Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rainbow sidewalk is pretty but not green

Rainbow sidewalk at Thurlow and Davie Streets

One of the promises on which Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was elected was to make his city the greenest in the world. But how is painting sidewalks green?

Sure, it's pretty, but is it necessary? When streets were marked with plain lines, we still managed to cross. This paint job will have to be redone often. I wonder who has that lucrative contract.

And wouldn't it be greener to plant something, or replace high maintenance plants with ones that require less care and water? It seems to be a sign of our times: replacing meaningful action with slick publicity campaigns.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Overheard on the train

Image from newtimes. NB: These are not the real protagonists of my story, which took place on the SkyTrain in Vancouver.

The two women were gabbing excitedly. I wasn't trying to eavesdrop. But suddenly, from the midst of their conversation, a strange sentence struck me.

It was uttered with a glib smoothness by one speaker, and received without dismay by the other.

"I was aware that he knew that I wasn't aware that she knew."

Though the other woman nodded with apparent understanding, I was befuddled by its bizarre intricacy. It was grammatical, but what did it mean?

For awhile I tried to unravel the meaning of this utterance. But I soon gave up. Way too confusing.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pulled over! Third time -- determined

Image from dailytech  

Finally, I was on the road. I'd meant to leave first thing in the morning, but it was past midday by the time the house was cleaned and the trunk of the car packed. I was headed for Edmonton, going visit my daughter and bring her some things the movers had left behind.

A recent speeding ticket had made me determined to mend my ways, so I watched the limit carefully and kept the car on cruise control. A few miles west of Hope, the junction markers indicated a specific lane for each of the three highways that separate at the junction.

I was keeping to the slow lane, because the cars in the fast lane were going beyond the speed limit, but I moved back to the centre lane when I saw the sign indicating that one as the route onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla.

That was when the young police officer pulled me over. The registration papers were in the trunk and I had to unload all my carefully packed luggage onto the gravel shoulder.

Instead of the usual rhetorical question, "Do you know how fast you were going?" the cop had another one for me: "Did you see the sign that says 'Slower traffic keep right?'"

I was going to explain about the junction lane markers and the cruise control, but a huge semi roared by. But by the time the truck with its two trailers had passed, and I could make myself heard, it was too late. The officer had written the ticket.

But I had the satisfaction of being in the right. I knew my speed was exactly 100 kmh, the posted limit, and I had a good reason for being in the centre lane.

Ironic that I was blamed for being too slow. Other cars were passing me, even as I observed the speed limit sign. Why were they not the ones being reprimanded?

This time, I decided to fight the ticket in traffic court. The cop didn't show, and I won.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pulled over! Second time -- guilty

As I sped off the Knight Street Bridge into Vancouver, my heart sank. Radar trap. I just knew that the old adage was to be proved once again: the more hurry, the less speed.

"Where were you going in such a hurry?" said the officer.

"To my poetry group."

"Ah." He nodded sagely, then explained. I was exceeding the speed limit by a certain amount; therefore, he had no leeway to let me off with a warning. It would have to be a ticket.

At the Rustico, where we met over coffee, my fellow lady poets were sympathetic. We all knew I'd have to pay the fine.

A delicious caffe latte was a consolation; so was hearing the others read.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pulled over! First time -- lucky

Image from vancouverite

On Seymour Street, I saw the flashing light behind me, but I didn't worry. It was my daughter's birthday, and I was thinking about the fifteen fifteen-year-olds who would soon descend on the house. I had to get back to Surrey fast, to finish organizing the pizza and cake.

When the cop car stayed on my tail, lights flashing, I was puzzled but still unconcerned. Why should the police be interested in me? As the siren began to wail, I pulled over. There must be some mistake.

"Your car insurance is expired," said the cop.

"No way," My comment expressed astonishment rather than denial, and he understood that.

He nodded, and said laconically, "Way."

Flustered, I asked, "What am I going to do?"

He pointed down the block. "See the entrance to that parking lot?"

It was my turn to nod.

"Drive in there, slowly. Then get out of the car and go renew your insurance."

I breathed a sigh of relief as I followed his instructions and parked the car. He could have really thrown the book at me, but he didn't even give me a ticket.

When I found an insurance agent, I explained my predicament. I was not allowed to move the car until I had renewed the insurance.

The agent prepared the papers. As I signed them, he added, "Now, since you own the car jointly, we also need your husband's signature." Oops again. I was in downtown Vancouver, but my husband was in Surrey.

Luckily he was still at home, and he answered his cell on the first ring. The insurance agent faxed him the papers, which he signed and faxed back. It was all done in ten minutes. Lucky again.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Roadside weigh-in for travelling pets?

South of Astoria, near the Mount St. Helen's turnoff, Gee Cee's is a good truck stop cafe. They serve home made baking powder biscuits there.

In Canada, you'd definitely need to be at someone's house to have a chance to eat those. And that person needs to be at least fifty years old.

Cultural differences. Okay, I get that gas prices are south of the border are in US gallons and not litres.

But what the heck is a cat scale? Time to weigh Kitty, who travels with you in the car, eating too many tea biscuits with gravy?

Yup, south of 49, they serve them with gravy. Weird.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks Boulevard

Image from

Driving through Seattle, I see the signs directing traffic from the freeway to MLK, Jr. Boulevard. It is one of hundreds of streets in the US named for Dr. Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader who had a dream.

Portland has both an MLK, Jr. Boulevard and a Rosa Parks Way, and they intersect. In 2009, changing the street name to Rosa Parks caused opposition, reported Margaret Haberman.

Later the citizens of Portland had to adapt to the change of another street name to honour the farm labourers' Union organizer Cesar Chavez.

Online, people continue to express mixed views on the re-naming of streets after King, Parks, and Chavez. Color Lines suggested recently that King's dream was "deferred" on the very streets that were named after him; the Seattle Times expressed the same idea in January.

In The Oregonian, Haberman reported on a more positive development regarding MLK Boulevard in Portland.

People oppose change. They fuss, then mostly, get over it. Time heals all wounds. And, as Groucho Marx once said, time also "wounds all heels."

Does it really? Does it wound heels who oppose giving posthumous honours to those who promote positive social change? If not, maybe it should.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Evergreen Aviation Museum at McMinnville

McMinnville, Oregon is the site of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Exhibits include an original civilian and fighter aircraft, including the huge "flying boat," the wooden plane called the Spruce Goose. Devised by Howard Hughes, it was built too late to counter the U-boat threat, and the government cancelled the order. However one plane was completed and the H-4 Hercules got off the ground.  The museum's mission is to inspire, educate, and promote aviation and space history, as well as to honour US veterans. Facilities include restaurants, a theatre, a non-denominational chapel and even a water park.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Amtrac station in green Eugene

By the second week of March, the old cherry trees that flank the Amtrak station were festooned with delicate blossoms.

A European style train called the Amtrak Cascades leaves Vancouver a couple of times a day, and travels to Eugene in about 10 hours, passing through Seattle, Tacoma, Salem, and Portland and other stops enroute.

Some Amtrak trips involve a combination of train and bus travel. The route follows the coast, and passes by a scenic series of volcanoes including Mt. Baker, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier. The stratovolcano Mount St. Helen's, which erupted in 1980, is also on view from the train.

Below left is a living roof in green Eugene.
Right is the Hult Centre, arts and concert space.

If Wordcrafters in Eugene holds its conference at the Hilton in Eugene again next year, maybe I'll come by train.
The station is less than three blocks from the hotel, the Hult Centre and much more.

Monday, April 21, 2014

45th Parallel midway between North Pole and Equator

Image by Dick Bruner on MN Museum

"45th parallel," the sign reads. "Half way between equator and north pole." The midpoint between torrid and frigid.

On the grid of imaginary lines girdling our planet, 45 degrees latitude crosses the north Pacific coast, smack dab in the middle of the temperate zone. Posted on Interstate 84, the sign lies between Baker City and North Powder, Oregon.
On the other side of this continent, the same latitude is used in the name of a motel and restaurant in Deer Island, New Brunswick. (Image right from

If we were to cross to Eurasia on this line, we would pass through Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, Turin and Belgrade on the same imaginary line.

In Stavropol, Russia, east of the Black Sea, "45th parallel" is used as a street name. The line bisects the tragically shrinking Aral Sea and touches the southern toe of Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan.

After going on through Mongolia, it crosses China, just south of the northern "ice city" of Harbin, and then passes across the northern tip of the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Natural dunes marred by human hyperactivity

Sometimes I feel impatient with my species. We humans have to get our pawmarks on every part of the natural world.

Last time our family visited the Oregon Dunes, about twenty-five years ago, we walked along specially built boardwalks and admired the natural unspoiled beauty of the place.

Now it's no longer enough to look at the wind- sculptured sand; people take motorized dune buggy tours, camp on the dunes and even sand- board down them as if they were made of snow.

Sand camping costs money, however, and drinking is forbidden. I guess that's good news.
Locally, battles continue over use of the dunes.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cape Foulweather named by Captain Cook for gale force winds

The wind was sharp and so were the colours, when I visited Cape Foulweather, a historic viewpoint on the Oregon coast.

As the sign in the picture says, this outcropping of basalt provides a stunning vista from 500 feet above the ocean.

James Cook arrived here on a stormy day in March 1778. It was his first voyage to the North Pacific coast, and after his and other seafarers' reports, the fur traders soon followed.

For those who aren't deterred by the high winds, which quite commonly blow at a hundred mph, it's also a good place for whale watching.

On the day I visited, the 75-year-old Lookout Observatory and Gift Shop was unfortunately closed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gray Whale watching vantage point near lighthouse

Whale watching station at Umpqua Lighthouse overlooks the open Pacific.

On the day this picture was taken, the ocean was heavily shrouded in mist.

No whales could have been seen from here, even if they happened to be sporting right below the sign.

For those who are not lucky enough to see these impressive animals in the wild, a nice film of grey whales is shown in the nearby Sea Lion Caves.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Umpqua River Lighthouse

The Umpqua River Lighthouse is an original. Standing at the edge of the dunes near Reedsport, it was Oregon's first of its kind. Built originally in in 1857, it's now part of a state park.

After being undermined by a flood in 1864 (still three years before the birth of Canada) it was rebuilt between 1891 and 1894. The illumination came from an oil lamp. In 1934, the first electric light was put in.

I didn't camp at this place, but Trip Advisor recommends staying in a yurt. These round tents, which originated in central Asia, have become popular among North American campers. One Yelp review says Umpqua has the "best camping ever." Most illuminating.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Debris watch, tsunami warnings

Like the west coast of Vancouver Island, the formerly pristine Oregon coast is now getting debris from the Japanese tsunami of 2011.

That huge wave followed Japan's gigantic and spectacularly destructive quake, the 7th largest ever recorded. It devastated the country and sent waves of nuclear radiation into the Pacific.

The message is clear. There is no place separate from any other, and none of us is separate from the others.

We are all one, and must do what we can individually to take care of one another, and the Earth, our mother, along with all the life she sustains.

Over eons, Earth constantly renews herself. Some of this change is gradual. Yet cataclysms are part of this renewal too: volcanic action, earthquakes, and glaciation. I hope we humans can moderate our destructiveness enough that we, and the species our activities are currently endangering, can continue to be part of the ecosystem of this planet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shellfish warnings and instructions

These days, we've been trained to orchestrate our lives by crisis and regulation. Clam and oyster digging at the beach are now controlled. Warning signs about shellfish (and much else) dot the landscape.

Here on the Oregon sands, harvesting shellfish is regulated and warnings apply. I wasn't trying to harvest anything, just to enjoy coastal views of the dunes.

Didn't read the Oregon Shellfish Regulations.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Beaches of memory hard to find

Many years ago, we enjoyed a family picnic on a windy beach in Lincoln City. We were there a short time and I vowed to return one day.

On my recent trip, I found the town had grown and changed so much I couldn't be certain where we had stopped on that long-ago camping trip to California. Was this the place?

Lincoln City beaches, while much built-up, are still beautiful. Even more lovely is Depoe Bay, a few miles south, seen below.
The dramatic beauty of the open Pacific has a dangerous side, of course.

Depoe Bay experienced major storm surges after the tsunami that followed the devastating 2011 earthquake that devastated Japan, 5000 miles across the Pacific. That quake was the 7th largest ever recorded.

The same wave did serious damage to boat and harbour facilities in Crescent City, a few miles south on the California coast.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Misty lake, mossy trees and wild rhododendrons

Flanked by wild rhododendrons, this moss-draped tree provides a lovely screen for a view of misty Sutton Lake.
This quiet green lake, favoured by kayakers, is located in the Siuslaw National Forest near Florence, Oregon.

Left: rhododendrons
grow on the lake shore, along with a kind of pale moss that is draped over the branches of many trees in this mild region (foreground)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Covered bridge over Wildcat Creek

Just off Highway 126 between near Eugene, an old wooden bridge crosses Wildcat Creek.

Long before the age of the automobile, covered bridges, dim inside except for the light from the small windows on each side, provided shelter from the elements for courting couples who could find few other places to be alone but out of the weather.

Built in 1925, the Wildcat Bridge is one of several in Oregon's Lane County.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Newport to Lincoln City by way of the Devil's Punchbowl

Left: Gull soars over Newport, Oregon

The Oregon coast is filled with natural wonders, including strange rock formations as well as the Oregon caves and dunes.

Formed long ago by volcanic activity are rocky shapes like the the Devil's Churn, Devil's Punchbowl, and the Devil's Elbow, where a charming hike including a tour of Heceta Head Lighthouse allows the visitor to see the original two-ton hand-ground Paris-made lens.
Right, the punchbowl fills as the tide comes in.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Tale for the time being, by Ruth Ozeki

Cover image from Penguin USA

This was a book someone recommended in a casual conversation. I picked it up in a bookstore and couldn't put it down. Nao, the teenage Japanese narrator, a self-described "time being," is sitting in a cafe in Tokyo's Electricity Town. She writes in her Hello Kitty journal, pouring out her soul to a reader she'll never meet, and her voice leaps into life. But why is this child contemplating suicide in a manga themed Tokyo cafe called Fifi's Lonely Apron?

This is only the first thorny question raised by the author, who appears later in the novel as a second narrator. A thicket of questions about history, ecology, society, time and existence move the book compellingly forward.

After the tsunami of 2011, can Nao, the girl whose journal washed up on a BC beach, possibly be alive? Will her Uncle Haruki, a philosophy student and unwilling kamikaze pilot of World War II, really carry out the suicide mission, or will he ditch his plane in the Pacific?

Will Nao's depressed father succeed in his next suicide attempt? Why does he want to kill himself and abandon his daughter to her fate? Will Nao survive the bullying at school? When, against her will, she is sent to a remote Zen monastery for the summer, will her great grandmother, age 104, be able to help this deeply troubled teen to navigate the swirling waters of her out-of-control life?

These were just a few of the questions that kept me reading through this highly unusual work. When I wondered how this terrifying tale could possibly end without spiraling down into tragedy, I flipped to the jacket image of Ruth Ozeki for encouragement.

One look at the shining face of the author, a filmmaker and Zen priest as well as an erudite scholar with a crazy sense of humour, persuaded me to keep going. It was well worth the ride.

Published in 2013 by Viking (Toronto), this novel was shortlisted  for the Man Booker Prize.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sea lion activity (and inactivity) visible in natural cave system


The largest coastal caves of North America are located on the Oregon coast. The cave system, occupied by a huge number of wild sea lions, is open for public visiting. Sea lion watchers can descend inside the cliff through a special elevator and look down on the myriad sea lions who bark and loll and swim far below. The Sea Lion Caves are well worth viewing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sand, fog and fear in Florence and beyond

Left: Foggy sea cliff at the Sea Lion Caves

Thick fog rolled in from the Pacific the day I drove to the coast to see the Oregon Dunes.

When I reached Florence, I headed south. My destination should have had lots of sand: I was seeking a place called  Dunes City. Instead, I found myself with a near-empty gas tank on a winding coast road shrouded in fog.

I berated myself for my carelessness. Why hadn't I gassed up in Florence? As I rounded the winding curves, I sensed rather than saw the steep cliffs on both sides. Time slowed and mist filled the bottoms; I could see only vague outlines of trees. I pulled over to check my map and panicked on seeing I'd passed my destination. Turn back or press on?

Finally I crossed a bridge and saw the coastline. There would have to be a town now. With great relief, I noticed an art gallery that stood directly across the road from the fog- bound Pacific.

Inside, a kind man was unpacking sculptures to the sound of Celtic music. He gave me detailed directions: go on two miles to Reedsport and Winchester Bay. There I'd find gas, coffee, and a good spot to view the dunes.

Right, beach at Winchester Point

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bruce Chatwin: What am I Doing Here?

Image from the National Portrait Gallery

Published a year before Bruce Chatwin died in hospital in Nice aged forty-eight, this collection of vignettes is a gem. To read his work is to re-enter lost times and places. In Ghana, the eccentric filmmaker Werner Herzog is busy making a movie of Chatwin's Brazilian story, The Viceroy of Ouidah. Weak from a recent unnamed illness, Chatwin fears he will not be able to move around the set, and asks the film maker to organize a wheelchair so he can watch as the movie is made. Instead, Herzog suggests "four hammockeers and a sunshade bearer," an offer Chatwin finds irresistible.

From the cameos of such diverse characters as Andre Malraux, Indira Gandhi and Diana Vreeland, these marvellous essays stunned me with their virtuosity in range: from very close to very wide views. "Nomad invasions" was my favourite.

During the time I was reading Chatwin's book, I was also listening to a historical novel by Bernard Cornwell on CD in the car.  In his tales, set in the late first millennium, the "Angle'kin," Saxons, and Danes battle for territory and plunder, even as the three groups intermarry and their loyalties shift and change. Recalling Chatwin's comments gave me some Aha moments as I listened to Cornwell's stories of Danish horsemen raiding ancient settlements of Wessex and Mercia.

Twenty-five years have passed since the death of Chatwin, the nomadic author of  In Patagonia and The Songlines. The noted composer Kevin Volans created a string quartet titled The Songlines, and became a great personal friend of Bruce Chatwin and his wife Elizabeth. When Bruce died, the South African born music maker composed "Cover him with Grass" to memorialize his friend.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Deep conversation as well as dancing at the Introverts' Ball

A father and son Deejay team receive requests via text message on a laptop, and play numbers to lure dancers out on the floor.

It used to be a classic that strangers on trains told one another about their lives. I found another occasion at the "Introvert's Ball," an event held at the recent flagship conference hosted by Wordcrafters in Eugene.

At a dim table, I had an intimate and fascinating talk with a woman I met quite by chance. Though we likely will not meet again, our talk was memorable -- for both of us, I think.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Eric Witchey and the irreconcilable self

Image from Eric Witchey

Linguist and author Eric Witchey proved a great discovery at the recent flagship conference put on by Wordcrafters in Eugene.

"Character," he tells fellow authors, "is conflict." Once you figure out what drives a character psychologically, it becomes clear exactly how that person would handle a given conflict, and that knowledge helps generate plot.

Donning his linguistics hat, he also offers a seminar and booklet on "How the Reader Breaks Your Writing." This lists common mistakes of sentence, word, mechanics and technique that can take the reader out of the fictional dream the writer is trying to create. Alert writers know this. That's why before submitting a story, a serious writer will edit, edit, and edit, then have someone else edit again.

In "Emotion-Driven Fiction," Witchey explains how the reader is held in a story by the logic of emotion: an emotion leads to a decision, which leads to an action. That in turn causes something else to happen, which causes a new emotion, allowing the cycle of what this writer calls the "emotional logic" to carry on.

He also details the need for characters and their creators to become aware of the "irreconcilable self," which, once brought to consciousness and faced, creates the deepest level of change in a protagonist. Fictionally speaking, he explains, characters who cannot complete this task successfully must die.

His Eugene workshops were fun, informative, and often hilarious. An added bonus was that they came with practical tools in the form of booklets on how to work various aspects of the craft of writing. Here Witchey gives a short talk on how to work at the craft of fiction.

He once demonstrated his craft by writing  "Batbaby and Bigfoot versus the Bloodsucking Vampires," in fifteen minutes, as an exercise. This story appears on his Fantasy list of publications.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Elizabeth George: writing from, to and within the darkness

Mystery author Elizabeth George at Eugene Hilton

A featured presenter at Wordcrafters in Eugene, Elizabeth George is a favourite mystery writer. Her Inspector Lynley series, some of them televised on BBC, are a heady mixture of emotion, atmosphere and social commentary.

Her latest tome, Just One Evil Act, runs to 719 pages, and features Sergeant Barbara Havers at her most desperately insubordinate. An eccentric White Knight in red trainers, Havers is ready to risk all to save her neighbours.

Except for Inspector Lynley, ten-year-old Haddiyah and her single father Professor Taymullah Azhar are the only two people Barbara has allowed herself to become emotionally attached to.

So when Haddiyah is kidnapped, Havers is prepared to move heaven and earth to help. Even if she has to defy Superintendent Ardery's orders and lie to Lynley, her long-time partner and superior officer in the Metropolitan Police.   

As an unexpected benefit of listening to this novel on CD, which involves Italian as well as British police, I learned a bit of Italian. Teaching language in a novel is astonishing feat for a writer. Indeed, Ms. George has done so much with the mystery genre that it can scarcely be called that anymore. Recently, she's begun a new YA series, set on Whidbey Island, her home when she isn't doing research in England for her next mystery.

Her presence at the conference was a main reason I chose to attend. I made a point of being in all her sessions, and was also sitting near the front to hear her give an address on why she writes.

The speech, a spoken personal essay, really, was built around an eye-opening thesis. Like the events of her Inspector Lynley novels, especially What Came Before he Shot her, the impassioned words of this fascinating woman both surprised and didn't surprise me. She writes, says George, from the dark, to the dark, and in the dark. Thus does she cast light on a troubled world.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Local Knowledge USA

Image from Associated Press

Crossing the border into the US a couple of weeks ago, I was shocked to notice that the speed limit on the I-5 was only 70. "I'll never get to Eugene at this rate," I grumbled to myself, then noticed that cars were passing me on both sides.

Ah, yes, I remembered. 70 mph, not km/h. There was a time when we used that measurement here, but it is so long ago that I have seem to have finally adapted to the metric system.

I squinted at my speedometer. Grateful to see the mph numbers on the inside, I set the cruise control and rolled down the highway at the posted speed.

In Everett, I pulled off to get some gas, and had a momentary shock when I saw the price: $3.89. Oh, right, that's per gallon. Not imperial gallons, like we used to use here, but US gallons. They have their own gallons, not those four-quart ones named for the British Empire.

Welcome to Klamath County, read the sign. Another subtle difference. We don't have counties in Western Canada.

And in the US, they have no loonies or toonies. Change is made with dollar bills and quarters.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

While my guitar gently weeps

Image from Guitar Academy

"I look at the world and I notice it's turning; still my guitar gently weeps. With every mistake, we must surely be learning..."

This profoundly beautiful song has been sung by Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, and Prince, among many others.

Songwriter George Harrison had recently visited India. He began writing the music there. He was also interested in the I Ching. He created the lyrics when he glimpsed words on opening a book.

Yo Yo Ma, classical musician and creator of the musical ensemble Silk Road, joins in this version by Santana. Here is an instrumental version played on a ukelele by Jake Shimabukuro.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Eight Days a Week, they were heard and loved

The Beatles as they looked in 1963, The Guardian

The Fab Four formed the musical backdrop to my last years in high school and my first in the city. How well I recall dancing alone to the Beatles in a high-ceilinged apartment on West Fourth Avenue.

At that time, my favourite Beatles song was Eight Days a Week. It was also amusing to listen to When I'm Sixty-four.

Back then, that advanced age seemed unimaginably distant. Now here I am. As John Lennon sang, Imagine. Still needed, still fed. Still charmed by the simple romantic dreams these songs evoke.