Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Vikings and plug-in fireplaces.

I have a painting of a lighthouse that hangs over my plug-in fire place. Mr. Bud Best has his name on the lower right corner. He died this past year, so I guess the painting is worth more now. I find that hard to believe because it has always been priceless to me.
The lighthouse doesn’t exist anymore, it was replaced by a cheap imitation. In the 1990‘s the government thought it would be a good idea to shut down the station and build an automated beacon. The two homes that the light keepers families lived in were sold for a dollar, and the lighthouse was torn down. The lighthouse keepers were retired and given a framed letter of thanks for their 30 years of service.
When the station was manned, a skinny dirt road connected the town to Fisherman’s Point. The road could barely be called a road at all. It was a collection of Newfoundland’s most sizable potholes. It clung to the cliffs out of shear stubbornness. It switched dizzyingly back towards the rock walls and then to the deep blue as it inched its way closer to the lighthouse. 
If the road were to be christened, she would most certainly be called Impassible. Her younger more demure sisters Treacherous, and Unsafe would always be in her shadow never quite living up to her example. Locals did not try to make the journey, unless of coarse they were already dead- the old Anglican cemetery was the last stop before one reached the lighthouse.
There was a sign near the end of the road that explained in no uncertain terms, that no one was welcome any further. Beyond that sign is where I spent the first year of my life, and many summers there after. My mother was raised there, and my sister was married there. Understandably, the place is special to me and all I have left is the painting.

I travelled back several years ago. The government realized that tourists liked going up there to explore the coastline and take pictures of whales and icebergs. They paved the road and made it wide and safe enough so mobile homes could maneuver without restriction. They made boardwalk walkways over the paths our family forged through the tuckamore and berry bushes. 
In my Great uncle’s living room, strangers now can sit and enjoy seven dollar bake apple cheese cake and $49.99 Viking feasts. Afterwards they can go to the Newfie gift shop and buy their “In Cod We Trust” hand towel, or “Some Shockin Good” bumper sticker. If you don’t believe me, you can go here and see for yourself. http://www.fishingpoint.ca/
They have also hired a summer lighthouse keeper to monitor the automated station and answer tourists’ questions. The smell of the salt air has been replaced by the stench of Disney imagineering. 
When my Grandparent’s lived there, I never once had dinner with a viking, now you can do it four nights a week. If the subject of vikings did arise, it would be best to keep your mouth shut and cover children's ears. The case against vikings in Newfoundland was vigorously argued at that house. In a carefully thought out position based on expletives and common sense, any lay person would be convinced that Lanse au Meadows was a sham perpetrated by Parks Canada.  It is almost sacrilegious now to think that ‘hefty’ bearded Newfoundlanders are in Norris costume eating turkey legs in what was my Pop’s backyard.

I do appreciated the irony that my righteousness indictment against cheap imitations presents. My  painting hangs over a plug in fireplace. My sentiment is mix of teen angst and middle age realism. I understand that things change, and communities evolve to meet new challenges. My Grandfather hasn’t been the lighthouse keeper in St. Anthony for over 20 years and it would be selfish to wish he still was. I’m glad they paved the road, it was impassible.  And what is the harm if a family from Wisconsin enjoys an over priced dinner in a sod house? 

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