Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system

2012 Holiday Letter

Cheri & PeterCheri and Peter Roosen-Runge joined us on New Year's Day to welcome in 2012. Years ago, I helped convince Peter to move from U of T to York University. We've remained friends, as have Cheri and Mira. It was good that they could join us to welcome in 2012. (Click on any image to open a pop-up window with the image; click on the expansion icon in the lower right corner to see the full-size version of the image.)
 
This year we continued our subscriptions to several music programs. We finished going to the 2011-12 opera season with the Borodins, and are in the middle of the 2012-13 season now. I've tried, but opera really isn't my thing. I'm into music for the structure and not the story. Still, going to the opera gives us a chance to spend time with Judy and Allan, and some of the music is pretty. We also renewed our subscription to the quartet series at the St. Lawrence Centre, and have renewed our subscription to Music in the Afternoon. The Music in the Afternoon concert series is now in its 115th season. It's put on by the Women's Musical Club of Toronto and provides an excellent excuse to have lunch with the Anne and Joe Ciras.
 
Inglaterra HotelEarly this year, we had double time in the sun with trips to both Cuba and Guatemala. In early February we returned to Cuba for our second visit to the island. This time we stayed in the heart of the old city. Our hotel, the Inglaterra, is the oldest hotel that is still open for business on the island. It's steeped in history, but some of the facilities are showing their age. As one example, all of the electrical outlets were old, plugs didn't stay plugged in. Staying in the old city was convenient, but it also meant that we had no comfortable place where we could just relax. It did give us a dose of sun early in the year.
 
Mira in Havana
Mira in Havana
Old Graceful Havana

Old Graceful Havana

Royal Bank Memories

Royal Bank Memories


As those of you following Toronto news may have noted, Toronto is now the tall building capital of North America. We have more tall buildings and more condos going up or planning than any five other North American cities together. All of this development activity inspired my growing interest in urban planning – 2012 was the year in which such concerns came to take more and more of my time. It was in May 2011 that Lanterra Development proposed twin 58 storey towers 10 meters from our condo windows. We were not happy with the prospect. In addition to being unfortunate for the view from our condo, it would also set a singularly unfortunate precedent for “our” stretch of Toronto's “Main Street” – Yonge Street between College and Bloor. I jumped in with both feet.
 
The Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association has been formally incorporated. I'm on the Board and Co-Chair of its Development Committee. Our city councillor established a formal working group to consider the Lanterra proposal, the one outside our condo windows. Another working group was established to consider the “North Downtown Yonge Street Planning Framework”. That planning framework is to establish the ground rules for development along this stretch of Yonge Street.
 
I've been active on both working groups. We managed to develop and then sell our “vision” for this stretch of Yonge Street. It's met with enough acceptance that our vision has been largely incorporated in the draft North Downtown Yonge Street Planning Framework. Proposals can now be judge against their contribution to our vision for the street, and it doesn't require an expert to make those judgements. The Lanterra proposal has been reduced to a 52 storey south tower and a 22 storey north tower. The 22 storey tower would be the one outside our windows. We made some progress.
 
On the TopThis work on urban planning wasn't allowed to interfere with our holiday plan too much. We did get away for a guided tour of Guatemala. The Mayan ruins at Tikal were what attracted us. We got a chance to see Tikal, and we saw some other very attractive parts of Guatemala. Antiqua was the original Spanish capital for all of central America. A series of major earthquakes in the 18th century caused considerable damage and led to moving the Spanish capital. What remains is an interesting historic old city. Our tour guide was a mixed blessing. She took very good care of us, but maintained control throughout the entire trip. I found it frustrating to have to listen to un-interrupted monologues that could last for longer than an hour. But all in all, Guatemala was an interesting trip.
 
Guatemala Native
Guatemala Native
Mayan Ruin
Myan Ruin
Volcano - Guatemala
Restful Guatemala
 
 
At the BorodinsThe “big” event for us this year was our wedding anniversary. We were married back on June 12, 1962; this year is our 50th anniversary. The Borodins (our youngest old friends) had us over for a lovely intimate dinner (it's a photo of their gift orchid that graces our Holiday Card). We took advantage of our anniversary to explore the Ontario's Warsaw Caves Provincial Park that are located east of our cottage. There was a “perfect” spot for a picnic on a rock ledge at the water's edge. This year is also the 55th anniversary of Doris (Mira's sister) and Zoltan. Their children put on an impressive party in Baltimore to celebrate both of our anniversaries. Each of Doris' 12 grandchildren who were there presented their view of “What it takes to stay married for 50 years or more ...”
 
The Celebration
The Celebration
The Two Old Couples
The Happy Couples
 
The Program
The Program
After the Event
After the Event
Eastern Shore Hotel
Eastern Shore Hotel
Eastern Shore
Eastern Shore
 
 
ImageIn years past, we would stop at Priscilla's farm house in Pennsylvania on our way to Baltimore. Alas, Priscilla has now moved out west to be close to her sister; she's no longer located conveniently on the way to Baltimore. We made do with a night in Corning. And Priscilla did stop in Toronto on her road trip east this fall. (Photo of Priscilla and Mira at "Sugar Beach", Toronto waterfront.)  It was good seeing her, even if it wasn't at her farm house in Pennsylvania. She's a spunky lady, driving from Wisconsin, through Toronto, and on to a week in Pennsylvania.
 
Also in years past, we visited Ottawa in time to see the Winter Festival. This year we broke with tradition and drove to Ottaws in the late summer. There was a van Gogh show on at the National Gallary that Mira wanted to see, and even I enjoyed it. Ottawa can be an interesting place to visit. Our cottage is a comfortable way-station. It makes a pleasant get-away to drive from the cottage to Ottawa, and then back to the cottage.
 
ImageThe “boys” again visited us at US Thanksgiving. Paul (Mira's nephew) and his partner, Jonathan, have been visiting us for almost two decades. We offered to let them occupy our condo during World Pride in Toronto in 2014. Initially they were interested, but have come to the conclusion that World Pride might be just a bit too much. They have settled into a regular US Thanksgiving visit to Toronto. It was good seeing them this year. We hope they can find a way to bring some or all of their three sons to visit at our cottage, … while the children are still young enough to enjoy a cottage.
 
This year we got to know the US Internal Revenue Service far better than we ever wanted to. The US is almost alone in insisting that everyone they view as a US citizen must file US income tax forms, including statements of global assets. Few Canadians would owe the US any taxes (because of reciprocal tax arrangements), but the forms must be filled out. I thought that I had a good case to be considered only a Canadian citizen who had effectively renounced his US citizenship by swearing elegance to her Majesty back in 1976. I still think I have a case, but the IRS isn't inclined to agree. Getting them to change their mind isn't a simple process.
 
We opted to hire a specialized accountant to prepare a joint return for the last three years and separate financial asset reports for the last six years. Based on the new IRS rules, we should be in the clear, and they should even pay me a small refund on the tax they withheld from my small US pension income (from my time on the Smith College faculty). I'm hopeful everything is now settled (for this year), but have yet to hear back officially.
 
One of the fringe benefits of all of this is that Mira has now done the “right” thing. She never owed US income tax and never filed after moving to Canada. But she still travels on a US passport. She had been keeping her head down, but has applied for Canadian citizenship. I was forced to file and the form requires that I name my spouse. Mira would have been “exposed”. A joint return made sense (and only marginally increased the cost of having the forms prepared.)
 
This year we discovered Ryerson University's LIFE program for seniors. It's largely a program of non-graded short courses put on by seniors, for seniors. The fees are modest and a wide range of courses are offered. I took something called the Philosophy Cafe this fall – six lectures from Ryerson Philosophy Professors on topics that interest them. The coming semester, Mira has signed up for several courses, and I've signed on to lead an eight week course on Urban Planning. The “seniors teaching seniors” idea is appealing, and Ryerson is just a 10 minute walk from our condo.
 
Mira still has an occasional consulting assignment from the Ontario Financing Authority, but that is winding down. And she's still committed to providing some (un-paid) service to the Canadian Association of Women in Construction, but that is also winding down. I've not had a paying client in several years – I'm just not “hungry” enough to work to a client's agenda. LIFE courses are an interesting alternative. And I've begun to re-explore philosophy, … after neglecting the subject for far too long.
 
The year is ending on a good note. We stayed at the cottage until Christmas day, when we returned to Toronto and had Christmas dinner at the Friesens (our next to oldest friends in Toronto). A pot-luck dinner is planned with Claudette and Doug Weir before New Years Day. I met Doug through work and we became business friends. More recently, Claudette and Doug (and Biko their great Rhodesian Ridgeback dog) have become personal friends. And then it's likely back to the cottage for a quiet New Years Eve before the fire.
 
Jamie - 4th Line Theater

Friesen @ 4th Line

Mira, Biko and Claudette

Mira, Biko & Claudette

Friends for Dinner

Friends for Dinner


We're busy in retirement. We're just not busy doing things that other people necessarily find important. It's a refreshing change from working for clients (or employers), and being obliged to do what they see as important. This retirement thing isn't half bad.
 
 Bob Fabian
December 2012