Friday, February 19, 2016

Arrested Panorama

Before I start this post, I should warn you that it may come out sounding like a bit of a whine.  I hope it doesn't but be warned.

This is our current view.  OK it was taken on a day when a blizzard was about to come in so you can't really see the lake which really is down there beyond all those tall buildings.  It was a really cold day too which is why all that steam is being produced from everyone's heating.
Its about Toronto.  Downtown Toronto.  And Building.  Lots of building.

I've been coming to Toronto since 1987, steadily since around 1995-96. So seeing as we weren't likely to buy a place in Bermuda, we decided to buy a place in Toronto instead.  So in 2001 or so I asked a then colleague at work for ideas as he was looking to buy a condo off plan.  He showed me a place that he liked the look of.  The idea with buying off plan is you put down a small deposit, usually $500 or so.  Then at some later point round that up to 5% of the final price.  Then at 3 or 6 month intervals add a further 5% or 10% until you get to 35% at which point you stop for if you are Canadian you can then finance the remainder.

For us this was particularly attractive as the CD dollar was trading around 70 cents to the US dollar.  A bit like now in fact.

I investigated, crunched a few numbers and found it actually all was pretty easy.  I found a real estate agent too from a then client who lived in Toronto and asked her to show us a few places in addition to the condo that we had plans for (yes, it was my colleague's, the first place we looked at!).

We looked at half a dozen already built places that were either conversions or were relatively low rise developments -- the newer ones were all 40-50+ storeys.  None rocked our boats like the one we first thought of so we put our name down for one on the 36th floor.  Nothing really fancy.  Just a pied a terre.  1200 sq ft with 2 bedrooms.  So off we went …. just as the bloody looney started to pick up against the US dollar!

It took 2 years to reach the 35% funded level at which point we'd picked out all the fittings, trim and all the rest of it with the help of an interior designer we'd been introduced to.  And then the big day came when we took possession with the aid of a little local and very cheap financing and went to take a look at it.  The apartment had a south facing aspect and looked down the length of Bay Street to downtown and the lake beyond.  It was a breath taking view.

And then I looked out of the window, downwards forgetting my vertigo for the moment.

"What's that?" I asked.

"The developers are building a new 50 storey condo" came the answer.

A 50-storey condo less than 50 yards away from our window would block our view ENTIRELY!!!!

So we stopped thinking about decor for this place, called the realtor and asked her to flip this condo for one in the new 50-storey building 50 yards down the road.

The mechanics of that particular transaction are worthy of another note but for brevity, we managed to do the flip at no net cost to us, other than the fact that the new place would be much larger and hence more costly.  The realtor must have loved us being paid to sell to us in the first place, sell it off immediately on taking possession and then buy a new place -- 3 times the pleasure!  But she did a great job for us and we achieved what we wanted.

That was in 2008.  Ever since we've been receiving at odd intervals notice that such and such a building will be going up all round us, some getting in the way of our wonderful view.  It is still lovely but we can't really see the CN Tower any more, for example.

You actually can see the CN Tower over there to the right but before all that building we could see far further down the tall thin stick building
What really prompted this post is notice that the site of a hotel nearby will be building not one but 4 new towers of 80, 70, 60 and 50 storeys no more than 500 yards away.

I cannot imagine 4 new towers going there!
Right next door to the 75 storey behemoth to our left.

Part of the behemoth at our level...

With another 50+ storey development on the car park outside...

The soon to be ex-car park with Bay Street to the right!!
...and the 30 storey building across the street being raised up to 60 storeys….

30 becoming 60 storeys… with Bay Street to its left!!!

I realize that we don't have the divine right to the downtown Toronto skyline but really!

Maybe I need to call the realtor again.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Winding Down...

I mentioned towards the end of my previous blog post that many old rockers are dying out bit by bit.  Being 61 myself, I suppose that's about right seeing as most of the guys I grew up with and loved were older than me so are just about starting to hit that 3 score and 10 number quoted in the Bible as being man's lot.  It doesn't help though when it happens.

This year so far we've seen Lemmy, David Bowie and most recently Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson from Jefferson Airplane on the same day of all coincidences.

I wasn't that hit by Lemmy's passing as he'd had a notoriously high profile life of supreme excess.  But he still made it past 70 and I've been a fan from long hair and greatcoat days in the late 1960's.  I first came across him as bass player and sometime singer for space rock band Hawkwind whom I loved to distraction.  He was the guy in long greasy black hair pounding away on one side of the stage banging his head up and down.  

Not a mind picture that my mum would have appreciated for sure but I didn't care.  When asked about whether any girls liked the band, Lemmy's response was that the audience was 'just a bunch of scruffy geezers in greatcoats'.  That's what I remember about the time too.  Audiences were pretty much all scruffy geezers in greatcoats, me too. Virtually no girls.  

RIP Lemmy.

David Bowie to my mind was OK.  I wasn't a huge fan really.  I'd seen him in the late 1960's when he was called David Jones at an open air concert next to Southend Airport where Edgar Broughton headlined (and produced the wonder single 'Out Demons Out').  He had long blond hair back then and sang folk songs of dubious quality.  

Something must have happened for the next time I heard of him was on Top of the Pops when he showed up in full glamour gear and make up.  I can't remember what song he sang, Star Man maybe, but I didn't think much of him although my friends said his band were awesome.  Certainly the late Mick Ronson was a fantastic guitarist.  

Fast forward 20 years and a lot of those ho-hum bands sounded a lot better when compared to the current batch (this must be something everyone goes through.  The bands you love as a young person stay with you forever.  All else afterwards pales by comparison).  So I picked up on Bowie and found that a lot of his stuff was really, really good.  So Viv and I went to see him during his final, farewell tour when Ziggy Stardust would be forever put to rest (he wasn't of course!) in the late 1980's.  It was at Nassau Colliseum on Long Island.  Great show.  We were 5 rows back in the middle too (thanks Patrick for getting us the tickets).

No glam nor glitter either.  RIP David Bowie.

Jefferson Airplane was my band.  I just loved them to bits.  From the dopey folky beginnings to the more rocky, popular times.  They broke up in 1972 at the peak of their powers when the various groupings within the group went in different directions.  Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship.  Both new bands were great too at the start.  

The JA tunes that were the best were the band collaborations which meant that in the main they were written or co-written by Paul Kantner.  He wasn't a great singer or guitarist but he wrote great rabble rousing tunes.  Jan followed PK's aging band around in recent years and got to know some of them which was nice.  

Of all these aging rockers it was PK and Signe Anderson going on the same day that most got to me.  Signe pre-dated Grace Slick and left because she was going to have a baby and didn't want to tour.  Perhaps that adds to the allure.  She sang a lot of great duets with Marty Balin in the early days and I think gave the band their shape and sound that they kept forever.

RIP Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson.

Bits and Pieces

I've been very bad at writing these last couple of months since coming back from Japan and New Orleans.  Its not that I've not been away, I have, just laziness that's all.

Back in October I went to New York for a board meeting and headed off to Toronto for a few days with Ali whilst Viv who'd gone to see Dee in Boston, met me in NYC before heading down to Florida and the Villages with 3 girlfriends from Bermuda.  Then I went to Cayman for 2 weeks of business in November/December (weather was unusually poor too!) and now I am in Toronto again having spent 2 days in New York on the way up here.

It's minus 15 heading to minus 30 apparently!

Not sure why but each of the trips weren't real blockbusters in that there was much to remember as the first two were mostly work despite Viv's presence and I really haven't got into this one yet.  So far its been work related so maybe that's it.

What a great building Grand Central Station is.  Certainly both grand and central and very, very big
I did get to go to Connecticut though, Greenwich to be precise.  I've been ticking off states for a few years now and thought I had another one then remembered a few years back I'd been to Yale with Ali for his participation in the US Junior Squash Tournament which is in New Haven… which is in Connecticut.  Rats.

For some reason in the last year or so I've had this idealized thought that I wouldn't mind spending a couple of years towards the end of my working life in London or even New York.  I'd not done this for more than 30 years so have a rose colored rearview of life in the exciting big city.  It really is too but going to Greenwich, a mere 45 minutes from Grand Central Station brought back to dreary reality those mind numbing years of commuting first from Southend then doubling up to more than 2 hours each way from Herne Bay.  Years spent on the bloody train that I'll never get back.

Newer looking but still suburban trains...
I may rethink that idea some more then.

East River over the Queensboro Bridge
I flew to TO our of La Guardia which still took 45 minutes from Manhattan and is a real dump. I guess its a domestic airport but still its an appalling mess.  Certainly for a city of New York's stature.  Really flying these days isn't that glamourous and definitely not comfortable.

And then I saw it…

OK I know this probably is not a reference to Jefferson Airplane, but it was to me
2016 really hasn't been that great a year for the old rockers that I grew up with.  First Lemmy from Motorhead, next David Bowie and most recently Paul Kantner.  Lots of people I know felt glum when Bowie passed but PK's hit me most.  I'll write more about it in my next post but will leave you with a great memory.