Earning Panama

Earning Panama

IMG-20121130-00914Before we get to Panama and all its hot weather, sporadic rain and friendly spanish speaking Latino’s, its important to note the weeks leading up to this particular vacation to get the full effect.

You see, I agreed to this vacation BEFORE I knew I had a job that was going to support my basic needs of paying a mortgage, food and a car payment. After landing a job, I took a moment to have a sigh of relief. The downside is I still couldn’t bring myself to feel upbeat about my upcoming vacation. Aren’t vacation’s for people stressed out from their corporate jobs? A place to rejuvenate?

I’d been living the limin’ life for a year and this getaway felt exactly like the splurge it was and seemed like such a waste in my state of stress-free well being.

All that was to change 3 weeks leading up to beautiful Panama.

It started with a broken baby toe, progressed into a duel I lost with a 70lb animal and ended with the big bang of a condo flood 2 inches deep.

The toe and tooth are worthy stories, both were avoidable separate accidents, both are still causing me pain 3 weeks later. The condo flood is what will scar and scare me forever out of any semblance of a peaceful sleep!

I was preparing for my trip. There was work to be accomplished, packing to be done, pampering to be had. I was doing well, going to bed early, waking up early and one by one striking the “to-do’s” off my list until that morning at 3am when I was rudely awakened.

“Property Management! Property Management!”

My slumber was being pierced by an unknown male voice and it wasn’t coming from my dream.

I rolled over, rubbed my eyes and in my groggy state of partial awareness, struggling with my sheets I yelled back as loud and angry I could make my little 3am voice sound, “WHO Is IN MY CONDO!”

“It’s me, Steve, your property management.” He yelled back.

I grabbed my phone, it was 3am and I yelled back, “what the hell are you doing in my condo, bastard!”. And I looked around for that giant flashlight, my only hope, my only weapon!

“You’ve had a flood!!”

“I’ve had a WHAT!?!!”. I shouted back incredulously.

“A FLOOD!” Came his reply.

I rolled out of bed and took a step towards my bedroom door, the carpet was wet. I stepped off the carpet, reached for my door knob and stepped into what felt like the edge of the Atlantic ocean.

I opened my bedroom door, pried opened my eyes and saw the flood extending from my restroom, to my living room, my dining room to the kitchen to the front door.

The giant who is my property manager splashed by me, heading towards my bathroom. All the while he was chattering about the flood, “It looks like your toilet tank cracked, your neighbour noticed water coming through her vent.”

I groaned. I knew this neighbour. The one who is no fun at all. My property manager turned off the water to my toilet and suggested I clean up Lake Ontario that had unseemingly seeped into my condo.

He left.

I locked my door and in a dazed wandered through the flood only to fall flat on my back in my little private lake. As I laid there looking up at the ceiling and feeling the water soaking my hair, my shirt and my pants, I wondered if perhaps this may still be just a dream. I willed myself to stand up, brushed whatever water I could off myself and I went to work cleaning up the mess.

After two hours of soaking up water in towels, wringing them out into a bucket and dumping the bucket into my tub, I had successfully sent Lake Ontario back to where it belonged.

Now what to do? It was 5am and I needed to use the restroom. I quickly changed, dug up my insurance information, slid into my Mini and zoomed off to the nearest 24 hour donut shop I could find. For the record, the best time to use public restrooms is around the 5/6am mark! Trust me, I tried out a couple that early morning πŸ™‚

So here I am in Panama 3 days post-flood. Enjoying every minute of sun, sand and drop of rain. Knowing that everyday is bringing me closer to my new condo reality – cement flooring “throughout” and my neighbour who is threatening to sue me!

My Parking Garage Neighbour

I live in a rather reclusive building. When I first moved in over three years ago I hardly knew I had neighbours at all. I rode up and down the elevator, walked up and down the hallways and didn’t meet a soul.

It was after seven months of living in my condo that I met someone.

My parking garage neighbour.

At the time he was driving a 2002 Silver Volvo S60. Seriously, I know this is ridiculous of me, but cars really are my thing. I noticed there were always loads of things in his backseat all covered in blankets and I got to wondering what possibly could be lurking under the blankets.

Perhaps it was all this wondering that got my introduction but I believe it was more likely all the random cars he saw parked beside his that had him calculating exactly when I would be home so he could confront me.

And confront me he did.

I don’t recall how the conversation started but I do recall being grilled on what I did for work and the conversation ended with him asking for my help on his next car. As a side, I did attempt to help him however he ended up buying something completely off his original list – I am not offended just sad he choose a weaker competitor, but alas he couldn’t be helped πŸ™‚

Since that day we met, every few weeks we make it an unplanned point of meeting in the elevator, the garage, the parking lot and once in a while, the local grocery store.

He is what you would envision as a true sales guy. Rushing around with his goods packed into his vehicle, a fast talker with the ability of getting a clear and comprehensive full month of verbal catch-up done in literally 2 minutes. It puts alot of pressure on me to par down on my verbal updates to him, you know, give him the basic facts and let him fill in the rest!

I know when I’ve gone over my 2 minute limit because he starts shifting from foot to foot and fiddling with his hands. I almost want to keep the conversation going just to see if he would implode/explode if I added more filler to my stories :).

Today I didn’t quite get the memo and left my unit 30 seconds later than I should have. When I arrived in the basement to get into my car, he was already in his, car running, ready to go.

This meant our 4 minute conversation (2 for him, 2 for me) would have to be much shorter.

As I walked up to the driver side of my vehicle (He likes driving into his spot, I prefer backing into mine, so our driver doors are friends), he waited for me to walk around the back of his vehicle and rolled down his window to say,

“I really like your new car, when did you get it?”

“I picked it up Wednesday, it has turned out to be way more fun than I initially thought it would be! A friend helped me with a good deal on a well equipped car otherwise I don’t know what I would have done!”

“Well I love it, it suits your personality,” and then squinting slightly and scrunching lower into the seat of his SUV as though he was experiencing some major abdominal pain, he ended, “it’s sexy, sporty just like you!” and as he grimaced some more he completed a full hand finger wave, rolled up the window and off he went….

Our 1 minute was up. I stood there and laughed.

MINI Mania

MINI Mania

So not THE most creative title, but that is what is happening to me right now. I am experiencing mania towards my MINI!

Some people have children and pets, I have cars. I love cars (trains, planes and skateboards too!). Yes they eventually disintegrate and get recycled (we hope the metal and plastic parts do!), but to me cars have always been an extension of myself. Call me crazy, but I love driving with no destination in mind. The most important part being the experience of getting there and the mode of transportation.

It’s not about the brand or how much the car costs, it is how it handles the road, the ambience and comfort on the inside and the sound system blaring tunes.

There was my pain. What small car could I buy that would give me all those things, suit my personality and be THAT car.

My list was whittled down to two choices:

1. Volkswagen Golf – responsible me
2. Mini Cooper S – irresponsible me

The Mini had some advantages, besides being irresponsible, it also had a HUGE personal backer. I might come from automotive, I might understand the product, I might even understand the sales process, but all those things just made me more anxious about picking the right car.

So what happened exactly?

My good friend who is still in the business, the Volkswagen didn’t stand a chance :(, arranged for a nice dealer to call me, serve me up an offer I couldn’t resist that had me signing papers making me a ridiculous Mini Cooper S owner in mere minutes.

What I think of my new car after 3 days of ownership?

More fun than I thought. I forgot how much fun a manual car can be. Reminds me of that Mazda MX-5 Mazdaspeed I was pulled over in a few times!! but managed to talk my way out of my tickets (I wouldn’t have deserved them – honest πŸ™‚ )

Port Credit on my Bike-On-Loan

Port Credit on my Bike-On-Loan

Is it ok to post two entries about my bike-on-loan in one day!! πŸ™‚

So today I woke up for the first time in over a week without any muscle soreness. My Olympic training exercises have subsided…till tonight when it will start all over again.

In any event, with my body feeling like new, this morning was a great opportunity to see how far I could ride in one direction and still be able to walk.

I really want to get that shaky leg feeling going. After a good hour ride, I am disappointed. The only thing feeling shaky and fast asleep is my poor derriere!!

This on-road biking this is new to me. I am used to trails where you spend 10% in the saddle and 90% standing up dodging old stumps, overhanging trees and trying to keep ahead of the hungry animals lurking in the woods.

I’ve never needed bike shorts before. You know the kind. The ones that feel like you are wearing an adult diaper.

But here I am, wearing bike shorts, working on the most obscure tan lines (I secretly hope that all the models at the next Paris fashion show are sporting bike-short tan lines, that will make me feel better!), I have a shiny new helmet and full-on bike gloves.

Today’s adventure was to bike west as far as I could and here I am in Port Credit watching boats go in and out of the harbour. Does this count for a harbour?

On the ride here I have made a discovery about biking in general.

The bike bell is something that is disliked when it is ding ding ding DINGED – like a million times and since I’ve been dinged at enough while in-line skating, I decided I would forgo the bike bell. I know the “Olympic sized horn” was a good idea but it has terrible aerodynamics.

So without a bike bell to go ding ding ding, I quietly passed a pair of fellow bikers on a lazy and wide road. I didn’t think it was necessary to make a big spectacle that I would be passing them with 5 feet between me and the closest biker, but I was WRONG!

As soon as the farthest biker realized I was going to pass them he yelled into his friend’s ear, “BIKER ON YOUR LEFT” and then preceded to DING DING DING DING his bike bell.

I raced away not sure if he was expecting me to stop and apologize for my, apparently, bad bike manners.

So the discovery is no matter with or without a bike bell, SOMEONE somewhere is going to have issue with how you play the sport. It is up to me to decide which random group of people I’d rather have yelling at me for my sport induced indiscretions πŸ™‚ Like the lady on the path who was coming towards me yelling “BIKE COMING, BIKE COMING!!” I thought it was pretty obviously, visually, that I was biking towards them πŸ™‚

I don’t think there is any way to please everyone and what they feel is acceptable biking behaviour. Perhaps a solution is to ride around like I have a severe case of turrets yelling at everyone and everything I pass?!

I am thinking a standard one liner like. “BIKE INCOMING, BIKE INCOMING, to your LEFT…umm no I mean your RIGHT!!!”

The last few questions I have yet to answer are:

1. How long till the bones on my buttocks form large callouses (is this even possible)?
2. When will my buttocks stop falling asleep while riding?
3. Do I need to push harder to get my legs to feel the burn on the road or should I just find some long hills…..
4. What is with the broken down lawnmower in front of the tree?

First Ride on my Bike-On-Loan

First Ride on my Bike-On-Loan

My desire to go whirling down the road faster than a jog won out over my fear of getting on a bike after all.

My maiden voyage on the bike was thrilling. I got home from work one early morning and sat on my couch – inspecting the bike.

Wondering if I remembered how to ride.

The tires, quite frankly, frightened me. I had agreed to the slicks on the sole basis that I would be able to go faster with less effort. Call me lazy!!!

I felt panicked and wondered how I would fare on such tires. After googling racing tire’s I felt better that I didn’t need to be an expert to keep from falling off.

The investigation exercise, which I’ve recently learned is actually called AIDA, exhausted my energy. So I kept sitting on my couch and watched a movie Of course all in the name of settling my heart rate before attempting the ride :).

By 3pm I was feeling calm and carried the bike down the 10 flights of stairs to the driveway.

The ride to the coffee shop was a little nerve racking. I had to dodge pebbles, stones, sand, pot holes and a short strip of sidewalk. I was starting to reconsider my calmness by the time I got to the coffee shop.

I had my second panic attack upon arriving. As much as I was nervous of the tires, I didn’t want the bike stolen. I looked around for a place to lock it up – I was sufficiently lost.

The amused older gentleman on the back patio kindly pointed out the bike rack that was blaringly obvious!!! I locked up and went in to get my coffee.

Coffee – check
Bike – check
Tires still inflated – check

With renewed confidence I set off on the Lakeshore trail bound for the big TO. Halfway in to town I realized I didn’t have the portable bike pump, what if I suddenly experienced a flat!?!?!?

Abandoning my trek, I turned around and headed home.

My Bike-On-Loan

My Bike-On-Loan

I’ve spent the better part of the early afternoon watching You Tube how-to video’s on fixing bikes.

Why?

Well my brother-in-law has kindly lent me one of his bikes to help me expand my horizon’s. You see, by now I know every crack in the payment and all the uneven spots in the side walks in my limited walking-distance boundary.

Besides all that, in the last few months of walking I have also been shamelessly followed, chatted-up and generally harrassed and armed with a racing bike, well see y’all later boyz!!!

So the adventure begins.

However my bike-on-loan is missing one important feature – a bike bell. We all know that ding ding dinging that bell makes for fast friends and gives advance warning to all the non-cyclists of who’s boss.

So the bike bell plan….

…using plastic-tie-straps, secure my parting Nissan gift, the β€œBig Sale” horn, to the front right handle bar.

That outta be intimidation enough!

A Trip to London

A Trip to London

Trains are so much fun, the click clack of the wheels, the low hum of conversation in the cabin.

By the time I boarded the train in Toronto there weren’t very many empty seats in the London bound rail car. I spotted a window seat beside an older lady and politely asked permission to sit beside her.

Turns out she was a good choice for a seat companion and the trip went by in a flash.

She was in her early 70’s. Immaculately dressed, hair coiffed, beautiful gold earring’s, charcoal pearls around her neck and a gold ring set with an emerald stone on her right hand. She had taken great care in applying her eyeliner, mascara and a deep shade of rose lipstick.

She was dressed to impressed and 30 minutes into the ride I found out why.

“We had wonderful British old-maids as teachers at school and we learned a lot. One teacher in particular was always so well dressed, you know what she taught us?”.

She took a deep breath, didn’t wait for me to guess an answer, she leaned in, her eyes kind and she said in her smooth voice, “she told us that we honour the day by dressing well. No matter what, we should take pride in our appearance.”

Want to know what I was wearing as I hung my head in utter shame?

Rolled up sweaty track pants, flip flops, an old tee-shirt and a baseball cap. I didn’t feel she was addressing my choice of wardrobe, on the contrary she was reflecting on herself but I couldn’t help wondering how smelly I might be.

We chatted about life, travel, old romantic English movies and philosophers (although she had a leg up on me on this topic!). We talked about great minds who have lived in our life time. She told me about her experience listening to Bora Laskin at the University, Camille Paglia and Margaret Atwood.

She recounted the scandalous story of John MacDonald the surgeon. The story that didn’t turn out so scandalous after all when his new young stewardess bride ended up raising his 4 children as her own after his untimely death.

We talked about women’s rights and raising children.

“I had my first child at 23 and it was me as a child raising a child. If I could be a mother today, I would do a better job. I would know how to better direct them. Not that I did a terrible job then, I would be much better prepared if I had of been older.”

I share her sentiment! Not that I have children and may never have one but if I do I am certainly better prepared as a 30-something than I would have been as a 20-something.

Early in the trip she told me a story of a woman she used to work with. Each night after this woman left the office she would practise her skill in creating art, her passion. Today the lady is making a more than comfortable living creating art, discovered quietly by chance at a street festival.

My new friend described it as the following,

“Chance favours the prepared mind”.

That was the comment that had me putting down my book and giving her all my attention…$72.32 well spent.

The Amazing Spitting Man

The Amazing Spitting Man

The man has skill. I would say he rivals llamas. He has fantastic distance on his spit. It travels in a steady stream at least three feet before it taper’s off and falls to the ground.

He is one bad-ass dude and he wants us all to know it.

Nothing is going to get him down. He’s going to squirm in his seat, twisting his head right and left, attempting to figure out who dared sit directly behind him.

There is something comical about the sideways eyeball stare πŸ™‚

What I couldn’t quite figure out was what made him so bad-ass.

A) His many tattoo’s.

B) His many piercing’s.

C) His amazing spitting ability.

D) His TTC streetcar rider-ship.

And if it was D, how do I join the club?

I am still perplexed at the spitting and trying to find a scenario when this skill would be useful and advantageous.

Any ideas?!

The Perfect Night…

The Perfect Night…

…for sitting on the balcony. It is no Barbados, but it is getting pretty close.

Goodbye Indiana and all your hot weather

Goodbye Indiana and all your hot weather

I am on my way home. My new baseball hat doesn’t have a hole in the back for my hair and when it sits all the way down on my head it makes my ears stick out ever so slightly.

I bought this newest edition to my collection of hats in my favourite city. The City of Trees, Indianapolis. I’ve posted about this city before, but I’ve noticed three things on this trip.

1. Flying over the top of the city, it looks like the city was placed between the trees in a forest. It’s unbelievable how the houses and buildings really are covered by a canopy of trees.

2. The Monon trail. I have a love-hate relationship with this trail. The hate is that it means a rail road will likely never again connect Indianapolis with Chicago and you know how I like trains. The love is the trail goes for miles and connects the North to the South. It’s glorious, it is paved, it is policed and the bikers on the trail don’t insinuate that they own it. I can hardly believe my luck!

3. I realize why I love this city. You can live it. It is a big-small city and easy to navigate (you really need a car unfortunately but I did see people using the IndyGo and my heart swelled with joy!). It is a city with community.

There is also a fourth reason this city is pretty cool, it’s where family lives and one little guy in particular who made it impossible for me to keep a straight face, even when he was being knowingly mischievous. πŸ™‚

This little guy LOVES to talk. He cocks his head to one side, tips his hands outward and away from his body and with a quizzical look on his face says,

“App ohh dad abb ack oh.”

The tricky part is the response. Even though it appears that the appropriate response would be over-dramatized humour – it isn’t. I tried and it was received with a river of tears and frustration that Auntie responded inappropriately to the question. By day 7, I am a slow learner, I learned the best respond was a nod of the head and a “I totally agree! Silly eh?!”.

He might have been born in America but he sure appreciates the Canadian “Eh!”. I am so proud of him.

The last evening him and I hung out together. We visited the famed City Circle. We had Qdoba, I am already going through Buritto withdrawal and it ain’t pretty. We sat and watched the horses with their buggie’s, the motorbikes sporting their *badass* riders (I am confused) and overall people watched.

The last part might be his best feature. He is such a great people watcher at just over 1 year old. I might not yet fully understand his full sentences but we can sit side by side on the cement steps of City Circle and get a kick out of the crowd that surrounds us.

I am almost home and just like when I leave my nieces and their chitter chatter, I am already missing the bird noises and my nephews conversations.