Saturday, February 28, 2009
Here we are in front of Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii. We asked a passerby on Waikiki to take this picture of us on the last full day we were in Hawaii on our first trip there in December 2006. I had no idea then how much of an impact our five days in paradise would have on me. Hawaii has an unmistakable magic. You think it's just another place when you look at the pictures of it in travel magazines. But, believe me, IT IS EXTRAORDINARY. There is no place like it on earth. And the fact that it's a small group of islands, located in the middle of the huge Pacific Ocean, only adds to its allure.
This is the best picture I have of my sweetheart. I took it several years ago at the back of the ferry we took on a beautiful June day on our way to Vancouver to go visit my mother in Kelowna. It's nearly impossible to get Chris to smile, but look what I managed to capture. I think he looks a little like Dr. Phil here. Chris does too.
Tuesday or Wednesday night this past week, Chris and I sat in front of my MacBook at the kitchen table, and we started our search of websites such as realtylink.org and mls.ca. Our townhouse in Victoria had just sold, and this was the first time we'd sat down to take a serious look at what was available for us to buy, in our price range, in the Metro Vancouver area, where we're moving in a couple of months. It was not pretty.
The media says that the real estate market in Vancouver hasn't been doing well since early 2008. In other words, prices haven't increased twenty-five percent, or some ridiculous figure, month over month, like they have for the past number of years, making everything, including Smithrites, completely unaffordable for the average citizen. But the downturn in the market sure hasn't resulted in a reduction of prices to the point where buying a house no longer requires a wheelbarrow filled with cash.
What Chris and I saw on the websites was like something from the "Addams Family." And what's even more mortifying is that real, honest-to-goodness people live in these places. I'm not talking the nicer houses, those in the $750,000 and up range, where anyone could live if they had a rich uncle or had just won the lottery. I'm talking modestly priced, detached, freehold houses, in average neighborhoods--in other words, where the vast majority of Canadians live.
Between what Chris and I got for our townhouse in Victoria, and what we can afford to top that off with in a mortgage, we have about $450,000 to spend--no small amount of change.
But what do you suppose you can buy in Metro Vancouver for that amount? Nothing that's livable anywhere near downtown Vancouver, where Chris's job will be. So, unless we open ourselves to the possibility of living in a ratty townhouse or in an even rattier condo, that strikes all of Vancouver, Burnaby, West and North Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, and __________ (where my sister Debbie lives in her own 197? townhouse) off our list. It leaves the further reaches of the region, including Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt River, Maple Ridge, Surrey, Langley, Delta, Ladner, and the like, on the list, if we're very, VERY lucky.
Chris likes the Coquitlam/Port Coquitlam area, because they seem like communities, where people live and work, near attractive amenities, and you're not isolated in the sticks there like you would be in _____________. And Chris would prefer to commute to downtown Vancouver on the West Coast Express, which classier business-types use to get to work, not the Skytrain, which the unwashed masses of the world use.
Sitting in front of the computer the other night, Chris and I looked at house after nasty looking house for sale in the areas we'd prefer to live in. Something was wrong with virtually all of them. In most cases, they were old, really old, and in dire need of demolition, or more renovations than we can afford or that I want to put any energy into.
Believe me, I know what renovation work looks like. When I renovated our Vancouver condo before we sold it in August 2007, I spent three weeks, mostly by myself, in reno fucking HELL. Chris came in from Victoria every weekend to give me a hand, but I did most of the work myself, sleeping on a air mattress on the floor for three weeks in stifling late summer heat, rarely seeing another human being to talk to, doing things I'd never imagined I would do.
Late one evening, two weeks in, after I'd arrived back at the condo from driving Chris to the ferry again so he could return to Victoria for work the next day, I walked in the door of the condo and saw the utter mess in front of me. And I lost it. I called my mother in Kelowna on my cell phone and asked her to call me back so I wouldn't be charged for using the phone. She called me back, and I had a complete meltdown. I yelled and screamed and bawled and had a mental breakdown like I'd never had before. This went on for an hour or more, while I let out all of my frustration and anxiety and dissatisfaction toward the situation I was in. (I couldn't say anything to Chris about how unhappy I was because what could he do? I was the one who had left his job, who had the time to get the condo ready to be sold. I had accepted the deal. I just hadn't known the deal would be so awful.) After I finally got off the phone just before 11:00 pm, and, knowing I couldn't go to bed until certain tasks were done, I got busy again and continued working until past 1:00 am. The work still had to get done.
Needless to say, I have no mind to renovate anything we buy this time in Metro Vancouver. I'm not even sure I have the inclination to lift a paint brush, although that's pretty much guaranteed. Unless we buy something brand new, move-in ready, which is my complete preference.
Look, I'm nearly fifty years old, and I have a sense of style and class and taste (I'm gay, for crissakes; what do you expect?). I deserve to live in a beautiful new house. After all, I'm leaving our beautiful little townhouse in Victoria, the one we bought brand new in 2002, a blank canvas, and that we painted and tiled and hardwood floored and crown moulded and decorated into what many others have called a showpiece--the kind of house you'd find in a home decorating magazine.
And I'm going to leave that to move into a 1986 rancher on a flood plane, painted bright blue outside, with kitchen cabinetry that looks like it belongs in a 1970s travel trailer, and cramped rooms poorly laid out painted hideous colors, and old appliances, and filthy carpets, and outdoor landscaping that looks like an unkempt farm. Are you kidding me with this?
The more houses Chris and I looked at on the Internet, the more despair I fell into, and the more snarky my comments became. Chris got quieter, and I got more insulting, until, finally, he turned to me, his face to my left, mere inches from me. He looked me in the eye and said, "You're a spoiled brat." He's never called me that before. He's never uttered those words in my direction, although, over the years, I've given him plenty of reason to.
I laughed at first, thinking he was kidding. But I kept looking at him, and he wasn't laughing, and his expression didn't change. He really meant it this time.
I was pissed, but I understood from his perspective why he'd called me that. I'm reminded of Goldie Hawn in "Private Benjamin," when she finds herself in the army, and she's the biggest prima donna, and Eileen Brennan, her disciplined and no-nonsense training officer, calls her "Precious." Yes, I suppose the word applies to me too, in the case of my reaction to the only houses we seem to be able to afford in Metro Vancouver.
But I deserve better. At least I think so. Hell, I've read "Architectural Digest" since October 1980 (I still have every issue since then). I know what I like, and I know what I don't like. Moving into one of those 1986 shit holes would amount to a prison sentence. You can't put a gay man with class and style and taste in one of those. He'll go MAD.
Afterward, I realized what a handful I'd been for Chris as we'd tried to make a serious attempt to find a house we could afford. I felt really bad, like I have many times, when Chris shows me up with his patience, humility, and maturity. He is a constant example to me of what I should be more like. Sometimes, I don't think I deserve him. Sometimes, I know I'm the luckiest man on earth to have him. Sometimes, relationships, gay or otherwise, aren't perfect. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Here's what I wish.
I wish that when I grew up in the '70s and '80s, in complete denial of being gay, praying that I wasn't what I feared most, believing that all gay men were perverts and sex fiends and freaks, and sure that my future as a gay man would be miserable and lonely and pathetic, that the Internet and blogs had existed then.
And that a fellow, in a long-term, monogamous, committed, happy, gay relationship, had written a blog, sharing details about how great it was to be in a relationship with a man. How normal his life was. How it was possible, and perfectly acceptable, to love someone of the same sex. How you could build a respectable life together. How being gay didn't have to mean being lonely, and slinking around in public places for sex, and hating yourself.
How I wish I had known then what I know now about how great being in a gay relationship really is. I would have been a completely different person. I would have had hope that being gay wasn't such an awful fate in life after all, like everything in society told me it was.
I pray that I will write something in this blog that will give young, gay people the hope I never had.
Just in case you want to see a picture of Chris, my sweetheart, the man I love dearly, the man I know I am so blessed to have in my life and to call my partner, here it is. This way, when I write about him, you'll be able to put a face to a name.
Isn't he cute? What a dude. That's our pet name for each other.
By the way, this pic was taken on the M. V. Coho ferry coming back from a day trip we took to Port Angeles, Washington, in late August 2008.
Let's get caught up.
Like I said in my profile, my name is Rick, and I'll turn half a century old this October 3rd. My life partner's name is Chris, and he'll turn forty-one on November 6. We met on June 13, 1992 (he was twenty-three and I was thirty-two), and we've been in a totally monogamous, long-term, committed gay relationship since. If you have trouble with simple math like I do, Chris and I will celebrate our seventeenth anniversary this year. We count our anniversary date as the day we met. We've spent little time apart since. We can now get legally married in British Columbia, but we've chosen not to. Given the length of time we've been together, we already feel married to each other in every way. (But just to be safe, we have wills and Powers of Attorney in place.)
In November 1980, I started my job with CIBC, Canada's second largest financial institution. A year before meeting me, Chris got a job with the provincial government.
Over my twenty-eight year tenure with CIBC, I held various positions, from Teller, to Administration Officer, to Customer Service Manager, to Manager, Currency Operations. In August 2000, Chris and I moved from Vancouver to Victoria so I could take over as the Manager of Victoria Currency Operations. Chris didn't want to move to Victoria, but I told him he either came with me, or we both stayed in Vancouver. I'm grateful he came so I could take advantage of a big opportunity in my career.
In July 2007, I retired from the bank at the age of forty-seven. Too much stress, not enough fun, time to pursue personal goals. The plan was that we would sell our condo in Vancouver, which we'd bought in 1994 and rented to tenants after we moved to Victoria. In August 2007, I lived from the condo, renovated it thoroughly, and, with the help of a wonderful realtor, Chris and I sold it for more than double what we paid for it. We paid off all of our debt, and I was able to embark on a writing career while Chris supported both of us on a single income.
Fast forward to September 2008. Still working for the same ministry with the provincial government, Chris was advised that his boss intended to consolidate the Victoria office to the Vancouver office. The time frame by which this would happen was loose, but everything lined up in early 2009 to start the process.
In mid February 2009, Chris applied for and won a managerial position in the Vancouver office. Within the same week, we listed our townhouse in Victoria, and, in a supposedly depressed real estate market, sold it within a single week for what we thought we'd get for it. Strangely, we even got a second realistic offer on the place just a few days after accepting the first.
It's now February 27. The subjects on the sale of our townhouse have nearly all been removed. The closing date is April 23. We need to be out by April 24. Our realtor, Denise, returns from five months in the Bahamas on March 2. On Friday, March 6, Chris and I will spend up to five days with Denise in Vancouver, looking for a suitable place to move to.
Already, we've been on the Internet looking at properties in the Metro Vancouver area. We have only so much money to spend. We want to keep our mortgage as low as possible so I can continue to write full-time. But I've already drawn up a realistic budget that tells me I may have to go back to work, at least part-time. Who will hire a fifty year old, with twenty years of management experience, and who doesn't want to be a manager anymore? That is the question belaboring my mind.
And will we find the right house for us? I have a vision of what I want it to look like (detached, freehold, quiet location, close to downtown Vancouver, brand new, Craftsman-style, great room, hardwood floors--you know what I mean), but, to fulfill that vision, we'd need about $750,000 to one million dollars. We don't have anywhere near that. Chris is the realist; I'm the dreamer. I guess we'll see what happens.
I've always wanted to write a blog about the gay relationship I share with Chris. I'm proud of what we have and want to celebrate it in my writing. I want other gay men in long-term, committed relationships to see what another gay couple does in various situations. I want us to learn from each other, if we can. And I want single gay men to know that wonderful gay relationships really exist, to know that there is a possibility for them to enjoy the same thing I have with Chris, and that so many other gay men in committed relationships have too. Give love and commitment a chance. You won't regret it.
So come along for the ride. As Chris and I negotiate our way back to Vancouver, to build a new life there, I want to share that with you, along with all the terrific and awful details. Using our upcoming move, I want to show what a day-to-day, long-term, monogamous, gay relationship looks like, and how it works. I hope you'll join me.