so i don't have much of a memory about that time.

I was born October 4th, 1949 at St. Joseph's hospital in Toronto. My parents lived on Centre island back when there were still houses there, so my Mum was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night by the fireboat crew. Quite the entrance. I don't know how long they lived on the island or why they moved, but the next few years were spent at an apartment in Ajax and on what was called the Donalda Farm with a guy nicknamed Bumpy. Later it was to become the start of Don Mills. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My parents then moved in with my maternal grandmother, Jenny Hardy, and grandfather, whose name I don't remember, at 7 Hugo Street in Toronto. I just researched the house and it's for sale. Boy, has it ever been renovated! 

I believe at the time my Dad was still either still teaching driving or he may have started working at the Texaco refinery in Port Credit. I don't remember my mother working back then. 

My grandfather died soon after we moved in with them so I have pretty well  no memories of him. I think he was only in his early fifties when he died.

I went to school at Perth Avenue Public school up until about grade five, I think. I loved living on Hugo because it was a different place and time. On the weekends I would be gone at daylight and the only rule was that I had to be home before the streetlights came on. I rode my bike everywhere or I took the streetcars, buses and subways all over the city. My favourite place to go was High Park and I spent a lot of hours there. My best buddy back then was a guy named Ralph Sholemberg, whose parents only spoke German and not a word of English. I vaguely remember going to his parents for dinner and somehow managing to communicate. I also had my first love, Sharon, who lived just a few doors away from me. She was my first "blonde", something that would last a lifetime for me. She was also a polio victim and walked with a limp. She was a doll. 

When I was twelve we moved to what I thought was the middle of nowhere to a farm on the Fifth Line north of what was called Streetsville back then, now part of Mississauga or I believe more specifically, Erin Mills. I was really mad at my parents because I went from being able to go anywhere in Toronto to being marooned miles from anywhere. I took the school bus to Churchville Public School so I had to take the same bus back home after school and couldn't spend any time with my school friends who lived in Churchville. Our house, which wasn't really a farm, but was on two acres surrounded by the actual farm, which was owned by Jack Fraser, was at least three miles from Churchville so it was a very long bike ride. In around Grade 7 or 8 I did fall hopelessly in love with my first fantasy girlfriend, Roxanne Rollings. We spent hours on the phone, which was a "party line"  so I annoyed everyone, especially my Dad, when Roxanne and I talked for hours. I would gladly do the long bike ride to her parents in Churchville. Our relationship never progressed beyond the dreaded "friends" and she ended up marrying my buddy Wayne Wilson.

To buy the place, from his years in the Navy my father got a loan for ten thousand dollars from the VLA. Moving there was like going back in time. There was no indoor plumbing so we had a well and an outhouse, which was brutal in the winters. There was a pot-bellied stove in the kitchen and pipes running throughout the house, although it was still freezing in the winter so we had kerosene heaters in our rooms. I still remember my Dad freaking out because he had put too much wood in the stove and it was overheating. He was draping wet towels all over it trying to cool it down. I spent the next few years helping my Dad renovate the place, not realizing at the time how much he was teaching me things that would come in handy later when I renovated all my houses over the years. We turned one of the bedrooms into a bathroom which was wonderful because we didn't need the outhouse anymore and I could actually have a shower. The old coal fired furnace was replaced with an oil furnace, I think and the stove was gone. The kitchen was totally changed and it's funny that my Dad actually went with my design, including the rather unique hanging kitchen table. We stripped all the walls back, removing all the old God-awful lathe and plaster to expose the amazing wood beams in the living room. He had the old insulbrick covered with aluminum siding.

We planted a massive garden down the middle of the acreage in front of the house. We got a thousand seedling trees from Orno for free and planted them around the perimeter of the lot out front. My mother managed to destroy them all when the guy from the farm asked her if he could cut the field grass out front. She forget about the tree saplings and he cut them all down. All our work gone. 

When I was sixteen I couldn't handle my father's brutal discipline anymore. I'd had my last strap so I left home and moved in with my buddy David Kirk's family in Streetsville. It was around this time that I got into my first group, The Tempests, with Dave, Don Thurston and Chris Hayes. I was also the first time I learned just how much girls liked guys in groups and I became quite popular with the ladies, something that would last for about ten years in various groups. The Bow Street Runners. The Clyde Valley Show band, HappyFace (my favourite). 

I don't honestly remember whether or not I moved back home at some point, although I must have. Then after a three week vacation trip out west to BC  my Dad decided to sell the place in Streetsville and move to Penticton. There was some thought that I would go with them but the place didn't sell so my parents put it off for another year. By then I had met my soon to be wife, Janice, so there went any thoughts of moving out west with my parents. My Dad had bought an apartment house in Brampton at 226 Main Street North and I had moved in with a buddy, Russ Bird, to the smallest apartment you could imagine. When I got married August 16th, 1969 Russ moved out and Janice moved in. After Chris came along we moved into the much larger main apartment on the ground floor. Sometime later I bought the place from my Dad with only a hundred dollar down payment and private mortgages to the hilt. I think we paid nineteen thousand dollars for it. 

When I had more than I could stand being a landlord we put the place up for sale, asking twenty-five thousand I believe but it didn't sell. I had been looking at single family homes believing that Main Street would sell and I found 29 Fairglen Avenue. It was a total mess when we looked at it. The minute we walked in the front door you could smell the dog pee in the carpets, which had been nailed into the floor below. The living room was orange shag carpet and black fabric wallpaper that made it look like a dungeon. The bathroom fixtures were propped up on two by fours. All the bedroom doors had been broken into when it had been a rooming house. Although the house itself was a disaster I knew that I could fix it up. It was on a huge lot right beside a big field at the rear of a factory. At the back was the CN rail line but there were very few trains a day. It was the first house you came to coming into the neighborhood but it was a very well established area with mature well kept houses. I knew I could bring it up to the standard of the neighborhood. It showed very badly though which the Realtor agreed on and my ex didn't even want to go in after she smelled it at the front door. I told the Realtor that I would make an offer but it would be low ball. I think it was listed at something like forty-nine nine thousand but I offered forty-two. It got accepted. 

So now we owned two homes and had to arrange bridge financing through our bank, BMO. The day the listing expired our criminal agent, Max Harris, offered us a low ball offer, threatening us that the Real Estate company would sue us if we didn't accept his offer. I told him to go to hell and reported him to his broker. It ended up that the next door neighbor bought the place. Years later my cousin took me to see some of the homes we had owned over the years and I was surprised that 226 Main Street was gone! Totally raised. No idea why.

We spent the next five years on Fairglen. This photo is around the time we listed it. I wish I had more photos of all the work I did. We bought the place in the winter so I didn't know that there was a giant hole in the front yard where they had removed a willow tree, a tree whose roots had pretty well destroyed the sewer line, which had to be replaced. When we bought the place there wasn't a single bush in front and the house was painted purple and green, and the roof shingles were coming apart. I had George Kent Aluminum do all the siding and added railings to the front porch. We also replaced the roof and I did all the landscaping including sodding the front yard on which I made my first landscaping mistake. I meticulously screeded the topsoil to be perfectly level before I laid the sod, not realizing that you don't make it perfectly level because you need it to drain. No sooner did we have lovely green grass than we also had mushrooms. 

This was also the first house on which I learned that any and all renovation work would only be done by me. My ex never once lifted a finger to help. All she did, and would do for the rest of our marriage, was complain about the drywall dust. Fast forward though and she was very happy when all my renovation work on nine houses turned our hundred dollar first investment into more than a hundred thousand dollars, every dime of which she got when we split. Lesson learned. When the work on Fairglen was just about done I started looking around again. I think it was a curse that would last a lifetime but once I got close to finishing renovating a place it was time to find another place to renovate. It became the story of my life. I think we sold Fairglen for fifty nine nine. From here we bought the one and only new house we ever owned. I had seen a sign for the new development called Elderwood Place and stopped in to the sales office to check it out. I was pleasantly surprised to not only love the designs but learned that there was a ravine lot still available. A higher price but to me well worth it. It was a really interesting experience visiting it as it was being built. I managed to convince the builder to let me install a complete home sound system as it was being drywalled even though we hadn't officially closed yet. Even with the lot premium I think we paid something like sixty-four thousand for it. 

It was around this time that I got into Real Estate working with Kyle Jamieson Real Estate who were part of the Welcome Home Group. Had the market not gone nuts at the time I may well have stayed in Real Estate for the rest of my life. Part of the problem was that mortgage rates went so crazy that you couldn't even get a commitment on a rate before closing. I was just too moral at the time and would never ask a client to do anything that I wouldn't do. I remember a deal on a house in Caledon that I couldn't get a second mortgage rate commitment on from anybody. My clients would need to just take a chance that the rate would be affordable on closing, some sixty days in advance. My client, John, asked me if he should sign the deal. I told him that I wouldn't so he shouldn't and he agreed. As it turned out rates in sixty days had gone completely insane and they would never have been able to afford the house they were going to buy. I lost both ends of the deal but kept my morals, something a lot of agents weren't doing at the time.

Another, and more major issue, was that I spent six months working on a mall development plan in downtown Brampton. The existing very small mall was owned by a company called Pacific Paving in Mississauga. I worked closely with the owner, not only designing the expanded mall, adding a second story of offices, but I also got approval from the city to add another access on the main street, greatly increasing access and visibility for the mall. To put the deal together I had to negotiate with four property owners of the houses on the main street, careful not to give them stars in their eyes when they realized what the deal was all about. One of the homes was run by Big Brothers and I agreed to find them another location as part of their deal. The corner lot, the one most critical to the whole deal, had gone into foreclosure and had been bought by the owner of Goodison Insurance. It hadn't closed yet so I met with him to offer him a deal he couldn't refuse. He had bought the place for forty thousand dollars and was going to spend probably at least that much in renovations. I offered him double his money not to close and even offered to find him another office location. He refused. To this day I remember the meeting that Kyle Jamieson and I had with him trying to convince him to sell, even going so far as to disclose to him the whole mall development that had been approved by the city and on which the three adjoining property owners had agreed to sell. He didn't care. The city really wanted this development and I remember a conversation I had with the planning department in which the city employee said maybe they wouldn't grant him a building permit for the renovations he wanted to do. Despite my six months of work going down the drain once again my morals kicked in and I couldn't agree with the city forcing him to sell to us. It spelled the end of my Real Estate career.

(Sidebar. Although I had this photo of Elderwood I went looking for anything I could find on the address. To my considerable shock I found that it had just sold for, are you ready for this? Seven hundred and forty thousand dollars this past July! Here's the video - http://tours.vision360tours.ca/122-elderwood-place-brampton/nb/. A lot has changed over the years, like adding a pool, but it was fun to see how all the landscaping I did had matured)

Now faced with almost no income and mounting debts there was no real choice other than to sell Elderwood. Although I was an agent and therefore had to disclose that on the listing I knew what a great layout the house was and how incredible the lot was backing onto the ravine, so I listed it at the unheard of price of ninety-six thousand dollars. It sold in two days, cash, no conditions, quick closing, so now where do we go? It all happened so fast that we had no time to look at buying another place so I found a townhouse rental at 124 Ashurst. This was a development that was originally marketed as executive townhouses but that hadn't worked out so there were a lot of rentals. It was a five level townhouse backing onto a schoolyard.

No sooner had we moved in than our next door neighbor said she was going to sell. I think the ex's parents helped us with the down payment but we got it for a pretty good deal because the neighbor wanted out quickly and wasn't paying a Realtor because she was selling to us. Happy as I was to be owning something again what I didn't realize was that this was going to be the worst move ever! We were only moving next door so why bother boxing everything like you would in a normal move? What ended up happening was a thousand trips of handfuls of things, not boxed. Just imagine moving your cutlery next door. Yet again I renovated the whole place. I decided to remove the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and add cabinets on the opposite side of the kitchen. We were going to Florida for a short vacation so I hired a cabinet maker to build the new cabinets. That turned out to be a total disaster because when we came back he hadn't finished the work. We had no water and no electricity in the kitchen and it was a messy construction zone. We had nowhere to cook or eat. I was not a happy camper to say the least. 

I also turned the upstairs bathroom into sort of a spa by adding tongue and groove wood panelling everywhere including the ceiling. Again more by accident I had seen a listing for another place on Mara Crescent. It was the general contractor's place and had a lot of improvements over the standard houses in the development. Upgraded doors. French doors into the living room. Massive jetted tub in the upstairs bathroom. Huge deck off the back of the house. As it turned out the owner, the contractor, was building a place in Caledon somewhere and needed a six month closing, which made it a hard sell. I was in no hurry though so I had my agent and friend, Greg Smith, make him an offer, I believe something like a hundred and sixty thousand and it was accepted. When Greg then asked about listing our townhouse I told him that I was in no hurry so let's list it at the highest price ever in the neighborhood and see what happens. He disagreed, of course, but the idea of double ending the deals appealed to him. Nothing had ever sold for more than the low fifties before but we listed at sixty-nine nine. I remember the agent's reactions on their inspection. They couldn't believe the expanded kitchen and the bathroom in particular. Within days we had multiple offers at full list. Not only was this wonderful but the prices where we were going were going up like crazy after buyers discovered the double cul-de-sac neighborhood. After we moved in six months later we learned that our next door neighbors had just paid two hundred and twenty thousand for a standard model.

As per usual I got to work renovating yet again. I turned one of the bedrooms into an office, adding wood tongue and groove panelling and turning the normal clothes closet into drawers and doors office storage. I ripped all the woodwork out and added new moldings to all the doors and windows. I had a door installed between the garage and the kitchen to make it easier to unload groceries when we came home in the winter. I added interlocking paving stones to the front yard and did a lot of landscaping, front and back. I wish I had a photo of the work I did in the back because I added beds with posts cut at different heights and lots of flowers, bushes and trees. I'd love to see how it all looks today. 

Well , as John Lennon famously said, "Life is what happens while you're making other plans". My twenty-three year marriage was over. I had tried and tried everything to make it better but nothing worked. We hadn't slept together for five years and there was no love left. At the time my buddy Jim had said "if you wake up and you would rather be somewhere else it's time to leave". He was right. I was working installing a new computer system at Fellowes Manufacturing in Markham, traveling back and forth to Brampton every day, which took forever if I took the 401. Instead I would head up into the country and take the scenic routes. Partly because some of the work I did could only be done after everyone had gone home I started staying at the local Journey's End motel. It was so great to just get up, shower and be at work in a few minutes. Shortly after I started working on the contract at Fellowes I got involved with their Executive Secretary which I won't go into here, but I was now paying a lot to stay at the Journey's End full-time, plus paying all the expenses of the house in Brampton. My ex hadn't worked for months and clearly had no intention of finding a job, so I told her I was done. Not only would I not keep paying for everything but it was time to sell the house. I gave her no choice. 

The market had changed a lot since the mortgage fiasco where people where buying additional places by buying the paper at the sales offices, and property values had fallen some twenty-five percent. The timing wasn't great but I knew that this had to come to an end and now. I listed and sold quickly at one eighty-nine nine, a lot less than we could have got before the crash but at least we still made money, or should I say that my ex still made money. Given my past I wasn't going to give a nickel to a lawyer so I gave her every dime after we closed. When I left for BC to be with my dying mother I took my last paycheque from Fellowes and that was it. All the work I had done for those twenty-three years amounted to not a cent for me.

Off I went to BC to be with my mother, who had been given less than a five percent chance of surviving more than six months because of her fifth stage melanoma. We had been apart for more than twenty years and I just wanted to spend whatever time she had left with her. She ended up beating the odds and lived another nineteen years before the cancer came back and took her. For some unknown reason, and despite my daughter having told me years before to leave my marriage and go out west where she said I was so much happier, my move out west cost me my daughter, who hasn't spoken to me now in twenty-six years. I've never had a clue as to why. She cut off my whole side of the family which really hurt my Mum and dad who did nothing to deserve that. 

When I moved out west in July of 1993 I lived with my parents at Shady Rest until they went south to Yuma for the winter, as they had done for some seventeen years. I remember the day they left in October. I closed the door, got my coffee and sat in my dad's leather chair, alone at last. I had no one to worry about except myself for the first time in my life. I was so happy. 

Little did I know at the time that I would live in a whole lot of places during my fourteen wonderful years in BC. To my considerable regret I was never able to buy anything or I would have made a fortune, so I always rented or was living with someone.

 

 

 

In no particular order these are some of the places I lived:

I'm not sure when I lived here or even how I got here but it was one of my favourite places. It was a second floor apartment that had a small kitchen, bedroom, laundry, dining room and a large living room with a gas fireplace, then a master bedroom, bathroom and a large area open to the living room below on the second level. I had a large custom made desk in this area. I loved that with the flip of a switch I could have the fire going. It also had a nice balcony and I had a parking space in the garage below. Although at the time it was expensive at eight hundred a month, I rented the upstairs bedroom to a guy who worked for Bell and he was rarely home. He would just pop in to do his laundry then he was gone. I think he paid me three hundred a month so that helped.

 

 

 

 

 

I think I met Karen Faloon at the Corral and we got involved and I moved in with her for a time. Of all the women who got renovations out of me Karen got the most. Not only did I remove the spa she never used in the basement level and replace it with a laundry, but I also renovated the kitchen in the apartment that she rented. She had a nice pool but her lot sloped steeply from there to the back of the lot. I had an idea how she could recover all this wasted space and she agreed. I raised the back of the lot about twelve feet building a perimeter wall of railroad ties all pinned together with rebar, then had loads and loads of fill brought in through the field at the back of the lot. I then added an irrigation system and sodded the lot. It was a ton of work and in the heat of the summer but it turned out great. Shortly after that she started planning our retirement for me which I didn't care for so I left to the place on Lanfranco.

 

 

 

    

This was an end unit single level townhouse that was actually quite nice. It had a nice layout with two bedrooms, one of which I used for an office, a bathroom off the master bedroom, a large living room, a dining room and a galley kitchen plus a small backyard off the living room. It had kind of strange crawl space under it but I stored a lot of stuff there. Being a rental I didn't do any major work but I did fix up the entrance with some nice plants and chairs. The managers of the complex were nice folks who I got along well with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then through my buddy, Wade, I met the first real love of my life, Tracy. We hit it off from the start and were soon dating. After a couple of months she asked me to move in. It made no sense for me to be paying rent for my place because I was never there so I gave my notice, although I was breaking my lease but they gave me no grief about it.

No surprise I'm sure that I started renovating Tracy's place from top to bottom. I did every room in the house. I completely redid the garage from a place you couldn't move in to a very organized one with shelving and a work bench. It was such a mess before that she didn't even know that she had a pit in the floor to change your oil. I designed and built what I called Molnar beach complete with a fire and water feature using an old stove her grandfather had given her and a sump pump waterfall. While her and her Mum were enjoying the Merritt Mountain Music Festival I totally renovated her one son's bedroom and repainted all the kitchen cupboards and installed a new kitchen floor. After a very bad breakup that nearly killed me I moved again, this time to Menu Road back in Westbank. 

 

 

 

This was a basement apartment, my first actually. It wasn't great. My upstairs landlord was a real party animal who constantly had loud parties. There was no insulation in the ceilings in my place so it was really loud. It also had a steep driveway which I was the only one to shovel in the winter. It did have nice views of the lake. I got involved with Ans and she invited me to move in with her so I gave my notice to Doug and moved out. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before my Dad passed away in 2005 I was living with Ans on McGinnis Road in what was then called Westbank, now called West Kelowna. Yet another place i renovated extensively for her. I installed new flooring in both the kitchen and main bathroom. I renovated the basement apartment and built shelving and a work bench in her garage, plus I pulled out a dilapidated garden under her deck. I replaced all the moldings around the house and again did a lot of landscaping out front. Our less than great relationship ended when she didn't listen to me about my dog, but more importantly I had to move in to care for my Mum after my Dad died in my arms. My brother and sister gave me no other choice.

Before all that happened my Dad had finally agreed to sell the place and get my mother into the care facility she so badly needed. I agreed to renovate their place, for free of course, and they moved to my sister's in Revelstoke while I did all the work. I pretty well went front to back except the living room, repainting every square inch, remodelling all the old kitchen cupboard doors and drawers, adding a dishwasher and more cupboard space, replacing the tired flooring in the kitchen, ripping out the dated half wall between the kitchen and the living room, and much more. I put in some very long days and it was made all the worse by my mother's constant badgering about coming home. When I was finally able to let them come back they were very happy with all the work I had done. They put the place up for sale but at much less than I told them to. My Dad called me that they had an offer for sixty-nine thousand but I told him to decline. He did, thankfully. 

Then, of course, the worst disaster of my life happened when he died in my arms. He had done nothing about getting my mother into a care facility so that wasn't an option. I moved in to care for her, which became the worst experience of my entire life. I spent some eight months trying to get her into a place and finally did manage to get her into Winterhaven in Kelowna. Then my idiot sister, who never accepted just how bad our mother was, took her out of the care home and, well, basically ended up killing her. Another story.

After Dad died I knew that it was not the time to sell the place. Mum had just lost her husband of some fifty-eight years. She was suffering from advancing Alzheimer's. I knew that if I got to work I could make some further improvements that would get more money when I finally got her into care and could sell the place. I pulled down the illegal carport that was falling down. I renovated the shed, adding proper shelving and a work bench. I replaced the horrible orange shag carpet in the living room. The biggest project was something i had been trying to convince my Dad to do for the thirty some years they had lived there and that was to renovate the beach area. It was pretty well useless because it just sloped down to the water. The concrete curbs my Dad had placed trying to keep the sand in had been torn away in a storm and were gone. With the help of a local kid who needed a job I built a perimeter with railroad ties, stepped back and lagged together with rebar, deep into the ground. I then got load after load of clean beach sand delivered and wheel barrowed it all down to to the new beach, building it up several feet to be level. Then I added a fire pit and horseshoe pits with the pins concreted in properly. I added steps up the front wall and built what I believe was the very first rock crib dock on the lake. When it was finished I added a plaque dedicating the dock to my Dad. No idea if that is still there although I doubt it. The manager of the park came by one day and called it the Shady Rest Seawall. 

After I got Mum into Winterhaven I listed the place for one hundred and thirty-nine nine, the highest price anyone had ever asked in the park, especially considering it was Indian land which can't be sold, so you could only rent it. My parents were paying four hundred and seventy-five dollars a month pad rent. Still reasonable for waterfront property on which they paid less than a hundred dollars a year in taxes. Friends of mine who owned the same lake frontage close to Kelowna paid sixteen thousand dollars a year in property tax. Once again my Realtor thought I was nuts but understood that I was in no hurry to move. He sold the place for one hundred and thirty-six thousand dollars cash to a group from Edmonton who were setting up a family syndicate to share the place.

Once again I needed to find somewhere to live. I moved to an interesting place. Uniquely designed homes that had two levels, one facing the street and one facing the back off the laneway. I thought that they were what I would call "mortgage helpers' where the owners could live in the upper floor and rent out the lower floor. Boy, was I wrong! No sooner had I moved in and still had boxes unpacked, than a by-law officer knocked on my door and told me that I had to move. He told me that these places were never zoned for multiple occupancy and they were not allowed to have stoves on the lower level. Oh, great! I had to move again and in a panic. My landlady upstairs was pissed but she couldn't do anything about it. She ended up selling and moving to Prince George. 

Just as I was on my way out the door to give a landlady my deposit on a basement apartment in Kelowna, for some unknown reason I checked my email. There was one from my Realtor telling me that there was a place in the park next to my Mum and Dad's that was in "rough shape" but he knew what I could do from what he saw at my parent's place so he said I should take a look at it. It was one of those life changing moments. His comment that it was in "rough shape" was an understatement at best. It was a disaster but I did see that I could make some good money if i did all the work. I basically took over the financing that was in default and moved in. I spent the next year and a half working day and night, seven days a week, stripping the place back to the studs, redesigning the whole place from top to bottom. I replaced the entire kitchen. I added two new bathrooms. I added walls. I resided the place with Hardyboard. I added to the concrete driveway. Of course I landscaped completely, adding new sod and an extensive rock garden. I rebuilt the shed. I tore out the falling down deck. I redid the roof from adding to the support beams to recoating the roof. I did laminate and tile flooring to the whole place. I replaced all the plumbing and electrical, which I also upgraded. I bought a fridge, stove and dishwasher. After I had looked at three other homes to renovate, done the CAD drawings for them and was ready to put in offers, I needed to list my place. I hesitated a short time because I still had to finish the baseboard in one of the rooms. BIG mistake. 

The Realtors I called because they had a lot of experience selling manufactured homes said it was the nicest manufactured home in the Okanagan. They wanted to list it at one hundred and forty-nine thousand dollars and said it would sell quickly. I told them that I wanted to put offers in on three other places so let's list at one hundred and thirty-nine thousand to get a quick sale and they agreed, obviously. Quick sale means no expenses and nice commission for them. I signed the listing on a Friday. The following Sunday there was an article in the local newspaper quoting one of the local Westbank Indian band chiefs, Noll Derriksan, saying that anyone who buys on native land is "stupid" because they could get their notice to vacate at any time and lose everything. He added that the crazy prices people were paying were the result of "greedy agents". Overnight the market collapsed. No Realtor would touch me for fear of getting sued. No lawyer would touch it. Even the native trust company, Peace Hills trust, who I had arranged a mortgage with in case my place didn't sell, backed out of their written commitment for the mortgage. I had run up debts with Home Hardware, Canadian Tire and Home Depot and now had no money to pay them. What was I going to do?   

My doctor at the time basically said that I was a poster child for a heart attack because of all the stress I was dealing with. He told me to just find a way to get out from under it to save myself. I started researching where I could go and settled on Boquete, Panama. I made arrangements to rent a house there, which turned out to be yet another mistake. What ended up happening with my place was the worst thing ever. My electrician who I let move in after he and his wife split up let snow build up on the roof despite me telling him how important it was to clear it off, and the roof collapsed. My hundred and forty thousand dollar place was now worth virtually nothing. My buddy ended up selling it for sixty thousand to a kid who never paid me in full. I had lost everything including my year and a half of work.  

Off the Panama. This was downtown Boquete. It was very small but showed the dangers of renting a place over the internet. It had no hot water so I had to pay to install an on demand heater. Despite me telling the girl I rented from that I was diabetic and needed a fridge for my insulin there was no fridge so I had to buy one. Things like pots and pans and dishes were sparse so I had to buy a lot of day to day things. The dog in the yard behind the house never stopped barking from morning to night so working was hard. Then I came home to find the power off and I learned that the previous tenant hadn't paid the bill for three months. My rent was supposed to include everything but suddenly I had to pay extra plus pay the previous tenant's overdue bill. I moved.

 

 

 

 

 

Next came yet another challenging and disastrous renovation. My friend in Boquete, Elizabeth, took me to see a place she was thinking of buying, Vista Grande, up on the hill overlooking Boquete. Although she decided not to buy it the owner from Kelowna did call me to ask if I was interested in renovating it so he could sell it. I moved into the lower apartment and got to work. I've written many stories about what happened with this place so I won't go into it here again, but save to say I ended up being forced back to Canada, thankfully to my cousin's home in Toronto.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not much of a picture but my cousin basically saved my butt when things went so badly for me in Panama. She gave me a roof over my head and fed me too well for about six months before I moved to London, Ontario. I did do some minor maintenance for her and renovated her small bathroom in the basement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first place in London was the hotel. Things were very complicated with following Denise because she was still married but she was getting ready to leave him. For whatever reason we didn't discuss getting a place together, and we never would. I couldn't afford to stay in a hotel so I started looking for somewhere to rent. I soon discovered that London was an expensive place to live. I ended up renting what was basically a little more than a room in a tiny house with three other tenants. It was a nightmare trying to all share one fridge or to cook. I lived there in the winter and there was nowhere for me to park my car, so I found a place across the street where the tenant had no car and they let me park my car there. That meant that I would shovel the driveway there to get my car out, then come home and shovel that driveway too because no one else would. Although I did do some small renovations in her garage we eventually had a dispute and she threatened to lock my stuff in the garage. I left.    

 

 

 

 

Next came the strangest place I ever lived. It was a small studio apartment in the middle of the upper floor but had no windows. A couple of skylights were the only way I could tell if it was day or night and sometimes the weather because there would be snow on them. I wasn't here very long because I got a call for geared to income housing, but I did like being downtown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, the very first apartment building I ever lived in. I quickly learned that it is no way to live. Everything from the laundry to the elevators was annoying. Add a bed bug infestation, my car being broken into and destroyed, and the landlord company wrongly coming after me for over two thousand dollars in overdue rent, which turned out to be someone else, and it was my last apartment building. After five years of wasting my life away I left London to move to Cotacachi, Ecuador, yet again trying to find somewhere with a lower cost of living. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I planned to go to Ecuador and was looking for a place to live I obviously had not learned my lesson from Panama. I rented a cabin way up on the mountain outside Otavalo. It had such a great view and i was looking for somewhere with peace and quiet. After the first month or so there I made what I thought was a good deal with my landlady to rent long term including everything and meals. That didn't work out and I had numerous problems with them like them letting everyone in the other cabins help themselves to the firewood that I paid for. The worst part was when I got carbon monoxide poisoning from the fireplace and came within minutes of dying.

When I had had enough I moved to Cotacachi but couldn't find a place anywhere so I stayed in a hostel, the name of which I've forgotten. The couple who ran it were very nice and the cook would often make me something special. I kept looking for a place but there was nothing. I happened to mention that I was looking for a place to my doctor and she said that her daughter was moving out of an apartment that I might like. I did and moved in. It had some challenges, like the two big dogs on the roof of the place across the road who never stopped barking day and night. Things fell apart on me thanks to my government not paying my pension as promised so I had to limp back to Canada. My dear friend, Heather Paul, who worked with me forty years ago at Indal Products, said her son had a place north of Belleville that he was renovating to sell, so maybe I could help him in exchange for rent. Her son, Greg, was amazing. He gave me his VIP points to take the train from Toronto to Belleville and he put a lot of things in the house for me, like a fridge and stove, washer and dryer, bed and a pellet stove. Unfortunately the pellet stove failed and I froze my butt off for a week. I ended up collapsing in tears at the Salvation Army and they managed to get me into transitional housing at 10 Murney in Belleville. 

From there I went to where I am now, 20 Forin Street, then 51 Victoria Street, then back to Forin until I left for Mexico in September of 2017. My rent for a room had gone from $397 a month to $497 in one month and I knew that I could get a whole apartment for less than that in Mexico. After horrible experiences in both Panama and Ecuador I was very cautious about Mexico, figuring that it might not be any different, but it sure was.

Thanks to a new friend in Mexico, Francis Dryden, I managed to rent a huge two bedroom apartment in Ajijic for six thousand pesos a month (about $360 CDN) for six months, which was the term of my tourist visa. If Mexico didn't work out I had no idea what I was going to do when I came back to Canada, but I figured I had to try. I had put all my stuff in bins and stored them in the basement at Forin. I fell in love with Ajijic the very first day and my plan immediately changed to figuring out how I could stay forever. Long story how that failed including getting dumped by text message by my fiancée after we returned from a trip to Toronto to apply for my visa to stay in Mexico.. 

When my landlords put my rent up fifty-seven percent to ten thousand pesos a month I searched desperately for somewhere else and found a studio apartment in Riberas del Pillar. That turned into yet another nightmare with the landlord from hell and days and days with no water, no electricity or no internet. The ants and cockroaches also made me crazy. The place did have a nice pool but I only used it twice in over a year living there. 

When all hell broke loose with losing one of my pensions, running out of my meds and the rent going up two thousand pesos illegally, I made yet another huge mistake. A guy on Facebook offered me a month's free rent in Chelem in the Yucatan. I had to get away from all the stress I was under and couldn't find anywhere to live where I was so I went. One of the biggest mistakes of my life and I ended up coming back to Canada yet again. Total failure and the loss of my dream of getting married and living happily ever after. I debated whether to go back to Belleville or the Okanagan but an official with the city of Kelowna told be bluntly that on my pensions I couldn't afford to live there. I was also offered a room back at Forin, although that didn't turn out either. 

After a horrible trip back I ended up being put in a hotel in Trenton for the night. The next morning I learned that I had no way back, but then the hotel owner put me in touch with some other people who were coming back to Belleville and would give me a ride. That turned into a disaster and I ended up in the Comfort Inn in Belleville. The next day I was accepted back at 12 Murney on the condition that I would go to the hospital first, which I did. My sugars were off the charts and it's amazing that I didn't die but after five days in the hospital I was okay. I went to Murney and into a horrible room. I was only there a few days when I was told that I was moving to 49 Dunbar which I understood was the seniors house. After a few months there, again with numerous problems and coming close to getting evicted to the street, I was moved back to 20 Forin, where I am now.

At this point I am consumed by guilt over all the mistakes I've made and the things that have gone so wrong. I miss the Okanagan but my parents are now both gone and my life would be a pale shadow of what it once was. I am not in any shape to be able to downhill or cross-country ski, water ski, rollerblade, or hike and I would never be able to get my "toys" again, like my dirt bike, my snowmobile, my boat or even my rollerblades. I would be able to dance again at my favourite bar, The Corral, but I will never have a car so even that would be doubtful. It's also very expensive to live there now with rents having tripled since back when I was there. I do have quite a few friends that have stayed in touch with me over the years so that would be nice compared to the zero friends that I have here in Belleville. 

Belleville was never my first choice and I only ended up here more by accident and circumstances. The city has nothing to offer. I'm supposedly near the top of the emergency housing list but rents in this city are insane so unless it's geared to income there's no way I'll be able to afford anything. Having spent a lot of time in Kingston before on weekends I would much rather live there and I've been trying to get on their geared to income list but that's proven to be very difficult. There's a lot more to offer in Kingston, with a beautiful and thriving downtown, unlike Belleville, and a lot more to do. I also think that once the virus is over I would have a lot more opportunities building websites for businesses. I'm still going to hate the weather but it might be the only place I can live, unaffordable as it is. 

My dream was to marry and live out my life in Mexico. Even after that fell apart and nearly killed me I still loved so much about Mexico. The climate is perfect. The culture, the festivals, and the Mexican people are wonderful. I miss it every day and hate that I had to leave. I doubt that I could ever afford to go back because I would again lose one of my pensions after six months. I would have challenges getting my critical medications. Even when I went I was very worried about what would happen if I got sick and ended up needing the hospital. I couldn't possibly afford that. There's no public healthcare like there is in Canada, so I would end up dying or returning to Canada if I could even do that. The whole virus thing has made that even worse now. Not only that but life in Mexico is now a whole lot different because of the virus. No more taking the crammed buses. No more festivals or parades. The bars and restaurants are mostly closed still. My first attempt at building the local website was a disaster and I never made a dime. Would that be any different? I knew that I failed because I couldn't find someone local to work with me to call on clients and I have no reason to believe that would be any different. 

There's been two times in my life that I had serious thoughts about ending it. The first was after my fiancée broke up with me by text message. I cried for days and saw no reason to go on. I love her more than life itself and could not have been happier that we were getting married. Losing her and not understanding why tore my heart to pieces. I only thought of swimming out in the lake far enough to not make it back. I came dangerously close to giving up. Although i survived, the next time was after everything fell part on me with losing one of my pensions, running out of my meds and what happened with the landlord from hell. I had no idea what to do. The last thing I wanted to do was come back to Canada. I started researching if doing an overdose of insulin would kill me. It wouldn't. Then I was just going to get enough sleeping pills to do the job. Lie down on my bed and go peacefully. Had I not gotten that fateful message on Facebook from the guy offering me a place I might not be writing this. 

Stay tuned. Hopefully there will be more to the story.                                


Yet another chapter in my life

Good grief! Hard to believe that it's been more than six months since I started this post. I also can't figure out the date because on that day I was in the air somewhere returning from Merida, Mexico to Belleville, Ontario, Canada. My desktop computer was safely packed in my carry-on luggage so I couldn't use it. 

At long last I arrived back in Canada on November 2nd, just after midnight. It was one of the worst trips I had ever had, rivalling the disastrous trip Elba and I had in 2018 when I came back to apply for my temporal visa. I've covered that horror elsewhere. 

As one of the airline clerks had commented, "you have the worst flights I've ever seen". I left Merida, two hours late, and flew to Mexico City, where I had about a seven hour layover before flying on to Cancun. There was nowhere to sit or lay down at the airport so I wandered around until the Krispy Kreme donuts place finally opened at three in the morning. Gorging on coffee and chocolate donuts would come back on me later. Again I had a very long layover until flying on to Toronto. Throughout this very long trip I had not been taking my medications or my insulin. At one point I was sitting on one of the very hard benches trying to sleep when a very nice airline official asked me if I was okay. I wasn't. The next thing I knew they had me in a wheelchair and were taking me to the medical clinic at the Cancun airport. A very nice doctor, who spoke perfect English, did some tests, told me that my sugars were "off the charts, and then gave me a shot of insulin and some meds. They wheeled me back to the waiting area where I dosed off about two hours before my flight. Next I heard my name being paged and an airline person came rushing up asking my name, then wheeled me to the boarding gate. The stuck me in row one behind the wall. Not a great spot for a long flight but at least I was on the right plane. 

I arrived at Pearson just after midnight. My bus to Belleville was not until six in the morning so I had a lot of time to kill. I did mange to find the Tim Hortons so I got to have my first Timmie's coffee in two years. Delicious! Of course you can't smoke in the airport so I had to go outside to smoke. That was the first time I realized that it was freezing and I only had my leather spring coat. I was not happy to leave the perfect weather in Mexico. When I first left two years ago I said goodbye to winter, figuring I would never see cold or snow again. Wrong!

The bus ride was only from the airport to the terminal in downtown Toronto, then I had to wait another two hours for my bus to Belleville. That didn't start well when the bus driver initially refused my two pieces of luggage, telling me I was only allowed one. Eventually he agreed and threw my bags, including the one I just told him had my computer in it, under the bus. I didn't know that another surprise was waiting for me in Belleville. Haven seen the Greyhound bus downtown at the main bus terminal before I assumed that was where I would get dropped off. Wrong! For some unknown reason the bus only stopped just off the 401 highway at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere, miles from downtown Belleville. It was a twenty dollar cab ride and I didn't have twenty dollars on me. Luckily I had my friend, Doral's number and she agreed to pick me up. She was planning to go to a dance at the Legion so I went along. Hard to believe that I actually managed to dance when I hadn't slept in two days. 

At this point my memory is a little foggy about how I ended up at a motel in Trenton for the night. I had called the OW emergency number and they had sent a cab to take me there. I was beyond exhausted and had my first good night's sleep and a wonderful shower in the morning. It was then that I learned that OW takes you to Trenton but does not bring you back. I was very lucky that the motel owner told me there were people in another unit that would take me to Belleville for ten dollars. That was the start of a couple of very strange days where I ended up going with them to the Comfort Inn in Napanee, then back on the reserve they wouldn't let me stay with them again, so I was going to stay at their daughter's place. That ended when the police came and told me that I was not allowed to stay there, but a very nice officer drove me all the way to the Comfort Inn in Belleville where OW put me up for another night. They also gave the officer twenty dollars for me to get something to eat.

The next day two people came from the CMHA in Belleville and took me to the office for an intake interview. I met with a guy I knew from before and they took me to the first house on Murney where I had stayed years earlier. Not long after they told me that I was moving to Dunbar, the seniors' house because someone there couldn't handle the stairs. What they didn't tell me was that it was a shared room. The guy I shared the room with basically slept all day and night so I was always creeping around trying not to wake him. He moved to Markham shortly after and I had the room to myself for several months. I eventually moved to a larger shared room and then, over my strong objections, they moved me to my current "emergency" room at Forin, where I had lived twice before years ago.

I was forced to come back to Canada because I had lost my GIS pension which was about a third of my income. I was also running out of my critical medications including insulin and I would die without my meds. After my idiot landlord put my rent up forty percent, totally illegal, and demanded the money right away I had made a fatal mistake taking up an offer for a month's free rent in Chelem, only to learn that the house was sold and I had to find another place to live. It was brutally hot there and I never wanted to stay there. It was all crashing in on me so I figured I had no other choice than to return to Canada, much as that broke my heart. 

I came back figuring that I would get my meds again. Wrong. I figured I would get my dental work. Wrong. I figured I would live in a decent room. Wrong. I figured I would schedule my shoulder surgery. Wrong. I figured I would find a decent place to live in Belleville. Wrong. I figured that I could get some financial help on getting new glasses. Wrong. I figured that I would restart my web design business and make some extra money. Wrong. I figured that my GIS pension would be reinstated as I had been told in writing. Wrong!

My doctor here in Belleville before had been charged with some narcotics offence and his office closed. I was told that it would take at least a year to find a new doctor. I applied at the local health centre but when I followed up a couple of months later was told the same thing. As a diabetic my medications are critical. I met with the pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart but they would only give me insulin and a couple of the more critical meds until I manged to find a doctor. I was on Metformin for years but Dr. Savic had switched me to Janumet when Metformin stopped working. Despite getting Janumet for years from Shoppers they wouldn't renew it. I went to a walk in clinic but they would only give me a prescription for a month of Metformin. Eventually I met with a nurse at the Diabetic Education Centre at the hospital and got an appointment with the diabetic doctor a month out. Thanks to the virus that was cancelled and the appointment was by phone instead. The doctor would only renew my diabetic meds and not the other ones that I am on. The only hoe for those is the telemedicine offered by Shoppers, but it is apparently almost impossible to get in touch with.

Although dental work is ten times the price it was in Mexico, the Ontario government had launched a new dental program for seniors. I applied and was accepted. I asked about my broken tooth and, more importantly, the bridge that was falling out any day now. Both were approved and I was given an appointment at the Quinte Health Centre for March 19th. It was not easy to get there so I walked most of the way, only to get there and learn that the centre was closed because of the virus. They had left a message but I didn't get it. No clue now if and when they will re-open but no doubt it will take months to clear the backlog. 

Prior to coming back to Canada the President of the charity who ran the home I was in before leaving for Mexico told me that they would have a place for me. The day I was leaving I got an email saying that he no longer had a place for me. My flights were booked so I had no choice but to come back despite having nowhere to live. After being shunted around by OW on the emergency list I ended up back at Murney where I had first been years ago. It was not a great room with nowhere to hang my clothes. I was only there a few days when they moved me Dunbar into a shared room. I had so many issues with what was then the CMHA, at one point being threatened with immediate eviction to the street. It was nothing but outright lies, failed promises and abuse. Just one of the outright lies was that they would not move me to the "emergency" room at Forin unless I had more permanent housing arranged, which I didn't have because they failed to pay London Middlesex Housing as they promised in December. On a Monday the Housing Manager said that she knew that I was happy sharing a room at Dunbar and I would not be moving. On Tuesday I got an email telling me that I was moving to Forin the next day. I knew how bad the room was here. I had had issues with the "facilitator" here before because he was power tripping and I knew we would have problems again, and we have. This room is also hotter than hell in the summer and I will never be able to sleep. My only hope is that now that I am finally on the emergency housing list I will find permanent housing. I have been in touch with a lady at Aldersgate who have wonderful seniors' apartments. When a unit becomes available they contact Hastings Housing and get three names. Hopefully one of them is mine and I am approved. 

Just before I went to Mexico Dr. Savic had given me a referral to a surgeon who I met with. He gave me a shot of cortisone for my should er but it didn't work so we were going to schedule surgery. The wait was about six months and I was leaving for Mexico in two, so that didn't work. When I came back to Belleville I went to his office but I was told that I needed a new referral from a doctor, which, of course, I don't have and won't have for months if not years. Looks like I'm stuck with my aching shoulder for now. 

My glasses are now about eight years old. When I got them I had the coating added to protect my eyes. What I didn't know was that this coating is only good for a year. Maybe it was the strength of the sun in Progreso but I noticed that the coating started breaking up, leaving steaks of it making it very difficult to see. As a senior I hoped to get some assistance getting new glasses when I came back but there is nothing. Even what was a free examination is now eighty dollars. My glasses will cost about eight hundred dollars which, of course, I don't have. Beyond the streaks my vision has also changed. I need a magnifying glass to read anything small now and my eyes are very strained working on the computer all day.

I've been designing websites for decades now, sometimes more successfully than others. That was the case in Mexico where I spent the better part of two years building what I thought was the best site I had ever done, AjijicToday.com.mx. It had everything, from free classifieds and forums, to the most affordable advertising available. Before I went to Mexico I knew that I was going to lose the GIS pension once I was out of the country for six months so I had to replace this income. Several colleagues in Ajijic told me this would be a breeze. It wasn't. I never made a dime so losing a third of my income became even more critical. 

After going through a horrible time when the government suspended my pensions, in error, leaving me thirty-three cents in the bank, I knew that my GIS pension would be restored as of the date I returned to Canada. The government was claiming that I had been overpaid the GIS so I needed to know EXACTLY what was going to happen with my GIS. I had been dealing with a very helpful lady at Service Canada, Melanie Shumilak. She sent me an email saying that the GIS would be restored as of the date of my return, then there would be a negotiation about the claimed over-payment, but it would never be more than thirty percent of the GIS. That was a major reason that I returned to Canada. 

Based o my return November 2nd I submitted all the documents Melanie told me to submit. I faxed them and mailed them as confirmation. She told me that I had been put on an emergency list and should hear within five days. I didn't. Instead I went through three months of unbelievable grief with people in the CPP Integrity Office, the same ones who had suspended my pensions in total in error before. Finally a Nicole at Service Canada phoned to give me the "good news". My GIS had been restored; however, they were taking one hundred percent for November, December and January, leaving me NOTHING! That's good news? It's now been over six months that I've been fighting with everyone, from the Prime Minister on down, to do what I was told in writing. I learned that Melanie had been wrong about the percentage of my income that they could take. It was twenty-five percent, not thirty. So then tell me how they could take one hundred percent. Taking twenty-five percent as of the date I returned would mean they owe me thirteen hundred and fifty dollars! That would sure help me right now! 

As I've repeated many times. John Lennon got it right when he said, "life is what happens while you are making other plans". I am living, breathing proof of that.                            


Happy Birthday to me....NOT!

Birthdays are often a time for reflection, both on the life you've lived, your successes and your failures, and the things you have not yet done, like your bucket list. Today on my seventieth birthday, a day I never expected to make, my reflections on the past are only a very long list of failures, mistakes and regrets, and my only thoughts about a bucket list are about kicking it.

Today is certainly not a day to celebrate. I am totally alone in the world and realize now that no one cares whether I live or die. All I can say is that I have always tried. There's no question that I have made many mistakes along the way and I accept full responsibility for the consequences. Some things have just been the result of incredibly bad luck. Others have no explanation. 

The biggest regret of my life has been with my family. It's been twenty-five years since I spoke with my daughter, Heather, but I don't know why she choose to cut me off. We always had a great father daughter relationship until I left to go to BC to be with my dying mother. At the time I didn't know whether I would stay in BC after my mother died or not but if I did I hoped that my kids would come out for vacations. We had such an amazing time when my kids had come out before, although it broke my heart when my daughter told me to stay out west. She said she had never seen me happier. Over the years many people have tried to contact my daughter, but failed. Even my Dad had called her one winter from Arizona asking her to call him collect. He could well have been telling her that I had died, but she never called him back. It really hurt.

The year after I went out west my daughter had called my parents, asking me to come down to her graduation. Certainly I would find a way but then she called again to say that her grad had been delayed until the fall but I would still go. I never heard from her again about it. In January of the following year I talked to her briefly and she said that she wanted to see me so I took my life in my hands and drove through the winter across the country to see her. When I got there they had hidden her away and wouldn't let me see her. After three weeks of trying but failing I drove back to BC, crying all the way back. I never saw her again. 

It was the same with my son. We met when he was coming to London, Ontario with his work, but it was a very short meeting. The end result was that he was going to organize a meeting in the summer with me and his three daughters, my grandchildren. He never contacted me again and when I called the number he had given me it was someone else who had bought his phone. I was upset and asked him what was going on on Facebook. His answer was to block me.

Then after I had moved to Mexico I got a Facebook message from Mackenzie, one of my granddaughters. She was fourteen at the time and was so upset that her parents had not told her about me. She said that she should have been allowed to make her own decision about contacting me, which was so right. We chatted back and forth for a while then she told me that she was coming to Mexico for a friend's wedding. She was going to let me know where and when. I was so thrilled at the thought of meeting her. Then she suddenly cut me off with no explanation. The next thing I saw was a photo of her in Puerto Villarta at the wedding. She hasn't spoken to me since or given me any explanation as to why. It hurts every day.

No, turning seventy is not as happy day.      


Sornia

I was sitting at our usual table at the Legion

When a girl stood up and she was a vision

Blondes have always been my nemesis

And this one was sure one not to miss

Her dance moves made my heart skip a beat

I just knew that we needed to meet

I got up my courage to go and talk to her

That she could dance with me I wasn’t sure

What to say to her I started to worry

I said my name but she said “I’m sorry”

She was sorry about my name?

That was a first. Was I to blame?

She laughed and said her name was Sornia

So much better but I thought she said Sonia

Only later did I learn that was wrong

I’d finally get it right. It wouldn’t be long

Her hair. Her eyes. Her smile had my heart in a whirl

I wondered to myself if she could be my girl.

My friend said to take it slow. Don’t frighten her off

But I was so worried it would not be enough

Total honesty has been my crutch for my whole life

And I sure knew being honest about being my wife

Would end it before it had even could begin

Caution would rule if her heart I could win

But I blew it by making a comment I’d regret

“When we get married forget a cigarette

The choice between you and smoking is clear as a bell”

Being with you is pure heaven. Smoking is pure hell

She is the very best dance partner I’ve ever had

That I found her at last sure makes me glad

What the future will hold who really knows?

That there’s only two perfect people really shows

Just how hard it is to find your soulmate

Especially when right now we don’t even date

She says she wants to be my “friend”

That dreaded “kiss of death” to the end

But hope springs eternal is what they say

So I won’t give up until she says “no way!”

A hopeless romantic is certainly me

With her in my life so very happy I’d be


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