Thursday, 26 January 2012

Victoria

As I did in Newfoundland and in Ottawa I had roommates while living in Vancouver. One was Dennis who was the guy who drove down to Seattle in the middle of the night in order to drive me home from the airport after the Kansas City trip. After him there was Roger and then Cam.

Roger was a burly French-Canadian fellow from northwestern Quebec. I have suspicions that he may have been an ex-convict but he was always open and honest around me.

At the end of 1986 I had occasion to go to Portland, Oregon for a few days,. There I met Cameron (Cam) who talked his way into accompanying me up to Vancouver. In many ways he was a good guy but with one major problem  - he was addicted to the street drug called 'Speed'. He was a veteran of the US Navy and he was HIV positive. Because of that I drove him down to the Veterans Hospital in Seattle for checkups fairly frequently.

By the time that Cam arrived Roger had gone out of town somewhere. However, he reappeared and, one day, he and Cam went out on errands together. Like Kurt of the boarding house in Brisbane, Roger was also quite fastidious. On the way back from their errand they pulled up behind a convenience store so Roger could buy some cigarettes. While waiting Cam noticed that some over-ripe bananas had been tossed into the trash bin so he fished them out. While he was doing so Roger reappeared and was appalled.

Cam did like to cook and he was adept at fashioning banana-nut loaves for which the over ripe fruit was ideal. Roger understood later when he was served a slice.

Cam had grown up in a little town in southern Colorado and, upon reaching adulthood, had become somewhat of a nomad. I met him in Portland but he had lived in both San Francisco and Seattle before that. He had been in the US Navy too and told the tale of being caught when he and another seaman were 'making out' in a lifeboat! Yes - he had been around but, by him sharing with me, I came to understand that his family was far from ideal. While I never met any of them physically, Cam had supplied them with my telephone number so I spoke with one or two over the 'phone. I soon realized what a 'rang-a-tang' group they were. For instance - a brother who was a year or two younger than Cam was straight and had had a series of girlfriends. He would be with each of them until she became pregnant and then he would leave and move on to the next one.

Through Cam I met a man who owned a beautiful old mansion in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle and it was there that we stayed while visiting that city. There was an attic bedroom with two single beds and that was where we slept.

Our host was involved in the life of MCCSeattle. I was there one weekend when Seattle was hosting a District Conference and there was a potluck supper at the house. While the gang of ten or twelve were finishing up the meal preparations and setting the dining table one of them began to sing a familiar hymn and then others joined in with other hymns. Only, instead of singing the official lyrics, they were singing the words that each, as a child, thought were the official lyrics. That was hilarious!

In an earlier blog I mentioned - in passing - how many LGBT folk were attracted to MCC as a sanctuary - and then would become upset because the theology was not the same as that which they had experienced while growing up.

One of the members of MCCVancouver had grown up in a Roman Catholic family and had left because of the negative messages he was being fed by the parish priest. However, he took exception with Bob Wolfe, David Gunton and myself because we were NOT  like his old parish priest. Due to that - and for other reasons, I was backed into a corner and then was dismissed.

In the meantime I had had a visit from a Brother Lawrence of Victoria and was urged to move over there to start a new MCC congregation. His request was seconded by a Lesbian - Steph - from Victoria. Both Lawrence and Steph were Anglicans.

Cam and I went over to Victoria and visited with Steph and her partner and felt comfortable enough to move there. We did have a problem, though - Victoria is the Provincial Capitol and has a large navy base (Esquimalt) - as well as a small army base - and is the site of a growing university. Therefore available apartments were hard to come by. After a few days of looking we found a small one bedroom unit on the lower floor of a house the front of which was at street level. We had a yard of sorts between the alley and the street behind us along which was a row of mean little houses and then the fence of the Naval Yard. We lived there for a number of months until a gay couple - whom I had met in Vancouver - told us that there was a nicer 1-bedroom unit in the building that they managed. It was situated about a mile to the east of where we were living.

We found a 'worship space' to rent in the Fernwood Community Hall towards Saanich from downtown Victoria. The church thrived until two people decided that they would change everything. More about that later.

Victoria is a beautiful smaller city and is noted for its gardens. As well as the famous Butchart Gardens there are other public spaces where glorious flowers grew and practically every householder seems to have a 'green thumb'. Situated as it is at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, and fronting onto the Strait of Juan De Fuca, few streets are straight but tend to wander. For somebody in a hurry that is maddening but to those who like to wander, it is ideal.

A few miles northwest of Victoria is the bedroom suburb of Sooke to which Cam and I often went just for the drive. Part way along that road another road leaves the main one at a right angles but meanders around and then returns to the main road a couple of miles further. Along that road is a small house situated towards the back of an acre or two of land. All of the area between the house and the road was one large rose bed. How lovely - but that is Victoria.

There are two main routes into Victoria  from elsewhere. One is the Malahat Highway which is considered to be part of the Trans Canada Route 1 and comes down from the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal just north of the other Island city - Nanaimo. The other route is the connection to and from the ferry terminal at Sidney where the boats from Tsawassen/Vancouver land. The two highways merge with each other and then become Douglas Street  through the main commercial district. A little closer to the waterfront from Douglas is Government Street. Tourism is very important to the economy of Victoria so both of these streets have many stores, motels and the like catering to the tourist trade.

                              The top corner of the Empress Hotel - it is a large 'castle like' structure


Where Government and Douglas merge is at the Inner Harbor. To the left is Victoria's 'Railway Hotel' - the Empress - and., at right angles to that, is the Legislative Building built in the classic style even to a domed roof. Both of these buildings face the Inner Harbor and the terminal for seaplanes (the terminal for ferries which come from Port Angeles and Seattle is just north of the Inner Harbor).

The Empress Hotel is a very stylish and popular place to stay so there have been many famous guests registered there. One of them was Paul Lynde whose best claim to fame was as one of the original Hollywood Squares. The story in Victoria was that he was looking out of his window - facing the harbor - at dusk when the lights outlining the Legislative Building came on. He is reported to have exclaimed, "Oh look! The Fairy Palace is all lit up especially for me!"




                                                           Paul Lynde's 'Fairy Palace'!


Another gem near Victoria is the Butchart Gardens. Mr. and Mrs. Butchart came from England and settled on a few acres of land near Brentwood Bay. A large limestone deposit was there and Mr Butchart supervised the quarrying of the stone to be used for the buildings in the new city. Brentwood Bay is a part of Douglas Arm (a fiord). The story has it that Mrs. Butchart was looking out of the window of the house one day admiring the natural beauty of the location and noting the ugly scars from the quarry. She had an idea - turn the blight back to beauty as gardens! Now these gardens are one of the big tourist draws in the Victoria area. They are open all year round both in the daylight and in the evening when the gardens are delicately lit by dozens and dozens of lights. While Cam and I were there a local theatrical company staged a 'Revue' each evening beginning just before sunset and ending after dark. A very well staged piece of entertainment out-of-doors in a glorious setting.

The Empress Hotel is famous for English High Teas but the cost is fairly steep. The municipality immediately to the north of Victoria is Oak Bay and there is a wonderful older hotel there that also serves afternoon tea.. Cam and I were there more than once - it was more affordable and the English tea, fresh cucumber sandwiches and the little cakes that were served were really delicious

Esquimalt has the huge Naval Base and -- at that time - the smaller Work Point Barracks (an Army establishment) and a number of beautiful parks. A few yards from the building where we lived Fraser Street went south off of Esquimalt Road down to a lovely park. Across the lawn was the waters edge and huge boulders. It was possible to sit there and just fish in the salt water - or look across Juan de Fuca Strait to Port Angeles, Washington and the Olympic Mountains.

Next door to the building where we lived was a neatly kept cenotaph and to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony there was very powerful.

Returning to the church, everything seemed to go smoothly for many months - that is until Hallowe'en of 1988. It was decided that, as Cam's medical problems were gradually increasing - he was HIV positive - it would be better for him to return to Seattle where he had more resources to fall back upon. I tried to find secular work but - with two exceptions - I was not successful.  There was a small company with offices there that completed income tax returns. I was hired by them for two 'seasons' and was placed in a kiosk in a shopping mall. Unfortunately, that work did not extend beyond the period of early January until the end of April. Also I was hired by a small company as a part time bookkeeper. I could find nothing that was permanent.

The shopping center 'gig' was interesting.  The mall had been built upon land that had been occupied by a drive-in movie theater. The piece of property was landfill on the edge the Gorge Waterway. Also, the West Coast of B.C. is subject to the odd earthquake so the mall had been built on 'rollers' which would move if an earthquake struck. At the opposite end of the second floor of the mall from where I sat in the kiosk was a branch of one of the national department stores.  The staff used wheeled dollies to move merchandise and - when that happened - the entire building vibrated which was very disconcerting to the person sitting across from me while I prepared the return. Repeatedly I had to affirm that the shaking was NOT an earthquake but store staff moving goods.

Back to Hallowe'en 1988. My telephone rang and one of the women from the congregation asked if I would be in as she needed to come to talk with me. I said that I was and that I would put on the coffee pot. When she arrived she walked in but was not at all as friendly as she was usually. She declined a cup of coffee and then mentioned what she had come to tell me. She had decided that I must leave and that the leadership of the congregation would be given to Steph (the woman who had invited me to come to Victoria in the first place). Also - the congregation would become entirely female and our male members would have to look elsewhere for spiritual guidance. I, of course, would have to go. Steph was mortified but there did not seem to be anything that could be done outside of a showdown which I was not up to.

A short time later I had an 'apartment sale' and sold almost all of my belongings. I had told Cam of what had happened and he came up from Seattle. A day or so later I left, drove Cam back to Seattle and then drove along the Trans Canada Highway to Toronto.


 








 



 





1 comment:

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