My first visit to this great city just north of the Washington State/US border and I am greeted with its misty and chilly charm. Off the sky train and the rain is falling steadily. I gather myself, acclimate to my surroundings and cross over Broadway from Cambie in the upscale Kitsilano neighborhood. A pleasant lady with a warm smile asks, “Are you running away from home”? She got my attention. We exchange greetings and then she asked which way I was headed. I reply, “Arbutus and 11th Avenue”. “You’re not from Canada are you”? “You could tell, ay”? (I threw in the ‘ay’ to try and fit in) With a large smile she responded, “I knew because it’s pronounced ‘ArbUtus’.” A few seconds later she had pointed me in the direction I was to go but her suggestion was to catch a taxi. I did. I was on my way, encountering the just beginning rush hour traffic to the apartment I was going to be at for the week.
Arriving about 10 minutes later in the rain, Hazel was upstairs waiting for me. I hadn’t seen her beautiful face and felt her positive energy in person for over 3 years. We had met while she was visiting LA with her girlfriends and I was with a good group of my guy friends for a bachelor party. The out of town guys were staying at the same hotel in Hollywood as the ladies from Vancouver were. Hazel is one of those rare people every person needs in their life because you keep quality people who somehow lift you up no matter if you need it or not. Her warmth was felt immediately and although she admitted her apartment was “tiny” it felt immense with love and invitation. We spent the first few hours of my being there catching up and watching her son and another boy she babysits. Her older son returned home from school a little later. Shortly thereafter her youngest left to be with his dad for the night and Hazel and I headed to Gramercy Grill, downstairs in her building, to meet Ruby, who also was with Hazel in LA when we first met, and her boyfriend, John. Ruby, like Hazel, is again one of those people that in a way you wish you had 100 of, but then their uniqueness wouldn’t be felt in the same special way. People like Hazel and Ruby are rare and you keep them close. After some great pasta and a couple of glasses of wine, the restaurant was closing so we ended the evening around 10 pm. It sucks when a night of good laughs, good stories and good company must end.
We retired for the night and I was sent back to my childhood as dreams ran through my head as I slept. The bottom bunk I found solace in made for a peaceful, restful sleep.