Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Turkey Has a First Name, it's D-E-A-D-MEAT.....

Blog down, blog down!

Or rather, blogged down. I've been blogged down, you see, and that's why there have been fewer posts these days. I knew my productivity would take a hit when I left the warm, squishy confines of Facebook, and now it's cold in the big, wide world, and the seasons are changing and the cancer fund-raisers are funding, and the morels are coming up, secret fungal gnomes of the forest, appearing for a limited time only, under a spreading chestnut near you....

However, I am no Sham-Wow impresario. Operators are not standing by. You, dear reader, are your own operator.

What did I do in the last several days? Well, I finally entered the fray of the Spring Gobbler hunt. As my old hunting mentor puts it, "It's the best of all hunts." For the uninitiated, Spring Gobbler goes thusly:

You are after the boy turkey, and you imitate the girl turkey. If you're really sexy, the boy turkey comes to check you out, and while you distract him by acting all coy and stuff--bedecked from boot-to-beaver in Scrubby-Moss camouflage--you shoot him in the head with a high-powered shotgun. And then hopefully eat him for lunch, because you have to be out of the woods by 1 p.m. What could be better?

My first two days of GobblerQuest 09 was in western Pa with my hunting guru, Art Barlow. Art is as organic a hunter as they come, and deserves his very own posting one day, which I will no doubt write. For now, suffice to say that one goes into the field with him, ostensibly for game, but one inevitably comes out of the field with a larger, enhanced sense of Nature itself. To wit:

In terms of turkey hunting, Art chalked it up as the worst two days in his hunting career---which is some half-century of serious pursuit--but here's what we saw and did: Jumped a velvet-horned buck as soon as we got into the woods; talked to the hawks; happened upon the aftermath of a hapless ruffed grouse, ended by some kind of badass (fox, owl, opportune stoat... who the hell knows); was buzzed by a screaming Pileated woodpecker; and found the most perfectly formed bear print that any of the three of us had seen. The third guy was Billy--the chap one wants at every turkey hunt, otherwise known as He Who Really Knows How to Call. If it were softball, Billy is the guy who would come off the bench, work the other guy into a 3-1 hitter's count, blast one out of the park and then flirt with the ball girl as he rounded Third. Billy is the ringer. He has a wooden box call that Art's dubbed "The Strad" and he's mostly interested in calling birds...the shooting is left up to other parties. Oh yes, and he's developed a nose for ferreting out edible wild mushrooms. One of Billy's idea of fun is to get up at 4 a.m. and shoot video of the birds coming off the roost at dawn. I'm just sayin'...

And so, our two hunting days produced nary a shred of Turkey bird, but a Master's Thesis in CSI: Clarion County. We sucked in the high-spring air and used a hunter's forensic skill to deduce who ate whom, who pooped where, and how the wild owl might best fill his raptor's belly on a sumptous morning in May. On the way back, we took a side trip near the burial mounds of local veterans dating back to the War of 1812, and also to what's reputedly the smallest Post Office in These United States...
Note the blogger, outfitted in arguably the only camouflage Dance Theatre of Harlem baseball hat in existence. There's a story there, involving Ben Vareen backstage at the Kennedy Center, but that's for another time.
As is my third and fourth mornings of turkey hunting... in which Blaiser gets the turkey to talk back, and then breaks his radius....
But before we even contemplate that, get hip to this: the water--any water, really--in greenery's finest. We spent a dreamy Wednesday afternoon on the Clarion River, Art & Sheila, his wife, in their canoe, and me in a borrowed kayak from the excellent bankside host, Jim.
Be thankful for dappled things in the poetic manner of Hopkins. And also, for things in bathing suits...
Paddle about in whatever suits you. As Ratty put it, to Mr. Mole, "There is nothing- absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." It's all there for the taking, just out of sight, like the morel, the trilium, the albino stag. ..

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I learned something from my son the other day that I suppose I taught him, but one forgets and needs reminding from time to time. It is thus: Don't give up. You may not get what you want, but the discoveries on the road of action? (If I were a copywriter, here's where the million-dollar phrase would be "priceless" but Homie don't work for an ad agency, fortunately. At the moment, I do my saturnine satire for free.)

Here's how it shook down: Faithful readers of BlaiserBlog already know about the Weekend Bond Film Fest with Benjamin. I thought it had come to a close, having cycled through all the PG-rated Bond films. Au contraire.

Benjamin (completely unlike his father!) is a negotiator. Like the smart little colt that he is, he's learned the benefits of testing the fence for weaknesses and how to get a few extra oats of opportunity. That day, the schedule included tennis, shopping, library, film-of-some-type, dinner, ice-cream parlor--killer day for a Third Grader. Pretty sweet for adults, too.

I had been hoping for a film at the library, as NetFlix was in transit and I hate giving money to Blockbuster, where they are unctuous and have erected a gauntlet of super-sized candy bars on the way to the cashier--an obesity-encouraging toll plaza, where small is huge and Third-Grader-inappropriate DVDs play in the background. Curses: Weekend library hours...not so much. With better planning, I could have avoided the dastardly chain whose very name embodies what I think is wrong with the country. (If someone opens a video chain called "Humility," however, I'm totally there. We could line the aisles with organic local produce. Bill & Melinda, take note.)

At Blockbuster, they've reorganized their action flicks alphabetically by title, so naturally, I find all the Bond movies together under the character name Bond (ahem), and Benjamin longingly flips through the PG-13 titles that I've placed under the verboten status. The Living Daylights is one that he's had his eye on, and when he flips over the DVD case, low-and-behold, it's PG. "Daddy!! I can see this one," he crowed. This day just improved a notch. If I have to give Blockbuster $5, at least it's for another Bond.

So we navigate the outrageous snacks and when we get to the cashier, the bomb drops: The guy shakes his head--this must be one of the empty cases that a worker mistakenly shelved...Brickbouncer keeps the actual DVDs in the actual cases, unlike the library, or video places that pull your selection from behind the counter. But no.... that would be too simple...the guy explains that it even though there is a DVD in the case, Bombbreaker cannot rent it to us -- something about the computer not recognizing the bar code. Benjamin will not be deterred. "There's another one," he breathlessly calls out, and scoots back to the Action section. They have additional cases without the official movie art on the cover, just generic typography of the film title, but I've never seen one that wasn't just a placeholder. Triumphant, Benjamin arrives with cinematic grail in his fist, and sure enough, another DVD, this time whose right to exist is digitally recognized. Hallelujah--the Bond canon has not yet fired its last parental-guided shot.

Benjamin's diligence prevailed, and the guy at Blockbuster was actually very pleasant. For an encore, my boy traded his ice-cream visit in favor of bumping the showtime up two hours--before the shopping trip rather than after. And you know what? Timothy Dalton wasn't such a bad Bond after all. Also I had forgotten all about the hilarious ski-resort escape, as Bond and Bond-Girl-Du-Semaine Maryam d'Abo toboggan across the Slovak-Austrian border on a Stradivari cello. Additional fun comes in the form of John Rys-Davis as Russian General Pushkin, whom Bond respects but is ordered to kill, and franchise utility man Joe Don Baker, who's a bad guy in this one, but turns up as a good guy assisting Pierce Brosnan's Bond in the 90s.

I continue to question, a bit, whether these films are too violent. But Benjamin, nearly 9, is already throwing and catching strikes in organized baseball, and further, knows comedy when he sees it, and I found myself defining "camp" for him when we talked about it. Also, the filmmakers ride the PG line so well, there's only a few times I've had to cover his eyes. Mostly, he self-censors, routinely scurrying out of the room when the tension builds and someone's demise is imminent, in a one-on-one situation--always demanding that I narrate the action for him. But what he relishes is the 11th-hour Battle Royale, and The Living Daylights has a glorious one--complete with Afghan mujahedin vs. rogue Russians, and Bond scattering $500 million worth of opium out of a transport plane while fighting an Aryan Hit Man dude off the cargo netting at 5000 feet.

Timothy Dalton's Bond is comparatively dovish in this film--twice he ignores orders to kill based on his instinct. We were more lenient in the 80s it seems. Without detente, and with the severely lethal R-rated Daniel Craig pulling the trigger these days, the instinct is to kill more indiscriminately. And twenty years later, now the U.S. is tearing the crap out of the Afghan hills, instead of the Soviets.

Later that night, Benjamin sat in my lap and paged through the World War II coffee-table book I worked on during my time in publishing. He was serious, subdued, and it was clear to me that he understood the difference between largely tongue-in-cheek fantasy secret agents; the playroom wars he dioramas with army guys and Star Wars figures who mount anti-stuffed-animal campaigns; and the terrible reality of what happens when actual old men direct actual young men to kill each other.

Thanks again for reading, and try not to forget that sometimes it takes an Irish undergrad posting a fake French-composer quote to demonstrate to the world that Wikipedia is merely an agreement, not the best source of fact...