Sunday, January 23, 2011



It may not be as famous as La Scala but the Amazon Theatre, a beautiful opera house in the middle of nowhere, is celebrated in movies, books and magazines.
I remember visiting the Canadian ambassador to Central America  45 years ago and in the middle of a rant about how Canadians paid too little attention to Central and South America, he looked across the square in San Jose, Costa Rica,  at the old opera house and started telling me what a little jewel it was and how it was well worth a visit.
He gave me a curious look when I said I had been hearing about the opera house most of my life and it would be a delight to visit. You have it confused with the famous one in remote Brazil, he said, and so I did.
It all came back to me with a rush when I flew into Manaus where the mighty Amazon captures its tributary of the Rio Negro. Others in the fishin gparty started talking about the opera house they visited a year before.
And so I found myself at the legendary opera house left behind by fabulously rich rubber barons more than a century ago. If they had to live in the jungle, they thought, they would import the wonders of Europe to make it more palatable.
It really is the stuff of dreams. Like stepping into a shiny page of the National Geographic or watching a documentary or movie that features this grand product of the Belle Epoque era when the finest craftsmen in Europe sent their best work and the choicest materials on river boats far up the Amazon River.
Roof tiles from Alsace. Carrarra marble from Italy. The finest woods. Great glass chandeliers. Years of construction and delays before it opened in 1896 after a noted Italian painter turned the ceilings and walls into heavenly scenes.
It took me back to when I was a kid working in the town library and I discovered a thrilling travel writer called Richard Halliburton. He had been born in 1900 and disappeared on a junk sailing out of Hong Kong in 1939. He roamed a confused and depressed world between the great wars and produced books like The Royal Road to Romance where he wrote with  wonderful enthusiasm about all the famous wonders of nature and all the grand old buildings of the world.
He would have got eventually to Manaus if he had lived because the idea of  a grand theatre in the jungle was exactly the kind of adventurous construction that turned him on.
My love of travel, which endures despite the security hassles and the crowds of tourists that seem to flood any street I'm exploring, comes directly from the enchantment of reading about travel with Halliburton and the other travel bards. They are the poor man's explorers. Now we read when decades ago the more adventurous among us would have joined that expedition to darkest Africa to find King Solomon's Mines or other lost worlds.
The Amazon Theatre fell on hard times after the rest of the world found they could get by with alternatives to Brazilian rubber and for 90 years no opera singers emoted on its stage. Now there is an  opera festival every April and tour guides boast that famous musicians have graced the orchestra pit.
I was impressed by the gigantic angel that loomed out the second floor and wondered how long it had been there. Not long at all! It had been put up just for Christmas, and the Brazilians don't rush to take down their Christmas trees and other decorations which routinely seem to be among the largest in the world.
The opera house is by far the most famous attraction in Northern Brazil. The other appears to be the big fish market just up from a tangle of fishing boats filled with a glistening harvest from the great watery heart of the nation. Here we wander through ripe smells while the opera house smelled of the ages.
Sort of a Beauty and the Beast kind of day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011



Our fishing party flees from the equatorial sun that makes us feel like chickens in a supermarket broiler by visiting an anonymous native village on some stretch of the bewildering maze of channels, lagoons and fast rivers that make the Amazon Basin a gigantic green sponge.
It is the first time in decades of journalism that I have no idea as to the name of the hamlet I am visiting or even where we are roughly.
Yet we find as we scramble up a slippery bank past shallow dugouts carved from single tree trunks that we really haven't got away from it all.
The villagers are 100 in number but they proudly show us their link to the world. The TV sits in a crude wooden box that can be locked. It is linked by sagging wires to a large satellite dish and a diesel generator. One villager boasts that they watched the World Cup. Right now they're watching nothing because first there was no diesel for the generator, then they got the fuel but a part in the crude network isn't working and the replacement hasn't shown up by boat.
So they pass the spare time from hunting and fishing and pounding the poison out of their cassava by playing soccer on the one big flat area they have. There's also a smaller field for the urchins running around us, and maybe 20 spectators can perch on some benches. Several fancy trophies won in matches against neighbouring villages are given a place of honour beside the TV box.
A wiry couple is making manioc in a giant wok over a wood fire. After pounding and cooking the cassava root, they have their main food, a staple that is the Third World's potato and provides about a third of the carbohydrates in world meals.
Two kids watch us solemnly, and then on the urging of our escort, one scampers up a tree to show us how he picks the bean-like berries that are used in food, even dessert, after they're soaked in water. When we don't seem impressed, he slides down 20 feet and then shoots up again. We clap, and he grins at being the day's entertainment.
The villagers in their warm welcome show us their houses, basically one-room huts with thatched roofs replaced every two years or tin roofs. The older families have the bigger rooms.  One villager has a battered loaded shotgun stuck in the thatch over his door and boasts that he has killed a jaguar.
They are quite proud of their two churches. That's right, TWO churches. There hardly seems to be enough worshippers to go around but you have to do something in the village if the TV isn't working and you're tired from working and soccer. Of course the Roman Catholic Church has the finest new boards in its walls because the Church got to Brazil before the Protestants when the Portuguese conquered the natives.
Tiny dugouts sit on the mud of the beach, some with water in them (presumably to keep them from cracking in the sun) and others with nets piled up to dry. We pass two urchins in a dugout in the river on the way to the village and the dugout is so small, it looks like they're sitting in the water.
As proof that politics can reach everywhere, there is one large poster proudly displayed on the side of a shack under a thatched roof. It shows the former Marxist guerilla, Dilma Rousseff, who was sworn in as the leader of Brazil only weeks before.
Back on the mother ship, I reflect that the village is the modern version of being remote. It's in touch with the world but hours from civilization. But then this is a world where climbers crow over their cell phones about their accomplishments when they're on the peak of Everest.
The leader of our fishing party, Walter Oster, head of the Canadian National Sportsmen's Shows, gives another demonstration as he sits beside me, arguing with the Ramada Inn in Florida via cell phone. He says we don't need all the rooms we've reserved for the return trip, but the chain argues we didn't cancel in time. He explains he's on the Amazon somewhere in Brazil but this cuts no ice, not in 2011.
 I'm amazed at the number of my group who want to call home. Can they not enjoy the illusionary isolation?
Time for me to list the surprises of my visit. I expected the rain forest to march right up to the basin's rivers and that I would be able to look up hundreds of feet to see the fabled canopy.
No, the rain forest is back from our tributaries, and the nearer tangled jungle laced with vines is the height of an Ontario woods. And the wondrous melody of birds, like the collared puffbirds, woodcreepers and scythebills, don't hang around the shore. Just the macaws, parrots and toucans. Most animals stay away from the shores too.
No mistaking that water, though. It's billed as black water and it's dark brown to the point of night, occasionally even a deep red. Not to be drunk. There may be no industry for hundreds of kilometres and it's pure, but its bacteria doesn't match the stuff in our gut. If you're not careful, and dare to have the lovely cream soups, like one made from piranha, the resulting war brings the traveller's curse of diarrhoea. "Max", the fishing dentist from Toronto's famous Princess Margaret Hospital, advises us to take the over-the-counter remedy Imodium at the first weakening but if after a day, nothing works, hammer it with Cipro. (I always get a prescription from the world's best doctor, Bernie Gosevitz, whenever I stray from the path.)
One night, after a scholarly lecture on the differences in the peacock bass, we load several boats and set off to hunt for the cayman that we occasionally see during the day as giant submerged logs measuring us for dinner. Our guide leaps on top of the small alligators as if they were bucking broncs and at one point brings a larger one into the boat, while clamping its jaws. I contemplate jumping overboard if it gets loose.
The days pass with non-stop fishing, interrupted occasionally by giant splashes beneath the underbrush when some creature loses out to a high member of the food chain.  Often we had dolphins shadowing our boats, breathing noisily as they lounged on the surface waiting for us to throw back the peacocks. Lazy creatures, but then in the wild, animals always try to conserve energy.
As we tried to. Although once when I paused in casting and casting in the blazing sun, and contemplated the thick coating of sun screen I was wearing, the guide reproached me because they were judged on how many fish we caught. "Hey," I said, "this isn't supposed to be work, it's supposed to be fun."
And it was too as we traded fibs in the dusk on the top deck, the sweat and aches and frustrations of the day behind us.
For once we have an excuse for drinks, to ward off dehydration. And it makes those fish stories seem almost plausible.

Friday, January 21, 2011



Fame can be fleeting for many who were stars on the main stage of Toronto but not for Judy Welch who just died at 74.
 It may have been back in the ancient days of 1956 when she became Miss Toronto but for decades her name was always mentioned when writers or neighbours talked about the vanished era when beauty contests were not seen as degrading and the honey blonde's stats of 35-23-35 were known by many.
A year after she took the Toronto crown, Judy won the Miss World, which really meant something in those days and wasn't just a competition hunting for new backers and TV time.
 She parlayed that into her own modelling agency and represented the newer famous names in beauty and modelling, like Naomi Campbell. Pictures of Judy with the renowned like Mick Jagger, Burt Reynolds and Elvis Presley, and speculation about who were friends and who were relationships, was a staple of the entertainment pages.
I always found the politically correct veto on beauty contests to be stupid since even as a back-sliding Baptist I didn't find it evil to look with ardent admiration on female beauty. Of course the Toronto Sun faced endless hassle over its Page 3 Girls, even though they wore more cloth than is seen at many beaches.
The gutless decision to move the girlie shot to the back of the paper never made sense to me as The Editor because I saw the attacks on the Girl as just another excuse to criticize the politics of our editorials and to assault our tabloid approach. It had little to do with sexism.
The Sun used to take the calendar girls on an annual cruise and I found that many of the women were bright and lively and ecstatic about all the career opportunities that opened up to them after they were in the Sun.
But then Canada has had beauty queens in important positions, even if some Internet biographies of Carole Goss Taylor fail to mention that she was Miss Toronto 1964. I did one of her first interviews after the title and also still had relatives at her Weston Collegiate, and knew that she was very bright, very charming and a cinch to go on to posts like B.C. finance minister and head of the CBC board after she got her start at the Tely and CTV precisely because she was Miss Toronto.
Ironically, the PC activists who have killed most beauty contests haven't been able to deal with the ones with ethnic roots, such as the CHIN bikini competition which bares more than most Miss Toronto contests.
One of Judy Welch's strangest gigs was to stun a gaggle of University of Toronto profs in a skirmish in the academic wars. Murray Ross related the story to me with great relish at the party held for him as he retired as the first president of York University.
To give this a little perspective, let me quote Bill Kilbourn, a gifted writer and wacky Liberal politician on Toronto council,  who had been a York prof and was fond of telling everyone just how savage academic politics could be. He said that you wouldn't realize that a colleague had slashed your throat until you nodded your head and it rolled off.
As Dr. Ross laboured to bring York into existence in 1959, he had been ordered by Queen's Park to meet monthly with a committee of U of T professors to tell them of his plans and to hope they wouldn't block him. Queen's Park kowtowed to U of T in many ways. Not only did it give its politician/professors  a major voice in York's foundation, a U of T rep also sat on the board of the Ryerson Institute of Technology.
Ross started to be bugged by the monthly summons even though he had been a key insider at U of T.
So he plotted. He went to McTamney's, the famous old pawnbrokers on Church St., and rented the largest silver tea-service they had.  And he hired Judy Welch. In the middle of the meeting,  he asked if anyone wanted tea, and without waiting for an answer, tinkled a silver bell. In waltzed Judy in a costume so skimpy, she was falling out of every port. The professors couldn't take their eyes off her. They stuttered like kids when they asked for tea and sugar.
Then Judy left. And several profs demanded to know the name and history of the beauty that had just served them tea. Dr. Ross said vaguely that she was just a member of his staff and he didn't really know her name.
For years, Dr. Ross and Judy Welch had a giggle about the afternoon they flabbergasted the stuffy old profs from University of Toronto. Just one of the many roles she was to play in a busy life studded with celebrities, entertainers and glamour.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


 Politics was their life, their sport, their passion

These are the days when my aging friends say they check the obituaries before the birth notices.
Since I was born when my father was 67, I'm not sure the Downings are part of that cliche saying, but I make up for it by not reading either.
Apparently the current Toronto Sun editors act the same way. As our former colleagues pass, they seem to go unnoticed and unlamented, although as many fine writers and newspapers have shown, a good newspaper obituary can be a delightful romp through nostalgia and recent history.
Another Sun Day-Oner phoned me the other day to say that the way things were going, he and I would not get a mention when we went to the big newsroom in the sky. (At least it will be big if Sun Media boss Pierre Karl Peladeau doesn't get his hands on it.)
I hope my late colleague, Bob MacDonald, is not paying attention from whatever heavenly nook he is inhabiting, but I also want to say farewell to Keith Davey before I talk about that passionate bear of a French Canadian, Michel Gratton.
Now Bob hated fatcat Liberals, and Davey certainly seemed to quality there, but I found the Davey away from partisan politics to be a nice guy who was a newspaper junkie. I could never convince Bob of that since he saw Liberals as the devil's spawn.
The last time I saw Davey, at a party thrown by a mutual friend, Senator David Smith, he kept telling me how he loved to go for a walk each morning to get all the papers and to see what I had to say. Sadly, because he was already imprisoned by Alzheimer's, he told me that every five minutes for several hours, but I didn't mind. His joy over journalism was a delight, since attacks against the Grits and him bounced off his wide smile. And he appreciated politicians of every stripe and anyone who wrote about them and did their homework. Ah yes, he loved sports and talking too, and surely those are among the finest things you can say about a gentleman.
We were on a panel once and I accused the Liberals of doing something dastardly in order to win the election. He roared at me and dared me to repeat it. So I did. He paused, then grinned that I seemed to have got his pragmatic politics right.
So farewell, Keith Davey. I'm sure St. Peter will tell you during your morning walk where the newspaper boxes are outside the Pearly Gates because I'm not sure that many political writers, or many Grits for that matter, get inside.
When I hired Michel Gratton to be the Ottawa columnist for the Toronto Sun and our tab empire, there was a slight problem. He had a huge rep and obviously knew politics from the ground down. Yet there  had been some sort of strange incident involving Gratton and a pretty female reporter who just happened to work at the Sun. Gratton at the time was the flack for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney who leaned on him to tell him every last bit of gossip about the press corps.
To this day, I'm not sure just what happened. Did both have too much to drink? Was it a verbal altercation, or did it involve sex or some mangled scoop?
So I asked and was assured there would be no problem. And I checked with Doug Fisher and his key mind and huge collection of files. Doug loved his passion.  So Gratton arrived as the little guy from a humble stretch of Ottawa who was never as comfortable talking in his second language, English, as he was with the French that gushed from him in an argument. Some days I was never quite sure he was comfortable writing in English either because deadlines were something he tried to ignore. But he sure could bring fire and brimstone down on his enemies. What a glorious francophone battler for things he believed in, like Ottawa's Montfort Hospital, that he helped save right in his own backyard where if he wasn't a king, he certainly was a duke.
He was a charter member of the gang of journalists in Ottawa and Toronto who drank because they loved to drink and also to escape their devils. Old-fashioned journalism filled with self-destruction where shy charming driven guys like Paul Rimsteal drank to forget the adulation, deadlines and their failures.
I would arrive in Ottawa and go for my briefing at the National Press Club bar (now long gone) and Gratton, Joe O'Donnell, Mike Duffy (now the sober senator) Norman DePoe and others would tell me glass by glass just what the hell was going on.
Later I hired O'Donnell too as an Ottawa columnist. Les Pyette, the Executive Editor, and I as The Editor sent him to Washington because the big boss, Doug Creighton, warned that if we didn't have a columnist there in a week, one of us would have to go. So O'Donnell, happily ensconced in Ottawa and president of everything, was exiled to the U.S.
O'Donnell made his return the night of a Sun awards banquet.  He was overly refreshed when he entered late and took the only empty chair he could find, which belonged to Creighton who was up speaking as the MC. He leaned back too far and rolled over into the next table. Creighton didn't miss a beat. "I would like you to meet Joe O'Donnell," he boomed since he was used to the characters of journalism.
What fascinating days they were. Keith Davey was running around pulling strings and guys like Gratton and O'Donnell were running around trying to cut the strings in their columns and we all had a fine time. Democracies are so much more fun than dictatorships!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011



I loved the 1992 movie about fly-fishing in Montana titled A River Runs Through It. After all, that's been one of the themes of my life. And now fishing the Amazon River has become one of the highlights of my life.
As a kid, I taught myself to swim and spent every summer afternoon swimming and rafting on the Saugeen River in Chesley near Owen Sound.  As an adult, for 30 years I have fled the city to my point on the Trent River. I have cruised all the famous rivers  -  the Nile, Rhine, Volga, Mississipi, Danube and Yangtze.
Yet high on my wish list was to see the Amazon. I have been busy crossing dream destinations off my Bucket List (remember the 2007 movie) from the Great Wall to Easter Island. I have been to a third of the countries of the world, and to almost every country around Brazil, but never into it to see its mighty pump of life. The huge Amazon watershed has a fifth of all the fresh water on the planet and dwarfs those other famous rivers. For example, it discharges seven times the volume of the Mississipi. No wonder its name has become slang for the mightiest of the female athletes.
My chance to visit the Amazon Basin and fish for one of the most famous of its 3,000 species of fish came when Walter Oster, head of the Canadian National Sportsmen's Shows, told me he was taking a group there for the second time. Oster has been goading me for years with the adventurous tales of the trophy fish he has caught in Costa Rica, our far north and wherever there's a fabled fish to land...AND BOAST ABOUT!!! (Don't you think Oster looks a tad envious just below when I get the first bass of the day in the picture by Dick Loek?)
Lately even his tall tales have been confirmed by Loek's great pictures, who also took the wonderful shot of a peacock bass up top, with its distinctive three bars glistening in the tropical sun as the "paca" tried to dance from my boat.
Since Loek is such a superb photographer ( I worked with him at the Telegram and have also judged national photography competitions) you can even see the yellow/red bucktail jig hanging from its mouth. Just a six-pounder, which is average for a giant peacock but would be a fish to boast about on the Trent, Yet on such enormous Amazon tributaries as the Negro, bass from ten to 18 pounds are common and trophies over 20 pounds are taken weekly.
I wish I had a dollar for every cast I made with those jigs. Since peacocks love to sit under the flooded banks and trees in still water and strike like lightning at their food fish,  it was casting casting casting, for ten hours daily, to the ragged shore,  up the twisted trees, into snarled vegetation, under drowned logs, while macaws and parrots squabbled noisely and shy monkeys fled.
It is an incredible tribute to my native guide, Altamar, for me to boast that I never lost a lure. He even had to climb trees and chop branches with a dangerous machete to get the jigs we bought for $5 each on the mother ship, the Blackwater Explorer. If we weren't fighting snags, it was the guerilla attacks by piranha which could shred the flashy jigs with one slash of those teeth.
You had to listen to Altamar for guidance in his mangled English (which is much better than my Portuguese) because occasionally a pair of giant peacock bass will babysit their young in fast, deep water, and you can spot them by a circle of bubbles. Humans are the only enemy of these parents because, as Paul Reiss says in his careful academic language,  they have the attitude to other fish "that if you want to come near me and my babies, I will kick the shit out of you."
Reiss owns Acute Angling with a Brazilian partner and is working on his doctorate in ichthyology.  He
gives lectures on the Amazonian fish in the dining cabin every night and ignored the profane humour of all-male fishing parties and would-be wags who say they understand Polysporin is just the medicine to cure ichthyology.
There were 14 fishermen, two to a boat and a guide, while Loek roamed around snapping and insulting and fishing. Typical behaviour starting at 6.30 a.m., after an ungawdly wakeup knock an hour earlier, was one man casting a jig and the other a surface lure called the Woodchopper. Its rear twin props sent up a noisy roostertail as we pulled it across the water when we hadn't sailed it into a tree.
Hard to cast, but one driven fishermen, Bill Barootes, who has that good downtown Toronto restaurant, was casting like a metronome every 15 seconds. I counted. For 10 hours. More than 2,300 casts a day. I told Oster that I didn't want to be switched to Barootes boat because he wore me out just watching.  Even my wrist ached in sympathy.
Okay, you say. Just how many peacock bass, and a few piranha, did the intrepid 15 catch in 6 1/2 days? Around 820 because the water was so high. Usually, it would be around a thousand for that group.
I also hasten to add, because both the immigration officers in Miami and Toronto wondered aloud in aggrieved tones what we did with 820 fish, that it was catch and release, except for a few plump beauties for a delicious farewell shore lunch, where the guides filleted and cooked the fish on and over small branches chopped from the jungle. There was also fish every night to go with the steak, great soup like one made from piranha, and other tasty food that was part of the main meal, followed by unique Brazilian desserts. And then to the third-deck free bar.
Of course we drank. A lot. The advice from Reiss is that we were in serious danger from dehydration from the broiling sun that had us dripping with sweat in temperatures of 32 C. unless we had to stop at least once to pee while trying not to fall into the black water. In a typical day, I drank at least four icy bottles of water, several beers and a couple of Coke Zeros while fishing, and then there were long, long rum and cokes in the evening.
That's what I will remember, drinking and casting and sweating and having a wonderful time even when my main partner, Dave Walden, a successful roofer, ridiculed my technique.
He was the better fisherman. But I caught more fish. Around 50, but my biggest were six and seven pounds. He did have a bigger one at eight, and won third in the tournament. I kept reminding him of the day I fished instead with Roger Cannon, the retired boss of Rapala Canada (most pronounce it  RaPALa, which is wrong.) We caught 35 fish, which is my best day ever, anywhere.
Reiss kept moving the boat to follow the fish. Why? We only had 18 trophies between 10 and 18 pounds,  but no monster close to the one he has caught at just over 25 pounds. And then we got skunked one day because that stretch of the Amazon tributary was in full flood.
At Manaus, the city of two million where the Negro joins the Amazon, the rivers have risen in the past by 50 feet. We flew from there in a cramped small charter to a sleepy town called Barcelos in the quest for bigger fish, but the rains had the Negro rising by nearly 25 feet.
Yet each day we climbed into the seven small boats we trailed behind the new and distinctive Brazilian river boat, after extricating ourselves from the smallest boat cabins I have ever been in, and our hopes bloomed anew. Today we would catch more peacocks than we would catch trees. And then it started to happen. Hallelujah!

Monday, January 17, 2011



All that stood between me and the giant peacock bass of the Amazon Basin was a baffling visa officialdom and endless airport hassles. The wonder is that I actually made it to the 18' boat to battle through the endless casting for the tough joy of landing one of those beautiful fish.
There we there on the giant tributaries feeding one of the world's mightiest rivers, so remote that all we saw most days were a few of our fishing party, and the conversation often turned to how irritating travel is today, especially to Brazil.
After all, it is the fifth largest country in the world, a goliath just beginning to flex its muscles, yet a simple visit has so many Mickey Mouse touches,  you wonder whether red tape will hinder it as the BRIC club of Brazil, Russia, India and China push their way into the world economy once dominated by the U.S. and Japan.
I was leaving the northern city of Manaus, in the home stretch of the gauntlet between sweaty van and a TAM airplane filled with brats, when I ran into an unexpected snag. I had already stripped and kowtowed and done all the humiliating stuff we do these days just to fly for costly and tedious hours.
But some woman was telling me to wait because no immigration officials were around. At least, she tried to, and I didn't understand, until a bored American holding up a wall explained they were all off having lunch. I wondered why they couldn't do that in shifts. He laughed, saying he had to come every few months as he tried to build a cement plant, and you had to get used to the nonsense.
The officials finally wandered back after 40 minutes, still masticating, and I managed to get to the final checkpoint run by the police. The one cop there questioned a woman for 15 minutes, then processed a family for another 10, while the line grew and grew. It all took nearly two hours.
But hey, that was quick. Getting my visa took three visits to the consulate at Bloor and Bay in Toronto, after a fruitless search in the phone book for a number or address. I started phoning businesses with Brazil in their name, and one woman volunteered a number that was never answered. Finally I tried the Internet and found an address along with some confusing information.
I asked in the consulate for the form. Nope, you can only apply through the Internet. I said what about all the people who don't have computers?  Why isn't the consulate listed in the phone book? Man said I had to obey Brazilian rules and this is the way "we do things."
Return home. Study the Internet info for hours. Finally figure it out and fill out a form. Go get two photographs. Return to consulate. Stand again in line. Submit material. Woman asks for $80.40.  I offer Visa. Nope, she says,  has to be money order or certified cheque. Get mad. Why are you so angry and red faced, she say? If you want to come to my country, you have to be obey our rules. I explain that I just visited nine countries with zero passport problems.
Go to nearest TD Bank. Smiling clerk says they do a lot of business with angry consulate customers. Return to consulate. Woman says the amount is actually $81.40.  She takes pity and says give her a dollar. I only have a $20. Man swoops in and demands I get the money instrument in exactly the right amount. I return to the smile at the TD. She said she expected it had been the wrong amount but then none of the visas seem to cost the same.
I return 11 floors up. Woman says I can find out on the Internet when I can collect my document. Three weeks later, I return. Line up. Thirty minutes later, new woman asks for my receipt. I say I didn't know I needed it, pointing out that all she has to do is look at me and then look at my visa picture and she will know I am who I say I am. She says we don't do business that way.  She finally accepts my driver's licence and I escape before new problem arises.
I tell my story to our fishing party led by Walter Oster, the head of the Canadian National Sportsmen's Shows. Group is a collection of successful A type personalities, including one of the best photographers around, Dick Loek.
It turns out that I paid less than most. Some paid $120 or $160.  Confess that maybe some of it was my fault because I found most of the application info to be incomprehensible. Relieved when Doug Kasko, an assistant Crown, said he found it confusing too (and he has handled murder trials.) Oh yes, he paid more.
You're fortunate I left out some problems or this column would be as long as War and Peace.
Occasionally my guide had to chop a way for the boat through flooded jungle with an enormous and very sharp machete. Just the thing, I thought, for getting through the red tape of Brazil a helluvalot quicker.