[Home | Contact | What's New? | Products | Services | Tips | Mike |
Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

Leaving Home

In which I kiss my wife goodbye then fly from
Truro, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia for my new job.

Michael David Crawford, Consulting Software Engineer
mdcrawford@gmail.com

September 2, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

So this is the diary I meant to post last night but was too tired.

I waited by the phone all Thursday morning as my company was having trouble getting me a flight. At one PM I was told to be on a plane at four. My bags were packed and waiting by the door. I just had time to walk the dogs and visit Bonita at work one last time to kiss her goodbye.

I drove to the airport by myself as Bonita was unable to find anyone to cover for her. She thought this would make me sad but I enjoyed the drive and the time of quiet contemplation it afforded me as I wondered what the future would hold for us. I was flying from Truro, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia for a salaryman job, giving up eight years of self-employment and leaving Bonita behind until she graduates from art school next year.

I was listening to my MP3 player with a cassette tape adapter plugged into the car tape deck. I was doing just fine until a certain song came on:

Speeding down the highway, I started crying like a baby, barely able to see the road through my tears.


"None Of Us Are Free"
by Solomon Burke

One two three...

Well you better listen my sisters and brothers
cause if you do you can hear
their voices still calling cross the years
and they're all cryin cross the ocean
and they're crying cross the land
and they will till we all come to understand

None of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free
One of us are chained
None of us are free

And there're people
still in darkness
And they just can't see the light
if you don't say it's wrong
then that says it's right

We got to try to feel for each other
Let our brothers know that we care
Got to get the message
Send it out loud and clear

None of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free
One of us are chained
None of us are free

It's a single truth
We all need
Just to hear and to see

None of us are free
One of us are chained
None of us are free

Now I swear you Salvation
Isn't too hard to find
None of us can find it
On our own
On our own

We got to join together
In Spirit heart and mind
So that every soul who's sufferin
Will know that we're not alone

None of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free
One of us are chained
None of us are free

If you just look around you
Your gonna see what I say
Cause the world is getting smaller
Each passing day
Passing day

Now it's time to start making changes
and it's time for us all to realize
that The Truth is shining bright
Right before our eyes
Before our eyes

None of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free
One of us is chained
None of us are free

None of us are free
No no none of us
None of us are free
Woah, not one of us
None of us are free
Well
One of us are chained
Well
None of us are free
Well
Won't say it again

None of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free
One of us are chained
None of us are free

One of us
None of us
None of us are free
Lord Have Mercy
None of us are free
Oh let me say it y'all
None of us are free
If one of us is chained
None of us are free

Well I gotta shout about it
Oh my my my
My my Lord
None of use are free
One of us are chained
None of us are free

none of us
none of us
None of us are free
None of use are free
None of us are free
If one us is chained
None of us are free

None of us are free
None of use are free
No
None of us are free
If one us is chained
Oh Lord
None of us are free
Oh Lord

None of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free
One of us is chained
None of us are free

I checked in at the airport on time, but was delayed in security: they X-rayed my backpack twice, it turned out because Bonita had packed one of our wedding photos which had a large metal frame. Also my wallet kept setting off the metal detector, so they X-rayed it too. It turned out that I had some safety pins in it; I started carrying them last Fall because all the ice cream I ate while out West looking for work made me gain so much weight I kept busting the buttons off my pants.

I tried to explain, and said they could take out the safety pins, but they just let me keep them.

I just barely had time to call Bonita. I fumbled trying to figure out how to use my new calling card. They were paging me to board the plane by the time I got her coworker on the phone. "Please tell Bonita that our car is in Section C." "What? Section C?" "Just tell Bonita Section C. Gotta Go! Bye!" and I ran for the plane.

A friend drove Bonita to the airport later to pick up the car.

The flight to Ottawa was uneventful. I read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. It's the second copy I have owned; I bought it a long time ago in Santa Cruz but never really got into it, as I didn't write much back in those days. I sold it to a used bookstore when we moved to Newfoundland for our wedding. But this time I found it captivating, and recommend it to anyone who wants to write.

At Ottawa I couldn't get Bonita on the phone because she was on her way to the airport. I tried her best friend, who lives in St. John's, but her phone was busy, so I called Bonita's parents. Her father answered.

"I'm in Ottawa!" "Ottawa? What are you doing there?" "I'm on my way to Vancouver. Tomorrow is my first day on my new job."

He was happy for me as he knew how hard it had been for us all these years. Also it had seemed like I was going to get a couple other jobs much closer to home, one in St. John's, where Bonita got her biology degree and where we would be much closer to her parents, but both fell through at the last minute.

On the plane to Vancouver I wrote a letter to my psychiatrist in a card I bought before I left. He was on vacation when I got the job offer, so I never got a chance to say goodbye:

As I write this I'm seated in First Class aboard a plane climbing from the Ottawa airport. Tomorrow is my first day at my new job at a software company in Vancouver.

...

When I came to Canada three years ago I was a broken man. I was sick of programming and didn't know how I could provide for myself. But in recent months, writing software has given me a joy I have not known for years. Now I'm being flown across the country to my new job.

The flight attendant crouched down next to my chair, looked at a sheet of paper and asked "Mr. Crawford," - he addressed me by name - "Would you like the roast beef or the chicken?" "The roast beef please, thank you."

Another one came by with a drink cart. "I'd like to try the Cabernet Sauvignon please." As she handed it to me I said "Thank you very much." This delighted her; I noticed all the other First Class passengers treated the flight attendants like pieces of furniture.

Despite the smoked salmon and potato appetizer and all the fine, free wine I could drink, I knew what I must do. I plugged my headphones into my MP3 player, advanced it to the fifth track, set it to repeat and turned it all the way up:

None of us are free
None of us are free
None of us are free
One of us in chains
None of us are free

I flew to Nova Scotia to help Bonita move when she came to join me in Santa Cruz in September of '98. She was excited at first, but on the plane began to cry uncontrollably. I could not console her, and felt like a monster for tearing her from her home. The flight attendant didn't ask why but kept bringing her wet washcloths to wipe away her tears. Perhaps she thought someone had died.

I was just like that. For a good solid hour. I tried to be quiet about it, not to make a scene, not to disrupt everyone's First Class flying experience, but it must have been pretty obvious to the guy next to me and to all the flight attendants.

The roast beef was real good. And no prefab food for us First Class passengers; it was served on a real plate, with the wine poured in a real wine glass etched with the Air Canada logo.

We arrived in Vancouver just before sunset. I had forgotten just how much I missed the West Coast: Sunset over the Pacific!

Vancouver is on a plain but is surrounded by mountains. I knew to look for one in particular; I peered out the window to the left, and there it was. It was unmistakeable. So close but yet so far...

On the phone at the Vancouver airport I told Bonita: "From the airplane I could see Mount Ranier. It's in the United States. I could see my home!"

"You called the United States home."

"As fucked up as it is, America will always be my Mother Country."

The taxi I took to the hotel looked a lot more modern than the beater owned by my taxi-driving neighbor back in Truro. When I saw the computerized energy flow display on the dashboard I asked "Is your taxi electric?" "Hybrid" he replied. "That's a great idea. You drive all day long. It must save a lot of gas."

I have since discovered that hybrid taxis are everywhere in Vancouver. The West coast is a whole different world from Atlantic Canada, which is still struggling to work its way out of the collapse of the cod fishery about fifteen years ago.

The Blenz Coffee at Robson and Bute in downtown Vancouver

The Blenz Coffee at Robson and Bute.

Intermission

Bringing your laptop to a cafe is never as good an idea as it seems, even if the cafe has free wireless. Why? Because you can't go to the can without packing up all your gear, lest someone steal it while you're peeing.

I was dismayed to find that the restroom at the Blenz Cafe at Robson and Burrard was out of order, so I set off down Robson in search of another one. I found one at another Blenz on Bute Street, and sat there for a while, but my MacBook's battery ran low, and the Bute Street Blenz has no power sockets.

So I came back to Burrard to plug in. I'm only at 36 percent charge, and I already have to pee again.

Perhaps its the three Supremo coffees and the Diet Coke I've drunk while writing this.

The House Of Friends

My eyes lit up with joy when I saw the words printed on the awning of a restaurant on Granville Street: Mexican Food. Other than the fajitas at Jungle Jim's, good Mexican food is completely unobtainable in Atlantic Canada.

Despite my near-penniless condition, I had a carne asade burrito almost every day at the taqueria near Regan's house while I was in Berkeley looking for work last Fall. I missed Mexican food so much that I cried every time the restaurant started playing that manic Mexican pop music.

Santa Cruz is Spanish for "Holy Cross"; it was one of the Spanish mission towns, settled in the late eighteenth century. Nearby Watsonville is a largely Hispanic community. The locals work either on the farms in the area or in the huge strawberry packing plants. Most of the strawberries for Smucker's jam comes from Watsonville. I've found Watsonville strawberries in stores as far East as St. John's.

I resolved to come back for a burrito, so I took note of the restaurant's name: Casa de Amigos

House of Friends

It was a sign. I knew then that I'd made the right decision.

My battery is at forty-five percent. I think it's time to go back to the Bute Street Blenz for a pee. Maybe this time I'll just have a scone or a muffin.

Breakfast at the Robson and Bute Blenz Coffee

The power sockets at the Robson and Bute Blenz
are under the counter at the back of the cafe.

...

I'm at Bute Street now. I shouldn't have waited so long to let my battery charge: I thought I was going to piss myself while I waited for them to buzz me into the restroom.

It turns out the Bute Street Blenz does have a power socket, so I guess I'll stay here till I post. Since it also has a working restroom, I'm having another coffee, Supremo size and iced this time. My fourth coffee of the evening; I'm not going to sleep for three days.

It's two AM. Most of the shops and restaurants on Robson Street have long since closed, but the two Blenz cafes are still open and full of lively customers. That's another way that the West Coast is different from the East; they roll up the sidewalk at five PM back in Truro. I think I could get used to this.

When the taxi dropped me at the Westin Bayshore a bellhop stepped forward to fetch my bags. I asked the taxi driver for a receipt and tipped him five bucks. I didn't used to tip so well but Bonita as well as my friend Murray Perrine emphasized to me how hard it is for people who work for tips. Now I tip generously.

The bellhop just left my bags on a cart at the desk and walked away. After I checked in another came to take my bags to my room. I resisted the urge to say "I'll take my own damn bags, thank you." They'd probably throw me out of the place for being a hick. In the elevator I desperately searched for some coins; I found them in my backpack where I'd put them so they wouldn't set off the airport metal detector.

"Here's a tip," I said to the bellhop as I gave him a looney and a toonie. I hoped that was enough. When he left I collapsed on the bed. I had made it. I was in Vancouver!

When I got up I opened up my MacBook's Airport and looked for a wireless network. The hotel network was called "roomlinx" but my attempt to check my GMail brought up a page informing me that the hotel's wireless cost fifteen bucks a day, charged to my room. I'll be damned if I pay fifteen bucks a day for Internet service, even if my company is picking up the tab. Information Wants To Be Free after all.

I decided to go find a cafe with wireless Internet.

The waterfront area was pretty dead, so after a while I headed up the hill into downtown, which turned out to have lots of people out on the streets despite the late hour. I walked into a cafe looking for any kind of sign that they had wireless, free or otherwise, but saw none.

"I'll have a smokie with lots of onions" I said to a street vendor. While he grilled it I asked "Can you tell me, do you know where I can find wireless Internet?" "Right there," he said, pointing back into the cafe, "They're rich".

It was the Blenz at Robson and Burrard.

He gave me my change. A lot of change. Too much change. I used to work at a full-service gas station; I knew how easy it can be to fuck up while making change. "Hey, are you sure I gave you a twenty? I'm pretty sure I only gave you a ten." His eyes widened as he looked in his cashbox.

"I think you're right. Thank you. Thank you very much." I gave him back ten bucks. "I work for a living too," I said.

"Would you like something to drink? It's free!" "Hey thanks. I'll have a Diet Coke." s

I took my smokie and my Coke and sat at a table outside the cafe. I opened up my laptop and looked for an open WiFi network, and there it was: "BLENZ powered by Framework N1".

After I ate my sausage I went inside to order a coffee. While the wireless might be free it would be rude not to pay to use it.

Buy the CD

I meant to post this diary last night, as I had composed it in my mind on the plane and the taxi ride. But I was too tired, so I wrote last night's diary instead.

When I set out tonight I put a few copies of Geometric Visions in my backpack. I meant to give them to the new friends I made last night, Isaac, a street artist and Jimmy, the Blenz manager, who studied for his MBA at St. Mary's in Halifax. But neither of them were there tonight.

I hesitated so long to accept my company's offer that they very nearly withdrew it. I did so because of the awful time I had working onsite in San Francisco in December of 2000. I didn't want to leave Bonita back in Newfoundland during the first Christmas after our wedding, but it was the only work I could find, right at the start of the dot-com crash.

I was lonely and miserable the whole time. I wore out my welcome while couch-surfing with one friend, so I stayed with another and commuted via the Bay Area Rapid Transit train an hour away from the other side of the bay.

It was an awful, lonely, soul-crushing time. I could think of nothing else but getting back to my Bonita as soon as I could.

We both feared the same would happen when I came to Vancouver. But I'm finding it different this time, and for a very important reason:

This time, I'm having a very easy time making new friends.

I have several appointments to check out possible places to live tomorrow. Maybe when I post tomorrow night I'll have a new home and won't have to stay at the Westin anymore. As posh as it may be, no hotel can be a home. I only have what I brought on the plane, so I'll be sleeping on the floor until I buy a bed. But I'd rather sleep on the floor if I can do it in my own place.

Tomorrow night I'll also tell you about my first day on the job.

[Home | Contact | What's New? | Products | Services | Tips | Mike]