I left work at Roy Thomson Hall, even though it had been a tremendous source of inspiration. Aside from the wonderful and creative people I worked with, I got to see the Toronto Symphony Orchestra about three times a week, and artists like Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Chris Connell, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Irish Rovers, Stephen Wright, talks with Deepak Chopra, Naomi Wolfe, Gregory Peck, Jane Goodall, Rick Mercer who hosted a PEN Canada event, the film festival, multiple cultural events, too many things to mention them all.
One of my fondness memories was getting tickets for the annual Massed Military Band Spectacular. I wasn’t into it, and didn’t actually see the performance, but Dad really liked band music and pipe bands. He wasn’t much of a traveller but I called anyway and talked him and Mom into coming up. Dad loved it. The people who sat next to him and Mom said how they’d booked their tickets for the show a year in advance to get those seats. Dad thought it best to not to tell them that he got his for free that morning. But he was happy and proud.
If you’re curious as to how a small town country boy ended up working at Roy Thomson Hall it was through being a handy man. Roger McCarthy recommended me for a job at a B&B called the Apple Basket Inn, in Waupoos. I worked there in the day and tended bar at the Prince Edward Yacht Club at night.
Work at the Apple Basket started as part-time: painting, fixing things, building things and doing yard work with one of the owners, David Moon. Then one day at lunch the other owner, Barbara Renwick, asked me if I knew any women who would be interested in some work cleaning and making beds.
“Why does it have to be a woman?” I asked.
“You’re right,” Barbra said. “I’m being rather sexist. Do you want the job?”
“Sure,” I said.
So, I worked mornings in the house with Barbra and afternoons in the yard with David. In the house I learned how to do hospital corners on beds and make sure that all the apples on the designs on the blankets always hung down, as apples do when they grow. I was being taught to pay attention to the finer details in things and why those little things mattered.
Outside, I mostly smashed and hammered.
When they found out that I was going to Toronto to study film in the fall Barbra asked if I would be interested in part-time work when I was there.
“Sure,” I said.
Barbra’s daughter-in-law, Helena, was the house manager at Roy Thomson Hall. So there you go.
I still recall my first shift. It was the first time I’d ever seen a full orchestra and it was pure magic. If you haven’t seen a full orchestra live, and you ever get the chance, I highly recommended it. And if you can see a symphony with full choir as well (Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Ode to Joy and Carmina Burana, Carl Orff were two that stood out, for me) it can be overwhelming.
The things I learned to enjoy and appreciate there were . . . it was an experience and an education.
It was at Roy Thomson Hall, when I went back there, after my return from Ireland and the County, that I met Jordy, whom I mentioned earlier. You recall, she was at the reading, my girlfriend. Yes, her. Well, we were about to move in together. So there you go.
As much as it pained me left I Roy Thomson and kept on Café Volo, which was also a great place to work. I moved from part time on bar to full time as a server. Jordy was still at University, so the extra money helped.
The apartment was just off Bloor Street across from Christie Pits Park. It was Apt. 7.
7 had been my favourite number ever since it helped me win a stuffed bear at a little carnival in Woodstock, when I was a wee tyke. A tornado had gone through the area the day before. The corn on one side of the road was completely flattened, while the other side was still standing tall.
We (Mom, Dad, Mike, Trish and I) were on our way back from visiting our cousins in Milwaukee when we saw the fields, and then the fair.
On the midway I spotted a little black and white bear hanging in one of the booths. I wanted it. The game was, you lay down a quarter on a number, the man spun a wheel, which hung on the back wall, if it stopped on your number, you won. Mom and Dad said it was a waste of money. After extensive whining they agreed to one spin of the wheel. The little black and white bear was christened, Trever.
Jordy had a scar on her leg in the shape of a 7. I took it as a sign. Both in regards to Jordy—who was now my little bear—and to the apartment. Also, the rent was cheap and the location was great, near a park and a subway.
After taking the apartment, and before moving in, Jordy and I went down to the farm and sanded down my old bedroom set that was in the barn. Rather than sand it down completely and paint it, we sanded it partially and made it look aged, rather than just old. Cole got me some lumber and I measured out the area and built the shelves, to fit. It was a very small one bedroom so we need to maximize space so we could fit as many books and CDs as possible. Floor to ceiling shelves helped.
Cole also built a pot holder with a framed peg board, for the kitchen wall, and Jordy and I cut up magazines with pictures of food and flowers and made a montage on it. It was an idea I stole from another employer/friend, Lynda Lebreton. She was the first to call me and offer me a job, serving, when I got back from Ireland.
The old Ford pick-up made another trip to Toronto. But before we could move in completely Jordy had to go away for work teaching music at a summer camp. I spent the first night in our new apparent alone.
Well, not entirely.