Thursday, November 20, 2008

Episode 67: How to Keep Warm

My father used to be a hunter. Before that, he was a golfer. After that, he was a sailor. We had a sailboat (named the Andelé) with stained glass windows because you know what? That's how the Strong Family rolls. He has also been President of his model train club (sssshhh, don't laugh) but he got impeached because he called another member of the model train club an asshole. He is a man of many interests. I would not be at all surprised to pop into his basement workshop lair and find him at a loom, mid warp or weft, hard at work weaving his own camping tarp.

ANYWAY. What we are going to discuss today is the Great White Hunter period. This was when we lived in Ft. Worth, Texas and Dad's company had a lease or something on a not insignificant parcel of scrubby land somewhere in a southerly direction from Ft. Worth. I know what you're imagining: a great stone and wood lodge rising out of the desert, with a giant antlered chandelier in the main dining room and a terrace that overlooked the wide open space of central Texas. Hmm, yeah, not so much. What you should be imagining is an un-level trailer, furnished with dirty sofas and Miller High Life wall clocks, jammed into a tangle of mesquite trees.

So Dad decided to take me hunting one very cold winter. We were going to kill a deer, about which I had mixed feelings. I wasn't interested in killing anything, but I was very interested in eating venison sausage. So we go to the "hunting camp" (EYEROLL) the night before and go to sleep and Dad shook me awake at 3am because we had to sneak quietly down a dirt road (to trick the deer who were sound asleep in their SOUNDPROOF bushes, I guess) and climb up into this plywood box jammed in a tree which I can guarandamnedtee you was not up to any sort of building code. Seriously, like hillbilly moonshiners would have taken one look at this thing and said "uh, no, I ain't getting in that."

It being the 80s and all, and because it was a million degrees below zero, I was wearing a puffy down coat (I was also wearing my Close Encounters of the Third Kind "We Are Not Alone" t-shirt, but that's just a value-added detail; it has nothing to do with the story). The coat was one of those nylon shell kinds. Swiff swiff swiff. That's what it sounded like whenever I moved. Swiff swiff swiff. It sounded like someone was constantly letting air out of a balloon. So that was making Dad insane and finally he told me to just get in the corner of the wooden box and go to sleep. Which I did. So a couple of hours passed by and I woke up to a click click click sound and I looked up and there was Dad, cocking the big rifle gun thing and pointing it over the edge of our rickety perch. I peered out through the seam where two sheets of very thin plywood met and saw a buck having his morning breakfast of nubby leftover foliage. And I couldn't do it, I couldn't let him shoot the deer. So I suddenly moved as if to see what was happening. Swiff swiff swiff. Swiff swiff swiff. And the buck heard me and bounded into the mesquite underbrush!

And then my father slowly turned the gun on me and shot me. Ha ha, no, not really, though frankly the fact that the story doesn't end that way surprises me as much as it probably does you, especially if you ever met him. Dad gave up hunting soon after that - mainly because we moved to Tennessee, though in the intervening years I think he did once whack a gopher on the head with a shovel.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Episode 66: How to Visit the Continent

A decade or so ago, I was really lucky to get to go to Italy for three weeks. I went with some friends - Beth, Thom and Giles - who were all far more well-travelled than me and when the plane landed in Milan I was almost electric with excitement. So of course, I was one of only two or three people pulled out of line to be frisked, touched, searched and almost danced with. These jackbooted fascists opened up my luggage and went through every single pair of my boxer briefs. They opened up the box of Breathe Right strips and made me demonstrate how they worked. They asked me if my friends smoked pot. And they did all of this in Italian which despite what you probably think sounds very accusatory, so I of course said "yes!" to everything. Luckily (eh, for my friends), "yes" was a word they didn't seem to know. So after about an hour of stress and frantic worrying about what prison I was going to end up in, they let me go and we then went by bus and train and train and train to Alba, home of the white truffle, where we eight some hilarious eight-thousand dollar meal that was worth every penny. I still don't know how they got that sliver of truffle into the middle of that egg yolk.

Three weeks later, Beth and Thom and I sat in the middle of a McDonalds in Venice, proclaiming the Filet-o-Fish to be the best single recipe ever invented, a judgement I still stand by.