Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 30, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Len and Kass reunited after 35 years


“ Peace, joy and love; freedom in my soul.”

As sung by Kass Gerro

The Antigonish International Film Festival wound up on the weekend. AIFF , as it is known, provides the viewer a dazzling array of educational and entertaining films and documentaries. I think I will rename AIFF: Antigonish Is Frigging Fantastic! Kudos to the dozens and dozens of volunteers and the sponsors for bringing this wonderful event to our community.

There is no possible way in this short space for me to comment and review the eight movies I watched. A few certainly resonated with me. “ Jesus Took My Burden and Left Me With a Song” is a brief film on the life of Kass Gerro. She was born in Guysborough County but spent most of her life in Upper Big Tracadie. Music, especially church music, has sustained her in good times and bad. Every pore in her body oozes music and much of it is to the glory of God.

I really wanted to see this film. It was personal. Thirty- five years ago in October, Kass sang at our wedding in the University Chapel. Her performance is forever etched in my memory as she brought the congregation to its feet, clapping and singing along. Part of the soundtrack to the movie was the hymn she sang at our wedding. I spent a few minutes with Kass after the screening. I haven’t seen her in the intervening years. She still looks youthful and has a sparkle in her eyes.

I watched shows about the environment, mental illness ,civil rights, music and much more. Hands down, my favorite ( besides Kass’s! ), was “ The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen.” According to the AIFF program, “ Angela grew up in inner city Boston during the Jim Crow era and went on to become a classical ballerina, a legendary dance teacher, a black lesbian feminist activist organizer, writer and professor.” Her work with the LGBT community is legendary. What a fascinating and inspiring woman. If and when our library gets a copy of the film, grab it and spend 73 minutes watching it. It will be 73 minutes very well spent.

One other movie resonated with me. “ An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” is the sequel to Al Gore’s ground breaking film, “ An Inconvenient Truth.” While there has been a lot of progress on the environmental front in the past decade, there continues to be serious challenges and obstacles. The film looks at the issue through the prism of the Paris conference on climate change and the Paris Accord which now seems in jeopardy with the United States threatening to back off of its commitments. What was of particular interest to me was the key role that India played in the negotiations. It looked like India might be a holdout until Gore brokered an arrangement with a major solar energy provider in the U.S. who agreed to supply India with a billion dollars’ worth of solar energy infrastructure and expertise. I am presently raising money for The Daughters of Mary to install solar power at their facility.

There was a lot of footage in the documentary from India and much of it I had seen with my own eyes. The pictures from Delhi were particularly poignant as I spent three weeks there during my visa problems. In case you missed it, here is my account of those travails. It’s a long piece ( 2 cups of coffee long! ).

Just a reminder of a film to be shown this Wednesday, November 1st. at 7:00 p.m. at the small meeting room at People’s Place Library. Father Abhi Anand works with the railway children of Varanasi and will be in attendance. I spent Christmas Day with the children last year. The film is short ( 20 minutes ) followed by Q&A. Hope you can join us.

To the volunteers of AIFF…. take a bow!

Have a great week.

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A Delhi Sandwich

Posted on October 26, 2017 under Storytelling with 2 comments

One year ago today, I was flying to India for an adventure of a lifetime. In honor of this anniversary, here’s a story I wrote traveling from Abu Dhabi to New Delhi at Christmas.


Driving me to the airport,  and to the friendly skies.”

Just a Song before I Go . Crosby, Stills and Nash

I have travelled enough in my lifetime to know that getting from A to B can be straightforward or it can be sheer hell. Like most things in life, if you land somewhere in the middle of these conflicting forces, you’re doing pretty well.

Decades ago, I booked some of my flights with the competent and kind, Marie MacFarlane or through a travel agency. As time went on, my wife made all of our travel arrangements as she quickly adapted to the computer age and did all of our bookings on line. Only recently, in retirement, have I had the time ( and courage! ) to make my own travel plans.

And so I booked three flights in one with a discount operator during a recent stay in India. I always feel a bit nervous about this, especially in foreign countries where I have no knowledge of many of the airlines.

I successfully completed the first leg of my mini vacation, spending a glorious week in Abu Dhabi with my good buddy Matt MacDonald. On December 23rd. I grabbed a cab at 2:30 a.m. and headed to the airport for a 4:45 flight to New Delhi. As we neared the terminal, the driver, with the personality of a jilted mollusk, asked me to which terminal I was going . There are three of them in Abu Dhabi. There was no indication on my itinerary and because there was no preregistration.I was at a loss. He seemed enlightened when I told him my destination. “ All flights to India leave from Terminal 2, “ he said.

Terminal 2 is smaller than Stanfield airport in Halifax. I could easily see inside the building as it was mostly glass. I gave the cabbie a healthy tip and he showed his appreciation by remaining glued to his seat without lifting a hand to assist me with my luggage. I almost asked for my money back. When I stepped onto the sidewalk, I stared in horror. The airport was mostly a glass structure and at this time of the night, it was easy to see inside from the curb.

There were men ( not a single woman )  lined up ten abreast from one end of the airport to the other with luggage piled sky high…. I’m guessing about 500 in total. I couldn’t even get inside. They were literally lined to the door. I knew that there was no possible way that I was going to make my flight. I actually wondered if I would make my flight home in April, such was this mass of humanity in front of me. A cab driver approached me. The thought of driving to Delhi seemed appealing even though it would take three days.  “ You’re in the wrong terminal, sir.” This was sort of a “ good news/ bad news” announcement.

Several dirhams later, I arrived at Terminal 1. While the lineup wasn’t as daunting as what I had witnessed moments before, it was still going to be a formidable task to get to my gate on time. Because there was no preregistration or kiosks to speed things up, everyone was in the same boat. I only had carry on bags but this gave me no preferential treatment.

The man in front of me wasn’t amused. Neither would you be if you had partied all night before coming to the airport. When he turned to utter his first of ten complaints, his breath smelled of stale booze and cigarettes. He was fidgety and grabbed his smokes. When he prepared to light up on the spot, I mildly suggested that this would hasten his departure from the airport… except it wouldn’t be on a plane. So, I did what any decent human being would do and babysat his luggage ( several large suitcases on an airport trolley ) while he went outside for a puff. Somehow I managed to push and pull our combined luggage.

I didn’t realize that I was in the presence of a philosopher. He said that he should have kept drinking for another hour and then joined the lineup when it had dwindled to a trickle. As warped as this logic appeared, there was some truth to it. I, for one, would have been happy if he had stayed in the bar.

We became buddies. He grumbled and mumbled as the line moved at the speed of slug. We compared flights and when he realized my urgency, he graciously let me go ahead of him. Now, instead of smelling his fetid breath, he kept bumping his cart into my butt.

I sprinted the length of the airport and got through security. I had fifteen minutes to go before my flight left. I arrived at my gate to discover that the airline, recognizing mass mutiny, delayed the flight departure time by 45 minutes. I paused and collected my thoughts. I messaged Betty. I didn’t have the heart ( even at this joyous time of the year ) to say “ wishing you were here.”

You know how you feel  when you have to get up for a very early international flight. Sleep doesn’t come easily or in abundance. A wave of fatigue hit me as I stepped on to the plane. I meandered down to my seat… a middle seat, with just about enough room for three leprachauns.  The back of my seat felt like the springs would burst through at any moment. I was forced to curl up in the fetal position. I felt ( and probably looked ) like one of the majoulle dates that I had consumed with regularity all week.

I certainly wasn’t thinking about ”peace and goodwill towards all men” as the plane roared down the runway.

The plane wasn’t full and just ahead of me , I spotted the emergency exit row, with enough leg room for an NBA player… and three empty seats. It was an early Christmas gift. It restored my faith in old Saint Nick.  After the seatbelt sign was turned off, I slid out of my seat and luxuriated in my new digs. Later in the flight when I got chilled, I took my carry on suitcase from the overhead bin and had enough room to put on a sweat shirt and warmer footwear. In my previous seat, I didn’t have enough room to change my mind.

We were scarcely at cruising altitude when breakfast was served. A box was dropped on our trays. For a moment, I thought it might be one of Colonel Sander’s “ dinners for one.”  There were four distinctly and slightly unusual items on the menu: plantain chips, a heated croissant stuffed with vegetables, a piece of lemon loaf and half a sandwich. I wondered if my semi stupored friend had planned the menu.

I wish only to comment on the sandwich. It was actually half of a sandwich, cut diagonally with the crusts removed. The bread was white and very stale. Between the covers, there was a slice of processed cheese, nothing more, nothing less.

I had a flashback to some of the bridge parties at 39 Hillcrest Street many decades ago. I could see mom painstakingly removing the crusts from egg salad sandwiches, and on a big night, even a few lobster sandwiches. The sandwiches were cut diagonally in four pieces, with a damp cloth placed over the top of a Tupperware container to keep them fresh and then refrigerated until consumed. If we were well behaved, we got to eat the crusts. I took one bite of the sandwich in my box and concluded that this WAS one of mom’s sandwich that had been misplaced 50 years ago.

A deli sandwich just took on a whole new meaning.


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 23, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Fish are jumping at Tippabrew


October might possibly be one of the busiest months of the year. It seems that the opening of school in September is like hitting the reset button. Routines are re-established and everyone is back to work or in my case ( as a retiree ),  attending  meetings for various organizations. Very few people are on vacation. University sports and professional sports are in the thick of several different seasons… baseball, football, hockey, rugby, basketball. The engine of life is firing on all cylinders. It is “ go time.”

Last weekend, I attended the Keppoch Fun Day. I got talking with Hughie Stewart who has been one of the driving forces behind the revitalization of Keppoch Mountain. If you haven’t been out there lately, grab the family and go for a hike or bike through the trails. It’s magnificent. Good for the heart and the soul. Hughie extended an invitation for me to come out some day and see ALL of the Keppoch. So yesterday I went out to meet up with Hughie. My brother joined us.

We donned helmets and climbed into his off road vehicle. For the next three hours, on a crisp, sunny Fall afternoon, we drove through several kilometers of back roads. We spent some time at St. Bean’s Cemetery, the resting place of Hughie’s grandparents. We saw the foundation of the house owned by the bootlegger, one of the last residents of the Keppoch. Back in the day there were 67 homes in the area, mostly used for cattle farming. We saw lakes and the waterfalls at Black Brook before arriving at Tippabrew, the summer home of the Stewarts.

We were greeted at the front door by Keppoch, possibly the largest German shepherd on the planet. Unbeknownst to us, we had been invited for supper. I took one look at Keppoch and hoped that we wouldn’t be HIS supper!

The meal, simply put,  was sensational. Debbie had prepared moose meat along with garden potatoes, carrots and turnips. A basket was filled with homemade bread. Dessert was “ sex in a pan.” ( It was as sinful as it sounds ). And a good cup of tea.

Some people spend thousands of dollars on exotic vacations. Nothing could possibly be better than spending time with really fine people in a little slice of paradise. Thanks Hughie and Debbie.

My friend, Father Abhi Anand from Varanasi, India is around these days. Just about every year, he comes to Canada to spend a month for a bit of R&R and to spread the word about his organization back home. DARE is an organization with special focus on the rescue and rehabilitation of children trying to find food and shelter from the trains and railway stations in India. Those of you who followed me when I was in India this past year might remember that I spent Christmas Day with the “ railway children.” It was a Christmas I won’t soon forget.

Father Abhi is going to show a short film ( 20 minutes ) and talk about the work of DARE on Wednesday, November 1st. in the small meeting room at People’s Place library at 7:00 P.M. I will be there to introduce Father Abhi. Please mark this on your calendar and join us.

Coming up later this week ( Oct. 26-28 ) is the Antigonish International Film Festival. The AIFF is a great opportunity to see some terrific films. You can get a pass for all films for $20 ( $5.00  if you’re a student ) or you can show up for a film and make a donation. A pass guarantees you admission and are available at People’s Place Library and Lyghtsome Gallery.

True confessions. Like thousands ( maybe millions ) of other people, I have become a raving Downton Abbey fan.  The characters are all expertly portrayed, even the loathsome, Mr. Barrow. Carson , the butler and Mrs. Hughes ( who really runs the place! ) are my favorites.

Have a great week.

P.S. I’m still plugging away trying to raise the money for a host machine for the Daughters of Mary in India. We’ve collected $4200 of the $6,000 required to make this purchase which would increase profitability to help the Emmaus Home for mentally ill women to become more self sufficient. Donations can be made at the Credit Union in Antigonish ( Investment India account ) or by e-transfer:  . Eighteen donors @ $100 each would do the job!


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