Canoe Island’s Cataclysmic Storm (part 2)

‘What doesn’t kill you will only make you Stronger’


By Guest Writer: Luke Player

Continued from Part 1

canoe island2

Around six in the evening, the canoe finally drifted into the little cove on the island.  They carefully unloaded the gear to assure it would remain dry.  They set up the tent, threw the sleeping bags inside and paddled off to Echo Rock.  As they paddled, Luke looked up at the rock cliff, and he began to remember the first time he had jumped from Echo Rock.  He recalled the mixture of exhilaration and frightening feelings, as he slowly scaled the naturally laid stones to the precarious ledge which opened to a panoramic view of the bay.  Local history has it that in the late nineteenth century, before roads were built in the area, a steamship that supplied the towns of Maggie River and Almond Harbour caught fire and sank in the bay.  On a clear day, one can still see the timbers of the old steamship from the ledge at Echo Rock.

jump from rock

They docked the canoe to the side of the majestic rock surface and tied a line to a birch tree conveniently overhanging the surface of the water.  Like most hot July days in the north, the day’s end was a subtle transition into a long, warm evening, with the heat of the day still prevalent in the mid-summer air.  On this particular day, the late evening temperature was higher than usual.  As he dove through the air, he anticipated the cool feel of the water on his sweltering body.  After thirty minutes of climbing and diving, they were both ready to retire for the evening.  They jumped back into the canoe and headed toward the tiny island campsite, just three hundred yards in front of them.

As the distinctive sound of crickets filled the air, accompanied by the multitude of mysterious sounds from other diverse night creatures, the sun’s powerful radiance created a timeless portrait on the night’s western sky.

sunset on water
Courtesy of ‘Nature’s Knocking’ Blog on WordPress

The buzz of thousands of mosquitoes hovering over the surface of the water were silhouetted by the red glow of the sunset.  The night became animated in sound and the peculiar northern environment came alive with tranquil vitality.

campfire and canoe

The time was 9:30pm.  Jason started a small fire and they cooked a meal of beans and wieners as they quietly watched the flickering flames.  Luke turned and asked Jason a question and he was surprised to see him already heading for the tent to go to sleep.  Just then, he looked up at the night sky and saw a ring of clouds forming in the western horizon.  Suddenly, he heard a splash on the other side of the island.  He ran over to a barren rock-shelf and flashed his light in the rippling water.


A big snapping turtle appeared in the dark water below him.  The characteristic hooked head and long tail on the lonely reptile gave it a sinister look as it frantically swam away from the light.  As he looked over the water, the rain then began.  Nevertheless, Luke doused the fire and headed for the tent.

The air in the tent was hot, but after a while the rain’s hypnotic sound on the tent softly lulled him to sleep as it quenched the night air of its sticky heat.  The wind was picking up as the sound of trees bowed to its might and it could be heard all around the tiny island.

Suddenly, Luke awoke.  He looked out the tent window and saw a flash of light in the night sky.  Just heat lightening, he optimistically thought, as he drifted again into a twilight sleep.

Twenty minutes later, however, the tent abruptly shifted as the wind became strong and severe.  They were both awake now and wondered if this was a smart time to get off the island.

white water

Luke looked out the window of the tent at a tiny porch light, about a quarter of a mile up the lake.  The light flickered and went out.  A power-line must have gone down, he thought to himself.  He realized then that this was not a normal storm.  As he looked out at the turbulent lake and heard the white waves hit the shore of the island, he knew they were trapped.

The canoe could easily capsize if they took the chance to reach the nearest shelter.  The storm raged on, and with every flash of lightening their fear rose as they waited for the inevitable clap of thunder, which sounded so close it shook the tiny island and rang in their ears as a warning of its fury.

Luke reminded himself and his young nephew not to panic.  The combination of rain, wind and lightening became so intense that they were forced to yell at each other to communicate over the furious tempest.

What could they do?

Their bodies were drenched from the deluge of rain.  They were sitting ducks in the midst of a powerful storm.  The lightening flashed with great intensity and they both knew that they could be electrocuted at any second.

The time slowed to endless crawl.  The lightening crashed down so close that the ground was alive underneath them.  Fear became their greatest enemy.  Luke thought about the headlines in tomorrow’s local paper:

Two Careless Canoeists Swept To Death Camping On Tiny Island

They had to act!

They both jumped out of the tent and into a blinding shower of rain.  They had to get to the canoe to get off the storm-besieged island.  They looked in amazement when they realized the canoe had flipped over and dislodged itself from its original place high up on the rock.  The tie-line had torn off the tree limb.  They were just in time!  Luke had to get to the canoe before it was swept away into the deep water of the lake.  He dove into the tumultuous water and came up on the other side of the canoe.  The waves lapped against his head and he luckily braced himself on the bottom of the lake, pushing the canoe into the island’s rocky shore.  Jason grabbed the tie-line and they lifted the canoe up and over, to empty it of water.

lighteningThe lightening flashed and they saw its giant forks crash into a tree near Echo Rock, splitting it in half with ease.  But, they were paralyzed with fear and decided they had to wait it out in the water-soaked tent.  Going out on the lake now would put them in more danger.

It was three in the morning, and the storm had raged for more than three hours.  At three-thirty, the lightening and the wind began to subside and they were ready to risk an escape in an empty canoe.

They placed the canoe in the water and paddled for the nearest cottage with all their might.  The lake was still rough and the white waves became a formidable obstacle in the dark.

The wind gusted unpredictably.  The canoe turned abruptly and the waves haphazardly hit the side of the tiny craft, pushing it into the bay.  Luke started having second thoughts about their decision to cross over to the cottage on the mainland, but they could not turn back now.

The cold rain dripped from their weary faces as water lapped over the sides of the canoe.

The wind subsided and attacked like a bull on a rampage.  After forty-five minutes of wind and waves, Luke pointed to the dock in excitement.  Just as hope became alive in them, a colossal wave rolled mightily over the side of the canoe, sweeping them into the uproarious lake.

Fortunately, Luke and Jason were both strong swimmers and they did not panic easily.  The night seemed endless and surreal as the dark water encompassed their every thought.  Luke then looked behind him and saw the protruding dock just a few feet away.

They had made it….


Luke opened his eyes and it took a few moments to realize where his exhausted body had fallen two hours before, in the dark.  The water was now calm as the early rays of the sun shone over the tree-line in the east.  The canoe was rhythmically hitting the rocks just twenty feet to the left of the dock.  As Luke’s eyes came into focus, he thought that the once proud craft looked broken and demoralized as the water swelled over its humble crescent form.

A man then appeared on the dock and told them about the tornado that had touched down in the area.  They suddenly realized that the storm had left a path of destruction, with immense pine trees split in half and cottages with trees leaning on them, precariously.

As Luke and Jason drove out onto the main highway, they looked in wonder at the legacy of the storm.  It was a storm that would be well-remembered by the two fortunate survivors.

Luke turned to his nephew and said:

A philosopher by the name of Nietzsche once wrote what I am feeling right now…

‘What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.’

canoe on sand

Leave a comment!  I love ’em and the guest writer, Luke Player, will love ’em too!

(All photos were found on google images and pinterest and )

Canoe Island’s Cataclysmic Storm (part 1)

~Guest submission by Luke Player~

Here’s a fabulous adventure and survival story from my little bro.  Prepare to be very, very scared.  Shivering in your boots and thanking your lucky stars that you’re dry and warm as you read…

tree tops

The winding country road was once again under construction.  In the twenty-six years both as passenger and driver on that road, Luke had witnessed few changes in the 14-kilometer trek from Rex Falls to the town of Maggie River.  Every inch was etched in his mind: every bump to avoid; every curve that had caused a fatal accident; every long hill that brought back the rush of deliberate speed of bike trips as a teen; every business sign battered and torn by winter’s cold and every cozy structure that lined the highway with backyards of dense forest or boggy swamp with poorly rooted trees leaning loosely to one side.

highwayThis road often triggered a set of paradoxical emotions, with both excitement and melancholy.  Every turned corner held another vividly colourful memory of childhood summers. Driving to town with siblings to do errands was always a treat and the family’s weekly trip to church brought all of us together to share in the week’s joys and sorrows.  Luke’s reflections were suddenly cut off by an unexpected bump and the long rough sound of gravel under the car’s wheels.

The heat of this July day was exceptional.  Luke casually observed the straggling construction crew, noticing the look of dogged monotony in the eyes of one anonymous worker, draped in the ubiquitous orange which made him stand out like a flash of fire at the side of the road.  He thought to himself that the sign in his hand was more than a warning to drivers to slow down; it was a warning as well to slow down before the power of the sun stripped them all of their energy.

As he turned another corner, just before entering the camp, he reminded himself to stop at the spring on High Road for some cold water.  He could remember as a small child looking down at the bubbles in the crude wooden box which contained the spring water.  His mother dunked the neck of the water jugs to fill them as she commented (with a pained smile) on how perfectly cold the water was on her hands.  Today, the old wooden box has been replaced by the modernized well and tap that create the seemingly never-ending sound of water on the smooth, polished rock below.


Luke bent down for a long drink and he noticed a tiny bright green frog playing in the stream of spring water.  As a child, he caught the same tiny green frogs for the purpose of scaring his big sister with the slippery creatures.  He splashed cold water on his face and the memory was driven away with a feeling of cool, refreshing relief.

springHe filled the jugs, threw them in the back seat and was confident that in a few minutes he would be unabashedly running to dive in the lake that he had known all his life.

As he finally neared the entrance to the camp, that old familiar anticipation rose in his being.  He looked to his left and saw that the sprawling bay was unusually calm except for the group of children diving off the raft near the beach.  Even though the raft was far away, he knew they were his boisterous teenage nephews.  He turned into the old camp road, reducing his speed, as the car rolled gently over the incorrigible rutted grass-line, cutting the rugged road in half with long green grass.  He then drove straight for the beach.

He parked under the natural shade of an old pine tree, quickly exited the car and did a running dive into the water.  As he swam in slow motion under the water, his heat exhaustion was washed away.  He thought to himself about an ongoing contest he once had with his sister Morgan, in which they had devised an underwater race, with the winner being the first to come up to the surface and touch the raft.boy jumping off raft

He reached the raft and called to his eldest sister’s oldest son, who was swimming about ten feet to his right.  The last time they had talked in May, they had decided on canoeing up the lake, and all they had to do now was decide when to go.

They had planned to paddle to the small island, approximately ten kilometers up Eight-Mile Lake, near a gigantic landmark by the name of Echo Rock.  It is the name for a place where one can climb up 50 feet to dive into the deep water below, with the Precambrian wall of rock providing a unique, natural location for diving.

echo rock

The water was extraordinarily calm as they started up the lake.  It made the canoe’s speed easy to increase over the glass-like water.  The afternoon heat was overpowering in the middle of the lake; so they headed over to the shoreline, to allow for the natural shade of the over-hanging trees.

As they paddled through a narrow stretch of the lake, they kept their eyes on a well-known wooden bridge which gave access to a dock for a group of cottagers.  The canoe skimmed briskly over the serene waters of Eight-Mile Lake.  As Luke looked down into the water, he saw the flash of rock and dead tree stumps, but they were just deep enough to be missed by the canoe, and Luke thought that the canoe is truly a superior water craft, for it can intimately explore every inch of a lake.  He would soon think a little differently about it…


…Continued at Canoe Island’s Cataclysmic Storm part 2


(all pictures courtesy of Google images except the highway and the two spring pics which are from ‘Nature’s Knocking’ Blog on WordPress)

Crazy Train 🚂 (part 2) Cuba 🇨🇺

So, no, woman, no cry.
No, woman, no cry.
I say, oh, little—oh, little darlin’, don’t shed no tears.
No, woman, no cry. Eh.
~Bob Marely

Continued from Crazy Train (part 1)…

My brother Mark and his wife and my sister Amy and I had tickets for a week in Cuba and I was determined to go.  I was looking forward to getting out of our messed up house with it’s temporary kitchen and dust everywhere.  I was determined to go.  I may have mentioned that already.  I figured it would do my cough good to get into the sun even though I had coughed up a bit of blood earlier that day.

When I met my sister Amy at the Toronto airport she noticed immediately that I was holding my body rigidly.  Her big blue eyes searched my face as she asked me if I was okay. My green eyes began to water as I said: I have a few problems right now.

Cue the ominous music

The first two days in Cuba were fine.  We walked on the beach and swam and laughed and Mark played his guitar and we all sang a whole lot but, my bronchitis was not improving.

It was worsening.

Amy, Mark and Irene went out in the evening to watch the band.  I was going to stay and rest, I said.  Mark was going to play a song and he was looking forward to that.  Our rooms were about a five minute walk to the area on the beach where the music was to be performed.  After they left, I decided to put something comfortable on and walk over and stand in the sand to just listen.  By the time I walked the walkway to the beach, tears were streaming down my face due to the beauty everywhere and how frightened I was of what lay ahead.  I knew it would be psychosis and psychosis can be a very scary place.

Someone in the band saw me crying and he whispered to his band mate.  Suddenly they were playing, ‘No Woman No Cry‘ by Bob Marley.  I just bawled some more at how sweet they were to try and help me with their music.  I realized again just how much I love Cuba.

However, I could not sleep.

I would lay in bed staring at the ceiling and then, by the third night, the visions and the outrageous thoughts started: I was the Virgin Mary. I was the one meant to save the world. There was a numerology aspect.  I was born on 03-03-66. Leo was born on 09-08-99. I was 33 when he was born.  Mom was born in 16-06-30 and she had been 36 when I was born.  My business was Incorporated on 06-06-06. So, lot’s of threes (and sixes and nines, all divisible by three).  There were three in my family.  Three was a special number, as a former Catholic I knew this well.  The number of the Holy Trinity in Christianity.  My mind churned these thoughts — twisting and turning them, over and over.

Then, I was having conversations with God. The Player family would all be saved from the coming world crisis if we gathered on a tropical island together. My pulse raced.  My stomach churned with butterflies.  My bowels turned to liquid.  I was all keyed up and it was impossible to sleep. Mania was taking over my mind and I was familiar with it. All aboard the crazy train folks…

railroad, abandoned

Things rapidly deteriorated from that point.  Luckily our week was almost up.  Mark and his wife began furtive preparations for home while Amy watched over me. I just wanted to walk around the resort and connect with every possible person in my vicinity. Mark and Amy were worried I wouldn’t be permitted on the flight if I was acting too manic, so Amy and I went to the medical clinic where a very kind and gentle doctor, while holding my hand, shot a huge syringe of tranquilizer into each cheek of my ass.   Amy said that it was enough tranquilizer to drop a horse.  But guess what, I was still manic with no tranquility in sight.  I popped off the bed like the Energizer bunny.  By the time we got to the airport though, I was much more calm but still no sleep.  I should have been slumped over, drooling, in deep sleep.

Now, I was taking the hands of total strangers, gazing deeply into their eyes and telling them all about their lives and how to improve it.  Funnily enough, people seemed to really want to hear what I was saying to them.  It was bizarre.  One man told me I was the most honest person he had ever spoken to.  Meanwhile, my brother Mark was running around trying to keep me safe and to act normal so that the airline people would allow me to fly.  I, of course, was oblivious by this point.

Next up….Crazy Train (part 3)

girl on tracks

Make Work Your Favorite part 2, age 16 +

Continued from Make Work Your Favorite, part 1

Mom had been a classic Bipolar 1.  When she was pregnant or nursing, which was a lot of the time until she was age 42 and had weened Luke, she did not have symptoms of mental illness.

But, then it hit and it hit hard.

She was hospitalized with full on psychosis several times in the seventies.  I remember waking up around age six and walking around looking for mom.  No one would tell me that she had been taken to the hospital: 5C – the psyche ward. (Who would know then that in thirty years time, I would have my first big struggle with mental illness.)

She was there for weeks.  We would go visit her and it was like she was a different person.  She was in a fog.  It was heart wrenching.  I missed her so badly. I just wanted my mommy back.  I would cry myself to sleep missing her so much. She would sometimes be smoking when we visited.  smokingI couldn’t believe my eyes, not because she was smoking in a hospital but, because she was smoking period.  Mom was always careful to be healthy otherwise.  (Back then you could smoke in parts of the hospital, office buildings, on planes, name it.)

In the summer, at the lake, Mom would become more and more manic.  Her manic energy was put to good use with cleaning and maintaining the ten cabins that we moved to every summer.  Lock, stock and barrel, all nine of us would move two hours North to the camp and live on the lake all summer – running the tourist resort – as it used to be known.  It was truly beautiful there: twenty-one forested acres, half-mile of lake frontage, only two miles from a village for supplies, ten antique, rustic cabins on private lots with tall trees, most cabins on the water with their own dock and a sandy beach.

Jaden and frog

For many years we even had a diving tower and trampoline over the water.  Dad’s idea.  Dad being a teacher, had envisioned the need for a business and an escape from the city. (We would have killed each other staying in the city all summer.  No doubt about it.) It was pure genius and is one of those things I loved about my Dad.  He had these great ideas at times.


We enjoyed idyllic summers – running around barefoot, swimming, boating, water-skiing, canoeing and socializing with all the campers.  Yes, we had work and chores, but, we were paid a bit for them and it was just a couple of hours a day.  Our summers at the camp were the envy of my friends.  In fact, many of my friends would come to the camp, either to stay with us in the office or as paying guests and stay in a cabin or tent.


In the years before Mom was on lithium to control her mental illness, I remember waking up early to find Mom’s bed empty.  She would already be out there working, fueled by the mania.  Dad was much more sedentary.  He would do all of the business-end of things: letters, bills, payments, promotions.  All this to say, that mom’s mental illness was raging on, unchecked for several years.  From readings I have done, because I too am bipolar 1 the more episodes there are the more easily an episode will occur.  The brain makes these pathways that become easier and easier to follow and so sanity slips further and further away.  So, to be fair to Dad, it could not have been easy dealing with this major impediment, especially in the days when mental illness was not one bit understood and highly stigmatized.  When Mom finally went on lithium, and stayed on lithium, things were so much better.

flowers in wheelbarrow***

This post being about jobs and work would be incomplete without this little story that took place at July’s Restaurant in the town on Eight-Mile Lake.  I worked there for five summers in a row but, I wasn’t the first in my family to work at July’s.  My eldest sister Eva had worked there a decade prior to me.  Eva would sometime recount one of her most embarrassing moments while working there.

This guy, we’ll call him, Buddy.  Well, Buddy would come into the restaurant almost daily,.  He would take a seat in the kitchen beside the coffee maker in the mid-afternoon when it wasn’t too busy.  He would just sit and chat up the kitchen staff and the servers as they would come and go from the kitchen.

So, this one day, Eva walks into the kitchen, ever friendly, upon seeing Buddy sitting there, slaps him on the back and asks him how the heck he is doing today.

That would have been all fine except that when she slapped him on the back, Buddy’s toupee went flying off his headtopee


landed a few feet away on the kitchen floor.

Silence.  Crickets.

With a very red face, Eva quickly grabbed the toupee off the floor.

Put it back on Buddy’s head.

Smoothed it out.

And told him: ‘You have very nice hair.’

She then, turned and walked into the dining room.


All photos except the frog and baby are from google images.  Frog and Baby photo by Nancy Borman of Virginia, USA. Thanks again Nancy~

~Leave a comment…I Love ’em!



Near Death Experiences

As I stand alone at the window
In search for what I cannot see
I wonder to what might show
Some of you or all about me.

This poem is a guest submission to my blog.  It was written by an old high school friend who, almost nine years ago, had a freak, totally sober accident with a patio door that, when it broke, nearly severed his arm.  He almost bled to death in front of his family.  How completely scary that at any moment, anything could happen to any of us.  Al explained to me that he had to learn to write with his other hand.  He said the body is an amazing machine.  Don’t I know it, Al.  Our bodies do so much for us and walk us on this Earth.  Al said he didn’t start writing poetry because of the accident, but, that his poetry became much deeper and intuitive because of it. Here’s his poem.

A Poem By:   Allan Edward (Po Po) Kinsella

 S E A R C H I N G – H I D I N G  B E H I N D  O F  M Y S E L F

As I stand all alone at the window

In search for what I cannot see

I wonder to what might show

Some of you or all about me.

I often will hide what I’m thinking

Or disguise it with something else

When in reality it is simple

I’m hiding behind of myself.

The sun and the moon I do turn too

For answers I simply can’t find

The thoughts and tears of a lifetime

Once left in a time way behind.

I realize the answers not out there

Not found in the moments gone by

To find them I need to stop searching

And look in the mirror inside.

Al in high school

So, lately, I was looking through some old yearbooks and came across this adorable picture of Al. An old friend from high school in a place three provinces away.  I always liked Al.  Everyone likes Al.  Such an easy going, nice person.  Because I reached out to him, due to this picture, he is now going to bring out his poetry to be read by others.

You GO Al!

Leave a comment about your near death experience (or one from someone close to you).  Did it change you?  Did you learn something?  Tell me…I love it!

RMC, Comox and Borden Oh My ~ Army Part 3

Leaving Roads in second year finds me flailing until Logistics Training a year later.
It was worth it…

Come the summer of ’87, after first year at Royal Roads Military College, it was time to take French courses at Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario. RMC is set on several areas with significant lake frontage and several huge piers on Lake Ontario. That summer was a lot of fun. Being in the city of Kingston was exciting and the summer sun would see us laying out on the big docks on campus and running and jumping off the piers and swimming in Lake Ontario.

That was the summer my friend and I met a couple of guys while driving on the 401 to Toronto. Communications were done not by cell phone, which were almost nonexistent, but at high-speed via black sharpies and large note pads. Writing greetings and then holding them up to the window for the fellas in the nearby car to read. We ended up asking them, by note, to meet us in downtown Toronto at Mr. Green Jeans restaurant in the Toronto Eaton’s Centre. They made it! And, we had a chatty dinner with them: Doug and J.R.. Afterward, we went to the Hard Rock Café until my bus was ready to depart for Walden.

J.R. and I ended up seeing each other all summer, but, alas, then it was time for me to go back to Victoria, BC. Interestingly, he was a southern lad and an Infantry lieutenant in the US Army and was stationed across the border from Kingston in Fort Drum near Watertown, NY.  I’ll never forget the fun of how we met.  So random.  So different.

Second year began at Royal Roads Military College (RRMC). But, my heart was not in it. I didn’t enjoy the academics. Most of my Profs were mind-numbingly boring or struggled with the English language, even my English prof.  (To be fair, I did really like my Chemistry and History profs). It was not how I wanted to spend my time. I asked to be entered into the program allowing a cadet to go straight into a career posting. I got it, but it was not until the following year. I was told I would become an Army Logistics Officer and that training would begin in October 1988 in Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden, Ontario.

Okay great, but, what would happen to me for the year???

For several months I was put to work in the Castle. Hatley Castle at RRMC. Severely boring work, just managing paper and simple tasks. I had to do quite a bit of photocopying and would inevitably run into this same civilian woman who had been working there for decades. She would coldly ask me every time I saw her: ‘So….you’re still here are ya?’

Hmmm. Thanks.  I would not speak for fear of crying.  It was so mean.  Her cold and judgmental attitude. It’s not like I wasn’t already feeling like a fish out of water.  I would just nod and smile, not daring to open my mouth.

Mt Washington

In the winter, the best thing to happen was that I was sent on a week-long ski trip to Mount Washington with several others working in the castle as well as some members from CFB Esquimalt.  Classified as ‘Adventure Training’ so all expenses covered.  After unpacking our gear in our quarters, a bunch of us went out to a pub and shared jugs of beer and danced and danced and danced.  It was going to be a good week.  And it was.  I was so needing that week away and outlet in exercise and fresh air with a fun group.  The skiing was incredible with tons of fresh white stuff and ‘The Black Chair’ pub at the end of the day where we would gather to share snacks and beer and just shoot the shit.

CFB ComoxAfter a couple months, I was sent to CFB Comox, BC, up island, for administration support at the Air Traffic Control Tower. That was interesting. Ironically, the best thing about it was learning how to use a new word processor called Word Perfect. That came in handy later.

One time, at the mess (which is like a pub but only for Officers), I was fortunate enough to be in the company of the highly skilled Snowbird Team still dressed in their flight suits.  We shared a few drinks, played darts and made jokes.  One joke that I made was about my colourful vest.  That it looked rather like I had ‘killed’ my couch.  The beer helped make that one funny.  They laughed, just to be nice.


I began playing on a slow pitch team and met some good folks. One of them was Stevie. Steve was a lumberjack up in Tofino. He was also an avid mountain biker. He and his buddy and I would go on mountain biking day trips to Denman and Hornby Islands. Challenging trails but extremely fun too. Stevie taught me all about mountain biking. I entered a 75 k race over a hill on a logging road. It was a sweaty experience and my ass was sore for days.

Suddenly, it was time to go East for training in logistics.


I bought a new little car: a 1988 Chevrolet Sprint, 3 cylinder. I began the journey across Canada, stopping each night in a flea-bitten crap motel advertising colour tv, my ass sore and my eyes glazed over from the miles and miles of the day. It took me six days to arrive in Leeford, Ontario at my eldest sister Eva’s house. I scared the living be-jesus out of her walking into the house unannounced and finding her concentrating on something with her back to me. She was so happy to see me, jumping up and down, screaming, crying and hugging me. No kidding. We Players take our greetings seriously. She wanted to know how long I could stay. I told her about heading to Borden for a course the next day. I could stay only one night. It was a nice time and we caught up on all the news.  I saw her again on various weekends and usually with a friend.

It was a couple of hours drive to Base Borden where I started my clearing in process: getting the key to my barrack room mainly. Classes started the very next morning for the Basic Logistics Officers Course.

The first person I met on the course is now my husband.

I walked into the training building out of the rain on that chill October morning and shrugged out of my army issue trench coat.  With my right hand, I reached up to hang it on a hook, one of many along the corridor.  Just as I did so, my gaze shifted left and my eyes met those of a new classmate.  He smiled and said, ‘Hi’.

I saw stars.  I literally saw stars.

I was instantly in love with this very good looking dark haired, green-eyed man who was grinning handsomely and looking down at me as his left hand reached to hang his coat.

I floated into class.

Later we had an English grammar test and He achieved a perfect score. I knew then that it was Him.

The one!

He was gorgeous, sweet, gentle and intelligent. When I saw him kick a soccer ball, I swooned. It was poetry in motion.  I began to pray…

Next:  Army Part 4

All photos except this tank are from google images.

Leave a comment…or, I’ll hunt you down!!

My Flute Playing Friend (age 17)

‘The greatest gift in life is friendship, and I have received it.’

~Hubert H. Humphrey

via Daily Prompt: Trill

When I was a teen, I played flute in the church choir.  My close friend, Harris, was a loyal church-goer and she asked me to join her.  We would play duets, or she would play solo and I would be able to turn the pages for her.  She was much more talented than I but, nevertheless, if we were both there, of course we would be trying to make each other laugh the whole time. Some of the hymns we loved were: Be Not Afraid and Like a Sunflower.  A song that still floats through my mind today when I am in the garden with my sunflowers.sunflower

Sometimes, while sitting in the choir area of the church beside Harris, way over to the left side of the altar, my mind would flit back to when I was a little girl in the choir of the Saturday Evening Folk Masses of the 1970s.  My eldest sister Eva, with her amazing soprano voice, her leadership and enthusiasm for music, would lead the whole congregation through folk songs like: Here We Are; and Kumbaya and Jesus is a Soul Man.  She would be right up front of the pews.  Her long, straight hair flicking from side to side as she would stride around motioning to the congregation to sing louder and stronger, tapping her tambourine on her leg.  The guitars strumming wildly.  Pride would be welling up through my little body as I sat in awe of my teenage sister.  Those folk masses were powerfully spiritual and I will never forget them.  Sadly, almost half a century later, my beloved sister Eva, for some unknown neurological reason, completely lost her hearing and consequently a god given talent – her ability to sing soprano.  It was a bitter pill to swallow for all of us who love her but, My God, especially for her.  Thankfully, a few years later, Eva was fitted with a Cochlear Implant but, she will tell you, it is not the same as hearing with your own ears and her ability to sing has been diminished almost completely.  Eva has told me that her voice no longer sounds like her own.  Tragic!

I digress….

One of the musical moves with a flute is a trill.  It is rapid alternation between two notes. I learned that in music class. Because of music class, in which we were seated beside each other, and because Harris was not the typical 19-year old, we become friends even though she was two years my senior.  We hit it off instantly and had so many fun times and laughs together.  On a daily basis we would find something to laugh about and double over with the hilarity of it. Like the name I have chosen for her in this story.  We were standing by her locker in the East wing of North High School when she told me about a classmate who called her ‘Harris’ by mistake.  From then on, she was ‘Harris’.  We would giggle every time it was said.  She had this wonderful sense of humour, and still does, I am sure.

She too was from a large family – I’m fairly certain her family wasn’t any where near as crazy as mine, though.  At the time we were friends, I was living down the basement of our bungalow with my Dad, with the upstairs rented out to strangers.  My Mom had moved into an apartment with my little brother, Luke, and her alcoholic boy-friend, Earl-the-Pearl.  I hated my home life with a great deal of passion.  I would arrive at the house with a sense of dread upon entering.  Ok, that is just wrong.  It was a messed-up way to live.  Consequently, Harris, and her wonderfully stable family were very important to me.  I spent a lot of time with her and them that year.  At one point I even dated her younger brother and we would all three hang out and sometimes their younger brother, Peer too, playing charades and the new game: Trivial Pursuit, which they were good at.  Really good.

We did some very fun things together.  One time, we canoed down a river near Walden.  Her Dad dropped us off and picked us up at the other end hours later – something my Dad would not dream of doing.  If it wasn’t about hockey, forget it.  That canoe trip was a very special time for me.  I loved that day with Harris and and her brother Fred.  They had a way of making me feel like a special person to them.  They knew how to treat me like a good friend.  I cherished them.

The school put on the musical Anything Goes that year and Harris and I were chorus members and dancers together.  We had an absolute blast with this.  During part of the dance, I had to pick her up and swing her from one of my hips to the other.  Try doing that without cracking up a few times. That musical turned out fantastically.  I remember my Dad was very skeptical about it.  He said I was wasting too much time on it.  Well, he came to opening night, sat in the front row and laughed his head off.  His booming laughter spurned others on and so the whole house was dying with laughter the whole night.  My Dad and I share the love of laughter, for sure.


Harris and Fred came up to the camp that summer.  They showed me how to gunnel-bob.  Two of us standing on the gunnels, or the ends, of the canoe and then taking turns bending knees to make the canoe move down, then up in the water until one of you falls in.  Oh my.  That was so fun!  We had a party in number eight cabin and although harmless, it got a bit loud.  Dad kicked Harris and Fred out of the camp the next day.  I was furious and sorely, blackly disappointed, not to mention embarrassed.  To this day, I really think Dad may have just simply been jealous of my friendship with these wonderful people.

The following year, Harris went away to University and although I would see her from time to time, it just never was the same.  I was progressing into a more and more dysfunctional evolution of myself.  I see now, that it wasn’t my fault.  I was a teen-child and I wasn’t supported.  Rather I was controlled and criticized and worse.

I will never forget the year that Harris and I were inseparable friends.  She was a god-send.

(All photos courtesy of google images)

Leave a comment!  I love ’em.  ~M

on hill

My Mil Col Experience (age 20) ~ Army Part 2

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

D.H. Lawrence

The word came down that after Basic Training, I would be going to Royal Roads Military College outside of Victoria, BC. I was told that the first month, or, ‘Recruit Term’ would be very difficult, but, that I should stay positive and it would pass quickly.  ‘Difficult’ was a gross understatement: Recruit Term was hell on earth. I cried myself to sleep every night.

RRMCA typical day of Recruit Term began with pounding rock music at 5:30 am. The wake-up song for our flight was April Wine’s What a Night. What a Night starts with a fire alarm bell mounted on a cymbal stand being rang at a fast pace. It truly was the perfect harsh sound to get the heart racing and the panic started for the drills of the day. We had until the end of the song to be up, dressed, toileted, bed made and ‘layout’ ready for inspection. Everything in the room had to be prepared to specific, exacting standards. For instance, our uniform shirts had to be folded to exactly 25 x 30 cm, ironed and TAPED into our top drawer. Socks had to be rolled into a tight little ball, in a specific manner that we were shown and TAPED into the drawer. Same with pants. Boots and leather gators had to be polished and spit-shone to a high-gloss. We had three uniforms in our closet which had to have all buttons done up and all lint removed and hanging exactly two inches apart with all sleeves perfectly positioned. The problem was, there was absolutely no free-time to do these things. So, we did them in the middle of the night and we were all quite sleep deprived already from basic training.

After morning inspection, we were run, that is: we ran over to the next building to the mess hall for breakfast where we would try to choke down some food but we were constantly being screamed at and ‘steadied up’ by our superiors.


At this point, with his face millimeters from mine, and he breathing terribly hard, hot breath, I would have to sit at attention with arms straight down my sides and with tight fists say, ‘YES MR MAYLOR. NO MR MAYLOR. I WILL DO BETTER MR MAYLOR’…suffice to say, with all of the interruptions and the stress of being inspected so closely by our superior cadets, it was nearly impossible to eat. After a couple of weeks of Recruit Term, my uniform pants were falling down as I ran.  Due to my past with anorexia, this would normally feel fine.  But, running with your pants falling off and senior cadets screaming at you, well, this was not so fine.

After breakfast there would be hours of panic drills where we were made to complete some task and then stand for inspection. It may be to lay out our stripped rifle with all parts displayed, by the end of the song. It may be to put on our dress uniform and then stand for inspection by the end of the song…remembering that our rooms and beds, trunks, cupboards, sink, desks and dresser had to be completely perfect, inside and out, not just our person. There was a lot of insults and yelling:



It went on for hours. There would be another run over to the next building for lunch and a parade muster before lunch where we would have to stand in completely straight lines and have our uniform looking sharp – which was impossible after the previous activities. We would all be sweating and salt-stained, shirt tails hanging out, pants drooping, laces untied, baret atilt on our heads, and females’ hair buns falling out. So more yelling and insults.




This is where we would march in place with knees as high as our waist, sweating profusely. Next, into the beautiful mess hall with white linen, silver, crystal and table service.  Now, try to eat while being examined and corrected by the Senior Cadets.  Not likely.

After lunch, we would be taken, you guessed it, running, sometimes with rifles (called a rifle-run), for an hour or so in the woods of the College grounds. The woods were absolutely peaceful and beautiful.  A temperate rain forest.  But sweat was dripping down my face and fear was in my heart.   Our physical fitness instructor was Mr Snellwood. He was a kinder soul and once, at the beginning of Recruit Term, he sat us all down in the woods and tried to reassure us that we would all pass recruit term, as long as we stayed diligent and showed that we were working hard. I was sitting there thinking about the three more weeks that had to be endured and a tear escaped, rolling down my cheek. I thought he was sweet and kind, but, I also had serious doubts about whether I would pass or could ‘keep up’ with this system.


We were allowed a two-minute shower after running and then we were back at the panic drills. Every now and then, something not-so-hard was offered. Like: Chapel visit, uniform fitting, tour of the incredible Japanese Gardens, or of the boat shed, or of Hatley Castle and then there were mini lectures like: etiquette in mess hall.  This was instruction on how to use all of the various cutlery and glasses that were part of a mess dinner function. As Officers, we would be attending these nice dinners several times per year, and we needed to know how to sit properly at a formal table and how to use the formal dining setting.

One time, they hauled us all out of bed at first light. And, I do mean, hauled. We were blind-folded and we were taken out into the back woods. This was the Escape and Evasion exercise. Our superior cadets were talking in bad Russian accents and we were to pretend that we had been captured by enemy forces. In the woods, they had us get down on our bellies and they told us that we would be set free and that there would be a prize for the first recruit to make it back to barracks without being re-captured. They left and we, the captured, all got up and removed the blind folds. We started wandering around. I hooked up with a couple of friends and we began to walk through the rainforest. We had no idea which way to go and it was a large area, acres and acres of woodland. After walking through the forest for a couple of hours, we came upon a huge blackberry patch just completely laden with huge, shining, juicy blackberries. We fell on it and started to gorge ourselves. I must have had blackberry juice all over my face. The berries were better than delicious. They were scrumptious. And no one to ‘steady us up’….we thought.

All of a sudden: RECRUITS HALT. HANDS UP. TURN AROUND! We were re-captured and would not be winning any prize today. The berries were worth it though.


After supper, we were given two-hours of study time, or time to do some tasks that they wanted us to do. One evening they told us to write an essay about our former lives so that our section commanders could get to know us better. I started off with the COSSA Basketball tournament that my Dad was coaching when I came along and then into the camp details and high school sportiness. I had heard our section commander say he was originally from Huntsville, Ontario which is just south of the where the camp is. So, I made sure to mention Huntsville. Later that evening, we gathered with our sister flight and some of the essays were read aloud. Mine was picked. I read it aloud and when I came to Huntsville, I looked up at Mr Maylor. He grinned at me. I had made a connection. Now I was a little more hopeful that I would make it through this hell month.  Mr. Maylor was a behemoth: well over six feet tall with huge shoulders and muscles.  This guy would strap the largest weights possible to his body then with veins bulging in biceps and face of stone, pump off chin-ups.  Many chin-ups.  I just had to be on his good side, I figured.

At bed time we had another routine to endure. We had to do 100 sit-ups in the hallway by pinning our toes under the heater and with knees bent and fingers laced behind the head, pump them off. There was a catch. We had to do 100 sit-ups, take a shower AND brush our teeth by the end of our ‘goodnight’ song: Stairway to Heaven (8 minutes).  Consequently, I did not wash my hair for 30 days. I kept it tightly braided and would wash just my bangs. There was one shower and two girl recruits on our flight. The two of us showered together. Writing this thirty years later, it seems bazaar that we would shower together. But we did. We just did.

On the final day of Recruit Term, we had the obstacle course and all recruits had to pass this final test. The Obstacle Course was a 5 km course through the woods with obstacles the whole way. Most of the obstacles involved dunking the head fully under into mud to say, get under a barrier or to jump over a barrier only to land fully in mud. There was a rope wall to climb with a fall into a muddy pond; balance-beam fast crossing of a mud river with a necessary dismount into…you guessed it…MUD. I looked up at one obstacle to see a boy from my street back in Walden (he had actually been a boyfriend of mine but was now dating Sally, my good friend since kindergarten.  They are still together three decades later).  Anyway, that guy was yelling at me, ‘GO! YOU CAN DO THIS MORGAN. YOU CAN DO THIS MORGAN PLAYER!’ – he kindly was not using the word recruit to cheer me on. I remember thinking in my exhausted haze that that was very kind of him.

The final obstacle, when knackered and with mud in every orifice, was to swim across a deep, lily-pad covered pond in combat boots. This was an individual test. Ironically, we were not allowed to help each other on any part of the obstacle course. Ironic because up until that moment it was ALL team work: ‘RECRUITS – STAY TOGETHER — YOU’RE ONLY AS STRONG AS YOU’RE WEAKEST LINK’, they would scream at us.  I recall thinking, when I got to the pond, this will be a piece of cake. This was due to all the swimming in my childhood and even in lily-pad covered ponds. Thank goodness I passed it. Afterwards I showered for 30 minutes but still had mud in my ears. I ended up passing Recruit Term at the top of my flight.  No idea how.

We then had a big celebration down at the cadet mess that was called, Decks. We had a big supper and lots of drinks. We had been told to dress up in nice civilian clothes or, ‘civvies’. Now we females were visually checked out by the senior cadets. As a young woman with certain healthy curves, long dark wavy hair, green eyes, straight, white teeth and full lips with a good fashion sense –I wore a blue knit, V-neck dress with a wide belt synched tightly around my tiny waist and leather pumps – I turned some heads at this celebration. (I was not beautiful, nor was I pretty, but, I was certainly attractive and the ratio of women to men was 1:8, so good odds that I would turn some heads). What a difference a shower, clean hair, some lipstick and civvies can make. It was a fun night. I should mention that I have not often shrank from having a fun time at parties.

The academic year began with classes, assignments, essays, exams and social experiences. The difference, at Military College is that almost every weekend was jam packed with military or varsity sport requirements in the form of parade and parade practice and athletic events and competitions. The schedule was brutal and cadets get very close, due to it.  One weekend we lost four cadets.  We were shattered.

cowichanOne long weekend, a friend – Cindy and I, decided to get off campus and away from it all. We had been more or less locked up for months and ready to just wear our jeans and hit the open road for a wee adventure.  With a back pack each, we hitch-hiked a couple hours up island to Lake Cowichan where we had booked a cabin for two nights. Our first ride got us most of the way there.  Then, we were stuck for a bit on some country road with the sun going down over the next hill.

‘This is nothing,’ I thought. ‘We’ve just passed through hell and found some freedom.  Nothin’ is getting me down now.’

On that note, a red pick-up pulled over to offer us a lift.  The man inside was more than a little scary looking with wild eyes and even wilder hair.  Cindy and I looked at each other, shrugged, and hopped in.  He turned out to be a decent fellow and he dropped us at our rented cabin.

Next: what should we do with our free evening?  We had heard tell of a dance in a countryside hall nearby.  We gussied ourselves up and with blue jeans and jean jackets and big hair (this was 1986 after all), off we went…only to find five or six of our classmate cadets already there.  Not sure how that happened exactly but it was sure to be fun. When you work hard, it only seems natural to also play hard.  That is what we did.  We basically started dancing and didn’t stop for hours.  At one point during Rock Lobster, we were all down on the hard-wood floor doing the worm.  Yes, just like it sounds. Squirming.  Full-body contact with the floor.  It was hilarious.  Likely one of the most fun nights of my entire life due to its spontaneity, timing, serendipity and remote location and laughter. We ended up meeting a couple of local fellows that night and took them back to our cabin.

Next Army Part 3

Please leave a comment…I LOVE ’em.


All photos are courtesy of google images.


The King of Korea 🇰🇷

For a couple of years in a row, we did this thing: we took in a boy from Korea for the month of January and the next year we took in he and his little brother.  Charlie and Joshua were something else (can you say, high maintenance?) and I have to say, when we finally said our goodbyes, I was wiping my brow.  Many parents asked us about our Korean visitors.  They could not believe that parents would send their young children half way around the world for a full month to stay with complete strangers (us).  We certainly could never do that with our son Leo.  The motivation, of course, was for them to learn to speak English.  Worth it to them.  Our motivation was to introduce Leo to other cultures and the idea of sharing his stuff (and us) with a temporary sibling or two.

At that time, Leo and Joshua were 7, Charlie was 8. From the get go, Charlie and Leo were pretty much opposites in most areas of life.  Charlie loved math and studying.  Leo loved to play, draw, run and build lego.  Charlie had a huge appetite, Leo not so much.  Charlie was a black belt at taekwondo, and at any given moment, he would run across the room and execute a seriously high kick which would miss someone’s face (mine included) by a fraction of an inch.  He was a maniac.  Leo was pretty chill, usually.

The morning Charlie arrived from Korea, we had some extra time before school after Charlie’s stare-down with his oatmeal – so I told Charlie he could play with Leo in Leo’s cubby.  Leo had this really cool tiny playroom off the kitchen that was actually the space over the stairs, and it was carpeted, with a light and door – almost fort-like. We painted it purple and added toys and called it his cubby.  I could see him while preparing food and it was ideal for that.  Anyway, Charlie said, ‘No, I must study.’  So, he sat with his University level math book and promptly fell asleep, exhausted from travel.  After a few repeat performances, I took Charlie aside and told him, ‘Charlie, look, you are here in Canada for a whole month.  Canadian kids play every chance they get.  Why not just go ahead and play while you are here?’  Charlie took my advice.  The following year though, I learned from Charlie that he had been ‘beaten’ by his mother because he had decided to play in his free time instead of studying.  So, let’s just look at that: your child is away from you for a whole month, on the other side of the world, gets home and you beat him because he decided to play with other children instead of study.  Oooookay.

Pond Skating 5

When the children would come in from outside, after skating, snow-ball fights or running around and tumbling in the snow, Charlie would ask excitedly, ‘I put inside clothes on now?’  Of course, we would always allow this, and of course this made him very happy.  He would then run and jump and almost kick someone in the face before running off to change.  I imagine back home in Korea, there must have been many more demands on his time…academies of all sorts that took place at various hours of the night.  Charlie had told us that he regularly got to sleep by midnight on school nights and then on Saturday and Sunday they would sleep until noon, then the fam would head out for a movie and supper and start the whole process over again Monday morning.  I was commenting to a friend that Charlie could play a gazillion instruments and was a math pro and my friend said, “When did he learn to play cello?  At 2 in the morning?”  Something like that.

Now, we live in a tiny little town of about 4000 residents and Charlie and Joshua came from Seoul (see picture above) with a cool 29 million souls.  Quite a big difference.  One evening, we were heading down the highway to the indoor soccer facility.  That road is dark in January and can be pretty sparse for traffic.  Charlie, in the back seat, says in wonder, “Where ARE we?”  He had never been on such a dark, fast road. My mind flicked back to our travels in Oz, when that was my daily litany.

dark highway

One day, I took the kids to a farm so they could see hens, goats, lamas, cows, sheep and pigs and so they could hold a warm egg, just laid (seeing as Charlie was eating three eggs every morning and a litre of goats milk).  Other outings were to indoor soccer, area hikes, sliding, skating, haircuts, music events and movies and restaurants but their favorite thing, by far, was bedtime when Dean would read aloud from one of Leo’s chapter books: A Single Shard,  by Linda Sue Park.  Three boys in pjs, teeth brushed and waiting for Dean to enter the room to read.  We had put a small cot for Leo in his room. Charlie and Joshua shared Leo’s big sleigh-bed that we had purchased from the Amish in Virginia when we lived there and when Leo was born.  I remember thinking that Leo was doing really well with all this sharing of his stuff.  I’m biased, of course, but Leo was always pretty sweet-natured about things like that, perhaps except when it came to Buzz.

Bedtime Story

Charlie really liked his food.  I would be making eggs in our large cast-iron pan at the stove in the morning and I would feel a presence by my side.  Suddenly a voice, ‘What are you making?’ After peeling myself off the ceiling, I would realize that it was Charlie.  He was inspecting.  He asked me to make his eggs a bit differently.  A quasi fried-scrambled kinda thing with ketchup.  We began to refer to Charlie as ‘The Inspector’.  He had high standards and he wanted to maintain them.  Initially, he would be eating his meal, with gusto, chopsticks flying, and he would moan, ‘more kimchi, more kimchi’.  We taught him to at least look up, meet our eyes and ask for more whatever with a ‘please’ on the end.  He cottoned on.  We weren’t his paid help, like he had at home.  He was a visitor in our home.  He got it.


Charlie kept us on our toes. Joshua was just easy, a quiet shadow of his older brother. One time, I arrived at the school yard to pick up Leo and Charlie.  Charlie was nowhere to be seen.  I ran around like a madwoman looking for him, my mind whirling with how I would explain this to his mom over in Korea.  Suddenly, there he was.  He had been in the car of the Korean man he had met at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.  Geez. Thanks a pant-load, Buddy.

Charlie would head into the bathroom on any given afternoon and after a bit, we would hear the toilet flushing about five times.  This always made Leo laugh.  Having a chauffeur at home, Charlie and Joshua hated the walk to school.  Granted, it was about a mile in snowpants and boots and we did it almost every school day, there and back.  One day, we got half way and he threw himself on the snowbank and would not get up.  When he didn’t get what he wanted he would say, ‘It feels me bad’.  We wrote a song about him called, ‘It Feels Me Bad, Baby‘.

To say goodbye to Charlie and Joshua, we hosted a bowling party at the area bowling alley and invited some friends.  It was a lot of fun.  We never saw Charlie and Joshua again, nor have we ever heard from them again.  From time to time, Dean and I will wonder aloud about what the boys must be doing these days.  We always imagine Charlie as the King of Korea.  Maybe he is?king-sejong

Cuatro a Cuba 🇨🇺

With the goal of getting back into World Travel now that our wee one is taller than us, we start with the sweet country of Cuba…

With our 18-year old son, Leo, having just finished up his first term of University, and his buddy, Reid, we decided to take a 12-day trip to Cuba…a non-resort trip…not exactly as strenuous as a ‘back-packing’ trip, per se, but a non-resort moving around trip none the less.  And, all in all, it was a fine adventure to finish off 2017 in a unique fashion.  Dean and I were also celebrating 25 years married and we wanted to do something special for the occasion.

We arrived in Havana in mid-December and made a bee-line first to the cadeca to change money, then to the tienda for a cold one each.  We had arranged a driver to take us to our place in Vedado, a trendy area of the city but, he was familiar with ‘Cuba Time’ and had no trouble just chilling until the four of us quenched our thirst after a long, rather sparse flight.  Don’t get me going but what the devil has happened to flights theses days?…I had told the boys of the days of unlimited free boozy drinks on flights and a full hot meal preceded by a warm towel for your face, neck and hands, blankets and pillows and head-sets handed to each traveler.  What the heck happened???  Now we couldn’t even check a bag for free.  The four of us went with carry-on only and had had our sun-screen confiscated at security.  Let’s just read that line again…our sun-screen was confiscated at security.  Why?  Well, it seems since 9 – 11, sun-screen in any family-size container, is a security breech.

I digress.

Our driver happily helped us into his vintage car and off we rolled to our apartment.  Along the way, in a combination of broken English, Spanglish, gesture and sound effects, he told us about the area and his family.  It seemed that he was a nearly pro ping-ponger with four babies (who were now adults) and then we rolled passed the Mental Health Hospital and he put two bent fingers to his right temple and made a creaking sound while moving his fingers back and forth and rolling his eyes.  Ooookay.  Meanwhile, in his back seat sits me with Bipolar1.  I didn’t let on.

Our apartment was ideal and in good proximity to a landmark that we all wanted to check out.  The Nacional Hotel.  It seemed fitting to have our first mojito of the trip there. National Hotel

The bartender happened to be our landlord, so he treated us to a Cubata cocktail as well and a couple of fine cigars for the lads.  His protege was quite a nice-looking guy, very photogenic, and he was fine with me snapping his picture.


From there, we walked along the sea wall and marveled at the warm air.walking in Havana with J

It was getting dark and would soon be time to find a place to eat.  We asked a young person who seemed to know some English.  He told us to try Bicky’s and he drew us a little map.  We walked the darkened streets with nary a flat sidewalk and several random ankle-busting holes as well as piles of dog doo and other garbage.  We found it, though.  Its neon-lighted sign beckoning like a lighthouse over choppy seas.  It was an Italian place and we were seated on the balcony.  The place was packed and we got the last table.  When my food arrived, it didn’t look like much: penne pasta in a cream sauce.  Oh my.  It was fabulous.  All of us were happy with our food, but mine was outstanding.  I could barely speak due to my tongue being in love with the taste.  A nice omen of our meals to come.

The next morning, the Senorita arrived to cook us breakfast and we had fun trying to understand each other.  She had not a word of English and would just raise the volume of her Spanish to make us understand.  Luckily, my previous study on duolingo and our old phrase book which we had used in Central America  when Leo was four helped. As well, I employed a healthy and hilarious amount of gesture which I was comfortable with since learning conversational American Sign Language when Leo was a baby. I taught her how to do eggs ‘over-easy’ using my hand as the spatula in my gesticulating.  We had wonderful foods for breakfast: fresh tropical fruit, coffee, toast, eggs, freshly made tropical juices.  Wonderful.

Off we went to walk to the book store which was a couple of miles away in a quiet part of the city.  We walked past many pastel-coloured stucco homes, newly painted with groomed yards and straight fences, often directly beside a very old, grey and crumbling crooked house.  It was odd and interesting.  When we got to Cuba Libro the bookstore, LA HABANA-COMIENZA LA XXV FERIA INTERNACIONAL DEL LIBRO, CUBA 20we were amazed at the wonderful books as well as other offerings there: cookies, coffee and a clean bathroom. It is owned by an expat and has a lively community following with various clubs meeting there and tours too. The lovely server told us how to get a car to take us to Old Havana and so next we were climbing into a red 51 Chevy with clear vinyl covered leather seats.  It was mint.cuban taxi

Because we so enjoyed this man, with no English but a lovely manner, we negotiated with him for the 4.5 hour ride to Trinidad de Cuba for the next morning.  Then we walked around seeing the sights of Old Havana and drinking in the ancient feel of the place.

yellow wall laneIt was commonplace to hear and see vendors yelling and selling their wares which ranged from brooms (which I REALLY wanted – joking) to lettuce (which I also REALLY wanted) to baked crackers and pastries, even home-made ice-cream and shaved meat sandwiches were being sold but the sandwich maker was without gloves and my Western sensibilities would not allow us to avail of them.  I was quite intrigued with the cart of lettuce, and other veggies.  It looked so good and yummy.

cart of lettuce

Our ride to Trinidad (well, Boca actually which is just south of Trinidad) was uneventful except for many bumps due to the non-existent shocks on the 51 Chevy. There were very few vehicles on the highway but we would see horse and buggy from time to time, many sugar-cane fields and not a single fast-food place like there are along our highways.  We stopped about half-way for a bano break and the boys had a quick sandwich.  When we arrived, the taxi-driver asked at several doors to find us a place to stay.  We wanted two rooms with their own bathrooms.  We found them and we met an east-coaster named Erika who was quite eager to get to know us and to talk a blue streak.  While the Senora of the Casa made us a roast chicken lunch, we went swimming in the bay across from our rooms.  Erika came along and continued to ask intriguing questions and I found myself filling her in on our previous travels because she was very interested.

After a fine lunch, we grabbed a taxi to the big beach, Playa Ancon, and had a very sweet time throwing frisbee,

IMG_0647 walking down the beach and when Senor came along to ask if we wanted a drink, I sprung for mojitos for all (perhaps a wee bit extravagant but, sometimes that’s just the way it goes).

img_0534.jpgWhen the sun began to go down we grabbed the last taxi for the 10k back to La Boca and sat on the front porch. Next, there was a bit of a sing-song, as it turned out that Erika could sing beautifully with a rich voice and was very talented on guitar.  She had won an East Coast Music Award and such.

Later, all the young folk went off to the Salsa House in Trinidad for a wild time.  We heard them getting in a few hours later and it sounded like they were going to have some stories for us in the morning.  Which they did…along the lines of how much rum one can drink before feeling rather sick…and such.  And, they enjoyed dancing their legs off!

We spent the days either on the beach at Playa Ancon,


or walking around Trinidad IMG_0600

or hiking in the hills and swimming in small pools near the water falls.



Leo jumped in from a high ledge and it was really cool.  I should comment that the second hike was very hard.  Walking way down, down, down to get to this pool and waterfall and then up, up, UP to get back to the top where our loyal taxi-driver waited.  My heart nearly burst.  I couldn’t remember a more challenging hike, even when we trekked for 30 days in Nepal…I had been a lot younger then.  That could account for it, I guess.  waterfallOne very good aspect though was that Dean surprised me with a lovely ring for our 25th anniversary, as we sat watching the boys by the waterfall.  Doesn’t get any better than that, in my world.

We also ate a lot of really good food in many different establishments.  Our Trinidad host, Rebeca, was so sweet to us too. She made us an elaborate breakfast each morning which included tropical fruit and juices, fresh-baked pie and pastries, omelettes, coffee with hot milk and chocolate.  She would hug and kiss us regularly, in keeping with her affectionate culture and because we would smile and she could see that we were content.  One morning she had Reid in a tight squeeze to her ample breasts.  He surfaced saying he thought that was called ‘a motorboat’.  We laughed. We breakfasted on her upper terrace and she went up and down the stairs at least a dozen times for us and not allowing us to help. Her granddaughter stole my heart and I gave her little gifts. To return the favour to us, Rebeca gave us a flask of Havana Club and a bottle of red wine.  These would have cost her a heck of a lot and were very generous gifts.

In Trinidad, the boys went to the Iberostar Hotel a few times in order to avail themselves of wifi.  It wasn’t free but nor was it too expensive.  There was also a pool table there which they were able to use a few times.  They would also have a cappuccino or a beer while they got their fill of social media and connecting with loved ones back home.

In the blink of an eye, it was time to head back to Havana to prepare for our journey home to Canada.  Rebeca’s son would take us back to the big city.  Without a word of English, we made our way with him.  He was quite a good driver.  He charged us a very fair rate for the trip.  No English but a lovely persona and a big, quick smile.  If you ever go to Trinidad de Cuba and need a place to stay, have the taxi take you to Casa Rebeca on Cienfuegos.  Highly recommend!

Back in Havana, we found rooms in Centro, just outside of Old Havana.  The landlady was a hurdle and it was apparent that she was a money grabbing opportunist behind her big fake smile.  Can’t have the good ones every time, I guess.  We walked the streets and looked at art, tasted various beers, Dean got a hair cut, and we tried a variety of restaurants and then it was time to grab a taxi to the airport.

Adios Cuba.  Until next time.IMG_0442