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.

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.