Saturday, December 03, 2022

Holiday letter 2022

Happy holidays y'all! It's a rare year I don't send holiday cards out, but this is one of them. How did I ever have time before? I'll do better next year, but what better reason than to pen a holiday letter? Some people love those letters and others don't. I love them but have never written one myself. And the beauty of the blog is that I can add as many pictures as I want.  So grab a cup of coffee and join me as I review the adventures of Serge, Georgie and me in 2022.

The New Year found us in Palm Springs where we rang it in downtown with friends. It was great meeting up with Olly, whom we had met in 2016 on Serge's 50th birthday cruise. (Later in the summer another friend made from that cruise visited us.) Do you see the red dot on my forehead? This was because my dad and Serge convinced me to let them try to freeze/burn off a perpetually irritated spot on my forehead with wart remover. Although instructed to apply the canister twice, they stopped after once because it was clearly frozen. Hence the healing wound in the photo. The good news is that it worked! (Your mileage may vary.) 

Before we left California, we met up with my long-lost friend Jonathan whom I worked with in my last lifetime at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey. (I quit in 1994) We tripped down memory lane and caught up on over a decade of news. (He had gotten married and adopted a horde of dogs, notably.)  I've now lived in Quebec for over 22 years but my oldest friends remain in California.

We came home for 4 days before heading out to Cuenca, Ecuador to visit with our friends there (pictured) and escape a month of winter. We also socked a bunch of money down there since they give 8% interest on your deposit certificates. Given the stock market's behavior this year, I wish we had socked a bunch more. It was a delightful visit with warm days and not too much rain. We enjoyed playing games at Roscoe's house (not pictured) and watching sportsball (it's much more fun with an enthusiast in the room). I ended up working remotely more than I liked, so this year I won't make that mistake again. A previous blog post details more on our trip to Cuenca. 

When we came back, it was depressing. Our first winter here has taught us that we live in a much snowier place than Montreal. With little to do at home, Serge went out and got a job at the local Rona hardware store. He works there three days a week and seems to like it. Nobody speaks English very well there so they all call him when there's an English-speaking customer. He's always been handy so he is good at helping people get what they need (and telling them what they don't need) for their projects. 

As Covid restrictions began lifting, so did people's wanderlust. We ended up dog-sitting several times for customers I had from Montreal. They drove all the way out here (an hour minimum) to drop off and pick up their dogs. Flattering in a way. These two chihuahuas, while adorable, are not house-trained, so although you don't see it in the picture, every square inch of carpet is covered with pee-pee pads. They are so untrained that they just walk through the house, seemingly unaware that excrement is coming out of them, like horses. 

Georgie! He is definitely an old dog now, with growths sprouting everywhere and occasional infections. I have a monthly visit now with the vet as we work our way toward the inevitable. As of this writing, he is still thrilled like it's Christmas every time we feed him and he enjoys his twice daily walks. So we are savoring these good times. Our little guy is 15 now. 

In the spring, I got an in person teaching contract and since we live in the last jurisdiction in North America to get rid of the mask mandate, we had to do the whole thing masked. Here you see half the class and their winning marshmallow spaghetti challenge tower. I didn't know it but I wouldn't be in a classroom for the rest of the year. All my work has been on Zoom or Teams since. 

The love affair continues with the boys next door (pictured) and another couple who are on our bowling team (who you'll see later). Throughout the year we took turns cooking dinner for a night of cards or dice and lots of laughter. There are many wonderful things about living here, but the best has been making so many new friends. 

Finally summer arrived and we spent many days like this, finding or making a shady spot on the beach and sipping soda (ok beer) and when it was really warm, floating in the lake. Well, it was how we passed the non-rainy days of summer anyway, of which there were many. The restaurant and bar and discoteque were open all summer as well as events such as weekly bingo, karaoke and drag shows. I went to the things that happened early like bingo and went to a few of the dance themed nights. Serge went to ALL of them. Atta boy. 

I told Serge to make some art in the yard so he constructed this. It is really cool at night and we've had nothing but compliments from the neighborhood. My project has been to finish my thesis so I can finally get my master's degree. As of press time, I have nearly completed my experiment and now need to analyse the results to see if I can make any sorts of conclusions out of it and write another forty pages on that. It'll be done at some point in 2023.

For my birthday I requested to go to Abraska, a sort of adventure course with varying degrees of difficulty and death defyingness. There I am way high in the trees on that flimsy rope bridge. Serge wouldn't do any of that, he and Pierre stuck mostly to the fun zip lines they had there. There was one moment when I realized I had neither attachment attached, which besides being incredibly careless, is grounds for expulsion from the park. I survived thankfully.

Also in July we were able to visit with our friends Annick and Jesus an hour on the other side of Montreal. They had bought a camper and spent the summer in a place like ours, a campground with mostly fifth wheels and trailers in the summer. There were many rules at their place, and we almost got kicked out for accidentally going 12 kph when the speed limit is 10. It was fun however, as you can see.

Cousin Cindi came to visit too with her new fiance. We met up in the city and went to La Banquise, practically a requirement when visiting Montreal. I had the Panoramix Poutine with smoked meat, mushrooms and sour cream. Later I wished I hadn't eaten all of it, but dang it was good. 

At the end of summer, like most years, we spent a week at campcamp in the woods in Maine (not pictured). I only took 4 pictures at camp this year, but I think we had our best year yet. (I think we say that every year. On the way there, we talk about how we are going to skip next year and then on the drive home we make plans for what we want to do when we go back the next year.) This is autumn beginning to descend on the lake and empty beach. We ended up having a spectacular season with vibrant colors for a good two weeks. 

As the "greens" bowling team (all the teams are colors) we dressed up for halloween. The two on the right are the ones who round out our gang of six who play cards and dice. Another fun night plus we won our games that night. 

James came up from Massechusetts for Thanksgiving and brought his new friend, Don with him (I can't believe we didn't take a picture together during their 4 day visit). Serge had gone to Key West with his friend for a twice postponed vacation so we enjoyed the feast without him. We also binge watched Wednesday and did a spa day. It was my second Thanksgiving dinner that I made, the first being in October for Canadian Thanksgiving when I treated the boys next door to the same feast. The only difference was I bought pumpkin pie (the very last one in town) for Canadian Thanksgiving and James made a to-die-for pumpkin cheesecake for the pictured feast. 

And here we are at the end of the year with so many things to be grateful for. The late autumn sunsets are lovely here in Sainte-Julienne, Quebec. We had many visits with other friends this year, but either I don't have a picture of it, or I'm in it and I look horrid. We are looking forward to a busy 2023 with our 30th anniversary cruise from Aukland to Vancouver, finishing up my thesis and generally enjoying life. Here's hoping your year has been as wonderful as ours filled with friends, family and good times. Happy holidays everyone! 

Monday, July 11, 2022

What pandemic?

Well folks, it looks like I'm a twice a year blogger now. It's important to keep it going for me if only to have a record of my life I can review when I'm old and can't remember anything anymore. As it is, Google photos has been very helpful with remembering what year we did what in. So without further adieu, here is a rundown since the mid winter update. 

After coming home from Ecuador in February, my mom sent us the quilt you see above. Serge picked out fabric while we were out visiting for the holidays and it came out great. 

We have started watching dogs again and these little guys are Nina and Luna. Super cute but not house trained. Luckily, they bring a case of pee-pee pads with them that we carpet the carpet with. 

The program that I work in is slowly dying at the college where I work and so I have been less busy than usual. However, I did get a new contract teaching a student success course. Here they are doing the marshmallow challenge for a demonstration on the power of self-efficacy. The downside to that was DRIVING to the college as there is road construction everywhere in Montreal. It routinely required 3 1/2 hours of driving time to teach a 3 hour class. Oy!

We finished the bowling season in first place! This Friday night ritual was really nice during the cold days of winter when there is nothing to do. We've made some nice friends and the league did several outings including a sugar shack and brunch. It was a nice way to stay connected socially when we are all holed up inside the rest of the time. 

Five of the six members of our team. We've all become pretty chummy and we all live here at Domaine de la Fierte. We plan to bowl next season too starting at the end of August.

Spring finally sprung (the last snowfall was very late this year April 26th!) and Serge painted the Adirondack chairs different colors. 

Then in May, we had our earliest heat wave ever recorded here. But it was just a tease like this photo, the rest of the spring and early summer have been cooler than average. 

I think I mentioned last time how we have become chummy with the next door neighbors. It has only gotten more chummy since. We regularly dine at each other's house, play cards, dice and have good conversation. We are even visiting each other unannounced now. They really helped us out when the great DERECHO of 2022 came through here and we lost electricity for three days. Since they were hooked to another neighbor's generator, they offered space in their fridge/freezer for us and some internet. I didn't take any pictures of the great power outage but did post a couple bits on FB:

The electricity went out yesterday. It’s clear now that our preparation prowess for this sort of thing is mediocre at best, but when it happened as I shivered in fear in the kitchen as the derecho came through, I thought, at least we’re stocked up on beer. It’s now more than 24 hours into this alternate reality, where internet, television and cell connectivity are quaint pleasantries of the past. I picked up ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’ and read most of it this morning, and it was as fresh as everything is for me that I haven’t visited in 25 years. Serge got up, asked for coffee (how?) and toiled in the yard planting things he hopes will beautify our surroundings. I went out to search for coffee. This is how I got a glimpse of the end times. Our society’s collective caffeine addiction was on full display as the entire (ok it’s only two streets) town was snarled with surly Starbucks seekers. Later I heard people I saw waiting in line at every fast food place had waited over an hour for their morning concoctions. I’m no fool, when I saw the mayhem, I headed for the car wash, they always have coffee, and there was only one shrewd local in front of me when I arrived. Serge had asked for a McMuffin (the lineup there was hahahahahaha) when I headed out, and at the car wash they had a shrink wrapped egg salad sandwich, and I thought, this is what one eats at the end times. I bought it and Serge was grateful. The day continued neither propelled nor impinged upon by anything electronic, and we went on a long walk through the neighborhood with George. We encountered other sullens making the best of things and exchanged complaints about the situation as pleasantries. This is how I learned it could be a week before service is restored. Wut? I can do a day of this, but I haven’t noodled through my brain a long term commitment. The neighbors stopped by and offered fridge and freezer space as they and three neighbors shared a generator to keep theirs going. Whew, meat saved. We then enjoyed a game or two of cards and cooked fridge perishables and hotdogs on the bbq. Vive le propane. I’m heading to bed and plan to kneel and pray properly for electricity. If this posts, I owe Serges wifi cellphone hotspot for that success. Here are a couple pics from that walk this afternoon.

Day 2 of the Great Power Outage of 22 started out alright. Serge had suggested making coffee on the bbq, or rather boiling water for coffee. It turns out that redundant little side burner outside the bbq is useful. Last time we had an outage, we learned that when the power goes out, so too do the pumps that deliver water. We also learned the hard way that a number two requires water, so there we were trudging back and forth to the lake with buckets to refill the toilet tank. We vowed to be prepared next time so we stuffed a dozen empty two liter soda bottles with water into every last hollow of our mobile home over the ensuing months. By the time Serge went to work this morning we had one number two’s worth of water left so he took along empties to refill there. You would think that by day two we’d have stopped looking at the digital clock faces or flipping on non-functioning lights, but you’d be wrong. It’s truly alarming what idiots we are. Both breakfast and lunch involved bread and peanut butter. My gratitude for the future working condition of the toaster cannot be overstated. (I was going to treat myself to a fast food lunch but all the lines were hahahahaha again, and I didn’t see myself going to all that trouble for a poutine.) While dreaming up the next non-electronic thing to busy myself with, I decided to ask the tarot cards about the situation and although I was brightened by the good advice and solution they foretold was coming, it irritated me that no timeline was divulged. If I had internet, I’d look to see if the cards had any day of the week connections, alas. At some point today I realized that my life now resembled George’s life and I explored the joys of staring out the window for an hour and dozing on the sofa. The constant clattering cacophony of generators has replaced the birdsong soundtrack and it’s clear that several neighbors made major purchases yesterday. Can’t they put mufflers on those things? They’re descendants of the leaf blower family I’m sure. I canceled the one hour course this morning I was supposed to do on Zoom, but tomorrow I’m scheduled to work all day so off to mother in law’s house we go to crash and work tomorrow out of the basement. The best part I’m sure will be not having to do number two water math. My prayer didn’t work last night, so tonight I will add a few more “pleases”. Here’s George getting some sun on his fire pit cushion today.

On day 3 we did indeed flee to mother-in-law's house to have a shower and so I could teach via zoom. The power came back at the end of day 3. 

At the end of spring, Serge got a part time job at the local Rona (think Home Depot US peeps). He laments that the weather is always bad on his days off, but here is proof that it is not always true. 

For the Quebec nationalist holiday they had a really nice fireworks display by the lake which we watched from the yard of our friends and bowling team mates as they have a house on the lake. 

Serge decided to build some art in our yard, so there you see the glorious hole as a friend put it. The disco ball is lit at night and makes our yard magical. Probably could be a visual definition of "eye-catching".

Finally, here I am with my new floaty chair. It is wonderful lounging in the lake with it. 

Other than that, life is very copasetic here and old friends from Montreal visit frequently since this is like the "gay getaway" place for city boys. George is good, our health is good, and we are surrounded by friends. It still feels like we are in our golden years despite both of us working part time. Until the next dispatch peeps. Mwah!

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Mid winter update


Greetings reader, welcome back. The last time I checked in, I detailed our journey moving to the country and buying a mobile home in a gay male trailer park/campground. Well, we pinched ourselves all through summer finding it hard to believe the luck in having ended up here. And as you'll see, the pluses keep coming. 

During the summer several friends came and visited and despite there being few official events, every Saturday a bonfire was organized with music and dancing in the forest. I grew a beer belly over the summer. Now I'm furiously counting calories so I can start the summer svelte again. We had a return babysitting gig for Chopin, the spaniel above. That dog needs medication. The most hyper and anxious dog I've ever known. 

Our house is lower center here with the red and black car in the driveway. Autumn was spectacular here and we were bathed in fall colors for weeks. Our next door neighbors asked if we would be interested in joining the gay bowling league and we said yes, so we started bowling every Friday night with 35 gay men. It's duckpin bowling so the pins are a little shorter and squatter and the balls are smaller and easier to throw. We've gotten very chummy with our next door neighbors, dining with each other and playing games regularly. They watched George for us while we were in California (I'm getting there) and now we are keeping an eye on their place while they vacation in Mexico for a month. We've made more friends here in six months than we did in 20 years in Montreal. That's the country for you. I like it. 

I continue to make bagels and we have discovered a wonderful Sugar Shack here that sells frozen meals that are to die for. They have this meatloaf with smoked meat and cheese curds in it that is the bomb! If you are in Quebec, I highly recommend that, the smoked meat spaghetti, the shepherd's pie (with cheese curds!) and the corn and bacon chowder. 

Autumn blended into winter fairly quickly in November and since the place where we live is men only from May - Sept, we were able to entertain our friends that included females. It's odd knowing my mom can't visit me in summer, but it would be maybe odder if my mom was here during the nudity months. 

Our neighbors after a particularly well-oiled evening together. We bowled all the way into December and attended a Christmas party for the bowling league which was hosted by a catering chef and the food was fabulous. Right about then everything shut down again over Omicron, and we were itching to make the trip to California for the first time in 2 years. 

Here we are at Union Station in LA on Christmas Eve. We took a bus from LAX to the train station and then took the train down to my parent's neck of the woods. It was pretty cold in California for our visit and several days were rainy. 

We didn't take very many pictures in California, but here we are on mom's birthday. It was great to see Dad too and friends we hadn't seen in many years. I reconnected with my old pal Jonathan who I worked with at the Ritz Carlton. We hadn't seen each other in over ten years. I found him on LinkedIn, yay. We also made a quick jaunt over to Palm Springs for New Year's and visited with friends who had relocated there during the pandemic. It's great to be able to stay with friends there. 

We came home from California for four days and then hopped on another plane to Ecuador. I'm not going to tell the whole story here, but that day of travel was the most stressful of my life. I will say that for the last leg of the journey, the airline staff was screaming (literally) to RUN, RUN RIGHT NOW in order to catch our flight as we went into security. Like a movie, just not a movie you want to be IN. But we settled right back into the place we rented last year with a view on the river. 

One day we walked five miles to the top of parque de la luz where the views over town were lovely. I worked an awful lot in Ecuador since I picked up an extra six hours a week in November. I wished I hadn't taken that contract as it felt like I was always at my computer. 

We were thrilled to meet our Spanish teacher in person. We dined at one of the swankiest rooftop spots in the city on the main square. It's called Negroni. We restart our Spanish lessons in March. But all the while I've been on Duolingo for at least an hour a day. My Spanish is getting good! It's wonderful to understand what everyone is talking about now in Spanish. 

Here I am about to go into the tube for the CT scan of my thorax. We arranged a doctor appt via WhatsApp and the next day we met the doc, and had our scans a half an hour later. We got the slides and the full radiologist report. All for $140 each total. Doc says nothing too major to worry about but Serge has a hernia, and we both have artery clogging happening in our hearts. Doc says it's normal for our age. Getting old really bites. 

The last two weeks, we stayed with our friends that we met on a cruise ship way back in '16. In the foreground you can see Edgar, the houseboy who does all the work around the house 6 days a week including 4 massages. It seems gauche to say his salary here, but let's just say that we would all have one if it were that price where we lived. We really enjoyed our visit and we played cards and other games regularly. We talked about doing a big trip together in 2023 - maybe New Zealand and Australia. That sounds fun!

This picture was just taken from the front doorway. Looks like it's going to be a while before we can sit around the fire again. But just as sure as winter came, so will it go and we will have all the other glorious seasons before it comes back. Thanks for stopping by, and bundle up out there :)