I’ve never really been a “cottage guy.”
That’s not because I’m a yuppie. Not entirely.
I think it’s because of my experience with the great outdoors, and how it all began in childhood.
In 1986, my father sent me to Camp Kawabi, at 6-years-old, when the minimum age of campers was seven. I suppose he did that to toughen me up, like his father would have done, and his grandfather before him.
Kawabi was a real “outdoorsy” camp, but I don’t think I realized this until I attended Camp Kilcoo in 1990, after four years at Camp Kawabi.
At Kawabi, we slept in tents, and went to the bathroom in outhouses that had multiple seats. Nothing quite like hanging with the boys while doing your bizness, right?
At Kilcoo, we slept in cabins, and went to the bathroom in private toilet stalls, with running water.
A friend of mine is the director at Camp Onondaga, and two weeks ago, we were having drinks on my back patio, social distancing, and telling stories about camp.
I didn’t like camp. At all. I feared it. Hated it.
My friend the director loves camp. All of it. Every minute. Lives for it. Can’t get enough of it.
So imagine the conversations between four of us – my wife, myself, my friend, and his wife, “the director,” as we discussed camp in the 1980’s, 1990’s, 2000’s, and onwards.
The director asked, “Dave, what is your most memorable story through all of those years at camp? Come on, you’re a rolodex of memories. Whaddya got?”
So I told them. “The most memorable” story isn’t always a good one, right?
My first and only year at Camp Kilcoo in 1990 did not go well. It was rough, right from the very start.
This was a really yuppie camp, the kids were all weiners, rich, spoiled, and it was the complete opposite of Camp Kawabi.
On the first day, we were paddling in a canoe, and this one weiner kid kept saying, “Don’t splash me.” I wasn’t splashing him, I swear. On my life, not a single drop of water touched this kid’s arm, but he kept on whining, and eventually told on me, and our counselor punished me by taking away two of my deserts.
I wasn’t pleased. So as soon as the counselor turned his back, I splashed the little weiner. Now he was splashed!
The weiner said, “Oh, you’re gonna get it. You’re gonna get it, as soon as my friend Timmy gets here!”
We were a cabin of eight kids, but on the first day, we only had seven. It seemed that “Timmy” would soon be joining us one day later. The weiner kept threatening me, all day, and all night. “Timmy this,” and “Timmy that.” Over and over, he kept telling me I was “gonna get it.”
Sure enough, after breakfast the next morning, we were introduced this hulking lad – borderline deformed, at this age, having to be twice the size of the rest of us 10-year-olds. If I saw him on the street, I’d have thought he was seventeen.
After lunch, during our “rest period,” Timmy jumped me. He wrapped me up in my sleeping bag, picked me up over his head, and carried me out back. Standing out back was the little weiner kid, holding a Super Soaker 9000, pumping that gun with a passion.
Timmy held my arms behind my back, and wrapped his ankles around mine. I was standing up, spread-out, unable to move.
The weiner pointed the Super Soaker at me and said, “This is what it feels to get splashed with a paddle.”
He then proceeded to douse me with the entire contents of his watergun, over and over, and this was the one with the backpack, so I stood there for what seemed like ten minutes, being water-boarded by this little shit.
I thought I was going to drown, honestly.
Eventually, it was over.
Timmy dropped me, and said, “Don’t ever mess with my friend again, or you’re gonna get it.”
I spent the remainder of rest hour trying to figure out what to do. This was the second day of a 30-day camp cycle and I did not want to end up the house bitch. Timmy was physically superior, and I was never going to beat him. And the weiner kid was now ascending the throne in the cabin, and it wouldn’t be long before he turned every other camper against me.
I couldn’t let this happen. I had to act.
What does one do in this situation?
You’ve got no choice. You have to go loco.
The next day when we were down at the docks, coming in from canoeing, our counselors went up ahead and left four of us behind to die up the ropes. It was there that I saw my chance.
Timmy was down on his knees, tying a reef-knot, with his back to me.
I picked up a wooden paddle, lifted it up, behind me, and said, “Hey Timmy?”
Timmy turned around, but only with his head. His body remained pointed forward, and his hands and knees on the dock.
He turned and we met eyes for only a brief second before I swung that paddle around and connected with his face.
Timmy’s head snapped back as he let out a wicked howl. He landed on his back, sun in his face, and his lips were bloody.
Then he started to cry.
The big kid, twice the size of the rest of us, was crying.
And I stood over him and said, “That’s what it feels like to get hit in the face with a paddle.”
From then on, the other kids thought I was absolutely crazy. Loco. Insane in the membrane.
Man, I was just trying to survive. Kids are nuts. Kids are cruel. Kids in in the 1980’s were a lot different than kids today, as were the rules of the jungle in which they lived. This kind of thing would never happen today. Look at another child the wrong way, and it’s on the front cover of the Toronto Star. But back then, it was like Lord of the Flies. The counselors looked after us as long as they needed to before getting to why they were really working at a camp: to smoke, drink, and get laid. So when the counselors weren’t around, it was a free-for-all.
I’m a firm believer that early childhood experiences shape you for the rest of your life. Everything I learned through four years at Camp Kawabi, and one year at Camp Kilcoo, helped me grow into the person I am today.
But I was never a fan of the water, I don’t know why. Canoeing, kayaking, swimming, diving off that ridiculously-high tower on the water that every camp has – I never thrived on this. I liked archery, riflery, and fencing! Yes, fencing!
It sounds soo boughie today, right? But this was at the more liberal, artsy, hippie, Camp Kawabi.
Here’s me in 1988:
I always wanted to fence the counselors.
Who doesn’t love a challenge? Plus, the other kids thought I was nuts, which as I described before, helps with “street cred.” Look at their faces!
So yeah, I wasn’t a water-bug.
But just about every other kid at camp was! They even had windsurfing as an activity! And this booked up fast!
As we all come back from cottages, head up to cottages, or hear about friends and family going up north, I can’t help but think of all the people living on the water here in Toronto.
There are many different versions of “living on the water.”
A client of mine lives at Palace Pier, about thirty storeys up, and their view is literally nothing but water. Like, literally.
Think of all the condos marketed as “waterfront condos,” either on Queen’s Quay, or down in Mimico, that aren’t really on the water.
Take it from me, there’s no way to get any closer to the water than to live at Palace Pier. That building is so close to the water that I fear with a little erosion, it might be in the water at some point down the line. You just know you’re “on” the water when you can’t see any ground beneath you.
That is living on the water!
Of course, there’s also the folks who live up north, year-round.
Here’s a photo of the property that clients of mine are attempting to buy this week:
Not bad, eh?
Step off your patio, down onto your football-field-length lawn, and feel the sand in your toes as you touch the water.
That is living on the water!
But that is in Collingwood.
How can you live “on” the water here in Toronto/
What do you see on this map?
I mean, what’ stands out to you?
A handful of properties for sale in Cliffcrest and Cliffside, but what am I trying to draw your attention toward?
Let me zoom in a little.
What do you see now?
I’m no geography expert, but it looks like there are properties for sale that are in the water.
Is this possible?
Say it ain’t so, but you’d be sayin’ it wrong.
There are actually boat-houses, er, “float-houses,” available for sale in Toronto.
And the most amazing part about these is that they’re not cheap!
Years and years ago, a person I had been communicating with told me that she just “knew” she could find a house for under $250,000. Like I said, this was years and years ago! She emailed me a listing with the subject line “I Told Ya So!” and evidently, this was a house, of sorts. But it was floating on the goddam water.
The first I had ever seen in the city, and I’ll admit that I had been in the business for at least four or five years before I knew this was actually a thing.
But it is! And it’s odd. There’s just nothing that makes sense to me here, other than, perhaps a cursory view of the photos.
Check this out:
Pretty sweet kitchen, right?
And how about a nice, renovated bathroom?
But what if that kitchen opened up, right into the water?
Yes. This is a thing. This exists.
This is a float-house, and they’re available for sale down at Bluffer’s Park.
A few more photos, perhaps?
Sooooo………shall we set up a viewing?
I’ll be honest: I don’t really understand it.
I know there’s something for everyone out there, and whether it’s age, demographic, interests, or otherwise, this isn’t something I would ever consider.
Then again, it seems very few others do as well.
Here’s the listing history for one particular property down there:
Have a great weekend, everybody!