Strange Things that Happen while Buying a House

The more things change, the more they get strange.

Yesterday, I left the office at noon. This was partly because I’d been here all night (we were working on a pitch for a client who would be worth a LOT to us) and was caught up in a conspiracy of people forcing me to go home. But added to that, I was meeting with Robyn to go look and some more homes.

There were four on the list, some nearby, and others a little further away. One was in Inglewood (a trendy little area east of downtown), which although nice had a few things that didn’t sit well with me. The second was in Bridgeland (just north east of downtown). Aside from the fact that it had tenants in the basement suite (and the renovations to make that suite weren’t all that great, either), I didn’t think the overall design was great.

House #3 was a considerable improvement. Located just north of downtown in Crescent Heights, it was a beautiful home — tastefully painted stucco, a nice large front room, great design care inside, and great landscaping. But at nearly $220,000, I had a hard time with the warped floors, tiny kitchen, abysmal basement, and rather unattractive bathroom.

The fourth home was in West Hillhurst, about two or three blocks from Crowchild Trail. On the outside, it was HIDEOUS. Unpainted stucco that really needed some help. My initial impression: This was gonna be a dud. But if there’s one thing I learned from that house: Don’t judge a house by its exterior. The owners must do design of some kind for a living. They had it coordinated out the wahzoo — the entire first floor was completely redesigned in (somewhat recent) IKEA. The only issues with the home were the basement (the stairs down looked unstable and felt twice as bad) and the fact that it sat on a major road.

The afternoon adventure over, I retreated to my apartment to try and get some sleep. No sooner than I had started to drift off than the phone rang.

“Get your butt downstairs! I’ve got another place in Sunnyside!”

Ten minutes later, Robyn and I were back on the road. The house had been on the market for about an hour. (Robyn moves fast.) It was not only the kind of home I was looking for, it was even in the right area of Sunnyside (west end, close to Kensington).

It gets better.

Remember the home that I put the offer in on last Saturday? (See [[Finding a Great House, Losing in a Bidding War]].) Well, this house is it’s mirrored twin sister neighbour (say that five times fast). Mirroring aside, the only other differences were a double garage and a higher price. The higher price I wasn’t big on, but it was worth a look.

Well, it would have been, if I could get in to see it. But Robyn always has a trick or two up her sleeve. We put in an offer on the house, with an extra condition: I had to view it and approve. A little strange, perhaps, but such is the nature of the real estate industry. As it stands, the listing realtor was very happy with this — she would only have to deal with me, and not multiple offers. The viewing was set for noon today.

With a good night’s sleep behind me, I was prepared for another day of negotiation and kicking the baseboards. Around 10:00 this morning, I got a call from Robyn. I figured she was calling me to make sure I was ready for the viewing. Little did I know what else she had to tell me.

“I’ve got good news.”

I had a mental pause, where I wondered what that news could possibly be.

Remember the house I lost the bid on last Saturday? Well, it seems that the people who had won the bid had put on a rather odd condition on the sale. I don’t remember what it was off the top of my head, but it was unconventional, very vague (to the point where Robyn said that she would never use the condition), and basically allowed the buyers to back out if they got cold feet.

It seems the people who won the bid need to wear thicker socks.

To avoid the problems of competing offers again, the listing realtor of the “first house” (as it came to be known) decided to give me first right of refusal, if I so desired. I desired. So instead of one house to potentially purchase, I now had two.

I couldn’t stop giggling for most of the morning. Most of the people I told this to just gave me strange looks.

So just before noon, Chris, Robyn, and I ventured over to take a look at the “second house”. We couldn’t get back into the “first house” — I wanted to let Chris have a look — but luckily I took pictures the last time I was there.

The listing realtor of the “second house” was there to meet us, and defend us from the two tenants who lived there (it’s not owner occupied). It seems the tenants are quite angry that the owner is selling the home, as they’ve lived there for quite a while and are really attached to it. (My general opinion — if you like it that much, buy it. If one person (e.g. me) can afford it, two people should be able to.) The realtor wanted to stick around inside, assumedly so I couldn’t escape without signing onto the deal.

The kitchen was not as nice — the work was good, but I think it lacked style. The basement seemed even more cramped than its neighbour (but it was also more full of stuff), the upstairs was well finished, although the bathroom was not nearly as nice, and the floor seemed to have a noticeable slope to it.

I was convinced there that this wasn’t what I wanted. Robyn suggested we go outside and look around back. I’m not entirely sure this was as a double-check, or just so that she could get me past the listing realtor without signing anything and she could tell that realtor that I wasn’t going to purchase after all. (By that point, the listing realtor had 12 calls about the house, so it wasn’t really going to put her in a bind, and the sellers would likely get more for the house in the long run.)

With the purchase withdrawn, we returned to the office to put the offer back in again on the “first house” — the one I wanted. So once again, I scribbled my initials and signature to a series of sheets I’ve gotten to know quite well. Once again, Robyn made the calls and arranged for a presentation to the sellers. And once again, I had to wait.

This time, it was almost anti-climactic. As I didn’t have anyone to compete with, I figured I was pretty much a shoe-in. I was — by 3:00pm, the offer had been accepted. Because I’d started looking for financing the day before, it was the only thing that still worried me.

I need a fair bit of money to purchase this house. Although I do have a fairly large down-payment (thanks greatly to my extremely generous parents), I still need a large mortgage, and that’s what I wasn’t sure about. Luckily, because I spent two years getting all my finances straightened out, my financial situation is pretty good. But I still wasn’t sure if I could borrow the money.

This little batch of nerve-wracking hell went on until about 7:30pm tonight. That’s when I got a call from Robyn. She was calling for the purpose of arranging for the home inspection (one of the two conditions, the other being financing, that have to be fulfilled). She asked me how I was doing — I said I wasn’t great because the stress of the financing was killing me. I didn’t want to lose this house a second time.

“Oh, you’re so silly!” she laughed, “You got the financing earlier this evening.”

I turned around, and saw myself staring back with the same slack-jawed glare of surprise and amazement.

After a loud “YES” (which would have had every head on the floor staring at me, if they hadn’t all already gone home), I finished the conversation. I think I said “yes” the entire time to every question she asked. (Hopefully I didn’t agree to something bad…)

So, only one condition remains outstanding — the home inspection. That’s this Saturday. Once that’s covered, the restrictions are cleared, and the house is (more or less) officially mine. Then all I have to do is wait — the closing date is June 1. I’m just glad I’m a patient person.

At least I would be, if I didn’t want everything right now.

Coping with my Father’s Terminal Illness

Fewer things are harder than losing a loved one. I suppose it’s even worse when you lose them slowly. And it’s only worse when there’s nothing you can do about it.

My father is dying. As you might recall, late last year, he beat lung cancer. What wasn’t immediately known was that when he started chemotherapy, the cancer decided it was time to hole up somewhere else. It found a new home in his brain.

Brain cancer is one of the worst. Because it’s a “clean zone”, no chemotherapy will work — there are biological processes that keep those toxins out. (Though, interestingly enough, they’ll let cancerous cells in.) The cancer took hold, and started growing. While we were celebrating dad’s triumph over lung cancer, the unnoticed brain cancer was preparing for the second battle of the war.

It’s a war that my father is likely to lose. When the tumour was found a month following his radiation treatment (during a follow-up CT scan), it immediately became a problem. It was almost as if the tumour knew that we knew it was there, and was bent on taking revenge for being forced out of the lung.

The first thing to go was dad’s balance. The tumour was in the right place to throw that off. Steroids solved that problem — mostly. But it swelled his face quite a lot — a side effect, so he ended up looking much better off than he actually was.

The last time I saw dad was at Christmas. He wasn’t the fastest moving, but he was more than capable of carrying out his Christmasy duties. No-one, really, was any wiser to what was yet to come.

Only a few days after returning to Calgary, dad took a fall. Quite a bad one, and injured himself in the knee and ankle. He had to start using a walker — his lower body strength was atrophying (though his upper body strength seemed no worse). For my father, this was quite a blow, not just physically but also mentally — he’d lost his self-support. A prideful man, for him to rely on anything but himself was something I don’t think he was really ready to accept.

This is common with my family. My grandmother was like this, too. My grandmother used to live in a two-storey Leaside home, until my father and aunt finally convinced her that she needed to move into a retirement home, where she could be looked after and she wouldn’t have to climb stairs. Although her mobility was fair, she could no longer smell or taste foods. It was a struggle to move her from her home of many decades … stubborn pride is a tough thing to fight.

Today, I learned that despite another radiation treatment to retard the brain cancer, the disease is progressing “normally”. Although we don’t know what’s going to happen, the doctor is hinting that my father will live only until about Christmas.

I don’t know what I will do without my father. He’s always been such a wonderful source of information, and a role model that I can only dream of imitating. He tried so hard to be the perfect father, and yet there has always been a slight distance between us. I think it’s partly due to me — I wasn’t the most affectionate child. The rest … well, it doesn’t matter, really. He’s my father, and I love him no matter the past or the future. This is not a year I’m looking forward to.

Worse, though, is what Cathy will have to go through. Cathy is on the frontlines. She’s the one who has to deal with dad’s illness, the one who goes to the doctor, the one who keeps mom and dad going from day to day. I feel so bad because I cannot do the same. As much I would love to take the next six months off, go home and help out my parents, this I cannot do. Perhaps when I do finally find a home of suitable size, I can invite my parents to spend time out here, where I can try to care for them and take some of the load off Cathy, even if only for a while.

This isn’t exactly the easiest time for all this, either. On a selfish side, I’ve got a change in my career (more management than implementation), the stress of hunting (and trying to purchase) a house, Cathy’s wedding (although I’m not doing a lot with it so far), trying to help out the Rocky Mountain Rail Society (but I’m swamped at work), and then there’s my father’s health mixed in with all of that. It’s hard.

These are things I want to talk about with my friends. But what do you say? How do I not come across like someone who’s looking for attention? I just need to talk. My friends know be better than this, of course, so my problem is all with me.

Right now, I can only do what Cathy does — live day to day. And hope that the doctor’s prognosis is wrong. He’s been off before, and maybe — just maybe — the stubbornness of the Sowrey family is enough to turn this around.

Finding a Great House, Losing in a Bidding War

Early this year (and this month), I finally decided it’s high time I get myself a permanent address. Not another apartment, but an actual home. Something I can call mine. Something where I have my own walls, my own roof, my own hot water tank, my own hefty problems with municipal sewer service and high property taxes…

It’s more sobering than jumping in a frozen lake in the dead of winter (but without the sudden shrinkage of certain body parts).

I’ve been looking for a little while now — I’ve been through about 30 homes so far (I’ve actually lost count — though I did intend to keep track of every one). I’m looking primarily close to downtown, currently in about a 5 kilometre radius around Calgary Tower. So far, I’ve found a number of places that come “close” to what I want.

What do I want? Something with more character than the average crap infill or new housing development. The majority of the places have about as much appeal as week-old squirrel road kill — and generally smell about as nice. I want something much older — preferably built before 1930 (although I’ve seen a few built since then that have a certain charm). Why? First, character — they just ooze it. Second, they’re quite sturdy — some goofy building code that was in place until the 20s required homes to withstand massive earthquakes (although we live in one of the most geologically stable regions in North America) and tremendous windstorms. Third, they’re most likely to have good hardwood floors — none of this pseudo-wood flooring.

Luckily, Calgary’s got lots of these homes. So finding one isn’t too hard. Finding one for sale? Well, that’s a little more difficult. And finding one for sale in Sunnyside, where I want to be, is darn near impossible. It’s a 10×8 block area (roughly), and there’s about two homes for sale at any given time.

Usually for about a day each.

Take the one I just saw today. It was a small home (~950 sq. ft.) about a block from the river. Beautiful little place, built in 1912 and kept in immaculate shape. I liked it so much, I put in an offer to purchase. (You need to do this sort of thing when looking for home I am in the part of the city I like. The basic rule is: You snooze, you lose.) This was at 10:30 this morning, sitting in the Starbucks on Centre Street with my realtor, Robyn.

(A quick aside on Robyn. I met her completely by chance while starting my search for a home while in Oakville at Christmas. I chanced across the home she and her husband are selling, for which she is the realtor. Although her home wasn’t what I wanted, it was enough to start a relationship. Since then, I’ve gotten to know this woman very well, and I’ve gotten to the point with her where we’re more a team than a client/realtor. Although she’s still in this for the money, obviously. If any of you are looking for a new home in Calgary, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with her. I’d recommend no-one else in this city.)

The house was listed at $209,900. A little high, perhaps, but when you’re aiming for Sunnyside, this is almost the norm. With the offer contract in hand, she dropped me off at home and told me she’d call later in the day with news. We expected to have the offer presented around 5pm to the seller.

I should point out at this time that the house has been on the market for one day.

At 2:30pm, I got a call from Robyn. I had a competitor. It was time to up the ante. I’d put in my offer at $206,000. We bumped it up to $209,900. To further sweeten the deal, Robyn cut $500 from her commission. (See why I like her?) We thought this would be good enough.

I continued at the office until about 4:30pm, when Robyn called again. At first she said: “I’ve got some good news, and some bad news.”

There was a pause.

“Actually, it’s all bad.”

I had two more competitors. There were now four of us vying for the same home. It was time to raise the stakes again. $214,000, and Robyn cut $1,000 from her commission. We debated about removing the inspection condition, but I wasn’t comfortable with not inspecting a 90 year old home. We felt it was solid enough, and put it in. Then the wait began.

At 5:15pm, I got the call. Well, not the call I’d expected — Robyn just told me that I had to wait until after 6:00pm before the decision was made. My offer expired at 6:30pm (according to the contract), so I was getting a little anxious. And Robyn didn’t know what was going on — she couldn’t offer me more information than what I already knew. We had to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I couldn’t concentrate. This was just annoying. And frustrating, because there was nothing I could do anymore. All I could do was trying to push through the work I had and try not to think about the fact that there was someone negotiating my finances to try and buy me a house, while taking a pay cut herself to do it.

Did I mention I really like Robyn?

Anyway, I got “the call” at just after 6:30pm. I could tell by the tone of her voice that we had lost out. Apparently there was still a counter offer going on, but we weren’t in the running anymore. As it turned out, I came in a “close second”, and was “neck in neck” with someone else. Neither Robyn or I know what happened yet, but we’re dying to know how we got beat out.

So the hunt resumes. This is the second house I’ve put a bid on (I did one earlier this week, but the price couldn’t come low enough to meet what I could afford), and it won’t be the last. But it’s going to be nasty, particularly in Sunnyside. It’s a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog market right now, and Sunnyside is where everyone wants to be.

I’m going to rely a lot on Robyn to find me a place. It’s going to be hard, because I’m a picky SOB. But I know what I want. The tricky part is getting it, especially with all the competition that’s out there. It’s too bad there aren’t other ways of settling the problems of competition. Personally, I’ve got a great one:

The first rule of Fight Club is…

Starting to Buy a House

There is nothing so responsible, so adult, as trying to buy a house.

Okay, there’s that kid thing, but we’ll just ignore that for the moment.

I’ve decided I need a permanent address. For the last 10 years or so, I’ve been living in apartments of one form or another, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the rent, of noisy neighbours, of the “smell of the day”, of rent that disappears out of my hand and goes nowhere, of the desire to rearrange walls and the frustration not to able to follow through.

Chris is going to Japan, that much is certain. It’s a matter of when, specifically. Best estimates are July. That’s another reason why I’m starting to look. And because I’m being really picky about where I buy and what I want, there’s a lot to deal with.

For example: In my ideal world, I get my hands on a two-story home (one level for entertaining, another level for bedrooms, etc.) in Sunnyside (directly north of downtown, across the Bow River). It’s not in the best of shape (though fine, structurally) and an ideal candidate for renovation. And under $225,000 list. (Combined with shrewd negotiating and a down payment, that would put the price within range.)

So far, no luck. At least within Sunnyside (not many houses are up for sale there at the moment), though there are others in the surrounding area. There’s lots around the city, but I don’t want to get too far out of downtown — no fun in that.

There’s one house I’ve seen that’s been on my mind for a couple of days now. This is what I did on Saturday and part of Sunday (I spent the rest of Sunday visiting with my friend Neall, who was out in Calgary to teach a video game programming course at UofC).

It’s a 1913 two-story home in Bankview, just southwest of the downtown. It’s a little on the ugly side at the moment (someone thought that teal was a good colour for a house), and in need of repairs (the front porch in particular, though most, if not all the windows need replacing). On the interior, it’s currently “liveable”. But far from its former glory. It would take about $40-45,000 to get it into good shape, and that’s a pure guesstimate.

The previous owners have inflicted some pretty poor renovations on the house in years past, including covering all the hardwood floors, half-finishing a kitchen, really bad paint jobs (the moulding looks like there’s about 12 layers of paint on them) installing a loft for no real reason, and decimating the basement.

That said, I think it would be a huge amount of fun. It would be a long project — I’d say at least three years (inside during the winter, outside during the summer), most of which would be saving money for the next round of tearing something apart.

It’s one of those cases where I’m actually torn. Part of me doesn’t want to do it — the location isn’t what I want, and I’m a little afraid at just how bad the house might be. But on the other hand, there’s a large part of me that things this would be great experience, and a total love affair with restoring a house to good condition again.

I’ve even had offers of assistance not only from my father, but also from one of my co-workers (Dennis) who used to work for a company that renovated houses. It’s not like the skills wouldn’t be available. (And I did spent the first 20 years of my life helping dad fix up the family homestead.)

Well, it’s not something I’m trying to do overnight. There’s much to consider before I can make up my mind. But be prepared for the inevitable website chronicling this will slice of life.

Christmas with my Family in Oakville, Cathy Gets Engaged

Yeah, I know, the holidays are over, why the heck am I writing about it now? Simple: I got away from computers for two weeks, and haven’t had the time to write until now.

Unlike last year, I spent roughly half my time here in Calgary, and the other half in Toronto. Why didn’t I just make up my mind and do one or the other? Well, I suppose I could have, but the cost of flying to Toronto for the entire time was pretty steep (go figure), and I did want to go home for a while. But because every time I go back to Ontario, I remember why I live here, I didn’t want to stick around too long.

No, I don’t hate my family or friends. I don’t know what it is. I just feel … weird whenever I’m in southern Ontario. Maybe it’s the never-ending city that gets to me, I dunno.

At any rate, I made the trip to Toronto *very* early on the 23rd. Originally, I was supposed to leave at 6:30 on the morning of the 23rd. However, Air Canada Tango cancelled that flight and bumped me back to 12:53am. Oh yay. How I love red-eye flights.

Yes, I flew Tango. First off, it’s meant to be a low-budget airline killer. (Canada 3000’s already gone under, I suspect Air Transat might have trouble in the near future, but the real fight will come when Tango tries to dive into WestJet country.) As such, it’s as no-frills as it gets. Even the chairs show it — they’re grey, and don’t even have those fancy flaps of fabric on the headrests. Even the ubiquitous peanuts (now pretzels) cost $1.

And boy, are the staff surly at one in the morning! I was amazed at the curtness of the flight attendants. Just because you got stuck with a bad shift doesn’t mean you take it out on the passengers. Welcome to the travel industry, crap happens! And the Head Flight Attendant must’ve smuggled her bong onboard … the number of times she stopped talking in mid-sentence for upwards of 30 seconds before resuming was astounding.

Luckily, I slept the whole flight.

Arriving at 6:30am EST was a joy. I hate Pearson International enough as it is — the parking is insane, the baggage system has to be the slowest in Canada (even despite the size), and usually by the time I get there I just want to get out of the airport, so I’m generally cranky anyway. Cathy was going insane trying to figure out where I was — the flight was a little late, and bags took nearly 30 minutes to come out — but finally we were off to Oakville.

Neither of my parents knew I was coming in so early. They were expecting noon. However, in the interests of their sanity, I hadn’t mentioned that my flight had been rescheduled. (Next time, though, I’m not telling anyone the flight time, and I’m taking a cab.) While waiting for mom and dad to rise, I started making breakfast.

And nearly burned the potatoes. Not my best outing, unfortunately.

The 23rd was generally slow day. A little bit of running around, some decorating (the tree was not yet ready), and lots of chatting. The only thing that would have made it better was if it had snowed.

On the 24th, we had lunch with my aunt (my father’s sister) and cousins Erica and Lauren. I hadn’t seen either of them in quite a while, and we had a ball listening to Erica’s traditional Christmas banter. Sometimes I swear Erica should be a comedienne, or at least give amateur mike night a shot — she’s certainly got the wit for it.

Christmas Eve was the traditional roast ham and scalloped potatoes. For me, Christmas eve just isn’t right without them. It was also a late night for us — Craig, dad, and I were all up until almost 2:00 Christmas morning. It was going to be the start of a very long day.

Christmas morning started a little early, around 9:00 or so. Coffee and Baileys (for those who drank it, I still avoid coffee) were the order of the moment. Given the hullabaloo to take place that evening, it was probably best that most of the family started to tranquilize early in the day. (Coffee and Baileys would give way to Caesars later in the morning.)

Before breakfast, we gathered in the living room to open presents. In yet another tradition that seemed to have no specific beginning, I played Santa, and handed out presents around the room. It was interesting to watch people open presents when I had none. Being out-of-province, I was fortunate in not receiving much of anything (which believe it or not, I’m quite happy about).

All in all, I received three gifts. The first was my grandfather’s pocket watch. I never met either of my biological grandfathers (I did have a maternal step-grandfather for many years) — they both died before I was born. My paternal grandfather died when my father was 18, and it was his watch I received. It’s a grand old piece, which my grandfather received from his parents when he was 21. We found this out by accident, when I unscrewed the back plate to find an inscription my father didn’t know was there.

My second gift was a snowboard. Apparently someone had been listening a little to close to my interest in TRYING snowboarding. (I have to emphasis “trying” because someone equated it with “wanting to take up” instead of “seeing if it won’t kill me first”.) So, yes, sometime soon you can expect a lovely little tale about me breaking my tail trying to get down a mountain.

The third was probably the most special of all: I got a brother-in-law-to-be.

Cathy and Craig have been together for about five years (I don’t know exactly how long). They’re about as perfect a couple as you can have — after five years, they still sound like they’ve only been dating for a week. (It’s actually sickening sometimes.) Cathy has been after Craig for marriage for about a year, after Julie (an old family friend, and Cathy’s best friend) got hitched in December 2000. Craig waited until the right moment.

As I handed out gifts, I picked up three identically-wrapped, but different-sized, boxes. One was obviously a ring case, one was about the size of a large brick, the largest the size of a shoe box. None were labelled, but Craig indicated they were for Cathy.

My sister lunged at the ring box. Instead of a ring, however, she found a note that read: “Birks was sold out of everything, and all I could get was this box.”

Cathy, fortunately, has a very good sense of humour.

She opened the largest one next. Under the wrapping paper was, in fact, a shoebox, upon which Craig wrote “This is not a sweatshirt, this is a remote control”. (The running joke the night before was that Craig was getting Cathy a remote control for Christmas.) Inside was a sweatshirt.

On to present #3. This was an electric toothbrush, something Cathy wanted for a while, so I gathered. But wedged inside the styrofoam packing was a slender silver ring. I don’t think I even heard Cathy say “yes”.

A note on that ring, by the way. It’s my mother’s mother’s original engagement ring … with a couple modifications. (After my grandfather died, someone (we don’t know who) turned the ring into a dinner ring.) But with a resetting, the ring will be Cathy’s.

Following our rather emotional moments by the fire, we ate breakfast (my father’s secret recipe for pancakes) and started to prepare for dinner. We were having a lot of people over, and it was going to take a while to get all the food ready. It was going to be a dinner to remember.

I honestly don’t remember the last time the entire Robinson family had come to my family’s home for Christmas dinner, but I’m willing to take a bet on about five years. It’s certainly been at least that long since we were all together at the same time, only now both Mark and Julie are both married (their spouses were also in attendance). In fact, it was the first time the Sowrey family was outnumbered at its own table. Also there was another relative, Brian Hogg. (The Hoggs are a couple branches over from the Sowreys, but I can’t remember exactly where or how.)

Dinner began shortly after 4:00pm, when guests started arriving. Dinner was still being prepared (when you make a full roast turkey and a full roast beef dinner, you need two kitchens), which gave everyone else a chance to catch up with one another. We wouldn’t eat until about 7:00. And eat we did…

A few helpings, lots of dessert, and perhaps a little too much to drink, and we were already to start playing games. Specifically, a game called Outburst, where the point is to try and guess all the items on a Top 10 list. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Even with topics we knew well, we never once got all 10 items.

Dinner ended around 4:00am. I didn’t make it that long — I went to bed somewhere around 1am, as I knew I had to be up reasonably early (before 10am).

On Boxing Day, I braved the trip into Toronto (via Go Train, what else?) to visit an old friend of mine, Mikki. She’s an old friend of mine from university who’ve I’ve been promising to visit with for ages, and it was high-time I did as I said. (I know, there’s about 20 of you who I should also visit with, some of whom have been a very long time, but I’d need at least a week for all that.) As it stands, I was supposed to meet with Dave on the following day, but I screwed up my schedules and had to cancel on him literally at the last minute.

Walking in downtown Toronto, I came to realize why it is that 1) I don’t go shopping on Boxing Day, and 2) Why I try to avoid walking in downtown Toronto. I won’t even begin to describe the claustrophobia that seemed to set in when I saw the chaos in Eaton Centre.

Before I knew it, I found myself at Pearson International again, waiting for my flight to Calgary. Like the flight out, this would be wall-to-wall people.

It was good to be back in Calgary. Even better to be back in my apartment. Home truly is where the 50″ TV and Playstation2 are.

The rest of the vacation went well until Sunday, when a bad bit of Chinese took me down for a couple of days. I hadn’t had food poisoning in many years, so whatever it was that took me down was pretty strong. I’m still recovering. One advantage of it, though…

I’m losing all that weight I gained over the holidays.

Happy 2002, everyone! Speaking of which…