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Man with a Dream

Just south of Enderby BC on a rainy Monday afternoon a week and a half ago I stopped to admire the tall white letters spelling STARLIGHT on the low hill to my right.  I had happened upon one of the few remaining drive in theatres in Canada. 

 I haven’t been to a drive in since 1978 in  Ontario  but  still have  high school memories of sneaking some friends into one  in Surrey in the trunk of my mom’s car.   Imbedded fondness came flooding back –the  crappy speakers you hung to the window of your car. The dumb animated jingle “LETS ALL GO TO THE SNACK BAR” with the hot dog getting all up close and personal with the bun . And of course, watching  horny youngsters retiring to the back seat of a parent’s sedan  and steaming  up the windows. Ah ---those were the days!

As I was returning to my car after taking a few pictures, up pulled another vehicle  and out jumped a  most ebullient fellow . “We’re not open for the season yet – but if you want pictures –come on in and take all you want” This was Brian ,one of the owners, who instructed me to “drive all the way down by the screen  and be sure not to miss the balcony”  then meet him in the snack bar.

I did just that - but rainy day pictures don’t  do it justice – it’s a vast outdoor temple  missing some  vital ingredients – the darkness -the cars  - and the vast screen all lit up- but still, it was cool.

Back at the snack bar, Brian  launched into his love of the Starlight Drive In with the  joyous zeal of a  mad man with a dream.  He’d poured everything he owned into the place and lived in a trailer in the back.  “I want to bring back 1963” he said and had spent the last decade or so doing just that.  He had the classic cartoon hotdog ,fries and popcorn smiling at us from outside wall like the 3 amigos of junk food. Pepsi had gotten behind his venture so there were the vintage Pepsi bottle cap signs greeting you.   He plays the classic “Let’s all go to the snack bar “ cartoon at every showing – complete with cued car honking when the hot dog enters the bun.   He’d spent hours cutting out dozens  of plywood stars painting them white and nailing them up all over snack bar and outsides of the building and fences. “Look – we only charge half of normal snack bar prices, we want it to be affordable for a family. “  “We almost went under in 2012, Then out of the blue we heard about this new digital system-so now we’ll be state of the art for years. “ 

Of course now there are no crappy speakers – you tune into a station on your car radio.  2 movies for 11 bucks . Theirs is the largest outdoor screen in North America4000 square feet.  And the balcony?  He rented an earth mover and did some re-landscaping so there is now a section at the back of the viewing area  that is above the others.   ‘” We pay our staff more than minimum wage. If they’re young we go to their parents and tell them we’re going to work them hard but we’re going to treat them right and pay them well. We want them to buy into the idea of this thing!  And they do. We’ve had kids who have worked here from the age of 14 into their 20’s “

Then he presented me with Starlight Drive In schwag  - a frisbee and a keychain flashlight . I offered to pay for them. “No” he said “People who show your kind of interest don’t pay."   The last thing he said to me was delivered with a particularly deep joy. “ Ross- I’ve never worked a day in my life” A mad man with a dream.   And judging by the sign on the road –  a sense of humor.  May he thrive.







Kehau is an African grey parrot I met at a small sandwich and smoothie shop

in LaHaina .  African greys are said to be one of the most intelligent of all parrots and are also capable of immense vocabularies of words picked up from humans.

 I have history with them .  I used live on the top floor of a house in Toronto. My landlord who occupied the rest of the house had an African grey that he’d adopted from a family who for whatever reason could no longer have him. I could hear him chatting away throughout the day and night in adult female, adult male and juvenile youngster’s voices.  Judging by the phrases and tone of each voice it was not a happy family and he was well rid of them. He was also quite the whistler. I was hanging out with my landlord one day and upon hearing him whistle imitated it. This prompted a judgmental look from the bird and he whistled again, this time a bit more intricately. I responded with a pretty accurate imitation of what he’d just done. Once again he sized me up ----took a good long pause--- then ripped into a cadenza of whistling virtuosity that was not going to be repeated by some dumbass human poser.  He trained his eyes on me and waited -  knowing  full well he’d just shut my sorry yap  but good.

So last week some 40 years later, there I was with Kehau He’d noticed my interest in him and had worked his way closer to me. He started whistling.  Not wishing to again be booted in the whistling nards by a parrot, I chose instead to talk to him using my best deep tones. “Hey –how’s it going -having a good day so far?” You’re sounding good.  Have you ever thought of saying something like “Ross is stupendous?”  I was basically talking like I would to a dog –being goofy-making friends.   Kehau apparently had other ideas.  Giving me the same judgmental look I had received years ago in Toronto  he paused  - and then responded loudly and clearly with words I shall forever fondly remember.

 “ Fuck you “ he said, and followed it with a little laugh. 

The owner of the shop came rushing out to apologize “ For 30 years he never said those words. Then there were some construction workers who used to have breakfast here. That’s when it started!”  Construction workers or no  - you haven’t quite lived until you’ve been sworn at by a foul mouthed parrot - especially one with truly excellent comic timing.   Life is good.




As I sit in a chair in my living room  facing away from the window and usually on my laptop my ears prick up to a sound  that I have come to love and look forward to in the last 3 years .  It never fails to excite and satisfy.  I tilt the screen of my laptop to see what is behind me and indeed there he is -  Boris  -  the resident year round hummingbird  grabbing a winter  nosh at the one remaining feeder.

We get a lot of humming birds in these parts  in the Spring.  There are 7 or 8 for about 2 or 3 months and I put out 5 feeders of various sizes that I’m constantly making mixture for and filling.  These little whizbangs are voracious .  They seem to settle their territorial differences with various rounds of spectacular aerial swooping displays.  That call to arms out of the way they settle in to dining – sometimes  3 or 4 on one feeder.  As the season wears on bit by bit they all disappear until  there is but one left that chooses to tough  the winter out in our cul de sac.   The aforementioned  Boris  -he of the sugar charged diet  and king of all he observes.

I look for him every  day . He has a favorite perching spot on the power line beside the pear tree. I observe him through a gap in the leaves manning his favorite 6 inch patch of electrical cable.  But I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting him even if he’s in the tree itself or in the bush beside it  I seek the little bugger out – he amazes me. 

The high octane energy and buzz of the wings- the general “I don’t care who the fuck you are, this is my turf “  feistiness  are things I greatly admire. I’ve seen a hummer harass my cat as she was trying to sun herself on the driveway.   I’ve been challenged and swooped upon as I was changing feeders.  Size Schmize- you’re in their domain  – prepare to tangle.

And the feeder. None of the nicey nicey  glass ones  with shiny new red bits –he  wouldn’t   go near them . Nope, Mr. Old School will only deign to visit the faded ancient plastic thing that I’ve had for years that threatens to fall apart every time I fill it. Great –a hummingbird sophisticate. –I am here but to serve.

 I’ve seen Boris go into a trancelike state.  He’ll actually sit at the  feeder tilt his head back and remain that way for a couple of minutes at a time.  This may be a power nap or a deep appreciation of my skillful brewing of sugar and water.  Whatever   he’s  then  off in a mighty fizz to the power line or some twig or bush to protect the rest of his kingdom.

Two weeks ago another hummer chanced upon the scene and there were fireworks.   A major Swoopapalozza ensued  with each little Napolean displaying their amazing aerobatic skills. Then at some point they both seemed to say “Screw this -  I’m hungry” and they  both settled in to lunching at the same feeder.   

So there are now 2 amazing little buzzbombs  in the neighbourhood . I’ve not named the other one  yet because it may not stick around .  If it does –Natasha is the obvious choice but I’m open to suggestions.

I love it when  are larger numbers of them around but Boris my solo hovering visitor always acutely reminds me of why I so love nature.

RD-Boxing Day 2016


The short Sooke experience

Ferried over to the Island Sat Apr 16th

Spent a lovely afternoon and night in Sooke. Walking down the hill to the water- past a building with the fantastic wall pictured above,I discovered a  board walk/wharf that stretches out along hundreds of yards of waterfront of beach -then returning to my car about a quarter mile up the hill I witnessed homeowners attempting to shoo away a river otter that was intent upon heading on to their property for what they feared would be setting up shop under their house. He was a persistent little bastard and  dashed - or rather did the otter short leg gavotte -  up around the place to much consternation.

There is a great supportive musical community in Sooke and I had a wonderful time meeting a lot of people. I even had a friend I had not since childhood turn up so -  an added wonderful surprise

After the gig driving over to a post show jam I waited patiently with several other cars as a deer took its time in the middle of the road deciding which side was a more appealing destination. These encounters are one of the many reasons why I love small towns.