August 21st, opening day of the CNE, the "EX" as it’s known. I questioned if it was a good idea to go on this day as admission was only $1.75 instead of the usual $15, so I figured it might be a zoo. Unfortunately, I was right. From waiting for the third of three jam-packed buses just to get there, to lining up outside the gate, to fighting the crowds to get anywhere on the grounds, it was a crazy day. I doubt they beat the previous attendance record of 250,000 for a single day, but at times it sure felt like it. Before this day I harbored no ill will towards strollers, but after a day of fighting with a thousand off-road behemoths I don’t want to see another one, ever. I know they are a necessity but they don’t fit well on crowded public transit. Someone’s going to lose an eye soon.

Despite the crowds there were many highlights during the day. One of the funniest was Michael Harrison, the ventriloquist. He does two shows every day and don’t miss him, no matter what. Because of the crowds and how hard it was to get from one place to the other, I missed a lot of things, but I did enjoy what I did get to. During the oh so hot summer afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed having a drink at the Budweiser patio bar, listening to great blues. It was here that I also managed to get one of those once in a lifetime shots of the death-drop midway ride. Later I got to revisit Woodstock, listening to Canned Heat. The bass guitarist, Larry "The Mole" Taylor did his second gig with the band at the original Woodstock, so you can guess how old he is! They were amazing and did a great show. There was some tie-dyed clothing and gray pony tails around.

The day ended with a nightmarish trip out of the grounds on the TTC, packed kike sardines into a streetcar, but I made it home in one piece. 


August 14th – First Day of Summer

After the worst summer I ever remember in Toronto (and I had 43 of them), it finally arrived yesterday. Toronto had not had a day over 30 degrees since late June. It finally reached 33 downtown but was horribly humid.

Naturally I picked this day to walk and blade miles. I intended to take the bus to the foot of Islington Avenue, where I assumed, incorrectly, I would pick up the trail along the waterfront. After all the map showed "Waterfront Trail" clear as a bell. I ain’t no dummy, right? Wrong! The second bus left me at Lakeshore Road and I thought I could just see the lake in the distance, so I started walking. And walking. And walking. After what felt like a couple of miles in the blazing sun and oh so oppressive heat, I finally reached the lake. No trail and I walked out to the fence to see if I could find one (first picture). This was the first time I realized how hot and hazy it was, as I could barely make out downtown Toronto. As I looked along the lakefront I couldn’t see any sort of path anywhere, but I figured it might just round that next bend, so I set off walking, carrying my blades.

I walked and I walked and I walked, until I saw the little signs "Waterfront Trail". Trail? What trail? This was nothing but a road, but the bikes whizzing by told me they knew something. Okay, maybe just round the next corner? So, I walked and walked and walked. Eventually I reached, you guessed it, Lakeshore Road! I had managed to work my way all the way back to where I started from, albeit a few clicks down the road. The hot, muggy, dusty, miserable road. This they call a trail? Duh!

After more and more miles of walking, carrying my blades, which were now feeling very heavy, I came upon a sign that showed access to the Humber Valley Trail just ahead. The Humber Valley Trail! OMG, I had walked miles again just to get to the Humber, the trail I could have bladed down from the house in half the time. I found a bench and at long last put my blades on and headed off down the elusive trail. Eventually I ended up back where I had been on my bike a few days before, when I had made it as far as Sunnyside pool. As I bladed by the pool I was shocked to see it was still closed because of the recent strike. They were working on it, but, here it was the hottest day of the year and no one could swim in it? Brutal!

Memory is something you don’t want to lose, otherwise, I may have actually remembered how many miles it is to downtown Toronto from where I was. I was lucky the paths are good most of the way because I bladed a very long way before even coming close to downtown. At the access to the island airport I took off my blades because there wasn’t really anywhere to blade anymore. I remembered biking and blading in Vancouver and, boy, have they got Toronto whipped or what? I’ve biked all the way from Stanley Park around False Creek and back to Granville Island and never crossed a street. Toronto totally sucks as far as having decent bike paths.

By now I was really starving, having passed the burger joints along the beach miles ago because they were so busy on this gorgeous day, something I regretted now. I stopped at Pier Four and had a look at the menu, but quickly realized I was not going to pay $14 for an appy. I continued on, sore as my burning feet were, and found a Timmies at Queen’s Quay. Had an iced coffee, but didn’t much care for it. Kept going until I reached the ferry terminal where I thought of heading to the island. By now it was close to six o’clock and I wondered about how to get home later if I went over to the island. Decided I had best head up to Union Station to check on the GO train schedule first. When I got there I was shocked to discover that I had already missed the last train to Etobicoke, which left at 6:45. Why this is the last train out of downtown Toronto on a Friday night is beyond me.

So I hoofed it all the way back to the Swiss Chalet on Queen’s Quay for dinner. I asked my server about catching the streetcar out front and asked if that would take me back to Lakeshore and eventually Islington to catch the bus back home. No such luck! She said they don’t meet up anywhere. How dumb is that? She said to go back to Union Station then take the subway, Yonge then Bloor, back to Islington. My feet refused to take me another step so I caught the streetcar back to Union Station. Two and a half hours later I was waiting for the Islington bus. I think the GO train might have made one stop before Etobicoke North, so that might have taken forty minutes or so, tops.

As I finally got off the bus at Wal-Mart and started home I realized that by now I had developed huge water blisters on my feet because of wearing my sandals. Every step was getting more and more painful. I finally made it home, still hot and tired from way too long a day, but ready to do it all over again today, which is supposed to be even hotter. Can’t walk any great distance, but I might take my bike. I desperately wanted to get to Professors Lake, but it looks like quite the challenge by bus. Could take hours.

It’s been a while…

My last blog was October of 2007, so, yes, it’s been a while. Needless to say, a lot has happened over the last two years, not much of it good.

After the total disaster of the reno from hell  in Westbank, which forced me to flee the country, mostly for my heath, it only got worse from there. I ended up dumping what little money I had left into another reno from hell and got burned badly by a guy back in Kelowna who owned the place that I worked on in Panama. On top of all that I offered refuge to a Panamanian family who supposedly had nowhere to live. They ended up ripping me off for about five thousand dollars, including the cost of feeding their family of seven for two months, plus they stole everything they could get their hands on when the police finally got them out. It was a horrible experience and one that turned me totally against Panama. Even the police chief told me that you need to keep your eyes on any Panamanian working in your home. Various people working in the home, who I paid very well, stole everything from my brand new camera to my rings. They look you right in the eye and lie to your face.

One of the worst crooks of all was a young, cute, 21 year-old, who I considered a good friend. She worked for me and I paid her well, yet she stole from me and lied to me. She stole my cell phone and my camera and anything else she got her hands on. When I finally locked her family out to get them to pay me for anything, she told the police that I was in the country illegally; that I was a drug-dealer and that she had paid the rent the previous day. Believing everything she said, the police came and literally broke down my gate and arrested me and I thought I would languish in the horrible Panamanian prison system, never to be heard from again. Luckily my Spanish was good enough to explain things to one of the nicest police officers I have ever met in my life and he let me go.

People in developed countries, such as Canada, believe that certain people can be trusted. Two of the most crooked professions in Panama are Realtors and lawyers. I had the misfortune to deal with a young Panamanian immigration lawyer who ended up trying to extort money from me and then she threatened to have me beat up when I refused to pay her.

It appears that God himself was also against me in Panama because in the midst of all this grief he decided my gall bladder would fail. I was in excruciating pain for several days and ended up in the worst third-world hospital you could ever imagine. I still remember the surgeon kicking the operating table trying to get the light to come, as I drifted off from the anesthetic, figuring I may well not wake up from this one. I was sorry I did because a week in that hospital was sheer torture. My bed was only a youth bed, broken as well, meaning I kept sliding down. Every time I had to try to pull myself up the pain from my operation was intolerable. They did not have enough medications available, so they would let me go hours before giving me more morphine for the pain. I could not so much as get a glass of water. They did not feed me anything for almost a week. It took me hours to get someone to help me to the bathroom and they did not have any toilet paper because they could not afford any.

My doctor here said that the technique they used to remove my gall bladder is basically twenty years old. Now they make two small incisions and it is basically day surgery, with no lasting scars. Thanks to care in Panama, I am basically scarred and deformed for life. Upon hearing what hospital I was in, a friend in Panama told me I was SO lucky to have come out of there, period. She said that hospital has numerous lawsuits against them for killing people, so I guess I have to count my blessings.

So, with a grand total of $21 in my bank, no medications for my diabetes and no idea where my next meal was coming from, I begged the owner of the house I had renovated to send me anything on the thousands of dollars he owed me for all the work I had done. He refused and just asked me to make sure I gave the keys to someone on my way out. Very compassionate! Luckily my cousin in Toronto offered me a roof over my head and to feed me until I got back on my feet, and she saved my life, for which I will be eternally grateful to her. I managed to raise my return airfare by selling everything I owned in the world and arrived in Toronto March 18th. For the first time in my life I have been forced to go on social assistance, but I am going to stay hopeful and positive that some good luck will come my way eventually.

A very sad part of all of this is that I am but a few kilometers away from my children and grandchildren, at least as far as I know, but I have been unable to make any contact with them. I held my son’s first daughter, Danielle, when she was a small baby. She is now about 17, I think. I have never met his other two daughters, Marissa and Mackenzie, plus I have not seen my own daughter, Heather, since she was 13. She is now 31 and has a child of her own and lives somewhere in Burlington, I believe. Despite how badly my own life has gone, family is crucial to me and I hope I will be able to see them before I die.

Oh well, now you are caught up.