My Year in the West End

The West End of Vancouver BC is know for it’s colourful community of people. While there are many gay and lesbian and other labels living there, there is also a lot of elderly, young families, and working people of all nationalities.

I decided to join the community when I rented a 1 bedroom apartment located in basically the middle of the area. It was located a 10 minute walk from Stanley Park (a great section of land filled with ancient Cedar trees, paths that lead to various beaches and gardens, and just plain nature at it’s finest).

Walking another 5-10 minutes in the opposite direction from the apartment lead me to the heart of downtown. 10 minutes north or south lead me to the Pacific Ocean. Who wouldn’t want to live there?

I left the boat for a position on one of the largest software projects the province has ever seen. It was exciting and I felt that I could make a difference with my experience and skill set. I believe I did although I didn’t see it to the end.

What I do want to share is some of what I experienced while being back on land.

I wanted to check off another thing on my bucket list – I chose an apartment on the 25th floor. I’m not particularly fond of heights, however I do enjoy a home with a view so this met my criteria. It overlooked the city and faced east where I could watch the sunrise many mornings. Check, check. To my left and right off the balcony I could see a glimpse of water and to the north, mountains. Check, check.

View from apartment

It was small, the bedroom fit only a bed and 2 night stands. It’s a good thing I wasn’t needing to share the closet because it was tiny. There was what was referred to as a den (no windows). I used it as a place to keep some clothing and a spare TV so I could watch what I wanted if my dad came to visit. He’s a sports fan and I prefer DIY home shows or Vet on the Hill so I was glad for the spare TV although I only used it a handful of times throughout the year.

I moved in only a few pieces of furniture from our storage unit. Only 1/2 my sectional sofa would fit, so half was what I lived with. It worked out well as it served as a spare bed when my dad came for a visit. He came 3 or 4 times throughout the year and I really enjoyed the time we got to spend just the two of us. We created many fond memories together.

Dad English Bay

Last summer he came without a walker and discovered he just couldn’t get around as much as he’d like with just a cane. The next visit he had his walker and got out and about nearly every day. On one visit he had a bad case of gout in his knee, so walking was near impossible. I took him to the emergency room at St Paul’s hospital. I have to say they put him on the fast track and he was treated quickly and with much respect. Kudo’s go out to the people who work at that ER, they were absolutely amazing to watch work.

Dad with his new walker
Jamis and Maddie visited
Dad, me and Charlie Denman and Davie

His next to last visit was spent watching playoff NHL hockey. Growing up in a hockey family and raising a son who played the game, I must admit I got into it again. There I was saying – how’d the ref miss that? It was fun and I cherish the time I took to sit and watch with my dad.

His last visit was a little hectic. Paul and Charlie were also home from the boat so the apartment was full. We all worked around each other. Since I was in my last month of work, I was very busy and pushed myself through the days to get home at a decent hour when I could. I felt like dad didn’t get the full attention from me he deserved, but I needed to let that go. It is what it is or rather it was what it was.

Living in the West End allowed me to have my dad come when he could and he had places he could walk to while I was at work. It worked out well for both of us.

Other things I loved – there was a dog park just 2 blocks from the apartment, so when Charlie was in town (~4 of the months I lived there) I figured it would be great for him. I guess I should have consulted him – he wanted to go anywhere but the dog park. So instead we took him for many a walk to Stanley Park and near the water. Every time we walked near a marina he’d pull like a sled dog trying to take us down a ramp to find Blue Sky.

I got together regularly with my good friend Michael for walks. Over the Christmas season we decided to go to Vandusen Botanical Gardens to see the festival of lights. It was super cold that day (I think the coldest of the winter). In fact, speaking of winter, Vancouver typically gets one or two days of snow per year. This year we had nearly 2 months with snow on the ground. There was so much snow that I had to break down and buy winter rain boots. In all my years living at the west coast, I never needed them. I couldn’t get through this winter without them. They saved me from arriving to work with soaking wet feet many days.

Festival of lights
Robson Square

I also got together at least once a month with my good friend Laurie. We’ve been friends for more than 50 years (not a typo). We did some fun things as well like going to Whistler one weekend for the Every Woman event. It’s an event where you can take part in a different exercise class or lecture every hour for 2 days. We filled our schedules some events together and some apart. We were on our own for meals so we’d catch up on what each of us had learned in between.

Laurie makeover

When I was away at Christmas visiting Blue Sky, Laurie actually stayed at the apartment for a few days while her son was in St Paul’s hospital. Things worked out rather magically as I’d already cleared customs when she called and asked if she could stay and get the keys. Kindly my resident manager had agreed to let her into the suite and I had a spare set of keys in the nightstand.

I was able to see her parents latest venture in the arts by going to the Naked Stage production of Loves, Losses and what I wore (I can’t recall the exact name of the play, but it was something like that). Very interesting where there is no set, just actors on stage voicing their parts.

And of course she invited me to the family thanksgiving dinner which was quite the crowd. She joined Paul and I for a night of fireworks and said she’d never do that again, which I don’t blame her. It was quite the long haul getting her back on the train with the line up around the block.

When I first arrived I signed up for a creative writing class and a calligraphy class. I discovered I love writing and I’m less of a fan of doing calligraphy. In the winter I joined the YMCA and took in various fitness classes. I lasted about 3 months when work started getting in the way and I was no longer getting my money’s worth so stopped going. I will say that I enjoyed it though.

Vancouver Spring blooms

Lastly in the spring on a whim I signed up for a learn to run clinic at the Running Room on Denman and Georgia. Although their was a running room closer to my work, I chose this location as they typically do their runs through Stanley Park. I made some good friends and finished the 10 weeks running a 5 km Pride run. This run kicked off the West Ends Pride week. I missed the parade this year due to moving out, but did enjoy part of the parade last year when I first moved in.
Pride Parade 2016

I learned quickly that it was faster to walk to the train than wait for the bus so I typically got in 4,000+ steps in before starting work each day. On nicer days I’d walk all the way down Nelson street and across the Cambie street bridge to work. It took about 45 minutes and added another 1,500 steps to my commute.

Morning comute – walking over Cambie Street Bridge

Some Friday’s I’d walk along the sea wall from work and stop at Granville Island for dinner before taking the water taxi across to the Aquatic Centre stop, then walk along the beach to my street. I’d often take in the sunsets on this walk and I’d look over at the boats out on the water or anchored and think fondly of my life aboard Blue Sky.
Walking home along the water

Mostly I found I was torn between two places in my heart. I wanted to work and live in the city I loved since I first saw it when I was eight years old. And I wanted to be on Blue Sky living the life of a sailor. I couldn’t have them both.

In the end living on Blue Sky won out. I gave my notice at work and began the process of planning to move away from Vancouver.

In the last weeks of July 2017 we began the process of packing up the apartment and downsizing our storage. Paul and I, along with the help of Keith, Taryl and Taryl’s dad Ken moved everything out of storage. Some of it stayed in Canada with Keith and Taryl. Some of it went to donations. Some of it went to Russell the Junk Man. And some of it came with us on a road trip to Michigan in an 11 ton, 26’ uHaul which turned me into someone who has a bigger respect for truckers.

Our uHaul loaded

Our new smaller storage unit is now in Michigan. It is costing us 1/3 less than what we were paying to store our stuff in the suburbs of Vancouver. We still have more than we’d hoped but we have what we want to keep.

We don’t know where we’ll end up living when we are ready to move back to land but we do know that it won’t be the west coast. So until we figure it out we have our things a little closer to the boat so we can access them when we visit our son Lindsay and his family.

For now I am happily nesting again on Blue Sky. I’m cleaning and sorting and generally making myself at home in the best condo money can buy. I have a 360 water view and when I don’t like where I am, I can move and I can move without renting a Uhaul. What a concept.

Charlie back on board in Hampton Virginia

3 thoughts on “My Year in the West End”

  1. Loved reading your blog about your year and hoping to meet somewhere on our adventures. I love Vancouver, but couldn’t take the continual rain so are now in the Okanagan in Vernon.

    I haven’t heard anything about the SDR and alternative routes…if that is even a possibility.

  2. Great story Gwyn. An enjoyable read.

    I can’t understand how there was no time to see you while you were downtown. Sorry about that.

    You make Vancouver sound so pleasant, so I’m surprised when you say you won’t settle on the west coast. I can’t help wondering why.

    All the best, to you and Paul.

    Derek & Monique.

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