Balkan grill far bet­ter than a boozy Bon­cloddy bar

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - Bob Wake­ham Bob Wake­ham has spent more than 40 years as a jour­nal­ist in New­found­land and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwake­ham@nl.rogers.com

In the lat­est in­stall­ment of my per­sonal six de­grees of sep­a­ra­tion saga, I was able to draw a di­rect line of con­nec­tion to the story this week about that cou­ple hop­ing to open a Balkan restau­rant at the site of the for­mer Sports Bar on Bon­cloddy Street in St. John’s.

Now, first of all, be­fore I cap­ti­vate Read­er­ship Land with my re­la­tion­ship to that area of town, I would sug­gest city coun­cil fol­low the lead of coun­cil­lor Art Pud­dis­ter and find a way for this Bos­nian fam­ily to cir­cum­vent a fool­ish mu­nic­i­pal tech­ni­cal­ity and be given an hon­est crack at hav­ing their dream reach fruition.

It’s re­ally a no brainer, is it not?

From an eco­nomic point of view — even from a feel-good an­gle, one not nor­mally associated with politi­cians — it makes so much sense for coun­cil to ex­pe­dite the change in the zon­ing reg­u­la­tions, and let Eldin Hu­sic and his wife pro­ceed with their plans to give town­ies (and vis­i­tors) an­other unique, in­ter­na­tion­ally flavoured eatery.

(In con­trast to Pud­dis­ter’s sen­si­ble sug­ges­tion em­a­nat­ing from what The Evening Tele­gram of the ’60s and ’70s head­lined as “Coun­cil Notes,” there was Sandy Hick­man’s Monty Python-like pro­posal the other day to the ef­fect that the best way to deal with those ma­cho bik­ers vi­o­lat­ing the tran­quil­ity of Sig­nal Hill Road is to con­struct an­other route up to Cabot Tower, one that would, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports I read, swing right by the Miller Cen­tre, where peo­ple are pre­par­ing to die in the pal­lia­tive care unit and oth­ers are en­dur­ing ag­o­niz­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive pro­ce­dures.

Like that tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial for a for­eign beer would ex­claim, in a classic Bri­tish ac­cent: “Bril­liant!”

A quicker so­lu­tion: have the New­found­land Con­stab­u­lary en­force laws al­ready in place and pa­trol Sig­nal Hill with more vig­i­lance, in­stead of wast­ing time fill­ing ticket quo­tas in ar­eas where speed­ers are easy to nab). But I di­gress (char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally so), I would ad­mit.

An­other prag­matic rea­son to change the Bon­cloddy Street rules is to give the res­i­dents there a chance to have a classy use for the old Sports Bar build­ing, af­ter many years of hav­ing to tol­er­ate the fall­out (so to speak) of a hard ticket tav­ern in their neigh­bour­hood, and, for a while, the head­quar­ters of a de­light­ful mo­tor­cy­cle gang, un­til it was shut down by the cops.

Now, I never dressed head to toe in leather — the im­age does gen­er­ate a cer­tain sense of nau­sea — or raced around the down­town on an ob­nox­iously loud mo­tor­cy­cle, and there­fore had no as­so­ci­a­tion with the gang whose mem­bers did their thing on Bon­cloddy Street for sev­eral years.

But I have a his­tory at the bar, a dive by any stan­dards, a place of habi­ta­tion dur­ing my time of con­sum­ing beer by the truck­load. It was an all-male es­tab­lish­ment, al­though no self-re­spect­ing woman would have wished to spend time in a dwelling where the smell of piss and stale beer would knock a good snif­fer side­ways, and a place where the only en­ter­tain­ment was the oc­ca­sional racket and a juke­box that seemed to play noth­ing but hurtin’ songs.

My bond to the place goes even deeper: I ac­tu­ally lived above the tav­ern, a con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion for some­one who thought of beer as the nec­tar of the gods (un­til the gods turned on me and my liver). Friends of mine would sug­gest all that was miss­ing from the apart­ment when I was its sole res­i­dent was a round hole in the floor and one of those poles once a fix­ture in fire halls, so I could just slide down each morn­ing to the bar for my morn­ing straight­ener.

An­other con­nec­tion to the bar: I named a dog of mine “Sport” in mem­ory of the Bon­cloddy Street es­tab­lish­ment where, as it turned out, some of my last days of ab­ject de­bauch­ery were spent.

Sport was one of the finest dogs I’ve ever owned (and I’ve had more than my share of fourstar pets) and, aside from be­ing ab­so­lutely lov­able, as cud­dly as they come, had a rather unique tal­ent: he re­sponded to trout the way a bea­gle re­sponds to rab­bits.

When I was fly fish­ing in a shal­low brook, Sport would stum­ble over the rocks, make his way to my side, in­tently fo­cus on the end of the line, and would lit­er­ally shiver with ex­cite­ment when­ever a fish would breach and show at­ten­tion to the fly. The rou­tine was al­ways the same: when­ever I’d swing the pole (rod, for the purists) back for a cast, Sport would fol­low the tra­jec­tory of the line, and would then watch — mes­mer­ized, it seemed to me — as the fly even­tu­ally landed and floated down the brook. On cue, he would once again quiver when­ever a trout would jump for the fly.

And when I’d fi­nally hook the fish, Sport would raise his head sky­ward and howl, in ap­pre­ci­a­tion (I liked to think) of his mas­ter’s work.

Sport lived for about 12 years, and we had many a grand fish­ing trip to­gether.

Sappy (per­haps in the per­spec­tive of some), but true.

And thus ends this me­an­der­ing, six de­grees of sep­a­ra­tion sub­mis­sion.

Ex­cept to wish Mr. Hu­sic and his wife the best of luck. May they have bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ences than I did on Bon­cloddy Street.

But I have a his­tory at the bar, a dive by any stan­dards, a place of habi­ta­tion dur­ing my time of con­sum­ing beer by the truck­load.

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