Canada USA

I took the train down from Toronto, through New York, to Savannah Georgia and am heading up to Charleston, South Carolina. Travelling by train through New York state, yellow, red to copper autumn leaves all over. Over Niagara Falls, where the Passport controllers and custom dogs come sniffing your ankles for unwanted exotics.

Dark by 5.30 now that the clocks have gone back an hour. Smokers getting off at stations for a cigarette. Shivering out on the platform, inhaling together, eight or nine, dying for their puff before boarding the train again and on towards New York. Through the Darkness now, silhouettes of trees, street lights, gas stations fluorescent lights, "Mobil", office buildings, as we approach a town called. "Eudaka"The train wheels hammering, thudding in rhythm along the tracks.

I stretched my legs and back I walk to the back of the carriage outside, between this and the one behind, to play the harmonica to myself where you can feel the wheels shifting and almost jumping the tracks, pins rattling, cold air roaring through the joints of the coaches.

Through places called Schenectady, Yonkers, and suburbs of New York City. Tomorrow train down towards Carolina- Georgia. South from New York towards Washington DC, The Autumnal season is later, leaves still upon the trees, clinging. Sunlight across fields, through trees from the west as we roll South.

Stopping to change the electric engine for diesel, I realize how much I have missed train travelling, the backyards, paths, fields, and lakes that you would never see on a bus, there were no stressful motorway traffic, and fast lanes. Sharp turns, jams. It is quieter, you can get up and stretch.

Travelling overnight saved hotel bills and time, but I didn't sleep so well, I would have tossed and turned in a normal bed anyhow! The train stopped and was held up for 40 minutes an hour at another place. So dark outside you don't know where you are, you might see dark trees against a moonless sky, and telephone poles go by. Through West Virginia, Raleigh and east coast places.

In the cafe folks are smoking, drinking beer, Rum and coke, playing cards, and chatting about redundancies, layoffs, illegal immigrants, work, and vacations. Throughout carriages, other folks slept, across seats, crooked, foetal positions. babies, young kids gathered up in arms. Pillowed. Eyes under tilted hats, a woman asleep, holding a teddy bear in her lap, hers or a child's? Sprawled, legs hanging, shoes kicked off. all over the seat every which way, like Pompeii, Asleep upright, arms folded, one arm above a head. blanket wrapped, one tosses and turns and wriggles, some sleep mouths open, old couples, one snoring as the train rolls, black and white folks all. some wake and stand awhile to stretch.

In Savannah I walked around the black folk's part of town, as usual, I was told, by white folks, not to go, stories of mugging knives etc. The usual white phobia or paranoia here of black people. It is still segregated, i.e. where people live etc.

I met a lovely black man, Johnny, gentle and proud. Raised as a Baptist. We talked. He showed me his church, the first African Baptist Church built here, and a couple of other places, old houses.

The first African Baptist church is here, it houses the oldest church organ, and pews of oak, some with tribal markings and Arabic, descendants of West African slaves came to worship here. The first black Baptist priests. The church seems to be the community meeting place, and songs were sung by slaves in a secret language, Gullah, as they were normally forbidden to speak to each other.

Here in Savanna, there is much black Heritage and a history of struggle. As a 12-year-old, in 1842, Levi Allensworth broke a Kentucky law when he taught himself to read and write! I saw and heard some of the stories of the struggle in a 6-week-old 'Civil Rights museum, telling how it was with segregation, and Jim Crow, interviewing folks who were kids at the time. Kids who challenged the "apartheid, or Jim Crow laws. by walking into white-only restaurants and asking to be served politely, and of course, they were refused, and arrested for persisting to stay and for asking for a sandwich or a coffee. How the cops were called on them for refusing to leave, and for demanding to be treated as human beings. The wide black boycott of white businesses and shops back then was a success, those shops wanted black custom and money but refused to give black people book-keeping jobs as clerks etc or to let them eat with the whites. Blacks shared baby clothes, and kid's clothes at the church, swapping garments with each other rather than buying them in the white shops. In 1954, School segregation was ended by law, yet blacks who tried to go to school had to walk past vicious taunts from white protesters.

In 1957 Little Rock Arkansas, folks needed bodyguards and any white child that was friendly, like sharing a textbook, was ostracized. There's a saying, if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger. "The first black cops were appointed here, If you were an eighth-part black you were forbidden certain positions and work. The museum celebrates black achievements in struggle, the heroes, teachers, women, and politicians who fought against slavery, Jim Crow and racism.

A wonderful wood carver, self-taught, Savannah has a museum dedicated to his work. Started carving at 10 years old. Also saw cloth paintings and a batik exhibition. The gallery is in the old wooden part of town. Most of the old grand houses are renovated, Gentrification took place, urban renewal they call it but it was really the removal of black folks from the centre to the outskirts of Savannah. I saw old Contracts for a bill of sale of slaves, a woman and her two sons for $800, and others, also a pair of manacles.

There is a kind of coiled basket weaving here that slaves brought from Africa, it has survived and taken root in the new land, something ancestors left to the folks weaving today and something they will leave to their kids. Sweetgrass is used, it grows in sand dunes, a warm-season plant, they dry the leaves out in the sun for a week or 10 days, and sew the slender blades into successive coils, lacing in strips of palmetto and pine needles for colour and contrast. Making cooking vessels, dishes, flower vases, and circular trays called fanners to separate grains of rice from chaff and husks. Men used to make them and use sturdy bulrush grass for agricultural containers. Using almost the same methods they still use in Senegal and West Africa. Making baskets from childhood, they are trying to keep the tradition alive, keeping it a family-centred activity, harvesting the leaves, and sewing baskets, It seems to help kids understand their identities.

The Hallelujah singers were entertaining. Funny and teasing each other and the audience. Proud to tell us all that this place in South Carolina, was the genesis, the centre for Afro-American culture. This is where the plantations were and the slaves were brought, this is where they came off those crowded boats where more than 50% died on the voyage. Some even threw themselves to the sharks and smothered their babies, so that their souls could travel back home to West Africa. The group sang gospel songs, soul singing, moving and deep, deep. My favourite music as always, but they also told/acted out stories, The theme was life and death, and they staged a funeral of "Rev" Wearing black and waving fans, the women all dressed for mourning in the church where we played in a town called Beaufort. The women would take the floor and tell their story, or prayer, full of irony and jokes, they gave accounts of their husbands and kids and husbands' "No good " Brother. How unchristian certain people were. etc. They were being satirical of each other and their own characters were comic, This between the serious and moving songs, made the songs stand out more, gave them more depth and the celebration of the African culture, life and death was so much more human and earthy rather than sentimental and cold and distant. They enjoyed my songs, liked my voice, and said that I sang with a full heart and soul. They said I must have religion but It didn't have a name. I said it was Love. They enjoyed "A Kind of Loneliness" Also "Song for Busking Ronnie" a slow lament I made up years ago for an old busking mate who died. They were flattering saying my story songs were a kind of emotional poetry and full of real people they felt they could see, touch and meet. They liked my accent too! I told them I liked their singing too, it was inspirational and generous medicine and nourishment for the soul. There were some 14 folks warm and welcoming. We swapped tapes. It was a popular evening, mixed crowd, in a church. Hymns were sung at the beginning, a woman played the piano. There were Baptist hymn books so you could sing the words. I tried to guess/jam the tunes. We shall overcome was one I knew. I sang a gig in Wales with a Black British Gospel choir from Islington years ago, they were lovely too, calling each other brother and sister and caring for each other, It reminded me so much of them, so refreshing after all the arrogant, ego swelling and backbiting competitiveness of the music business/world.

I will finish this so I can send it to you. I get on the train and travel back up the coast North again. I have caught a chill. It was warm then the climate changed and got cold. usually working late and up early to catch a bus or train.

Hi. I just got to Toronto! Off to Newfoundland Thursday.