Wednesday 1 April 2020

A Salute to John L. (wherever you are)

Twenty years and one week ago today, I went out for dinner at an Italian place on 4th Avenue with my friend Julia, a friend of hers, and a friend of that friend — a friendly guy named John. We spent a congenial (friendly!) evening together, at the end of which John invited all of us to a party he was hosting the following Saturday. I turned to Julia and her friend, and we all said, "Sure!"

The evening of the party — April 1, 2000 — arrived, and, with it, the sad news that my two companions had to bail. So I faced an introvert's dilemma: do I attend this party, where I'll have to make small talk with strangers and will probably have a crappy time ... or do I stay home, watching reruns of Cheers and Thirtysomething?

Kerrisdale Library
My decision to go was based largely on the fact that John, the host, lived a mere half block away from me. If nausea set in the moment I arrived, I could go home, having invested no more than a few minutes. So I went, bracing myself as if for a dose of cod liver oil (something unpleasant but probably good for me).
The Constitution (aka Tormentor of Coal Harbour Rowers!)

I brought along a salad (in my memory, it's some kind of jelly salad, which, if true, is pretty funny), and I stationed myself at the food table, making dreaded small talk and keeping my hands busy with celery sticks and dip.

It wasn't long before I caught a reference to Montreal (my birthplace and early childhood home) in a nearby conversation. Spurring myself to make at least one sincere social attempt before hightailing it back to my television, I went over and said something really witty and sexy, like, "Hi, I heard you guys talking about Montreal ...."
Social Distancing Stick

Chica, the True Carnivores shop dog, trying to explain what's going on
The "guys" in this conversation included another Heather ... and a charming, dashing fellow named Paul. I suppose the three of us talked about Montreal for a bit. We definitely talked about writing and teaching. Or Paul and I did, anyway; I think the other Heather vamoosed at some point, and a random assortment of other people took her place. The conversation migrated to the kitchen, where Paul told a couple of entertaining stories in which he mentioned his last name. Eventually, I retrieved my salad bowl and went home — much later, and in a much better mood, than I'd anticipated.

In the days that followed, I found myself thinking about the charming and dashing Paul with some regularity. Knowing his last name from his stories, I looked him up in the phone book (yes! the PHONE BOOK!!) and started wondering if I should perhaps just call him up and — O, introvert's dilemma! — ask him out.
McDonald Beach

I'm pretty confident I would have done the deed. But he beat me to it. Despite my (clueless, not intentional) failure to mention my own last name the night of the party, Paul employed spectacular sleuthing skills and left a message for me at work (given those skills, it's a really good thing he's not a  creepy stalker!). We went on a date ... then another ... and another ... and now ... 

... two decades later, in this Age of Isolation, I can't think of anyone I'd rather be quarantined with.

Our window

So — John L., wherever you are ... thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for inviting me to your party.

Mt. Gardner, Bowen Island,  March 4/20

Saturday 21 March 2020

Oh, Freddie ... we're not in "Kansas" anymore.

Well, friends, it's been five long years since my last post. I'd been pondering a return to regular(ish) blogging — or at least an update — even before the Plague came to town. But recent world happenings have inspired me to dig up my password for this site (no easy feat) and re-learn how to wrap text around photos.

Ucluelet, BC, May 2015
Like most everyone these days (amazing how unifying COVID-19 has been), I have fears ... questions ... disappointments big and small (no more rowing? seriously??), and I'm sure that if WWF v.2 turns out to be more than a one-off, that stuff will creep into posts. For this entry, however, I'll try to stick mainly to that five-year recap — which will mean, essentially, scanning through my iPhoto library, cherry-picking images and experiences that will risk giving the impression of a more exciting and photogenic life than Paul, Freddie, and I actually lead!

Rooftop of our place in Kerrisdale

Did my last posts cover our move from Kitsilano to Kerrisdale? I don't think so. We're back in an owner co-op — older building, bigger & brighter unit. Kits was fun while it lasted ... though I wouldn't want to be practicing social isolation in our place there!

For about a year, my spacious new office (aka 2nd bedroom) functioned as a sewing studio, and I sewed up a storm (exhibit A: the red jacket I'm wearing here). Then I ran out of steam and tired of the big cutting table taking up so much space ... so I switched to knitting.  

Piazza San Marco, Venice
In January 2016 — to mark my big 5-0 the month before — Paul and I went to Italy (Freddie stayed with his Grandpeople at Château Burt). Rome, Florence, Venice, hiking in Tuscany ... Who knew, back then, what poor Italy would be coping with now (OK, I guess there's no keeping the coronavirus out of this post — containment has failed!).
Tuscan village

Meet Jin and Ray. They took over our small neighbourhood grocery store, West Wood Organics, shortly after we arrived in the 'hood. Their goal was to create a friendly, eco-conscious community store ... and they have succeeded (more on that in this little piece I wrote for the Kerrisdale Insider). We see them several times a week (sometimes more than once a day), and the contrast relative to shopping at, say, Save-On Foods is striking, to say the least. (These days, sadly, I'm not seeing Jin and Ray at all. Since I'm technically in the "at-risk" population, Paul has taken over all shopping duties.)

Icelandic hot spring

I'm foggy on the date (summer 2017?), but Paul and I travelled to Scandinavia to celebrate the nuptials of Mike and Christel (Freddie stayed home with Uncle Dave).

Mike is Paul's sister's partner's son (much easier to call him my nephew!). He met Christel at grad school in Winnipeg, where she was on exchange from Sweden. The ceremony was held by a lake in Iceland, with roughly equal numbers of Swedes and Canadians in attendance. Then Paul and I spent some time in Sweden and Denmark, some of it with Mike and Christel (more on them below!). The Scandinavian cycling scene inspired me to write this piece — the start of my happy relationship with Alive magazine.

Cycling around Malmö with Christel and Mike


Leah and I have been besties/sistas/hermanas for almost 40 years. 💜I'd be a rotten person without her.
A few years ago, my rowing life shifted to Deas Island Slough, where Leah's dad rowed, until he died (too young), nearly 20 years ago. It slays me that I didn't take up rowing until after he was gone. We would have had a blast sharing that enthusiasm.

But I guess I'm picking up where he left off. The DDRC gang is a BIG positive presence in my life. I miss them, and the quasi-religious rituals of rowing practice, big-time.

Me and Abby (since departed to horsey heaven 😞)
Yep, that's me on a horse. It was a longtime ambition — learning to ride. I took lessons for a year, at a few different places. I'm happy I did. And I was happy to stop. City horses, and even suburban horses, don't have great lives, I think — not compared to their ranch-y, grassland-y counterparts. I started feeling sad for the horses ... and bored by riding circles in a smallish ring ... and then there was the (almost prohibitive) cost of lessons.

The one part I do miss a little is the pre- and post-ride grooming. Once I was entrusted to do that solo, I enjoyed the quiet time communing with those impressive creatures (quite different from wrestling with an impatient labradoodle who can be secured in a headlock if necessary!).

Therapeutic mud, Plage de Babin
Winter 2019 ... While Freddie hung out at the Bowen Island Dog Ranch, and then with his beloved Uncle Dave, Paul and I travelled to Guadeloupe. Caribbean France!

A highlight of the trip was our guest row in an ocean-going quad with two very congenial members of a rowing club in Basse-Terre. I say "our" guest row because Paul got to fulfill his lifelong fantasy of coxing — at which he was, of course, a natural.

We crossed a bumpy stretch of open water (pictured below) before tucking into a peaceful mangrove ... thoroughly idyllic.

Heather's hobbies, instalment #23: classical guitar!

I've been taking lessons with Katherine, Paul's über-talented sister, for some time now. I make brutally slow progress, and it's a stretch to call most of what I play "music." But I love the feel of the instrument, the sound of the nylon strings (when I'm not producing some godawful twang) ... and, just often enough, I manage to make my way through a few measures of Easy Mozart or Baroque for Beginners that make it all worthwhile.

The used test strip container I keep on my desk

"There'll be a cure in five to ten years," said the medics when my T1D was first diagnosed.

It's been five years since my last WWF post (I'll cut them some slack and won't count the other 28 years) ... so, YAY ... it's happening really soon, right??


"Elvis," our EV (purchased last year), parked at an AirB&B cottage on Bowen Island
Skating with Sally at Christmas 💜

Our über-groovy niece lives in Toronto. She's scheduled for another visit at the end of April. Will that reunion come to pass?

Love in the time of coronavirus ....

This is Little K, daughter of Christel and Mike. She arrived in December, and Freddie was smitten. Until very recently, Paul and I were taking turns spending Wednesday afternoons with her and Christel while Mike was at work. 

Those Wednesdays are right up there with the things I miss most.

Wishing you all the best of health and hope ... 💚