The Big Trip, Part 2

Saturday, September 22, 2012

East Aurora, NY – Oakville, Ont.

Our drive to Buffalo and over the Peace Bridge into Canada went smoothly as did the border crossing. In no time we were on the QEW heading for Oakville near Toronto. We arrived at Ralph and Jenny’s new home shortly after noon. We’re very happy to see our friends and to relax in their comfortable surroundings.

Relaxing in Oakville

Jenny has always had more than a casual interest in wine. Recently she enrolled in a program designed for professional wine stewards, and having passed the rigorous three-day exam, now has the skills and knowledge of a true sommelier. She also has a wine cellar, which she designed, to match her skills. Glass fronted and temperature controlled, its contents are a sight to behold.

Sunday, September 23

Stratford — Oakville

Stratford is one of Canada’s two great repertory theater companies. Since all four of us love live theater, Jenny had obtained tickets for today’s performance of Sophocles’ Electra.

Our friends had prepared a picnic lunch that we had hoped to eat al fresco on the bank of the river. However, although the weather was partly sunny, the air was cold and we opted to eat our meal in the car.

Stratford Art Fair

Before lunch we walked through an outdoor art fair containing some high-quality work. We chatted with the artists, including one Turkish couple from near Izmir. It was interesting speaking a bit of Turkish in Canada.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The weather being warmer today, I did a short a bike ride in the Oakville Recreational Park just behind our friends’ home. The gravel trails are in good condition. It’s a lovely park to have so close by.

We’ve retrieved the motor home from where it has been parked at Ralph’s office. The Beast had only been superficially cleaned when we picked it up in Virginia. A closer look into the various lockers and compartments has spurred Kay into action. She’s been cleaning and organizing for several hours. Now, we’re ready for action. Tomorrow, we’ll return to the U.S. and visit other friends in Michigan.

Jenny Serving Dinner

It’s fitting that I end this chapter with a mention of our last dinner together. Our friends prepared a salad of Mache followed by an orange-and-mushroom risotto. Then there were scallops on a bed of fennel fried in butter. Dessert was the rest of yesterday’s blueberry pie. Kay and I have been renewed by these days of rest, comfort and conversation. Thank you again, Ralph and Jenny.

I’ve been thinking about how to concisely edit this chapter of our voyage. Its subject is a week spent in Michigan, mostly in the suburbs around Detroit. This is a part of the country rich in memories for both Kay and me. It was here that I first came after college to teach French. And it was here that I took my first steps as an industrial filmmaker. I met some of my oldest friends here, and this is where I eventually met and married Kay. When we return to southeast Michigan, it is primarily to renew relationships with friends and family.

As we write of these friends, our intention will be to acknowledge them for who they are to us.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oakville, Ontario – Rochester Hills, Michigan

Our drive from Oakville to Brian and Toni’s went smoothly enough. When in Michigan, we typically stay with these friends in their large home in Rochester Hills.

Photo taken in Kenosha, WI summer of 2010 by an unknown photographer.

Kay has known Brian for many years, since he was her English professor at nearby Oakland University. I’ve known Toni (Antonia) equally as long from my early days in Detroit. It was Brian and Toni who introduced Kay and me; they married shortly after we did in the summer of 1979. Over the years, we’ve become used to sharing their home with them and their daughter, Lauren, a young lawyer.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Toni as Ms Senior Michigan

Earlier this year, Toni won the title of Ms. Senior Michigan. This afternoon, the three of us met her at a local community center to attend a tea in her honor and in honor of former winners and contestants of the Ms. Senior Michigan Pageant. Toni looked stunning in a scarlet sheath dress draped with her red, white and blue sash. Next Saturday, she, Brian and Lauren will travel to Atlantic City for her to compete in the National Ms. Senior America Pageant.

Soon it was time for the four of us to drive to Detroit’s Orchestra hall for the season’s opening concert of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Due to a traffic jam that delayed us, we arrived at our seats just as the DSO began playing Leonard Bernstein’s Divertimento for Orchestra. Tonight’s was an all-Bernstein program that included his Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah”, the Overture to Candide, and Serenade, a violin concerto that featured guest artist Joshua Bell.

The evening was a success. Not only did the orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, play wonderfully but the excellent acoustics of the hall made the sound of concert one of the best we’d ever heard.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Before the others were awake, I was out of the house and on my bicycle for a ride up and down the nearby Paint Creek Trail. As I rode to the town of Lake Orion and back, a round trip of about 15 miles, the crisp air, autumn colors, and glimpses of beautiful residential properties along the trail invigorated me.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kay and I drove to the university town of East Lansing to visit Stu and Ellen.

Stu is 87 and Ellen not much younger. I first met them when Stu and I worked together for a boutique film producer in 1969. At that time, I was just beginning to learn my trade while Stu was an accomplished designer and cell animator. We became friends and would often eat lunch together.

Stu Repainting the Mona Lisa

What amazes me today is how Stu’s creativity remains undiminished. Long retired from commercial art, he has gone back to his first love of painting. He has also written and published an illustrated children’s book and a novel.

Although they both suffer the ills of old age, Stu and Ellen are still young in their hearts and minds. They enjoy their children and grandchildren and still get around as well as they can.

Broad Art Museum

We went out for lunch, and on the drive back from the restaurant the four of us stopped to look at a recent work by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, the new Broad Art Museum on Michigan State University’s campus.

Many of the great Detroit-area restaurants I used to frequent are long gone now, and the unpretentious Polish Village remains as one of our favorites. Where else can we eat creamy dill-pickle soup of this caliber? At this restaurant I usually opt for a plate of Polish sausage; however, tonight I chose the day’s special of meatballs and noodles

Tom as He Was

I first met Tom in the late 1960s when I was still teaching French and looking for part-time work in anything that had to do with film production. Even then Tom was a graphic artist and an accomplished photographer. His photographs today — of boats, trains, and automobiles – have a distinctive style. He exhibits and sells them at local art shows.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Ron is another friend I’ve known for a long time. He’s always been a builder, a furniture maker, and a sculptor in wood and metal.

Ron Standing behind The Gate That He Made for Us in New York

When Kay and I lived in New York, Ron built for us the most elaborate and interesting security gates we had ever seen. He also lived with us for a while on two occasions while he and I constructed a roof deck out of pressure-treated lumber.

Ron on Michigan’s Huron River

Years ago Ron built a yellow canoe, and when his two children were young, the four of us would canoe Michigan rivers and camp overnight in a large Army-surplus tent. I still remember how on one such occasion the kids screamed as we paddled through a long stretch of white water.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

We filled this last day in southeast Michigan with more visits and activity

With Friends at Slow’s Barbeque in Detroit

Lunch was with some of the same friends we’ve previously introduced at Slow’s Barbeque in the heart of Detroit across Michigan Avenue from the towering ruin that was once the city’s main railroad station.

Slow’s is a recent addition to the decaying city and a very popular one. I had read about it even in Istanbul.

With the Rusches in Birmingham, Michigan

We had one more visit to make before concluding our Detroit Area rounds. I’ve known John and Marilyn since my early days at the Bill Sandy Company. Each time we return to the area, our friends invite us to dine with them. Usually, Marilyn cooks a meal fit for royalty, and this occasion was no exception.

As Kay enthusiastically described the pleasures aboard the Queen Mary II, Marilyn caught her enthusiasm. When she learned that we would reboard the ship in December for a twelve-day cruise to the Caribbean, she immediately wanted to join us.

Back at Brian and Toni’s it was time to say our goodbyes. Together, we ended the evening watching a moving documentary about the late Beatle, George Harrison. It was made by Martin Scorsese with the title Living in the Material World. The viewing put us in mind to think about our own lives, all that we have done and all there is still to do in this material world.