A French Paratrooper Working with the SEALs?

I am always on the lookout for language moments, those interactions with foreigners where I can pepper them with questions, preferably in their native tongue. And today, I ran into a Swiss guy who ran a small, outdoor deli. He sold chickens and ribs at our local farmer’s market. His food was not cheap, but it was delicious.

I chatted with him, trying to work my rusty French in. As a Swiss citizen, he spoke Romansh. (Funny wiki-ism on Romansh: Romance language descended from the Vulgar Latin spoken by the Roman era occupiers of the region.) And since he grew up near Italy, he spoke Italian. And German. But less French. So our conversation was mostly English.

Today, he had a pal, a paratrooper for 15 years in the French Army, assisting him with sales. I got the impression that retirement was at 15 years for the French when he asked me how close I was to my fifteen years. I told him we retire at twenty years or more. (Very easily, this could have been a language misunderstanding. They’ve been known to happen.)

What do you do now? I asked him in a mixture of French and English.

I did bodyguard work in Paris. Where I am from. For the Saudis. And I was supposed to work with the SEALs out here.

Go for it. That is good work.

I don’t have my tickets. 

You are not an American citizen?

No, I am. Dual citizen, he said proudly.  I just don’t have my teeeekeeeets. (The best I could ascertain was that he was referring to a security clearance of some sort.) 

We somehow started chatting about martial arts and he asked me what I did. I told him and he assured me that any smart work is better than something physical. You get out of shape. I had a friend want me to do Foreign Legion work. ‘Zay are crazy, you know?

Oui oui, je sais, I said, nodding. I know. I saw the Bear Grylls special on the French Foreign Legion, Escape to the Legion.

It was good to talk to a Parisian, un Parisien, who did not have that attitude. Wishing the guys well, I wondered if a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) job may be in my future. Me, a diplomat? Be scared, be very scared. . .

Matt Wright, Outback Wrangler, Tough Son-of-a-Gun

Matthew Wright has a show on the National Geographic channel called Outback Wrangler. And Matt’s billed as Australia’s answer to Bear Grylls:

Matt Wright’s aim is, wherever possible, to remove and relocate problem animals rather than kill them, any animal, anywhere, anytime.

Matt Wright, Outback Wrangler
Matt Wright, Outback Wrangler

Chopper pilot Luke Kingsley knows Wright from mustering days at Wrotham Park Station, in far north Queensland.

“He’s a good pilot, but a bit of a mad bastard,” Kingsley says. “He’s not afraid to have a go at anything.”

Wright’s the breed of bloke who sees nothing extraordinary in the ridiculously extraordinary – wrangling crocodiles, catching snakes or staring down a mad-as-hell bull.

Also Matt Wright from National Geographic's Outback Wrangler
Also Matt Wright from National Geographic’s Outback Wrangler

“Crocs? Nah, not worried about them. I’m more worried about (mechanical failure in) the chopper,” he says.

“I don’t see it as being dangerous. It’s not dangerous if you know what you’re doing.

Coming into work isn’t dangerous is it?”

Yet Wright could see the raw excitement on the faces of Wrotham Park guests when he took them on chopper joyrides, fishing, bull-catching or running brumbies.

“They just loved it,” he explains, with a hint of surprise. “They loved seeing the muster and the crocs, the impact of the wildlife and especially egg-collecting from the crocs.”

More Matt Wright and his mate, Outback Wrangler
More Matt Wright and his mate, Outback Wrangler

The phones went into meltdown, explains Wright’s agent, Nick Fordham.

They signed with a US production house, which billed Matt and sidekick Jimmy as modern-day, wildlife superheroes saving the children of Australia from marauding crocodiles and sharks who’d had a whiff of blood.

Despite its huge budget, that relationship was, perhaps not surprisingly, brief.

Nat Geo Wild stepped up, offering an authentic reflection of what Wright does and – with the support of Screen Australia, Screen NSW and production partner Freehand – Wright will be catapulted on to the world stage in spring.

A crocodile from Outback Wrangler
A crocodile from Outback Wrangler

The excitement – and brash marketing – in a statement by National Geographic Channel’s supremo, Geoff Daniels, is palpable.

He describes Wright as a “wild-world action hero”. “He’s like the Lone Ranger, riding in to save people and animals in distress but his horse is a helicopter and he uses a rope instead of a gun,” Daniels says.

“Matt Wright makes the dangerous business of doing good for wild animals exciting and cool.”

Matt Wright and a crocodile in sling.
Matt Wright and a crocodile in sling.

Certainly, when you consider the impact Aussies such as Steve Irwin, Jamie Durie and Curtis Stone have had on US audiences who warmed to their laid-back, egalitarian Aussie spirit, Nat Geo can probably sense the potential return in a personality such as Wright.

Please ignore the beefcake references at the link. I found them annoying, but you may like that sort of thing. If so, don’t ignore them. Revel in ’em. As for Matt Wright being Australia’s answer to Bear Grylls, I just don’t agree. Matt is a lot like Steve Irwin. Bear is more of a survivalist.

Dodger Ball

During yesterday’s game, Bear Grylls threw out the first pitch after lighting it on fire and then today, pitcher Aaron Harang struck out nine hitters in a row. Breaking Johnny Podres’ Dod-gah record of eight straight. First, the Bear:

Showing that he can rely on the elements in any situation, television survivalist Bear Grylls lit a baseball on fire before throwing it for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ first pitch on Thursday night. Why the “Man Vs. Wild” star did this is anybody’s guess, but it was worth it just to see Dodgers catcher Matt Treanor squirm behind the plate.

Bear Grylls lights his first pitch on fire

And now for some Haranging:

Dodgers pitcher Aaron Harang has struck out nine straight batters, setting a franchise record for one game.

Harang gave up a leadoff single to Cameron Maybin before striking out the next nine San Diego Padres batters Friday night, breaking Johnny Podres’ club record of eight in a row set against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 2, 1962. Harang’s streak ended when Will Venable homered leading off the fourth.

Hall of Famer Tom Seaver set the major league record with 10 consecutive strikeouts for the New York Mets against the Padres on April 22, 1970.

Dodger Baseball. It should be part of the RDA, your Recommended Daily Allowance.