Thursday, May 27, 2021

Professor's legacy lives on in garden christened by poet Allen Ginsberg

Christene "Cookie" Meyers at the dedication of the Bruce Meyers Poets Garden, May, 1993,
on the campus of Montana State University-Billings, then Eastern Montana College.
Three of the professor's poems etched on marble were written on the memorial site.
The garden is listed in the Smithsonian's list of public art (see link below.)


Architect Ted Wirth and EMC president Bruce Carpenter
discuss the project at the groundbreaking in fall of 1992.
EACH SPRING,  Bruce Kemp Meyers and his writing students left the indoor classroom for an inviting outdoors venue.  They gathered on the lawn near the Liberal Arts Building on the campus of then Eastern Montana College. It proved a tradition which Meyers continued for 25 years.
He joined the class in writing poems, short stories and essays. They talked about their goals, shared ideas.
It was a special place for my talented, nature loving husband, a way to greet spring and celebrate his gifts in a comfortable place.
The late poet Allen Ginsberg made a spectacular guest
appearance at the dedication of the "Bruce Garden." 
BRUCE'S STUDENTS loved these outdoor writing workshops; so did he.
So when he passed away suddenly in February of 1992, I knew precisely where I'd like his memorial to be:
On the lawn outside the L.A. Building, where he'd logged happy hours each spring since his first year on campus in 1967 until his death, in February, 1992. The memorial includes poems written on the site.
That idea grew to include a garden and poet's corner to honor the creativity that unfolded there. I wanted it to be a place for visitors to remember him, and a haven to welcome other artists.
I CALLED my friend, architect Ted Wirth, who had followed our theater career. We'd also served on boards and committees and I'd interviewed him for the newspaper. He loved the idea and wanted to make my dream come true.  The two of us approached then EMC president Bruce Carpenter, also a good friend, an original thinker who played poker with Bruce and a group of other professors. 
Corby Skinner, left, and Christene Meyers
discuss the program on tap. Poet Allen
Ginsberg was waiting in the wings. 
HE, TOO, liked the idea.  So the process began. Over coffee, Ted and I created a space designed to relax and inspire. The front has a formal look, enhanced by granite and marble.  At its center is a bronze of Bruce sculpted by our longtime friend, fellow actor and Emmy-winning Hollywood special effects artist Andy Schoneberg.  A metal sculpture of our airedale dog was created by artist Lyndon Pomeroy to illustrate one of the poems, "Gandalf."
On the garden's sides are benches. A welcoming archway was inspired by our trips to Japan. Perennials and lilacs flank a brick wall, accented by a Jay Montague sculpture.  Aspen and river rock create a woodsy look.
An overview of the Bruce Meyers Garden and Poets Corner.
THROUGH the years, the garden has become a favorite spot of faculty, staff and students. Some take their lunch break there. Nearby residents walk, run and bike by daily.  Several professors carry on the tradition of convening  classes there -- to study art, language, philosophy and of course, writing.
Bruce Kemp Meyers
is remembered with a
bronze, poems and a garden
A 10-year event, the annual "Bruce Bash," brought together writers, musicians, actors and artists to celebrate the arts and honor Bruce. But the first arts festival celebration in May of 1993 was hard to top. Headliner was poet Allen Ginsberg, who was in Billings for a Writer's Voice appearance. When he heard of the dedication through Corby Skinner, he extended his Billings visit to participate. Also on tap were Marcia Spalding's bellissimo! bell choir, Alice Lyon's Community Youth Chorale, actors from Billings Studio Theatre, Starfire, and students and faculty from both MSU-B and Rocky Mountain College. The Nell, Roberty, Edwards Trio played jazz to wild applause and Ginsberg's 45-minute performance brought down the house.
Sculptor Andy Schoneberg and
a windblown Christene Meyers
at the dedication of the garden.
YELLOWSTONE Public Radio's Marvin Granger and his staff broadcast the event live on Yellowstone Public Radio. Director Skip Lundby  kept the program running smoothly.    
A book of Meyers' poems, "Ventriloquist in the Rain," debuted.  It is still available -- in its fourth printing. Funds from the first edition helped establish the Bruce Meyers Scholarship Endowment at MSU-Billings.  Contributions are welcome at the college's Foundation (see link below.) One of the recipients shared the stage with Bruce.  She played an orphan in our dinner theater production of "Annie" and said she was inspired to pursue a teaching and English career by Bruce, who played Daddy Warbucks. "He wished us to 'break a leg' before each performance. I couldn't understand why he would say that when we had so much dancing to do," she wrote in her thank-you note.)
Alice Lyon in blue conducts her Community Youth
Chorale at the first annual Bruce Kemp Meyers
Arts Festival (the Bruce Bash) in May of 1993.

MEANWHILE, the garden - like all growing things -- evolves and changes.  The spirit of its creation remains:  a calming, inclusive place on campus where people come -- alone or in groups -- to contemplate the contributions of a talented man who influenced many. "Bruce Meyers: poet, actor, teacher," reads the inscription.  May his memory live on.  
Here is the Smithsonian Institution's link to the garden:
Here is the university foundation's link to the English scholarship in Bruce's memory: (A field asks the donor where he'd like to direct a gift; type in Bruce Meyers Scholarship. Contributions are tax deductible and help fund annual gifts to English majors. The awards began in 1993. The Foundation also maintains the garden, as per a 1993 agreement.)

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett "Cheek to Cheek" tour,
in a spectacular Bruce Keller photo from our orchestra seats. 

UP NEXT:  While we're remembering and saluting a life in the arts, another performer comes to mind.  Singer Tony Bennett will turn 95 this August, and we honor his life in the arts, noting his struggle with Alzheimer's.  The writer of this column has been a Tony Bennett fan since childhood, listening to her parents' albums.  Bruce Keller and I have seen him in concert five times, three times with Lady Gaga. His art has kept him lively and engaged. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a refreshing look at travel, entertainment, nature and family:

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Hop onto a 'Hopper,' you'll sail away your troubles

"Cap'n Keller," Bruce Keller, this column's photographer, is a lifelong sailor who took the wheel
of a Hopper Boat Rentals small craft recently on a leisurely trip through Oxnard's canals.

Oxnard's architectural variety is pleasing to observe from
the water. From Victorians, to unique stone and slate
creations to Mid-Century Modern, it's an eye catching mix. 
Harbor seals greet small boats as they glide
by; there is abundant sea bird life, too.


WE LOVE the Channel Islands and 
make several pilgrimages a year there.
Always on the trail of something new, we happened on Hopper Boat Rentals and spent a lovely afternoon exploring the channels of the tranquil, clean and not-yet-discovered town of Oxnard, California.

Hopper Boat Rentals is tucked away on one of Oxnard's quiet little corners in Channel Islands Harbor. The rustic dock holds the Hopper fleet of a dozen or so boats, ranging in size from single and double kayaks and fishing kayaks to electric boats for a party as large as 12. The outfit also rents paddle boards for the more adventurous, and pedal boats for anyone out for a relaxing time.
Lane Norton helps his parents
at the family owned business.

The business is owned by the Norton family; the parents started the business and continue to sustain it in office while son Lane works outdoors on site. He's an amiable, helpful fellow, manning the  harbor business, checking in passengers and keeping the boats clean and ready. He offers sailors a cheerful smile and a strong arm for getting on and comfortably seated, casting off then coming back in to port.
Hopper Boat Rentals is tucked away in a quiet corner,
offering relaxed viewing of a variety of other water craft.
You can rent by the hour, for an afternoon or a day, in small or larger groups celebrating an anniversary or birthday and groups as small as the two of us -- just a couple out for the afternoon, with our Yorkie, Nicky.
OUR SMALL, quiet boat was one of dozens out on the water that day, but the channels never seemed crowded, and that's the way it usually is, Lane said.
The business has based at Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard for 15 years. 
Yorkie Nick is at home on
the waters of Oxnard Harbor.
Off for the afternoon: Cookie, Keller and Nick.

We really enjoyed the pace of this adventure on the water. The architecture in Oxnard's canals is fascinating, like most  harbor towns. The mix of styles ranges from elaborate Victorian, to Italian, mission style and Carpenter Gothic. We took photos of gorgeous gardens and artful patios.
OXNARD IS at the end of the Santa Barbara Channel and offers year-round viewing of whales, dolphins and seals. The calm water was never "rock and roll" swaying, as we've felt many times on small crafts.
Oxnard's colorful harbor area on Victoria
Avenue is in various states of repair and renewal.

It was a perfectly smooth sail with other easy-going sailors. "Cap'n Keller" kept us safe and the ride smooth navigating with perfect sailor prowess. He has sailed oceans, rivers and lakes since he was a kid.
I would have been nervous piloting the boat myself. But if you've never driven an electric boat, don't let that stop you. Lane gives easy walk-through instructions, as we saw him do with a novice-sailors couple who arrived along with the two of us. 
 IT IS COMPLETELY relaxing. And fascinating. We loved viewing boats from another boat. There's a whole community of boat people in Oxnard. 
The picturesque Oxnard, Calif., harbor reveals itself
during a leisurely few hours aboard Hopper Boat Rentals. 
 We  watched them enjoying life on their homes, which ranged from elaborate and sleek to rustic-casual, with plants, beaded curtains and sleeping dogs. Our boat was so quiet we couldn't hear its motor.
If you've never been to Oxnard, it is an undiscovered gem on the California coast, a quiet beachside community -- not as opulent as some nor as laid back as others. It has its own rhythm and profile, and is a friendly and welcoming place to spend a few days. We recommend Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor, where stunning marina view rooms offer an ever-changing picture of life on the water. Fishing boats, pleasure crafts, luxurious yachts, kayaks and paddle boards all make their way to and fro as you watch with a cup of coffee or glass of wine, while your troubles disappear.
Hampton Inn Channel Islands
Harbor is our Oxnard "home."

As Cap'n Keller says, "If you've always longed to be captain of your own boat, consider a 'Harbor Hopper.' We've rented small electric boats around the world. Whether you're on the canals of Venice or the waterways of Oxnard, California, you'll find a peaceful, relaxing way to slow down."
So do consider a weekend in Oxnard, and set aside a few hours for a Hopper boat rental. You'll be so smitten, you may decide to own your own boat!; 805-382-1100
Poet Allen Ginsberg was special guest at Writer's Voice, and
the dedication of the Bruce Kemp Meyers Poets Garden
 on the campus of Montana State University-Billings.
UP NEXT: Memorial Day approaches, so we remember a unique memorial celebration for a talented teacher, poet and actor.  Twenty-eight years ago, famed poet Allen Ginsberg made a guest performance in Billings, Montana, to honor the memory of Bruce Meyers.  The award winning writer delivered a eulogy, read his poetry and sang songs. His performance during the first "Bruce Bash" christened the Bruce Kemp Meyers Poets Garden, in memory of the late professor of English at Montana State University-Billings. While working on his MFA at Kent State University, Meyers took a workshop from the acclaimed poet and they struck up a correspondence. Ginsberg's visit was arranged by Corby Skinner during Ginsberg's Billings appearance at Writer's Voice the same May weekend as the 1993 garden dedication. We look back on the remarkable celebration of music and theater. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us each week for a fresh take on travel, nature, family and the arts. Please share the link:

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Countries open up, cruising resumes, travel comes back in Covid times


Planning a return to Malta, here during an expedition to some of its famous caves,
Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller rejoice on the resumption of European travel.

Cruisers will once again see the lights of Hong Kong's
beautiful Kowloon Harbor, as the CDC adjusts its guidelines.



Bruce Keller and
Christene Meyers
in Honolulu last week. 
NCL's Pride is
  returning its popular 
Hawaii itinerary. 


WE TOOK OUR FIRST flight, PC, "post Covid," our first PC boat trip and our first PC foray into a large city after crossing the Pacific to Hawaii two weeks ago. We're also cruising again, aboard a pair of Norwegian Cruise Line ships, as cruising makes a comeback.

WE'RE DINING in restaurants again, walking city streets, taking taxis, buses, sail boats and rental cars. We're shopping in stores and markets. All masked, distanced and glorious. It's as if we were tourists for the first time.

The famous gondolas of Venice await pandemic-weary
travelers, now that European travel bans are being lifted.

WE'RE TRAVELING again. After months of deprivation we packed passports, vaccination cards, sprays, masks and Covid negative test results.
WE'D LAST boarded a plane a remarkable 16 months ago, when we returned early from South America to nurse our ailing female Yorkie, Nora.  Her passing in January, 2020, after futile attempts to curb her kidney disease, seemed an omen for what was to come. It was, in many ways, one of the most troubling years of my life.  It was also a year of "inner exploration," of spending time with my favorite person, learning new ways to be happy. But enough already. So we took two weeks of aloha time.

Cookie and Keller after months
of travel deprivation are back
flying and cruising.
AS THE CRUISING INDUSTRY rebounds, there's more good news this week for international travelers. The European Union announced that it will accept those vaccinated with vaccines approved by EMA (the European Medicines Agency).  According to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, three vaccines have been approved for vaccinated travelers to Europe: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Anxious European leaders believe travel will resume by this summer. June 15 seems to be the goal, just a month away.

The remarkable lion statues in Delos await as Greece is open
again to tourism. A dozen marble statues salute the god Apollo.

Already there are positive signs as people are vaccinated and travel regulations ease. These countries are now open to travelers outside their own country -- hooray: Cyprus, Ecuador, Estonia, Republic of Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Iceland, Israel, Mexico,  Montenegro, Nepal, Seychelles, Tahiti. Covid-negative tests are the rule for these countries, whose tourism-based economies have been nearly devastated by the pandemic. “We are working hard to propose a concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a recent interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Airlines are busy, increasing flights and offering bargains on use of frequent flier miles.
Cruising is coming back, too.
NORWEGIAN Cruise Line and others are seeking to clarify what comes next, after CDC's easing of masking and distancing requirements. It's still unclear how travelers will interact on ships with  
American Cruise Lines is selling out attractive,
safe "home based" voyages, here American Song
cruises the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.
vaccinated passengers and crew and those without. As cruise lines gear up to resume operations, most are insisting that passengers be fully vaccinated. Some will also insist on a negative Covid test as well. The CDC's Conditional Sailing Order, CSO, requires cruise lines to establish agreements at ports where they intend to operate, implement routine testing of crew. Plans are also being formulated by the various lines to require vaccination proof and testing of boarding passengers.
U.S. BASED American Cruise Lines, is selling out many of its summer and autumn cruises, with its "homegrown" advantage over lines that travel abroad. American's modern, small river and coastal boats are all U.S. built, registered and crewed, "and not subject to the issues other lines are," said Alexa Paolella, American's public
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers enjoy lunch
al fresco in Portofino, as Italy's tourism opens up again.

relations manager. 
Another line, Viking River Cruises, will restart limited operations in June with three special sailings along the coast of England.
"We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities," said Aimee
Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC's Global Mitigation Task Force for COVID-19. "We are committed to the resumption of cruise operations in the United States, following the requirements
Keller and Cookie above Cannes, France,
"B.C.," Before Covid. Plans are to return. 
of the CSO by summer, which aligns with the goals announced by many major cruise lines."
IN A NUTSHELL: It is likely that ships resuming sailing will demand passengers provide proof of vaccination. Crews will be fully vaccinated.
Most countries will ask for a vaccination card and may require a negative Covid test. 
Each country is dealing differently with foreign travel. The United Kingdom has divided countries of the world into three categories - green, amber and red. Status depends on the number of Covid-19 cases per country and the success of their vaccine rollout. Green countries have the fewest rules.
Beginning May 17, people in England and Scotland can take holidays abroad in "green" countries without having to quarantine when they return.
Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet announced plans to restart foreign holidays.
In the U.S., the CDC is expected to announce updated guidelines by this weekend. 


Christene Meyers, Bruce Keller and Nick take to a rental boat
 for a relaxing half-day journey in the Channel Islands.
UP NEXT:  As the world regroups, travel resumes, masking and distancing ease, and the pandemic seems to be taking a healthy turn toward control, we're pausing to reflect. We're taking this tranquil time to reflect, to smell the roses, enjoying the soothing balm of the Channel Islands waters. It's possible to rent a boat for a day or afternoon, to wander the inlets and canals of this undiscovered gem on the California coast.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us each week for a fresh take on travel, nature, family and the arts. Please share the link:

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Cruising's steady worldwide return: in the U.S., an opportunity to discover homegrown wonders


American Cruise Lines' American Harmony is an attractive alternative to "foreign port" cruising.
American is cruising with 75 per cent occupancy, high hygiene standards and a negative Covid test. 

Cruise ships are readying to ride the waves again.



AFTER A BRUTAL year, the cruise industry is making a comeback.
Good news is on the horizon for lovers of ship travel, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates it policies, shedding hope for summer cruising.
This ship in the Greek Isles will be sailing again
probably by mid-summer. Holland America
and other lines plan to sail Corfu, Santorini
and Mykonos, all ports whose tourism took
a nosedive during the pandemic. Check your  
cruise line websites or consult a travel agent.
Many lines hope to be cruising again by June 1, with other lines following through the summer and into autumn. Most are insisting on vaccinations for both passengers and crew.  But even with vaccinations and a possible green light from CDC, it will take ships time to prepare, after more than a year of uselessness.

STILL, THIS WEEK brought hopeful news. Those of us who cancelled cruises for 2020 and 2021, are encouraged that some lines are already cruising, using foreign ports for departure. It is encouraging, too, to see that the millions who make their living as cruise booking agents, ship crews and tourism workers will return to employment.  They all took a huge hit during the pandemic as cruising crashed to a standstill.
Keller and Cookie catch the
wind  two years ago in Alaska,
viewing whales. Alaska and Florida 
are suing the CDC for its decision
to halt cruising to their ports.
During the rough year, many cruise lines moved their vessels out of the U.S. because of stringent CDC restrictions. Most port cities have not witnessed cruise ship activity since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, except for the occasional "bare bones staff" ship coming in to refuel. 
U.S. BASED American Cruise Lines, is ahead of the "comeback game."  Its modern, small river and coastal boats are all U.S. built, registered and crewed, "and not subject to the issues other lines are," said Alexa Paolella, American's public relations manager. She noted that the line's CEO, Charles Robertson, is an ardent student of boat design, involved in the vessels' sophisticated blending of contemporary elegance with functionality. American's new river boats boast the artistic flair of a top Miami firm, Studio DADO, which works with other high-end lines, including Regent Seven Seas.
American Cruise Lines' beautiful American Song offers  
 94 spacious cabins with stellar views. Here, she glides
serenely along Pacific Northwest waters at sunset. 

Paolella says many of the Connecticut based line's routes are selling out as deprived cruisers eagerly return to the waters. American's "close to home" cruises ply the eastern and western seaboard, as well as Mississippi-Ohio, and Columbia-Snake rivers, creating a devoted return clientele. Repeat customers enjoy eight-day Mississippi cruises, with an inviting mix of history, culture, food and fun, enhanced by stops in fabled port cities: Memphis, New Orleans, Nashville and St. Louis. For the true aficionado, American offers longer itineraries: a 22-day Complete Mississippi Cruise or a 15-day Grand Heartland Cruise, which remarkably explores ten states in a single journey. American also offers shorter 5-day highlights cruises, holiday and theme cruises, curated to celebrate iconic Mississippi themes, from Mark Twain to food and music.
American Cruise Lines offers a music cruise -- here to see
the bars and music hang-outs of Nashville. Many cruisers
are looking for travel opportunities closer to home this year.

(This piano player is excited about American's new "Music Cities" cruise while my foodie partner is eying the culinary cruises with Cajun, Creole and Memphis barbecue.)
AMERICAN'S diverse repertoire includes riverboats, coastal cruisers and paddle wheelers with varied itineraries, "plus theme cruises and holiday cruises," says Paolella.  American's high ratings reflect loyalty of pampered passengers who sing the praises of the largest staterooms afloat, complimentary shore excursions and happy hour, signature perks since the line's 1991 inception. American makes waves in the industry, says Paolella, "because we offer the smooth sailing of larger ships with the up-close access of small-ships, and the convenience and security of cruising close-to-home."  

 MORE ENTICEMENT for cruisers: Holland American president Gus Antorcha said in a phone visit this week, "We’re back!” The line has been preparing for a return to service during this fallow year. Holland will begin sailing from Piraeus in August aboard Eurodam with fully vaccinated passengers and crew. Antorcha said, "We are grateful to the government of Greece for allowing us to show we can safely operate our cruises." 

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
aboard Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth before
the pandemic shut down cruising worldwide.

ALSO THIS WEEK, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian and Crystal Cruises announced plans to restart. Viking Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain applauded the CDC for updating its pandemic cruising policies so his fleet can resume sailing from U.S. ports. "We’re pleased and excited because it sets forth a pathway that we think is achievable, practical and safe,” Fain said.
Viking River Cruises, the first cruise line to suspend operations of its river and ocean cruises, is enthusiastically updating its cruise schedule. Monaco based Silversea Cruises, which pioneered all-inclusive luxury cruising with its sleek Silver Cloud, resumes Mediterranean sailings with its lovely Silver Moon.
THE VENERABLE Cunard Line, founded in 1840, has been cruising around the United Kingdom for U.K. residents only and is beginning to reschedule sailings for its distinguished fleet: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary. Its President Simon Palethorpe said, "We know how much everyone is desperately looking forward to longed-for vacations overseas.'' (He is also president of Carnival UK.)
HOW QUICKLY cruise lines can cruise again will depend on their compliance with the CDC's framework for conditional sailing order. Friends in Israel, England and Singapore are taking advantage of cruises for residents only; those cruises have been off-limits to Americans.   As of late Thursday, Royal Caribbean set July 1 for getting its ships back in water. Oceania plans August sailings, Cunard and Regent Seven Seas say September. Norwegian Cruise Lines and many other lines will insist both passengers and crew be fully vaccinated.  Once vaccinated, travelers will be able to take a rapid antigen COVID-19 test before embarkation.

Self-serve buffets are becoming a thing of the past
 as cruise lines do away with them, or offer them
only in modified version, with servers serving. 
MANY LINES have been redesigning and rearranging public spaces, including dining rooms, gyms and theaters, to accommodate social distancing. Buffets -- where they still exist -- will insist upon servers, no self-service. In a letter to the industry Wednesday, a CDC official said that "while cruising will never be a zero-risk activity, our public-health agency is committed to getting passenger operations in the U.S. restarted by early to mid-summer." All encouraging for cruise lovers!   We're fully vaccinated and our bags are packed. Sail on!
UP NEXT: As travelers return to the air, Europe opens up, and ships return to the waters, there's hope on the horizon for cruise and travel lovers. The rapidly changing rules regarding the pandemic and travel are not easily understood. We'll help unravel the mysteries and confusion. Meanwhile remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, nature, family and more, with our specialty: cruising. Please share the link, and enjoy!