Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XVI -- Acceptance speech

The immigration officer's hand shot out at me, waist high, with a military snap.

I flinched but I needn't have.
"Sir, " he said, "welcome to Canada."

As I unwrapped my spindly fingers from around his meat claw it dawned on me that I was now a permanent resident of Canada.

My new home had officially accepted me, a faceless bureaucrat at the Canadian Consul found me to be truthful, honest and trustworthy and granted me permission to stay while a burly Newfoundland immigration officer at the aptly named southern port of Fortune confirmed it  with a stiff handshake and a heartfelt profession of pride.
I could tell Charlie, that's the immigration officer, was proud to be Canadian and he was darn happy to be the first person to welcome me into his country, his home.

With those thoughts ricocheting in my skull I turned to Em and started crying. She laughed. 

I tried to laugh but I was too busy crying so I kind of blubbered a bit, it's not every day you become part of a new country.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XV -- Wrestling Bedouin and a parallel universe

"Me against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousin, then my cousins and I against strangers."

The modern Bedouin travels in a rental van and not on camel through a desert.

According to the World Wide InterGoogle machine the above is a “widely quoted Bedouin saying” and while I will suspend my belief until irrefutable proof is presented, more than Wikipedia at least, it is the perfect description of the nomadic band of journeymen I witnessed last night – professional wrestlers.

A traveling troupe crisscrossing their way about Canada – Mainstream Wrestling – arrived with little fanfare in St Anthony yesterday, setting up residence inside a corrugated iron shed that doubles as the town’s ice hockey rink in winter.

Perched on the peripheries of a ring erected inside the freezing stadium about 400 people, mostly kids, watched on as good guys and bad guys belted each other senseless for more than two hours.

A montage clearly showing Josef Von Schmidt, a wrestler supposedly from East Berlin and whose MySpace page attests a desire to "resurrect the Berlin Wall" and proof of a love tryst between Dolph Lundgren (circa Rocky IV) and StreetFighter's General M Bison and Sagat. 
Sometimes the hits hurt, other times they missed all together but still inflicted a certain amount of injury and pain; such is the wonder of wrestling.

When the show finished and the crowd, with lungs aching and cheeks hurting, filed into the car park, the showmen packed up their own merchandise tables and the troupe disappeared south down Route 430 through the fog, past the moose onto the next town, onto the next show.

When Em first told me about the wrestling, I remember laughing, snobbishly.

I can’t remember the exact details of that exchange but I imagine when Em broached the subject, I was inside my ivory tower at the time sitting on a thrown made of intertwined strands of hair from the fabled golden badger, stroking my pet thylacine, ordering my thralls to track down more wine.

I probably then threw my head back and chortled at the idea proclaiming with a booming voice that would put Brian Blessed to shame something like: “I have been to international sporting events the world over with crowds reaching up to 100,000, what folly is this?”

In instances like this I’m either in my ivory tower or on my high horse, named Garry. 

Either way, I admit I was a fool, treated the concept with contempt, and as such I would like to issue an apology.

Because I have no-one to apologise to but myself, I hereby accept my own apology, acknowledge I have a lot still to learn and promptly move on.

Now here’s a question, is it culturally insensitive to draw parallels between a formally nomadic Arab ethnic group, the Bedouin, and spandex-clad fringe wrestlers? Maybe it is better to compare them to Fred Brophy’s travelling boxing tent in Australia, however I fear the latter is far too bloody and a lot less theatrical.

I’d imagined this group as muscle bound circus carnies, charlatans, who left town in the middle of the night with all the towns peoples’ hard earned money, everything not bolted down, perhaps a cat or two and a couple of stowaways with dreams of the big lights of WWE.

But that wasn’t the case – not by a long shot.

"Me against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousin, then my cousins and I against strangers," is the perfect way to describe last night’s performers.

Each day they travel to a new town, set up their traveling show, fight each other then move on.

The Bedouin entertained through folk music, dance and poetry, these guys do the same although thrash metal has replaced the sullen tones of the al-rababa, their choreographed war dance (ardha) ends in moves subtly titled brainbusters and powerbombs and the poetry was more monologues about the wrestlers own greatness mixed with crowd tauntings of “no, you suck”, rather than the traditional ghinnawas, two line emotional poems similar to haikus.

Am I drawing a long bow? Maybe, but one certain thing is that last night was all about the kids.

I think it’s fair to say that entertainment options are limited up here on the Northern Peninsular.

The closest cinema is six hours away and while there are a couple of playgrounds, a lot of open land and several sporting groups, live show experiences like this don’t come around every day, in fact it was four years since the troupe last came to town.

Four years.

Let’s be honest, the show wasn’t professional wrestling on a scale of WWE but who cares?

Watching all those kids and their parents yelling, screaming, cheering, booing and watching the wrestlers exacting every ounce of effort and strength from tiring bodies courtesy of a strenuous tour, the show was nothing short of inspiring.

Last night, those kids might as well have been inside a stadium of 100,000 baying fans.

Hell, I even cheered and whooped it up.

I felt a surge of passion for the entertainment, not because of what it was but because of what it did.
Sometimes those hits really did hurt. Really, really.

It made people happy, it made people forget.

For a couple of hours kids got to be kids and parents could forget about a failing fishing industry, the imminent removal of their air ambulance, mortgages, shopping bills and simply sit back and watch their kids laugh, smile and holler.

Some of the parents’ smiles were as big as the kids’.

Since coming to St Anthony I have learnt that living in a place where even getting basic things can be tough, a night of entertainment provided by a modern band of Bedouin can do wonders for morale.

There are plenty of parallels between wrestling and the Bedouin, there are plenty of parallels between that show and the fighting spirit of Newfoundland but then again you can draw parallels between any objects with a bit of imagination.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tales from St Anthony Part XI (ADDENDUM) - Badly stitched panoramas

It's been fantastic weather so I've strapped on the hiking boots and headed for high ground to snap a few more badly stitched panoramas. My apologies on the quality but they are quite rushed.

There is no path to get to this rocky outcrop, in fact it's a bloody hard slog however it offers unobstructed 360 degree view. Unfortuantely it's too big to be uploaded to Blogger.

This is from Fishing Point, after climbing 460-odd stairs.

This is looking back towards the lighthouse from Lamage Point
And the original panorama that stated this whole crazy idea. Again, there is no path to get to this viewpoint, just a whole lot of rock hopping, shrubs and moose poop.