Two Months In . . .

Still here.  Two months into my life here in Victoria and now it is already September.  Not a word yet from the Immigration officials since mid-June when they acknowledged receiving and beginning to process my application for a Right of Permanent Residence in Canada card.  No news is good news I hope.

And what will I be doing this fine month of September?  Let me list the things.

  • Sunday mornings at church and then lunch with the church lunch group.
  • Tuesday evenings playing Bridge, a Mens & Newcomers Club activity.
  • Monthly Book Club afternoon, also a Mens & Newcomers Club activity.
  • Monthly Pub Luncheon, also a Mens & Newcomers Club activity.
  • Friday nights at Hillside Coffee & Tea for poetry open mike, and guest poets.
  • Occasional trips to Quality Foods and/or Walmart to keep the fridge and food pantry stocked; lots of trips to Walmart to keep me in sweet raspberry tea gallon jugs.
  • Reading the daily newspaper and messing around on the computer each day.
  • Watching movies I have DVRed so I can blast away the commercials.
  • Reading books from my Reading Shelf where I have stacked my purchases of unread books from the last year or so. Think a line of unread books three feet wide.
  • Dining out on occasion when cabin fever surfaces its depressing head.
  • Telephoning family and friends back in Texas near their bedtimes just to chat and keep up.
  • Watching the newspaper for special events to check out which also helps with cabin fever.

And that is the list as it stands now.  Soon I hope to become a part of one of the small life groups that meet weekly at church. Think spiritual accountability to one another.  There is also a supper club where eight church members meet monthly to dine in homes I hope to join.

As for special events, this holiday weekend I made it out to the Greek Festival for live entertainment and Greek food.  I also made it over to the Sannich Agricultural Festival which reminded me of a scaled back version of the State Fair of Texas.  Carnival rides like the Midway, exhibit buildings with animals and craft winners, fresh food for sale from the growers themselves, live entertainment on stages, and of course food everywhere to chow down on.

I just take myself, me, to these various activities.  No friends made yet to hang out with and just do stuff.  Hopefully, a few of those will come in due course.

Am I here for the long haul?  Jury is out on that one.  For the coming fall, winter and spring, yes.  If my blog posts are still looking like this one come next April, I may commence planning a return to Texas.  Hanging out with friends is too important to forego for the long haul.

Well, time to go watch another Garage Sale Mystery movie on my DVR, one that I have not seen ever.  Thank you BRAVO channel for showing these mighty fine Hallmark Mysteries and Suspense channel movies on your network.

The above photo shows Victoria’s inner harbour.

Cheerio, Gary




Living in Victoria…

Any of you a Stephen King fan?  J. J. Abrams and Stephen King have collaborated to create a new television series entitled “Castle Rock” which debuted on Hulu Wednesday, 25 July, with three episodes.  Two episodes since and the sixth episode coming Wednesday, 15 August.  I have seen all five episodes so far, albeit not on Hulu, but on the Space channel on my Telus cable service.  This next paragraph I ripped from the Wikipedia article which explains what the new series is all about.

A psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King’s literary career: Cujo, The Dark Half, IT and Needful Things, as well as novella The Body and numerous short stories such as Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller – a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories.

I highly recommend you think about catching up and streaming the first five episodes and be on hand for episode six “Filter” this week.  Nice to have a new series to watch.

Well, I have two excellent photos on my smart phone of the two new bookcases delivered last week by The Bridge furniture store which smartly sit adjacent to the refrigerator in my dining alcove.  I have tried, and tried, and tried, all without success, to upload them from that supposedly smart phone to my desktop computer in order to post them here.  Which is a mystery.  Because, somehow I successfully uploaded all the earlier photos included in earlier blog posts of my two-bedroom, one bath ground suite here in Victoria.  I shall have to revisit the folk in a Telus store with the problem in the coming days.  I figure the problem has something to do with my desktop and likely they will be of little help.  Where are either of my two sons within reasonable driving distance when you need them?  We baby boomers depend on our generation x and millennial kiddos to bail us out of digital technology problems.

At the 100th PGA Championship Tournament today Tiger Woods took second place, the runner-up, within 2 strokes of the winner.  Tiger is back!  Good to see him playing at the level he once played before his various surgeries over the last half-decade.  I only watch Dallas Cowboys football games and occasional golf tournaments when Tiger is on the field.

This part of the world, the Pacific Northwest, has been suffering a very dry summer accompanied by what the locals call a “heat wave.”  81 miles away in Seattle, Washington, they have endured a dozen or more days in the nineties.  The nineties!  Here we have been in the high seventies and pushed into the low eighties on a few occasions.  For an expatriate Texan this is NOT what I would call a heat wave.  Quite comfortable in fact for high summer.  Though, I will admit I have discovered a great escape from the “heat wave.”  Just over a mile from my ground suite in Eagle Creek Village shopping area sits a very nice supermarket, Quality Foods.  Refrigerated air-conditioning naturally to keep all the food good and cold.  Only about 30% of the private homes up here have air-conditioning systems.  My ground suite lacks one.  So, if you take the elevator near the delicatessen area to the second floor you discover a very upscale kitchen items store, comfy seats and tables, and a Starbucks shop.  On our warmer days here, I take my current novel that I am reading, purchase a Venti White Chocolate Mocha Coffee, and sit a spell sipping the coffee and reading my novel.  All in air-conditioned comfort.   I can even sit at tables outside in the heat wave if I am so inclined.  Yesterday, we experienced some “rain” that I call a light mist for a few hours.  Like I said, an unusually dry summer going on hereabouts.  That was the first precipitation since my first week here.

In my previous post some two weeks back, I mentioned signing up as a member of the Greater Victoria Region Mens and Newcomers Club.  Last night, Saturday, I went to one of their special events for the evening.  Entitled The Age of Aquarius BBQ Dinner and Dance it was held at the University Club on the campus of The University of Victoria less than ten miles from my ground suite.  Some one hundred or so people were present consisting of Mens club members and their wives.  I went solo naturally.  We were to dress for the theme, so I wore with a collar (cut out from an old dress shirt) my YES Tales from Topographic Oceans t-shirt.  The album came out in 1973, so it was close to the “Age of Aquarius” in time.  I did not win the costume contest.  A live band played The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Jimi Hendrix, and the like, and played the old rock classics quite well.  After dinner most everyone present were up and dancing at one time or another.  Even had I partner with me, I would not have danced.  Hey, I grew up in the Bible Belt!  We Church of Christers and the Southern Baptists simply did not dance.  Never learned how.  Now, a word about the dinner.

I was skeptical that these Pacific Northwesterners had any real idea what BBQ means.  They don’t, at least based on last night’s repast.  Beef brisket sliders were served at the end of the buffet line.  The brisket clearly was simply shredded and cooked in high heat with no seasonings of any kind.  Not even salt or pepper.  Certainly not smoked.  In the buffet line there was “barbeque chicken.”  The chicken appeared to have been roasted in a hot oven also without any seasonings.  It was smothered in a sauce reminiscent of a light, brown gravy.  Certainly NOT a barbeque sauce in any of the various approaches.  There was corn-on-the-cob where it took four of them to equal one cornstalk.  Flat fried potato cakes and some five or so different salads filled out the buffet line.  To give them a half point, one of the salads was a potato salad, but I passed on sampling it.  The salad I grabbed somewhat enthusiastically consisted of roasted veggies including zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers.  It was okay.  They did have a container of barbeque sauce available.  Too sweet for my taste.  All in all, it was a fair buffet dinner but not anything near what I would call and authentic BBQ dinner.  Anyway, it was nice way to spend a Saturday evening.  Avoids cabin fever.

I did watch the Mens Club Bridge Group D play two weeks back on a Tuesday night.  Last Tuesday night they let me play AND it was my first time to play Bridge since 1974.  Neither of my two brides were Bridge players.  Over the evening we played with everyone present as a partner rotating among the tables of foursomes.  Here are the rankings based on our scores for the night.  Mine is in boldface.  5,080; 5,030; 4,530; 4,440; 3,760; 3,610; 3,260; 1,500. So, I did not embarrass myself.  I was NOT in last place. Go me.  Oh, correction.  In my last post here, I said the Mens Club Pub Luncheons were weekly.  I was wrong.  There are held the first Thursday of every month.  You really needed to know that, right?

I made church again this Sunday morning and lunch with the group of church regulars.  We’ve gone twice to the Food Court at Hillside Mall, twice to Romeo’s (Italian), and once to Tropical Island (Asian).  Come Thursday evening this week we are dining together at a ranch in Central Sannich of one of our group.  Turkey and dressing is on the bill that night, I think.

And THEN, after that dinner or the next Friday morning, I shall be making a weekend trip.  About a 90 minute drive north of here near Nanaimo in the woods is Spurgeon Road Bible Camp.  Apparently all the youth from the restoration churches on Vancouver Island go there for summer church camp.  Beginning Thursday evening, ending Monday morning, there will be the First Annual 50+ Bible Retreat.  I signed up, paid my $75 CAD for the meals, and will take my overnight bag, twin bed sheet, pillow, blanket, swim trunks, towel, Bible, and a novel.  Why not?  I loved church camp when a teen.  And have made half-a-dozen weekend retreats through the decades.   I may be driving up with one of the ladies in the regular Sunday church lunch group.  She didn’t know about the Retreat until lunch today and today is the final day to register.  I will find out Thursday evening at the dinner if she is a passenger for the trip.

And that pretty much brings you up-to-date on how things are going here in my second month living in Canada.  Still watching movies on my DVR and reading novels.  I have read all three of my Father’s Day gift novels from Alan and am on novel four of the seven in the series.  Yes, I went out to Munroe Books and purchased the other four novels.  I email and telephone the family and friends back in Texas.  And I try to find enough to do to avoid “cabin fever.”  So far, so good.  Cheerio, till next time.  Or is that “adios”?  Gary







Settling In to Victoria Life…

Well my son, Alan Blake, will be pleased.  I finished reading the first novel of my Father’s Day gifts from him pictured above, Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch.  I am now reading the second novel, Moon Over Soho, which picks up right where the first novel ended.  Then I will move on to the third novel, Whispers Underground.  After that I shall have to purchase the other four novels in the seven novel series (so far).  Set in London the novels recount the experiences of a local constable who is a wizard apprentice learning the arts of magic.  His master/mentor and he investigate the London crimes that are suffused in some way with magic aspects.  Yes, the London police have, deep in the background, a magic division.  Truly good reads so far.

My Telus television service includes DVR recording functionality so I have recorded over two dozen movies so far to watch at my leisure, blowing away the three minute commercial breaks with fast-forward.  If I ever see a Hallmark Mysteries & Suspense film like Aurora Teagarten, Garage Sale, or Fixer-Upper mysteries on the channel guide, I always record them, even if I saw them before the move to Canada.  I don’t actually have the Hallmark Channel up here, but the movies appear on the guide on other channels, so I am not complaining.  I am also recording and viewing the fourth season television series of Lost Girl having seen the first three seasons before the move.  And every day I record and view later in the evening the NBC Evening News with Lester Holt.  So television viewing goes well.

Come Tuesday we hope for some relief.  This part of the Pacific Northwest has been suffering under what locals call a “heat wave” these past three weeks.  In Seattle, 81 miles away, their temperatures are running in the mid-90s and here in Victoria we have been in the high seventies, even eighty degrees a few times.  Cooler north air is expected by Tuesday dropping our temperatures here back into the seasonal mid-sixties.  Of course, for me, temperatures in the mid-seventies are NOT a heat wave in any sense of the phrase.  But the mid-sixties in the afternoon will be most welcome.

Even after the people at Sound Solutions installed a mechanical on/off switch for the after-market backup camera in my car, the battery was still being drained continually at the rate of 2.4 amps when the car engine and accessories were  switched off.  A totally dead battery last Thursday evening validating that fact again.  So on Saturday the Sound Solutions people uninstalled the backup camera system and on/off switch placing the car back in the condition in which I drove it off the Glen Oak Ford lot the first week in July.  So far, so good.  Maybe the amperage drain has stopped.

Being Sunday I made the morning worship service at the Shelbourne Street Church of Christ.  Afterwards I joined the lunch group and we went to the Food Court at Hillside Mall across the street from Hillside Coffee and Tea (where I went Friday evenings for poetry readings).  I found my lunch at the A & W counter.  Their root beer is as good as ever.  Onion rings were tasty too.

Since 1991 there has been each summer here the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival with outdoor productions on the Lansdowne campus of Camosun University, some seven miles from my door.  So on two occasions I have read Shakespeare’s play in the afternoon and then viewed the play in the evening at the Festival.  Over the last two weeks I have read and viewed Pericles, Prince of Tyre and The Tempest.  The Tempest was the last play penned by Shakespeare, scholars think.  Good productions, both.

In today’s Victoria Sunday paper, the Times Colonist, I noted that there are three separate newcomer’s clubs for women, all of which end membership on the fourth anniversary.  I guess they really only want true newcomers.  So now I know.  Live here four full years and will cease to be a newcomer.  There also listed was The Greater Victoria Men’s and Newcomers Club.  So I went online, read all about the men’s club, and joined up and paid the $25 CAD annual fee.  I have left a voice message for the coordinator of the Book Club which meets monthly.  And I have spoken to the coordinator of the Social Bridge Club as well.  Tuesday evening I will drive to his house and we will go from there to the home of that evening’s host and hostess for Social Bridge playing.  I will simply watch them play since I last played a game of Bridge in the seventies.  I am out of practice.  Then the following weeks I will become one of the participant players.   I have also RSVP’d the Pub Luncheon on Thursday from 11:30 am until 2:00 pm at the Glo Restaurant in Burnside about five miles from my door.  So going forward I may well be making a weekly luncheon, a weekly bridge game, and a monthly book club evening as a part of my membership in the Men’s and Newcomers Club.  And I can remain a member of the group so long as I live here and pay my annual dues.  No automatic being thrown out on the fourth anniversary.

Oh, one sad, sad event yesterday on Saturday.  I was in the mood for Mexican food so online I found a place downtown, La Tortilla Mexicana Restaurant.  I ordered the Guacamole Salad appetizer and the entre Chicken Enchiladas with Chipotle Sauce.  Well the salad was not at all like in Texas being mostly a veggie salad with chunks of avocado thrown in.  An enchilada was a small, round soft corn tortilla with shredded chicken folded over inside.  No cheese. No spice. No sauce inside.  Folded, not rolled.  The entree salad was shredded raw cabbage with a tomato slice on top.  The rice and beans were quite unremarkable. Bland and tasteless as again, no spice or cheese on top.  Even my accompanying Mango Margarita was rather tasteless.  In fairness, the server told me up front that the food was Mexican NOT Tex-Mex.  I guess he noted my Texas accent when I said “howdy” upon his arrival at my table.  In any event, he was so right.  That was not the “mexican” food that I had in mind.  Cross that one off the list.  I did leave a ten percent tip, as it was not my server’s fault that the Kitchen staff had no idea how to cook mexican food, cheesy and spicy in every universe I have ever lived within.

And now you know, reader, what I have been up to as I have been settling in to my new life here in Victoria.  Come Wednesday I will have been living here for one full calendar month.  Wow.

Hasta La Vista, Adios until next time.  Gary


Ground Suite Photos (again)

And here are the last of the interior photos of the ground suite from top left to right: View from the front door on the side of the residence down the hallway to the living area, kitchen, and dining nook; bath room featuring the Phantom of the Opera from the Phantages Theatre in Toronto over the toilet; bath room mirror, sink, and counter; bedroom looking inward from the windows; bedroom looking from the hallway door; and bedroom looking inward from the closet area.  With these photos and those in the prior posts the entire interior of the ground suite here in Victoria, British Columbia, have now been displayed for your viewing pleasure.

On Thursday, 19 July, I spend part of the afternoon reading William Shakespeare’s play Pericles, Prince of Tyre.  Then after trying out a recommended Greek restaurant nearby, Il Greco Restaurant and Pizzeria, I drove the six miles or so over to the Camosun College’s Lansdowne Campus for the local Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival held annually since 1991 to view outdoors the play, Pericles, Prince of Tyre.  I should have taken Dad’s blue sweater as the temperature dropped by nightfall to 58 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fortunately, the Festival provided blankets.  I will repeat the read-the play-then-view-the-play one day next week for the Festival’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  I will take Dad’s sweater next week.

My 2009 Chrysler 300 Signature Series sedan finds itself back at Sound Solutions this Friday morning where they are again attempting to solve the “drain the battery of power” problem caused we think by the recently installed back-up camera.  Today they are installing a mechanical automatic power switch for the camera that supposedly will switch the camera on when the car engine is started and switch it off when the engine is cut off.  They also will make sure the radio stations play properly as they have not done so since the sedan’s last visit to their shop.  Hopefully, today’s intervention will solve the problems.

A few recent firsts here at the ground suite have included using the two-patty George Foreman Grill to prepare a couple of hamburger steaks, using the stovetop to whip up some Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff, using the stovetop to prepare some Original Aunt Jemima pancakes where I burned the first three of them.  But the other five pancakes turned out just fine, buttered, with Canadian Maple Syrup, and accompanied by pre-cooked out-of-the-package bacon slices.  I managed to make my final, I think, stock-up-the-pantry visit to Quality Foods.  From now on, visits to Quality Foods, a supermarket, should be just to replace things eaten.

Tonight the PlanetEarthPoetry Collective holds their open-mike poetry reading at Hillside Coffee and Tea.  Tonight food poetry takes center stage as we are having readings from Sustenance: Writers from BC and Beyond on the Subject of Food.  The anthology was compiled by Rachel Rose (former Vancouver Poet Laureate).  Island writers reading tonight include Stephen Berg, Kate Braid, David Eso, Wendy Morton, Emily Olsen, Pam Porter, and D. C. Reid.  If so moved, I must write a food poem today to read at the open-mike tonight.

Since my one-way airplane flight landed here 30 June, it is interesting to note that I have been here as a resident for a full three weeks, twenty-one days.  Wow.  My how time flies.

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Cherrio, till next time.  Enjoy the photos here and in previous posts.  I think the interior of the ground suite turned out really well.  Feels like home, almost.  Still feels a bit like I am on vacation.  But I am not on vacation I tell myself.

Ground Suite Office

Day Sixteen of my retirement here in British Columbia.  A Yellow Cab brought me back this morning to this ground suite from the GlenOak Ford dealership where my new pre-owned Chrysler 300 Signature Series four-door sedan is being serviced today.  Saturday evening the engine would not turn over.  Road Assistance sent a tow truck and the driver successfully jumped the battery to start the engine.  He suggested I drive forty-five minutes on the highways to recharge the battery.  So I made the fifty-mile round trip from here to the BC Ferries (to Vancouver) on the north end of this peninsula of Vancouver Island.  The car started up to make the Sunday trip to church and again for the return trip home.  But this morning it, again, would not start.  My gracious landlord, Joe de Frias jumped the battery and I was able to drive the car to the dealership for service.  Joe thinks it sounds like a failing alternator as opposed to a bad battery.  I shall learn later today when they call me what was the ultimate problem and fix.  Glad I purchased the four-year extended mechanical warranty when I purchased the car.  Today’s repair cannot cost me more than $150 CAD out of pocket, whatever the total invoice charge.

And here are six photos of my ground suite second bedroom never intended for a bed, but rather to be my home office.  My application for a Right of Permanent Residence in Canada Card with the Immigration posse in Sydney, Nova Scotia, asserts that I am moving here to engage in self-employment as a Poet and Writer.  Well now, one cannot do that without a properly outfitted office from which to solicit avenues of publication of one’s poetry, memoirs, and the like.  Much of what I shipped up here from Midland was for the office as you see in the photos.

More Photos

And here are more photos of the residence all in order.  From top left to right: Dining Area with my attractive cardboard table and two folding chairs; Dining Area adjacent to the living area; Kitchen seen from the Dining Area with Living Area to the right; Living Area seen from the kitchen; Living Area seen from the hallway to the Living/Kitchen/Dining Area; and the Living Area television seen from the recliner, love seat, or sofa.

Enjoy the views here in View Royal municipality part of greater Victoria, British Columbia.  So fine to have everything unboxed and arranged properly.

Finally! All Boxes Empty

As you can see from the photo above of the living area, I am now completely moved into my new residence in Victoria.  All the boxes are unpacked, books on the shelves, wall hangings on the walls, everything.

Well, I did run out of book shelf space and had to repack two small (10″ cubic) boxes with left-over books.  I have ordered from The Brick, a local furniture outfit, two cherry wood three-shelf bookcases which when placed side by side will fill a nice space next to the refrigerator in the dining area (out of site on the right above) which will be the home for those books.

I will spare you all the gory details of the getting-the-residence ready process which was my primary daily activity since my last post below.  I did take time out to make poetry nights on Friday evening and then Wednesday evening at two locations, both with an open mike.  I read my “Rusty Cat Sunning and Still” poem at both venues and at the second one I began with the “Sci Fi Channel” since the time limit there was five minutes.

Mary Nell suggested I name the 2007 Chrysler 300 Signature Series sedan after its beach sand colour, so “Sandy” it is.  The car now has 35,340 miles on it (I had to do the math since the odometer is expressed in kilometers).

I have about twenty more or so photos of the interior of the residence to post here, but I have yet to figure out how to post more than one image on a blog posting.  Expect to see more photos in coming posts.

All for now.  Adios.