Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rough Week for Dad

Sorry... it's been awhile. Though, I can't say it won't be awhile until I write again. But, hey... it is what it is.

This week has been pretty rough on my dad. It started off fairly regularly. On Sunday my parents went to church. They may have gone swimming afterwards or on Monday. They usually go three or four times a week on average. On Tuesday they met up with their seniors' club for lunch at a Chinese buffet restaurant on Markham Road, north of Ellesmere. Dad said he enjoyed his time there.

It was on Thursday morning when things started going sideways. At 7:27 I got some texts from my sister saying my mom found my dad on the bathroom floor at home. I don't remember exactly everything she said, but one thing she mentioned was that my dad was sleeping and that he thought he was in bed. He was kind of confused. She said he was unable to get himself up. That's when she called for an ambulance and he was taken to North York General Hospital.

After finishing work on Thursday I stopped by my parents' house to pick up some clothes for dad and old newspapers for him to read before heading to the hospital. My dad was taken to the hospital in his pyjamas. My mom was worried that if he was discharged they wouldn't be able to take the bus home if they wanted. I also grabbed some shoes, socks and underwear. It just made sense to me.

My dad was on the 6th floor of the west wing. Room 668 I believe. He had three or four other roommates. I stayed for an hour or two before taking my mom home for the night. My dad would be staying overnight for observations.


The next day I picked my mom and eldest nephew, Avery, up to go visit my dad. I dropped them off at the west entrance and went to go wait at the IKEA parking lot. My dad was to slated to be released that morning. I brought some Sudokus to do.

When I picked them up my dad mentioned one of his roommates wasn't doing well and made quite a bit of noise at night. He was an older gentleman. Other than that I believe his stay was all right.

After dropping my parents off I stayed with them for a little while before heading home. Everything seemed fine. My dad seemed to be doing well.

... That was until I got call from my sister on Saturday morning at 8:00. She was at my parents' home. My mother had found my father in distress in the bathroom. Again.

Now, I have to say I received a number of phone calls and texts and also spoke with my mother at the hospital. So I can't remember exactly which details I received at what time. In the call I had with my sister in the morning I believe she mentioned my dad was able to speak, but with some slurring in his speech. As well he lost some feeling in his left arm, but was able to move it.

Later on at the hospital my mother told me when she found my father Saturday morning he was sitting on the toilet unable to move. She said he had some drool coming from his mouth and I believe his nose may have been dripping a bit. She told me he wasn't able to speak.

Anyway, after discovering my dad in the bathroom, my mom called my sister who drove over quickly. She lives nearby. They decided they should call an ambulance which arrived in short order. This time they took my father to Sunnbrook Hospital at Bayview and Blythwood Avenue.

My sister updated me by text from the hospital at 9:50 a.m.. She said they were treating him with a clot buster. My father had a blockage in a small blood vessel. My sister stayed at the hospital with my mom for awhile before she had to go. She asked me to pick my mom up and drive her home later.

Instead of waiting for my mom's late evening call I thought I'd walk over to the hospital in the early afternoon to visit my dad. I could always walk back home to get the car to drive my mom home afterwards if I needed to. It was only a 3 kilometre walk. Done easily in less than an hour.

I dropped by, perhaps, around 3:00.. My mom had told me they were in an emergency room room - number 26. I walked over and a staff member let me in and told me where to go.

The room my dad was in was pretty nice. He was hooked up to all sorts of monitoring equipment. It looked new and modern. As well he was hooked up to an IV. He was resting, with his back raised, in bed, my mom sitting in a chair nearby. He seemed to be doing okay. His speech wasn't too bad. A bit slurred. He was able to move all his body parts - arms, legs, fingers, etc.. Though he didn't have complete feeling in his left arm or hand. Just the parts above his elbow.

I brought some food for my mom. She mentioned she had had a pita or sandwich that she bought at the hospital. I brought some croissants, apple sauce, and angel food cake from my sister's friend. I didn't have anything to read for my dad. There was an old Canadian Geographic on the table in the room that my mom had found. It was from 1998.

The nurse came in afterwards and tested my dad by poking certain parts of his body. He could feel when she touched his face, neck, shoulder and upper arm. But nothing below that. She made him press his feet on her hands too which he was able to do. She also had him raise his right leg, then left, which he was also able to do. She asked him to squeeze her hands with his hands too I believe. He was able to do that as well. I believe she mentioned his condition had improved a bit from before.

She came back an hour or so later to do the same thing. This time she brought and ECG machine as well. It checks the electrical activity of your heart. The first machine she brought in didn't work properly, so she had to get another machine which seemed to work all right. She made a print out of the readings. I don't know what they meant. I guess someone else would interpret it later.

I probably stayed for a couple of hours before heading home. I left one of the croissants for my mom. She said she was full and couldn't eat anymore. I told her she could call me and I could come back and drive her home later. But she said it didn't make sense and that she would take the bus home. So I walked home.

My mom left the hospital at 7:43 p.m..

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tommy Thompson Park

Justin and I went to Tommy Thompson Park on the weekend. The weather here in Toronto is warming up. We decided to take advantage of it.

At first I was considering visiting High Park to see the cherry blossoms. But they were only just starting to blossom. So I figured I'd wait a little longer before going.

That left us wondering where we could go instead. I thought it would be nice to go somewhere new. While Tommy Thompson Park isn't exactly new, I hadn't gone there in at least two or three years. I figure it was time to head back.

Early spring is a good time to go if you want to try to catch nesting or migrating birds. A lot of them are returning from wintering down south around now. Both of us brought our cameras in hopes of capturing some cool shots.

I have to say, the last time I was in the park I only had my 24-105mm lens. Over Christmas I bought a 70-300mm. It should help somewhat. Though, a lot of birds are pretty small, and many of them are understandably skittish. So even that lens might not be long enough.

We got to the park in the early afternoon, just after 12:30. There were a few cars parked on Leslie Street leading into the park. As well, there were a number of spaces left in the lot. We chose the parking lot. The caveat was we had to make sure we left by 6:00 p.m.. That's when they lock the gates.

The main path/roadway leading down the centre of the spit is around 7.5 kilometres long. That would bring you to the lighthouse at the southern tip. If you walked straight there and back five and a half hours would be plenty of time. We, on the other hand, were intent on taking as many pictures as we could.

We took a side path on the east side of the spit at the start. Less traffic. No bikes were supposed to be on this trail, though the odd one did pass. The first thing of interest we saw wasn't a beaver. We thought it may have been, but it turned out to be just a ground hog. It was hiding in thick brush. We couldn't quite make it out. False alarm.

We did see two new birds (to us). The first was a bufflehead duck paddling around in the sheltered harbour on the north side of the spit. The second was the white-throated sparrow (pictured above). Justin spotted it first. I thought it was just a regular sparrow. But, upon closer inspection, noticed the patch of yellow above its eye. According to the girl working at the park, they stop here on their way migrating north.

She also mentioned the park has the largest number of nesting double-crested cormorants in the world with at least 12,000 nesting pairs. They were all over the place.

I have to say, we barely walked half way down the spit before we had to turn around and head back to the parking lot. Time was of the essence. We didn't want to have to take the bus home. Next time we'll make sure to park on the street to avoid that problem.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Words of Sympathy

Even though her last visit was supposed to be two weeks ago, Cathy joined me at Carter Manor this Sunday to visit the guys there.

This week has been particularly hard with the sudden passing of our spiritual leader, Reverend Rodger Hunter, or Father Rodger as we called him. On my end, the Boarding Homes Ministry was sort of thrown for a loop. Being a solo volunteer I relied on either him or Cathy to join me on my visits.

I knew this time things could be particularly difficult given how fondly Rodger was thought of at the home. I experienced similar feelings of shock and sadness when I found out the news.

The mood was expectedly more solemn when we entered. At Andrea's request Cathy read from the Psalms and said a prayer. Residents were asked if they wanted to share any memories that had of Rodger. It wasn't easy. There were a few watery eyes to be sure.

I brought a card for anyone to sign if they wished. My plan is to give it to Rodger's daughter, Christie. Some people just wrote their names. Others put more.

God bless you - Mike

I love Rodger forever - Andrea

May u rest in eternal peace - Minh

God be with you - Sam

I can't believe it happened - Tony

Will always be missed -

It was just that God needed you - Mathieu

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Father Rodger

I received some terrible news by e-mail this past Wednesday. The founder of the Boarding Homes Ministry, Reverend Rodger Hunter, passed away suddenly. He had been diagnosed with cancer late last year. But he said they had caught it early. With surgery and treatment he was optimistic he would be back on his feet in no time.

I first met Rodger in or around the year 2000. He had come to speak at our church about his ministry. Ours was just one of many that he visited in order to drum up interest of volunteer groups. After his sermon four of us - Richard, Debbie, Armin and I decided to form a team.

We were assigned a home, Carter Manor, at 103 Tyndall Avenue in the Dufferin and King area. The building was home to around three dozen residents (at the time) all with varying degrees of mental disabilities. We were to go in and interact with the residents, just talk with them and see how they were doing. Some didn't have many friends or family.

I don't know if any of us knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into. But Rodger guided us through the first number of visits before letting us go on our own.

At first we were going every Sunday afternoon after church. That got to be a bit much so we switched to Sunday afternoons and, the following week, Monday evenings. By this time I believe we were down to only two of us visiting, Richard and myself. Eventually we gave up Monday evenings, just going every other Sunday afternoon.

Over the years volunteers came and left. Peter and Karen Tjon came for awhile. So did Steve Chong and later Mary Ko Bong. Mary was an elderly lady. She actually passed away at the ripe old age of 92. The circumstances were a bit tragic. Peter and Karen left our church for another. Steve and Richard got busy with married life. After awhile it was just me. That's when Rodger came back into the fold to join me.

Most of the time it was just us two. Later on he would get seminary students. It was sort of like a hands on ministry experience for them. They would join us for part of their school year. Our first student was Jamie. Then it might have been Kate, followed by Abbey, Emily and, most recently, Cathy (whose final visit was supposed to be two Sundays ago). I'm not sure if I missed anyone or not. For one or two years the school didn't send us any students for some reason. So that program started quite a long time ago.

Fast forward to last November (2017). The boarding homes volunteers received this e-mail:

Boarding Homes Teams

November 22, 2016

To all Boarding Homes volunteers,

Thank you for all your faithful service and fellowship you have with your homes. Your smile, kind words, and laughter will bring smiles to many residents this coming holiday season. For many of our friends in the homes, this may be the only gift they receive. Thank you.

Rodger and I write to you to share some sad news. Rev. Rodger Hunter has been diagnosed with Stage 2 lymphoma. The lump is in his chest, and as the cancer has been caught very early, we are confident that Rodger will make a full recovery. He will undergo surgery at some point in early December and then will work with his doctors to determine the best treatment for him going forward.

We covet your prayers for Rodger and know that he is in God’s loving hands.

Rodger will be taking some time off to concentrate on his health, starting early December, and as such will not be making regular visits to homes. We know that many of the teams are self-sufficient and can and will continue to visit your homes regularly. For the two homes that Rodger currently visits either by himself or with one team member, we are looking for volunteers to help ensure our ministry continues in these places. The visits occur on Wednesdays at 1 pm and Fridays at noon, every other week. If you can add a visit to your schedule, please let Rodger or I know.

While Rodger is away, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. As a Board, we will answer questions we can and help address issues.

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts. We will update you regularly on Rodger’s health, as news becomes available.

In Christ,

Rodger's last visit to Carter Manor was at Christmastime. We held our annual Christmas dinner where he bought Swiss Chalet dinners for all the residents. We had three special dinners a year - one at Easter, one at Thanksgiving (which also coincided with the the anniversary of our first visit), and one at Christmastime. In later years we also held an annual end of summer barbecue hosted by his friend, Maureen.

I traded a few e-mails with Rodger while he was away. In one he mentioned his surgery would be on January 14th. In a following one it seems like they changed the date to Friday, January 13th, followed by six weeks of "letting things heal back up."

On Saturday, February 18th he wrote:

Friends in Christ,

I trust things are well with you.

Just an update.  I begin six weeks of radiation therapy on the 27th.  I may be able to return to work on a limited basis during this treatment but I’ll just have to see where my energy level is.

I have appreciated the prayerful support from the boarding home communities.
Grace abound, Rodger

Then, last week, on Wednesday, April 5th we received the devastating news.

Dear Boarding Homes teams,

It is with great sadness and shock that I share the news that Rodger has lost his battle with cancer and passed away earlier this week.  In his and my last correspondence just last week, he was as upbeat as only he can be and we were discussing the dates for the annual meeting.

I'm attaching the note from Rev. Will Ingram and will share details of any funeral arrangements as they come available.

Please remember his daughter in your prayers.

Please share this news with your fellow team members as I feel I may not have captured everyone's emails here.

In Christ,
Kim Oliver

... with this attachment:

Dear friends:

It is with profound sadness that we share the news that the Rev. Rodger Hunter passed away yesterday morning at Sunnybrook Hospital. Rodger had been suffering with cancer for the past few months, but his death comes as a shock to all of us.

Rodger was a dedicated and committed servant of Jesus Christ and performed an amazing ministry with some of Toronto’s most marginalized people. For many years he was the Chaplain of Boarding Homes Ministry and conducted his ministry with tremendous compassion and prophetic vision.

Arrangements will be shared when they are available.

We know that this news will come as a surprise and shock to many of the members of our community. In your prayers today please give thanks for Rodger’s example, his witness and his life; and keep his daughter Christie and the many people whose lives he touched in your thoughts and prayers.
We live in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.

In Christ,

Will Ingram

The news is hard to fathom - Disbelief, utter sadness and shock. So many emotions. 17 years, then gone in an instant. A gaping hole.

His compassion and devotion to the neglected was deep. He affected positive change to countless disaffected spirits. Those people, and many more, will miss him greatly. I will be one among them.

Cathy has graciously agreed to join me this Sunday to visit Carter Manor (even though the previous visit was supposed to be her last). I posted a message about Rodger's passing on Facebook, so word got out to the home. I'm not sure what we're going to do. Hopefully we'll be able to console one another and, perhaps, send prayers his way. I feel sort of lost.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Another Season Comes to an End

We just finished our latest season of Friday Night Hockey. We started mid-October last year and played for half a year - 25 weeks.

Things didn't start off very smoothly. We ran into goalie trouble right out of the gate having to rent twice in the first few weeks. And, one of those times, the rental goalie didn't even show up. We didn't hear from him or the company, Goalies Unlimited, either. Not good.

Shortly after came news that one of our regular goalies, Godfrey, was having knee problems. He would be unable to continue playing. We encountered a problem like that a couple of years earlier when another goalie, Dave, backed out as our season started also because of knee problems. Thankfully, this time, Godfrey's nephew (and Peter's son), Harrison, was able to fill in.

Age is catching up to our group. Another member, Jim, signed up and paid, but was unable to make it to any of the games. Originally he was hoping to join us around Christmastime. But December turned into January, turned into February, turned into March. Thankfully I was able to collect enough money from weekly subs to be able to refund him what he paid.

Other than that, things went pretty smoothly. We picked teams and played a number of Best-of-5 series. That gave most people a bit more motivation to go out and skate harder.

The rink attendant was new this year. We got the ice a little earlier than our 10:30 start time most weeks. But we would always be kicked off at the stroke of midnight and not a second later. Highly unusual to say the least.

On our last day we continued a tradition we started last year. Before the game most of us met for dinner at the nearby Congee Queen. It gave us some time to talk and bond a little more than when you're just sitting on the bench between shifts or changing in the dressing room.

Until next season!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Board Games After Dinner

After we ate dinner Gabe, Doris and I went over to Justin's place to play board games. Doris has quite a few which is great.

Not wanting to put a lot of brain power to use after eating, we asked Doris if she had any relatively simple ones. The first game she brought out was Deep Sea Adventure.

The concept is pretty simple. Each person is a diver aboard a submarine. The object of the game is to dive beneath the sub and pick up treasure. The trick is to do it and return before all the air in the submarine runs out. If that happens any treasure you may have picked up is dropped and you return empty-handed.

The submarine holds 25-units of air. For each piece of treasure a player picks up (on his way down or up) one unit of air is used before his turn. If four people have one piece of treasure each, four units of air are used up before a player's turn.

You roll a pair of dice (numbered 1 to 3 instead of the traditional 1 to 6) to determine how many spaces below the submarine you travel to pick up treasure. The further you go away from the sub the more valuable the treasure. Though, the further you go down, the further you have to go to return.

Anyway, that's the basic concept. Go down; pick up treasure; make sure you return before the air runs out. If you survive, you get to keep whatever you pick up. After three rounds each person's total is tallied and the person with the most points wins.

We played three games. I won three games. Justin was sad.

The next game Doris brought out was Sheep & Thief. It's a little more complicated than Deep Sea Adventure, but still fairly easy to get the hang of. It's made for 2-4 people with the optimal number of players being four.

Each player is given a 4x4 game board and dealt cards that you have to place on the board. Some cards are for buildings roads and rivers. Others give you sheep, sheep dogs, safe houses or thieves or any combination of them. The object of the game is to get the most points by the end of the game.

You get points by building roads from your starting point at the top-left corner of the game board to towns at any of the other corners. There are 5-points awarded for building a road straight across to the top-right corner or one down to the bottom-left corner. If you manage to build a longer road to the bottom-right corner that's worth 10-points.

Points are also awarded if you manage to connect river cards together - 2-points for each card connected to another. There are also cards with sheep on them - anywhere from one to three. If you play them you get sheep. If you manage to keep your sheep until the end of the game you get 1-point for each.

That's where the thief and sheep dog cards come in. There is a thief symbol on the board. If you play a thief card you can move that thief symbol around to any card that has sheep on them. If the sheep aren't on a card with a safe house on it, the thief can take them for his own.

If you play the sheep dog card it allows you to move all the sheep on one of your cards to another card (hopefully to a safe house card). That's how you try to protect your herd.

The game starts with each player being dealt five cards. He picks one and passes four to the player on his left. From the four cards he receives from the player on his right, he picks one and passes three to his left and so on. This goes until he receives the last card discarded from the player on his right, then play begins.

The first player plays a card on his board and they go around until each players has played four cards. Then they deal out four more cards from the deck and the process starts again. Each player will pick one card. But instead of passing four discarded cards to the left, this time he passes them to the right and so on.

When that's done they continue laying their cards down once again. After four more have been played they deal out four more cards and the passing starts to the left once again.

This is the last round. The last four cards will be played for a total of 13 on everyone's board (3 rounds x 4 cards, plus the starting card on the top-left corner).

After the cards are played, players tally up their scores (which is usually between 20-30 points). The person with the highest total wins.

I won the first game. And then the second. Justin was even more sad.

Both games were decent. I liked Sheep & Thief a bit more. It's a little more involved than Deep Sea Adventure. One problem I had with that game is that you run out of air way too quickly (especially with four players). I think they should have at least 40-50 units of air then. Most of the time there was only enough air to go down and pick up one or two pieces of treasure at most.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dinner at Ten-Ichi Sushi

My friends and I went to Ten-Ichi Sushi in Scarborough for dinner on Saturday. It's an all-you-can-eat restaurant, which many of you know, is my favourite. Though, at $28.95 a pop, this place was a little more pricey that I was hoping for.

Our original plan was to meet there at 6:00 p.m. I had a few errands to run beforehand and arrived ten minutes early. No one else was there, so I got a table for four. It was only after I sat down that I noticed the text that Gabe sent - Doris was running late and the new meet up time was 6:30.

He had actually sent a WhatsApp message earlier, but I don't have data. So, if I'm out, I have to be contacted on my cell. He didn't remember that until too late. I ordered some tea, nigiri and maki rolls and snacked by myself while I waited.

Justin arrived next. He was actually early too. But he had grabbed a coffee and cookie next door at the Timmies and waited there. If I had only known.

Gabe showed up next. By himself. Originally he was going to come with Doris, but decided he couldn't keep us waiting by ourselves for too long. We ordered a few more items and then she showed up.

I have to admit they have an extensive selection of items at Ten-Ichi. There are things such as the quick-seared sushi items that I won't get at the restaurants I go to. The photos in the menu are a bit deceptive as well. They look really amazing. What you actually get when the food comes to your table isn't so much. It doesn't affect the taste of course but, hey, presentation does count for something.

Still, the top tier items (at Ten-Ichi and at other sushi restaurants) is the sashimi. That's what you pay the most for. So, really, I'm not sure a few more special maki rolls or dessert items are worth the extra bucks.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Gone with the Wind

My Week-1 delivery route took me through Mississauga to Oakville today. Compared to my Week-2 route, it's much shorter. That one takes me into Burlington, Hamilton and Ancaster. A longer day to be sure.

I started my day as usual, arriving at work shortly after 10:00. It was nice out. At almost 14C the temperature was usually warm for the beginning of March. It was windy though. Quite windy.

Being the lighter week, I wasn't so rushed. I had one extra delivery in Brampton at Dr. Tejpal's office. I go there once every four weeks instead of two. After him it's Mavis Bristol Dental.

By late afternoon I was finishing up in Oakville. Having completed a sizeable delivery at Big Hit Kickboxing I made my way to Dr. Kaloti's. Their office is a repurposed house on the northeast corner of Trafalgar Road and Church Street.

After dropping off the towels I went back to my vehicle which I parked in the driveway beside the house. Sitting on the pavement by the driver's side door I noticed an envelope. It was addressed to 128 Trafalgar Road.

I knew we were on Trafalgar Road, but I didn't know exactly where 128 was. I decided I'd go back into the office to see if the receptionist knew. While walking back I saw the building across the street had a sign indicating 126 Trafalgar Road. Another nearby sign read 132.

The receptionist didn't seem to know where 128 was. She said she'd take the letter and toss it back into the mailbox. So I left it with her and walked back out. That's when I noticed another sign on the building across the street that read 128 - Institute for Hormonal Health. That was it. I went back in and grabbed the letter and told the receptionist it belonged to the building across the street.

While waiting for the light to change so I could cross the street I noticed a lady with a lot of mail go into 128. When the light changed I walked over and went in and told her I found the letter across the street. She thanked me for returning it and I left.

As I was waiting to cross the street I noticed another letter on the street. I ran over to pick it up and saw another one... and another one. These ones were scattered on the road and sidewalk at the intersection of Church and Trafalgar. I gathered them up and ran back to the office and gave them to the lady.

After all that excitement I went back to my van and started towards my final destination. I barely got out onto Church Street when I noticed another envelope on the road. I put my hazards on and stopped and hopped out and scooped it up. Of course it was addressed to 128 Trafalgar.

Not far from that one was another. I think it was on the road. I ran and grabbed it. Then on the walk back to the van I saw another one on the sidewalk. I believe this one was number seven.

I hopped back into my van and drove around the block back towards 128. On the way back up Trafalgar I saw another envelope on the sidewalk. I stopped my van again and put the hazards on and ran across the street. An elderly lady was approaching the letter. She got there just before me and bent over and picked it up.

Before she turned it over to look at it I said something like, "It's addressed to 128 Trafalgar Road". She turned it over to see it was. I told her a lot of their mail was scattered around the area and I was picking it up and bringing it back to them, so she gave it to me and continued on.

I saw one more letter on the sidewalk and grabbed it and drove a few metres back across Church Street and parked with my hazards and went back in the office. Again.

That was it... nine pieces of mail scattered all around the neighbourhood. The wind did quite a job. Letters were all over the place. There were all sorts. Some were bills, the others I don't quite remember. A few of them had tire tracks across them from being run over by cars. Hopefully I found most of them, but who knows.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Hey, Look! 191!

Yes, we went bowling again. A group of us from CPC go once a month to Kennedy Bowl to partake in some fun and friendly competition. They have a Sunday special which used to be $2.00 a game. But they switched it recently to $25 per hour for two lanes.

If we speed bowl we can bring it in under $2.00 a game. Though, quite often, the lanes act up (balls not being returned) and we have to wait for the guys who work there to fix them. Then it ends up being a bit more.

I came by an hour late after visiting the boarding home. The guys were just finishing up their first game. I was the eighth guy to join. They slotted me in after Ed in group 1.

My first game was decent. I bowled a 143 which is on or around my average. I managed to eke out a win over Ray who came in with a 139. He got a spare on his second last ball. But, on his last ball, disappointingly hit only one pin.

I made it closer than it should have been. On my second last frame I could have put it out of reach if I hit my last pin for a spare. But I managed to spare my last frame and hit enough pins on my final ball to pull ahead of him in the end.

My second game was much better overall. It started strong with a strike and a spare. But then I hit a long lull with three open frames. The ending was quite good though. My last five frames were strike, strike, strike, spare, followed by two strikes and a 7 in the tenth for 191. 200 is within reach!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Double D's Pizza

On Saturday we went to Double D's Pizza on Gerrard Street for dinner. It was partially just to grab a bite, as well as to celebrate Justin's birthday. I believe he had read about it on BlogTO or something like that and wanted to give it a try.

Gabe, along with Justin and Doris, came by my place around 6:30 to pick me up. We took the side streets down to Leslieville and parked at Gerrard Square and walked over.

The restaurant is pretty small. They have two bar stools by the west window followed by 3-tables for four along the west wall, plus a table for three or four at the back of the east side and around 10 stools along the bar for a total of under 30 seats. Needless to say, on a weekend evening the wait to be seated was about 3/4 of an hour.

On top of that, the Chicago-style, deep dish pizzas (at over 1" deep) they made were expected to take 40-minutes from the time you ordered to when you were served. So, upon our arrival, we had to decide if we wanted to wait nearly an hour an a half before we started eating. We waited.

They have three types of pizzas to choose from - Chicago Classic - pepperoni, Italian sausage; Jalapeño Blue - blue cheese, Italian sausage, bacon; Farmers Market - roasted red peppers, mushrooms, red onion, spinach. Or you can build your own from a list of these toppings - extra cheese, italian sausage, pepperoni, bacon, jalapeños, red peppers, mushrooms, red onions, spinach, black olives, anchovies, pineapple, fresh basil.

There are four sizes you can choose from - personal, small, medium and large. A medium would suffice for two people. If you were really hungry a couple of big guys could possibly split a large. We picked two mediums - one Chicago Classic at $29 and a Farmers Market for $24. Paired with a pint of beer the pizzas were both delicious. The staff were nice enough to even offer us four glasses of Jameson Irish Whiskey on the house. How thoughtful.

I'd go back again for sure. Maybe earlier so the wait wouldn't be so long. Or, perhaps, on a less busy day. I'd discourage going in groups larger than four unless you don't mind being split up (or waiting a really long time).

Monday, February 20, 2017

When Death Catches You Off Guard

Death has been revolving around my life more and more in recent days. As I wrote about previously, the sudden (to me) death of CBC radio personality, Stuart McLean, happened on Wednesday. On Thursday, a young lady who attended the Knox Youth Dinner on Tuesday evenings was murdered in her apartment on Dawes Road. And Friday was the first anniversary of our friend Tom Chan's passing.

Now, I didn't know Stuart McLean personally. Nor did I know the lady, Michelle Riley, who attended Knox. I only saw her in passing as we walked the halls. That was about it.

Tom was a friend from hockey. We saw each other on a weekly basis through winter. After some time he reached out to me and invited me over to his and Florianne's place for get togethers. I will always appreciate his kindness and hospitality. He was truly a great guy.

The thing about these deaths, and many others, is they happened unexpectedly. One day the person is here, the next day they are gone. It's especially difficult for their loved ones. Though, in some cases, they may have had an inkling something was wrong (if the person was elderly or sick).

But, to their cursory friends, sometimes death comes as a shock. That can be really hard. Especially if you never got the chance to personally say, good-bye. To express your gratitude for their friendship, to hold their hand and tell them you care for them and that you'll miss them. That's the heartbreaking part in stories like this.

Good-bye, my friend.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Stuart McLean Passes Away

CBC radio just reported one of their longtime radio personalities, Stuart McLean, has passed away. In December 2016 he suspended his long-running radio show The Vinyl Café to focus on his treatment for melanoma which he was diagnosed with in late 2015. Today, he lost that battle.

I had listened to his show, The Vinyl Café, soon after I started making deliveries back in 2011. His stories about Dave and Morley and their friends and family brought a smile to my face week after week. Without fail, I would tune in every Thursday at 1:00 to listen to some songs and a couple of stories he'd tell about some crazy misadventure in Dave's life.

McLean told stories about Dave's life growing up in Big Narrows, Cape Breton with his mother, Margaret, and sister, Annie; his adventures on the road with different bands; and his record store, The Vinyl Café. He told stories about Dave's family - his wife Morely and their children Stephanie and Sam and their pets Arthur the dog and Galway the cat.

There were stories about Dave's friend Kenny and his restaurant Wong's Scottish Meat Pies; and his neighbours Bert and Mary Turlington, Jim Scoffield, Carl Lowbeer and Eugene Conte. Each week the characters were more and more flushed out. And, each week, I was more and more invested in them and their lives.

McLean's stories were pure Canadiana... a wonderful escape from the drudgery of everyday life. I'll miss that as well as his unique style of storytelling and his one-of-a-kind voice. It's a sad day for Canada, a sad day for Canadians.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Pond Hockey at Lance's Farm

My friend Lance organized a 3-on-3 pond hockey game at his farm near Orangeville on Saturday. Originally it had been planned for two weeks earlier, but the temperatures that week were too warm. Even though the pond is only 5-feet deep, it wasn't worth taking the chance of falling through.

After driving an hour and a half, I arrived at Lance's place ten or fifteen minutes after the scheduled meeting time of noon. Two guys, Ian and Andrew, were already there.

The pond, still partially covered with snow, needed to be cleared so we grabbed shovels went out back. Lance had a snowblower which he used to clear the deeper stuff. By 2:30 p.m. we had a large portion of the 100'x150' pond ready to go. Now, where was everyone else?

According to the Facebook event page, 12 people had confirmed they were coming. Though two or three of them were only coming for dinner afterwards. It seemed the 3-on-3 game wasn't going to materialize.

Ian, Andrew and I passed pucks around for an hour or so while waiting for Lance to don his goalie equipment and, as we learned later, put the turkey in the oven. Lance's dog, Marshall, would chase the pucks as we played "keep away". Occasionally he would corral one after which he would take off to chew on it.

When Lance finally came out we took shots on him for awhile before retiring to get ready for the evening.

One thing we had to do was get some firewood ready for a bonfire. Lance already had a bunch of wood cut and ready to go. But he still wanted to cut down a few dead trees around the property to burn.

He had borrowed three gas-powered chainsaws from some of his neighbours. We couldn't get any of them to work though. Ian got one to start, but the chain was too lose and it flew off while it was running. We got another one to start, but it only ran for 10-15 seconds before conking out.

We ended up cutting down one small tree with a dull axe. After struggling with that for around 15-20 minutes we had had enough. One tree was all the extra wood we were getting.

By early evening another one of Lance's friends, a fellow farmer, Jerry, had shown up. Later on a couple others, Ariel and Gavi, came by.

In anticipation of Lance's cornucopia of food, we prepared our palates with beer and chips. He had prepared Caesar salad, turkey, steak, lamb, sausage, broccoli with cheese and mashed potatoes for everyone. All made from scratch.

Dinner was great. It was nice meeting all his friends. They're quite a varied group. Except for Jerry (who was 62) the rest of the guys were in their 20's. A bit younger than people I normally hang out with, but that was fine.

It was good getting together to enjoy Lance's hospitality. If we do it again hopefully we'll get a few more skaters.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Toronto Light Festival

Like I did back in December, after my boarding home visit on Sunday, I dropped by the Distillery District to shoot some photos. But, instead of the Christmas Market, the Toronto Light Festival was on. Organizers brought together a number of artists who made light installations which were situated both inside and out around the site.

Like the my previous visit, I brought my tripod along. It makes it much easier to get low light shots. Also, like last time, it was cold. Perhaps even colder this time. Throughout the five hours I was there I had to make a number of forays indoors to keep from getting frostbite on my hands. Of course I'm exaggerating, but it was darn cold.

Since it was a Sunday evening, and it was cold, it wasn't as busy as it could have been. The Christmas Market was far busier. Still there were a fair number of people there. I don't mind the crowds. It makes my photos more interesting even though I often have to wait longer to get the ideal shot.

Anyway, the festival goes from sundown to either 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. depending on the day. It started on January 27th and will run until March 12th.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Eagle Has Landed

I was listening to CBC Radio 1 last week. They were interviewing a fellow who had seen a bald eagle at High Park not long ago. My friend, Justin, read something in the Metro paper online saying the same thing. He suggested we grab our friend Gabe to go look for it Saturday.

They picked me up near my place at 12:30 in the afternoon and we drove down. Incredibly it was Justin's first time there ever.

We parked at the café and headed down to the pond. Though people had been skating on it as recently as week or two ago, it had been quite warm the past few days. Ice still covered the water, but it was thin. Signs warned people not to go out on it.

We first headed southward along the eastern bank. At the bottom we made a U-turn and returned the same way. Along the way we saw chickadees, sparrows, mallard ducks and a downy woodpecker, but no eagles. After an hour and a half we gave up and retreated to the Grenadier Café to grab a bite.

After we ate Gabe suggested we head over to the "zoo". I have to say, it's more like a petting zoo with llamas, sheep and bison. Even the infamous capybaras were in hiding because of the chilly temperatures. Expecting to see nothing of interest, Justin left his camera in the car.

It was only as we were about to leave that we saw a group of people standing at the top of the hill by the zoo staring skyward. Up in a tall pine tree was the bald eagle we were so eagerly searching for. Gabe and I started taking pictures right away while Justin ran back to his car to grab his camera.

The bird was in no hurry to leave so we were all able to shoot to our hearts content. Such luck. If we hadn't decided to have something to eat and also go to the zoo, we would have missed the very thing we made the trek down to see.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

There Goes the Neighbourhood

Times are a'changin' in my old neighbourhood. One after another, the old neighbours are moving out. Usually it starts with the passing of either the husband, wife or both and the remaining family members decide to sell.

In recent times it's been the Abbey's house at number 8. First Mr. Abbey passed away then a few years later, Mrs. Abbey. Their kids sold the place and the new owner knocked off the upper half floor and converted it to a full second storey.

The Smythe's in 14 just moved out too. The new owner demolished the existing bungalow is building a 2-storey home there. It's still under construction.

A few years ago the Smith's children sold their place. Their parents had passed away over a decade earlier I believe. The eldest son had been living there on his own. The new owners renovated inside, but kept the original structure. After living there for only a few years it's on the market again.

And now, our long-time neighbours to the east, the Reeves, at 12, are moving out. Mr. Reeve passed away around five years ago or so if I remember correctly. Mrs. Reeve had been living there on her own since. But, this fall, she moved a bit east to live near her son and his family.

They just put their home up for sale this week for $1.1 million. My mother said a lot of people have come by to see it. Demand is super-high for single detached homes in Toronto right now. I'm sure they'll get above asking. My mom is hoping whoever buys it won't tear it down and build a monster home like so many of the others.

Since I left home so many of my childhood neighbours have left - the Grunwalds at 18, the Jacobs at 17, the Reutens at 21, the Owens at 20, the Bowies at 19, I forget the names of the people at 15, Mr. Smith at 2, the Johns at 5.

My mom is friendly with whoever else moves in. But there are less and less people around my parents' age.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hanging up the Skates

I guess it had to happen sometime. Still, as far as I'm concerned, it's a sad day. My mum has hung up her ice skates for good.

After skating for many, many years shefell last season and broke her wrist. She was in a cast for around a month and a half. And after she got it off it took quite awhile before the swelling went down and flexibility returned. Not wanting to take any more chances she decided that was it.

She's still active. Both my parents go swimming three or four times a week. And they go for walks around the neighbourhood too. But it's too bad there's one less activity in her life that she used to enjoy doing.