Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I, Homeowner: the first few days

And so, there it is. I’m a homeowner. I can’t quite believe it, but it’s the case. I owe a lot of money, of course, but I’m the registered owner. Imagine that.

It’s strange being on the other side of those three months of planning and doing and long waiting. A sort of through the looking glass feel. In many ways, nothing changed. I’m still living in the same place; will be for almost a month yet. The real difference is there’s now this place in the city I didn’t have the right to go into before that now I do. On the other hand, a place I’ve called home for 11 years is about to vanish from my life. I won’t even be able to see it from the street. Can’t help feeling bad about that.

Well, here’s how it all went. I got the call on Friday just after one in the afternoon. My boss had given me permission to head out once I got the word, so I did. Took the subway to the bus, got off at the lawyer’s place, got handed a little envelope with the keys in it. The deed. Made a joke about expecting the Queen to fly over and tap a kneeling me on the shoulders with it. Then I left. My lawyer had told me that I became the registered owner at 1:14 p.m. I looked at my watch as I waited for the bus; it was 2:12. I hadn’t even owned the place quite an hour yet as I stood there. Bus to a subway to a subway to a bus. I guess I got home about 3:30 or so. I headed right over.

When I got there, I tried to go to the office to give them a void cheque for the condo fees but they were having a managerial meeting so I couldn’t. Never mind; I went up to my new place. Opened the door and stepped in for the first time. I hadn’t ever noticed it myself before, but my mother was right: the previous owner had been a smoker. I sort of wandered around the place for a little over half an hour, just trying to take it in. Tried the office again but no go. Headed home... my “real”, current home.

I’ve been avoiding the busy main streets and taking a residential roads route to and fro, and on my way back I passed a handsome apartment building I’ve admired before. This time it occurred to me to stop and inquire about one bedroom places on Larry’s behalf. It was seconds past five and they stood on ceremony that it was after office hours, but I did at least wring an acknowledgement that they had one bedroom places for rent. I got the contact info and brought it home to my roommate. I looked the place up online and found that they were renting for $850 including utils (but less parking), and that impressed him. As it turns out, he went over on Monday (today’s Tuesday), liked what he saw, and filled out the forms last night. I expect he’ll be dropping off the application today. Last night we decided to synchronize the moves; we’re both now aiming for Sunday, June 26th (was planning for Saturday the 25th but one crucial helper isn’t available for that day... right now, all it means is changing the date I’ve reserved the elevators in the two buildings).

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. We decided to make Saturday washing day. For the first time in over a decade, I’d be able to do a wash without having to leave my place, spend money, or put a card in a slot. Larry suddenly remembered he had to help two friends, so he would have to come by later. P-Doug also agreed to come by, mostly for company, but as it turned out he was a big help. We brought over laundry, some dishes, my laptop and flat screen (for videos), laundry, and the patio table and chairs. I washed the chairs in the shower while he put the table back together. The patio stuff, which is currently in the dining room there, is only meant to be temporary. Since my balcony’s enclosed, it’s of little use to me, so it’s going to Larry, assuming he gets the place today, or another with a balcony. But we had to have some place to sit and do things, so that was the solution.

P-Doug and I took a quick excursion on foot to the new mall down the road. On the way we passed a garage sale where I spotted a sort of feline-looking version of a My Little Pony that I called “pink thing” and determined to get as a mascot on our way back. Larry called on my cell just before we got to the mall to ask if he should pick up a twin size mattress and box spring down in East York we’d seen earlier in the week. I asked him to, so he picked it up and headed north to meet us. We did a quick tour of the mall and headed back, picking up a Trailer Park Boys video at Rogers on our way. Alas, the garage sale closed up shop in the meantime so I missed out on “pink thing”.

We juggled cars so Larry could park his truck in my spot and the three of us managed to get the bed up to the spare room in one shot. After that, it was time to get down to business: laundry. I put in a load, added the detergent (I know, I know, backwards), and turned on the washer. It hummed, but I didn’t hear any water. We started fiddling with the in valves; opened them right up. Nothing. P-Doug looked under the sink but only found a cut-off valve for the dishwasher (boy, am I glad he found that). He advised me to call up the Maytag folks, but I figured it couldn’t have gone south in the 36 hours the guy had been out of the place. So, I hauled out the drier a bit and we had a look. Sure enough, P-Doug spotted the cut-off valves and opened them, and we were off to the races. Or the washes. At about this point, Larry, being bushed from all the running around, begged off to nap on the new mattress, still wrapped in plastic. P-Doug stuck around till about 6 watching Fall of Eagles with me, and headed home.

Larry woke up not long afterwards and we drove back to current neighbourhood to transfer money at an ATM and get a couple medium pizzas, and we headed back. While the washer and drier did their thing, we watched the Trailer Park Boys ep, and then more of Fall of Eagles. We ate one of the pizzas; I put the other, less a slice, in the freezer. Needing to go back to work after a month off (!), Larry went home about 8 or so, leaving me alone with my laundry. I did the last drier load and headed home myself between 9 and 10, leaving most of the laundry there (why move it twice?). And that was my first day.

Not long after I got home, Twinkle hopped up on the couch and merrily peed on it.

Sunday I went to Canadian Tire and bought a Bissell carpet cleaner with some upholstery attachments. First of all, I want to get the smell of cigarettes out of the place. Second, I’d like to take care of the carpets. Third, with Twinkle-cum-Tinkle now having far more soft, plush target area in her future, I figure this is probably going to be a sensible investment. I went over to my new place intending to get a start on doing the carpets, but two things stopped me (not counting lethargy): first, they recommended vacuuming beforehand, and my vacuum was at the current apartment; second, you need a Phillips screwdriver to attach the top to the bottom of the thing with four screws. So, I watched a little more of Fall of Eagles, ate a few slices, and took off. I spent the rest of Sunday throwing out videos I’ll never watch again, and packing most of my DVDs into a box.

This evening, I’m taking Shelly over to have a look at the place (and I’m thinking of bringing the vacuum to save myself the trouble tomorrow), and then we’ll have dinner at the local Firkin pub, as we often have before. Tomorrow (I’m working 10-hour days to take Wednesdays off this summer) I’ll bring that box of DVDs, vacuum the place, and get a start on cleaning the carpets. So, for any and all what’s interested, that’s where we’re at.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Well, today is actually a calendar month from moving day for me. The 25th. Two days from now is the closing. I was out at The Working Dog pub with P-Doug on Sunday and he casually reminded me that, come Friday, I don't have to tote my laundry down to the second floor and spend money doing it. No, I can now drive it ten-to-fifteen minutes across town and do it essentially for free. So, the plan at the moment is for me and Larry to take the patio furniture over to my new place on Saturday and set it up in the dining room, plug in his laptop and the flat-screen monitor he sold me, and screen some movies while we indulge in a few loads of laundry. I've asked P-Doug if he'd like to come along and kind of christen the place; I envision pizza and (for them) beer.

Last night I went with Shelley down to Sunnybrook Park at Leslie and Eglinton. She and her fiancee found an off-leash enclosure there on the weekend and she's entirely taken with the experience. I basically just went along to keep her company, but as she found plenty of other women down there doing the same thing, I think I'll take a pass in future. It was, however, really interesting to watch the interactions of the two species: the dogs tearing around all over the place, full of energy and excitement, the place barely big enough to contain their joy; the humans, clustered in a tight circle, chattering and laughing, standing still and coolly mastering this little bit of the universe. It made me wonder what it would be like to cross over.

It did happen, just a bit. The dogs didn't utterly ignore the humans. They made occasional attempts to involve us. At one point, a large black poodle charged up where I was sitting and dashed off with my sandal in an obvious attempt to get me to give chase... if not me, then the woman who looked after him, who in fact did. For their part, the humans interacted with the dogs by -- well, first bringing them there in the first place -- but mainly by asserting control: planing off the extremes. Not too rough. Not too affectionate (ahem). Not too thirsty. Not too far. Leashes, throwing sticks/balls, bottles of water with matching bowls. Systems. Fail-safes. Provisions.

...You know, now that I come to think about it, buying a home is a little like being one of those dogs... excitements and new experiences under systems.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Goings and comings

Saturday I decided to undertake a sort of grand slam of photographic archiving projects I’ve been meaning to accomplish for a while. Since they were nicely arranged in a more or less straight line westward, it was actually fairly handy to manage. In order, they were Westwood Plaza in Etobicoke, the unopened stretch of Sheridan Park Drive in Mississauga, and the reconstruction of Barnstable Bridge and its environs on Lower Base Line in Milton, which has gone into heavy overtime since last winter.

Since I had to talk to someone overseas on Skype at 3 p.m., so I had a tight self-set deadline. I left around 9:30 in the morning, heading west on the 401. I took the 427 south and backtracked a bit along Dundas Street to where it meets up Bloor Street and Kipling Avenue in a complicated intersection, called, not surprisingly, Six Points, which names the neighbourhood as well.

What little I know about Westwood Plaza (I’m not even sure if it actually is called “Westwood Plaza”; the theatre there is... was?... called Westwood Theatre) is that it opened in 1951 or so, when it was really on the edge of town... outside town, really; barely suburban at the time. It closed in 1998, I’m told. I can only remember being there once: in August of 1995, to see A Goofy Movie with friends. Not long afterwards, of course, it gave up the cinematic ghost. A karate dojo and a driving school remained in the plaza for a while, but even they eventually drifted away. I heard recently that the place is due to be razed this year, so I thought I’d better get going and take pictures of the place if it really was my intention to do so at all.

Six Points is an intersection where three major roads intersect, and in 1961, Metro undertook to rebuild it for serious traffic by means of ramps and bridges in a complicated jumble that, for all its ugliness and confusion, does allow traffic to get where it’s going (provided you pay attention to the signs) with a minimum of holdup. Supposedly the city now wants to untangle Six Points and recreate the at-grade intersections, with the idea of rerouting Dundas Street slightly to the south to avoid intersecting Kipling and Bloor where they intersect (in effect, ending the six “points”). If that happens... whether or not that happens... Westwood’s done for. Dundas would be routed through the land it now sits on. But even if Six Points isn’t changed, the city’s made other plans for the land.

Next stop was Sheridan Park Drive at Mississauga’s west border. It’s a strange street that’s really just two nubs of a street, connected by a big soup bowl of another street, Speakman Drive, in a relatively nice industrial park. Sheridan Park Drive is part of the road allowance of The Queensway, a street that was constructed west from Queen Street in Toronto near the Humber River in the 1950s and eventually made its way across most of Mississauga. Mississauga has a few valleys, though, and never connected all the chunks of The Queensway. Eventually one became Blythe Road, and another Sheridan Park Drive. I discovered it while getting seriously into maps in my early 20s, about half my life ago now. I used to wonder why they disconnected it. The truth, as I just discovered recently, is that they never actually built it. Sheridan Park Drive’s abandoned middle isn’t abandoned at all... it’s merely unopened. Well, again, change is in the air, and it looks like Mississauga’s intending to open that stretch at some point fairly soon. So I thought I’d record it.

I was down there years ago... decades ago... to look it over... one of my first little “lost road” expeditions, actually. I’d forgotten just how nothing it was. An impassible tract next to a cleared hydro corridor, which now features a bike path (I honestly can’t recall if it was there the first time I was there). It had been my intention to walk its length and record it for posterity, but it was so unimpressive that even I, uncharacteristically, decided “why bother”? I took some shots at either end, and I drove the parts that are currently open, as well as recording what Speakman Drive currently looks like, and left it at that.

Finally was the follow-up of the construction of a new two-lane bridge taking Lower Base Line across East Sixteen Mile Creek. Lower Base Line is known through most of Toronto and Mississauga as Eglinton Avenue (till around 1970, it was called Base Line Road in Mississauga), but Milton is still pretty rural and apparently don’t cotton to them thar new-fangled ideas and city mouse names, so... Lower Base Line it remains. Halton Region, of which Milton is a constituent municipality, also includes such retained bucolic, if perplexing, nomenclature as Upper Middle Road, so there’s every indication this is how it’s going to stay. But anyway...

I used to do a lot of riding around Halton in the early 90s with a buddy whose hobbies included just driving around, listening to music and shooting the breeze, so I saw quite a bit of backroads Halton. The two one-lane bridges on Lower Base Line, and the little parks adjacent to them, were reasonably familiar to me; even more so to him, as he reputed them to be make-out spots par excellence. About ten years ago, Halton decided these two one-lane, wood-decked bridges couldn’t cut the mustard and the time had come to replace them. The first is the more easterly of the two, which I discovered just this weekend is called Barnstable Bridge. Its successor was built at least two or three years ago... I have photos of it about that old... but it’s down in the valley and servicing it with a road that will bear, and safely conduct, the traffic was another matter, so it’s sat unused beside it for all that time. Till now. The road was closed at the heights last winter, and the new road is currently being constructed, mostly on the west side right now. I found out about that last week, and was excited by the prospect of getting some shots of this going on. This was really the jewel in the crown of the expedition this weekend.

I got to Sixth Line, didn’t read the sign, and decided Lower Base Line was closed at that point (it isn’t). So I drove up Sixth Line to Britannia Road, over to Fifth Line, and down, for the sensible reason that the bridge is much closer to Fifth Line than Sixth.

The route down on the west side is currently really torn up, because they’re putting in the drainage infrastructure. Fantastic photographic opportunity! But a daunting hike I almost balked at. Looking it over, it was just plausible enough that I decided to take it on. It meant a lot of climbing into ditches and back out again, balancing on scraps of the road about a foot wide, and dealing with mud and gravel, but I’m proud to say I took it all on and bested it. Coming through, I had a reasonably easy trek down into the valley.

The road’s being vastly widened, and they’re putting up an impressive curving retaining wall. The road now leads straight to the new bridge instead of snaking down to the little one-laner. When I got there, I was chagrined to find a family of four camped out on the old bridge. Just my luck. I worked like a sonovabitch to get down there, and the shots are ruined by the Joad family on a $2 Saturday outing. Uncharitable, I know, but I was thinking nerd daggers at them the whole time. I also noticed that the road on the east side was still intact. They’d come down a nice, even, paved stretch from the Sixth Line side. I could have been miffed but I wasn’t. If I’d come down that way, odds are I would not have bothered with the construction at the top of the Fifth Line side and I would have missed some valuable shots I got making a virtue of necessity, so it was just as well.

I shot what I could without being intrusive and headed up to the far side. There was construction equipment blocking the way at the top... apparently Lower Base Line was open that far. I noticed the family’s beat-up sedan at the top and recognized it as a car so badly maintained that I’d noticed it passing me going the other way at some point (you tend to notice things like a hood held shut by bungee cord). While I was up there, a middle aged couple came by in a pickup truck and we exchanged some brief polite chatter on the construction going on below. As they drove away, I heard the family on their way up the road. Thank goodness! The dad jokingly remarked to me “they” were ruining “his creek” down there. Having the place to myself, I was able to finally get some shots of the old bridge before facing the reverse trek up the west side and through the obstacle maze back to my own conveyance waiting for me at the top.

I guess I’ll have to follow this up in the late summer or early autumn... it’s due to re-open in October. We’ll see. I’m anxious to see if they preserve the old bridge for the park-goers. Its pier and decking date to the 1960s, but since no one’s even sure when its supports were first laid down, I think it warrants keeping it around, so long as it’s separated from vehicle traffic.

I made it back in time to talk to my buddy overseas, by the way. :)