Let’s Trade this Tired Home

This isn’t the first time I’m leaving an apartment with a leak in the ceiling from the bathroom upstairs. 5 years ago exactly, I was packing up our tired and abnormally wet apartment on Robert Street, to move on down to what would be MY Parkdale house of dreams with Gord. It really was such a find, and places like that for the price we paid just don’t exist any more. Of course it was definitely on the wrong side of the tracks, and sketchy doesn’t even begin to describe the neighbourhood bars. But the apartment was beautiful, the kitchen was huge, and it was the home I dreamed about having for a very long time. The image of that place on Spencer will remain forever burned in my mind and I will always remember it fondly. The Spider Man Walkie Talkies to Meher’s house up the street, Don falling down the fire escape at our yacht rock party, and the birth of HKM. I get so sad that we had to leave there, but obviously it worked out. I wonder if we weren’t forced to move if I would be sitting next to Martin with a baby monitor in between us? Probably not right now, but I guess someday.

It took us a long time to find this place, the location was great, it was out of our price range, but the kitchen Floors. OH the Floors. Until we realized that they’re just peel and stick tiles and obviously one was dropped when they were being installed. I know this because it’s stuck to the floor on top of the other tiles. Crooked.

Whatever, they were red-checked, and perfect for me and all the red I like to keep in my kitchen. It’s lustre has long since worn off, and the apartment grunge has built up to the point of no return. The paint is peeling, our bedrooms are in the basement. It’s damp and cold and the basement floor is falling apart, And most people just about barf when they find out how much we pay (it’s not so bad now–it’s actually probably about market, but when we moved in it was quite expensive). It does have a beautiful backyard that makes it feel like you’re at a cottage in the heart of the city, but, we couldn’t enjoy it all this summer because there was a very dead, and very smelly animal stuck under our porch. There is laundry, but the laundry sink leaks. There’s a great storage crawl space under the stairs, but there is only one closet and it’s tiny with no doors. It’s a great party house, and as much as I’m happy to be leaving this behind, I still have some deeply rooted sad feelings because of the memories I have here.

Looking back to the places I’ve lived, I sometimes find myself thinking of the neighbours I have been surrounded by. On Robert I had McKenna and Delay right upstairs. On Spencer, I had Spicoli on the second floor and man did I have some great times with him. He liked hash, zombie movies and video games. He introduced me to Sailor Jerry Rum and he was always up for mixing cocktails, he had a great sense of humour and supported me through my one and only 24 non stop bender. He made me watch some crazy foreign slasher movie and his roommate was a bit of a dick, but he was a really good time. A great neighbour to have indeed.

When I lived on Thomas, I had Doreen across the hall, who really didn’t have much to say, except for maybe gossip about the property managers and we’ve had several different people living upstairs from us here on Grace with varying degrees of sanity. Most recently Kathleen, who I know is a kindred spirit and it just always 100% shining all the time.

But for 21 years of my life I had Mr. Brown. The king of neighbours. He had the barking dog, the perfect lawn, and a beautiful garden. He was a curmudgeony old man who really disliked my father, and hated the neighbourhood kids so much he’d literally chase them off his lawn and balls in his backyard were eternally lost. We all sortof feared him as we grew up, didn’t we? He had a lovely and sweet wife, who walked everywhere, wore delicious hats and it was no secret that her favourite colour was red. It was hard to believe that they were a match.

I can’t remember for sure if Mr. Brown had children of his own (I know there were kids, but I think they may have been Amy’s only). What I didn’t know at the time was that he spent those 21 odd years living next door watching me grow up.

He was really broken up when my dad died, which was quite surprising, since he seemed to really hate him, or at least that was the impression I had. But thinking back now, I don’t think Mr. Brown ever had friends over and they never really went anywhere, so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to me that he felt a friendly fondness for my dad, hidden beneath his gruff buzz cut exterior.

He saw me as just a young little baby, he was around when I started going to school. He saw me grow up into a teenager and the entire time we hardly said much to each other other than a few sentences here and there, and the odd conversation now and again.

The day before I was to move away from 12 Roxborough Court, I knew I had to say goodbye to the people of my neighbourhood, but I could never have fathomed how difficult it was going to be. Of course I was sad to leave the only house I had ever known. I had never moved before, and frankly never wanted to move again. But obviously I had to move, and that meant I had to say goodbye.

I went next door to Mr. Brown’s….very rarely had I knocked on his door, mostly for trick or treating or some other sortof of door to door canvassing, but this time I was just there to see him. And I don’t know if there are words to describe how I/we felt but when he answered we both just stood there and cried. I managed to muster the words “I’m here to say goodbye” and that was all I could say. He told me he was going to miss me. I think we both knew we’d never see each other again. He died a couple of years later, and I almost never think about him. But when I do, I sure get emotional. I think it’s incredible that such little contact with a seemingly insignificant neighbour can have such a profound affect. He never knew that 10 years later I’d be thinking about him, let alone telling others about him. I had lived there my entire life, and for a long time after, I couldn’t even drive near the place without bursting into tears. I’ve lived in a lot of places since then and while the places are never permanent, the people I’ve met and the impression they have left will last a lifetime.

My Childhood home on Roxborough in St. Catharines

Spencer, probably my most favourite of homes. This was taken at our (me and Gord) 2 year roommate-i-versary. It was a booze party.

And Grace street, the wee hours of the morning after Oscar and AJ’s wedding.

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5 responses

  1. I still see Mrs. Brown walking in the neighbourhood when I visit my parents, she still wears a hat every day! I din't think she ever drove. I thought they had a daughter, the dark haired lady that would bring her kid there?Ah 12 Roxborough……

  2. They had a daughter named Tammy, and there was another daughter too, but I can't remember for sure if they were Mr. Brown's kids, or just from the Mrs.

  3. I believe they each had a daughter.

  4. Mrs Brown still has the hats and a red coat. Tammy and her family live with her, not that she likes it though. We sure do miss you as a neighbour though and the people that live next to me have a son who plays piano. Not as good as you!!!!

  5. I miss you guys too! Please say hi to Amy and Tammy and Colin for me!

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