Kelly and I spent our last night in Vancouver in a place downtown; I remember the view, but can’t remember which hotel it was. At dawn, we headed back to the eerily empty Woodland Drive condo for the last time. It would never look that way again–we sold it to a flipper who knocked out a wall, ripped out the floors, painted everything white, and put in stainless steel appliances. Every trace of us, twelve years of cozy domesticity and bohemian paint choices, was about to be wiped away.
(Or not. Our neighbor Missy had hung a going away present on our door. She’s not the only one from the building we’re still in touch with.)
Anyway, we went in. Minnow was wedged onto the countertop between the fridge and the stove. I can’t remember where Rumble was sleeping. We packed them into the Furrari, apologizing profusely, and cabbed to the airport with all our bags.
I remember security made us pull them out of the cage to check for threats and boobytraps. Nobody enjoyed that.
We checked a ton of luggage. Everything we’d need for the stretch between landing here and the arrival of the truck full of our remaining stuff, many weeks later. We’d bought a massive thing meant for hockey equipment, sort of a monster gym bag with wheels, and filled it with just enough kitchen stuff to let us to cook real food.
My grandmother was still alive.
I had wrapped up a draft of the novel I’m still rewriting, the better to concentrate on the transition. I was also smack in the middle of teaching an intense and productive group of novel-writing students for UCLA. As all of this happened, I was writing a dozen critiques every other week.
We took off, we flew, we landed. I don’t remember much about the flight. Peter Watts had agreed to pick us up so that the cats could be ferried directly from the airport to their new home, no fuss, no muss. It was a relief to see they’d survived the flight; Minnow was already unwell. He brought an air mattress in case our bed didn’t arrive.
(Our bed didn’t, in fact, arrive.)
It took awhile to get oriented. We needed replacements for the well-used things we’d got rid of in Vancouver, stuff we’d been wanting to upgrade for years, stuff that would have cost more to ship than it was worth. I remember repeated daily trips out into the neighborhood in search of furniture places, lighting stores, housewares places. The guy who was supposed to have our bed delivered the day we arrived completely flaked–and there was unpleasantness over the refund. In the end we grudgingly resorted to Ikea.
It was spring, and now that it’s spring again I see that we had just missed the cherry blossoms, magnolia, and forsythia. Right now the city is all abloom. I remember being wonderstruck by my first sight of groundhogs, at Fort York. I had to go looking for bluejays and cardinals, because my neighborhood is largely sparrow-starling-pigeon turf, and I found them at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. I made friends with Lake Ontario, and there discovered I would still be able to shoot cormorants, swallows and great blue herons to my heart’s content.
I don’t remember a lot of specific emotions, except gratitude for the friends who helped, in big ways and small: Peter, Keph and Linda especially. There was just so much going on, so much to do.
The elevators were a constant source of drama. The rented condo was brand spanking new, so there was a move-in coordinator tasked with ensuring that everyone had an elevator when they needed one. She was a bit scattered and disorganized, and Kelly had many frustrating conversations with her. Also! The elevator fix-it people were on strike citywide, so security dudes were camped out in the elevators, to ensure that the tenants didn’t push buttons improperly or jam doors, and thereby break them.
They broke all the same, though–fortunately–never when we were getting big heavy objects delivered. Some guys moving in on the eighth floor had to heft everything they owned up a back stairwell.
Our rented condo was also so new that Canada Post wasn’t even delivering there yet. I had to make a weekly commute out to Leslieville and hike down past a cement factory to try to cajole envelopes from UCLA and TOR, along with forwarded Vancouver junk mail–Art supply sale at Opus! You are preapproved to borrow ludicrous amounts of money at blindingly stupid interest rates! Arts Club Theater wants You!–out of posties who had been snowed under by mail from the apartment buildings sprouting up all over downtown. The building was so new that the common areas weren’t finished, and the view out of my window all summer was of guys working, at a desultory pace, on the building courtyard.
I remember being amazed that here in Ontario, stores of various kinds closed for Victoria Day. Grocery stores! Home Depot! Restaurants! Had we time travelled? Were we back in the Seventies?
So there was chaos and dislocation and excitement and the occasional burst of OMG, what have we done? and an ongoing quest for a coffee roaster whose beans compare with the ones we were buying at Elysian and Revolver. Eleven months later, we packed it all up and did it again, in miniature, hopping east and north to this new place. About which you’ve already heard much and will hear more, much more!
Today, I just feel lucky that it went so well.