March 24

In another effort to help Dee, I signed us up for wifi. I can’t understand why, in 2020, Canadians pay so much for this service! It’s a disgrace! In France, we pay 30 euros – tops for an unlimited wifi connection in the home. And our cell phone fees are 20 euros (at least with Free mobile it is), which includes long-distance with US and Canada and unlimited internet usage.

At the moment with American T-mobile, I am paying a flat fee of 70 USD, which includes calls and texts in Canada Mexico, and the US, and 5G internet usage. And that is still cheaper than what Canadians pay for their local connections.

Unfortunately, I found out the hard way it is only on my end. My friends and family who call me have been charged long-distance fees even if they have long-distance plans in place. I am going to have to look more into this matter as it doesn’t make sense to me. If Dee can call Us numbers for no additional long-distance fees, why is she getting charged now, under my new plan? It seems there is a monopoly going on here and it’s price gauging. Not cool Canada!

Luckily for us, Fido in Toronto is offering a covid special, $45CND a month for wifi. Hopefully, this will help.

Match 20-23

Dee and I became friends around the time my father passed away in ’96. She has been taking in strays since then.

I wasn’t a stray back then, but her kind nature and fun personality drew me to her. So much so we became roommates. During that time, she worked as a bartender in Little Italy, where we lived. I worked for Club Monaco on the verge of my starting fashion career.

Dee and I both recently separated from partners. She is now back to being single, which I have come to understand now was easier for me than her. While I was moving on from my divorce, Dee was sinking deeper and deeper into a depression. Seeing her, after all these years, broke my heart.

The next day, I woke up with energy to spare. I took Paloma for a walk and went to The Drake to enjoy a much-needed cafe latte while Dee slept-in. By mid-afternoon, I had bought groceries, called T-mobile to extend my cell phone coverage, and spoken to all my family members. During these Covid days, all these tasks took a lot longer than usual. Dee continued to sleep.

On day two, Dee explained to me that she suffers from manic depression. It was also clear to me she was an addict. Considering she was a bartender her whole life, I assumed she was always a functioning alcoholic. She could drink anyone under any table. Now it was clear to me she couldn’t function at all.

Last year, two people close to her committed suicide. Both were middle-aged men, both were buddies from the bar, and both deaths pushed her closer to the edge. It also didn’t help that her ex had his first child. Dee, who’s 45th birthday loomed around the corner, seemed not to have the courage in her to pull herself out of her dark hole on her own.

My nurturing qualities were expressed by cooking for her. I prepared her delicious pasta, made soup from scratch, whipped up fresh-crispy salads –but nothing sparked her appetite. Every day she would wake up around the time General Hospital would air. She’s sit up and pour herself a glass of wine from the box and shush me not to interrupt.

The bathroom was lined with newspaper for Paloma, who spent most days on Dee’s sofa or under a sun patch by the balcony. Dee let me sleep in her room, and told me she usually just crashes on the couch anyway. When she got up, I noticed the couch which four years ago was brand now had a huge nest like whole where she laid night after night.
While I was in her bedroom, I tried to peek into her closet. Normally, I’m not that nosey, but I was curious. I pushed it open and piles of garbage bag forced the door closed. Relentless, I pushed back, and I began cleaning out these black bags full of stuff that she wasn’t using.

By day 3, I tried to encourage decluttering starting with the kitchen, then moving on to her clothes, and linens. Anyone who a hoarder will agree, just the world ‘declutter’ can trigger them emotionally. She freaked out when I tossed out her late grandmother’s chachkas, broken teapots, and aluminum coffee cups she had clearly been using as flasks. I pulled out fully tagged Christmas presents and put them all in a bag. I ended up making three bags of these old gifts. One was filled with useful items; the other was gifts to re-gifting; another was lame x-mas gifts ready for donation.

I also divided tops, bottoms, short-shorts, dresses, and sweaters – each in their own bag. Yes, she has that many short shorts. I tried to suggest she throw them away entirely considering she was turning 45 in 3 weeks. This just prompted her to pour herself a drink and stare at the tv screen with a glazed eye.
Dee fought me tooth and nail, objecting to all my tossing-out choices. Did she need the platform boots that had no more life in them left and were seasons old? No! Did she need leggings that had holes in the crotch? Not to mention that she had another pair – exactly the same, but brand new – with tags? NO! I didn’t want to play the part of a pushy Marie Kondo to her grumpy old lady, but she didn’t have internet. I felt compelled to help her the only way I knew how. Besides, decluttering always helped me inch my way out of the blues.

March 19, 2020

Entering the Canadian border at Pearson International Terminal at 11 pm was not complicated as the news reports had suggested. I was trying to keep a lookout at where the Coronavirus checkpoints were. I couldn’t even find the dispensers for hand sanitizer after using the declaration kiosks, let alone people enforcing the social distancing practice in the line-up. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to be out of there quickly. Every other time I have arrived in YZZ, the line up for Canadians is always longer than for foreigners. Usually, it is at least a forty-five minutes wait, but tonight it was fifteen minutes. I was so early, which gave me more time to figure out where exactly I was going to be staying.

The night before my flight, my only two sisters refused to put me up. The oldest, Claudia, who’s a single mom and works for a call center, didn’t want me to quarantine with her because it could put her child and colleagues at risk. If I did bring the virus from LA, it would be highly likely I would pass it to them in her little apartment. My younger sister Dani works for ‘519’, which is an LGBTQ community center. She also couldn’t put her colleagues at risk. Both insisted I be in self-isolation for 15 days before seeing me, emphasis on the self. And though it did put me in an awkward position where I had to ask an old friend to host me, I could not dispute their stance. At the last minute, I had to phone a friend, someone who wasn’t a germ-a-fob. AL wouldn’t be able to. His apartment was cluttered with furniture from his late mother’s estate. He had just evicted his tenant out of the apartment below his so he could use it for extra storage. That apartment would not be available for me until April 1st, he suggested.

‘Both insisted I be in self-isolation for 15 days before seeing me.’

So I asked my long time friend Dee who was more than willing to take me in and welcomed me with a glass from a freshly opened box of wine. Dee is known to take in stray pets. This time was no different. When I arrived at her apartment, I met her latest companion. So I asked my long time friend Dee who was more than willing to take me in and welcomed me with a glass from a freshly opened box of wine. Dee is known to take in stray pets. This time was no different. When I arrived at her apartment, I met her latest companion. A tanned colored Chiuaua named Paloma greeted me with her open heart. It was love at first sight.

Dee found Paloma the chihuahua in a barn hiding out with a piglet.

March 18, 2020

Leading up to my trip, I was a little overwhelmed with the work I had to do for my client as well as trying to finish my new kimono collection. Since I was going to be taking 3 weeks off from my day-in-day-out tasks to focus on quality time with my friends and family back in my hometown, I needed to tie up all the loose threads. Pun intended.

Hastily, I signed up for my Shopify free trial before I was ready to use it. I quickly corrected the predicament by calling them up and explaining my sudden new circumstances, which was a result of the Pandemic. The kind people at Shopify extended the free trial period for a later date understanding my business now hung in the balance. I am a self-employed business owner, heavy emphasis on the ‘self’ employed. Fun-fact: I pretty much do everything for my brand. I design the swimwear, sew the apparel, shoot the photos, and design the website. I like wearing different hats, but I would prefer to outsource all the work and just design. It makes me cringe to no end when I can’t get the look right due to budget constraints. I know what I like and don’t like when I see it, which was the reason I wanted to try Shopify before I committed to the service, a mistake I made with WordPress online shop. WP may work brilliantly for some, but for me, it wasn’t easy enough. And I need it to be easy because I have to do all this on my own.

I planned to build my online shop during my off time while in Toronto. However, due to dire news reports, my priority list changed dramatically. Now before my departure date, I had to take new precautions that would secure my headquarters and my home base. Instinctually I knew this pandemic was going to have dire repercussions to my business. This lock-down was inevitable, so I tried to troubleshoot as best I could.

As a result of taking these precautions, it didn’t have the time to shoot my finished designs and the latest swimwear. That was not my priority, rather getting to Toronto without contracting this mother fucking virus (MFV) was.

My WestJet Flight

I went to the Shake Shack inside LAX to wait for my flight, even though I packed a lunch. It didn’t seem wise to have anyone touch my food at this time. It’s my opinion, that there is still a myriad of different ways to contract this virus within the parameters the CDC gives us, and it is my prerogative to be overly cautious about protecting my space. Until more facts are revealed, I believe we should all be responsible for our actions on how we protect our own health and be realistic enough to know that no one is perfect with their efforts for sanitary regulations.

I ordered bottled water from Shake Shack which I cleaned thoroughly with my alcohol wipes. I had two and a half hours to kill as check-in was a breeze. LAX traffic had decreased dramatically after news reports discouraged flying into Cali, as it was seen as a hot spot. I thought I was going to be able to upgrade to 1st class but was surprised to learn that my flight was fully booked. Turns out Trudeau’s request to Canadians to return now was taken seriously.

I ordered bottled water from Shake Shack which I cleaned thoroughly with my alcohol wipes.’

As I sat there looking at the people in the restaurant, I couldn’t help notice how people had or had not changed their public habits. I wondered, was I being an over-cautious weirdo? I took out my wipes and cleaned my chair and my tabletop. Then I noticed two Latina ladies, both over 55 years olds wearing gloves and aprons cleaning the tables every 45 minutes. I didn’t notice anyone else wipe their bottles down, let alone their wrapped burgers or utensils. I looked at the line-up and saw how people were touching their faces trying to figure out what they were going to order than going into their wallets and pulling out their money. Then, I felt a cough building up inside my throat, probably because I was wearing a mask and the oxygen was dry – since I didn’t have a cold. As it started tickling my throat, I tried to suppress it out of respect for the people around me. I didn’t want to scare anyone. As I swallowed excessively, the man next to me coughed. He coughed like he didn’t even realize he was coughing. He didn’t cover his mouth in any way. He was on the phone speaking French like a Quebecois and coughed in between sentences. I assumed he was Canadian and probably flying back there. I shimmied over on my seat to put more distance between us all the while giving him a dirty look above my mask. I only hoped this asshole wasn’t on my flight.

Before I left the restaurant for the departure gate, I looked at all the people in there. At least one person had the virus, I assumed. Who was it? Could it be one person in the family of 4 eating who was sitting in front of me? None of them were wearing masks and lived their lives like this pandemic was just a hoax. Or was it one of the Latina ladies who probably took the bus into work that day? Or was it this man next to me, coughing in every direction and who looked he was getting hotter as he took off layers of clothing. It was at this moment I prayed for them all and decided I wouldn’t judge these people, but instead, try my best to keep a sunny disposition. I pledged I would offer help to people if they needed it, especially if I could perform the act safely. I’d offer humor to de-escalate any situation that would arise. I was going to talk calmly and in a soothing tone. And most importantly, I was going to smile, knowing everything would be okay.

The truth was we were all scared in our way. The more I behaved calmly – the easier it was going to be. I wasn’t going to fight any rule of hygiene, but instead, yield to all the new rules without questioning them. I was going to participate in every way that I could, even if it wasn’t for my benefit. I was not going to stress out about wait times because what was the point in getting all riled up? There was no way around wait times. I was going to stay in my seat, keep my mask on, and keep my ship tight.

The couple next to me on the plane were also wearing masks. They told me that they had gone to LA for a funeral and were returning home. Both were over 60 years old. As we sat down, we took a wipe the flight attendant had offered us to clean our personal space. They reassured us they had cleaned the plane before us boarding, but knew some of us would feel better if we did it for ourselves. Luckily I was with them and not the drunk lady hanging out by the toilets, chatting up the crew and people in line. She was telling everyone why she had to leave her big ranch in California to go back to Canada as if this was a compelling story. She wasn’t wearing a mask and was leaning all over the attendant’s work area, touching the counters to keep her balance.

I remembered my pledge and looked out the window, down to the mountains and canyons, the deserts, and later the snowy farmland fields. Flying over Lake Michigan, I said goodbye to America. I felt so relieved to be leaving the U.S. and going to Canada. For if shit hit the fan, I really would be ok, because there I have healthcare.

March 17 2020.

My friend AL back home in Toronto wanted me to come to his late mothers tombstone unveiling. regrettably, I didn’t make it to his mothers funeral back in November because I was in France trying to get my divorce settled. He didn’t have to pursued me too hard to go. It was going to be an opportunity to visit him as well as own my family, whom I hadn’t seen in four years since I left Toronto to get married in France. Of course, I was happy to go.

I am based in LA now, not France. I positioned myself in California strategically to work on developing my swimwear brand Mer-C, and also to curate an awesome vintage collection, which I was planing on selling on my new site this summer. All these efforts to have a big launch had been a year in the making. I was finally flowing with a productive momentum in my business practice. I had establish consistent clients, and was working 10 hours days, 6 days a week.

However, this trip was long overdue. Despite my busy professional life, I missed my friend and his sense of humor, his life commentary about us getting old, fashion, taste, and pop culture. He has been a friend through think and thin, since we were teenagers, in fact. We grew up in Toronto, and coincidentally lived in London and New York at the same time. He was a model booker in his hey-day, I was a fashion designer during mine. And now he needed me just to stand with him.

He has been a friend through thick and thin.

My father passed away in 1996. He had cancer. Going through that experience has made me a person who can empathize greatly to ones own mourning. And so my friend had chosen me to express his grief to, and I feel honored he did and still does.

I selected a flight on WestJet from LAX to YZZ, departure March 17, return date April 7, 2020. And on March 18, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the US / Canadian Border would be closed indefinitely.

C U S T O M – M A D E / W E T S U I T S

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“I need the sea because it teaches me.” Pablo Neruda / Chilean Poet