Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs

Since I felt I was being industrious, I figured this sign didn't apply to me.
One of the main objectives of this trip was to do some field recordings.

Specifically, the place where the Marathon of Hope began, and where it ended (mile 3339). The idea was to do these recordings around 4:30am, which was when Terry started most days during the Marathon, and was also his favourite time to run when he was training back home.

So last night I went from the airport, to George St. to kill a bit of time, and then off to Port Authority land to find the Mile 0 memorial, and to record near the water.

You can find this in the parking lot of the
Port Authority building on Water St.
The marker was pretty easy to find, but it's surroundings leave much to be desired. It is literally in a parking lot, in a very industrial area, surrounded by fencing and heavy equipment. Thankfully, there are plans for a new memorial which will be in a garden and should be quite stunning.

On the other hand, it's kind of fitting.

Terry's run didn't start with a huge amount of fanfare. As much of an icon as he became, at the outset he was pretty much unknown. Not a whole lot of people thought he'd come anywhere near accomplishing what he set out to do, and it would be a few months of running 26 miles a day before the Marathon became a national phenomenon.

The big problem for me was that there was no way to get near the water right where the marker is. Luckily, another Port Authority lot right next to it had a fence without barbed wire on top, so just like Stallone I went over the top.

Introducing Canvas Bag Studios
To be honest, I don't even know why I think the field recordings are important. I'm trying to just follow my instincts with this whole project and not question things too much, and from day 1 I've had it in my head that these recordings were important.

So I spent a furtive hour, between 4 and 5am, recording the ambient soundtrack about 25 feet from where Terry dipped his foot in the Atlantic. Does it sound, in any way, specific to the place?

Not really.

But I'm a big believer in the intangible, and listening back to what was captured I think there's an unquantifiable 'vibe' to the whole thing. One thing that struck me, spending the early morning on the St. John's waterfront, is that this is a working place. Even around the port in Vancouver, I think the water still has a 'recreation' kind of feel to it. Not here. This harbour is for work, hard work. All around are signs and plaques telling the story of how the harbour was used in World War 2 (10,000 ships came through in 6 years, and some 600 were sunk very close by) which also gives it a bit of a bad-ass edge.

Self portrait/incrimination from the
field recording session.
And it seems really, really appropriate to Terry's story.

The beginning of the Marathon of Hope was not about public adoration and accolades, it was about hard work. Terry was not only running, but setting up his own press and fund raising events, on the phone every evening before and after whatever event he could get set up. Newfoundland was hard, constant work that really started to pay off in Port Aux Basques, almost a month later, where the town of 10,000 raised over $10,000 for the Marathon.

As I skulked around St. John's in the early morning hours, waiting for a coffee shop to open, there seemed to be reminders around every corner of how hard life can be here.

From the photos of the 4 great fires that essentially destroyed the city, to the memorial for the incredible number of war casualties and the giant, sprawling Anglican cemetery between the narrows and Quidi Vidi Lake that has rows and rows of old, rough-hewn crosses belonging to men who died 2 centuries ago (the scene of trespass/fence jump #2), St. John's seems to want to remind you at every turn that this is a place that means business.

Getting in touch with this aspect of St. John's, and Newfoundland in general, leaves me with even more admiration for Terry and the fierce determination that drove the early days of his journey.

Which, in and of itself, makes this trek worth the effort.

St. John's Harbour, looking at the narrows, 5:30am