Two sides to every coin

An old friend is dying, her daughter thinks it will be very soon. The friend is only slightly older than I am and has had dementia, quite badly, over the past 10+ years. The daughter found me on Facebook (and I’m so glad) about four years agoand I was able to call my old friend shortly thereafter and have one conversation with her. But she really didn’t have a clue who I was. She seemed to remember some of the places and times we talked about, though. I’ve been thinking about (and chanting for) her for the past couple of nights when I go to sleep and when I wake up (my meditation times).

We were quite close (roommates) in the 1970s (serious party girls), and she ended up living in Toronto for some time with the best man from my first wedding. (And he was the best man from that wedding, btw.) When they broke up, she moved back to her hometown, about 150 miles away. I never found out exactly why they broke up but over the years, I’ve wished many times that they hadn’t. They were good for each other – and now he’s dead and she’s just pretty much gone. He killed himself in 1993 (long story, but I do blame NA) and she’s spent the last dozen years losing her mind. Although I don’t believe they ever spoke again after they broke up in the late 70s, I do believe those two events are related – his death and her dementia. But that’s just a gut feeling, I have nothing to back it up.

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So, in the early 80s, she met another guy and took off to Alberta with him and had a daughter. They broke up after some years and she moved back to Ontario. We hung out a lot in the mid-late 80s when I was married and living in Guelph and then Toronto, working for the magazine. She would come for the weekend with her daughter and her live-in boyfriend. I last saw my friend and her daughter in 1990 – we went to Florida for a week together in January of that year and I think the daughter was eight but don’t quote me on that, she may have been 10.

Then, my second husband (of five years) and I broke up and he wasn’t very mature about it. One of those guys who demanded that if you were my friend, you could not be his friend. So my old friend became more my ex-husband’s friend and we drifted apart. To be fair, in ’92 I did leave the country, so he was the one who was there and available to be an in-person friend. And by then, we were running out of things we had in common – we had different priorities and were on very different paths. When roads diverge, things change and life goes on.

Two decades later, her daughter found me on FB and I’m glad to know her again. And I feel such pain and sorrow for her as she loses her mother. I’m thinking of her mother often and chanting for her safe passage but I chant for her daughter at the same time. So she can get through this with peace. It’s been a hard road for her. I hope, for both their sake, that this is a good death. Thinking about her, I’ve been remembering one summer out on the lake (’76, I think), when we made a lot of memories. Robert Palmer, Average White Band, Hall & Oates. Elton John & Kiki Dee & Steely Dan. BBQs by the water and speedboats full of Toronto boys, roaring down the lake under the full moon. Those were the days, my friend. Vaya con Dios – te veré otra vez.

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Update: Between writing this post, and letting it sit overnight…she died. People die. It’s a fact. As you get older, you’d better get used to it. And be grateful you aren’t there yourself. My husbands mother, btw, is stable and was just released from the hospital. He’s gone to see her and it’s always frightening at that age (almost 94), and with some of the complications she’s had. Will keep you posted. But clearly, as we get older, more people will die. All you can do is mourn and carry on. It’s a bit of a different reality when your friends (or close relatives) start dying. I remember my first death – I was probably 15 or maybe 16. A friend named Kerry died from an overdose. And then a friend named Janet. It was a dangerous time to live in that part of the city.

We had kids my age who rode around on banana seat bicycles swinging heavy chains at each other. I didn’t know them, they were from ‘South’ Regent (Park). I think they called themselves the chain gang but it was a long time ago. North Regent and South Regent used to meet for rumbles in Riverdale Flats (below the then-Riverdale Zoo), at River and Spruce. Once I had a classmate rob an old lady of her purse in front of me on the street (I was 10) and threatened to kill me if I told on him before he ran away. That was Kenny. I did rat him out, after comforting the old lady while we waited for the police. She was really old and frail and terrified. It was the most reprehensible thing I’d ever seen anyone do. He didn’t kill me. But he later pulled a knife on a supply teacher in class.

The problem was – our house was only one block away from a huge downtown urban public housing development – not just North Regent Park (which our street ran into) but South Regent Park (even tougher) south of that. So we mixed with those kinds of kids. I should google Kenny. Oops, appears he’s dead. That happens a lot when I Google people from the ‘hood. I really shouldn’t do it.

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We later read from one of our young adult novels to a group of students in the same school – the one where I went from Kindergarten through grade six – when we were doing the Ontario leg of our book tour. Forty years after Kenny pulled his knife. That was a trip. The house I grew up in was only 1.5 blocks away but I purposely didn’t drive by (long sold). The Kiwanis Club was across the street – I would love to turn that into condos. Spent many an ‘after school’ over there. Sat on black and white ponies in front of it for kiddie photos, too. I like Toronto. Just not in the winter.

What have I accomplished this week? Packing and research into multi-unit properties. We figure whatever we have down is 25% and we go from there. If we do that.  Only for the right deal. Because leveraging shit is dangerous. Who knows what we will do? Not me, clearly. But the income has to be more than (far more than) pay for the cost of the mortgage and do better than 3% on cash invested after paying expenses (including mortgage). They tell you not to look at cap rates but I do.

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Speaking of 3% (or less), our real estate agent went to our Island house this past weekend and will do a comparative analysis, I hope by next week. The tenants will leave if we list. That does make our situation a little more precarious – but there’s no other way. We have a line of credit if we need it (as we lose the income from rent, which is low anyway).  And it would be easier to stage and show if no one was living there. Have the cleaning lady spend a few hours every couple of weeks. The agent lives half a block away. If she comes back with a price we can live with, we will do it. Another thing we need to shed. The more liquid and mobile we are, the more opportunities we can consider. But that was a hell of a view.

Things are very much on hold as we get ready to move to DF. I have some more editing work to get at this week so that will keep me off the street. I’ll pack up the main office and we can work from our mobile files.

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I’ve cleaned up my Facebook feed – a lot. I’ve told it to “never show me feeds from” many, many, many sites. There are so many terrible, terrible, click-bait re-purposed news sites. They don’t do their own reporting, they steal the work of others and manipulate it to suit their own agenda. I only see this crap because Facebook sheeple repost without checking, or thinking. But I’ve blocked every agenda-driven site I can find. And none of my friends’ posts or shares from those types of sites will show up either. My feed is a lot cleaner and a lot less aggravating. Some of my friends rarely show up on my page, now that I’ve blocked all the click bait sites (what does that say about my friends?), but that’s what that is. I do have a lot of pages I follow, primarily main stream journalism sites but occasionally a good cooking site. And a few others. But mostly news. I was getting so frustrated with the crap in my feed – then I realized I could fix that.

And Facebook moves fast. One day, I saw something on my news feed, and by the time I went back to read it — possibly five minutes, maximum – it took half an hour of scrolling to find it again. That’s how fast things get posted in the morning. I was stunned (but again, I follow hundreds of pages and have a few hundred friends). I stopped following pages that are local to areas where I am not. What’s the point of that? You tell yourself you want to see what’s happening, but you can always google.

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I *am* going to try to sell the SanMiguelGringo.com URL and Facebook page. The Facebook page has almost 2,500 followers. When we hit that magic number (about 40 followers away), I’ll offer it to whoever wants it. I like to test different techniques and approaches with that many followers, and we’re getting good post reach and engagement (see above right). And it helps me learn what works and what doesn’t (I can see how many view, engage, etc in the back end) – but I think I’ve got it for now. And I’m not that interested in keeping it. I will, if no one buys it and keep growing it, albeit slowly since I really don’t give a rat’s ass anymore. It will sell eventually. Even just the URL and the FB page. That’s simple. There are lots of good photos on the Facebook page – and the license to use them in perpetuity would go along with the sale. It’s very niche. I wonder if it could be a tourism referral vehicle. Ah, not my monkey 🙂

I have another creative idea, but I’ll keep it under my hat as it forms. I have to tell you, sometimes I think I should just stop trying but then I remember that it’s the same as these other fix and flips or condo conversions we’re looking for. You have to have to check out a lot of properties before you find *that* one. But checking them out keeps you open to the idea. Ditto creative shit. Actually, I have two, now that I think of. One that I am going to do for myself that is kind of off the wall, but that’s another story. It’s actually ‘art’, not writing. And like setting jelly, both of them. Nothing to form yet. Working on it though, they are “in the fridge”, so so speak.

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Because we travel a lot and have lived in a lot of places, we meet a number of interesting people (we’ve been doing it over 25 years) whose company we enjoy. Sometimes they become friends, but sometimes, the opportunity to socialize frequently enough to develop an actual friendship doesn’t happen. And those who have developed into friends are spread around, from California to New York to Florida and assorted places in Mexico. A few on the continent. Some I reach out to once or twice a year. Others, once or twice a month. We’ve known some of them 20+ years (some 15, some 10, some three).

Two of my best friends in the world – I’m lucky if I see them twice a year these days (one is in Vancouver, the other divides her time between Vancouver and Mexico, but the beach). I met both while working at the film school.  And there’s a third from the school – I don’t see her but every couple of years but consider her close (and she visits us). Another friend for life, who moved on from Galveston after Ike, has visited us in every place we’ve lived (some twice, if we stayed that long). I love it and he’s coming to our new house in June, sent me his AA itinerary yesterday (that’s American Airlines AA). He’s probably our ‘best guest’ of all.

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Mexico City will be fun for having people come and stay. It’s a prime destination so I imagine we’ll have a full house the first couple of years. I’m going back to our one guest (or couple) per month maximum. That’s sustainable (remember, we work).  March is booked up (the kids), June is booked. We may call April orientation month and take it off the calendar. We do owe our beach friends a visit. We can do that in April or early May, possibly. Our Cuernavaca dog sitter will come to DF (plus, she’s selling her house here and moving to a DF apartment).

But back to friends. Over the years, I’ve drifted away from a few friends who were once very close. Like the dying friend above, for example. And there have been a couple of others. Not many, but sometimes people change (myself included) and circumstances are always changing. Occasionally, I even see it coming – but it’s never easy. I have a couple of friends who, albeit as a result of a life-changing experiences, changed dramatically. Not blaming them. But these major life adjustments ended up changing our dynamics. Had I met them later in life, after these big events, there’s not a chance we would have been friends. And that’s not a one-sided comment – they wouldn’t have been interested in me as a new friend in their later years, either. And you let go. And so it goes.

Life becomes a little sadder when you get older and realize that it is what it is and it never was what it isn’t. If that makes sense. All life is suffering anyway (Buddha). At the same time, getting older also means that many things just don’t matter like they used to. You get a sense of what’s important and what’s not.  You let go of those attachments, many of which were emotions. Needing things. We need air, food and water. And love. I’ll give you the fourth. But it’s a broad definition and satisfying that need stretches across a broad range. And I don’t want to get started on the philosophical stuff again. This blog is already long enough.

I don’t know what will happen in the next few months but I’m still feeling the changes around the corner. And things are moving forward. January was a great month for reflection (Mercury retrograde) but by mid-February we should be back in full swing. Let’s hit a home run. Orale!

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