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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Return Visit to Vancouver

In September 1973 I travelled across Canada on CP Rail's Canadian for a vacation and discovered Vancouver; I mean really discovered Vancouver, enough to completely change the direction my life. 

Upon returning home, I gave up my studies, quit my part-time job, left home and returned to Vancouver a month later determined to seek adventure and to make my own way in the world. (Much of that story has been detailed in one of my other blogs.)

My three year Vancouver adventure began and finished with passing through this venerable CPR station. In 1973, the CPR's employment office was located at the far end beneath the clock. It was in here where I hired on with Canadian Pacific; an experience that was truly a valuable genuine three-year education. 

April 19, 2015. This familiar Vancouver Gateway located on West Cordova Street at the foot of Seymour was once the Canadian Pacific Railway station. Restored and rejuvenated this busy magnificent stately structure sees far more people traffic than it ever did in its CPR heyday, now serving as a gateway to the SkyTrain and SeaBus.

Like our memories of the events long past, old photos too have faded with the passing of time.

Monica and Alan at Dorval Airport in Summer 1973.

Much of what did happen in my life would never have happened if you, Monica, had not chosen to come east to visit Montreal in summer 1973. Those few short weeks we spent together that memorable summer had a profound influence. In all sincerity I can say; if you had not made that visit, then I would never have gone to Vancouver.

April 18 2015. Although only for a brief while, Monica and Don together again after a 26 year hiatus, nostalgically recalling events, now hazy in our memories, from the mid 1975's

A 1974 Vignette

"Martha was several months younger than I was. Our mothers are sisters and that is probably where our similarities ended. Martha was as bold and outgoing as I was shy and reserved but she was someone I could talk to and she was usually willing to listen"

July 1974. My first home on my own was in the basement apartment of this old Kitsilano house at 2115 West 1st Avenue near the corner at Arbutus. That other house, part just visible in the background far right, was the landlady's home.

A 1974 Vignette

"Pulling the cord to signal the driver to stop, I exited the bus a few stops early and walked the remainder of the way. The northwest corner of West First Avenue and Arbutus Street was an excellent location to live, particularly for my needs and requirements. Kitsilano Beach was only two short blocks away and the bus route over Burrard Bridge to downtown was even closer. The office was a fifteen-minute bus ride when it was raining or a half-hour walk when it was not raining but usually it seemed to be raining far more than it was not. Most of the nearest stores and businesses were located a few blocks north on West Fourth Avenue."

April 2015. 40 years later at the intersection of West 1st and Arbutus. That large newer building in the background now occupies the lots where my first home and the landlady's home were once located. Much has changed during the passing of years that quickly became decades, and then again, other things do not seem to have changed at all.

April 18, 2015 reunion. Left to right: Michael, Shirley, Robert, Don, Monica, Kie. We spent a wonderful late afternoon and early evening at the River House Restaurant in Delta recalling many wonderful memories and events from the past. Shirley probably said it best, "I feel we're just young people with old people masks."

Michael in summer 1974 and Ichiban Sapporo noodles. That summer your parents had gone east and Ted, Tim and Larry came west to visit Vancouver.

Michael in 2015. Definitely less hair, certainly no less blarney and undoubtedly Uncle Bill's protege. Glad to see you have never lost your sense of humour and still going up those mountains. Ever thought about going back to Golden and hiking to Field?

To answer the question, maybe this is one reason why not...

June 1975 and Michael at the western entrance of Yoho National Park. Miles from the nearest store and desperate for a cigarette he trying to learn how to smoke a pipe.

A 1975 Vignette:

A while later we passed through the entrance gateway into Yoho National Park. We paused at the first picnic site. Adjacent to the site a colony of gopher-like creatures had moved in. The small tawny coloured rodents kept poking their heads up out of their burrows but quickly disappeared when we made any attempt to approach and take a closer look at them. Obviously the nosy residents did not like equally nosy visitors. More than a dozen of the little inhabitants had dug out a maze of tunnels beneath the ground. As entertaining as they were to watch, we did not stay very long.

And now, (to quote the late Paul Harvey) the rest of the story... 

April 19, 2015. (Michael via Facebook)

Yesterday afternoon I went to dinner with my siblings Monica, Shirley, Rob and, my cousin Don and his wife Kie.

Don and Kie now reside in Mississauga but Don grew up in a suburb of Montreal. Don spent several years out here as a young man including, living in our house. 

Some of my fondest memories as a mid-teen are associated with Don. He may not realize it and I may not have properly told him the meaning he had in my life and the stability he provided to a young man. 

In retrospect, he was probably playing the older brother role that was absent in an otherwise tumultuous life. I cannot thank you enough for that. You have no idea how much you have meant...thank you. 


p.s. O yeah. Again sorry about the trains. Michael

Shirley Anne on April 18, 2015... Funny that you should mention masks.

Never a dull moment in Aunt Shirley's home, especially when everyone was present.

Shirley Anne in October 1974 and most likely on Halloween.

An unspecified date in late 1974 or early 1975 saw Robert running trains on the still under construction PCR (Plywood Central Railway) which was loosely based on CP Rail.

April 18, 2015. Robert 41 years later.  These few decades later he reminisced about running the HO gauge trains as well the real train journeys we made: a weekend trip on The Canadian to visit Banff and a day-long visit to Seattle via Amtrak's Pacific International.

April 18, 2015. Robert and Don. We were determined not to be caught upstream without a paddle... except those are oars for a rowboat. They'll do if needed.

April 1974. Robert in Banff, Alberta, on the overlook to the Bow River.

Spring 1975. It may not snow in Vancouver but on that day all forms of snow were encountered and became abundant as we followed the trail and hiked up toward the top of Hollyburn. Left to right: Terry, Axel, Michael and Uwe.

A 1975 Vignette

A lifetime of living through eastern Canada's long, cold snowy winters had taught me a few points about the lighter side of winter life and I was determined to use my knowledge to full advantage. Even though the mountains overlooking Vancouver kept their snowcaps through much of the year I quickly noticed that Martha, Mark and Matthew were finding the snow somewhat of a novelty. They had little up close first-hand experience of life with snow. 

Observing that the trees had received a fresh covering of powdery snow, I took great mischievous delight in giving some of the not-too-thick-trunk fir trees here and there a vigorous shove with my foot when I was certain no one was watching. That usually provoked a small avalanche of snow to cavalcade down on the unfortunate person or two following behind me. Even more amusing was the fact that the persons behind me, Matthew and Martha, were not aware of what was causing the snow to pour off the trees. I chuckled with glee upon overhearing some of the comments and cursing about the snow.

Monica getting ready for... I can't remember. What I can remember now is that this image was recorded in your Mom's kitchen on a late Saturday afternoon in summer 1974.

A 1974 Vignette

"One memorable warm summer Saturday evening I joined a group at a popular restaurant in Gastown. With its partly re-cobbled streets, quasi-quaint exotic shops, and unusual eateries with fancier names than their fare, Gastown was that area of refurbished older buildings in what was probably the oldest part of downtown Vancouver. Martha had spontaneously organized this outing, inviting any friend and acquaintance she could think of at the moment, and then scrambled to make the arrangements. Martha was always arranging last-minute group outings to unusual locations and establishments. Often asked to tag along, I was grateful to be included."

April 18, 2015. Some things don't change. Monica had arranged our reunion... and not at the Renfrew Drive-in Restaurant.

The Burrard Street Bridge

A 1974 Vignette

The bar scene was definitely not for me and I really did not want to stay and drink late into the night. Had I wanted to I certainly could not have afforded to. After saying good night to Curtis I resumed my sojourn homeward via the Burrard Street Bridge.

Pausing on the center span for a few moments to watch a large yacht proceeding inward from English Bay to False Creek I could hear music and a woman's laughter coming from inside the luxury vessel as it passed beneath the bridge.

"It must be nice to be able to afford such luxuries." I thought slightly enviously, but wealth I could live without and I had a lifetime of experience to prove it. 

Most days when the rain stayed away and to save the bus fare I walked across this this bridge on the way home from work.

Vancouver's Burrard Street Bridge as seen from almost the exact same location where the following event from Summer 1974 occurred.

Thanks for the memories... and this next one almost got away with the passing of time.

 April 19, 2015.  (Lorraine via Facebook)

Wow - memories! I took a group of Carneys, including Don, on a ride in Barney's car on the day I received my driver's license. My driving was not good, and then the car stopped dead on the Burrard Street Bridge. Don jumped out of the car, declaring that he would never ride with me again. Who could blame him?? 

Lorraine Marie

That was Uncle Barney's blue Datsun... just don't ask me the year and model.

April 18, 2015. Monica, Robert, Shirley, Don.

No one gets off lightly in this post... except perhaps for Kie.

October 1974 at Aunt Shirley's home and grateful to have been there and part of the fun.

Air do Slainte Mhath! To your good health!

Look what I found !!

Once upon a time at Commercial and West 12th Avenue... I was hoping this restaurant still existed but it too has disappeared into history.

Another 1976 memory: when Terry and I shared living quarters on West 6th Avenue near Nanaimo, occasionally we would order food from her. Their food was quite good.

Getting warmed up. One more image of those of us who were able to attend on April 18, 2015.

April 18, 2015. Left to right: Michael. Shirley, Robert, Don, Monica and Kie. Out on the back patio/deck of the River House Restaurant. That's part of the Fraser River in the background.

Last word. (Well almost) 
I wish I could still drop in at Aunt Shirley's home on Saturday evening for Hamburgers. 

 Granville Street circa 1979

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

May as well make the ending the way it was.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Note: The vignettes are excerpts from a book/story in which names were changed.

Addendum July 20, 2015

One more for Monica... and too good to pass up.

Below is what was written on the back of this photo.

Friday, June 26, 2015

1000 Miles!

Perhaps cliche and familiar but true nonetheless

The morning following my cardiac arrest and emergency stenting to save my life, I awoke in the hospital's Cardiac Care Unit to see the dawn of a new day; the night before, awakening was something I could not be sure would occur if I closed my eyes, but sleep actually did come.

My first real single step in this proverbial journey was that first morning after, when I was actually able to get out of bed and sit in the chair, feeling as if nothing happened and nothing had changed. The many wires attached to my chest and hooked up to machines starkly reminded me otherwise.

In that Cardiac Care Unit I was one of the lucky ones; pain-free, I could get out of bed and go to the bathroom without assistance; I clearly witnessed that the other cardiac patients were unable to do the same.

Two days later being bluntly informed I have heart disease and Atherosclerosis was a painful sobering dose of confronting reality. 

"Other people have heart disease. I'm reasonable healthy." I protested in denial.

"Tell that to your heart." the guy from cardiac rehab responded with brutally cold honesty, no doubt having heard similar denials from patients like me too many times before.

Anyway, part of the Cardiac Rehab program included walking on a treadmill, and of course we were urged to do additional exercises and walking on our own during the remainder of the week between sessions. Not wanting another heart attack and determined not to return to the hospital as a patient, I literally took those suggestions to heart and started walking.

In November 2013 a friend introduced me to Nike's Running app; he was using it to record and keep track of his running. Kie downloaded that app onto my iPhone and I have been using it since to keep track.

Here is a sample of what the app looks like. (from the internet) My numbers are considerably lower, usually between 1.1 and 1.5 miles in a session. The small numbers do add up though.

When I started, my modest goal was simply to walk the equivalent of The Megantic Subdivision's 68.5 miles. That objective was accomplished within the first three months. Soon followed the 100th mile. Since then I have just kept going.

On June 11, 2015, having used this app to keep track of my outings, I reached 1,000 miles of recorded walking since commencing my record keeping on November 22, 2013.  Doing the math, the distance travelled works out to roughly 50 miles per month.

"The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore." 
(Psalm 121:8)

And I believe not just my going out and my coming in but also through every mile in between.

Yes! A journey of any distance starts with a single step. 

If not, then there is never a start, and of course, no journey.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum January 12, 2016

A few more mile boards to mention and marvel at rather than brag about. 

When I started, I would never have thought this far possible; all walked following my heart attack.

Simply said, I am grateful and thankful to God to be here and to have been able to keep going.

Total measured and recorded miles walked in 2015: 748.3

To place 748 in a more meaningful Canadian context: I walked the equivalent of downtown Toronto to downtown Montreal and return with 78 miles left over.

1500 mile board passed on January 06, 2016

And also to place 1500 in a more meaningful Canadian context: If I was at the corner of Front & Yonge in Toronto and started walking to Vancouver through Canada only, then I would have just arrived in Kirkella, Manitoba, which is almost at the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border.

Addendum March 03, 2016

Mile board 1600 passed on February 27, 2016.

Addendum April 12, 2016

Mile board 1700 passed on April 12, 2016.

Addendum May 24, 2016

No matter how far I've walked I'm back where I've started... but I'll keep on going for as long as I'm able.

Mile board 1800 passed on May 24, 2016.

Addendum July 04, 2016

An image showing the number 1900 was difficult to find so I decided to use something different.

Mile board 1900 passed this morning on July 04, 2016.