Is Home Where You Live…

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition” – James Baldwin

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up and the first thought out of your head is “damn it”.  And you start to question why you had to wake up?  Well that was how my day began and that is generally a sign that I need to purge some thoughts so here goes.

I have started the process of moving.  I have moved many times but each move had its own distinct rhythm.  From Winnipeg to Calgary to Vancouver to Calgary to Vancouver to Montreal to Halifax to Toronto to Calgary to Vancouver Island to Calgary to Kelowna to Nanaimo and now back to Calgary.  The one constant seems to be Calgary however when someone asks me where “home” is I just shrug and tell them in my head.  Home, as James Baldwin so succinctly said, is a condition.

I quoted him because of the impact he had on my young mind.  As an 11 years old, restricted to bed due to surgery for almost four months with limited access to TV I read voraciously.  Comics get old pretty quickly so my reading was very eclectic.  I had just finished an Edgar Cayce book so it was an easy transition to Baldwins “Go Tell It on the Mountain” which I gobbled up.  Another brick in the foundations of my belief system.  So to me it is easy to relate the concept of home as a condition.

The first time I moved myself was from Calgary to Vancouver, I was 16, it took me fifteen minutes to get a backpack together and hit the road.  I was running away from the Alberta Eugenic Board letter that awaited my parents to get home from work.  It took me another sixteen hours to hitchhike to Vancouver but I was on the run so didn’t care.  I was moving and I made many moves in the next ten years.

When I left Toronto in 1976 I made up my mind at midnight and was on the highway by 6am.  I had been driving a taxi in Toronto at the time but had slipped in the bathroom of the SRO I was living in and broke my foot.  Couldn’t very well drive a cab with a cast on my gas pedal foot so it was a good time to head back west.  I had a backpack, a sleeping bag, a suitcase on wheels tied to my belt-loop with a rope and $90 in my pocket.

Picture of me in 1976 preparing to move from Toronto back to Calgary
Toronto 1976

So as the acid wore off I found myself back on the highway hitchhiking to what I thought would be Vancouver.  It took me 14 hours to get to Ironbridge, Ontario where I spread my sleeping bag out under the towns namesake, the iron bridge.  It was kind of a restless night due to continual thoughts of the tent beating segment from the Easy Rider movie.  Anyway I survived the night and had my thumb out by 7am waiting to see who stopped first.  The first ride to stop was guy who asked me where I was headed and I said Vancouver.  He said “you’re in luck, so am I or as far as this jalopy will take me”.

Don’t even remember what kind of car it was but he had picked it in Hamilton for $45 and was going to get as close as he could (hopefully all the way) to Vancouver.  He whipped out a joint, pointed to a cooler of beer in the backseat which lasted us all the way to Winnipeg.  I dug into my stash of $90 to pick up a 24 in Winnipeg and helped out with gas.

The car died in Calgary so he continued on his merry way to Vancouver and I headed over to my parents place.  At that particular point they were living in the relatively new community of Dalhousie, I had never been there.  Turns out they were away on a vacation (contact was sketchy back then, no social media, no Facebook and no cellphones) so I had to break into their house.  No neighbours raised any issues even though none of them knew who I was.

Once I was in the house I grabbed one of dad’s hacksaws, a pair of heavy duty wire snips and ran myself a hot bath.  Once in the tub I went to work to remove that cast.  It had been five weeks and I wasn’t about to start looking for a doctor.  My thought processes didn’t work that way back then.  Oh what a difference forty years can make.

So here I am in Nanaimo, a place where negativity and incompetence is thicker than the old growth forest that use to occupy this space, planning my move back to Calgary.  I have given my notice to a very toxic landlord for the end of May, not as spontaneous as my more youthful moves, and have started the mental exercise of deciding what to get rid of versus take with me.  I’ve become a minimalist over the years but I still have a few pieces of bulkier furniture that I really don’t need.  My most coveted possession is my computer and assorted other electronics but almost everything else can go.

Since I just purchase a new hospital type bed that will definitely come.  It beats the hell out of sleeping in my recliner which is on its last legs as well, may have to leave it.  So as I sit here listening to a newly downloaded assortment of Gregorian meditation chants performed by the Franciscan Monks of Assisi I’m beginning my mental planning.  I have never taken three month to plan a move before so it is kind of cool.  That type of time limit feels liberating but I still need to have an address in Calgary to know where I am arriving at.  Knowing when is easy, knowing where, well that’s what the three months is for.

So if anyone I know is reading this in Calgary and knows of anyplace’s in the Beltline or Connaught area that would fit my condition perfectly.  Drop me a DM…



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