No Friction With Fiction

Anne with an E

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — After nearly two weeks north of the border – in Halifax and Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island (that’s Nova Scotia, for those of you who can’t find Nebraska on a map) — it was interesting to see how long it takes for me to be impatient and brusque with people after consistently encountering the complete opposite.

And it will be interesting to note if I will ever want to see a lobster ever again or if I will now crave the best lobster on the planet.

Probably won’t take much more than some deplorable aggressive driving by a grunt in a pickup truck, but I digress.

Just about every elevator trip at both hotels involved friendly conversation.

And my Flyers tee-shirt was a key spark in the land where hockey was invented.

“Philly, eh?” I was asked.

Since the Flyers are pretty much struck in neutral and don’t inspire the same ire they once did from hockey purists, the conversation switched quickly to Philadelphia’s pride and joy.

Independence Hall?

Nope.

Liberty Bell?

Nada.

The Eagles?

If you saw what passes for football up there, you’d know better (although my Eagles’ shirt did get one passing thumbs-up).

Give up?

Try Rocky Balboa.

Rocky Raw Meat

It struck me as interesting that Philadelphia, known for being the alleged birthplace of the so-called liberty we enjoy, is universally noted for a fictional character.

Then again, Charlottetown was where the groundwork for Canada’s independence was first laid when members of the rest of the British Commonwealth gathered in 1864, for what became known as the Charlottetown Conference, to discuss how to break from the clutches of the Crown.

And yet, that is not why we – or most others – were there.

It was also for a fictional character that Sofia has come to adore after reading all the books about her.

That’s Anne Shirley, the semi-biographical alter ego of author L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery.

At the time of my elevator encounter, during which the friendly chap said “Rocky” was his favorite movie because of the life lesson about taking a beating and not giving up, the better half and Sofia were seeing a stage play based on the series of “Anne” books.

We spent multiple days in Cavendish, where the life of the author is a literal cottage industry, and we saw a musical version of the character’s life (I survived by dozing off for a good portion of it).

So I guess you would say that the two historic places are better known for their fictional icons is kind of messed up, huh?

Three mass shootings in a week, including two in the span of 24 hours? That’s messed up.

A grown man in Montana fracturing the skull of a 13-year-old for not removing his cap during the national anthem? Messed up.

Fictional characters being larger than life? No way.

As much as I dig history, and think it should be studied thoroughly (we did a whole walking tour to learn the history part of Charlottetown), I have to say it’s kind of cool.

Two characters were created that were so sympathetic — and relatable — that they are the first thought for many outsiders of the home terrains upon which they were created.

Visitors from around the world making it the first order of business of running up the Art Museum steps to play the role of Rocky, the brainchild of a then-struggling actor named Sylvester Stallone, is not an anomaly.

In PEI (Prince Edward Island), there was an abundance of Japanese tourists. It didn’t strike me as odd until it was explained to me that a local woman once went to Japan to teach and, due to the lack of age-appropriate literature of the time, she introduced the series of “Anne” books to her students.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a Swedish co-counselor at summer camp, who happened to be a 6-foot-4 Olympic swimming hopeful that I could never convince to play on the counselor hockey team. He related how the original “Rocky” was common viewing at places where athletes there trained, and added how the sequels (there were only a few at that time) were a disappointment.

It struck me how what seemed to be the experiences of Rocky Balboa on the streets of my hometown were not uniquely unique.

That is the power of art.

That what makes bitter reality easier to swallow.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Aug. 11, 2018.

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