Thursday, July 03, 2008

Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA

Wow. Time flies by when you’re disoriented. I mean, I’m still gay … I just feel like I’m “neither here nor there.” The apartment feels like a messy crowded hotel room and I’m still a tourist in the city. I feel like I’m letting y’all down when I say this: my emotions are all over the place. I love Vancouver and I love Canada … and I’m also homesick for Seattle and the people I know and love there. (I’m not homesick for the U.S. And, by the way, I read with real tears the news of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the 2nd Amendment. Scalia is a hateful reactionary.) I’m riding the emotional roller-coaster and Alan, bless his heart, is along for the ride. “But only when you’re awake, dear,” he tells me.

Let’s start with where we’re at and then go back to the Big Move. Our cats have made the transition much faster and with much less anxiety than I thought they would. (Better than I …) Especially after what they went through (getting to that). The younger one was in shock for a few hours. They’re doing great now. (Finding wood to knock.) We’re getting them a new deluxe cat tree and putting it in the corner that has windows on both sides; it will be high up and they’ll have interior and exterior views that will allow them to survey their domain.

Our stuff is in the apartment and it’s not quite as small as we remembered, although it is a tight fit and there are some challenges we’ve yet to master. Some scuffs here and there, but so far, nothing found broken in our belongings. We’ve unpacked a lot and still have more to go. We’re doing a lot of things the same way we did in Seattle, but occasionally ask if it makes sense to do so. I think it will really feel like home when we start putting up our wall decorations (posters/art, photos, grandmother’s quilt, etc.). A lot of this is just normal move stuff, I guess.

Phone was hooked up when we moved in, as promised (although it took us a while to find a phone to plug in). Cable was on time with the installation appointment Thursday. Internet was confusing. We’re using ADSL with Telus. You’ll hear about it if it sucks; so far, it’s pretty good now that it’s up and running. (At one point, you might have heard me yelling at Telus’s automated call answering system – no matter where you were – but that’s behind us for now …) We’re getting more phone jacks installed tomorrow, as there is only one in the whole apartment. Wireless? you may inquire. Not big fans. (Never give out personal information on a cordless phone – and I’m not being paranoid. There are people who listen in for fun even though it’s illegal to do so and there are people who listen in for profit.)

I picked up our first Canadian credit cards yesterday that we applied for last week. (It’s a secured card through Vancity, where we do our banking.) We signed up for our BC IDs and they’ll arrive by mail in about four weeks. We were able to get library cards on the spot. I've enrolled with Air Miles. I still have to fill out our provincial health insurance forms. The bad news, apparently is that the clock doesn’t start from when one arrives in BC, but from when they receive the form. Had I known that, I would have had it ready ahead of time. Now the goal is to get it there well before the end of July.

We’re finding places to buy our necessities, preferred products or suitable substitutes. I was gleeful to find my regular beverage of choice, seltzer (although they don’t call it that here). (And club soda is not the same thing. And, yes, I guess I’m an old Jewish man.)

We had our first Timbits breakfast as residents. (There’s no Tim Hortons in the West End and maybe that’s a good thing.) This morning, we walked about the seawall and one of the trails in Stanley Park: glorious. It is so cool to be hiking through a forest with no signs of the city and yet still be in our backyard. We saw a bald eagle resting on a rock along the coast and the next thing we knew, it was joined by another! We also saw ducks, geese, and swans on the Lost Lagoon. Hey, we’re city-dwellers; this is a big deal to us!

That’s just it: I’m a mix of excitement and happiness at new discoveries and successes, but also frustration and sadness at losses of the regular company of loved ones and ridiculous challenges such as businesses that take MasterCard but not Visa – virtually unheard of in the States, but common here – and banks that won’t accept cash. (Read that one again. I was pulling my hair out.)

Back to the move. In the interest of the historical (hysterical) record, I report that on the Sunday before the Big Move I lost it. I would say in the top five lifetime anxiety attacks. The kind that people call 911 about and a friend almost did. But Alan and I knew better and decided that this was what the “emergency pills” are for and, after about an hour, I calmed down. I may seem to make light of it now, but I will say it was very painful. The magnitude of the change and loss hit me hard. I had said a lot of goodbyes in the past month, including an especially difficult one earlier that day.

The move was scheduled, as you may remember, for Wednesday, June 25. We were told to be ready at 11:00 AM and I thought that was kind of late but figured they knew better than I. The truck didn’t show up until after 3:30, the loading started at about 4:00 and I think we finished at about 7:30. There were just two men who were good guys and hard workers, but young. Alan, our friend V., and I worked our butts off to help get it done as quickly as possible. (To our surprise, the movers said we had more stuff than they had planned. When we moved from New Orleans to Seattle, the movers were struck by how little we had. We hadn’t acquired that much in the meantime.) Alan, the cats, and I plus computers and important papers/files went in V.'s car.

It was maybe 10:30 when we got to the border. The truck went through the commercial lane (which apparently wasn’t necessary and also served to cause suspicion) and was stuck in queue. After maybe an hour, the truck got to the front of the line and … the driver had an expired license. The other guy had no license. For reasons still not understood by me, the driver decided to tell the border agents that we were friends, trying to hide that they were hired workers. This made me very nervous and the agents smelled something funny. I decided to ignore whatever the driver said and made no reference to it and just answered all questions directly, pretending that I didn’t notice that what I said didn’t jibe with what the driver said. I won’t lie – and why would I? There’s nothing wrong with hiring movers to move your stuff. And we had our goods to follow list and everything was on the up and up.

Amazingly, the border agents were not hard-asses and they could have been. The driver was clearly lying to them and his license was expired. I feel sure that had we been dealing with the other side of the border, things would have been much worse. After 3 agents inspected the contents of the truck and looked over our list, they decided to let us (Alan, V., and me) move on. The guys and the truck had to wait for their supervisor to come get them. (By the way, the supervisor was making noises about charging us more because the move was going into two days! Like it was our fault! Or desire! It seems like a discount would have been more appropriate. I was gearing up for a fight, I tell you.

We couldn’t get in to our apartment because it was after midnight and the office was closed and we didn’t have keys. So we stayed at a not-first-choice hotel for a few hours, smuggling the cats in and letting them out of their carriers for the first time in many hours. (We put out water and an improvised litter box, but I don’t think they used either. They were somewhat traumatized.) Alan and I fell on the beds without showering or removing our clothes and managed a restless nap, getting up early to meet the movers at the new apartment building. (We had to schlep our stuff in and out of the car because there was only on-street parking and Vancouver is notorious for car break-ins.) We were exhausted in every way.

The move-in went pretty smoothly Thursday morning. (“drf” from “Moved to Vancouver” witnessed the semi-hysterical Daniel during move-in; I think I had had less than eight hours sleep total in three days.) The moving company charged only as we had agreed, so no fight. We put V. up in a (nice) hotel for another night and we used her room to shower and hang out, as we had no energy and our place was a messy warehouse. (The cats had their needs met. They made the place home quickly and maybe that was because they had been in those damn carriers and weird hotel room for so long. At least they recognized our/their stuff.)

So, here we are. I’m in a more regular routine, trying to sleep on schedule but still struggling with energy levels. I started up my usual exercise routine and that feels great. School starts Monday. I’ve encouraged Alan to take it slow. Please don’t ask about jobs. It will happen, just can’t think about it now. This is what we saved and did without for three years for, a gift from our past selves to our present selves. (Thanks, guys.)

I am happy to be in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Do I need to change the name of this blog?