Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

“You need to pay more attention to your Chi.”

I heard those words while sitting in a diner in Tofino, B.C. today. Seemed to resonate soundly, fitting completely with the laid back young atmosphere of this rainy little resort town.

Tofino is a beautiful anomaly. It hardly rarely gets any warmer than 15 degrees during the summer (59 Fahrenheit) or cooler than 8 degrees (43 Fahrenheit) during the day in winter. Since it exists in a rain forest, the predominant weather is….rain. Lots and lots of rain. The cheerful residents wander around town in rain boots and rain coats. You can spot the city folk (raising hand) by the fact that they’re sporting umbrellas.

Yet, for all of that, the place consists of people in their 20’s. They’re attracted to this place. I asked my host why that was.

He said “like attracts like. There are young people here, and that attracts more of the same.”

Seeing my half-accepting nod, he continued. “Plus, there aren’t that many full time jobs here. They’re all seasonal. So it’s rare that families choose to settle here.”

He thought some more. “And they really like the great surfing here too.”

This completed a picture. Yesterday, at the same little diner, I shared a table with a long-time middle-aged resident who mentioned he just bought another property.

“Must be hard getting decent tenants” I offered, drawing upon my extensive knowledge of landlord-tenant dynamics from my home in Toronto.

He sipped his coffee. Nodded. “Yeah, they only seem to want to rent for a short time. There’s a constant turnover of residents.”

The air around this town is thick with the ambience of one word: wellness. The people are fit, alive and above all, friendly. Torontonians are generally left a little pole-axed by the redolent joy of this place. There is no rushing, about anything. You don’t meet anyone while walking and not at least nod at them. What normally would be a five minute trip to the grocery store in the big city turns out to be a fifteen minute joyful experience in Tofino: residents just love to talk and meet new people. Before you walk out with your milk and bread, you’ll know a heck of a lot more about those who work in the store: where they came from, how long they’ve been there, and how cool the surfing is.

There is a surfeit of massage practitioners. Most of them offer a range of therapies including aromatherapy and Reiki. And lots of advice on how to live a healthier lifestyle. There are no fast food places here. It’s all very very healthy. If you don’t feel like visiting one of the little restaurants, you can always purchase some organic foods to bring back to wherever you’re staying.

All of the gorgeous little (and big) resorts outside of town are connected by two things: a small highway for the cars, and a paved walkway for pedestrians and cyclists. Both see lots of use. Certainly the latter is a dog walker’s paradise. All of this is surrounded by greenery, trees.

Bears and cougars have been sighted here from time to time, too. My host mentioned that one time, his guests were pretty much confined to their suite for a while because there was a mother bear and her cub hanging out, just outside their door.

On my last visit to this town, I was playing a board game with my hosts when I spotted movement outside their plate glass dining room window. I looked closer. It was a big lumbering bear, calmly making his way from the front yard to the back yard. My eyes must have been bugging out, because my host laughed. He was used to it, whereas the only dangerous wildlife this Toronto boy had ever encountered before was a slightly gassy beggar asking for change on a dim street corner.

You don’t lock your doors in this town. There’s no point. Everyone knows everyone. It’s just that kind of place. (Plus, bears and cougars don’t have opposable thumbs. So it’s all good.)

Yesterday, we took a long walk down to the ocean and saw this:


In spite of all of this beauty, there are a few things I miss.

A decent internet connection.
My PVR. (Yeah, I’m addicted to my TV. Sue me.)
The night life of the big city.
A movie theatre on every corner. (Well not quite on every corner. Enough of them though).
Transit. Being able to get from A-B relatively quickly.
Sunshine. That’s a big one.

When I get back to Toronto, there is one major aspect of Tofino that I know I’ll miss.

The amazing and endearing friendliness. You can’t smile and wave at someone in Toronto without them scrambling to press the 911 speed dial on their iPhones.

(This blog is lovingly dedicated with thanks to my hosts: Miche and Angie. The latter is my daughter. The former is not my daughter.) :)

One Sunny Morning

Posted: September 11, 2011 in Life
Tags: , , , , ,

That fateful morning, I was grumbling, because I was late for work. My office was 50 km. (30 miles) away and I had to wait for the next city to city commuter bus.

Funny what you remember, isn’t it? The little things. The bus air conditioning was freezing, almost unbearable. I remember cursing inwardly, because I hadn’t thought it necessary to bring a jacket.

Seemed obviously warm out – the sun was shining in a clear blue sky. I remember trying to figure out what side of the bus I should sit on, to avoid the sunlight once the bus pulled out of the station.

There were maybe about 20 people on the large bus. One of the benefits of catching the late bus. It meant it wouldn’t be necessary to share a seat with anyone. A silver lining in every cloud.

A week before I had purchased a cool set of orange headphones, which served only one purpose: to play AM-FM radio stations. I put them on and dialled into a local rock station, and, ignoring my rapidly lowering core temperature, decided to try and sleep my way to work.

I think we had been on the highway for about ten minutes, when a loud voice interrupted my thoughts. Maybe I had been asleep. Can’t seem to remember. I didn’t catch what was being said, but I opened my eyes and noticed other people looking around and at each other. So I took off my headphones and sat up straighter.

It was the bus driver, and he was using the P.A. system to speak. “A plane has just crashed into the second World Trade Center in New York.”

“Oh’, I thought. “Wow. Must have been a hell of a pilot error. Wonder how many people were hurt. Seems like a tragedy.” Then I thought “but why is he talking about it? It’s just one plane. Probably a four seater Cessna. Why so dramatic?”

“This is the second plane to crash into the towers. I’m being told it’s a terrorist attack.”

I remember blinking in confusion, and then looking at others. It honestly seemed like a bad joke. Like he was playing with the P.A. system. It took a while for the surreal feeling to subside, and my logical mind to catch up. Still, I felt sure he had gotten it wrong.

So I slapped on my headphones and found the news station on the A.M. dial. That’s when it was confirmed, and more information was being broadcast.

I spoke up to the rest of the bus. “There are five terrorist planes in the air right now”.

One lady looked at me. “How do you know?”

“I’m listening to a news station.”

People started leaving their seats and gathering closer. I listened closely and, during the course of the trip heard many false reports. The bus driver made another announcement when a plane crashed into the Pentagon. I told the passengers about the final crash in Pennsylvania.

We still had no idea how bad the attack was, or the scope of it. I think we were all still shocked when we got off of the bus in Toronto.

I walked to work, expecting to have to wait outside the doors for about an hour, while the striking pickets let us through slowly. But when I got there, all of the pickets were down, and the labour dispute was forgotten, ignored.

There was no work that day. Employees all gathered around big TV sets in the foyer, rapt, waiting for more information.  We saw people jumping from the towers to escape the flames.   Many of us looked in horror, and many more of us cried.

In the days to follow, I stayed near news sources. I was in a bar one night when President Bush made one of his major speeches about the attacks. As God is my witness, I have never in my life felt so angry at what had been done to our American neighbours. I *wanted* those assholes who had done this dead. Needed them to die.

When Bush said the United States was going to take the fight to the terrorists, I applauded along with everyone else in the bar. Stupid, isn’t it? Bush and the Americans couldn’t hear us. Yet we felt compelled to applaud.

I remember thinking that for all of our cross-border disagreements over trade, and free movement across our borders and politics and what-have-you, all of any brotherly rivalry seemed to just fall. Immediately. As if we had never disagreed. You can argue with my brother all you like, and even call him an asshole. But if you bloody his nose, you’ll have to answer to me. That’s how it is with my own siblings, and it seemed that then, even as now, that’s how it is between Canada and the U.S.