Category Archives: Musings

A question for you my dear readers.

Having lived in Panama, Ecuador and now Mexico and visited Costa Rica many times, my question is about basic services – electricity, water and internet.

These counties in Central and South America (some consider Mexico part of North America) and quite possibly others, have been referred to as “third-world countries” when it comes to many things, such as hospitals are concerned. The shifting winds of governments over the years, together with the influx of Expats to these countries has brought on many improvements to healthcare, highways and sewage treatment, for example in Panama City where 40,000 metric tons of raw sewage were previously dumped into the Bay of Panama daily. This was the primary reason that all the big hotels on the bay, built to launder drug money, sat empty.

In the countries I have lived in or visited the most frequent occurrence was no water, no electricity or no internet, often for days on end. My question is if this is a result of inadequate infrastructure to support these services, corruption either in private companies or the governments, a lack of funding, incompetence or maybe just a lack of intent?

Each of these countries have at one point made International Living’s Best Places To Retire list. First it was Costa Rica, then Panama, then Ecuador and now Mexico. Those who have been part of the Age Wave, the baby boomer generation, are shocked when they move to these countries only to learn that the basic services that they have been accustomed to in their home counties are often not available. Electricity (power) in particular is an exception because people have experienced a loss of power as a result of thunderstorms, ice storms and high winds taking down power poles, but, except in extreme situations, such as the recent tornados in Canada, power is usually restored fairly quickly.

That is not the case in the countries mentioned because weather is seldom a contributing factor. Instead, the power just goes off for no apparent reason at any time of day or night. In some situations I understand that it is because of the electrical grid not being designed to allow localized outages for work to be done. The entire system must be brought down.

Water supply can be just as problematic. Unlike in more developed countries where water supply is a public utility, in Panama, for example, water is supplied by private companies which are often underfunded and ill-equipped to deal with problems that arise. Again, in Panama, a pipe broke in the system supplying my water and I had no water for over a week. Not so great to not be able to flush the toilets for a week. Here in Mexico it’s the well known don’t drink the water. Bottled water is the norm, although I for one don’t know what the problem is with the water supply. I can only assume that it is a lack of purification that is a normal part of water supply everywhere else.

Internet is a whole other issue, although improvements are being made gradually. A common complaint here in Lakeside will soon be solved when iLox brings 50 Mbps service here soon. Telmex is also introducing fiber-optic service. no doubt in response to iLox coming. That being said, Telmex service is completely unreliable. Many areas get less than 2 Mbps, if at all. And just yesterday the service from Telmex was out all day here in Riberas. The question is why?

The new President has pledged to bring WIFI to everyone in the country. A very lofty goal. He has also pledged to stop Guadalajara from drawing a foot of water out of Lake Chapala every year, although there is no indication how that might affect the local water supply.

Obviously I can only speak to these issues as an immigrant to the countries I have lived in, but I wonder how the locals feel. Do they just accept that this is the way it has always been or are they just as annoyed at the constant failure of these services? If so, why aren’t there loud protests to clean up the mess that is, for example, CFE? Are Mexicans just used to no water or no power? Don’t Mexican businesses suffer the same consequences when they can’t operate their equipment? It costs businesses a lot when they must close because they can’t function without power. Their employees must be sent home with no pay, which hurts everyone. Food spoils in restaurants when there is no refrigeration. They can’t open at night with no lights. Bands can’t play music without power.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love Lakeside and I do everything possible to promote the area on my website. I simply want to believe that these issues can actually be solved to make life here even better.

Ode to my boy

The last time I had a dog was way back in 2000 when I lived with Tracy and the kids. Somehow we learned about a lab being put up for adoption because the little girl had become allergic to him. They brought him over to meet us and, although it was very sad to see the little girl crying, we said she could come and visit him anytime.

His name was Spade and he was sure something. He was a mix, part pit-bull and part lab. We were a little concerned about how much pit-bull he was, even way back then, because the kids were small. Before we took him we made sure the kids understood they had to take him for walks and clean up his poop in the yard. They agreed, probably just because they instantly loved him.

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I digress, but maybe a little personal history here. When I was knee high to a grasshopper I had horrible eczema. I scratched and scratched so badly that the skin on my hands was pretty well gone. My mother sewed me little bags to put over my hands so I wouldn’t gross out the other kids at school. They had to tie my hands to the crib, and later to my bed, to stop me scratching. My poor parents spent a fortune on creams and medications but nothing worked.

Along with the delights of the eczema, and I don’t pretend to understand the relationship, I was also deathly allergic to anything that had fur, feathers or just about anything else that contains dander. The only animals I could ever be close to were fish. It was so bad that we could go visiting to someone’s house and my eyes would swell up and I’d start sneezing and coughing uncontrollably. We would ask if they had a dog or cat and they would say no, but then they would tell us they had a dog ten years ago. That was enough. I had to go and sit in the car.

Then by some accident, of course long before the internet, my Dad learned about chiropractors, who, back then were considered quacks by most people. We lived in Streetsville and the nearest chiropractor was in Oakville, quite a ways away. We met with him and he took a bunch of x-rays. We learned from those x-rays that there was a bone out of place in my neck that was pressing on a nerve and apparently causing

both my eczema and my allergies. He said he would do the now famous neck crack thing to move it back into place and take the pressure off. Given how chiropractors were thought of back then I had no idea why my Dad was willing to believe all this, especially when the chiropractor told him it would take weekly visits for more than a year. Even considering the cost of gas back then, that was asking a lot of my Dad. I think my parents were just so desperate to find a solution and had been spending so much on failed creams and meds that they took a chance.

To this day I still remember meeting a charming patient at his office, who was basically a paraplegic in a wheelchair, but he was such a nice guy. He told me he was twenty-one, but the amazing part was when he was born the doctors gave him little chance of survival. His poor parents were told he wouldn’t make it to two years old. Well, here he was now twenty-one and it was only thanks to the chiropractor. That sure gave me confidence that this might actually work. The treatments were kind of brutal because he would massage my head back and forth and then, without warning, give me the crack. Sometimes I thought my head was going to come off.

Sure enough he was right. My eczema cleared up and I felt my allergies were gone. At least we hadn’t been anywhere that I had any troubles. Even my aunt and uncles in Toronto for the annual family Christmas party who had four dogs. I didn’t take any chances with them by playing with them and by now my aunt and uncle were used to locking them in a room when we came.

At long last I figured I might just be able to have a pet. My Dad wasn’t keen on a dog yet but he let me get a cat, Bootsy. We became inseparable because I was so thrilled I could finally have a pet after all those years.

Well, life can certainly be cruel, even at that tender young age. I was coming home on the school bus and as we got close to my laneway someone said something about a dead animal in the road. Sure enough it was my Bootsy. She had been hit and killed by a car. It broke my heart, especially after waiting all those years to have a pet.

Not long after that my Uncle Earl asked my Dad to take their dog. They were moving to Vancouver or something and couldn’t keep him. My Dad agreed and we got Hobie, who was part boxer and part hound. He became an instant member of the family and proved to be a great guard dog even though he wouldn’t hurt a fly. During the first thunderstorm we had we couldn’t find him. Eventually we found him shivering and shaking under my parent’s bed. The funny part was that once the storm was over he couldn’t get out from under the bed. We had to all lift up their big, heavy, four-poster bed to let him out. I often wondered if the people who visited us and Hobie would come charging at them barking away ever saw him under the bed would still be afraid of him.

He was with us for years, but, again, life’s cruelty struck. My Dad had taken him to the vet in Streetsville. It turned out he had cancer and I think it was going to cost something like eight hundred dollars, a fortune back then, to keep him alive. My Dad said the vet told him it would only give him a few more months and he would be in pain, so my Dad made the difficult decision to put him down. I still remember his funeral when we buried him on the side of the hill where he loved to play with us. We all cried and cried, surprisingly even my tough Dad, who I had never seen cry.

We did have another dog very briefly, Champ, after that but he was a nutcase who attacked and bit anyone who moved. He was gone soon. I remember my in-laws had a small dog. Jiggzy, I think was his name, but we never had a family dog. I honestly don’t know why. My kids would have probably loved to have one. I think it might have been that we were so busy traveling all over the country for their sports that owning a dog would have been a challenge.

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So, back to my story. Flash forward many years to 2000 and Spade. He was the most patient dog in the world. The kids would use him as a pillow while they watched TV. They would maul him to death playing with him and he never complained. I think one time Brayden got a little rough and he let out a little growl to let him know that was too much. He was a pooping machine though and, you guessed it, I got to clean up after him. I never minded though because he was such a great dog. Every time I came home he went nuts as soon as he heard me at the door and he would greet me like a long lost friend every time.

There’s a theme here. Yup. Life’s cruelty struck again and this one was much worse. Tracy was the love of my life and so were the kids. We were twenty-two years apart in age but that was never an issue. I think she was older than her years and I was younger. When we were doing something like hiking or rollerblading she always had trouble keeping up with me.

One fateful weekend she went to Kamloops to spend some time with her friends from school. The minute she walked through the door Sunday night I knew something was wrong. I think her friends had got to her about the age difference, asking her what she was going to do when I was maybe seventy. She admitted that it might be the mistake of her life but she asked me to leave. I fell apart. The night we told the kids was one of the very worst of my life.

I found a place to live and moved out, leaving my family behind, including Spade. A few months later Tracy called and asked me if I could take Spade. Apparently he had started shitting all over the house and she couldn’t handle him anymore. I took him gladly but then at the time I was living with Ans, who had another dog, a three-legged dog, Skipper, who was not my favorite dog. Spade was okay for a while but then he started shitting in her house. After coming home I put him out after discovering a pile of shit in her living room. It was raining and she wanted to let him in. I told her that if she did that would be the last she would see of him. I guess she didn’t believe me because she let him in. The next day I took him back to Tracy. Ans was not happy and that pretty well ended that relationship, whatever it ever was.

A little while later Tracy called and asked me to come and get him again. When I started to explain that we had been down this road before she stopped me and said it was much worse. I rushed over and as soon as I knocked on the door he started barking. When I opened the door and he saw it was me he was at the top of the stairs. He came bounding down to me. I say “bounding” because I don’t know how else to describe it. He had completely lost the use of his hind legs so basically bounded down on only his front legs. Something was very wrong. Tracy then told me the news. She had taken him to the vet and been told he had to be put down, but she said she just couldn’t handle that, so she had called me to do it. Nice.

This was all going to be traumatic enough for me but my darling little Madison, who I believe was five at the time, insisted on coming with me to the vet. Here I was on the verge of falling apart and now I had to be strong for her. Looking back into the vet’s office at Spade for the last time is one of those traumatic life moments you will never ever forget.

So other than the fact that I’ve lived in BC, Panama, Ontario (twice), Ecuador and now Mexico, I haven’t even thought about having a dog again, until Rollie came along. Although I had been thinking about maybe getting a dog, mostly because of my failed relationships with women, I hadn’t done anything more. Then I saw Paola in a video walking Rollie along the malecon. Something clicked and I wanted to meet him. That was about a month ago. Let’s just say it was love at first sight on both parts. He was a riot and so affectionate. I truly wish I had been able to video me trying to put my shoes on in the morning to take him for a walk. He wanted to eat my socks, my shoes and my clothes as I tried to get dressed, laughing my ass off at this antics.

Being a rescue and a puppy he was pretty undisciplined but soon I had him sitting to put his leash on. He understood “no”, like not getting on my bed. The only problem was he wanted to eat everything in sight. He quickly devoured the chew toys they brought with him. He ate his leash. He desperately wanted to eat my slippers but got a “no” when he went near them. He started off peeing and pooping all over my apartment but soon understood that Daddy wasn’t happy with that so he started going on the terrace instead. A small improvement but still something.

Then I had to go out shopping and I wondered how he would handle our first separation. I was only gone for a couple of hours and when I came back he was thrilled to see me and hadn’t done anything bad. While I was out I had bought him a new and expensive bed and he took to that immediately. I went out at night and it was the same. No problem.

Then I was out at night working at the Spotlight Club. When I came home I guess you would call it severe separation anxiety. He had destroyed everything he could get his teeth on. His bed was in pieces. My slippers were toast. He had started eating the blanket he loved. It was a mess. He got put outside on the terrace while I fumed and cleaned up. I was not happy and he knew it.

The plan then became putting him out on the terrace when I was gone. I had always left the patio screen open all day to encourage him to go out there, but he had this strange timid reaction to venturing out there so I didn’t want to make it any worse. When I returned he was happy to see me and danger had been averted. It appeared to be a solution, although if I wasn’t watching him while I worked he was trying to eat something else. He destroyed my very expensive lifts in my shoes.

All that bad stuff being said he was still the love of my life. He brought such joy into my life at a time I really needed it. At first I had been hesitant to let him off the leash when we went for our walks, fearing that he would take off and not come back when I called him, but soon I was letting him off more and more. He never failed to come when I called him. About the only time I used the leash was when we walked to the store and I put it on him to wrap it around a tree while I was in the store. No big deal.

One thing that always amazed me, and I never understood, was how he told time. If I wasn’t up yet he would come at 8:15 every morning and start kissing me on the face, like “time to get up, Daddy”. It was exactly the same if I laid down for a quick nap in the late afternoon. An hour later, at most, he’s kissing me awake again. “Time for our walk, Dad”.

We sure had no shortage of things happen on our walks, some good, some not so good. When he did his business, which was usually at a vacant weed-filled lot just down the street, he got his treat and “good boys”. He rarely failed to do his pooping there. I always carried a poop bag with me but rarely needed to use it.

Then the little smart ass tried to get the better of me. When I had first got him he squatted like a girl to pee. Why he didn’t lift his leg like every other male confused me. I was told by others that he would eventually lift his leg. As though he understood the conversation that very day he lifted his leg to pee. Then a few days later, usually when he was not close to me and even after he had done his pooping in the lot, I would see him squatting to pee again. Then I realized that as soon as he peed he came running for his treat. Aha! Trying to fool me. No way, Buddy. Nice try.

As we came back to San Diego one day I heard someone calling his name. Sure enough it was Normis, who Rollie was nuts about. He took off to her in an instant. We ended up walking her home, mostly because she’s gorgeous and I really liked her. When we got to her place their pit-bull was safely behind the gate, going nuts. Her roomie came home with the other dog and the minute she opened the gate the pit-bull went for Rollie pinning him down with just an unbelievably strong grip on him. I tried to pull her off but that proved impossible. Finally her owner managed to get her off. I was panicking because I thought the next bite was going to be to Rollie’s very exposed throat and he would be gone.

Another day we were walking down a new road I had not been on before. We came around a corner and there was a big neighborhood fiesta going on. About ten dogs came running out to check out Rollie. The look on his face as he looked up at me was just priceless.

The last one with him was for me the funniest. Ramone Corona, the street we normally come back on was flooded by some burst pipe somewhere so we headed down to the road we had come back on before, the one with the fiesta. There was a car parked with a beautiful girl sitting on her boyfriend’s lap in the back seat with the door open. Before I could stop him he jumped up on her lap and started madly kissing her. She was squealing with laughter. I told her that Rollie’s problem was that he loved beautiful women. She liked that one. I finally got him to leave her and get out of the car.

Right before this walk, on what turned out to be our last day together, the people who gave him to me had been threatening to pick him up and take him from me. After I stopped laughing at this thing with the girl I started crying again realizing it might just be my last time with him. It was.

It’s another story, but things had basically been falling apart on me. I had just learned that I only had twenty-eight dollars to my name and a whole lot of month left and had no idea how I was going to survive. Worrying about Rollie on top of this was killing me. I did have a big bag of food left for him so I knew he was in no danger. I was. That night, having not eaten a thing all day and drinking way more than normal for me, I started losing it, believing that there was no point in going on. I just couldn’t handle all the crap coming my way all at once. It got so bad that my friend, Christine, sent over a doctor and her colleagues to talk to me. She offered to help me with food, medications and Rollie. I told her they were going to take him on Thursday but she said she would talk to them and explain that taking him from me was the worst thing they could do to me.

It didn’t matter. The next morning, without warning, they came and took him. It just broke my heart. When I told the doctor what happened she was mortified and said she would get him back. Then she called and told me they would “consider” giving him back to me, in THREE MONTHS! How stupid! Then they said I could “visit” him, as though that would make everything okay. I posted all this on Facebook. Big mistake!

First, people I honestly thought were friends started attacking me, without a clue what I was going through. They told me to “suck it up”, “stop feeling sorry for myself” and it was “all in my head”. Just brutal and the very last thing I needed. It’s no wonder that mental health is such an issue when so many people are so clueless about it.

I was deeply upset about losing Rollie, my best friend, but I had equally important things to deal with, like no food, no money, no medications and no future. Fighting over getting Rollie back was more than I could handle. I knew that the bitch who gave him to me was not going to “consider” anything. She was going to make sure he never came back to me again. I knew she would do her very best to get him adopted by someone else as quickly as she could so he could never be with me again. She showed her stripes when she took him from me in the first place knowing I was suicidal. What kind of person does that?

At this point all I can hope now is that he finds someone who loves him as much as I did and makes him happy. Daddy misses you, Buddy.

Good-bye.

Good Boy.

Here’s my thoughts on voting for governments

The process starts with getting your voter ID card when you turn legal age to vote in whatever country you live in or whatever country you are eligible to vote in based on your citizenship. This could be done at places like passport offices or driver license offices. Wherever they can take a photo and verify your other ID, ideally with a passport or any recognized photo ID. You would also need a valid credit card because you are going to be charged a fee for your voter ID just like you are with a passport. Also just like a passport it is good for five years.

After applying in person and providing all the required ID you would be sent a photo voter ID card along with instructions on how you register online, just like with a credit card activation. You would be provided an ID number and allowed to select a password which needs to be updated at least annually. You will receive a reminder email or text message to update your password. Because the card is a permanent voter ID information such as address, marital status and anything else that could change frequently would not be required although you can update your registration online at any time. For anyone whose marital status changes their legal name, they would need to go to the appropriate office to update their information and receive a new card with the proper legal name. Their new card would be valid for five years from the date of the changes.

Qualification for a voter ID card would not be automatic. Each country would develop a test based on their accepted values. The application would have conditions similar to filing an income tax return with the same sort of penalties. Basically, you could be fined or charged if you lie. So, a question such as are you now a member of a recognized terrorist organization would automatically disqualify you. Do you have a criminal record could also disqualify you conditional upon the type of conviction. Other questions would deal with the specific values of the specific country and the responses would be rated on a scale of importance. No questions related to sex, discrimination or politics would be allowed.

On voting day you simply log in on your computer or smartphone and vote. Although your vote is duly recorded it is anonymous so there is no record kept of how you voted. It also does away with voter lists. A related system could be added so that you can use your voter ID to donate to a specific party. These donations are recorded both for income tax purposes and to ensure that your donation meets the legal standards for making donations. A corporation would not be allowed to donate if the chief executive does not have a voter ID.

You would still be allowed to vote in person on election day as long as you show your ID card. Those overseas, such as military personnel serving outside the country would also vote online.

Would this totally eliminate voter fraud? Probably not but it sure would make it a lot harder. Once you have voted online that is recorded for your voter ID and the system does not allow you to vote again. If you make a mistake you would be allowed to void or change your vote until you make a final submission. It would be very difficult to fraudulently come up with all the ID documents required for your voter ID, but nothing is impossible. Regardless, producing documents such as a birth certificate, social insurance card, passport, government photo ID card or driver’s license would need a lot of effort for a simple voter ID card.

Is this big brother? It’s a question of the ends justifying the means. In most countries, the voter turnout is pathetic, often less than fifty percent. Does the elected government truly reflect the will of the people? No. In some countries it is a legal requirement that you vote. If this system were adopted there is no valid reason why every single citizen could not vote. Although maybe a bit heavy-handed, your credit card could be charged a fine for not voting.

With the rapid advances in technology, things like fingerprint ID and taking a photo when you vote could be added. The voting process could also allow clicking on a candidate’s name and getting a brief summary of their positions on the issues before recording your vote. By voting online you can take all the time you want to be informed before voting.

Also, in some countries, employers are required to allow their employees paid time off to vote. This cost would be eliminated completely.

Just one man’s opinion.

The Blame Game

The last few really bad days have made me question why people are attacking me so brutally, blaming me for everything. My gut wants to say “Fuck off, world!”. Leave me alone when you don’t have a clue what happened; however, it does make me question what is actually my fault?

I’m certainly not perfect. Nobody is and we all make mistakes. Some big. Some small; but what about the ones that have a major impact on your life? Moving. Relationships. Marriage. Career. Health.

My childhood was pretty normal, except that I never stopped blaming my parents for moving out of the city to the middle of nowhere on a farm. No indoor plumbing. Kerosene heaters. Miles from anywhere I could get to at twelve. In Toronto I was hardly ever home. I could catch the bus or streetcar or ride my bike. I went everywhere. The only rule was to be home by dark. A horrible difference in the country and I hated it.

With Mum and Dad at Ontario Place

My parents decided that they wanted to move out west after they took a three week holiday through the Okanagan. Although I was working at the bank I might have gone with them. Who knows? They couldn’t sell their house so they decided to go the next year. Fate? During that year I met my future wife. There was no way I was going to move out west now. She also got pregnant so we got married. Big mistake! At nineteen I honestly thought I was in love and couldn’t wait to get married. Yes. I got her pregnant; but I thought that was a mutual thing and never thought of it as a mistake. My son was born the following year. My parents, brother and sister had left for BC and I missed them; but not my fault they moved.

No point in going into my failed marriage of twenty-three years, except to say that I always tried to make it better. Better car. Better house. Worked my face off always through a number of careers, the last being sixteen years as a computer consultant, installing networking hardware and software. I never ran an ad and all my business with some fifty clients came from referrals. I remember billing ninety-six hours in one week, so that gives you an idea of how much I worked. In the last few years, and living in a new house with a fat mortgage, my wife sat on her ass not working and didn’t even file for unemployment. I paid for everything and even when I left to stay in a motel near my client I paid for everything on the house and gave her money. I didn’t like giving up on the marriage after trying so hard for so many years; but it was time.

My ex, Janice

When I told her we were selling the house because I wasn’t going to pay the bills anymore the whole idea of fifty/fifty that she had agreed to for years went out the window. She wanted everything, supposedly to support my daughter; but she took things like all my Rosemond prints that she never paid any attention to, plus all my Charlie Brown books that she had never read. Thanks to all my work on several houses we owned over our marriage I had turned my original one hundred dollar investment in our first house into one hundred thousand dollars of equity, all of which she got and bought herself a new house.

Although it had zero to do with my marriage, I did make what turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life. I’ve gone into all the details in another post, so I won’t repeat myself. Let’s just say that I was charged, convicted and spent my weekends in a detention centre. I was not guilty of anything; but I had the worst Legal Aid lawyer, according to the Crown Attorney, and he got me convicted anyway. The toughest part was that my ex never even came to court for a second to support me. It was all my fault, of course.

There were many troubles in our marriage, not the least of which is we never really had a loving relationship. We seldom slept together and we didn’t make love for five years at one point. The only two times I remember making love to her were my son and daughter. The very worst thing that pretty well ended my marriage was when she got pregnant with what would have been our third child. She and her mother made the decision to have an abortion without even talking to me about it. I was livid and to this day will never forgive her, especially when neither of my other two kids will have anything to do with me.

After finally deciding to end our marriage was that my fault totally? No. On the final day in the house we had now sold she talked to me for thirteen hours! Believe it or not I hardly said a word. She said the failings of our marriage were all her fault. She had been a terrible wife, she said. She said I had always tried to make things better and worked so hard, not only on my career; but also renovating every home we had. She was sorry she had never lifted a finger to help with anything. She said she had spent her life sitting at her mother’s place, never coming home to cook dinner. She said the fact that I had done my own cooking and cleaned every house without her was all her fault. Even when we went to counselling and the counselor blamed her for everything she refused to believe her or do anything about it. It was quite the conversation; but it was obviously far too late.

So my marriage was over; but why did I leave my flourishing career and move out west? I was billing my last clients sixty-five dollars an hour plus half time for travel. Pretty sweet deal. They also gave me a glowing reference letter that would have gotten me tons more clients. The problem was my darling mother had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given a five percent chance of living more than six months.

On her way to eighth grade prom.

It hit me hard. I knew that the right thing to do was go out and spend whatever time she had left with her. It was going to break my heart to leave my daughter; but I thought she would come out and visit her grandmother soon. I never once thought that I would never see my daughter again. Also now that I was living in Markham I was making appointments with my daughter and we never seemed to be able to get together. I thought it would be better for both of us if she came out to visit.

What I didn’t realize at the time was just how vengeful my ex could be. She was paranoid that I would convince the kids to come out west and stay there, leaving her all alone. The one time my son contacted me and we talked for hours she apparently blew up at him for talking to me and he said he couldn’t take the third degree from her if he kept in touch with me. I didn’t believe for a second that would mean so many years without them. They never once contacted my Mum and Dad in all those years and now they’re gone of course.

My mother survived for another nineteen years which was great. After my Dad died in my arms her Alzheimer’s got so much worse and I spent months trying to get her into a care facility where she needed to be. Finally someone died at a place called Winterhaven and they called to accept Mum. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done because, of course I had to lie to get her there. She then left some thirteen messages saying she was sorry and to come and get her; but the Director said not to contact her.

My sister came down to see her and flipped out at the kind of place it was with security to protect people from wandering off. Despite my objections she took her out and put her in an assisted care facility in Revelstoke. Huge mistake! She was found wandering around town in the dead of winter with no coat on. Luckily someone knew she was my sister’s mother and took her to her shop. The facility called me to tell me they could not handle Mum and wanted her out. I had told my sister when she made the decision to pull her out of the place that I had spent months getting her into that I would no longer have any responsibility for her. She ended up killing her and I have never spoken to my sister again. I couldn’t even go to her memorial because I wanted to kill my sister for what she had done.

My next mistake? After I had sold my Mum’s place, for more than any place had ever been sold before by the way, I moved to an apartment. I barely had the boxes unpacked when a by-law officer came by and said I had to move out because the place wasn’t zoned for apartments in the lower levels. I was on my way to view another apartment in Kelowna when my Realtor emailed to come and see a mobile in the park next to Mum and Dad’s. It was a total disaster but I could just take over the private mortgage, so I did. Big mistake!

I busted my butt for over a year completely gutting the place and rebuilding it. When I went to list it my Realtor said it was the best place in the valley and he wanted to list it for $149,000. I had already looked at a couple of other places with my electrician friend and we wanted to put in offers, so I listed it for $139,000 and told him I wanted a quick sale. The day before the listing was to go into effect one of the local Indian chiefs posted an article in the local paper saying that anyone who bought on native land was “stupid” because there was no tenancy and they could be thrown out in a minute. He said the only reason prices were so high was because of “greedy Real Estate agents”. Overnight no one would touch a mobile on native land. The private mortgage I had arranged just in case the place didn’t sell fell apart. No bank would touch it. No lawyer would touch it for fear of getting sued. No Realtor would touch it. I was devastated.

I was left owing money to everyone, mostly Home Depot and Canadian Tire for tools and building supplies. Now I had no way to pay them back. My stress level was off the charts and my doctor told me if I didn’t find a way to get away from this stress it would kill me. He called me a poster boy for a heart attack. I knew I had to do something.

I think quite obviously I had the run away instinct. I knew things were only going to get much worse and with no mortgage now I couldn’t pay anybody back anyway. I also had no way to survive. To eat. To pay my pad rent. Nothing.

My diabetes was also starting to get much worse in the cold. I now had peripheral neuropathy in my feet and it was very painful. At the end of a day working on my feet I could barely walk. I started looking for somewhere warm. After a whole lot of research I found Panama and it looked like a good fit. My electrician friend had just split with his wife and needed a place, so he agreed to pay the pad rent to keep the place and look after it for me. I wasn’t sure if things would get any better in the spring and to protect it from creditors I transferred the title to my good friend, Wade. Off I went to Boquete, Panama in the mini I had just traded my truck in for, packed to the gills.

When I got to the border I was asked where I was going and how much money I had? When I told him Panama he told me to pull over. Thus began the worst experience in my life when they asked me about my criminal record. I went through three hours of grueling questioning like I was a child molester. Fingerprints. Photos. Then they told me I could not enter the States. I couldn’t even fly through a US airport. They told me that even if I got a pardon in Canada they didn’t give a damn and it would take years to apply for whatever their version of a pardon was. Some much for Homeland Security.

I returned home and made some panic arrangements to fly to Panama, not through a US airport. I sold my car to my electrician’s son who had worked for me for months. I reduced my car full to my luggage and left on Boxing Day for Vancouver. My fault? Totally.

Panama was a terrible experience. The house I had rented on the internet was a disaster. I ended up renovating a place for a friend back in Kelowna and lost my shirt. At the same time my dear friend, the electrician, did the one thing I had warned him about over and over before I left. I warned him to clean off the roof of any snow buildup because when it melts it can become too heavy for the roof supports. My Dad had always cleared his roof of any snow, regardless of amount.

Next thing you know my friend Wade calls me to tell me that my electrician had not cleaned the roof and it had collapsed under the weight of the melting snow and ice. He estimated it would be about twenty-five thousand dollars to replace the roof, plus the water had ruined most of my new flooring, all laminate. It was a huge blow. My fault? Not a chance. Okay. Maybe other than trusting my “friend”. Yes. My fault.

Sometime later he found a young guy who was willing to buy the place and fix the roof himself. He offered a pathetic price, with me only losing about eighty thousand dollars in the process; but who else was going to buy it? His parents were going to loan him some money; but he still needed me to take back a second mortgage for five thousand dollars. Again. No choice; but you guessed it. He never paid me and I lost the five thousand dollars on top of everything else.

After five miserable years in London, Ontario I was reaching pension age, so I started looking again for somewhere to go. I found Ecuador. Yet another total disaster. It wasn’t at all as billed and although I did have some good times there there were far more problems than good times. I also had a horrible runaround with Service Canada over one of my pensions and six months later I was destitute and couldn’t even afford food. Had it not been for the generosity of my friend, Heather, I wouldn’t be writing this. I finally wrote to Service Canada and told them that there would be a letter on my cold dead body clearly blaming them for my demise. I got my money in three days; but it was too late. The lady who was looking after my application for residency stole my three hundred and fifty dollars and did nothing. She also refused to return my passport so I couldn’t even leave the country on my paid return flight. It was a nightmare. My landlord also ripped me off for two hundred dollars in rent she owed me, plus my driver stole two hundred dollars out of my messenger bag. I also got carbon monoxide poisoning from the fireplace in my cabin and came far too close to dying. I remember the doctor saying I would have been dead in three hours had they not got me to the hospital. Before that they took me to a private hospital when the altitude first got to me. Four days and twelve hundred dollars later I was released. My fault? No.

Limping back to Canada to Belleville, thanks again to my dear friend, Heather, I eventually ended up in several group homes that literally saved my life. They weren’t the best place to live because there was a constantly revolving group of guys at various stages of need; but I did end up with a nice room in one of them and managed to do my website work.

So that brings me to Mexico and what exactly is my fault. Although I don’t agree with all the people blaming me for the breakup, I do agree that what was clearly my fault was falling so deeply in love. For six months it was the very best relationship I’d ever had in my entire life. She was everything I’d ever dreamed of in a woman. We shared such a bright and promising future together. I loved her completely and unconditionally.

Right now I have no clue why she sent the fateful text message telling me our relationship was over. I will say that I never did a thing to hurt her or mistreat her or do anything but love her to death. She was always so happy to be with me. It was an incredible love on every level. She came to Canada with me to file for my temporal visa to come back to Mexico and marry her. Her family loved me and pushed her to hurry up and marry me. It was all pure bliss.

Then totally out of the blue she sends me a text message that our relationship is over. As I said I have no clue why. I’ve begged her to talk to me or text me; but she refuses. Apparently she is sad. She told me that she loves me and misses me, so what’s going on? Something is obviously seriously wrong. Don’t I deserve to know why she ended our wonderful relationship? I think I do. My fault? Not a chance.

 

 

 

 

 

The Suicide Notes – Maybe it’s time?

Despite being diagnosed back in 2004 I’ve never been depressed, in the clinical sense, or ever thought about ending it all. Given that I now have a perpetual horrible feeling in my gut now and I’m trying to resist breaking down into tears every time I think about what a mess I’m in, yes, maybe it’s time.

Just a month ago my life was beautiful. I was one happy camper with so many things in my life. After disastrous experiences in both Panama and Ecuador, I thought I’d give it one more try to see if Mexico fit the bill. I had never heard of Ajijic (Ah-hee-hik); but one of my friends in Ecuador, Bonnie Hall, had moved here previously and kept posting on Facebook how much she loved it.

I started my months of research and learned two things. One, it looked like it was just as fantastic as Bonnie had been saying and, two, there wasn’t a city portal site. There was one very nice site; but it was clearly pushing Real Estate, as a lot of sites in these countries do. As a Canadian and part of the Baby Boomer generation, I knew a lot of people were looking to escape our cold winters and looking for somewhere warmer and stable. After Trump was surprisingly elected President a lot of Americans were also looking to escape the country.

When I returned to Canada from Ecuador I ended up in Belleville, Ontario purely by accident. My good friend of some forty years, Heather Paul, told me her son was renovating a home just north of the city and he would let me stay there rent free if I did some work for him. Sounded good to me. I tried very hard to maintain my relationship with a lady I’d met in Ecuador, but it became clear she was only in it for the money and the relationship ended badly. I was very upset and problems with the house, like no heat for a week, left me miserable. I ended up at the Salvation Army crying to one of the ladies. They immediately got me into a group home with a bunch of other guys. It wasn’t great, but it was better than freezing my butt off miles from nowhere.

Over the next two years I moved to other group homes and finally ended up in the best one where I had a very large bedroom with lots of room for my clothes and a large desk I bought for my website work. I met some great friends in Belleville, like Doral and Carole, who took me everywhere. We often went to the Legion in Trenton to hear some great bands, among them The Shadowz, my favourite band. We also went to the weekly concerts in the park and even worked the Elvis Festival, which was a hoot. Life was good.

You were limited to the amount of time you could stay in the group home and my time was coming up at the end of September. Thanks mainly to getting a MasterCard, which shocked the heck out of me when I got it because I had gone bankrupt. It started off at $200 because I bought my bike at Canadian Tire, but then was increased to a crazy $8,000! No idea why; but it let me buy my flights to Mexico. Thanks to a new friend in Ajijic, Francis, I found a great apartment in La Floresta at less than I was paying for my room in Belleville ($479). Things looked promising and I left for Mexico with an open mind.

The day I arrived in Ajijic I fell in love with the place. The climate was perfect! The first thing I saw was the Walmart. Looked like there wouldn’t be the kind of struggles I had in Panama and Ecuador to get the things I needed. I met my landlords, Perry and Kathy, and finally got to see my apartment. It was better than I expected from the photos Francis had sent me. All this looked very promising, but I had a return flight to Canada and only had a six-month tourist visa, so I had no idea what I was going to do. I sure wasn’t keen on going back to Canada, especially when I had nowhere to live. Apartments in Belleville were also a fortune so I knew I could never afford to live there anyway. But that was for later.

Francis and Anastasia were fantastic with me. They took me everywhere and introduced me to a ton of people. I was simply amazed at the music scene here. There was something going on every single night of the week. That first Sunday they took me to the Iron Horse pub and I met Jonathan, not knowing just how important he was going to become for me later.

On Monday they took me to Adelita’s, the first visit of what would become many. The food was great and the band, Jonathan, Paul, Chelo and Sergio, were just incredible. The place was packed and I couldn’t believe this was a Monday night!

This is when my life took a major turn. My friends, Bill and Violeta, were sitting with the most gorgeous Mexican girl. I asked her to dance and she was amazing. So sexy and a wonderful dancer. At one point we went out for a smoke. Remember at this point my Spanish was pretty rough, but we managed. Jonathan came out and said she was his mother! That shocked the hell out of me and I said she must be his sister. She laughed. When we finished our smoke she snapped her fingers at me and pointed to the door. Pointing at my wedding ring finger, I told her she wasn’t my wife so don’t be snapping your fingers at me. She said “Come on, Baby” in perfect English. Oh, I knew this lady could be trouble. I was also realistic enough to realize she was gorgeous and younger than me and she could have any man she wanted. Nice to dance with but this wasn’t going anywhere, right?

The following Saturday my friend Bill called to tell me that she wanted me to come to La Bodega that night. That came as a huge surprise; but I was happy at the thought of dancing with her again, so off I went. The dancing was just as incredible as I thought it would be, but when we went for a smoke I just thought it might be the right time to give her a quick kiss. She responded with the most passionate kiss I’ve ever had. It was pure magic. Now I knew I was in trouble.

The next six months were the happiest days of my entire life. She was the woman I had always dreamed of finding. No question she was gorgeous and sexy as hell. She was intelligent, passionate, witty, affectionate, sensitive, laughed easily and was a joy to be around. Despite our language issues, we talked for hours and hours, with the help of my phone’s Google Translate when things got a bit complicated. The first night we slept together was the most incredible experience of my entire life. She loved to be cuddled when we slept, something that no other woman in my life had enjoyed. Before long we were living together like man and wife and we talked about getting married. I was ready right now, but she always joked she might marry me “later”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During those wonderful months I grew a lot closer to Jonathan and I also met her other son, Kevin, at Christmas. It was an amazing night and at the end of it I heard him tell his mother that he liked that I would be his Dad. Doesn’t get much better than that. Over the holidays I also met her mother, who I was very nervous to meet; but she liked me, plus her huge family, all of whom apparently liked me. That was a huge relief. At the last event we went to, her sister’s birthday, her other sister wanted to know why she had not already married me? Funny at the time; but not now.

A bit of a sidebar here. Part of the reason for meeting her sons and huge family was so great for me was the loss of my own family. I’ll never know why, but my wonderful daughter hasn’t spoken to me in twenty-four years, and my son hasn’t spoken to me in about ten years. When I finally realized my marriage was over and I went out to BC to be with my mother because she had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and was given less than six months to live, I thought my daughter and son would come out to visit their other side of the family. I never knew that when I left I would never see my daughter again. My mother beat the odds and lived another nineteen years. I made a huge number of wonderful friends and started enjoying life with a much better balance of work and play. Before I went out west all I did was work because I had no choice. My ex sat at her mother’s place drinking coffee and smoking and refused to work even though we had a new house with a big mortgage.

Throughout all the years I spent in BC I never stopped trying to contact my son and daughter. The year after I moved out west my daughter called my parents and asked if I would come down to her graduation. Of course I would. Then she called back to say that her ceremony was delayed until the fall and she would let me know. That never happened and I managed to call her and she wanted me to come down in January. I dreaded the thought of driving across the country in the winter, but I wanted to see her so badly. It was a nightmare of a trip and when I got to Brampton my ex’s new husband wouldn’t let me see her. I hung around for three weeks trying to see her, but failed and drove back to BC in tears. It tore my heart out.

In 2005 my Dad died in my arms, unquestionably the most traumatic moment of my life. All these years later I still can’t forget one minute of it. My mother finally and thankfully died in 2007, thanks to my sister, who killed her by taking her out of the care home I had worked for eight months to get her in. My brother was an equal idiot. He phoned me from Thailand to tell me he needed ten thousand dollars right away or some thugs were going to kill him. I did send him the money’ but hoped they killed him anyway. He spent his life burning me at every opportunity. I loathe him.

When I arrived in Mexico I had no more family, so meeting her family and especially thinking I might have two sons was just incredible. It meant more to me than to most men. That and a wonderful woman in my life? Couldn’t get any better.

During this same time I had also met my downstairs neighbour, Jack. We got on like long lost friends. We did everything together. Our joke every day was “the bar’s open” and we drank and talked for hours almost every day. He and she got on really well and we had a lot of fun. He’s involved in this currency thing that might mean millions of dollars for him and he had a lot of great things to do both here in Mexico and back in Canada. We talked about that for hours as well and he offered to help me with my website business and things like getting a place for her and I and paying off my huge credit card debt. That all came crashing down when I blew up at him for constantly putting me down at a time when I was heartbroken and really needed a friend. Just more misery.

So what made this all fall apart on me?

She and I had talked for hours about getting a place together here in Ajijic and working together on the website. I just knew with her personality and how social she was that she would love the work. Her son agreed and he was thrilled about it. Naturally, with our future planned together, including getting married at some point, I had to arrange to stay in Mexico. I started the process with the consulate in Toronto and she wanted to come with me, which was great; but I told her honestly that as much as I loved that idea I could not afford her airfare. She agreed to pay it so off we went. It was the trip from hell. Everything from getting bumped off our flights to problems with the hotel. Nothing went right with selling my stuff. We had even more problems with trains and buses. Despite all that, she was a trooper. It was unusually cold for the time of year and we were freezing all the time, but she handled it very well. We did manage to have some fun, like her buying a bunch of clothes so she looked professional on the job when we came back. We also hit a used clothing store in Toronto which she enjoyed.

Now the shocker of a lifetime. Just before we left Canada she told me that she wasn’t coming back to Ajijic with me because she had an appointment with her lawyer at her place in Guadalajara. It’s a long story about her apartment, but let’s just say it was a disaster. Her ex hadn’t paid what he agreed to pay in their divorce for twenty-one years! Now she owed 348,000 pesos to avoid losing her apartment. The slime-ball has hidden all his assets and couldn’t be forced to pay. I saw no point in wasting more money with a lawyer. Just sell the place and pay off the debt, but she would never listen.

Of course, there was no meeting with the lawyer. It was just an excuse not to come back to Ajijic with me. When she came early with Jonathan on Monday she came to “our” place. I went to play pool with Jonathan. When I came back to get ready for Adelita’s she had her bags packed. When I asked why she said we were going to get a smaller place so there wouldn’t be room for all her stuff so she was going to sort it out and sell some of it. I didn’t believe her. Things were very different at Adelita’s that night. For the very first time, she didn’t sit with me. Even when we danced I knew something was wrong because she kept looking at the floor and not at me. I kept asking if she was okay and she just said she was worried about her apartment. That wasn’t it. We were supposed to be finding a place to live and only had a couple of weeks to find something so I was concerned that she was going back to Guadalajara. Then she said I should find a place on my own. She didn’t need to see it. That made no sense to me. Stupid me.

Then the killer. We were texting and suddenly she said: “here we end the relationship”. It hit me like a kick in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. My heart started racing and I could feel the tears coming on. How could this be happening after everything we had been through? Why did she come with me to Canada? Why did she let me go through the process of getting my visa to come back to Mexico to be with her? Why did she buy clothes to work together on the website? What the hell was going on? It literally destroyed me.

The following Monday she came to get the rest of her things and she wanted to talk to me. I was so unglued I knew I could never face her without breaking down. I told her it was clear to me that she was breaking up with me so what was the point of talking? Not only did she get the rest of her clothes and shoes; but she left all the gifts I had given her over the months. Yet another knife in my heart.

Over the next few days there were a string of text messages. Some good. Some terrible. Finally, she called me and we talked for almost two hours. She said that breaking up with me was a “huge mistake”. She said she still loved me. Not only did she want me to come to Adelita’s Friday night; but she also said she would come back to my place after. I was thrilled. Maybe we could sort this out after all. Glory be!

Then the next morning she sent yet another bunch of text messages, these saying she had second thoughts and would not be staying at my place after all. That was a blow because I really needed to talk to her and we couldn’t do that at Adelita’s. I was still looking forward to seeing her that night and hoped we could get through this. Then she sent another bunch of texts that were unbelievably cruel. Everything from attacking me about my ED to “all the lies I told”. She wanted nothing more to do with me and told me not to text her anymore. I fell apart.

Obviously, I didn’t go to Adelita’s. I had this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and was either on the verge of tears or crying like a baby every time I thought about her. I just got white lightning drunk and fell asleep. My deep love for her and all the wonderful plans we had kept flashing in my brain and setting me off crying again. I sobbed and sobbed. It was the worst night of my life.

The next morning I was greeted with a text message she sent at 2:37 AM telling me that she never wanted to see me again. That instantly turned on the faucets again and I was shaking like a leaf. Had I a gun I probably would have shot myself right there and then.

The day was spent in the kind of grief you have after someone you love dies. As much as I knew I had to focus on moving on, everything, and I mean everything, seemed beyond hopeless. Here I was in Mexico sharing all the dreams of an exciting future with the love of my life and in one moment it was all shattered. How could I possibly stay here when everywhere there were only memories of time spent with her? Would I ever be able to go out again? Why would I want to? I was out of my apartment at the end of the month and the only place I’d found was a very small less than great apartment. I had to sign a contract the following Monday; but why would I? It meant staying here with all the pain. What options did I have?

My first task was researching “death by insulin”. The previous night I was going to stagger to the pharmacy and get sleeping pills to put me out of my pain; but luckily, I guess, I got too drunk to walk. At one point I thought of swimming out in the lake far enough that I knew I couldn’t make it back; but, again, I couldn’t walk to the lake. The next I wondered what would happen if I just took too much of my insulin? Would I die in painful convulsions, frothing at the mouth, or would I just fall asleep? First I learned that diabetics are twice as likely to commit suicide. Comforting. Then it appears that the body has some sort of defence mechanism to counter the effects of too much insulin. After a couple of hours, it looked like the only way to fail is if someone gets you to the hospital in time. Given how nobody cares about me here anymore that’s not likely to happen. The trick will be to shoot myself up with needle after needle with no idea what it will take. I might just pass out and wake up later, much to my regret.

So why am I writing this? I hope people will better understand what I’ve been through and how it has completely destroyed me. I have no more confidence. I am a broken man. I have certainly lost my faith in love. I have lost interest in everything. I can’t face my friends knowing they just feel sorry for me and wonder what I did to deserve this? Everybody likes someone who is as happy as I was with her. No one wants to be with anyone in total misery. I have never felt more alone in my entire life. I have to ask myself if anyone on the planet really cares if I’m gone? I’ve always just wanted to donate my body to science or be set on fire, but being in Mexico I have no idea what will happen and truthfully don’t much care. I won’t be around to care.

I do feel bad for those who need to clean up after me. Get rid of me. Sell or donate my stuff. My good friend, Don, one of the only ones I have left, has agreed to deal with it. He might only have been trying to support me in my grief by agreeing to it, but he also gave me shit for thinking about ending it all. He said time heals all wounds, but this wound is just too deep. Sure, I’ve been in love before, or thought I was; but nothing ever compared to my love for her. It was total. It was pure. It made me so happy. I felt secure in her love. She made me feel incredible. She meant the world to me. I see no point in going on without her. None.

This may well be my final epistle for this lifetime. Who knows? My hosting for this personal site ends in June so it, like me, it will be gone. I hope that somehow my kids and my grand-kids get a chance to read what happened so maybe they understand. They know so little about me that probably they won’t, but at least I tried.

Yeah. Maybee it’s time for “Goodbye world!”. Who knows?

 

 

 

 

 

On losing touch with friends

During my life I’ve been very lucky to have made a number of friends. Because I’ve moved around a lot, from Toronto, Ontario to Streetsville, Ontario, to Brampton, Ontario to Kelowna, BC to Boquete, Panama, to Toronto, Ontario to London, Ontario to Cotacachi, Ecuador and finally to Belleville, Ontario I don’t have any lifelong friends, much as I wish I did. I still remember many of the friends I had as a kid and I often wonder what they’re up to all these years later.

Good friends are hard to find. One of those was one I met who worked for me decades ago. Our friendship was way passed boss – worker and we treasured each other on so many levels. I got a job offer and moved on and we lost touch with each other. I searched for her many times but I was using the wrong last name, her married name at the time. Then decades later out of the blue I get a message from her on Facebook and I was thrilled. She was now living in Saskatchewan, married again. After a couple of posts back and forth she asked me to call her. We spent hours just catching up on all the years we had been apart and reliving some of the great memories we shared together. The way we talked on the phone was like not a day had passed.

Around this time I was considering moving to Ecuador. My previous experience with Panama had certainly not been good and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to try again. I had followed a girl to London from Toronto and that had gone badly but I was still in London, the last place I ever thought I would live, almost five years later. I thought there just had to be more to life than this. She agreed, poetically stating that I was basically molding in London, waiting for a miracle to happen and my kids would reconnect with me after twenty years. She made two excellent points. One, I could die waiting and had no reason to think that I wouldn’t and, two, if I didn’t go to Ecuador wouldn’t I live to regret that? I agreed that I would, so off I went, but not after hours and hours of talking to her about it. I don’t know to this day if I would have had the courage to move on my own without her sage advice.

Well, if you follow me at all you know that Ecuador turned into a disaster, mostly because of things I could not control, such as the falling Canadian dollar. At one point I was getting really desperate financially and pretty depressed about how bad things were going. Naturally I reconnected with her and at first she felt bad that she had encouraged me to move to Ecuador, but I reassured her that it had nothing to do with her. Neither of us could have foreseen the things that happened. Her advice to go was right in the first place and nothing had changed. Not only did she reassure me that I would survive but she also sent me two hundred dollars that saved my butt, money I did not ask for and I doubted she could afford.

When it looked like I had no choice but to return to Canada I had no clue where I was going to go or how I was going to live. I only had two of my pensions because one had been cutoff after I was out of the country more than six months. I figured I would be homeless and waiting for winter to arrive. She said her son had a place that he was renovating north of Belleville and suggested that I might be able to help him given my years of experience. She made no promises but she put me in touch with her son. Not only did he agree to let me live in the house rent free but he also booked me on the VIA train from Toronto to Belleville in the VIP car using his points. I was also pretty well dead broke when I came back so he sent me two hundred dollars, again not asked for. When I arrived at the house he had put in a fridge and stove, washer and dryer, small appliances and stocked the place with food. This was all done for the sole reason that his mother said we were good friends.

Fast forward a coupe of months and there were some problems at the house, like no heat and I froze. Her son had asked me to move out and I was lost with nowhere to go. My fiancee in Ecuador had also just ended our relationship so I wasn’t going back to Ecuador. It was a dark time so I sent her a lengthy email pleading for more time at her son’s place and hoping that we could chat again because I again needed her advice on what to do. She didn’t answer me. I saw her on Facebook and asked if she was angry with me for some reason. When she didn’t even respond I knew she was really angry with me.

After I sent her the last of the money I owed her a year ago she sent me back a short response thanking me for the money. That was it. I figured something was up but didn’t want to press. Then when I hadn’t heard a word from her for months I sent her a long email explaining what I was thinking about with moving to Mexico. I asked for her valued opinion, again hoping that we could talk. A month later I asked if there was something I should know because I found it strange that she had not responded. I got a very terse email saying that she had a busy life and couldn’t just “drop everything”  to answer my email. I cried when I read that. I knew that I had lost the very best friend I had ever had and it broke my heart. I never felt so alone in my life. I really miss her.

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The second loss was a new friend, certainly nothing comparable to her. When I moved into the group home here in Belleville one of the tenants was a jovial guy and we kind of hit it off. There was never a topic that we couldn’t have a lively discussion about, but we basically kept to ourselves at the time. I think it was asking him if I could pay him to take me food shopping that started more of a friendship. Before long we were going to movies together, most of which we agreed upon after seeing the movie. We began using our two for one coupons to eat out at places like Harvey’s. He also liked to wander around shopping at the discount stores like Dollarama so we did that a lot. We started going to some of the provincial parks on the weekends to enjoy the warm weather. At Christmas we went to several of the events at the local churches.

Back in October, I believe, he moved into another unit here at the house and took on the role of facilitator. For some unknown reason he suddenly began throwing his weight around, posting nasty notes about things he was unhappy about. Back when I met him he was working at a local call centre, strangely enough the same company I had worked for in London, so we swapped a lot of war stories. Then he suddenly stopped going to work late last year. After several months he told me that he was on leave. At Christmas he said that he was going back to work in January, but that didn’t happen.

Around this time we were both looking at other places for when our time here was up. I suggested to him that we get a place together, preferably a house and that I wanted to winter in Mexico so he could rent my room to a student while I was gone. After much discussion he said that he was “95%” on the idea. I started looking at places and found one that I setup an appointment with on the following Sunday after confirming it with him.

The turning point in our relationship was a night we went to Harvey’s intending to go to see La La Land. His car broke down at Harvey’s so we never got to see the movie. Then he basically disappeared. His place was in darkness. The car was gone. No one knew where he was. After what had happened with John, a new tenant who left for the weekend and didn’t come back because he was killed in a car accident, we started to worry about him. I started sending him text message asking if he was okay but he didn’t respond, which made me even more concerned. I asked if the appointment to view the house on Sunday was still on and got a snarky response about my “attitude”. When no one knew where he was Sunday morning I texted him again and he just said to cancel the appointment if I wanted to. Again, no car so I don’t know how we were supposed to get there anyway.

A few more days pass with no word from him so now we wonder what to do if something happens at the house. I had a number for the President but I was told it was only for text messages. We have had a number of issues with burst pipes so I didn’t think texting was any good. I sent an email to the President expressing concern that no one knew where this guy was and asking what we were to do if there was an emergency. The next thing I know he comes over to the house and gets him out of the shower. I didn’t expect that reaction.

That night all hell broke loose. I was cooking my dinner when he came in and started screaming at me about the number to call. He said it was none of our business where his car was or what was going on. It was the most ignorant I have ever been treated in my whole life.  One of the other tenants was close by and he said he couldn’t believe the reaction for only being concerned that he was okay. That was the end of any relationship we had or might have had.

Too bad Adam and Eve weren’t white

There’s been a horrendous amount of hate being spread around the world, made all the worse by the election of Trump, with his ill-conceived and ill-thought out Executive Orders. The backlash in the world makes you wonder if anyone will admit to actually voting for him. He has hit the nerve on immigration, refugees and general intolerance of those who are “different”. Oh, wouldn’t it be a much more peaceful world if we were all the same, all descended from the original all white Adam and Eve, well, if that’s in fact what they were.

Although we Canadians are smug in admitting what we love diversity and we are proud that we are the melting pot society to be admired, that’s not quite true. Things have changed a lot and not necessarily for the better. Back in the day, yes, when I was a child, decades ago, we had a fair share of immigrants, mostly people from England, Germany and Italy. There was no problem with the British because other than having an accent they looked and acted pretty much like we did. Those from Germany sometimes kept a little to themselves, probably more a little hesitancy because of the war, but they also melted into Canadian society well. Then there’s the Italians. We accepted “little Italy” in places like Toronto and they were treated much like Chinatown, readily accepted into our society as well. But then things changed rather drastically as people from other countries started arriving.

Soon we started getting people from other countries like India, Pakistan, Middle Eastern countries, Korea and more and more Chinese and Japanese. Some readily adopted our culture, learned English and got jobs and contributed to our society. I don’t think we’ve ever had anything like the States has as far a black people were concerned. Many of my friends growing up were of colour and I didn’t treat them any different than anyone else. My very best friend was, in fact, German. His parents didn’t speak a word of English but we never had any problems getting along and he was just another kid on the block. No different.

This is where it all changed. A lot of those immigrants concentrated in certain neighborhoods where white people or anyone who wasn’t from their country were not welcome. Real Estate agents would tell people they didn’t want to move to that neighborhood because it was East Indian or something else with only people from a certain country, not Canada. Soon the commerce in the area started catering to the immigrant population, carrying foods traditional to their culture, which was no different than any other specialty store; but, then came the big change and one that was not welcome. The store signs that were previously in English and the foreign language were soon only in the foreign language. English was gone. I remember driving miles in area like Markham where I didn’t recognize a single sign. Wait! Isn’t this Canada? Aren’t our official languages English and French? How dare these foreigners suddenly turn our neighborhoods into something foreign to we Canadians. What happened to adopting our language and our culture? The attitude shifted from one of welcoming diversity to “if you don’t like my country then go home!”.

Before you knew it we were dealing with overt meddling with our culture and traditions. People wanted to wear turbans as RCMP officers. What? That’s not Canadian! Then we started having the gang violence in places like Toronto and Vancouver, importing the conflicts from their home country. Nothing to do with Canada. In places like Brampton, where I lived for many years, Anglo Saxon white people became the minority. Wherever I went, from shopping malls to the airport, I was clearly not the same as most of the people. I could have just as easily been in New Delhi.

As is the case with most of the problems in the world it’s all about religion or rather religious freedom. My parents were never what you would call religious fanatics, although they did take us to Sunday School and we did go once in a while to a United or Presbyterian church. We knew that there were Catholic churches around but that was mostly for Italians and those who were a lot more religious than we were. That was what we would have called “religious freedom”. Again though, it was never in anyone’s face so to speak. Observance of different religious holidays was okay, but we all celebrated Christmas, right? You never once thought anything about wishing anyone a Merry Christmas. That you might be offending anyone? Not a chance.

Back then if you had asked me what a Muslim was I wouldn’t have had a clue. The Koran? Again, never heard of it. Islam? Not likely. For me it was simple. You had people who were religious and went to church on Sunday and you had people who might have been religious in that they believed in God, but they rarely went to church. So be it.

Soon you had more mosques than churches. These were fanatically religious people who looked a lot different than me and they got down and prayed to someone called Allah five times a day! Holy cow! Were they at all like the Canadians I had grown up with? No way! They were changing Canada to be just like where they came from. That I didn’t like. It was as if everything I cherished about being Canadian wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted to force their culture on us and change everything about Canada. Soon they were running for office just to gain acceptance for the changes they wanted.

I do not consider myself racist in the meaning of the word, which, from the Urban Dictionary, is “a label given to a person, or group of people who hate/dislike those who belong to a different race. This typically applies to hatred based on skin-colour.” No, I do not have any negative impressions of people based on their race or skin colour. I treat everyone the same. What I do object to is someone, anyone of any race, creed or colour, who doesn’t like the way we do things here in Canada and wants to change it to be like the country they came from. Hey, if you find so much wrong with our country then don’t come!

 

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 that have happened to me many people have said that I am just too trusting. Although that may well be true I think trust is an interesting issue. I have always believed that trust must be earned, but the other aspect of this is do you not trust new situations because of someone else’s abuse of your trust? For me this usually revolves around money and to me it’s simple. If you ask to borrow twenty dollars do I refuse because of the people who previously never paid me back? Is that fair to you to punish you for the actions of others? I don’t think so. You earn my trust by paying me back because that means I will always lend you money if I can. Burn me once and, no, you will never get to burn me twice. I’ve learned that you can’t be trusted.

It also depends on the circumstances and whether or not it was intentional. For example, a good friend of mine, who at the time was very drunk at the Corral, asked to borrow twenty dollars, obviously to buy even more alcohol that she didn’t need. If I refused based on how drunk she was then I am passing judgement on her which is not my place. I gave her the twenty dollars hoping that she would use it for a taxi ride home, which she did. What she forgot was who gave her the money to take the cab. She never paid me back.

Another time my very best buddy asked to borrow fifty dollars because he had to go to a hospital in Vancouver to check out problems he was having with his heart. I was worried I might not ever see him again so obviously I gave him the money. Thankfully he returned to Kelowna and he was fine, but he never paid me back either. Do you hold something as small as fifty dollars against a friendship of years? No. Again, based on these kinds of experiences do you then refuse to lend any money to other people? I don’t believe that’s fair. Everyone deserves a chance to either earn your trust or lose it.

When I questioned my in-laws somewhat strained relationship with my mother’s sister and her husband I learned that they had loaned them nine thousand dollars for some project and had never been repaid. I wondered how they could ever socialize without this subject coming up but that was their decision and they had to live with it. They’re all gone now so hopefully they aren’t arguing about it in heaven.

Sometimes it doesn’t directly involve lending or borrowing money. It’s more a case of morality. When we were ready to sell our first house we contacted a Realtor at what was then Canada Trust, a company my father had worked with for years before. We weren’t thrilled with his performance on marketing or showing our home and figured we would not renew the contract with him. Just before the listing was about to expire he approached us to buy the property himself, excluding his company in the process. I asked him what would happen if his company found out the property was sold and we didn’t pay them their commission and he told me not to worry about it. I did worry and refused to accept the deal. I also wrote to the manager of the company telling him what had happened. Sometime later this guy was charged with fraud and lost his license. Good thing he didn’t take me down with him.

As I grew older I learned to trust people a lot less and ask more questions. I guess I should have included family in that. My brother from BC showed up at our door one day, needing a place to stay. We happened to have an extra bedroom downstairs so we let him stay with us, much to my ex-wife’s chagrin. He started having questionable women stay overnight, which was hard to explain to our kids. After a couple of months living on our dime I suggested he needed to get a job if he was going to stay in Brampton. He did find a job, surprisingly at his age, but he needed transportation to get there. Again much against my ex-wife’s wishes I cosigned for a loan for a motorcycle for him. Sixteen hundred dollars. No sooner had he supposedly gone to work for a couple of days then he took off back to BC, taking the motorcycle and sticking me with the loan. We had borrowed the money from our local bank, who also held our mortgage, so there was no question that we had to repay the loan. Thanks bro!

My twenty-three year marriage was never great for many reasons. More than once we talked about splitting up but I could never do it because of the kids, which was another huge mistake on my part. I should have left long ago, like maybe a year into it. Any time the subject came up, usually in an argument, my ex always agreed that it would be a fifty/fifty split. I was never overly thrilled by this because she had never lifted a finger to help in any way with all the renovations I did on all of our houses. I had single-handedly increased our original one hundred dollar investment in our first home to around a hundred thousand dollars, all by extensive renovations and smart buying and selling. After I had finally had enough and moved out I still paid for everything for the house for almost a year because my ex chose to sit on her ass not even looking for a job. When I had asked her about her employment insurance she said she still had the reporting card in her purse, SIX MONTHS after she left her job. I was done being abused.

When she finally realized I was serious and not coming home she suddenly changed her tune. No more fifty/fifty. Now because she knew I hated lawyers and would never waste money on them she played the guilt card. She needed the money to “support our daughter”. After a lot of back and forth, none of it good, I got to keep my last paycheque and she got everything else. Not only did she get all the money I had earned over the years she also took all of my Rosemond prints that I had been collecting for twenty years and she took the thirty-five Charlie Brown books I had also collected. She had never even opened one and never understood the humor anyway. So much for trust, even with someone you’ve been married to for twenty-three years!

Okay, so now I’m finally free. I can think only of myself and my kids. My dear mother had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given less than six months to live. Her and my Dad had moved out west in 1970 and I hadn’t seen them very much in more than twenty years. I decided that I had to spend whatever time she had left with her so I went out west in 1993. Along with my clothes and a few things I took my very expensive DJ system thinking that I might be able to setup a DJ service in Kelowna. I had made hundreds of tapes, yes, tapes, of every kind of music imaginable so it was an idea. When it turned out that I needed the money more than the equipment I talked to a guy who owned a music store, Musicplex, in Bolton, Ontario. I think he had sold me the tower speakers or the mixing board. Don’t remember. He said he would sell it for me for three thousand dollars with a ten percent commission which sounded reasonable. I also missed my daughter and wanted to see her so I called her and she was excited to be going to see me. So in the middle of January, in the depth of winter, off I go travelling across the country taking my life in my hands. It was no fun.

After I dropped the system in Bolton I went to Brampton to see my daughter. I never saw her but that’s another story not really related to the trust issue. The gist of the story here is that the bugger sold my system and never paid me a dime. So much for that trust issue.

There were certainly trust issues in my fourteen years spent in the Okanagan. Some small. Some large. One that comes to mind is about family again, my sister. After my Dad passed away in May of 2005 I was the only one who volunteered to care for mum who had advanced Alzheimer’s and could not be left alone. Caring for her was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. It was not made any easier by my brother and sister being completely useless at helping me. Neither of them ever understood what caring for someone with this disease is like.

The only break I ever got was when her caregiver would come for four hours during the week. This allowed me to go shopping for food and run any errands, but it never gave me my own life back. The only time I ever left mum alone was to go and do some paid work for a friend. A neighbor called me saying that she found mum wandering around the neighborhood without a coat on looking for me. I rushed home and found the front door wide open.

So Christmas was approaching and I knew this was going to be tough for mum without Dad. I had also been invited by my then girlfriend, Sylvie, to spend Christmas with her. My sister said they needed to celebrate Christmas a day ahead of the twenty-fifth, which I wasn’t crazy about, but I went along with her knowing that I was going to get away for a few days, something I desperately needed to do. They actually showed up a day even earlier than planned and informed me we were doing our gifts now. When I asked why she said they had to get up early the next morning because they were going to Vegas for a week! So much for my planned break from caring for mum. Did I trust anything my sister said after that? Not a chance. She made things even worse when she took mum out of a care facility I had taken me nine months to get her into and put her in an assisted living place in Revelstoke. She drove them nuts there because they were not equipped to handle someone like mum. At one point she was found wandering around Revelstoke with no coat on. Luckily someone knew she was my sister’s mum and took her to her store.

The next one doesn’t involve trusting a person per say but more trusting that something will go as planned. When I moved to Panama I sold most of my things, like tools and furniture, but I was left with a lot of personal things, five bins full, in fact, that I didn’t want to part with. I left them with a good buddy, thinking that I would have them shipped when I got settled in Panama. A couple of months later my buddy phones me to tell me that his mother’s place had been broken into and all my stuff was gone, most of it not replaceable.

When I made the plan to go to Panama, partly because I had not been able to sell my house, I offered to let my former electrician stay in my place for just the pad rent. He and his wife had split so he needed a place to stay. Before I left I made a point of warning him about the roof. Although I had reinforced it wherever I could and put on a new coating to waterproof it better, it was a roof on a mobile which can’t handle a heavy snow load. My Dad had shoveled the snow off their mobile’s roof for thirty-five years. Sure enough my buddy calls me to tell me that this guy had paid no attention to the roof and it had caved in under a heavy snow load. It would cost at least twenty thousand dollars to replace it.  So much for trusting him.

In doing my research about Panama I had made contact with a very attractive girl who offered to help me with relocating to Boquete. After a couple of weeks talking to her online she said that her mum and dad owned a small house that might be good for me. She said she would talk to them to get me a good rental rate. She came back at three hundred dollars which I thought was good based on the photos I had seen of the place. I sent her the three hundred US dollars to hold the place for the day I arrived. Big mistake!

After a harrowing trip only because my first plan was to drive but they wouldn’t let me in at the border so I had to go back home, sell my car and get a flight to Panama instead, I landed in Boquete. I met up with her and went to the house, which turned out to be a disaster. It didn’t have a fridge which she knew I needed because of my insulin, so I had to spend three hundred bucks to get a fridge. Then there’s no hot water, which I also told her I needed. I had to buy an instant on hot water heater and pay to have it installed, all on my nickel. Then I came home to find the house in darkness, the only one on the street. I learned that not only am I supposed to pay the electric, which was supposed to be included in the rent, but I am to pay for the previous tenant’s bill! I also learn from a neighbor that the previous tenant was paying one hundred and twenty-five dollars rent, not three hundred! So much for trust.

Why was I forced to come back to Canada? Well, here’s a trust lesson for you. I’ve gone into great detail on how I was ripped off by a girl who worked for me and for whose family I gave shelter to so that they wouldn’t be homeless, so I won’t go over it all again. Save to say that she ripped me off for my brand new cell phone, my brand new camera, all the things that belonged in the penthouse I had let them stay in, told the police that I was in the country illegally, that I was a drug dealer and that I had raped her, all of which came far too close to me spending the rest of my life in a Panamanian prison.

The next trust issue was in a relationship. I have always felt that the two most important factors in a good relationship are respect and trust. Without those you have nothing. I am the first to admit that I am a hopeless romantic so I am often less cautious than I should be. I also believe in love at first sight which can be even more dangerous.

While I was staying at my cousin’s place in Toronto I met a girl on an internet site. We ended up talking for hours on end, even at one point for the whole day while she was at work and her boss was away. She was married but very unhappily, in fact she had left him for several months earlier but gone back which she regretted. She wanted to meet so she came to Toronto. For me it was love at first sight. No question. She was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I ended up moving to London to be with her.

Long story but it was a challenging relationship. Although I had eventually met her daughter, Emily, who I loved like my own, she didn’t want me to meet her older son and daughter, which I always had trouble with. Something wasn’t right. Finally she lied to me about going to visit a niece in Toronto when she had actually flown to Ottawa to spend the week-end with yet another guy she had met on the internet. Broke my heart. I swore I would never trust another woman, certainly not with my heart.

On to the whole Ecuador thing. Although I did a ton of research before making the decision to go, the biggest factor was the advice of my dear friend, Heather. We talked for hours about all the pros and cons and it basically came down to her saying I was basically “molding” in London, waiting for my kids to change their opinions and contact me, which might never happen, or just to die. She said if I didn’t go I might spend the rest of my life regretting not going, which was very true. So off I went.

There were enough trust issues in Ecuador to fill a book, not one of them good. The first was meeting Anna on the internet and believing that she was going to work for me on my websites. Let’s just leave it that it was a disaster. Next was my landlady on the cabin I rented. Originally I had only booked it for a week until I found an apartment, but it was nice and I wanted to stay longer. I brought in Anna to translate and hammered out an agreement for rent that included morning coffee, meals, utilities ( including DirecTV) and firewood. At one point she asked me to prepay two month’s rent because “they needed the money”. I wasn’t cray about that so I paid a month in advance. Long story short, again, the coffee was sporadic, the meals were pathetic (they mostly ate the food I bought), no DirecTV, horrible internet and they let all the other guests use the firewood load that I bought.

Things were not working out and after the panic trip to the hospital she asked me to move out. I totaled up my prepaid rent, the two bottles of rum they had drank on me and the firewood they had let everyone else use, total two hundred dollars. She said they would pay me the day I moved out. The taxi was loaded with all my stuff on my way to Cotacachi and I asked her for my money. She said she hadn’t been to the bank yet. I offered to give her a ride on our way. Now she said they were waiting for a check but assured me that she would bring my money the following Monday to Cotacachi. Despite unbelievable efforts I still have no money from her. Burned.

Then there was my “driver”, a friend of Anna’s, who had picked me up at the airport in Quito. He agreed to do my shopping runs to Ibarra for the big supermarket. On one of our trips I asked him to stop at the bank first and I took our three hundred dollars, not knowing what I might need to pay for in cash. I did spend some of the cash. I figured about eighty dollars but I put my food shopping on my debit card. When I got home I checked my wallet and discovered I only had twenty dollars. He had stolen two hundred dollars from my messenger bag while I went outside the van for a smoke. This from a guy I had paid handsomely for the trip from the airport and other trips around town. Nice!

Next was my lovely “facilitator”, a person who helps you with your visa applications, who came recommended by a group called Visa Angels. She was no angel. After following her recommendation to travel to the other end of the country to file my application in Guayaquil and paying her handsomely for it, she said she need the three hundred and fifty dollar fee for the government, which I sent her. Then things fell apart on me with getting my meds so I had to cancel my application. I explained it to her and asked for my deposit back. She kept it inventing some lame ass story that she had made more trips for me, even though she had done nothing. I went to the police but they said I gave it to her willingly so there had been no crime. Nice!

In Cotacachi there were a number of little trust issues, but the biggest was with who ended up for a time being my fiancee. When I first met her it was love at first sight for me, no question. I asked for her phone number and she put it in my phone as Patricia Esposa, which means “wife”. We had a whirlwind romance, at my expense of course, but I was already planning to return to Canada because I could not afford to stay in Ecuador. I left planning to return as soon as I could to marry her. It was tough trying to maintain the relationship at a distance, especially with the language issue, but we tried. She was struggling and so was I because I had not yet started receiving my other pension. She had found a new apartment she called our “love nest” and was busy decorating it for us. It seemed that every month she had something she needed money for, like she couldn’t pay the rent or the electric bill, so I sent her whatever I could even if it meant I was eating at the Salvation Army kitchen because I had no money for food.

At one point I sent her a hundred dollars American to repay my good friend, Dutch, money that he had loaned me. She said she desperately needed it and would talk to him to pay him later, a little at a time. She never talked to him. We had also started a crowd funding campaign to get me back to marry her and a friend had graciously donated fifty dollars. It was in my savings account that I told her we couldn’t touch because we would need to give the money back if we weren’t successful. She took it out anyway. In the end when everything fell apart and we were no longer engaged she had taken me for six hundred and fifty dollars American, something I could not afford. Nice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will Trump mean for Mexico?

More than half the voters in America voted against Trump for President and he has done little to appease his dissenters. The world is watching to see if his rhetoric becomes reality or if he missteps his way into obscurity.

One country that has to be particularly concerned is Mexico. One of the benefits could well be a surge in Real Estate values, both because of Mexicans moving back, no doubt some of them illegal and fearing deportation under Trump’s new immigration policy, and Americans who have long been threatening to leave the US if Trump was elected. Anyone considering Mexico as a retirement destination may well update their timing to get out while the getting is good.

On the downside Trump’s threats to tear up NAFTA threatens the economy of Mexico. No question that NAFTA benefited Mexico big time with all the new manufacturing and good jobs, like with the auto industry. If Trump intends to make America great again by restoring auto industry jobs back to Detroit with the loss of those jobs in Mexico that could spell serious trouble for Mexico. The peso is already at its lowest level and could fall even further if Trump tears up NAFTA.

Mexico is already reporting an uptick in Real Estate activity so people are already reacting to the election. No one knows for sure what any of Trump’s policies are in detail because he’s never explained a thing. Do the idle threats become reality or not? People are betting their future on what they believe will happen without knowing anything factual. Trump has stated a long list of priorities for his government but what comes first and will congress let him have his way? He’s big on getting rid of Obamacare, having signed an Executive Order his first minutes in the Oval Office. If he holds true to his promises to destroy LGBT rights, minority rights, pensioner security and even women’s rights no doubt lots of people will look for greener pastures. Will this mean Mexico? Time will tell.

 

Decisions, decisions….good and bad. Really bad!

decisions_06Life is full of decisions, little ones like what to wear today or what to eat for breakfast, and big ones like buying a house or getting married or having another child. In my life I’ve had to make all those decisions and many more. I’ve learned that there are two basic things about making decisions. One, no matter how hard you try to think of all the good and bad points of a decision you can’t think of all the unforeseen things that can go terribly wrong and, two, every decision, good or bad, has consequences. I’ve learned of those the hard way.

When we are born and continuing through those early years most of our decisions are made by others, usually our parents. What to wear. What to eat. What school to go to. Soon we start to make our own decisions, like what to wear, often poorly done and what to eat for breakfast, also poorly done when chocolate cake comes first. One of our first major decisions is who will become our friends. During those formative years we are all naive and think that the friends we make will be for a lifetime. It’s the same with our first love. When I met Roxanne Rollings in Churchville I believed that we would get married and live happily ever after. Little did I know.

decisions_01Sometimes we are just the victim of circumstances, for example, when I was only twelve my parents decided to move out of Toronto to the middle of nowhere, to a farm in the country north of Streetsville. I went from being able to ride my bike almost anywhere, or taking buses and streetcars to wherever I wanted to go and never getting home before dark, to being so isolated, miles from anyone. Even when I met some friends at public school in Churchville I could never see them or do anything after school because it was literally a five mile walk. My father and mother both worked so they were seldom available or were just too tired to drive me anywhere or pick me up. Once in a blue moon, usually because of Roxanne, I did do the major bike trip to Churchville. Soon I moved on to the high school in Streetsville, which was even further away, too far to even think about biking. My teen years were basically spent with my brother and sister, who I also cared for because my Mum worked so I cooked dinner every night.

As we get older and start having that burning desire to control our own destiny this is difficult for our parents to handle. They don’t want to let go and they rarely agree with your decisions, but they also know that the only way you will learn is by making mistakes so they have to trust you at some point. My first issue was joining the band. It quickly became the only thing I cared about and nothing else, like my schoolwork, really mattered. I didn’t have any dreams of becoming famous but I loved every minute of playing in the band. Back then I had no idea that it was going to be such a major part of my life for the next ten years. Like most kids I wanted money and a car, especially after all those years of being stranded. I decided to go on a split program with high school, taking half my subjects one year and the other half the next year. That didn’t work out as planned. I got a job delivering newspapers to carriers around Mississauga and Streetsville. It was hard work but I loved getting my first paycheques. At one point as the driver rounded a curve a little fast I fell off, sliding maybe thirty feet on the pavement. What saved me was the fact that it had been raining so hard and the road was very wet. I got away with no road rash but it scared the crap out of me.

decisions_03Once I had decided that continuing in school wasn’t going to work for me my mother suggested I apply at the bank where she worked. I had no desire to get into banking but the thought of a regular full-time paycheque was attractive, even at fifty dollars a week, a fortune way back then. This led to my next major decision – a car. I happened to see an ad for an MGB that sounded perfect. I loved the idea of driving a sports car and paid no attention to the fact I wouldn’t be able to drive it in the winter without killing myself. Turned out this rich guy had gotten it from his parents as a graduation gift and he wanted to go on a trip to the Caribbean and needed the money. He had no clue what it was worth and was asking an absurdly low price. I was driving my mother’s car to get to him in Toronto and to my considerable surprise he said I could leave her car with him and take the MGB. I was in total heaven driving that car and took the very, very long way home. I was only eighteen or so at the time so I couldn’t sign for my own loan. I needed my Dad to cosign. To this day I have never forgiven him for refusing to cosign the loan for the best car I could have ever had, well, until the winter at least. Dad made it all the worse by bringing home a horrible Vauxhall Viva that he paid a hundred dollars for, which was ninety-nine dollars too much. It was a car though, bad as it was, and I remember painting the dash flat black for some unknown reason that made sense at the time. Shortly after a drunk hit me on Queen Street in Brampton and totaled the car, almost totaling me as well. That led to another major decision when I decided to buy my first new car, an Austin Mini.

Getting the new car led to one of my first really stupid decisions. At the time I was working at a branch in Weston, one of the nine I ended up working at during my short career with Toronto-Dominion, and worked with Steven Vass. I’m not sure how we started talking about car rallies but I soon signed us up for the Skylon rally, having no clue what this rally actually meant. The rally was just over a week away so my dealer told me to put a thousand kilometres on the engine so that it could be tuned before we went on the rally. Not only did I drive the long way home but I went touring just about everywhere to put the mileage on. After they serviced the engine off we went to the rally. When we got to the start we learned that this was one of the national rallies in the country and it would be challenging. The other drivers were all chuckling at us when they saw my car. They were all sponsored and had thousands of dollars of extras in their cars. They also had crews that would service their vehicles on the route. We had nothing. First we had to have a safety check which did not go well. The official gave us a long list of things we needed to be able to enter the rally, like fire extinguishers, map lights, on and on, so off we went to Canadian Tire to buy everything we needed. We passed the safety, although it was very clear that we didn’t stand a chance to finish the rally. At every pit-stop we got our time, which was always way behind, and instructions for the next leg. They were different for each leg and obviously the professional drivers understood what they meant. We didn’t but the drivers and pit-stop crews were very helpful. Just one example was they gave you a map with all the exact distances between roads. You were to take whatever roads were not shown on the map. This was a twenty-four hour rally, which even with two drivers, is tough. We finally pulled into Niagara Falls, hours late, but we made it. We were welcomed with cheers from the other drivers who couldn’t believe that we had actually done the whole course. We learned that more than a hundred drivers had failed to make it, many of them pros. Quite the experience.

Sometime in this period I met my soon to be wife. I was at a party with my then girlfriend, Bev, when Janice walked down the stairs with her friend Lynn, who had just finished warning her that I was a sucker for blondes. As soon as I saw her I left Bev and approached Janice, asking her to marry me. It said a lot that she told me to “f” off. I kept insisting that we were going to marry and wouldn’t leave her alone. I soon learned that she had been going with this guy, Doug, for three years. He turned out to be an asshole and he wasn’t pleased that I was out with his girl. As I drove her home one night he came screaming up, jumped out of his muscle car and started yelling at Janice. Her mother soon came out of the house to see what all the noise was about. That was the minute that Doug made the very stupid decision to spit in Janice’s face. Her mother went ballistic and told him never to come around again and that basically ended their relationship. Despite how our marriage turned out I still believe that she would have been miserable with him.

decisions_07Sometimes you get to consider all the facts to make a decision. Sometimes the decision is basically made for you. That’s what happened with Janice and I. I never doubted that we were going to get married but I didn’t have any details and we never discussed it, mostly because she was only fifteen at the time. We did love each other deeply and we were soon on dangerous ground physically. We were at my parent’s place which they had rented when they moved out west, but the tenants had moved out so no one was there and we ended up in the bed in the master bedroom. Well, no surprise what happened next, but we had no protection. Stupid! Really stupid! It wasn’t long before she was pregnant which back then was the kiss of death, so we got married August 16th, 1969 and Chris was born March 27th, 1970. Sure, we made the decision to get married but was there any real choice? Neither of us even talked about abortion. Her parents were devastated but they never questioned if we should get married. It was the only choice.

Here I should also touch on another one of those times where decisions are basically made by other people or circumstances. My parents had traveled out west on a vacation and when they returned they had decided to move. They put the house up for sale and started planning to move. I was working at the bank at the time and had no clue about living out west where they were going, but I also didn’t like the idea that my family was leaving me alone. No doubt we would have had a deep discussion about what I could do for work out west, but it never happened because they could not sell the house. Winter was approaching so they decided that they would stay until spring when they would put the place up for sale again. Fate stepped in because then I met Janice. Any thoughts of moving with my family went out the window. Then she got pregnant. We got married then my parents rented their place and left for the west. It was the start of some very tough years because when Chris was born I had no family there to share my joy.

My first trip out to see them was in 1972. They were living in a rented house on Marshall Street in Kelowna. My Dad was working at Western Star in the factory, which was quite the shock because he had been a real estate broker back in Streetsville. He showed me their truck which had a camper, where I slept actually and their big boat that he was working on. It was a former tugboat on the coast and had been owned by a scuba diving club. It had two massive V-8 engines that he was rebuilding. My mother had gotten a job at the Bank of Nova Scotia pretty well the day they arrived in Kelowna. Looking back I wish I had paid a lot more attention to how their lives had changed and how happy they were. The old “live to work or work to live” adage. Dad said he loved getting off work at three-thirty, forgetting about work and going off to have fun. He had really changed from the workaholic he was before, something that I was well on my way to becoming. I went back home beginning to question what I was doing with my life, but I had a wife and a new young son, so what choices did I have?

From day one my marriage was abysmal. My Dad had got us a motel room for our wedding night. We were leaving for Cape Cod the next morning for our honeymoon. That night was certainly not what I had pictured for my wedding night. Janice would not even let me touch her. All I remember was sitting on the floor at the foot of the bed wondering what I had gotten myself into. The honeymoon wasn’t much better. There was no romance and she started getting morning sickness. I felt she had brought it on herself so that she didn’t have to make love to me. Little did I know or even dream that this was going to be the way our future was. Not what a hopeless romantic, which I am, needs.

The next major decision was buying our first house. Before I got married my buddy Russ and I lived in a very small apartment in a house on Main Street in Brampton which my father owned. I remember we had a TV and two lawn chairs. I don’t even remember where we slept. After I got married of course Russ moved out and Janice moved in. Soon we also had a baby to take care of and the apartment felt even smaller. One of the tenants in the main part of the house moved out so Dad suggested that we move in, which we did. I think we went from paying ninety dollars a month to a hundred and fifty a month. Dad has some major challenges with their house in Streetsville. The people who had rented it had not paid the rent for several months and then moved out, leaving no oil for the furnace in the dead of winter, so the pipes froze and burst. It was very frustrating for my Dad to handle being on the other side of the country so he just wanted out of it, including the place we lived in. He suggested that we buy it. Being only twenty I had no idea if I would be able to get a mortgage or where I would come up with the down payment. My own bank wouldn’t help me, as would no other bank or credit union. I finally managed to get private mortgage financing, a first mortgage and a second mortgage, both at much higher rates and we had to pay finder’s fees on both, which were rolled into the mortgages. We paid Dad’s asking price of nineteen thousand dollars, with a whopping hundred dollars down.

Living there was okay, but it was a challenge sharing a bathroom with the bachelor apartment, especially with a baby. I had done some work on the place, like refinishing the floors in our apartment and replacing the lead drainage pipe in the kitchen. We started looking for a place of our own and our agent, Andy Anderson, found a place on Fairglen Drive in Brampton. He said it was really rough but they had been trying to sell for months and they had just reduced their price a lot. I convinced Janice to at least take a look at it, but as soon as Andy opened the front door, the smell and the heat knocked us back. I thought Janice was going to refuse to step any further. That it was “rough” was an understatement. There were rugs nailed down to the floor in the hallways, which also smelled of urine from the animals. The living room was the ugliest black velvet wallpaper I had ever seen. The bathroom was half renovated with the sink propped up on two by fours. All the bedroom doors looked like they had locks that had been broken off so at one point it must have been a rooming house. The exterior had army green siding and the foundation had been painted bright purple. It was some ugly! Although it had a very large backyard, it backed onto the railway tracks which was a mainline. When a train went by you couldn’t hear a thing. Janice wanted no part of it but I convinced her that we could renovate and make some money so we put in an offer and we got it – cheap. I did a lot of work over the years we were there. I think we bought it for something like $42,500 and we sold for something around $59,000.

The next decision that was made, greatly affecting my life, but not one I was allowed to make, was when Janice learned she was pregnant again. She simply told me that her and her mother were going to a hospital in Toronto for her to have an abortion and that I had nothing to do with it. I was incensed that we weren’t even going to discuss it, insisting that I had a legal right to be involved in this decision. She didn’t give a damn. When I think what has happened with my kids I always wonder what this other child would have been like with me, but I’ll never know.

 

We ended up buying or renting houses until the last one before we split. At every one of them I busted my butt doing renovations, all of which earned us more and more money, growing our original one hundred dollar investment. The last one was what had been the builder’s home on Mara Crescent. It had a lot of upgrades, like a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, ceramic tiles, upgraded cabinets, french doors and a very large deck out back. I did a lot of landscaping, front and back, turned one of the bedrooms into an office with all tongue and groove paneling, added a door between the kitchen and the garage, built all kinds of shelves and a workbench in the garage and did a whole lot of decorating. Of course, as with all of our houses over the years, Janice never so much as picked up a paint brush. I did everything. When we bought the place it was a somewhat unusual deal. The owners wanted to build a home in Caledon so they wanted as long a closing as they could get, so we gave them six months which helped us to get the deal. We had sold our townhouse for the highest amount ever in that neighborhood and the buyers had no problem with the long closing. The old “buy low, sell high” saved our bacon on the last place. We bought at around $179,000 and by the time we moved in the same home, without all the upgrades, was going for $221,000, in fact, that’s what our next door neighbors paid. After a year apart and paying all her bills I had had enough so we put the place up for sale. We got $189,900, a large drop from what they were before the crash, but we still didn’t lose anything on it because of what we had paid.

For all the years we were married my wife had always said if we split everything would be fifty/fifty. I always wondered about that because every cent we had earned on the houses we had owned was exclusively from my work. She never did a thing. But I also hated lawyers so I knew I wouldn’t challenge the fifty/fifty split. Suddenly when we sold the house, in which we now had about a hundred thousand dollars of equity, plus I had paid every mortgage payment on any houses we owned, she decided that she needed more to “support our daughter”. Remember that she had sat on her ass for the last two years, not even looking for a job, so I had paid for everything plus I had done all the work. Regardless, she knew I would never agree to go to lawyers so she milked that to the hilt. I basically took my last cheque from my last client and gave her the rest. She got about ninety-five percent of everything plus things like Heather’s IKEA furniture which had cost some three thousand dollars. She also took all of my Rosemond prints and even my thirty-five Charlie Brown books, something she had never even looked at. I was just happy to be done with it all.

The next major decision involved my mother. In 1991 she had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given a less than five percent chance of living more than six months. It was devastating news to the family. I had been apart from my parents for more than twenty years. My marriage was over. I found myself making appointments to see my kids. I was living in Markham where I didn’t want to be. My work with my last client was coming to an end after six months. I made the difficult decision to move out west to be with my mother for whatever time she had left.  I just wanted to spend as much time with her as possible and wasn’t really thinking beyond that. My parents came down with me, helped me sell some of my stuff and traveled back to BC with me, arriving in July of 1993. For some seventeen years they had been going south to Yuma for the winter, sometimes renting their place out while they were gone. We really didn’t know if Mum would be okay to travel that October but she insisted she was. It was the last year they went because now that Mum had been diagnosed with cancer the health insurance was absurd, I think more than three thousand dollars just for her. After all the stress with Mum and moving the day they left for Yuma was one of the best days I’ve ever had. They left early in the morning. I was still in my pajamas. Had my coffee in my hand and sat down in Dad’s chair and for the first time in my life didn’t give a damn about anyone but me. I think it was the very first time I finally believed that my life was now up to me. No more doing everything for everybody else. It was wonderful.

Although things were fairly good it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I had to find work pretty quick. My very expensive custom van sat in the driveway just waiting for the day they would come and get it because I could not afford the eight hundred dollar payments every month now. That lead to an almost fatal decision in January to drive to Ontario despite it being the dead of winter. I had a very expensive DJ system that I needed to sell and a guy in Bolton who owned a music store said he would sell it for me. I also really wanted to see the kids so off I went. I had talked to Heather to tell her I was coming down to see her. I knew that it was only a matter of time with the van so I might as well use it while I could. The drive was a disaster and I’ve covered it elsewhere so I won’t go into all the details again but I almost didn’t survive the trip. After all that after I dropped the system off in Bolton I couldn’t find my daughter. I learned that they had hidden Heather away and were not going to let me see her. I ended up staying with my son for three weeks, hoping I would get to see her but nothing changed and I drove home through the tears. That was over twenty years ago and I have not seen or spoken to her since. I miss her every single day. On top of everything else the idiot in Bolton sold my three thousand dollar system and ripped me off for every dime.

I ended up staying in the Okanagan for fourteen years, most of it while my mother was amazingly still with us. She sure beat the odds. As I said earlier, sometimes you get to make your own decisions and sometimes they are made for you. That was the case when my Dad passed away in May of 2005. My mother had advanced Alzheimer’s and could not be left alone. My brother and sister never offered so I had no choice but to move in to care for my Mum, what turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I really had no choice other than to give up any thought of having my own life until she was gone. Through a number of incredibly dumb decisions by my sister my mother got a lot worse and finally died in late 2007. I was so angry with my sister that I could not go to my Mum’s remembrance ceremony because I wanted to kill my sister. We have not spoken since.

After I had sold their place and gotten Mum into proper care I took over the mortgage on a manufactured home that was a disaster. I worked day and night, seven days a week, completely gutting it, redesigning the layout and rebuilding everything. When I was close to finished I talked to a few Realtors, all of whom said it was the nicest one anywhere and that it would fetch a really good price. Then disaster struck. The day before I was to list it one of the local Indian Chiefs came out in the local paper saying that anyone who bought a manufactured home on native land was “stupid”. He said that the ridiculous prices that they were selling for was only because of Realtor’s greed. He reminded everyone that there was no tenancy on any of the parks so they could be redeveloped and everyone thrown out with nothing. Overnight the market crashed. No Realtor would touch it for fear of being sued. No lawyer would touch it. Even the private mortgage I had arranged just in case I couldn’t sell fell through. I was screwed. I owed money to people like Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Home Hardware and I had borrowed ten thousand dollars from my friend Crystal’s parents, who saved my ass because I had no money to finish the place. With no possible sale, no mortgage to pay the bills and no way to survive now the stress was literally killing me. My doctor told me to find a way to get out from under all this stress or I would die. I was diabetic and stress kills.

After much thought and research I decided to go to Panama. I transferred the ownership of the place to my friend, Wade, to try to protect it from being seized by a creditor. My electrician had just broken up with his wife so I offered him a place to stay. After I decided to go to Panama I asked him if he wanted to rent the place by just paying the pad rent of three hundred and fifty dollars a month and he agreed. One thing I did warn him about was the roof. Although I had reinforced it wherever I could and coated it with a new material to stop leaks I told him that these roofs cannot take any snow load, especially if it is melting and getting heavy. I told him to keep an eye on it and clear it off of any snow buildup, as my father had done for thirty-five years with their place. I get a call in Panama from Wade telling me that the jerk had never touched the roof and it had caved in. He estimated it would cost about twenty thousand dollars to replace the roof, which obviously I didn’t have. He ended up selling it to a young guy who was going to fix the roof himself. He was borrowing money from his parents and he needed me to take back a five thousand dollar mortgage which I really didn’t want to do because I was selling it to him for less than half what I would have gotten before the crash. I didn’t have a lot of choice though so I accepted it. Of course a few months later Wade phoned to tell me that the guy couldn’t pay the five thousand so I lost that on top of everything else.

Panama was my first experience in a foreign country. As much as I had done months of research before I left it still doesn’t really prepare you because it rarely talks about the bad stuff. I had decided on Boquete in the mountains, partly for the climate and how much it looked like BC.  I was developing a number of city portals for Panama and had registered domains for most major cities. The sites had many local features, such as classifieds and local photos but one of the strong points was local news. I knew that my limited language skills would never work for selling advertising or for getting into the local community to learn what was going on. This is the fateful point where I met Verushka playing pool. She would change my life in ways I could never imagine, not one of them good. Although she was only twenty-one and looked very sweet, she was actually a master criminal. At one point she was very down and I asked her what was wrong. She said that they had been evicted from their home and could not get into their new place for two weeks. When she said that meant they would be on the streets for two weeks I told her that they could move into the penthouse as long as they helped me with some of the painting. Within a couple of hours in moved her mother, two sisters, three children, two parrots and a dog, plus about a hundred boxes of whatever.

The two weeks came and went and she was just full of excuses as to what was going on. To make a long story short they ended up staying for two months and I only got them out by telling them we were going to fumigate so they had to leave for a few hours. Then we changed all the locks on the gates. They returned with the police in hand, telling them all kinds of lies and before I knew it I was arrested and handcuffed in the paddy wagon. Only my poor Spanish saved me when they realized that she was lying about everything. The police gave them until the next day to move out and when they left they stole everything from the penthouse apartment right down to the batteries out of the TV remote. I spent hundreds of dollars with the courts and translating and the police trying to get everything back but got nothing and was forced to return to Canada because I had twenty-one dollars in the bank. I had invested over eleven thousand dollars in the house I was renovating and hadn’t seen a dime so I sold everything in the house to raise money to get back home.

I certainly appreciated the roof over my head that my cousin in Toronto offered me when she learned of my troubles in Panama, but I knew it was short term and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I still couldn’t go back to Kelowna with the mess I had left everything in. I didn’t want to live in Toronto. I happened to meet Denise online and soon I moved to London, Ontario to be with her. I was so in love with her and thought we would be together forever. That ended badly when she made the choice to go and visit another guy in Ottawa that she had also met online. It really hurt and I was now at a loss as to what I was doing in London. After living in my car and at various homeless shelters I got a job at Home Depot and soon had an apartment and furniture and life was okay. I hated London though and knew I had to do something.

Modesto Penaherrera street, Cotacachi

As I approached retirement age and would receive my pensions I knew I could not afford to live in Canada. I was so sick of winter now, mostly because I wasn’t snowmobiling, downhill or cross country skiing anymore like I did in BC so now winter just sucked. I knew I would never return to Panama so I started researching countries that were warmer and where the cost of living was less. After months of research I decided on Ecuador for a host of reasons. Obviously it was one of those major life decisions because I was leaving my home country. I would not see my kids or my five grand-kids, ever. I would no doubt die in a foreign country not surrounded by anyone who knew me for any length of time. There also was a sense of adventure with improving my Spanish and discovering a new country a lot different than Canada. And no more winter!

Although I made my share of decisions in Ecuador, like where to live, most of the things that happened, none of them good, were the result of decisions made by other people, whose goals seemed to be just to rip me off as much as possible not caring one bit about my well being. Numerous reasons forced me to return to Canada and that hasn’t worked out well either. I am only surviving thanks to the good graces of a charity that is providing me a place to live at an amount I can afford for now.

Having learned a lot about how you can’t possibly control everything in life I am far more cautious about what I do from here. I believe my choices are to return to the Okanagan, where I was truly happy although things would be much different now, or I’m looking at the Lake Chapala area in Mexico. There’s about thirty thousand Expats there now, both Americans and quite a lot of Canadians. The question is whether I can afford to live there because our dollar is still absurdly low at around seventy-three cents, plus I will lose one of my pensions after I’m out of the country for six months. Regardless of my poor experience with Ecuador I’m researching if I can create the same type of city portals to make a little extra money to replace my lost pension. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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