Schlock and awe!

sunday

Disclaimer: This is an updated post from a previous blog, The Two Bruces (of which I was one, the other being… Bruce. Really.) Courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

If you read the Sunday papers like I do, then you know the primary reason for that edition is to sell you garbage you don’t need. Get over it, there is no news on a Sunday. They print that sucker days in advance. The only thing remotely news worthy are the sports scores so you can see how much you now owe your bookie. And now the Internet has ’em, so screw Gannett.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s just to sell you stuff. Do you think all this “new” technology is making your life better? OK, altogether now, a big, emphatic NO! Of course not. It’s what keeps whatever is left of our economy moving until we can find another war. The sad part of it all is this stuff is made in China…as if we didn’t have enough issues with trade. Speaking of China… nah, that’s not fair right now, but…

Before long we’ll all be flying the flag of the United States of Walmart. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I have found a way to deal with this.

I’ve done some research and found that the new technology really isn’t any better than the old. Blu-Ray? Yeah, right – I gotcha Blu-Ray right here! That sucker’s nothing more than a DVD player with a tuning knob. And we fell for it. Not any damn longer! No! It’s just new paint on an old building. The old stuff was good and it worked, mostly.

I am proud to announce the Grand Opening of the new F’ed Up Freddie’s Antique Tech Emporium, or just Freddie’s for those with small. impressionable children. The premise is simple and based upon the notion that “They just don’t build ‘em like they used to.” And they’re right. They don’t. But, did you ever wonder what happened to all those new, unopened, still boxed, never used DVD players after the Blu-Ray player came out? I do. Through shrewd investments and an off-shore account (Staten Island!), I’ve been buying up all this “new” merchandise and now ready to pass on these incredible savings to you. It may not now be the newest technology, but hey, it works and it is new, so to speak.

Think about it. You’re not that old when you don’t want to hear some of those old scratchy 78RPM records you inherited when your great grandfather died. But the phonograph is dead. Not any more! Come on down to my Highway 36754N. warehouse in Newark and see the wide selection of RCA Victrolas. We got ‘em!

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Portable radios and TV’s? All makes, all colors and all styles in stock now for immediate delivery! We know there are plenty of women out there just pining for a new 8 track player to play their tapes of “Neil Diamond Gold” again. Wait no more – we got home and car players ready for you.

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And it doesn’t stop there. Relive the sixties (not your age) with a transistor radio. How about a stereo with a record changer? Yeah, those were cool, especially when you stacked the records with “Bolero” strategically placed for the big make-out scene you had planned. Good times, good times.

But while we’re all getting older, it doesn’t mean we have to grow up. We can hold on to those symbols of our youth, our innocence, our disposable cash.

Freddie’s stock is complete with Walkman’s, phonographs, laser disc players, Betamax players, VHS players, reel-to-reel tape decks (for snobby afficianadoes), Discmans, slide projectors, AM radios, B+W TV’s, digital audio tape decks, 8mm film projectors, radar ranges, box cameras, CD players, flip phones, and so much more it’ll give you a headache. But our prices won’t! All of this merchandise is new!

And buying from Freddie’s helps the economy. All of this stuff had been written off already, years ago. No tax deductions from retailers, just pure, sweet American profit. Let’s get this country moving again with F’ed Freddy!

Remember F’ed Up Freddie’s slogan, “It ain’t the latest, but it was the greatest!”

This message has not been approved by the Chamber of Commerce nor the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Does that surprise you?

 

Mermaids, oh my!

Just for some fun… check out the lyrics and then the article.

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“The Mermaid”

When I was a lad in a fishing town
Me old man said to me:
“You can spend your life, your jolly life
Just sailing on the sea.
You can search the world for pretty girls
Til your eyes are weak and dim,
But don’t go searching for a mermaid, son
If you don’t know how to swim”
‘Cause her hair was green as seaweed
Her skin was blue and pale
Her face it was a work of art,
I loved that girl with all my heart
But I only liked the upper part
I did not like the tailI signed onto a sailing ship
My very first day at sea
I seen the Mermaid in the waves,
Reaching out to me
“Come live with me in the sea said she,
Down on the ocean floor
And I’ll show you a million wonderous things
You’ve never seen before
So over I jumped and she pulled me down,
Down to her seaweed bed
On a pillow made of a tortoise-shell
She placed beneath my head
She fed me shrimp and caviar
Upon a silver dish
From her head to her waist it was just my taste
But the rest of her was a fish
‘Cause …But then one day, she swam away
So I sang to the clams and the whales
“Oh, how I miss her seaweed hair
And the silver shine of her scales
But then her sister, she swam by
And set my heart awhirl
Cause her upper part was an ugly fish
But her bottom part was a girl
Yes her hair was green as seaweed
Her skin was blue and pale
Her legs they are a work of art,
I loved that girl with all my heart
And I don’t give a damn about the upper part
Cause that’s how I get my tail.
By Great Big Sea

Mermaid-bashing a common theme

Dale

Dale Jarvis
Published on March 10, 2014

Last week, I got an email from a young woman named Erin, who is a Grade 4 student at All Hallows Elementary in North River.

Erin is one of the participants in the Heritage Fair program, a great project which encourages students to explore their heritage in a hands-on manner. Students make storyboards to tell stories about local heroes, legends, traditions and places, and then present their work at a public exhibit at their school. Select students then go on to represent their schools in regional fairs across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Erin decided to do research on the folklore of mermaids in Newfoundland, and asked me for some advice on mermaid stories.

While we have a long maritime history in the province, we do not have a lot of mermaid stories. Erin already knew about the most famous, the story of Capt. Richard Whitbourne, who described meeting a mermaid in his book “Discourse and Discovery of Newfoundland.”

Early one July morning in 1610, Whitbourne spotted a strange creature which he called “a marmayde” swimming in St. John’s Harbour. As Whitbourne tells it, the mermaid swam swiftly towards him, looking carefully at his face.

The water maiden had a beautiful and well-proportioned face, and she had blue streaks on her skin instead of hair. The creature was about 15 feet in length, and her tail was proportioned “like a broad hooked arrow.”

The mermaid tried to climb into a boat owned by William Hawkridge. Hawkridge was not impressed with the creature’s attentions, so he hit her on the head with an oar, and she swam off.

While the mermaid has not been spotted recently, her legend has achieved a certain amount of immortality, and for many years she was depicted on a mural by Helen Gregory on the north side of Harbour Drive. What also persisted for many years, apparently, was Hawkridge’s method of dealing with merfolk.

Horace Beck’s “Folklore of the Sea” was originally published in 1973 by the Mystic Seaport Museum. It contains a few references to Newfoundland mermen, including one encountered by a fisherman who was hand-lining by himself in a dory just off the Newfoundland shore.

“At noon, he stopped fishing and started to eat his lunch, when much to his surprise and annoyance he discovered a merman about to climb into the boat,” writes Beck. “He tried to shoo it away with no success, so he grabbed the fish gaff and bashed it on the fingers, after which it acquired a lively interest in other things.”

Another of Beck’s Newfoundland tales involves a second merman, seen in the same area around the same time. When two men were out hunting, they saw a strange creature in the water and shot at it.

“Whatever it was sank,” describes Beck, “but a short time later a dead merman with a black beard and hair washed ashore nearby.”

Not all of Beck’s Newfoundland merfolk stories end badly. In one, a mermaid actually helped a Newfoundlander caught in a storm.

“On still another occasion a man was caught in a small boat in a heavy gale. When the situation became most critical a mermaid appeared, climbed onto the gunnel and conned the boat safely through the breakers to shore.”

One other mermaid story from Labrador has a happy ending. In an Inuit legend, an orphaned boy rescued a mermaid who had become grounded on the rocks. The grateful mermaid gave the boy a hat with a fancy broach as a reward. Visiting sailors recognized the broach as belonging to the King of England, who in turn gave the boy a hefty sum of money for its return.

Here’s hoping young Erin does well on her heritage fair project, and good luck to all the other heritage fair students across the province.

Storyteller and author Dale Jarvis can be reached at dale@dalejarvis.ca.

A Newfoundland Christmas post-Christmas poem

I Just received this this morning from a friend of mine in Newfoundland. Sometime ago, I wrote about Mummering at Christmas time in Newfoundland. This little poem does a good job in describing it. Hope you enjoy it.

A Newfoundland Christmas by James Rogin

‘Twas a night after Christmas in old Newfoundland.
The fire in the place was blazing just grand.
I sat on the chesterfield holding the phone,
While the wife’s in the kitchen making a scone.
When all of a sudden there was a loud rap,
And someone was banging tap a tap, tap.

I went to the door and who should appear,
But a “Mummer” or two looking for beer.
They wore old pillow cases,
That well covered their faces,
And I knew our houses were part of their quests.
So I welcomed them in, these old special guests.

They spoke in strange voices,
Saying I had to make choices,
As to who was who in that strange odd pair,
And so I played a part in this yule time affair.
I quickly named a name that wasn’t quite right.
So they drak my drink and went off into the night.

I never found who my callers were that year.
But I’m glad they came with all that good cheer.
And I hope this tradition will never come to an end,
For this is good fun to have with a friend.
And I’ll remember this Christmas wherever I go,
For I love Newfoundland, this will always be so.

We interrupt this blog to bring you… Halloween.

Last night being All Hallow’s Eve, I couldn’t help but put something of a Newfoundland spin on it. At Christmas time in Newfoundland, in addition to all the normal festivities including the prerequisite kitchen parties, is the custom of Mummering. I’ve written about this previously, but I’ll recap. Complete strangers, oddly dressed, descend upon unsuspecting resident’s homes and demand food and drink, carouse, and usually stay until tired or their true identities are discovered and then they leave to repeat said mayhem in yet another home. It can get out of hand. Once the government even tried to outlaw it, but the Newfoundlanders were having none of that, thank you b’y.

This year, as we get ready to dole out the ritual baksheesh to the little and not-so-little ones, I got to thinking how cool it might be to dress as a mummer here in the US.

This is Alphonse.

This is a fairly typical mummer “outfit” and is not the kind of costume one gets in a store. No, this requires creativity or color blindness at the very least. These figurines are from a collection created by two Newfoundland women, Pam and Cara. They produce one new limited edition mummer every year and are usually quite funny. Yet, they are accurate and indicative of what one might have knocking on their door come Christmas time.

Nish from Merasheem.

Now, can you imagine someone showing up at your house on Halloween in this? You might be inclined to call the police or at least use some pepper spray. But generally speaking in Newfoundland, it’s usually just harmless fun. However, I would not suggest walking into a convenient store dressed like this. They do have surveillance cameras after all.

And of course in the spirit(s) of the holiday, a toast must be made. Have another one, Fannie?

Fannie from Fogo.

The other possible downside in dressing this way for Halloween is that you might get picked up for vagrancy. After all, I don’t think we’re in Newfoundland anymore, Toto.

Ah, spirit… after church and now at Red’s.

Filled with the spirit from the Sunday morning church service, I now wander, in search of lunch and additional spirit, over to Red’s to see if indeed they’re open. Indeed they are.

In the previous post I mentioned someone was eyeing me while I sat having a beer at Red’s, not necessarily with bad intent, but certainly suspiciously. He was mumbling something I couldn’t hear. If not a Jethro Tull fan, maybe he was a Monty Python fan, thought I was a witch, and consequently should be burned. Could be, right?

He turns around and mumbles something to someone who turns out to be Gerard, my new best friend on Ramea. Gerard laughs and comes over to me to tell me what’s going on. He says Jimmy, the starer, is concerned about me: I’m not from there; why am I there?; what do I want? Gerard assured him I was OK, (it helps to have friends in high places!) and that he should come over and Gerard would introduce us to each other. Gerard, the quintessential Newfoundlander, was just being nice and paving the way for open communications between foreign countries.

He signals Jimmy to come over and meet the tall, handsome stranger. (That was another stranger, not me.) Gerard does the introductions while Jimmy eyes me up one side and down the other. If you notice, Jimmy does a lot of eyeing. So, “Jimmy, this is Bruce. He’s OK, he’s a friend, don’t worry. Bruce, meet Jimmy.” So it went. I said hello, Jimmy mumbled something, Gerard left to talk with some others. Jimmy mumbled some more.

Wanting to put Jimmy at ease, I did what any self-respecting traveler should do in this instance, I offered to buy him a drink. Along with the drink, it would buy me a little credibility as well. Jimmy nodded and mumbled something again. Jimmy eyes and mumbles a lot.

Jimmy sits down, eyes his beer (there he goes again), eyes me, and mumbles something about Gerard. I pick up on that and answer that yes, Gerard is a fine man, loves his mother and the Queen, has never kicked an animal, some such thing because I’m not sure what I would say would even be comprehended. I could hardly understand one tenth of the words Jimmy was saying. This was not going to be easy. Jimmy understood me quite well and downed the drink quickly. I think he wanted another… all in the spirit of foreign diplomacy, I’m sure.

Gerard has obviously been watching this clumsy, bi-lingual (?) pas de deux in which Jimmy and I are involved. In any dance, there is the one who leads and the other who follows. In this case, neither happened as neither was possible. Gerard, our new dance master, came over to help interpret. It became clear that Jimmy and I went to different dance schools and the steps were completely foreign to us both.

This went on for a while until Jimmy was satisfied I was not going to lead an invasion of the island of Ramea. Thusly pacified, he wandered off to mumble something and stare at someone else.

Gerard was laughing and grinning through much of this. It was getting on to suppertime and he asked if I had plans for the evening. I told him nothing that couldn’t be moved – oh, like I have a lot to do here among strangers. He invited me to join him later in an age old Newfoundland tradition – a kitchen party. I had read about these so I had an inkling of what went on, but only an inkling! I was to discover that these people would be strangers no more.

Losing my religion… not exactly.

It’s Sunday morning. I had my coffee, it’s just grey outside, too early for Red’s (do they open on Sunday?), too early for most things after a kitchen party.

So I’m wandering around on a rather quiet morning and notice a small but steady stream of people walking towards something. To where? I’ll follow in my stealth photographer’s mode, trying not to let my cameras hit against each other too loudly and give my surveillance away. Why look, they must be god-fearing folks as they’re all going to church. Some turn around and see me. So much for being unobtrusive.

“How will you know them?” Courtesy Anglican Mainstream

So, hi-ho, hi-ho, I guess it’s off to church I go. A little church never hurt anyone, right? I follow them in and sit in the back as appropriate for a camera-toting reprobate such as myself. I did say it was grey outside. It was even greyer inside. This was looking like one of the older chapters of the Canadian AARP. It appears the younger Rameans have other things to do on Sunday morning. Like recovering from kitchen parties maybe?

It was a large, beautiful, old church, the kind one might find in fishing villages anywhere. But because of the lack of fishing and the loss of population, it was operating on a much smaller budget. In the winter, when I was there, they would close the main floor with the sanctuary in order to save money on heat. Consequently, they worshiped on a ground level meeting room. It was pretty standard Anglican fare. Nothing terribly unfamiliar, but none of the awe-inspiring trappings usually associated with a lot of churches. Come to think of it, it reminded me of many of the churches I’d seen in New England – plain, austere, and somewhat spartan.

The church members, being Newfoundlanders (obviously!), were all friendly but somewhat reserved. Q: Who comes to church with cameras on them? A: I do. That’s not exactly what people expect to find when they go their house of worship. (God is watching and he sent me to get proof!)

I stayed around a bit after the service and spoke with some members as well of the minister. She was a very busy woman. On alternating Sundays, she preached at the Catholic Church elsewhere on the island. I hope she never got her liturgy confused – might upset some of the folk, you know.

Like other times while in Newfoundland you would meet the same person again, I would run into her again, but elsewhere. It is a small world, but Ramea makes it even smaller.

Part 2: Kicking back at Red’s Lounge…

The afternoon was spent walking around the island taking pictures of local signage, laundry lines, wind turbines, boats (mostly in dry dock as there was no fishing here either), and coves. If it moved I photographed it. If it stood still, I photographed it. Yup, there I was again, taking pictures of nothing! But really good pictures of nothing if I say so myself. It moved, it stood still, it was a wind turbine, I photographed it.

Sidebar -There’s a woman who paints all the house numbers and signs and mailboxes on the island; a limited growth opportunity indeed, yet the local art scene is definitely defined by her! And it was sort of like being in her island-wide showroom. She was that prolific. Certainly she had her themes down: boats, flags, fish, propellers, anchors, etc.

So the light was now fading and I wasn’t far behind it. I was in need of sustenance and it was too early to go back to the B&B for a formal dinner. Since I now knew the island like the back of my hand, it was back to Red’s. I was going to check out if they had any beer left. Photographing clotheslines creates a mighty thirst.

Lucky for me they had some left. I was welcomed back by Gerard and the locals (sounds like a perfect bar band!) whom I’d met earlier and introduced to some new (to me) citizens. Someone had gone hunting and brought back some fresh moose meat. They had the aforethought to grind it up, make mooseburgers, and serve them to customers. And that’s how I came to have my first (and probably last) mooseburger. It was OK if you don’t mind eating the inspiration for a cartoon, but personally, I liked caribou better. (Please don’t tell my fiends at PETA!)

As I mentioned earlier, I stood out. I was not from there and one citizen had taken note of that and his concern was quite obvious. I couldn’t hear what he was saying to the others, but the not-so-furtive and mildly hostile glances could not be overlooked. Hmmmm – what to do? It would clear soon enough.

Kicking back at Red’s Lounge, meeting the locals, being told where to go (in the nicest way possible, this is Newfoundland after all), and having my first beer in Ramea. Part 1.

When traveling, one of the best ways to get the feel, the flavor, and the social climate of a new locale is to visit the local watering hole. And on Ramea. the best one is Red’s Lounge. Red’s being the best bar/lounge is not only my opinion, it’s also the opinion of all the locals and they should know. It wins hands down and the reason is quite simple – it’s the only bar on Ramea. And though it’s the only pub on the island, it’s not open everyday or all hours. The owner works at an oil company and that job comes first. Priorities – we all have them but I wish his matched mine better.

As in my trip to Fogo Island a week earlier, I needed to get to know the “powers-that-be” in Ramea. Since whoever wore the mantle of he/she-that-counts-as-the-big-cheese-or-poobah-of-the-island was not to be found, I did the next best thing. I went to Red’s. it was lunchtime after all and the light wouldn’t be good until 2:00 PM. Ahhh, the life of the photographer!

Certainly in an outport/island such as Ramea, a stranger stands out even if they’re not in a bar. As in the TV show “Cheers”, everyone knows your name and it wasn’t long before almost everyone knew mine. Hell, you walk into any place with cameras dangling all over you and people look up and take notice.

Before long, maybe at least two or three minutes(!), I was being “interrogated” by the locals. Actually, befriended is a much, much better description but not as humorous. The first of my “interrogators”, sorry,that’s friends, was Gerard. Gerard, born and raised on Ramea, was thrilled to have someone new to talk with. As in any bar anywhere, it’s the same people and the same stories, over and over again. I was going to be entertainment or least a source of new stories. Hey, their stories were new to me! That should count for something.

  So, over a beer or two, maybe three of the locally brewed Quidi Vidi variety, Gerard filled me on all the poop. Who was who in the bar, what people did, local color, etc. For me, he was a font of information – some of it was useful immediately, some not until later that day, but I was not to know that at the time. However, Red’s was to become my base of local operations for the time I would be there. In the meantime, I would need to get outside to photograph while the light was getting better. It turned out that they had a hell of lot more beer left than I did light.

Enter the Wanderer with apologies to Bruce Lee…

Sounds sort of like a bad Bruce Lee film, doesn’t it? But, there are no flying fists, no crouching tigers, no leaping lizards, none of that stuff…just good old Newfoundland and its’ people.

I’m now ensconced on the small island of Ramea and have started to walk around the island, it IS small, and photograph. One of the first things I noticed on the ferry on my way in, is a collapsed fish processing plant, a fishery. It collapsed physically, but it is as good as any symbol of what has happened to the fishing industry. I could not have asked for a better opportunity to illustrate what has happened here. But Ramea is so much more than that, though its’ fate remains so tied to it.

Rendering of a fishery.

As  I mentioned earlier, one passes through a beautiful archipelago on the way in. It was so unexpected as to create a disconnect. “Hello, that number you’re calling is no longer in service.” That’s how I felt. In my modest research over the years, I believed that one found archipelagos in Japan, Indonesia, Scotland even. But Newfoundland, really? Oh, yeah. Yes, Toto, this isn’t Kansas anymore.

Ramea itself is a small, quaint even, little island if not for the oil tank graveyard I was currently photographing. I’ll tell you right now though, there are no photographs of those in this part of this journey. While I tip-toed around the tanks, respectfully trying not to wake them, I came up on a local who in true Newfoundland tradition was more than happy to talk with me. He gave me a little current history of the island and some recommendations: there was an ocean walk to take – check; don’t miss the wind turbine farm – check; Red’s Lounge – check and double check (can’t miss that!); the Anglican Church – check, but on Sunday of course; supermarket – check; and other places that were meaningless to me at the time.

I was into my wandering big time now. As I’ve written earlier, there I was taking pictures of nothing and really loving it.

Abducted by sea turtles AND the talk of the town.

With all apologies to the bard (Ramea, O’ Ramea, where art thou O’ Ramea?), Ramea is a small island off the southern coast of Newfoundland and I arrived safely on the good ship (well, ferry) Gallipoli. For those who may be history minded, Gallipoli is the name of a horrible battle in World War I in which allied soldiers were brutally massacred because of an incredibly dumb decision. It was also a movie starring the then uncontroversial and better-looking actor Mel Gibson. And Gallipoli was the boat of which I just got off! Should I have read something into that? Time enough to ponder as I’ll be getting back on it to return to the Newfoundland mainland in a few days.

Approaching Ramea, one travels though a beautiful though unexpected archipelago. It was a wonderful greeting. The only thing missing were giant sea turtles, but for all I knew they may have been laying in wait to ambush me and make mock-Bruce soup. Hey, it could happen.

This was going to be very cool. Ramea is a very small island, populated by about 600 people. At it’s peak in the early 1970’s, it had about double that, but when the fish were gone, half the populace followed. Yet, it holds on. There is a music festival, like so many other Newfoundland outports, in August. And there are a number of outdoor activities in which one can indulge. The electricity is furnished by a small wind turbine farm. OK, so much for the Chamber of Commerce business.

As I’ve come to learn and appreciate and obsessively seek out, the best activity of all in Newfoundland is talking and partying with Newfoundlanders, everywhere! And that more than anything would define this part of the journey. Oh, the photographs would be taken. And with the certainty of only those of the pure of heart and who sleep like babies, I knew they would be good. I didn’t really, I hoped they would be good. But I’m rambling. The beer would be drunk, but not I, oh, no! Moose what would be eaten. Sorry, Squirrel. More on that later,

I checked into the B&B on Ramea, unpacked, and then started out on which was to be my newest adventure. Without giving too much away, must be frugal with my words here, I was to see clothes-lines, coffins, windmills, hand-painted signs, a bar, so much more and unbeknownst to me at the time, become the talk of the island.