CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 3, 2015 – An eclectic array of trivia dominates the scene this Wednesday. In fact you might say this edition is a bit “gory.”
1 – Who is Antonio Barrera?: Talk about underdogs. Antonio Barrera is not a household name, but in bullfighting circles he is the Rocky Balboa of the sport. As a performer, Barrera became famous for his reckless style in the bullring, which eventually earned him the distinction of being the most gored matador in history.
Enduring 23 gorings, of which his wife witnessed eight, Barrera kept coming back because, as he put it, “I always knew that I was a bullfighter.” Albeit not a very good one, apparently.
During his career, which ended December 12, 2012, Barrera underwent 17 surgeries. The turning point in his life came when his wife gave birth to a daughter and he realized there was a real possibility his chosen career could be fatal.
Barrera had been trained in the sport from childhood by his overbearing father, but when he became a father himself, he also became aware of the toll his career was taking on his family.
Director Ido Mizrahy directed a film on Barrera’s life and career in a documentary called “Gored,” which chronicled the matador’s last bullfight in Leon, Mexico. The dramatic opening scene shows Barrera entering the ring and challenging el toro from a kneeling position — the most dangerous stance a bullfighter can take.
In the end, Antonio Barrera’s life becomes a metaphor for the fading sport of bullfighting. Despite his multiple injuries, Mizrahy says “when his dreams disappeared, he had a hard time handling that.”
Thus another superhero hung up his cape.
2 – Where did the Pawnbroker Symbol Originate?: Most sources claim the universal symbol of three balls suspended from a curved bar was originally part of the coat of arms of the powerful Medici family in Florence, Italy.
According to legend, one of the Medicis who was employed by Emperor Charles the Great did battle with a giant and, in the process, slew him using three sacks of rocks. The three globes were later incorporated into the Medici family crest.
The triple disk motif in the coats of arms during medieval times represented families who were in the banking business.
Because many citizens were illiterate, the symbols were used to identify particular services. Shopkeepers typically used three-dimensional signs to represent their particular goods and services and the three gold “bezants,” or disks, represented coins or money.
As European’s emigrated to the new world, the symbol had become so recognizable that American pawnbrokers used it in their advertising.
Of particular interest however, is how the symbol has endured over the centuries so that three balls and a stalk remain a familiar designation to anyone who sees it today.
And, as baseball fans know all too well, when you add a fourth ball you get a walk.
3 – The Reason Barber Poles have Red and White Stripes: Believe it or not, the earliest barbers were also doctors, surgeons and dentists. Cutting hair was a pleasant diversion from the pressures of healing traumatized patients.
The so-called “barber surgeons” practiced all manner of procedures, including tooth extractions and bloodletting. When the “physicians” were finished, they sopped up the blood with white cloths, washed them and hung them out to dry. Thus the color red symbolizes blood and the white stands for the cloths.
Thus the red and white of a barber pole have a distinct yet little known meaning.
In later times, the legendary fictional character Sweeney Todd, otherwise known as the “demon barber of Fleet Street,” certainly did his best to bring to life those dastardly symbolic colors.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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