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Sunday, February 18, 2007

A NEIGHBOURHOOD WALK

SUNDAY, Feb 18

Here it is, Chinese New Years (Gung Hay Fat Choy!) and I totally forgot, so I didn't go downtown to watch the parade in Chinatown. Instead, I went for a two hour neighbourhood stroll.

I have a long connection with certain parts of this neighbourhood, from my youth, through the '70's and the late '80's. So each time I go out walking, usually exploring different routes each time, I find things that remind me of the past. Today was one of those days, for sure!

This time I walked north a few blocks to where the street curves around along high above the harbour front. At the end of Nanaimo where the street turns, there's a little park with two benches where you can sit and contemplate the view of the docks, inlet and mountains. There's a stairway leading down to the waterfront road. I have a memory of coming up that stairway in the middle of the night back in the late '70's. My friends and I had gone partying to the Waterfront Corrall, a night spot owned by some Greek people who later became my benefactors in the village in Greece. As was the usual habit in those wild, crazy days, I'd accepted an invitation by a sailor to go party on his ship. But when I got there it wasn't a ship, it was Polish (or maybe Russian) fishing vessle. When I came to my senses I realized this was all a very risky, stupid idea so I beat a hasty retreats. Fortunately the boat was docked right in front of where this stairway went up so I climbed up, not knowning where in the world I was exactly. Fortunately it was near the main street where I could easily get a bus home. I lived away out in the suburbs at the time so it took me awhile, but I got home safe. I never did anything quite that dumb again.

Today when I ran across the stairway, and looked down to see where the fishing boats were docked, the whole scenario came back to me. I have to laugh about it now, but at the time it wasn't so funny or so smart. (Not that any harm befell me. Usually those sailors were not as dangerous as you'd think.)

Anyway, I continued walking all down the road until I finally came to the lovely seaside park at New Brighton. I used to ride my bike down there along the waterfront, but you're not allowed on that road now because of the harbour security. So I was pleased to find the Port Side bike route which is easy to reach from my house. Once the weather is a bit warmer and I get my bike on the road I will plan a little outing to the park.

I enjoyed looking at all the lovely heritage and modern houses in the area. There are some real gems on the back streets. I've been taking different routes around the neighbourhood and finding a lot of hidden parks and interesting things to see. There is one little park up on a knoll overlooking the inlet and a beautiful building that apprantly used to be an orphanage, then the juvenile detention centre and is now restored and serves as a hospice.

I ended up walking back too far but it took me past the old apartment where my friend George used to live in the '70's. My girlfriend and I spent a lot of time there listening to Motown music, dancing, toking and having fun with George and his friend Danny. Then, come home I passed the street where I used to live for awhile after I returned from living in Greece in 1987. I had moved in with a friend but it didn't work out. I was in a pretty low frame of mind when I first returned from Greece, homesick for my life there, grieving about the breakup of my relationship with a Greek man, having such a hard time relating to life here (a major case of cutlture shock) and readjusting. Eventually I moved out of her place and got a beautiful suite with a harbour view in the same building where I lived for a year until I decided to return to Greece.

So it turned into quite an adventurous afternoon. Sorry I missed the festivities in Chinatown, but I'll watch some of it on TV tonight. The neighbourhood walk was well worth the effort!

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