Category Archives: Travel

The Food on Air Canada Rouge

The Food on Air Canada Rouge

What’s worse than a summer deluge?
What’s worse than Christmas with Ebeneezer Scrooge?
What’s worse than a ride on a runaway luge?
the food on Air Canada Rouge.

What’s worse than a sequel to “In Bruges”?
What’s worse than a night in a crowded refuge?
(the air, loud with snores, toxic with flatulence)
What’s worse than another night in the same refuge?
the food on Air Canada Rouge.

Air Canada Rouge is a no frills version of a no frills airline. I just travelled with them from Barcelona to Toronto and it was a long nine hours – the on board entertainment system (download an app, sign on to on board Wi-Fi) didn’t work, legroom was minimal, service was begrudging, and as for the food, see above.

Two Poems (Machu Picchu, The Sun God) up at The Galway Review

The nice people at The Galway Review have published two poems of mine (Machu Picchu, The Sun God) . You can check them out here 

(I’m not sure about the photo, one of my daughters tells me that I’m out of focus like “that guy in ‘Deconstructing Harry'” and I should get rid of that “serious poet face”).

 

Of Statues and Limitations

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Of Statues and Limitations

As we round Lee’s Circle in New Orleans
talk turns to statues
and the topless monument;
the shuttle bus driver tells us
that Robert E. Lee’s statue was removed
under the cover of darkness
by a crew dressed like ninjas,
to avoid recognition.
People woke up the next day
to find the statue had disappeared.
A photograph on Wikipedia
shows the statue being removed
in broad daylight by a crane;
reality is nearly always more prosaic.
She also tells us that she grew up in the neighbourhood;
as kids, they just called the monument,
“The Statue”, they did not know or care
who Robert E. Lee was.

In 1966, the IRA blew the statue of Horatio Nelson
off its pedestal on top of Nelson’s Pillar
in the middle of O’Connell Street, Dublin.
To my parents’ generation
Nelson’s Pillar was known simply as “The Pillar”.
(Dubliners are very fond of the definite article:
“How’s the head?”
“Are you still playing the soccer?”)
To them, The Pillar was a landmark
a place to meet your date
en route to one of the cinemas
on O’Connell Street to catch a film (2 syllables)
and perhaps a humid snog
in the back seat when the lights went out.
To the IRA it was a symbol of British Imperialism
of British oppression,
an insult to our patriot dead;
blah, blah, blah, boom!
The IRA was a particularly unsubtle organization.

Is all this just facile juxtaposition,
chopped up prose
masquerading as a poem,
or is there a point?
Yes, yes and yes:
see what I think is
there are people who look up at statues
there are people who believe
statues are looking down on them
and there are people
who look straight ahead
and keep moving forward
into the future,
leaving the past
to its state of disrepair.

 

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Top photo taken at the Takashi Murakami exhibition (The octopus eats its own leg) at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Bottom Photo taken in Medellin, Colombia, statues by Fernando Botero.

Free Associating in New Orleans

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Free Associating in New Orleans

The waitress in the restaurant on Frenchmen Street
tells us that the rack of lamb changed her life;
that the flank steak with an ocean sauce of baby shrimps and clams
is to die for.

Surf and turf.

America continues its love affair with protein.

General Bonespur pulls out of the Iran deal.

The first cab driver is from Saudi
his mother is from Pakistan
he tells us that Pakistan
is a better place to party.
No surprises there.

The second cab driver is Egyptian.
We talk a little about Trump’s America
but mostly we talk about Mohammed Salah,
the Egyptian Messi
Egypt’s pride and joy
who is also a good person
gives back to his community
has sponsored seven weddings
in the village he comes from.
Now all of Egypt supports
Liverpool Football Club.

The third cab driver is Jordanian
The fourth cab driver is Algerian
we commiserate, our national teams
did not qualify for the World Cup;
we talk about lack of money
pampered players, poor coaching.
We couldn’t be happier.

Immigrants in cars talking soccer.

 

Between Chris Rock and a Green Place

 

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Back at the start of the summer. I spent the weekend in Gibson’s landing on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia; a knick knack tidy little town where one is never far from an art exhibition or a market selling jalapeno red pepper dip or a shop selling jokey hand towels; the kind of town where people go to follow their bliss and frequently catch up with it and even if they fail, a freshly baked muffin or a gluten free pie is always available as compensation.

Add to that, some magnificent views of the coastal mountains, Mount Big Thing and Mount Next Big Thing, and some good weather and you have a perfect place to relax, read and enjoy the sun, which I did, bringing with me a Rolling Stone, a New Yorker, the previous weekend’s Sunday New York Times (it takes me a week to read it) and Bruce Springsteen’s excellent autobiography (the Boss can write).

Both Rolling Stone and The New Yorker had articles on Steve Bannon.  Matt Taibi’s piece in Rolling Stone was funny, caustic and concise; the New Yorker piece by Connie Bruck rambled on forever, generally adding to the picture I already had of Steve Bannon as a dangerous amoral individual. One quote got my attention, from an anonymous friend: “he never fit in the world of investment banking, – he was this gauche Irish kid”. Over in the New York Times, there’s a piece on Jimmy Fallon, turns out he’s Irish too: “I’m Irish, I need all the luck I can get”; apparently his stage mark is in the shape of a four leaf clover. I would like to point out  that the shamrock which is used as a symbol of Ireland is actually a three leaf clover (it was used by early Christians to explain the concept of three gods in one, the Holy Trinity, those 5th century Irish peasants must have been a clever bunch, if they could grasp that one). Never mind, Jimmy Fallon is talented and likeable, so he can be Irish anytime he wants.

Back to the New Yorker where Calvin Trillin writes an article titled “The Irish Constellation” in which he explains that for a long time he thought the Orion Constellation was actually called “The O’Ryan Constellation”. He stretches this extremely lame joke way beyond the point where it is even remotely amusing. At the end of the article he describes being at a talk about The Orion Constellation in which an Irish man who, he says, has an accent like Barry Fitzgerald,  gets up and makes a comment that reveals that he too is under the same misapprehension regarding The Orion Constellation. Laugh? I nearly cried. By the way, for those of you under the age of a hundred, who don’t know who Barry Fitzgerald was, he was an Irish character actor who won an Academy Award, for playing an Irish priest (no surprises there). He died in 1961, my mother thought Barry Fitzgerald was old.

My wife interrupts my reading to tell me that Sean Spicer is Irish American and likes to wear green shamrock covered pants on St. Patrick’s Day. This is more than irritating, the only consolation is the sun is out and I’m getting a bit of a tan. Yes, that’s right a tan, I mention that in case by now you are picturing me as some  helium-voiced shillelagh swinging, freckled-faced mick. Maybe I’m being a bit sensitive.

I turn to Bruce, one of my heroes.  As I said above, Bruce can write and when the subject is New Jersey, Asbury Park or his early life, he writes really well. It turns out Bruce is half Italian, half Irish: his mother is of Italian descent; his father is of Irish descent. His mother is hard working, positive and supportive; his father is miserable, disappointed, drinks too much and is prone to unpredictable rage. Later in life, his father becomes mentally ill. Bruce suggests that this mental illness and perhaps his own depression came over with his Irish ancestors who came to America to flee the famine. C’mon Bruce, throw us a bone, if you have to indulge in facile causation, perhaps you might concede that your gift for language and story-telling, your talent for writing laments (The River, Downbound Train) comes from your Irish heritage. This is all getting too much, I look up and down the beach and wonder if the other people hanging around enjoying the sun know that I’m Irish.

Then rescue comes from an unlikely source, an article in Rolling Stone about Chris Rock. Apparently Chris is a U2 fan. On the day of his father’s wake, he found time to run to the record store and buy a copy of “Rattle and Hum” which had been released that day. “I love Bono”, Rock is quoted as saying. Flash back to North Florida, early eighties and I’m driving along a coast road close to Amelia Island, sand from the adjacent dunes drifts across the road, the sea is doing that blue sparkling thing, I’m listening to “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday” on the radio, hearing it for the first time, and the hair at the back of my neck is standing on end. “How long must we sing this song”, the old politics is being rejected by an Irish band and they are playing my music – rock and roll – not some maudlin shite dispensed by  some bearded guy with a banjo and a beer belly. You see back then if you asked anyone two things they associated with Ireland, they would say drinking and terrorism (terrorism that was partially funded, ironically, by Irish Americans). But Bono broke the Irish stereotype and for a while, at least, Ireland was cool. Ireland was where U2 and Bono lived.  I have been a fan of Bono ever since.

So, all you republican ersatz Irishmen out there with your shillelaghs and your shamrocks and your antediluvian politics, look for a personality somewhere else,  co-opt someone else’s imaginary identity; dress up as Mounties, wear lederhosen, I don’t care, just leave us alone. By the way, the current Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadker, is gay, fiscally conservative and the son of an Indian father and an Irish mother. In other words, he is a complex human being not a cartoon.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day in Ollantaytambo/ Station Road (2 haiku’s)

We got off the train from Machu Picchu at the Ollantaytambo station, walked up the station road to the town square and came upon this: Mother’s Day in Ollantaytambo. It went on all day – entertainment, raffles, prizes, politician’s speeches. The ladies seemed to enjoy themselves, although they never clapped once.

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Later that evening, we had dinner in the restaurant down at the station and walking home we witnessed this haiku-worthy scene.

Station Road

                I

Two black dogs humping

a puzzled white terrier

on the station road.

              II

Puzzled about what?

about the expectations

of the dog in front.

 

photo by Marie Feeney

 

 

Of Fish and War (Re-Mix)

 

Nha Trang

At the National Oceanographic Institute,

among tanks cramped

with circling neurotic fish

(Hit the glass. Stop. Turn around)

there is a multi-coloured specimen

whose toxin,

the sign says,

renders its victims

“unconspicuous or even dead”.

Further north

in the Hanoi War museum

conspicuous beneath glass

lie the dog tags

of dead American soldiers –

to a man

young, buzzcut and hopeful.

 

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Photo  taken outside The Hanoi War Museum

 

Las Vegas

This appeared some time ago, thought I’d give it an outing.

 Las Vegas

tattooed junkie

frantic call box

all that glitters

raddled toupee

prime rib buffet

entertainers

not so prime

cadillac

fossil fool

hot spot

for the uncool

synthetic jewel

neutral desert

Umbrage in Umbria (Remix)

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Umbrage in Umbria

In which Diane Lane

plays an American woman

recovering from the pain

of a recent divorce.

Sandra Oh will feature

As her quirky  sidekick,

Tonto to Diane’s Lone Ranger.

Smoldering local love interest –

Xavier Bardem or Antonio Banderas –

they’re not Italian

but if you want “smoldering”

you’ve got to call in the Spanish.

We’ll need a Brit,

Maggie Smith, perhaps,

as a sage but ageing dowager.

Max Von Sydow is still alive

(I’ve just googled him)

he could be the priest

but that might be too much Swedish gloom

we need wry and twinkling.

Morgan Freeman, I’m thinking

an explanation will be needed

as to how he got there.

Richard Gere will appear

near the end,

as the ex-husband

rich and massively contrite

now that his bimbo has fled –

the philandering bastard.

And as for the umbrage

taken by whom

because of what

you’ll just have to wait for the movie.

Colombian Palette / Hacienda Merida Re-Mix

 

Photos taken in Medellin, Cartagena, Guatape – Colombia.

Hacienda Merida

The rooster crows

before the break of dawn –

damn, preemptive cock.

He is joined

by the  gecko

behind the bed,

the village dogs,

birds,birds and more birds

and finally

Fiona the donkey

whose indignant heehaw announces

she is not ready for another day

tethered to a pole

in feckless shade.

 

 

Patrick’s Irish Pub, Medellin, Colombia

bangers and mash

I have to admit that when I first moved to Canada from Ireland I used to dread St. Patrick’s day – the fake Irish accents, the green beer, the where’s-me-lucky-charms awfulness of it all. I have since learnt to embrace it.

I never felt quite like that about Irish pubs, I have always regarded them as oases of something approaching familiarity when I found myself in a foreign country. I once got quite sick from food poisoning in Nicaragua and when I was well enough to eat again, I had a longing for Irish stew which I found in an Irish pub run by an ex farmer from Limerick, but that’s another story.

I was recently in Medellin, Colombia, staying in the El Poblado district and I dropped in to Patrick’s Irish Pub to sample Ireland through a Colombian filter. The pub had the usual collection of Celtic bric-a -brac, Gaelic geegaws, Paddy paraphernalia, Shamrock gimcrackery. As is often the case in Colombian bars, one wall was half covered with television screens showing mostly football/futbol/soccer; though there was one screen devoted to UFC and another showing old MTV videos – Rob Zombie, Deborah Harry, Metallica , Eric Clapton singing “Cocaine”; oddly appropriate, Pablo Escobar once lived in this neighbourhood, his house is now a civil engineering office. Yes, this was the soundtrack of Patrick’s Irish Pub. Occasionally, the screen would go blank and they would play “The Rocky Road to Dublin” as a reminder.

The waitresses were young and wore short kilts, I found myself wondering what they thought of this strange universe they found themselves in every evening – a heavy metal Ireland full of tattooed bruisers. I ordered bangers and mash, which is technically more of an English dish, and it was spectacularly bad – two chorizo sausages on a soft bog of mash potatoes. Still, the beer was good -craft roja from BBC (The Bogota Beer Company).

Outside it was a beautiful warm evening and locals and tourists were pouring into the area to sample the restaurants and salsa bars – a mass of colour and pounding drum beats, the feeling that the party was getting started and would not stop until the early hours of the morning. Back in Ireland, the pub is a warm convivial place that people go to,  to get out of the weather ; here in Medellin , Colombia,  Patrick’s Irish Pub felt more than a little redundant.

 

The Mitchell-Feeney Project – Track 7, The Note

Earl sailed up the Belize coast

In his brand new custom built boat

With the mother of all hangovers

No water and a note

And now he’s sitting drinking

In an ocean-side tourist bar

Trying to get a jump on happiness

In the hour before happy hour

I had just landed on Caye Caulker, which is little more than a sand spit off the coast of Belize, when it started to rain heavily. There was nothing else to do but go to an ocean-side bar, in the hour before happy hour. It was as crowded as a bar gets on Caye Caulker and there was this guy bragging in a loud voice about how he had just sailed up from Placencia in his new boat with “the mother of all hangovers” and no water on board. The guy was a bit of a jerk, so I decided to write him into a poem (which turned into this song lyric) and give him a hard time. By the way I tried working “Placencia” into the lyric but the word just hissed and flopped around like a drunk snake, so I gave up on it! Take a listen, and then John Mitchell will explain how he managed to sound like a rock band all by himself!

Here’s John:

I could hear “The Note” played by a real southern rock band. That’s the attitude I took to the musical arrangement. Earl had a bad case of the regrets mixed with a helping of anger, a bad hangover and topped with a soucent of despair, all in all a pretty heavy feeling, so it needed rough and heavy music. The opening distorted guitar lick is a nod to “Susie Q” by CCR played through an overdriven Fender Deluxe amp. I tried to make the track sound like a 5 or 6 piece band playing live in a smokey, roadside bar. I added the rock and roll piano on the choruses, as if Leon Russell was playing and the greasy Hammond organ as if Greg Allman was sitting in, especially the solo played through an overdriven Leslie speaker with a tear in the cone. I think Earl would appreciate how the band interpreted how he was feeling after getting “The Note”.

Click here to preview/ buy the whole album or individual tracks! Also available on iTunes (search for “The Mitchell Feeney Project”, no hyphen)

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Of Fish and War

Nha Trang

At the National Oceanographic Institute,

among tanks cramped

with circling neurotic fish

(Hit the glass. Stop. Turn around)

 

there is a multi-colored specimen

whose toxin,

the sign says,

renders its victims

 

“unconspicuous or even dead”.

Further north

in the Hanoi War museum

conspicuous beneath glass

 

lie the dog tags

of dead American soldiers –

to a man

young, buzzcut and hopeful.

 

IMGP0855

 

Photo  taken outside The Hanoi War Museum

 

So Long, Halong

 

As we ride out of Cat Ba

through a valley circled

by limestone crags,

a compilation of pop ballads

 

from the seventies and eighties

oozes from the speakers

and the affable English backpackers

at the back of the bus

 

groan in faux horror

as Aerosmith follows Bryan Adams

follows George Michaels

follows Michael Jackson

 

but when the Bee Gees launch

“How Deep Is Your Love”

the backpackers quieten down

and the driver stops honking his horn

 

at the dogs, children, women

in cone hats and cyclists

with finely balanced cargos

who drift carelessly

 

in front of the bus

as if it was an invisible

visitor from the future,

and we all strain against

 

the tug of the song’s chorus

far too cool to sing along

except for one backpacker

let’s call him Nigel

 

or Christian, or Jason, or Justin

who, in a high piping voice

declares his oneness

with the song’s embattled lovers.

 

This poem was first published in Oddball Magazine, about 4 months ago.