He’s back!

It has been a very long time since I posted on this page. Too many days (years, really) have gone by to account for my absence. Needless to say, it’s good to talk with all of you again.

Beyond my wildest dreams, (and sorrow), Arn? Narn. sold out its print run and is only available on a secondary market. Check out Amazon for used copies. But to bring you quickly up-to-date, the book has found its way into several prestigious photo libraries. Some of the work is now on display in Newfoundland at the Sealers Memorial in Elliston, Newfoundland. I am honored by their request for the pieces featured. Unfortunately for me, I’ve not been able to come up and see for myself the exhibition. But knowing it’s up there, warms my heart. Hopefully, before too long, I’ll return to Newfoundland, visit some old friends up, meet some new ones, and visit the Sealers Memorial.

In the meantime, I’ve been writing fiction as this website indicates. My new book is Eleven Little Deaths, and while it does not take place in Newfoundland, some of the travels in it by the protagonist, have been informed by mine on the Rock. I’ll hopefully have more info on it before too long.

Until the, take care and may the wind aways blow in your back.

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.

Running off at the mouth.

Yesterday I entered the digital age. Now that is not to say I don’t shoot my photography digitally or I don’t know how to surf the internet. I do on both accounts and I think fairly well.

To date, my encounters with media for the Arn? Narn. PR push, have been of the more traditional kind: print, radio, the like. But now, I was the sole subject of a webinar speaking to other photographers or some such like interested parties. I went online. There’s no turning back now.

Donning my newly purchased headset, I was ready to communicate with the outside world through my computer. I felt as if I was at mission control. And the only thing ready to launch was my mouth. We are running and we have liftoff!

Liftoff indeed!

I was being interviewed – in depth – about my photo-documentary book Arn? Narn. Once we were sure all equipment was functional, last week at the originally scheduled webinar, it wasn’t, we were good to go.

I had anticipated maybe being able to keep the other participants interest for a half hour, 45 minutes tops. Oh, no. Or as George Takei might say, “Oh, Myyyy.” It went longer, a lot longer. Try nearly two hours!

The hands on the clock go round and round…for two hours!

Who knew I had so much to say? Certainly not me. OK, maybe me but not for that long. The moderator, another photographer, kept things humming along. Between his questions and those of the participants, it did take that long. I was surprised at the questions and how thoughtful they were. I can only hope my answers did them justice.

We had posted a number of pictures from the book and discussed them: what was going on; what were my thoughts as I was photographing them, that kind of stuff. Mercifully, there were no questions such as, “What f-stop did you use for that photo?” Truthfully, my answer would have been, “How the h— should I know?” I have trouble remembering where my socks are.

To be the subject of such intense scrutiny is a little unnerving. To think that any group, no matter the size, would have any interest in what I have to say amazes me. But this group, by and large, held on for the entire interview. That was very flattering. I hope it wasn’t boring. The tales I can tell of my experiences in Newfoundland are largely humorous or at least I think so. Judging from the response of the moderator, so did he. An appreciative audience of one is a start.

So now, that two hours is forever available online for anyone with the fortitude to listen to it. Brew some fresh coffee and sit back and try not to gag.

No f-stops. No focal lengths. No “what film did you use, man?” It was all about the story as it should have been. It’s a story that will impact us all. If we only take notice.

We drive around, eat some fish, listen to music, talk to Newfoundlanders, and go to a dance.

With bellies full and hearts settled, we set out to explore. We have a map but plan on using it only if we get lost. If you know where you are in relation to the sea, you should be alright. That was our plan and we stuck to it.

We visited some antique shops in Burin and were able to get a small but nice sense of their history. Like all of Newfoundland, it was informed by fishing. And the articles in the shop reflected that: old prints of boats and fish, compasses and sextants, posters and signs from another era, hosted by a typically wonderful and friendly Newfoundlander.

Across the street was a small museum, the Burin Heritage Museum which of course we had to see. In it were displays of indigenous wildlife, a photo gallery of the 1929 tidal wave that created an incredible amount of damage, architectural records, local ceramics, histories including those of Burin’s involvement in WWII, clothes, and folk art. It was amazing how much that rather small house held.

Burin Heritage Museum                  (townof burin.com)

After that it was time for lunch. Options were limited but a restaurant was right across the street so off we went. Burin is small, it seems as if everything is right across the street. We chowed down and headed out once more.

While walking around, we found this beautiful wooden bay walk that took us almost around the entire bay. We watched while a local fisherman/artist painted a mural on the side of a meeting hall. He invited us into the hall to see more of his work. They were wall size murals and quite good in a folk art fashion, but sadly too big to take home though. He told us he had to finish it quickly as there was a dance there that evening. Everyone has a great time and we should come. Yes, they ARE that friendly to strangers. We didn’t want to commit, but told him we would try. We would. We did.

Burin bay walk. (panaramio.com)

Newfoundland dances are like no other I’ve been to. They are truly egalitarian: all ages, all occupations, no pretense. They are there for one reason – to have fun. And do they ever. Anyone can get up and sing, anyone can join the band, and everyone dances with everyone. It is a remarkable experience.

If you’re not dancing, singing, or playing an instrument, you’re at a table discussing your entire life story with complete strangers, except they’re really not strangers any longer. That is Newfoundland. You’re a stranger for no more than a few minutes.

Many of the people there are older. If you get to sit with them, prepare to share your medical history with them. That noted, it may say something about the Canadian health system that so many of them are elderly and still kicking up their heels. Or they’re just happy to be living in Newfoundland. And that last statement is fact. They do love Newfoundland.

Over the course of my trips up there, I have heard the same refrain repeated time and time again. “I moved away, but had to come back. This is home.” Or some such variation. What makes this all the more significant and poignant, is Newfoundlanders want to come back even if there is no fishing any longer. It is home, their home and they love it. How many of us can say that about where we live? And how many of us dance there?

Hi Ho all over again…Part 2

After our momentous arrival in St. John’s, daylight has finally arrived and we leave the hotel, but not before tipping generously the still on-duty, unbelievably helpful concierge. We grab a taxi and head over to the airport. It is still a bit too early as the car rental counters aren’t open yet, so we just sort of sit around looking at brochures and such.

Carla wandered off to find new reading materials and pamphlets, whatever is on the racks for tourists such as her. I, an inveterate snob, no longer consider myself a tourist in Newfoundland. Hey, I’ve been “screeched.” She returns with a small pile of them.

As she’s sifting through them, she comes a cross a large postcard for a beautiful, pastoral looking B&B, photographed in a soft, romantic fog. (By the way, fog can make almost anything and anyplace look good.) She’s smitten by it. “Look at this,” she says. “Oh, this is perfect.” I, being the perfect husband, say “Yes it is. We’re staying there later on the trip.” She thinks I’m joking as I am prone to do. Not this time, I assure her. I’ve booked us there for three nights. As I wrote in the previous post, major points here! Carla’s getting excited.

Something to get excited about alright. (bedbreakfasthome.com)

The car rental counter opens, we get our car and head out. As it is still early and we are somewhat famished, we find the nearest Tim Horton‘s and indulge in good coffee and less than nourishing donut-related pastries. Finally, it’s late enough in the morning to find out why there was no room at the inn last night.

(waymarking.com)               It’s always safe at Tim Horton’s.

We raise the proprietors of our B&B and explain what happened. They check their books and determine that the person who took our reservation booked us for arriving that night. She probably got confused when I told her we were arriving very early that morning. The hosts could not be more apologetic and told us to come right over. They would get a room ready for us to crash in if we wanted to while they got our proper room ready. We got in, crashed and slept well for the next few hours. Our hosts would move all our stuff to the right room while we were out doing whatever we would do.

What we were going to do was get some lunch, show Carla around and meet up later with my photographer friend Randy and his wife Vickie for dinner. Food, drink, and rest are amazing for what they can do for the body and spirit. Thus fortified, we were ready for St. John’s, Newfoundland, and what new adventures were in front of us.

Dinner tonight, road trip tomorrow, and Burin by late afternoon. It’s good to be back.

Whoa, there’s a moose, and another, and finally St. John’s!

After escaping the clutches of the bi-churchal minister, I am now on solid ground once again, figuratively speaking, and heading back to St. John’s. I heard of a short cut that will take two hours off my impending twelve+ hour drive. Should I take it? I’ve been warned that it is not a particularly well paved road, well, not very much pavement at all – gravel really, it might be muddy and isn’t well-traveled this time if year so if you get stuck which is a very real possibility, nay probability, you could be there for a day or two, but it’s your choice. Hell, that’s no choice, that’s a challenge. I’m taking the long way home!

Yeah, right! (en.wikipedia.com)

The way I figure it, if I speed, which I will, if I continue straight through, I’ll be driving in prime moose-dodge-’em time – at speed, at night, and on the TCH, (Trans Canada Highway). Not wanting to make the acquaintance of one so large, so heavy and a poor conversationalist from what I’ve heard, I decide that I’ll probably stop for the night somewhere around Gander, a good part of the trip would be now be behind me. When you’re in a hurry, and I really wasn’t, but there was no photography planned for this leg of the trip, – I just didn’t want to drive for twelve + hours, the scenery, however beautiful, becomes secondary to the task of getting there.

I’m sailing along. Yes, speeding, but I told you I would. Fueled by chocolate covered crackers and the occasional Tim Horton‘s, I’m making some serious time. I get to Gander considerably sooner than I thought, ahh, the joys of speeding and not getting caught, and make an executive decision. Moose, be damned, I going for it all. This is the big one!

Oh, yeah! (ahwooga.com)

So, I stop for refueling – both the car and me. The car gets gas and so will I later from the food at the rest stop. Should have stayed with the chocolate covered crackers. But I endure, I must, can’t stop, have to get to St. John’s – there’s a tall, cold beer with my name on it waiting patiently for me at Christian’s Pub. Actually, the beer had some friends waiting for me too and I would get to meet them as well.

Wait, what’s that up ahead? That signpost? Sorry, channeling “Twiight Zone” for a moment. Lights! and not in the rear view mirror either. It’s St. John’s! Yes! Made it and not in twelve hours! Not in eleven hours! No, just about ten and half! I did speed. A lot. That’s 902 miles worth of speeding. I didn’t hit any moose, didn’t get stopped by the RMCP, “No, officer, I didn’t realize I was going that fast.”, and made it back in time for Happy Hour, which by the way in St. John’s is anytime from opening to closing. Finally, off the road, out of the car, and back in the warm embrace of St. John’s.

Tomorrow will be laundry, packing, FedEx, and getting ready to go back to the states. It’ll be busy, but I’ll also get to visit with Randy (my photographer friend) and his wife Vicki once more before I leave. The amount of help and guidance they provided has been invaluable and much appreciated. I will also see Bren, my 84 year old wood- turning friend, again before my departure. Bren was the first Newfoundlander but not the last to invite this stranger in for tea. I will miss them and all the other new friends made while up here. I will be back.

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.

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.

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.

And now a word from our sponsor….

This entry is a bit of a departure from all my previous posts. Rather than writing about my experiences in Newfoundland producing the upcoming photography book, “Arn? Narn.”, I have a wonderful update about it to share with all of you. As this is all electronic, there is no postage necessary. But for an illustration, I’m using an old Newfoundland postage stamp. The image on the stamp says it all: cod. For those who have been following this blog, that will be no surprise. For those new to arnnarn.com, hurry up and catch up!

My publisher, Gosslee, is in the final stages of design and the first galleys should be ready to review shortly. Publication is now set for late August or early September of this year. That feels like almost tomorrow.

Yet, there is still much to write about “Arn? Narn.” before publication. In the months to come, I’ll be introducing you to phantom sea turtles, Jimmy Pink, indecipherable Newfoundland English (even by Newfoundlanders!), kitchen parties, Red’s Lounge, local notoriety (mine!), and much more. And that’s even before I get home to start the next phase of the book.

Stay tuned (is that even applicable any more?), it should be fun!