Toronto the Chilly
The damp, cold, grey days of May are easier to accept than the reception of our friends. The Toronto press has done a superb job of spooking everyone; don’t go near a person who’s just returned from Mexico, the press insists. Despite not having a single symptom, despite not having being near anyone who has had the swine flu, our friends decide to put us in quarantine for ten days. This ignorant attitude just reinforces our Mazatlan decision. Closer, and I think, smarter friends pick up the phone, and we visit with them immediately. More cautious friends send an e mail, as if they may catch something over the phone lines. I am truly puzzled by this fear, as the swine flu is really a milder form of the regular flu, just as Dr. Levid stated. However, I respect their decision to put Soren and I on the back burner. I don’t like it, but fear is a powerful emotion and I’m not about to fight it. Besides, I have many things cooking on our front burners; like moving countries.
My first telephone call is to Ritchies Auctioneers, which has been a Toronto establishment for 40 years. I have been bequeathed a decent collection of antiques; there are one of a kind pieces from the early 20th century. I’ve been a good custodian too; all the furniture has been restored and fabrics updated. I have on file my Ritchies insurance replacement appraisal from 1980. I am aware of the difference between replacement values and what you actually net at an auction. Hugh Lawson, a senior partner with Ritchies, stops by our apartment and examines the antiques. He wants them all for his July and September auction sales. Hugh explains the “accumulative affect;” paintings, rugs, silver, bits and bobs — more stuff equals more money. He wants it packed and in his storeroom by June 23. That way, Ritchies’s staff can photograph the antiques, write the blurbs and get it all prepared for the print and on-line catalogues. It’s May 3, 2009. It’s time for Plan B. We will have an empty apartment on June 23. Why would we stay in Toronto until October? We’ve certainly heard about the hot, humid Mazatlan summers and are reluctant to return in July, but our Mexican owner, Pepe, installed mini splits ( we saw those last April) and we’ll have the ocean breezes, so how bad could it be?
I e mail Pepe and tell him we will arrive on June 27, instead of October, and ask him will the apartment be finished?
“Yes, all be done, we wait for you,” is the answer.
Our Toronto superintendent, Ugo, is an absolute gem and actually finds a tenant to take over our lease in July. We have not lost a single Canadian dime on rent. We tackle this project like any advertising campaign we had launched for our clients. They always had a low budget with an unrealistic deadline; well, we can relate to that. What we were going to accomplish in five months now has to be done in less than two. I create a timeline with dates, tasks and responsibilities. We each have a large sheet of “to do” lists; every damn morning we wake up and say,”Okay, this is what we have to accomplish today.” We create three piles; one for Ritchies, one to give away (family, friends, charity) and one for our Mexican storage container. In all my research, I’ve only found one company, AMJ Campbell, who will store and move our goods to Mexico. Crossing two borders seems to pose a challenge. We are storing all our artwork, 30 paintings, a few precious knick knacks, one set of china, some clothes and other sentimental items. The sorting is not difficult, as it all distills down to artwork. We have no idea if all the paintings will fit on our Pacific Perch walls. That problem seems far away and we press on.
AMJ Campbell arrive first and do a fabulous job of wrapping and packing. A detailed inventory is supplied. My friend Rosemary translates this into Spanish for the Mexican Consulate in Toronto. Soren makes several trips to the Mexican Consulate, along with our trusty FM3, and he eventually gets the thumbs up and the necessary rubber stamp approvals. Our goods can not cross the Mexican border without this detailed documentation in Spanish and copies of our FM3. Ritchies appear next. Again, their movers do a fabulous job of wrapping and packing. The movers supply me with a hand written list and assure me that Ritchies’s office will send me an itemized inventory via e mail. I sign the packing slip. Two weeks go by and I have not received the inventory. I finally reach Hugh Lawson on the phone and he assures me they are feverishly preparing for the July sale and it won’t be long before I get the inventory with suggested opening bid prices. Ritchies has a stellar reputation, and I believe Hugh with his posh UK accent. Every day our apartment becomes more barren. We are left with outdoor furniture and a 13- year -old Jeep Cherokee. The car is in excellent condition with low mileage, but who wants a gas guzzler these days? Eventually friends cart off our furniture and we donate the Jeep to “Car Heaven.” This organization is supposed to sell various parts and give the money to charity. I believe them too. Banks have been changed. Our accountant has been briefed. New wills have been prepared. Passports are renewed. Doctors, dentists and dermatologists have been seen to. We resign from our tennis and golf club. It’s an exhausting but, an exhilarating process. I’m on a high shedding all this stuff we’ve amassed over the years. I wish I could live with only a few pairs of shoes and my yoga matt. Soren finds this wish of mine hilarious as he jams more and more of my clothes into our third duffle bag.
I am talking almost daily to Rosemary. She’s decided in January 2010 to retire and move to Mazatlan. Rosemary speaks four languages: English, French, Spanish and German. She’s a world traveller. She’s researched her retirement city from Sri Lanka to Newfoundland. She’s chosen Mazatlan because it meets her criteria. I’m thrilled, but I do have to emphasize to her “you’ve actually never been to Mexico, or to Mazatlan.” So we hatch a plan. Rosemary will stay with us in November, and if Mazatlan is everything she thinks it is, then she will sell her condo in Toronto’s cool Distillery District and make the move to Mazatlan around April. Rosemary calls me one June morning and informs me she’s been “laid off” from her job at the ad agency, MacLaren McCann. She’s free as a bird at the end of June. She has no intention of working again. I am superb with Plan Bs. We agree Rosemary will explore Mazatlan in July, and then sell her Toronto condo, all things being equal. In between all the exhaustion and exhilaration, excitement is finally bubbling to the surface. Soren and I are really, really beginning our third act plus we will have a friend a few blocks away in Centro. Rosemary has her beady little eyes on a house for sale. I keep cautioning her on the wisdom of actually visiting Mazatlan, physically seeing the house and then she’ll have all the tools to make an intelligent decision. She appreciates my advice, but I suspect she is ignoring it. Mentally, she’s bought that house online.
We spend our final three nights in Warren’s Toronto condo. All of May and June have continued to be unusually cold, and drizzly; spring has yet to arrive. With this weather it will not be difficult to say “adios” to Toronto. We will miss Warren terribly, but we know he’s coming to see us in February. We will miss our Sunday tennis buddies, and a few other friends, but I can’t confess to having mixed feelings. It’s quite weird not to have a single doubt. Saying goodbyes are emotional and there are many people we will think about often and wish we could fly them south for dinner. We know in our heart of hearts we won’t return to Toronto. If we are nostalgic for a Canadian city, Vancouver would be our first choice; it’s only a four- hour plane ride away from Mazatlan. Fortunately, technology saves me from shedding too many tears. With our close friends we will Skype, and with other friends there is e mail. It’s effortless to stay in touch. Those who want to share their stories and lives will; those who don’t, won’t. Close by, or far away, friends sort themselves out by the effort they make to connect with you. For me, distance is not a communications barrier. Warren makes the supreme effort to wake up at 5 a.m. and helps us haul our three duffle bags, two suitcases and hand luggage into the waiting taxi. WestJet charges us $170(US) for being “overweight.” I justify this one- time fee with the fact that we will be living in Mazatlan for an entire year with just these clothes.
We depart Toronto on June 27, and I’m upset that I’m not upset. Soren warns me to stop overanalyzing and to look forward. He’s right; I can’t manufacture a single regret about leaving Toronto.