Sunday, 23 July 2017

Canada 150 road trip first instalment, July 22, 2017


Started the journey at Greg and Cathy’s for grand daughter Gabby’s 19th birthday party, June 30. Hit Highway 7 latish and headed to Ottawa to join friends Lisa Morgan, her boyfriend and Gar Quiano to celebrate the “settlers” celebration for Canada’s 150th anniversary. Of course, as it has been emphasized, this was not the “real” birthday of this contintent’s ancient legacy.

Regardess, the huge throngs in downtown Ottawa were in a celebratory mood despite the intermittent heavy rainstorms. There was no way to get near the parliament buildings: insane, over the top security meant huge long lines with many frustrated citizens unable to get close to the official “goings on” on Parliament Hill.

Next stop was St. Eugene, Ontario to visit Barry Rosenburg an old aquantance from days of yore who owned and operated a Ferrari/BMC dealership called Citation Motors located at the crotch of Vaughan Road and Bathurst just below St. Clair Avenue in Toronto. It was a shop where quite a few racers hung out and provided token sponsorship for my racing Mini in 1965. We regaled each other with the infamous attempt to get to Le Circuit Mt. Tremblant with a two car entourage: Barry’s Ginetta towed by a Ford of some sort and my Mini behind an Edsel! At one of the early truck stops along the 401, we signaled to turn off and as we slowed to enter the parking lot, Barry’s brake lights came on and I applied the Edsel’s brakes accordingly only to have the pedal go to the floor. The Edsel obviosly didn’t slow down and plowed into the back of the Ginetta forcing the trailer into the back of the Ford. A fair amount of chaos ensued. The collective decision was that I would back the Mini down off the trailer and try to get to the track. The rest of the crew would stay to repair the Edsel and eventually get the “fleet” to Mt. Tremblant. Now, this was an unlicensed, numbered race car with an open exhaust: a very loud “tin can” with no interior insulation. Many hours later, after feeling every single bump and road irregularity, I arrived at registration… 20 minutes after it closed! Being Quebec at the time of some “unrest,” Ontario competitors were not welcomed with open arms!  The race officials just folded their arms and shook their collective heads at my pleas to be allowed to race. Subsequently I competed in many races at this track and was never subjected to similar “officialdom.”

On to Montreal to connect with a bunch of Caravaners idling their jets while the AMARA ZEE makes its way from Texas to BC aboard a freighter. First up, lunch with Segeo Kirby, son of Paul and Nans, who heads up Loaded Pictures, a documentary film producer whom I’ve known since teenagehood. 

Next, find the hostel Auberge-St. Paul in Old Montreal, a very welcoming, clean, neat and tidy place to chuck my limited gear and to check out the area. Watched several street performers/buskers in a square just below city hall as huge crowds ebbed and flowed past restaurants and bars surrounding the square, many “thumbing” their devices and barely noticing the talent on display.

I was looking for Ariana Nasr and her partner Curtis Thorpe who I knew were playing in the same area. Ariana “channels” Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel ( along with songs in several other languages. After wandering around for an hour or so, I heard Ariana’s distinctive voice around a corner, found a bench and settled in to listen. She finished her song and came over to give me a big hug. I was their token “groupie” for two days!

She has two equally talented singer/musician sisters, all from Wolfville, NS, who, again, I’ve know since they were teens. The group called ASHK ( along with Ken Shorley perform world music with an amazing mixture of voice and instruments. I’d love to book the into Belleville sometime. Ariana has performed two Piaf concerts at Sans Souci and along with former partner Andy, have rocked my “stage’ in Latta Mills.

Next up was a mini-Caravan reunion that was a fun evening of stories and recollections from  our recent opening of “Nomadic Tempest” in St. Petersubrg and an update for me of the rained out shows in New Orleans and the two successful shows in Beaumont TX prior to the AZ being loaded onto the freighter. If I get to BC without any hassles or grief, I’ll see most of them again in six weeks or so.

So off down the Trans Canada Highway to Wolfville with a quick stop in Parrsboro where my friend Kaylaira is teaching yoga and art in an old converted post office. I found a hostel in town that charged the princley sum of $20 for a night. So I stayed to see the play “Pugwash,” the story of how the world's leading scientists descended on a little Nova Scotia fishing village in 1957 to deal with the nuclear threat following WW2. It made its world premiere at Parrsboro's Ship's Company Theatre. ( ( And then stayed to attend the “Rum Runners’  Speakeasy Night” at the Legion the following night. For some reason, this event ran simultaneously with a street dance and party in downtown Parrsboro so the crowd at the legion was a little thin and the band never showed up!

Wolfville, on the south side of the Bay of Fundy’s Minas Basin, is where I’m currently sitting pecking out this blog. I’ve been coming here for 35+ years after my sister Ladny settled here followed later by our mother Paula.

A day’s canoe trip on Black River Lake, one of several formed by the multiple dams on the Black River, was my introduction to the wilderness beauty of this part of Nova Scotia. I sat amidship while Marilyn Manzer, who was a great friend of Ladny’s and later kept an eye on Paula for several years, and her friend Caroline, paddled like crazy against the wind and choppy water in preparation for a week long paddling adventure up the St. John River in New Brunswick.

Last night: two interesting plays at The Two Planks and a Passion Theatre, located way off into the woods NW of Wolfville. “Nothing Less” about suffragetes in rural NS, early 1918, just before women in NS were awarded the provincial vote then followed by the federal vote later in the year. The second, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, By Fire” by Bill Shakespeare 3was performed around a blazing campfire by the same actors! (

Getting organized to head West: first stop is Field, ON for the River and Sky Festival near Sudbury…

Maybe more later.



Thursday, 16 February 2017

Caravan life and more...

February 15, 2017

Lessee, I ended my January blog with my trip to the black barber shop... my
”trimmed” look in the photo below. A few days later I found myself standing outside St. Pete’s oldest barber shop. It didn’t take long to realize long hair and beard were less than practical in my current living circumstances. In I went and got shorn by the shop’s 35-year resident barber.

As I write this on February 15, we’ve been in full rehearsals for almost three weeks... if you don’t think that a dynamic, creative crew of 40+ that includes aerialists, singers, film makers and sound techies, costume and mask makers, welders and fabricators, logistics staff, funding hustlers, a chef and assistant and two of us doing pr and media doesn’t add up to organized chaos, you’d be very wrong! I also act as transport liaison, a job that entails “herding cats!”

In the interim, I managed to spend two days on Treasure Island Beach watching an international kite festival. Forget all you know about your childhood attempts to get a “diamond shaped” kite off the ground, only having it crash back to earth with monotonous regularity. This link ( will provide you with a much better idea of what has transpired in kite technology in the past 30 years: massive, over 50’ long dragons, jellyfish and all manner of exotic shapes and sizes literally covered the sky over the beach. Wait to watch the synchronized “bow-tie” shaped kites dance off the ground and soar in an aerial ballet, some even set to music and judged similar to gymnastics, from 1-10.

I managed to get in a day’s sailing aboard THE LYNX, a 122’ repro of a Baltimore Clipper ( With a good stiff breeze, they rolled out all the canvas including topsails and she rocked along at almost 12 knots... not bad for a ship her size and weight. Photos attached will illustrate our boating neighbours here in the University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences Marina.

Surrounding AMARA ZEE are two very large US Coast Guard cutters; the latest vessel to join the Greenpeace fleet painted in “ocean camouflage;” a vessel from the Florida State Institute of Oceanography; a fast cutter from Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and two mega yachts. The rest of the municipal marina is filled to capacity with all manner of sailing and power boats that very seldom seem ot get off the dock despite lovely warm days with great breezes. Photos attached.

The Women’s March following Trump’s inauguration brought out over 20,00 marchers in St. Petersburg... the largest crowd by far in the city’s history. The city issued a parade permit that restricted the marchers to sidewalks only. Boy, were the cops and city officials caught by surprise having expected maybe 2-300 demonstrators! But, I have to hand it to the cops. When they realized there was no way to herd the crowd onto sidewalks, they stepped back and watched the marchers funnel into the streets. I sat on a concrete post right in the middle of the stream coming from the assembly area to watch the action, read signs and compliment folks on some very creative costumes. If interested click on this link (womens march:
So, busy, busy time here. For the last two evenings I’ve been shuttling a camera crew and all the necessary equipment to film major segments of the video components that wil be projected onto scrims during the performance.
Stand by for an update in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Caravan adventure 2017

Dateline, January 11, 2017: aboard AMARA ZEE docked adjacent to the University of South Florida’s marina in St. Petersburg.  The ship is surrounded by Florida Fish and Wildlife research and enforcement vessels. Across from us are two large US Coast Guard cutters and not very far away, one of Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd vessels; an Interesting juxtaposition of the three ships.

Weather has been chilly and damp for several days, just today warming up with lots of sunshine. Not to complain, mind you after seeing photos and video of the snow/slush deluge in Southern Ontario and the subsequent traffic chaos. Traffic here is pretty light as there doesn’t seem to be any of what we would call “rush hour.”

So, being back in St. Petersburg almost 60 years after finishing grade 12 at St. Pete High School has been a bit surreal. The downtown core has been transformed from the “city of newly weds and nearly deads” into a vibrant, culturally blessed, modern city with a huge range of great pubs, restaurants, performance venues, parks and bicycle paths criss crossing the city. Many of the grand old hotels in the core have been converted into seniors’ residences... yeah, I know, you’re saying I should book a suite! Once out of the downtown core, much hasn’t changed: low rise apartment buildings, small cinder block bungalows with “Florida rooms,” little strip malls, almost open air garages and small variety stores.

To understand the next part of this tale, you have to realize that when I left this city and headed up to Toronto in the summer of ‘59, the south was still segregated. In St. Pete that meant almost everything south of Central Avenue was for the black community; with few exceptions like small industries and some civic buildings. As teenagers here, venturing into the black neighborhoods would only been done in cars, not walking or cycling. Fast forward to 2017, and much has changed obviously. The three major “white” high schools are all completely integrated. Gibb’s High School which was the only black high school has  become the Pinellas County Center for the Arts, Business, Economics, and Technology Academy and their television production in Communication Arts.

Yesterday, I took a load of ship’s laundry to the nearby laundromat located in what is still a black area. Next door in the little strip mall was “Kre8tive Style,” a barber/hairdressers, obviously catering to the black community given all the signage and hairstyle posters inside. I had intended to seek out a barber shop on the “other side” of the city to get a trim while the laundry was being processed. Nope, says I, and walked into the barber shop. A couple of startled looks from the two female clients and hairdressers as I took a seat on the guy’s side. This was followed by a bit of silence broken by one of the women asking if I wanted a haircut. “Yeah,” says I and settled into one of two chairs. It took a while before young Markuis came out to size me up. He introduced himself and proceeded to “look me over!” “Just a trim and tidy up my beard, please.” It didn’t take long to realize he had never cut “white” hair before! After a few tentative snips and twirling me around in the chair, in came  “Jayman” with whom he consulted. He offered a few brief tips and disappeared into the back of the shop. My guy proceeded with a few more snips and I encouraged him by saying, “just trim me up, OK?” He seemed a bit more comfortable with those directions.

It has been and continues to be interesting to be back here after so many years.

For an update on the Caravan Stage Company's 2017 tour and return to Canada, please check out the Caravan's FB page. I am now the chronicler of the tale...

Friday, 1 April 2016

March 23 to April 1...

Wednesday,March 23, around 1pm. Sitting on a little porch outside our room in the Riu Banache Resort grabbing a few minutes of quiet away from the incessant busyness of this resort. There is a constant barrage of hyped activities amidst folks from all parts of the world. The beaches are lovely, cold beer on demand and overabundant food but the experience is moderated by the realization that few residents of The Dominican are able to experience the lifestyle of these resorts that dot the country.

The wind has been increasing steadily building the surf for a couple of days. Observations: many “overcooked” bodies and a huge contingent of local workers necessary to keep the resort functioning. The logistics are actually mind boggling: the amount of food and booze that is consumed daily, massive laundry facilities, dozens of grounds keepers and beach cleaners and energetic bands of event “organizers/advisors.”

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I experienced the local medical system with a trip to emerg to attend to an internal infection. First up, who’s paying? Then photo copies of any insurance documents including my Mastercard before application of stethoscope! The consensus was I needed to stay overnight for more tests. That wasn’t going to happen given I was “on their meter!” Self medication and all was right...

March 29, Well, I'm back on AZ after 8500K of air travel and almost 24 hours of airports, highways and gas bars. Will hang here until I get a phone call from Richard in Panama who wants to meet me in Ft. Lauderdale, April 2 or 3. He needs some parts and he claims it's cheaper to fly there and back that ship the materials. I will determine EXACTLY what his schedule for departure might be. My guess is that I'll be firing up the Cit and heading back North rather than wait any longer...

April 1, In preparation for driving north, I thought I’d take the pragmatic step of taking the Cit into a local lube/oil change joint in LaBelle. A quick Google search, resulted in an appointment with  Captain’s Quick Lube, an outdoor facility run by three huge Latinos. They were nonplussed by the car, drained and refilled the crank, checked tire pressures and other levels and took the lube gun to over 20 fittings in and around the front suspension. The bill came to $30!

If the internet gods cooperate, I might be able to post a few words from the highways and biwys on the way home.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

photos for previous post!

Can't seem to get a grip on this process! I did try to include these photos with the "Below the Mason-Dixon Line" blog... no big deal, so here they are...

Friday, 18 March 2016

below the Mason-Dixon Line

Thursday, March 10. 2016, 8:00am: Sitting in the passengers’ lounge aboard the NC Highway Dept ferry, CEDAR ISLAND making the crossing from Ocracoke Island to Cedar Island.

This is our second ferry crossing: first one only an hour from Cape Hatteras to Ocracoke Island, then a few more miles on Highway 12 to the southern tip of Ocracoke Island. It takes two hours to cross the Pamlico Sound, part of the Intra-Coastal Waterway. Last time I crossed this body of water was aboard IB on my way back to Ontario from Antigua. Both ferries are part of the NC highway system, the first one was free and the 2nd, a whopping $15 (US , of course... so about $20 in hoser bucks).

First observations: few passengers get out of their vehicles, most sit and scroll, amenities consist of a few vending machines, heads and not much else!

The Hatteras outer banks are a spectacular, very narrow band of sand dunes sitting out in the Atlantic Ocean that have claimed countless vessels over the past two centuries; the Cape Hatteras light house is one of the most recognized and “feared” lighthouses in North America. Most recreational sailors avoid “going outside” and try to enter into the ICW somewhere in the Carolinas.

Sadly, from my perspective, this lovely barren stretch of land is now bisected by a four lane highway that is even being increased to six lanes in some sections. So, what used to be a two lane transportation corridor for mostly local fisher folks has become the “highway of
the hurried.” Our steady 80K (50mph) created trains of vehicles behind us that required us to pull over and wave them by. I’m sure that our current pace of travel has lead to the demise of most “mom and pop” stores, restaurants gas stations, motels and other businesses to give way to the franchises with their huge signs and “come hither” logos.

“Rosie” has behaved in an exemplary fashion, started up many friendly and interesting conservation's, been snapped constantly and  elicited dozens of thumbs up from passing traffic, primarily bikers.

Friday, March 11, Charleston, SC. Warming up, beautiful city, stunning architecture and a real “rebel” vibe. Even in March, the throngs are filling restaurants, B&Bs and tour buses. What most of us don’t see are the areas of poverty that sit to the side of and below the interstate. We made a navigational error and wound up “touring” several of those neighborhoods.

Yesterday, another navigational error resulted in the discovery of a relatively new micro-brewery in an old hardware distribution centre and door factory. Waterline Brewing Co., Wilmington, NC, started up by a couple of 50 somethings who had combined all their retirement funds to get the business up and running. They offered about 8 selections on tap. We sampled most. Their delivery vehicle was a 60s Ford Falcon to which they were planning on adding a funky van of some sort down the road.

Destination achieved: Amelia Island late Friday afternoon. Still managed to get in a walk around of an interesting display of vehicles by Nostalgia Cars. Many were “evocations” in plain speak, copies or reproductions. The top estimate for their auction was in the mid half-million range. Pikers, given the offerings from the major auction houses!

Rosie continues to impress us with her willingness to maintain a steady pace all day long. I had anticipated she might overheat as the weather warmed but so far so good. She is a magnet for conversation except, and this is most interesting: when we pitched up at the Nostalgia marquees and parked amidst their various offerings, two of their staff wandered out for a smoke and chat, stood right next to Rosie, never so much as glanced at her, asked us a question or looked over their shoulders when we fired her up and backed away. They’re hustlers, or in car auction speak, “investment advisors,” not motorheads.

Saturday morning, March 12, we pointed the Citroen towards the big auction and concours d’elegance. A bajillion bucks worth of four wheeled fantasies were laid out in all their glory all over a golf course, strewn around the main auction tent and quite a few sprinkled in the various parking areas. Impressive, yeah, I guess. Over the top would be more accurate. Enjoyed a conversation with a serious Bentley collector who said, “I wish I could do what you fellows are doing. When I asked why he couldn’t drive any of his cars, he said that he didn’t have time and was constantly trading up and had to keep working to support his habit! He even restored a wooden Riva power boat, one of the most beautiful marine creations but he never even got it wet!

After listening to the auction for an hour and right after a car crossed the block for well over a mil, Chris and I decided that it was time to hit the road again. So we pointed Rosie south and within a half hour came across the Callahan Cruisers of North Florida show and shine in a mall parking lot. We spent a delightful hour or so checking out the local hardware and answering copious questions about the Citroen. Friendly, tough and engaging Florida Crackers who were more animated and interesting than some of the bloated bags of money at Amelia.

Monday the 14th, 10am, aboard AMARA ZEE in LaBelle, Florida, virtually in the middle of the Okeechobee swamp. We were greeted by Paul and Nans at 11:30pm last night waving flashlights at the entrance to a very dark driveway that lead to, what turned out to be, a quite modern marina tucked away adjacent to the Okeechobee Canal.

The drive from Cocoa, after an early dinner with Jeanette and Peggy, old friends of my mum's, was uneventful but mostly in the dark. Managed to get in a nap on Jeanette’s porch overlooking Lake Worth; something I’ve enjoyed several times over the past 30+ years. Her house, over 100 years old, is one of the few remaining real “Florida houses:” cyprus, pine, huge screened porch (now glassed in) and perched on cinder blocks. They have had a clear view of Cape Canaveral's NASA launch pad for all the significant events in the US space program.

Great to see Paul and Nans again to sit in AZ’s salon, catching up with recent history and meeting new crew members. It always feels like coming to my second home.

Tuesday, March 15, pointed Rosie south again towards the megalopolis of Miami. Destination: Bay With No Name south of the city in Biscayne Bay. There we were welcomed aboard CICINDELLA, a 26’ bilge keel boat that Chris’s daughter, Hannah had sailed down from Belleville. Two days of lolling around, a couple of dinghy races and the required drive along Ocean Boulevard, the Art Deco stretch of Highway A1A were all I could handle of Miami.

Thursday, back behind the wheel and back to LaBelle for a fascinating dinner aboard AZ with a few of the marina denizens sitting around the AZ’s exotic main salon. Friday, mostly a day of hanging out on AZ, getting one of the main engines running, watching a couple of the young crew chip away at rusted segments of the decking and catching up with Paul and Nans’ adventures.

I will head for Sarasota via Fort Meyers on Saturday. Will stop in at meeting of the Calossahatchee River Watchers in the morning. The two organizers were aboard AZ earlier and I got a chance to tell them about the DocFest screening of WATERMARK last year and the Q&A that followed. Early Sunday morning, I fly to Pearson to meet Penny, daughter Allsion and son-in-law, Phil for a week in the Dominican. I’ll continue my Florida road trip on the 28th. Stand by...

Monday, 7 March 2016

Getting started...

Monday, March 7, Elmira, NY: uneventful, relatively hassle-free, 10 hours on the road given the age of the vehicle and its primary driver. Co-driver, Chris Verra, is scrolling through his "smart" phone frantically to find a video he shot today to upload for all your collective edifications...