Moving on

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

    

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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