Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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A Chance in Kamloops

2 March 2009
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First of all, I must note how warm and welcoming the people at Western Canada Theatre have been. Not to diminish that compliment in the least, but I have found a similar reception from most theatres at which I have worked—more so than doing film and television, where one tends to be treated rather brusquely, what with money often being of higher status than art in such productions.

Secondly, I am wowed with everyone in the Man Who Shot Chance Delaney cast (with the possible exception of myself). This is somewhat rarer. Think of your job. There is usually someone who doesn’t pull his weight or whose personality sours the workplace. But these actors, as well as our running crew, are both impressive and inspiring. The cast includes Peter Anderson, Naomi Wright, Mia Ingimundson, Bob Frazer and Brian Linds. Huzzah, all.

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Thompson River Valley

I have not met nor formed any opinion of the local populace. The city of Kamloops lies at the junction of two rivers among not-too-overwhelming mountains, most of which are picturesque (the exception being one right in the middle that looks like a big pile o’ dirt). The old downtown has some appeal, while the aroma provided by the area paper mill has not.A pretty hill and the pile o’ dirt

A scenic hill and the pile o’ dirt

Our motel is generally crappy, with broken appliances and sagging mattresses, but its location up a long, steep hill from the city centre provides a great view of the region. It’s a forty-minute, three-and-a-quarter kilometer (2 mile) hike down that long hill to the rehearsal space, and just as far—including a climb up a second hill—to reach the theatre. I manage the commute down to work all right, but for someone with bad knees, a bad back and the too-sedentary lifestyle resulting from those conditions, the return trip is difficult. I have been fortunate to locate rides most days. Such hill avoidance techniques become unlikely as of today.

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The Sagebrush Theatre is a good space, with lots of room backstage and decent acoustics overall. It seats over 700, although our company only offers the 450 seats closest to the stage. We sold out that smaller number opening night.

The play is a hoot, that’s what it is, and so is the playwright. Ian Weir can write funny. He is also a thinker. I’ve said it before: smart plus silly, that’s for me.

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I hope to have photos of the set and characters later.

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Ontari-ari-ari-o, look!

20 October 2008

 

In honour of Fall, I am falling behind again on blogging. What else is new?

Two weeks ago I treated myself (for my birthday) and Katharine (for my birthday) to an overnight trip out of the city and into Ontario’s scenic countryside. Driving about three hours north of Toronto, we were greeted by ever more colourful signs of autumn. I can recommend Route 118 between Rtes. 11 and 35! Even the off-and-on rain wasn’t enough to keep the beauty from shining through.

Our weather luck improved, and by the time we visited Haliburton Skyline Park, the sun was putting in more of an appearance, illuminating the leaves in a variety of stunning hues. 

Then to our charming, not-a-chain-or-brand-name motel.

A short walk took us to bewitchingly tranquil Twelve Mile Lake for a brief visit before the rain returned. 

After dinner and sundown, the clouds remained—thick, low and dark. So I was unable to enjoy starry skies and once again missed the Milky Way, which I have really seen only once since I was in college. (We have yet to see a moose, either, so future trips to the country are required!)

The following day brought clear skies and magnificent views, as we crossed from the Haliburton Highlands into the Muskokas and to the Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower, the high point of my birthday (rimshot).

On the way home, we stopped for a second time at Weber’s Hamburgers (a tradition! a must! we were told—and now I’m telling you). And back to the commonplace reality of day-to-day existence, plus one year of deterioration. And since then the somewhat subdued yet ever so welcome colours have reached the trees of Toronto. I love autumn.

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Buffalo Shufflin’

26 September 2008

 

Stayed overnight with our friends and most excellent hosts Steve & Martha Thomas, who gave us their hospitality so that we could get an early start at the Canadian Consulate General in Buffalo, NY. With the request for Katharine’s passport in hand, we arrived shortly after 8:00 AM to find a short line in the lobby. After ten minutes we were all taken upstairs to the consulate, where there were maybe ten others already in the waiting room off to one side.

We handed over the passport and paperwork and were given a card with a number and told to wait. We hadn’t eaten because, based on reports of others who had been through the procedure, we thought we’d be killing five hours in Buffalo while waiting for Katharine’s immigration visa to be processed. After two hungry hours our number was called and within minutes, visa attached to passport, we were eager to finalize Katharine’s immigration at the border. Except that getting the file electronically transferred to ports-of-entry isn’t quite that fast. 

So three hours, brunch, and almost but not quite meeting up with another friend in the area later, we crossed the Peace Bridge back into Canada. No wait at all at the guard booth. Pulled into Customs & Immigration and walked inside. No wait at all at Immigration. The official went clickety-clack at his terminal for a few minutes, had Katharine initial and sign a few places, and told her she was now a permanent resident. (No complimentary pin, flag or flask of maple syrup given as a welcome. What the hell, Canada.) Then across the narrow room to Customs—no wait at all—to provide a list of Katharine’s belongings we hope to move up here… someday. Then to the cashier: no wait there, either, nor fee to be paid, just a stapling together of documents. And we were done.

Except that we figured: let’s face all the bureaucracies in one day! So we went to the Service Canada Centre in Niagara Falls, Ontario for Katharine’s Social Insurance Number (like the Social Security card in the US) and then to to a Ministry of Health location in Toronto to register her for health care, which will become effective on Christmas. No more than a two minute wait at either of these places, either. For once the government was working as it’s supposed to! Everything went smoothly and easily. Still, it was eight hours all told from the consulate to the ministry of health; eight months since we started Katharine’s immigration; close to two years since I immigrated; and going on four years since we decided to attempt the move and change our lives.

Celebration dinner and home. Yes, home: Canada. A long day but a good day. (Except now we have TWO federal elections to angst about…)


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Water, water everywhere

5 January 2008

 

When I lived in Florida, this was my idea of “beach:”

 

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During my recent stay in Chemainus, BC, I lived near Kin Beach:

 

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Although they hardly compare, I admit that Kin Beach is still a beach. But I had more trouble with what constituted the “ocean.”

 

Vancouver Island sits off the coast of the Canadian mainland. In between is the Strait of Georgia, and to the west is the Pacific Ocean.

 

I got tickled when the locals referred to the Strait as the ocean itself. I mean, the town doesn’t even sit directly on the Strait but rather on Chemainus Bay which itself is on the Stuart Channel, which separates Vancouver Island from several smaller islands in the Strait. So are these really “ocean views?”

 

The arguments I heard made sense, but were still unconvincing. “It’s salt water!” Well, so are Utah’s Great Salt Lake and the Middle East’s Dead Sea. “The island is sitting in the ocean, so that’s the ocean all around it.” Hmm. Florida sticks into the Atlantic, but Florida’s west coast residents say they live on the gulf coast, for the Gulf of Mexico. Now, Hawaii—those are islands with the Pacific on both sides!

 

Maybe I’m just over-particular about details. If I look out my window in Toronto, I see my street, which is part of the city. But if my apartment was advertised as having “city views,” I would expect to see the Toronto skyline. It’s just a matter of clarity. 

 

So am I wrong? Is any inlet, waterway or other extension of the ocean still “the ocean?” Technically, I suppose, yes. Am I too picky? Or are the locals puffing up something that needs no exaggeration? Because whatever you called what I was looking at, it is still attractive and pride-worthy.

 

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Victoria & Views

16 December 2007

I took a little trip and spent a little time in Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia, and liked it immediately.  

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It is home to a number of renowned sites I did not see during my brief stay;  Butchart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle, Royal BC Museum are but a few. Nor did I see any double-decker buses, street performers or whales. Such is the result of a wintertime visit.

 

But what I saw I liked very much. An attractive and manageable downtown, the enchanting Beacon Hill Park, and miles of waterfront walking offering a variety of splendid views. And as you may know, I am an out-and-out pushover for views.

 

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This invariably leads to fantasies of living someplace where such vistas can be enjoyed daily. And, in fact, I am blessed with a temporary situation that offers something of the sort (see previous Chemainus blogs). But the reality is that if one were to move to a city like Victoria, the only affordable housing would not be anywhere near what attracted one in the first place. (Besides which, Victoria does not offer enough work in my field to even consider living there.) So I put fantasies aside, and enjoyed the city as a nice place to explore. I want to return with Katharine for a real holiday sometime.

 

But this “view thing” looms as an unfulfilled yearning. From our apartment in Toronto we can see a few nice trees, but neither the city skyline nor Lake Ontario. Both pale in comparison to the Olympic mountains visible from some Victoria areas, of course, but we can’t even see sunsets from our place. And I fear that ever-tougher economic times ahead will only mean less attractive surroundings, rather than the heart-lifting scenic landscape I have been craving for years.

 

I guess that’s why some of us travel. Or desire to. 

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2007 BC

1 November 2007

My first job in Canadian theatre is not the splashy Irish musical “Ha’penny Bridge,” which I lost at the movement audition. It is not one of the esteemed Toronto companies like Tarragon, Soulpepper or Canadian Stage, nor either of the great festivals elsewhere in Ontario, The Stratford Shakespeare Festival and The Shaw Festival. All of these, except for the lost cause “Ha’penny,” are significant aspirations of mine.

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No, the first onstage acting job Canada has given me is a production of “Miracle on 34th Street” located over 4000 kilometers away from my new Toronto home. Chemainus is a quaint and picturesque little town on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

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The Chemainus Theatre Festival operates year-round, and does surprisingly good business. We are expected to sell out for much of our eight-week run.

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In addition to the gratification of working on a play, Vancouver Island has some pretty amazing scenery. This is what I see from my bedroom window:

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The next two shots are from The Malahat, a mountain between Chemainus and BC’s provincial capital, Victoria.

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Here’s a view across islands in the Strait of Georgia to the mainland. In the distance is Mt. Baker in Washington State.

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WIthout personal transportation, my views are usually limited to what is in walking distance. But before I leave in January, I hope to explore Victoria, Nanaimo, and more of Vancouver Island. Meanwhile, although I miss Katharine and our cats, I’m happily doing theatre, and my lodging even has a house cat who likes to curl up on me. Not bad at all.

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The Full Vermonty

24 October 2007

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Five days. Six relatives. Four states. Over thirty hours in the car. Too little time to see or enjoy nearly enough. It must have been what is called a vacation. Can it be a vacation when it is amidst unemployment? Let’s say it was a break from our lives, a getaway from recent sad events and a chance to fill our eyes with the best nature has to offer.

Potsdam: my college town. Hadn’t seen it in over 25 years. Adirondack State Park: glorious. Vermont: my favourite place, especially in autumn (and I am not one who likes the limitions of picking favourites). Did you know there are no billboards in the entire state? Not even for Ben & Jerry’s. Onward to Lowell, Mass: can art restore an industrial city? The Massachusetts Turnpike and New York’s I-88: beautifully scenic. New York’s Southern Tier: not bad, but when up against what we’d seen thus far, paled somewhat.

Ontario parts of the drive were, unfortunately, the ugliest. And the border wait back into Canada added 90 minutes to our return home. Bleah.

In addition to my family, from whom I had been too long apart, Katharine and I got to meet a few friends and five cats, enjoy generous hospitalities, and spend a lot of time together just before the loooooooooooooooong time we will be apart. Bad weather muted the Vermont colours and prevented both a mountain visit and any chance of seeing the Milky Way, both sights I have yearned for since last seen a decade ago or more. And we were simply too rushed most of the time.

Still, the good outweighed the disappointing. I hope everyone else involved feels the same.

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