Eric on The Road

Journeys into the offbeat, off the beaten path, overlooked and forgotten - by Eric Model

Saturday, March 31, 2007

John Wooden on College Basketball's Lost Beauty (NPR)

From, March 30, 2007:

If you tune into the Final Four this weekend, you can be sure that John Wooden is watching, too. The great college coach is pulling for his old team, UCLA -- though he's not in love with the state of basketball these days.

NHL greats, prime minister turn out to honour Habs legend Beliveau (Montreal Gazette)

Bill Beacon, Canadian PressPublished: Friday, March 30, 2007

MONTREAL (CP) - Many former NHL greats and Prime Minister Stephen Harper turned out Thursday night to honour legendary Montreal Canadiens captain Jean Beliveau.
The Bell Centre was transformed into a giant dining hall filled with tuxedo-clad hockey stars, politicians past and present and many members of the business community to pay tribute to the 75-year-old Beliveau. About C$1 million was expected to be raised for six children's hospitals and charities.

"It's hard to have the right words to describe it," Beliveau said before the event. "I've been retired from hockey for 35 or 36 years and I'm always amazed to have so many invitations and having nights like this."

Former Detroit Red Wing Gordie Howe, ex-Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Johnny Bower, former New York Ranger Rod Gilbert and former Leafs and Wings star Red Kelly, as well as dozens of former Montreal Canadiens were on hand.

Also on this story, a special section on the Montreal Gazette online containing a photo gallery of the gala (see what some former hockey legends look like today), and a written tribute by the Gazette's Pat Hickey.

Finally, one can find yet another beautiful tribute by legendary hockey writer Red Fisher for the legendary and classy Jean Beliveau

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Trying to Protect an Old Way of Life in Maine (NY Times)

From The New York Times:

Sunday, March 25, 2007
As condos spring up along the coast, fishermen, towns and residents are buying up the state’s working waterfront.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Preserving Aboriginal Languages (


Internet Helps Save Aboriginal Languages

Aboriginal languages in Canada are getting a new lease on life, thanks to the Internet.
Organizations such as First Voices create online databases of aboriginal languages to help save them from extinction. Peter Brand is the coordinator of the B.C.-based FirstVoices. According to Brand, every two weeks an aboriginal language dies out somewhere in the world with the death of its last speaker.

In Canada’s 2001 census 976,305 people identified themselves as North American Indian, Métis or Inuit. But only one-quarter said they could converse in an Aboriginal language.

“[Culture and language] are inextricably tied together,” says Brand, a Tasmanian who moved to B.C. after marrying a Native Canadian. “Once you lose that language, and the people who know those things, you lose the knowledge, and it may be irretrievable.”

How the Technology Works

“In a nutshell, we’ve developed a database,” explains Brand, a teacher who co-invented the non-profit FirstVoices. “Community-based First Nations people are able to use the Web to upload or to document their languages at FirstVoices. They can document words, phrases, stories and songs.”

Community members then upload the information themselves to the online database. The database then provides translations, definitions, sounds, images, and video to support language learning.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Day of Green in White-Out Conditions

It looks like there will be a lot of white intertwined with green during Sunday's St. Patricks Day parade in Montreal.

Parade organizers say despite forecasts of 20 to 25cm of snow, the 183rd edition of the parade will go on as scheduled.

The City of Montreal says they will clear the parade route and surrounding area as fast as they can.

The Long & Short of Small & Short St. Patrick's Day Parades

This entry was made to this blof last St. Patrick's Day. I liked it so much, I figured why tamper with it. So I re-submit it for your entertainment this St. Patrick's Day:

While preparing a radio feature about St. Patrick's Day, I did a Google search last week seeking info about the "Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade". I had recalled hearing about a town in Missouri claiming the distinction, and wanted to contrast that shortest parade to their more conventional counterparts in places such as New York.

Interestingly, my Google revealed that these days a number of communities claim to be host to the "Smallest St. Patrick's Day Parade". I wanted to get to the bottom of this confusing and potentially explosive issue.One of the locations was in Ireland, and we leave that to a separate discussion (mainly because I was not about to start making phone calls to Ireland to find out how along a parade was).

Here's what our domestic investigation found:

* Boulder, CO - What is touted as "The World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade" is one block long. Event organizers, Conor O'Neill's, said they did not know how long it was - they repeated that it was a block long. "No one has ever asked before - besides we're very busy right now with lunch", deflected an event spokesperson. The Boulder event took place before St. Patrick's Day, Sunday March 12 and turned into a street festival after the parade including childrens' games, Irish pipe bands and dancers. There was also a bake off using "Irish" spirits promoted by the restaurant.

* Hot Springs, AR - "The First Ever Third Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day" takes place on St. Patrick's Day. It features unique floats and entries such as the world's largest leprechan, Irish Belly Dancers and the Irish Order of Elvi (Elvis Presley look-alikes). The parade takes place on Bridge Street in downtown Hot Springs. There are green fireworks, and an event spokesperson says that over 8,000 turn out. By the way, that event spokesperson also said that the length of the parade is one block, measuring out 98 feet.

* Enterprise, AL - "The Smallest St. Patrick's Day Parade" - 1,000 feet long - too long in length but it is indeed the smallest - just one pereon. That one person is the Grand Marshal. Others are invited to pay a nominal fee to be "honorary grand marshals". Many do so. In the age of the internet, requests come from all over.

* Blue Springs, MO - "The Shortest and Smallest" is in fact the longest running (29 years) and aparrently the acutual shortest (66 feet). Don't know about the smallest - from here it looks like Alabama has it. The parade in Blue Springs begins at Lillian's Floral Design/Soda Jo's in the old Lowe's Drugstore at 112 West Main. The parade, on St. Patrick's Day, ends directly across the street at the Gridiron Lounge, 1123 W. Main. There are coffee and donuts before, and a celebration following.The winners:

Shortest: Blue Spring, MO
Smallest: Enterprise, AL
Fun: All.

Friday, March 16, 2007

National Trust announces 'Dozen Distinctive Destinations' (AP/USA Today)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2007 list of a "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" ranges from the town where Monticello is located to Hillsborough, N.C., cited in part as the home of a 1949 NASCAR speedway.
The organization recognizes 12 places each year for their dedication to historic preservation and recommends them as vacation destinations.
While New Orleans was not on the list of 12, the National Trust also commended the city for "exemplary achievement in heritage tourism."
"Almost immediately after the hurricane hit, the people of New Orleans realized that it would be impossible to imagine America without their hometown. Some places are just too important to let go," Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation said in a statement. "New Orleans' rebirth as a tourist destination is the untold story of the year."

The Distinctive Destinations list included Charlottesville, Va., home to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland, along with Hillsborough, a picturesque North Carolina town with interesting historical connections to the Revolutionary and Civil wars that is also home to "an original, rare NASCAR speedway from the inaugural 1949 season."

Also among the National Trust's Distinctive Destinations:
• Chatham, Mass., a coastal fishing town noted for its "architecturally rich walkable downtown" and "unspoiled" beaches.
• Chestertown, Md., an 18th-century port on the Eastern Shore with numerous well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century homes, along with boating, biking and hiking on the Chesapeake coast.
• Durango, Colo., commended for its "charming Victorian downtown," preserved Puebloan ruins and scenic location in the red sandstone bluffs of the Animas River Valley.
• Ellensburg, Wash., a "wonderfully preserved Victorian town" that is also home to Central Washington University and a place with opportunities for great fly-fishing.
• Little Rock, home to the Clinton Presidential Library, a World War II-era submarine, and Central High School, which this year marks the 50th anniversary of its landmark integration by the Little Rock Nine.
• Mineral Point, Wis., described as "an architectural treasure trove" with Cornish rock houses, Craftsman bungalows, log cabins and neoclassical homes.
• Morgantown, W. Va., cited for its vibrant downtown, Riverfront park and miles of paved rail-trail.
• Providence, home to many landmark buildings, a Victorian park and four centuries of history.
• West Hollywood, Calif., cited as a "quirky yet sophisticated urban village" with diverse architecture, designer boutiques and unique people-watching.
• Woodstock, Ill., a village known for its town square, historic district, Mozart festival and "a Victorian Christmas right out of Dickens."

For details, visit

Passing: Bowie Kuhn, Former Baseball Comissioner

The death of Bowie Kuhn deserves a word.

He likely will not go down as the best commissioner of Major League Baseball. His rule came during a time of profound change to the sport and to the country.

Free agency, labor strife and night World Series games will likely be his legacy.

But he was also the head of baseball when the game moved into Canada. But most importantly, his name makes us yearn for a time when one such as Bowie Kuhn was believable when he spoke of "the integrity of the game". That term had credibility back then and Bowie Kuhn was respsonsible for that.

Like much in life today, such a concept (integirty of the game) - once taken for granted as, can no longer be taken for granted. Too many in recent years (from the top down) have invoked the term to advance their own limted agenda that the idea of "integrity of the game" very little resembles that we once accepted and nurtured.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Colorado Has Song in Its Heart, Not Drugs on Its Mind (NY Times)

From The New York Times

By Kirk Johnson
Published: March 14, 2007

DENVER, March 13 — The Colroado General Assembly wants to be quite clear on this point: When the singer-songwriter John Denver praised the joys of Colorado and sang about “friends around the campfire, and everybody’s high,” in 1972, he was not referring to illicit drugs. Definitely not. Don’t even think it. The high in question, lawmakers say, is really about nature and the great outdoors — the tingly feeling you get after a nice hike, perhaps.

Passing: Betty Hutton, Singer & Film Star of the 40's & 50's (AP)

Published: March 13, 2007
Filed at 10:26 p.m. ET

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. (AP) -- Betty Hutton, the brassy blonde star of ''Annie Get Your Gun,'' was buried Tuesday with a handful of mourners in attendance. She was laid to rest in a gray-and-pink metal casket at Forest Lawn Cathedral City, where stars such as Frank Sinatra and Sonny Bono are interred.

Hutton died at 86 in her Palm Springs apartment from complications of colon cancer Sunday night, but the official announcement was withheld until after her funeral, said Carl Bruno, executor of her will and a longtime friend.

''She wanted anonymity as far as being buried. She didn't want that to be turned into a circus,'' he said.

Hutton became reclusive later in life. She was estranged from her three daughters, who did not ask to attend the service, Bruno said. At Tuesday's small gathering were her three caregivers, Bruno and his partner, who were her landlords.

''She didn't want to be seen,'' Bruno said. ''She always felt that people were expecting young, 20-year-old bouncing blonde and she didn't want to disappoint them.''

Even in her later years, she continued to receive fan mail from around the world. Admirers sent roses and gifts, including teddy bears and embroidered towels.
''I have boxes of it,'' Bruno said.

Hutton made about two dozen movies but was best known for the title role of Annie Oakley in the 1950 movie version of the musical ''Annie Get Your Gun.'' She got the role after Judy Garland dropped out of the production.

She walked out of her Paramount movie contract in 1952, reportedly in a dispute over her demand that her then-husband direct her films. She made only one movie after that but had a TV series, ''The Betty Hutton Show,'' from 1959-60. She also worked occasionally on stage and in nightclubs.

Hutton's personal life was rocky at times, including four failed marriages and a 20-year addiction to pills.

She credited a Rhode Island priest, the Rev. Peter Maguire, with befriending her and turning her life around. She converted to Roman Catholicism.

In addition to her daughters Candy, Lindsay, and Caroline, Hutton is survived by several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Bruno said.

Friday, March 09, 2007

New bicycle routes trace Underground Railroad (USA Today)


By Jayne Clark, USA TODAY
March 9, 2007

In the 19th century, thousands of people who sought release from slavery followed the North Star to freedom. Now, bicyclists can follow a series of maps that approximate the historic 2,100-mile Underground Railroad from the Deep South into Canada.

The just-completed Underground Railroad bicycle route is chronicled in five maps of about 400 miles each starting in Mobile, Ala., and ending in Owen Sound, Ontario. The course meanders along back roads and through wildlife refuges and small towns. It highlights sites, from a former slave market in Mobile to Owen Sound, a town founded by freedom seekers and known as the final terminal of the figurative railroad. Also included are detailed lists of services, including lodgings and libraries, many of which will serve as "stations" on this 21st-century version of the route. Participating libraries will offer resources such as Internet access, plus displays related to the route.

The project was conceived by the Adventure Cycling Association, a non-profit group. Coming off the success of a Lewis and Clark heritage bike trail it created for the explorers' bicentennial, Adventure Cycling polled its 43,000 members for ideas on where to create a new one. The Underground Railroad route got the nod.

For more, see the complete article at:

Heard on the Radio: "Dirt Bag Day"

We've come across many festivals over our 20 years of "On the Road" chronicling. Hundreds of July 4th events, a multitude of Spring Blossom festivals, various Maple Sugaring Days.

There are communities battling over designations such as "Chili" or "BBQ" or "Pumpkin"Capital. We have even covered the "Hamburger Hearings" which was convened to determined what community could lay claim to being the birthplace of the hamburger.

It seems we recently came across an event unique in name, if nothing else.

This week on XM Radio's Left Jab, we spoke about "Dirt Bag Day" which is taking place this weekend at the Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana.

You can find out about the origins of this event, what happens and just what it takes to be a true dirt bag by listening to the program over the radio (XMPR, Channel 133, Sunday, 8 a.m. EDT/11 p.m. PDT) or accessing the interview via podcast at

"Canada's Canal" Built in Fear of Invading U.S. Celebrates 175th Anniversary

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the opening of the Rideau Canal, North America's oldest continuously operating waterway.

The Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada is a 202 km (125 miles) corridor of beautiful rivers, lakes and engineered canals linking the towns and cities of Eastern Ontario. It is North America’s oldest continuously operating waterway.

At the time it was proposed, shortly after the War of 1812, there remained a persistent threat of attack from the United States on Britain's colony of Upper Canada. To impede and deter any future American invasions, the British built various forts (eg. Citadel Hill, La Citadelle, and Fort Henry) and canals (eg. Grenville Canal, Chute-a-Blondeau Canal, Carillon Canal, and the Rideau Canal) to defend their territory.

The canal's initial purpose was military - to provide a secure supply and communications route between Montreal and Kingston, Ontario. Westward from Montreal, travel would proceed along the Ottawa River to Bytown (now Ottawa), then southwest via the canal to Kingston and out into Lake Ontario (and vice versa for eastward travel from Kingston to Montreal). The intent being to bypass the stretch of the St. Lawrence River bordering New York State which would have left British supply ships vulnerable to attack or a blockade of the St. Lawrence.
No further military engagements have taken place between Canada and the United States since the war of 1812, and consequently the Rideau Canal was never used for its intended purpose.

These days the canal is a National Historic Site, a Canadian Heritage River and is currently nominated by Canada as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There is a wide-ranging list of activities and events that will take place throughout the Rideau corridor in 2007. A special website has been established to inform about some of these activities and events:

By the way, in Ottawa, the Rideau Canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink every winter. It's still cold enough to grab your skates and for a unique experience.

The cleared area is 7.8 kilometres (4.8 miles) long and has the equivalent surface area of 90 Olympic hockey rinks. It runs from the locks at Carleton University to the locks between the Parliament Buildings and the Chateau Laurier. It serves as a popular tourist attraction and recreational area and is also the focus of the Winterlude festival in Ottawa. Beaver Tails, a fried dough pastry pastry, are sold along with other snacks and beverages, in kiosks on the skateway.

For skating conditions on the canal and more about the canal in the Nation's Capital, see:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Beans and Cornbread: Feeding Souls a Mile Deep (NPR News)

From National Public Radio:

By Kendra Bailey Morris, March 7, 2007 -" A bowl of smoky pinto beans is to West Virginia what an earthy Cabernet is to the Napa Valley: It's an indulgence relished by locals, intriguing to outsiders and central to the region's culinary landscape".

"For a true West Virginian, nothing compares to sitting down to a steaming bowl of brown beans served up with a crumbly wedge of homemade cornbread (or grit bread, as we like to call it). Simmered all day in a cast-iron pot with a big slug of fatback, brown beans have warmed the bodies and souls of many hardworking men and women of the Appalachian coalfields".

“For a true West Virginian, nothing compares to sitting down to a steaming bowl of brown beans served up with a crumbly wedge of homemade cornbread (or grit bread, as we like to call it). Simmered all day in a cast-iron pot with a big slug of fatback, brown beans have warmed the bodies and souls of many hardworking men and women of the Appalachian coalfields.” (Through that site you can find recipes for pinto bean, cornbread and chow chow relish).

Monday, March 05, 2007

Warm Winters Upset Rhythms of Maple Sugar (NY Times)

As long as we're in Vermont (See Town Meeting Day entry below), wanted you to get a look at the state of another regional tradition: maple sugaring, and the impact on this tradition of global warming:

From the New York Times:

"Warmer-than-usual winters are throwing things out of kilter, causing confusion among maple syrup producers, called sugar makers, and stoking fears for the survival of New England’s maple forests.

“We can’t rely on tradition like we used to,” said Mr. Morse, 58, who once routinely began the sugaring season by inserting taps into trees around Town Meeting Day, the first Tuesday in March, and collecting sap to boil into syrup up until about six weeks later. The maple’s biological clock is set by the timing of cold weather.

For at least 10 years some farmers have been starting sooner. But last year Mr. Morse tapped his trees in February and still missed out on so much sap that instead of producing his usual 1,000 gallons of syrup, he made only 700...."

First Tuesday in March: A special VPR documentary on the institution of Town Meeting (Vermont Public Radio)

From Vermont Public Radio:

More than a century ago lawmakers designated the first Tuesday in March as a day for town meeting. Now changing times are threatening the health of this democratic institution. What is the future of town meeting day?

This hour long documentary, narrated by VPR's Steve Delaney, explores the rich tradition of Town Meeting Day, its importance to Vermont life and the challenges to grassroots democracy during changing times. The program includes insight from all the experts: the voters, moderators, clerks, the governor, the secretary of state, legislators and the political scientists. And rgere's a lot about the ideas that are being put forward to strengthen town meeting in the future.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Passing: Clem Labine, Brooklyn Dodger Relief Ace, One of the Boys of Summer (NY Times)

From The New York Times:

Published: March 3, 2007

Clem Labine, the All-Star relief pitcher of the 1950s who helped bring the Brooklyn Dodgers four pennants and their only World Series championship, died yesterday in Vero Beach, Fla. He was 80.

An Heir to Hockey in Quebec - A New Winter Extreme Sport; Crashed Ice (NY Times)

Apparently there are a number of sports filling the void traditionally held by hockey in Canada (See entry about curling below).

Today's New York Times reports about a new evolving sport - Crashed Ice, an ice skating race invented by Red Bull, the energy-drink maker.

According to the Times article, Crashed Ice is described as cross between hockey and snowboardcross. Three racers at a time, dressed in hockey equipment, whip down what looks like a large bobsled run, battling to stay on their skates. They will hurdle over jumps and ledges, down steep sections and around four hairpin turns in front of an expected crowd of 50,000.

Starting in 2000 in Stockholm, Crashed Ice events have been held in five international cities since. In Quebec for the first time last year, 35,000 people stood outside on a winter's night to watch. This year 1,400 people attempted to qualify to compete at 14 locations in Canada and the United States, said the article.

"It has such a strong connection with Canadians", said Keith DeGrace, communications director of Red Bull Canada to the Times. "It's a hockey culture".

For more on Red Bull Crashed Ice, see the complete article and pictures at:

Championship Season Approaches for Curling, "Still A Canadian Sport"

In much of the United States, curling is one of those quiet sports that nothing is heard of until it is one of the "offerings" served up to us on the television network coverage of the winter olympic games.

In Canada, curling is a big deal. It is a sport with a national culture and history. Its championships, bonspiels, are covered regularly on television. Moreover, in recent years as professional hockey Gary Bettman-style has fled the frozen north in favor the American Sun Belt & Madison Avenue, many have embraced curling as a sport that continues to reflect true Canadian values.

As we reach the climax of this year's season, you can gain some insight to the sport in Canada through this website I located through

Bonspiel! The History of Curling in Canada
The history of curling in Canada extends back to the origins of this country's earliest European immigrants. It is an important history that reflects Canada's social and cultural development and tells the story of curling as Canada’s unofficial national sport from its distant origins to its current popularity. Includes digital images and documents as well as bibliographical references.

Heard on the Radio: Hands across the U.S.-Mexican Border

Contrary to most news reports, the border between the United States border with Mexico is still open. Harder to get in, yes, but the border remains open.

A "Hidden America" segment on XM Radio's "Left Jab" welcomed Michael Puckett and Margal Vickers of Brownsville. They both spoke of this year's 70th anniversary for the Charro Days celebration, a cross-border celebration that features a parade that crosses the border. Mr. Vickers was at the first festival back in 1938, and he shared those days with us.

Margal Vickers then went on to become mayor of Brownsville and an advocate of good neighbors across the borders. He also described how relations over their years have had their ups and downs.

The complete radio interview can be heard"live" Sunday March 4 at XM Public Radio's Channel 133 (8 a.m. est) with a "re-broadcast" Sunday night (11 pm pst). You can also hear the interview by going to the podcast highlights at

Dodger History Will Be Left on Base (NY Times)

From The New York Times:

The Dodgers are back at it again - breaking hearts as they move west.

Still notorious for a move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, the Dodgers are about leave their long-time Spring Training facility.

In a Sports of the Times article, columnist George Vescey writes of the last Spring Training for the Dodgers at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida before they move to Phoenix next year.

The Dodgers reinvented spring training right here, modernized it from the drying-out forced marches of John McGraw and the New York Giants early in the century in rural Texas.

Billy DeLury, who started working for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 as in the mailroom, and who went on to become traveling secretary for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1979-2002) gave Vescey a tour of Dodgertown - with its streets named after the likes of Jackie Robinson and Walter Alston.

"It makes sense,” Vescey quoted DeLury as mixing nostalgia and business sense. “People on the East Coast don’t have the connection with the Dodgers,” he said.

Wrote Vescey, The Dodgers hopes to sell more exhibition tickets to people from Southern California who pop over to Phoenix for a few days.

"There’s no point in melancholia", concluded Vescey. "Besides", he added, "the Dodgers have already made the biggest heartbreaking move a franchise could make".

For the complete article, see:

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Passing: Arthur Schlesinger, Historian of Power, Dies at 89 (NY Times)

From The New York Times:

By Douglas Martin,
Published: March 1, 2007
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the historian whose more than 20 books shaped discussions for two generations about America’s past and who himself was a provocative, unabashedly liberal partisan, most notably in serving in the Kennedy White House, died last night in Manhattan. He was 89.

We mark the passing of the Pulitzer Prize winner and unique voice on the American scene.

For an obituary, see: