Day Eighteen … String Bikinis and the Sky Train

Well, what can I do?  Today is Sunday and I haven’t even written about Friday yet.  And memory is not my best subject.  Oh well, I’ll give you an approximation of my life.  Because it’s uncertain business at the best of times.

The front desk clerk at the hotel in Delta (maybe 2o km south of Vancouver) told me how to get to a Sky Train station that would take me downtown.  I got lost, which actually I enjoy doing.  It gives me more chances to talk to people.  Scarlet and I wandered around until we came upon a FedEx office.  In I went, with no valid FedEx purpose.  And the two employees – a man and a woman – were perfectly helpful.  In no time at all, I was zipping along towards the Vancouver skyline in search of some of my favourite haunts.

As I emerged from the underground on Georgia St., there stood the classic Hotel Vancouver looming above me.  I found the row of big windows at the top of the building and remembered.  The winter of 1970-71, bartender’s assistant in the Grand Ballroom (or some such lofty name).  The band playing “Tiny Bubbles” every night as the older crowd danced the fox trot.  Trying to keep my face pleasant, or at least neutral, as the Lawrence Welk tune dampened my soul.  Plus the main bartender was plain mean.  A slave I was.

Next I strolled down Robson St.  I looked up at a second floor restaurant that Jody and I enjoyed when we came for Expo 86.  Farther along was the Landmark Hotel, a very tall fellow.  I had walked Jody up the same side of Robson as the hotel so she didn’t know what was coming up.  “Let’s go in here.”  As so began a breakfast in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Landmark.  We both loved surprises.

On Friday, I hurried towards the front door of the Pacific Palisades Hotel, where I worked as a bellman during the winter of 1973-74.  Reminiscing, please.  I grabbed the handle and pulled.  Locked.  A fellow walking by told me that there is no hotel anymore – just apartments.  (Sigh)

Then it was down the street to the tiny house I lived in, at Bidwell and Alberni.  I already knew that the cutesy one was gone, replaced by layered condo units.  Still, I just had to stand there near the intersection, looking up at the unique deciduous trees that still lined the street.  The trunk went straight up for eight feet and then spread into four or five thick branches.  Cool.

I used to get off my shift at midnight and walk down to the McDonald’s at Robson and Bidwell and enjoy their smallest cheeseburger, smallest fries and a tiny drink.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about Friday’s luncheon choice.

And then there was English Bay Beach.  In the middle of September, 1986, Jody and I walked onto the beach at sunset and sat down, propped against one of the huge logs lying there.  The freighter lights were twinkling out in the harbour.  We huddled together.  A ring was burning a hole in my pocket.  I got up.  I knelt down.  “Jody, will you marry me?”  “Yes.”  (Pause)  “Wow, you sure answered quickly.”  (Smile)

On Friday, I sat against what I guessed was that very log, ate my chocolate peanut butter waffle cone, and thought of my dear wife.  Glistening eyes.  Beside me, in front of the next log, three young women were sunbathing, two of them in string bikinis.  Naturally, I averted my eyes.  As I got up to leave, something inside moved me to say to the covered up one, “I have to tell somebody.  Twenty-nine years ago, I asked my wife to marry me in just about this same spot.”  Their eyes softened.  After I painted the picture a bit more, one of the skimpily clad girls said, “You should bring your wife back here.”  Choking up some, I told them that Jody died in November.  Tears flowed from two of the girls.  “May I give you a hug?” one of them asked.  “Yes.”  And I held a sweaty, barely clothed 20-year-old.  Two more hugs followed.  Was it exciting, hugging those young women?  Yes.  Far more importantly, it was a communion.  They each gladly took one of Jody’s books.  And then we were gone from each other.

On the Sky Train heading back to my car, I faced a full house.  That’s fine … I’ll stand.  After the car emptied some at a station, there was one empty seat.  A young woman motioned with her hand for me to sit down.  I did the same to her.  “I’m getting off at the next stop,” she replied.  I smiled and sat … next to another young woman.  She looked at me and said, “I love your T-shirt.  I want to get one.”  “Well, it’s one of a kind.  It’s poetry that my sister-in-law wrote.”  Shine a light upon my day  We talked.  I told her about Jodiette.  “Would you like a copy of our book?  I just gave away the ones I had in my backpack, but I can mail you one, if you like.”  “No thanks.  I’ll just remember the moment.”  “Okay.”  As the train rolled along, we were getting close to my station, and I didn’t know where my friend was exiting.  I don’t remember what she said next but the gist of it was “May I have a book?”  So she wrote down her name and address and will be receiving a package once I get back to Ontario.

How can all this be happening to me?  From which woodwork are these folks emerging?  Actually, it doesn’t matter.  I’m just glad they’re coming to see me.


It all started when I dropped into Catholic Central High School in London yesterday afternoon.  I had a fine visit with my friend Stacy and then walked into the classroom of another friend, Lyrinda.  There were only a few minutes left in the last period of the day.

As the students were walking out at the bell, I recognized one girl and she knew me.  I’ll call her Mary.  Years ago, when I was working with a blind child in Grade 7, everyone went over to the church for Mass one day.  The Grade 8’s sat behind us.  Mary sat directly behind me.  The organist began a hymn (I can’t remember the name of it) which had a descant, an optional melody that’s very high-pitched.  As I sang in my baritone voice, Mary hit the high notes.  There are no words to describe the beauty.  I was writing a blog back then (I still am, as you can tell), and I wrote about Mary that night, being sure not to name her in the piece.

Months later, virtually all of my blog posts got deleted by mistake, over a hundred of them.  (Sigh)  What sadness.  Yesterday, I told Mary the story, and how I wish that I had shown her what I’d written.  Was her post one of the few that escaped the delete?  I didn’t know.

Then Lyrinda and I talked … for over an hour.  How she loves her students!  She prays with them at the beginning of every class.  The teens share worries about loved ones.  They share love.  Lyrinda and I talked about love, about she and I being emissaries of such.  There was no ego in our talk, no “Look at me!”  Just friends doing some “big talk”.  To be immersed in such communion for an hour was … I don’t know the word, but it was big.

I said goodbye to Lyrinda in the parking lot.  As I walked to my car, I knew I was “as high as a kite”.  No drugs in my system but something was sure in there!  I walked into the post office to mail one of Jody’s books.  There was a little roped corridor where patrons line up, with a sign saying “Please Wait Here” at the end.  Two employees were behind the counter.  The only other customer in the room was off to the side, addressing envelopes.  “Come on over, sir.”  “But the sign says to wait here.  I always do what I’m told.”  (Huh?)  Soon the woman with the envelopes was ready.  I walked to the back of the room and she approached one of the clerks.  I was being eyed suspiciously (or quizzically) by the Canada Posters.  Over the next five minutes, I returned to the sign again and again, only to retreat when a new person came through the door.  Oh my goodness.  Am I mentally unstable or just silly?  I’m hoping the latter is true.  Finally it was just the three of us.  A glance back showed me that no cars were parking, no arms carrying packages were approaching the door.  So I mailed Jody’s book, to the amusement of the woman taking my money.

I decided to go see a movie – any movie.  It didn’t matter which one.  I knew there’s usually a film starting around 5:00 at the Hyland Cinema, so I started driving over there.  I was on Wharncliffe Road – four lanes and lots of traffic.  A bus was ahead of me in the curb lane.  I knew what to do, of course.  Pull into the left lane and pass the frequently stopping beast.  Except I didn’t.  I stayed right behind, pausing whenever it did.  Oh my goodness again.  Why am I doing this?

Kite aloft, I walked into the theatre.  I’ll be seeing Preggoland, so said the sign.  And I saw it alone.  I don’t think I’ve ever been alone in a movie theatre.  Do I hear the music of The Twilight Zone?  It was a great film, morphing from a comedy about a depressed girl who fakes a pregnancy to something entirely different and sublime.  The audience loved it.

Grocery time.  As I parked in the Costco lot, I picked up my little black bag of Jody’s books and went inside.  I was floating.  “Someone in here will want a book,” I promised.  After chatting with the pharmacy folks for a few minutes, sharing with them that I was high, I wandered the store, dropping stuff in the cart, and vaguely looking for book recipients.  No one.  At the checkout, a packing clerk checked out my bag.  “I wrote a book.”  “Can I have one?” he said.  “Sure.  My wife died in November and I wrote a book about her.  I’m giving them away to anyone who wants one.”  The female cashier beside him:  “You’re going to make me cry.  I’d like one too.”  “Of course.”  Cue the music.

Homeward bound, with my bread, laundry detergent, bananas, but sadly no fruit tray.  Hey Costco!  Give us back our fruit.  But I wasn’t really bothered by my fruitless endeavour.  The world was shining.

Sitting in my man chair, I looked through the hard drives of my old laptop and this new one, searching for the remnants of my ancient blog.  I tried entering Mary’s name, but that was silly.  I never would have mentioned that in the post.  Using all my brain cells, I thought that I had referred to her as an “angel”.  No luck there either.  In fact, if there were a few posts that had escaped my errant finger, I couldn’t find any.  After nearly an hour of this, I gave up.  Sorry, Mary.


C’mon, Bruce.  One more try.  So I typed “school” in the My Documents search window.  42 hits.  Scroll and scroll.  Here was one called “City of God”.  The hymn!  Open the file.  And there was Mary:

And once again … her soprano blending with my baritone
Like nothing I’ve heard in my life
Like no moment I’ve experienced in the 62 years
I’ve been on the planet
Never before
Probably never again

Now that I knew where to look on the hard drive, I saw that only two posts from the days of yore survived – the very first one I wrote, entitled “Time to Write Again” … and Mary’s.

I have a delivery to make next week.

Magic Times Three

I got up yesterday morning and realized that I hadn’t listened to my answering machine for a couple of days.  There were three messages:

1.  (During Jody’s illness, Manulife was so good in approving prescriptions and in supporting me when I was on short term disability.  For months, though, I have been trying to have them accept receipts for services that occurred within the three months after Jody’s death.  According to Jody’s employer, St. Joseph Health Care, these receipt submissions were legitimate.)

Message from my contact person at St. Joe’s.  Manulife accepts my receipts and will issue me a cheque.  He and his supervisor had gone to bat for me.  Thank you!

2.  (A month ago, I had left a copy of Jody’s book with The London Free Press, asking someone on staff to review our story.)

Message to call my contact at the newspaper.  He told me that although they don’t review the works of local authors unless a major publisher has picked up their work, he’s writing an article about us local folks, and Jody’s lovely cover photo, plus contact information for me, will be in the piece.  It will be published this Saturday, or maybe the next one.  Thank you!

3.  (I’ve gone to the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association retirement banquet in May for fifteen years.  I love seeing friends, eating a great meal, and listening to retirees speak about what their career has meant to them.  As an employee, I would be contacted by my OECTA rep weeks before the banquet to see if I’d like a ticket.  Now that I’m retired, no such e-mail.  The banquet is tonight.  I called my union office on Tuesday.  (Oops)  “I’m sorry, Bruce.  There are no tickets left.”  Sad but determined, I decided to show up at the banquet anyway.  There’d be no food for me but surely I could pull up a chair to a table of 10 and chat.)

Message from the union office.  “One ticket just became available.  It’ll be waiting for you at the registration table.”  Thank you!


I’m such a lucky guy … blessed left, right and centre with kind human beings


I just spent the last five hours in the presence of four lovely people – two women, one girl and one man.  We sat in the kitchen for awhile, and later went downstairs, where one of the women was having her hair cut and styled by the other one.

I don’t want to name names.  I don’t want to share the issues that folks brought up.  I don’t want to quote anyone.  What I’d love to do is touch upon the space of love that we all created.  And, really, I don’t know what to say.  (So just type, Bruce.  See what emerges.)

Reverence.  That’s what wound itself through all our words.  Reverence for humanity, for our struggles, our pains, our beauty.  Lots of stories told, none of which were intended to demean anyone.  The stories lifted us up, shining a light on our tenderness.  We shared grief.  We shared sadness and the loss of relationships.  We shared the serendipity of us coming together tonight.

The fellow and I had been out for lunch.  When we got back to his house, I didn’t know whether he’d invite me in.  He did.  I had intended to have lunch with him yesterday, but complications led me to suggest today.  The woman having her hair done intended to come yesterday.  Somehow that got changed to today.  As the client pulled into the driveway, she saw the back of my head as I sat in a window seat in the kitchen.  It reminded her of me.  It was me.  I had never been in this house until today.

Some of our talk was serious.  Some of it was silly.  All of it was so very human.  One of us was 66.  Another was 15.  And the other three filled in between.  Age didn’t matter.  Male-female was irrelevant.  One person spoke rapidly.  Another slowly and quietly.  We laughed.  We pondered.  We came close to tears.  We prayed.

Pretty astonishing, actually.  No small talk.  Lots of big talk.  Human beings.

Acting – Part 2

Lesley is the woman who’s leading the beginning actors workshop on March 21.  She mentioned how scared most people are to get on stage.  They’ll start off with set building or being a backstage hand.  Hmm.  Not me.  I told her I want to act.

The workshop will include the opportunity to throw a teenaged tantrum.  Yes!  I can do that.  In real life, I have very little antagonism left in me, but socking it to my parents for pretend sounds like so much fun.

Decades ago, I took a personal development course in Vancouver.  One of the exercises was to share these words with another participant:

Don’t you ever … ever … ever … let me catch you
Brushing that dog’s teeth
With my toothbrush!

Back then, in my 30’s, I struggled.  I had learned to be polite, “nice”.  Before I got to the point of really blasting my partner, the instructor sure blasted me.  “C’mon, Bruce.  Give me all you’ve got!”  What an adventure.  So I’m definitely looking forward to telling mom and dad where to go.

I’m drawn to the third play of next season’s playbill at the Princess Avenue Playhouse – Jake’s Women.  The cast is one guy and seven girls.  The small voice inside says “What chance do you have to get the one and only male part?  You haven’t acted for 39 years.”  But there’s another speaker who wants me to go for it.  Here’s a synopsis of the play:

“Jake, a novelist who is more successful with fiction that with life, faces a marital crisis by daydreaming about the women in his life.  The wildly comic and sometimes moving flashbacks played in his mind are interrupted by visitations from actual females.  Jake’s women include a revered first wife who was killed years earlier in an accident, his daughter who is recalled as a child but is now a young woman, his boisterous and bossy sister, an opinionated analyst, his current wife who is leaving Jake for another man, and a prospective third wife.”

Okay, I like this.  Not being an obsessive-type person, I won’t tell you that I’ve ordered the script from Amazon (delivery on Friday, March 6!) plus the movie that was adapted from it, starring Alan Alda (delivery by March 23!).  Oh, Bruce.  Such a silly goose.

Ya gotta laugh at us human beings.  So strange.  And we’ll see what plops into my lap as I travel on.