Vancouver. A Love Story, A Tragedy, A Sonnet. Part One : Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.

In August 1999 I boarded a plane bound for Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from Bangkok. I had been travelling around what was once called Indochina, that being the countries, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos for around eight weeks on a very tight budget, but had enough money left over to either take me west, to India, or east to Canada, where my girlfriend was waiting for my arrival. She had gone ahead of me when she had run out of money (I paid for her plane ticket from Bangkok to Vancouver). I was reluctant to travel east, my travelling prowess was at an optimum and I felt like the bug had truly bitten me. I wanted more adventure, and after several break-ups on the way from Bali to Bangkok, I wanted to be single again. The freedom I felt travelling alone filled my soul, my heart, and my mind with the desire to meet people, connect and boldly go where my imagination aligned. To this day, I do not know why I went to Vancouver. My heart wasn’t in it. Hilariously, it would be over four years later that I would leave that wondrous city in November 2002.

Within a month of my arrival, Sam (my girlfriend) and I were done. This time, for good. I felt rudderless, lost, and was most importantly BROKE. I hadn’t applied for a work visa (I was in my late 20s when I arrived there) and had gotten a job at the new Commodore Ballroom in the bar, but without the work visa, it was out of the question. I had worked with our friend Charlie, who Sam and I had met on a ferry between Bali and Lombok, and then Charlie, his partner Melissa, Sam and I had scaled Mount Rinjani together and cemented a friendship that would last for most of 1999, and some of 2000. We moved in with Charlie and Melissa in the suburb of Point Grey, not far from the University of British Columbia, and I was there for around two months before I had to find somewhere else to live. Sam would stay with Charlie and Melissa until she moved into the West End of the inner city in 2000.

In the month after Sam and I broke up, two synchronicities took place for me that kept me in Vancouver. Firstly, Charlie had a job creating a wardrobe for a client in Kitsilano, this client he told me was a clairvoyant named Suzanne Castonguay, and I needed to be ready to deal with her energy. He felt that we needed to be careful of what we were thinking, believing that she was deeply psychic and would pick up on our energies when we came into her presence. He wasn’t kidding. Suzanne took one look at me and then said to me, ‘You’re going to work for me.’ She told me to call her the next day, and when I explained to her that I was, I was going to build her a closet, she said, ‘No, that’s not what I mean.’ I would work for Suzanne until the middle of 2001 when she moved to Toronto to work on a case that she was taking to court there. At some point, I will delve deeper into my connection with her, and share what an amazing woman she was. She was the most generous, kind, and hilarious employer I have worked for, and a mentor and friend to me in some of my darkest moments.

The next synchronicity was when I went to the Nevermind restaurant/bar Halloween party in Kitsilano. Charlie and were regulars there, going often to have drinks after work, or a meal. Working as a waitress at Nevermind was a woman I had met in Port Douglas, Far North Queensland, who would become a lover in 2001, with who I wanted to share my life within a deeper connection. Her name was Dena Harrison. It was Dena who introduced me to the other waitresses there, including Jennifer Horkoff (who would become a housemate for almost three years) who at the Halloween party introduced me to her friend Sue Dumais, and Jen’s best friend and flatmate Eryn Dorman. Eryn would become the rock that anchored me in that city. Even when he left to go to the United Kingdom for a year, that connection opened doors for me that kept me bound to Vancouver.

Halloween in North America is something else. To say that it was all out is doing the party no justice. No one parties like the North Americans on Halloween in my experience. Eryn dressed as Hunter S. Thompson and I as an old lady in a nightie, sagging breasts, a wig with hair curlers, hair net, slippers, and a HUGE wooden spoon for spanking bonded over copious amounts of booze, drugs, and dancing. Sue and I also connected that night, my last night before becoming homeless. I had not found a place to live, nor had I given it much effort. The consummate feeling of helplessness I felt after Sam left me was a burden that I was carrying like an anchor around my will to move on. When I told Sue of my predicament she said, ‘You can move in with me.’ In a time of complete hopelessness for me, she offered me an exit from my fugue state. A gift that would assist me in discovering a semblance of who I had been without Sam. Somewhere between Bangkok and Vancouver, I had forgotten who I was, I clung lazily in those first few months to the feeling of despair at what had been inevitable for Sam and I. Sue Dumais was an angel to me. In taking me, she brought me into her circle of friends, and here I would meet some of the closest allies I had in those four years in Vancouver, Geza Vilonyay being the most precious to me. He too would be an ally who looked out for me constantly. His trust in me was the most heartfelt gift I received from anyone I knew in Vancouver. I have much to share about our connection as I detail my time in that city through this series of blogs.

Sue laid the foundation for me to get the wind in my sails and gave me the will to continue in Vancouver rather than move abroad to the other shores where I may have not gone through the incredible highs and extreme lows that I would endure through my creations over the next four years. I began to heal from my break up with Sam, and though I didn’t have it in me to become intimate with her, my heart opened with a sense of gratitude for her kindness that still radiates from the centre of my chest when I think of her. She was the foundation of my experience for the next four years. Sadly, I lost touch with her as the years drew on, and the chaos that came in late 2001/2002 took hold in my life, finally bringing me back to the country of my birth to kick a fierce drug habit in late 2002. In 1999 a whirlwind took place in my life. I met so many travellers, bonding with a bunch of people from New Zealand who I would eventually live with, others from the UK and Australia that would become dear friends for a short but dramatic time, and cemented my connection to Jen and Eryn in their home West 10th and MacDonald, which would become my home for almost three years. What we experienced in that haunted, debaucherous environment is a tale to tell, one deserved of several blogs. There is much to share, much to remember and much to forget.

Jen and Eryn circa 2001/2002. In my life, I loved you more.

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