Living Statues of Puerto Vallarta. No. 12

With Semana Santa (Easter Celebrations) in full swing in Puerto Vallarta, the Malecon is full of vacationing Mexican families, and a diversity of the weird and wonderful sights that are always a part of the celebrations. For those who are willing to participate, there is a surprise at every turn, some very imagitive, some wild and scary .

My ventures there with Maggie over several days produced some very interesting encounters. Enjoy.




When You Come to the End………

This blog is about a musical instrument – not just any huff and puff wind thing, but the king of instruments, the pipe organ. Now before you think this is about a lot of boring facts and info, bear with me.

I fell in love with this beast back in the 70’s, when most others of my age were a gaga with heavy metal, I was smitten with the majesty, the sonics and shear size of this musical wonder. It was alive, it breathed! Not all have the where with all to master the pipe organ, it not only requires both hands but also both feet. Two prominent artists names that come to mind are Virgil Fox, and E. Power Biggs. But the one that afffected me the most was a showman by the name of Carlo Curley.

Carlo Curley was born in 1952 in the U.S.A., and died prematurely in 2012 in England. He was not your usual keyboard artist. He was indeed an organ master; he added humour and a level of flamboyancy that was not usually associated with the pipe organ. Along with a rather dry wit. In my mind he was the Victor Borge of the pipes. He was the consummate entertainer.

He was the first classical organist to perform at the White House for President Carter. He also played for several European heads of state and toured extensively, always in demand. Because of his unique style, he was nicknamed “The Pavarotti of the Organ”. He was the consummate performer. Always entertaining and having fun with his audience.

My personal experience with this gentleman was at a Toronto concert in 1982 at Roy Thomson Hall where he performed on the newly built Gabriel Kney organ. I was not disappointed.

For over two hours we were wowed by his playing and showmanship as he waded through such classic composers as Saint-Saen, Bach, Handel, Widor, Frank and Messiaen, at times becoming quite vocal and crying out to the audience, “yes” and “yea” after a rather laboured piece. But…. the best part of the evening was yet to happen..

During the concert the organ console and sometimes the pipes were illuminated, but for his encore the stage was darkened and only a soft spot fell across Carlo and the console. His choice of music, When you Come To the End of a perfect Day. And what a perfect selection to close the concert. After thundering his way up to this point, he chose to present this piece as light and airy, the notes just seemed to float out over the audience only to burst in a moment of emotion. All the while he was playing, the spot was slowly dimming and shrinking around him, until all that was left were his hands. As the last notes faded into the night,  so did the spot. For a few seconds there was not a sound to be heard from the audience, as if each one was scared to be the first to applaud and destroy the feeling of the moment. And then it came, and it thundered out in response. There was much dabbing of the eyes, not in sadness, but in a personal experience of joy and contentment and peace. The perfect end to a memorable moment; and that moment got me to thinking about when my final moment is near….

I came into this world with only a few lines of announcement in the newspaper, not on the front page, no trumpets sounding. And as the light fades around me, I think it is only fitting that I depart in the same manner, due to symmetry and other considerations. I will do my kicking and screaming now, not when my stay is nearly over and it is too late. I will pass on the spotlight, hoping only that those closest to me will be able to share in my being part of their lives. Some may applaud,  maybe some will dab an eye. Knowing this gives me a sense of security. I have a plan. The rest is out of my hands.


Day of the Dead, A Celebration of Life. No. 7

Many cultural rituals and “celebrations” are misunderstood and shunned by those who do not participate. I have to admit that I fell into that category. Being in Mexico for four months, and being exposed to many strange figures around town, I became curious and needed to know the story and origin of a three day happening ( Oct 31, Nov 1, 2) called The Day of the Dead or Dia de Muertos.

A little history is needed here.

Day of the Dead, called Día de Muertos in Spanish, is a Mexican holiday that falls on November 1 and 2 of each year. On the Day of the Dead, the boundaries between life and death begin to blur. Men, women and children of all ages honor and celebrate their loved ones who have passed away, participating joyously in a festival that has roots nearly 4000 years old. The holiday has spread in recent years from Mexico to America and beyond. It is now celebrated by Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and countless others, spawning a colorful and distinctive artistic tradition that continues to inspire.

“Part of our tradition in Mexico  is not to be scared of death and to smile at it. It is a celebration of our ancestors as they were when they were on the earth, alive. It was never a sad thing or a scary thing.”  Gennaro Garcia.

I have to wonder if viewing death as described by Gennaro, would give you a different take on life. Would you be a happier person? I pose that question based on what I have observed of the people here in Puerto Vallarta. They strike me as being a content and happy lot; many smiles and much laughter. This is not what I see at home. Just musing.

Frances Ann Day summarizes the three-day celebration, the Day of the Dead:

On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children’s altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta is filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.
— Frances Ann Day, Latina and Latino Voices in Literature[14]

 The Catholic World Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico and the Catholic world… Italy, Spain, South America and the Philippines all celebrate All Souls and All Saints Day on November 1st and 2nd. Special Masses and perhaps cleaning of the cemetery tombs are part of the traditional activities… it’s only in Central and Southern Mexico where the colorful parties take place in the cemeteries and elaborate ofrenda altars are built in the homes to honor specific family members who have passed on. – See more at:

Even in death, people around the world are celebrating life. Unfortunately I will not be down here when this happens, but I hope that in the two months  I have left here that I will allow their zest for living to be a part of who I am. I want to take that home with me.


Art installations are a big part of the festivities in Mexico City.

Leanna Garfield –

…let no man break asunder.

Partnerships fail. Mine did. This in itself is not earth shattering news. It happens everyday and in all facets of life. But this one was personal. It wasn’t sudden, I saw it coming, but apparently I was the only one. Flags were up all over the place as to the dangers ahead; but they were ignored, possibly hoping that they were not for real.

Like travelling down a rough gravel road and believing that it would improve somewhere around the next corner, I kept going. Even though you try to find the smoothest part of the road, I finally submitted to the fact that to accomplish that was to get off.

Travel with caution, lose gravel ahead.

Sounds easy enough, but that took me from a rough road to an emotional roller coaster. But even coaster rides come to an end, dumping you off humbled, emotionally drained and confused. The word failure comes to mind; both to yourself and to others.

Time and reflection can go a long way to prying a person from out of a rut. And so do friends. Family can help, but mine was in a divided camp. Still are; I hope time will help heal that wound.

Sunset sailing
Sailing. A new horizon beckons.

That rough road? It is a lot smoother now. There was a paved way out around the next bend. I took it. In the real world, partnerships come and go, it appears to be a way of life. And so, my adventure through life continues. A special lady I know keeps saying that “life is good”. She is now showing me just how good it can be.

I wrote more details in a previous blog. New Beginnings


Way back When……….

I can’t remember just how old I was when I became an audiophile. This would be during the 1950’s, so I was probably only 7 or 8. The thing was I just did not know I was doomed to become one; I am not sure that the term was even mainstream back then.

I can remember sitting on the floor in front of a massive radio. Tube driven, manually tuned, and AM only. I would listen to the station my parents tuned in, but every now and then they would let me “play” with the dial. That was very special. I would sit close to the speaker, and take it all in, including opera! I can recall wondering at the time how was it possible to get all those people inside that radio!!pg6p13[1]

So, lets fast forward 9 or 10 years. Does anyone out there remember crystal sets from Radio Shack ? My own little private radio with an ear bud. You had to position that “cats whisker” just right on the crystal to get it to work. Still not Hi-Fi, but little did I know, I had the “bug”.

I guess the whole thing really took off when my uncle and a friend put together a stereo console for our home in the early sixties. Powered by a Trio receiver, and equipped with a Garrard turntable, replete with full range speakers in the bottom.

DSC_0741This is a model of that console I made in the 60’s. I still have it.

You could stack a number of LP’s on the turntable and be rewarded with over an hours worth of music, all in glorious Hi-Fi stereo. For the first time in my life I was treated to FM stereo.  That sound blew me away; and you could turn it up, all without tubes, but before the digital age.

Fast forward again to when I was working and could afford to buy my own equipment. My favourite “toy” was a four channel reel-to-reel tape recorder, which of course married nicely with my four channel receiver. Wow, sound all around me. I could change sound venues at the push of a button. Concert hall, rock, stadium, it was all at my finger tips. I just had to sit back and let those glorious sounds wash over me, transporting me to another place. And what warm and exciting sounds they were.akai-1730-ss-01-sm[1]

That is what I really enjoyed about audio back then, it was very much hands on. I felt very much like a techy, pushing buttons, spinning dials, loading tape, and watching the VU meters on the tape doing their thing, getting them dialed in just right. There was something romantic and very satisfying  when my efforts were rewarded with glorious sound filling the room.

Audio today is very slick. Being a computer geek does help. All digital, computer driven applications; set up can require an expert from the audio store to get it working. Now all I have to do is sit back with my remote  control in my easy chair and hope I push the right button. My level of involvement has been reduced to that of “audience”, not participant. My ears tell me that the sound has changed; for the better? Some would say yes, but I would say, maybe not. I grew up with audio that was warm, rewarding, and required my personal involvement.  I grew up with analog.


RUNNING AWAY – just not very far.

Just what are the thoughts that invade a 10 year old’s mind to lure him into running away? There are probably a number of them, but I am going to go with adventure and maybe a chance to escape. Funny how the adults in this saga did not view it in the same light, as you will soon see.

I can’t remember if there was any great plotting or scheming that proceeded this adventure, it just seemed to grow. Sometimes a simple plan is the best; or is it?

My small village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec had a number of things that allowed it to stand out as different from others in the area. There was the usual collection of homes scattered over a rolling topography and a river that wound it’s way through the lower side. And it was this river that acted as a source of power for our two sawmills. Other than a post office/gas station, general store and several churches, there was no other claim to fame. But I digress. Not many places to run to, or from. But for a ten year old boy, an only child, that fact didn’t really play into it. The assignment I was given was pretty straight forward. Go to Albert and Doris’s general store and get a box of cereal. Across the river, past the Catholic church, and next to Whiteman’s farm. Fifteen minutes out and fifteen back. Oh, and buy yourself a pop – orange crush, 7 cents. As I said, simple and straight forward. Any similarities between what was expected and what went down…

As you will soon see, the way back bore no similarities to the getting there. Rather than going up the hill past the Catholic church, it was possible to cut through Whiteman’s farm behind the church. This was where the plan started to take shape. Also behind the church was an old and unused gravel pit which gave one access to high ground. Climbing up the side of the pit through the tall grass I soon found myself at the top and on the edge of the pit. Laying down in the grass I had a commanding view of the lower end of town, but could not be seen. I was lord of the hill! Invincible and in charge.

Now what to do. Remember, this plan was not well thought out. Even to this day, 62 years later, I do not know what possessed me to do this. In the child/parent dynamic, this is not a smart thing for a 10 year old to do. Not if you wanted to maintain your fine standing on the family totem pole. And now that I am in a position to think about it, maybe therein lies the driving force to my ill conceived adventure. So, what dark emotions/fears were rumbling away in my subconscious that thrust me into the dark side?

I feel at this point in my story, I must touch on the make-up of my dysfunctional family. Aside from me, there were four others in the family all from my maternal side. My Grandmother, whom I adored; her husband, who I hardly knew, as he was away a lot; their son, my uncle, who tried to be my father figure, but did not really get there, at least in my mind; and finally my Mother.

Divorced 3 years after I was born, not a new man in her life, and generally very distrustful of males, the victim of a number of illnesses, always feeling that she never received her fair quota of affection and fairness, she grew into an angry, forceful and bitter women. I guess in my eyes this inhibited her from contributing to a stable, loving, close and fair family dynamic. She also, was away a lot, working in Montreal. In short, my Grandmother became my mentor, hero and protector.The woman in my life that I would run to, to mend all of my ills. The disciplinarian in the family was, by default, my Mother. Her instruments for meting out punishment when I was “bad” were a hand, belt or a switch.

Knowing this fact was not lost on me as I lay concealed in the tall grass. As it was I was past the point of no return as far as my allotted time was concerned. And yet I did not try to make up for lost time and rush home. Was I, at the tender age of ten starting to rebel; to stage a challenge knowing full well what the outcome would be? Would my Grandmother protect me?

I think I layed there for a while longer content in my relatively secure position. I do remember seeing my uncle driving up the road but thought little of it. From my vantage point I could see traffic in all directions, and noticed that he drove over to the general store, came right back out and headed back to the house, only to come right out and started to drive slowly up the road, stopping at several homes along the way. I think I figured at this time that my jig was up.Sneaking home undetected was going to required some planning on my part.

The road was the easy way, but I would have been to easily discovered. My other option was through the fields and across the river. As it was the middle of summer, the river was at it’s lowest point of the season and there were enough rocks above water to allow me to leap from one to the other to access the other side. Simple enough, but even simple plans have a way of becoming unraveled. Those rocks were my undoing. They were there alright; wet, slippery and not evenly spaced. To make a short story even shorter, I got wet. And oh, that box of cereal, let’s just say that I hope the fish liked Rice Crispees. The rest of the treck home was uneventful until I tried to sneak in through the shed entrance.

My uncle was still out looking for me so my Mother and Grandmother were my welcoming committee.  In my home there existed a pecking order for meting out discipline. When my Mother was home, all others took a back seat. My Mother was never one to use words to justify situations like I found myself in now. Punishment was arrived at without any preamble or discussion on my part, even if I felt the level of discipline did not necessarily fit the crime. Plea bargaining was not an option. The instrument of punishment was arrived at quickly and without allowing for any discussion or defence – a switch. And to add a level of pain, I had to cut it from the nearest alder bush.

Usually a hand or belt was all that was needed, but this was a crime of the highest order in my Mother’s mind. In my own I knew that I would be punished at the extreme level. I knew that even as I ventured fourth. Was I taunting her or just testing my own mettle? Analysing her choice of weapons was not on my mind at that moment. Would I now as a father do the same to any of my children? No. My Mother had over the years since her divorce turned into a bitter and angry person. Looking back now, I really believe she hated herself for that, and by beating me she was possibly purging herself of some of that pain.

The welts on my back did of course heal and fade; The memory, not as easily justified. Many years later I was able to forgive, but I have never forgotten. Did the punishment fit the crime? The answer to that I will leave up to you, dear reader.



My Three Moms

In keeping with Mother’s Day being just around the corner, I thought I would write about three ladies, whom I grew to admire,  all for different reasons, and who have played a large part in my life.


My Grandmother, on my Mother’s side was born  in 1893 in Lutes Mountain, New Brunswick. In my very early years, in a small village in Québec, I remember her as a kind and gentle lady. I guess you could describe her as the family matriarch. She pretty much ran the house. She looked after the farm animals, did just about all the cooking and baking, as the others were away at work all day or all week. She was always my ‘at home Mom’ while my Mother was in Montreal working.

She was always there when I “hurt” myself, with a quick fix and a sympathetic hug. But when I misbehaved, she would just scold me and threaten to tell my Mother when she got home, but by then she would forget, or did she really? Our entertainment  was the radio, piano or playing cards. It seemed the only game she new was cribbage, and I was always the elected opponent; and I always lost! When not in the barn, she kept herself busy in the kitchen, either cooking, baking or canning. Is it possible that maybe this is where my love for the magic that comes from the kitchen started?

At that time in my life she was really my first ‘mom’. I suspect she played a bigger role in my life than I was to ever realize. She passed away in 1959 of a heart attack. I regret not getting to know her better as I grew into my later teenage years. Why do these thoughts always seem to come too late? She was a warm, gentle and  caring person. She won me over. I think it was her smile.


The second lady in my life, and maybe I should have considered her my first, was my Mother. Born in 1917 in Montreal, first of three children. She had a great work ethic, as shown by her grades, her drive and ambition. Her family was not well off as she entered the workforce at the end of the depression, but determination and tenacity paid off.  Divorced very early on in her marriage, due to the fact my Father was running around, she unfortunately developed a very bitter and condemning attitude towards males in general. The telling outcome of this is it also turned her into a overbearing and critical person.

As I matured, and got to understand her better, appreciating her take on life, I got to recognize and maybe feel some of the turmoil my Mom was dealing with.  But that burden did not slow her down. She was a hard worker, no job or task was beneath her. Her drive was to be respected. Despite her bouts of anger and impatience, she still had a softer side. As she moved into her senior years, I could see her mellowing, but just a little bit!

I feel that we became a lot closer  when she had to enter a retirement home, and a lot of the responsibility of looking after her fell to me. It was during this period that I realized just how helpless she had become,  how little could be done about it, and how inadequate  it made me feel.  But never the less, she soldiered on. In her last few years she no longer knew who I was; had to wear diapers, and her food was rendered to mush. Life had brought her full cycle. My visits were very painful. Mercifully, she passed away in her 90th year, battling to the end. Despite the demons that she had to live with, I have to admire her for her strength, determination and a ‘get out of my way I have a job to do with no guff from anybody’ approach. I wonder how much of all that has rubbed off on me.

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The third lady of influence is my mother -in-law. Though her oldest daughter and I are no longer together, I cannot dismiss the impression she has had on me. The daughter of an Irish immigrant, she loved conversation, especially the telling of stories. They were always the highlight of our visits with her. She raised ten children, three girls, seven boys in a small two bedroom house. She was always eager for company.

And what a wonderful sense of humour. Very seldom down, and always wanting to do something during a visit, generally a trip to her favourite restaurant. I am always impressed by her kindness and generosity, and regard to me as if I were one of her sons. Over the years I developed an utmost admiration and respect for this lady. She too endured hardship in her life, but at 92 she harbours no ill feelings towards anyone. Always ready with a smile and a hug. There are a lot of, lets just say, not so great mother-in-laws out there, but I feel that I have been blessed with mine. A true emerald of the Isle.

Three ladies, three stories, three different memories,  all garnering my
Admiration. On May 8th, take the time to honor your Mom, if not in person, then in memory.