Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
In a tradition dating back to the very earliest days of this blog (yesterday), back when a young and innocent blogger, fleeing political and religious persecution in the alt.fan.kate.beckinsale.restraining.order Usenet newsgroup first set foot on these strange shores – I give you a …
HOLIDAY BLOG LEFTOVER RE-POST.
Come. Let us travel together. Back to a time when the continent of the Internet was largely unexplored. An innocent time when the holidays meant being locked in a room with shitfaced relatives, sharp implements and an under cooked turkey larger than a fourth grader.
If you have read this story before somewhere else, you are excused from the table.
I kicked open the front door and unloaded a few rounds into the dark. Steve stepped up next to me and added to the fusillade. The sounds of shotgun blasts and the rapid fire of a Glock 17 were sucked into the night air and evaporated into the hills beyond. Spent shells clattered onto the trailer’s linoleum floor.
Steve nodded at me.
And then, from the stand of pines up the hill, a tentative
“Motherfucker!” Steve said.
He slapped a new clip into his Glock.
Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam!
I grabbed his arm.
“Wait! You’re wasting ammo,” I told him. “You’ll never hit him from here.”
The Owl taunted us with another long drawn out hoot from the safety of his pine tree bower.
“It’s what he wants,” I said.
“Don’t give him the satisfaction”
“You’re dead you fucking tree chicken!” Steve shouted into the dark. “Tomorrow! Dead!”
We went back inside to regroup.
Steve had asked me to come over because he was having trouble with owls. Or, an owl. I have an answer for everything so he figured I’d know what to do about owls. I didn’t but that’s what neighbors do. They help each other out in times of need. I was improvising.
The owl had been waking him up every night for a week straight and he was getting a bit anxious. When I had arrived a few hours earlier I found an arsenal on the kitchen table: two shot guns, the Glock, a police issue .38 and several hunting rifles including his prized Steyr Mannlicher and a vintage Springfield Thirty aught six. Apparently he was REALLY anxious.
Some people put out cheese platters for guests. Steve liked to put out an assortment of armor piercing ammo and things that go bang. I knew Steve had a fully automatic weapon lurking somewhere. I assumed that he was keeping that in reserve. Best not let your enemy see all your cards.
It was just bad luck for the owl to have taken up residence next door to the best armed man in the state of Vermont. If he wasn’t an endangered owl before, he was now.
It’s the quiet of the back country that does it to you. On a winter night you can hear a Ford engine turning over 5 miles away. No kidding. You can even tell if it needs a tune-up. With the dead quiet, the hoot of an owl can sound like a klaxon. I had a similar problem with Mourning Doves outside my bedroom window till I put up a plastic owl to scare them off. That plastic owl stood sentinel under the eaves outside my window slowly becoming encased in dove crap over the years.
Steve offered me another bong hit but I was done. Tomorrow was Thanksgiving and I had things to do. I took another shot of Jim Beam from the bottle on the table to brace myself against the cold on the walk back to my place.
“See you tomorrow, maybe we’ll get him then,” I told him.
“Don’t forget the book,” Steve reminded me.
I grabbed the book Steve was lending me off the table and examined the title. Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
“Why am I thinking there are no titties in this book?” I asked.
“Ha! You shallow fucker,” Steve said shaking his head. “The paradoxes will fuck with your brain. Careful, some of the pages might be kind of stuck together.”
“Yeah? I’d still rather have pictures,” I said, waving a blurry hand at him as I put on my coat and bundled up for the trudge back up the hill to my place.
“Don’t forget the mother fucking cranberry sauce!” Steve shouted out the door to me as I headed off.
I cut through the backyard being careful to avoid his six dogs penned up by the enormous satellite dish.
I could make out the trail home in the starlight. I took out my flashlight anyway. There was no snow yet so I was unlikely to get run over by a snowmobile but you can never be too careful. People in the back country are fucked.
I heard gunshots as I got close to my place. I decided to stay low in case the owl came my way. Steve was a little near-sighted.
On the surface, I had very little in common with my neighbor Steve.
Who looked like this
Steve moved to Vermont a decade before from Columbus, Ohio. Why, I never found out. I don’t know if it was a secret but I don’t think it was. Steve would have told me if he was wanted or something. He was pretty open most of the time – especially if there was a good story to be told. Part of me didn’t want to come across as a doofus asking him why the fuck a black man from inner city Columbus would want to move to the whitest state in the union. As if doing what he did was the most natural thing in the world.
It wasn’t. At the time, Vermont had a vanishingly small Black population – mostly in the bigger cities like Burlington or Brattleboro or in the college towns. With a good spy satellite – you could have picked out all four black people in the whole state – assuming they were all outside and it had just snowed. In Vermont, there’s a pretty good chance it’s snowed if it’s after Labor Day.
As it turned out, Steve blended into the local scene far better than I ever did.
Saturday nights, Steve and I would hang out at the Depot, a local watering hole, and play pool. Girls would come up to Steve and touch him for no reason. Freaking weird. I saw it all the time. They’d sidle up to him and then just reach out and touch his arm. Steve said they wanted to see if the black would rub off. He’d usually be able to convince one or two to come back to his trailer for a vigorous demonstration that he was, in fact, color-fast. Sometimes I benefited from the spill over but usually not. Selfish bastard.
But Steve never ceased to surprise me. He was incredibly well read though he’d never made it past the fifth grade. He could recite poems or entire plays at a whim or rattle off facts about solar flares and atmospheric gases as we hung outside drinking Courvoisier watching the northern lights. I have to say that most of that shit was completely lost upon the local populace. Plenty of it went over my head too. Especially after a fifth of Courvoisier.
Steve was a deep motherfucker and he had a cast iron stomach.
We had a big Thanksgiving planned. Neither of us had family close by so we organized a get-together at his place for a dozen of our misfit friends.
The next morning I called Steve and asked him to lock up the arsenal. I had a bad premonition about turkey day and I was a little concerned about being locked in a trailer with a dozen drunken idiots and enough firepower to declare ourselves a country. Call me crazy but some of our friends didn’t have my sense of moderation and self-restraint.
Dr. Funkenstein was holding court as I pulled into Steve’s driveway. Classic George Clinton Parliament – sounded like Trombipulation by the rocking of the trailer. The dogs were cowering behind the satellite dish.
My girlfriend Chana and Steve’s girlfriend JoJo came over at about 9AM with a bag of mushrooms that were not destined for the gravy.
JoJo was wearing an enormous fur hat.
Chana had on a smaller fur hat.
I think they skinned it off the same carcass.
Those farm girls were tough.
The only thing we had for our feast was a 30 pound turkey Steve had won in a raffle. We also had 12 cases of beer, a gallon of pure grain alcohol, that bag of magic mushrooms and a can-do attitude.
And that was it.
We weren’t the best holiday planners.
So we put the turkey into Steve’s tiny oven – the bird actually touched the sides as we shoehorned it in. Then Steve and I went out to get some traditional supplies like cranberry sauce and shit, leaving Chana and JoJo in charge of greeting guests and keeping the place from burning down.
Going to the store was an 80 mile round trip to New Hampshire which is where the closest supermarket happened to be. This was real back country. After making the rounds at the store and loading up on chips and other essentials we decided on a special holiday treat and went to a seafood market for steamers, mussels, lobsters and shrimp.
On the way back the car broke down three miles shy of the house just at the beginning of our dirt road. Usually, this wouldn’t have been a tragedy but we’d passed the Aubuchon Hardware Store coming in and the clock/thermometer there read -2 below zero. Fuck! There was a light dusting of snow on the ground and we had about a hundred pounds of supplies making the relative suckage level on the high side.
Being resourceful mountain men (ch’yeah!), we built a sled out of two sticks and a blanket I found in my car trunk to haul the stuff back. It took us nearly two hours of cursing and griping to get back. Halfway home a carton of steamers fell off our makeshift contraption and broke open. We scooped them off the road and put them back in the box and continued onward.
When we got back we checked the bird. It was still frozen in the center. So was I. Neither JoJo nor Chana had bothered to check the oven opting instead to start on the after dinner aperitifs before dinner. At least the place hadn’t burned down so score one for them.
At this point I wanted to call the whole holiday off. Why don’t I ever listen to that little voice?
Steve had an idea. He would wrap the turkey in tinfoil and put it in his fire pit out back to finish cooking. The steamers would go into a pot on top.
People began to arrive with more beer and more weed. No one thought to bring a pie or a nice house warming gift.
Steve started up his wood burning stove to warm up. Inside the trailer, the temperature quickly reached kiln levels. Everyone stripped down to their skivvies and got glazed and danced to George Clinton.
Did I mention that the bag of mushrooms were consumed by this point?
I should have.
It’s important to plot developments from here on out.
Shooting at that owl was the first time I had ever picked up a gun in anger. I wasn’t even mad at the bird and I wasn’t really aiming where I thought I might actually hit it. I just kind of hoped the noise would give it a heart attack. Shit, I don’t think I’ve ever hurt an animal. But it was an angry gesture. My karma was seriously out of whack.
Steve had promised me that he had put all the guns away.
He had. I found a pump action shotgun wedged under the couch cushion I was sitting on. It had a shell chambered.
“Geez, don’t be such a woman about it,” Steve told me. “See? The safety’s on.”
To demonstrate this, Steve whacked the barrel against a door jamb. It blew a hole through the faux-wood panel of the door the size of a basketball.
I think I was the only one who screamed. The Vermonters just sort of shook their heads at the pussy from Jersey and went back to partying. Most of them probably saw at least one accidental shooting before their 5th birthday. Some were probably involved in said accidental shooting. Sometimes, things can be made to look like an accident.
There was a commotion out back. Somebody was yelling “DROP IT!” When we went to investigate we found two guys chasing one of the dogs who had taken the turkey out of the pit. The dog had one leg and a wing gnawed off the bird and no one could get near him.
Steve managed to retrieved the bird and put it back to finish cooking.
So much for our board of health certificate.
Back inside, a German talk show was on the satellite TV – the picture fading in and out. One of the female guests on the show was naked. My high school German* told me that she was discussing either the Hamburg hardcore porn industry or EEC farming subsidies. Knowing German television I guessed it was probably farm subsidies.
When I was a kid, my grandmother would give me a nice plate of Danish sugar cookies and a glass of milk on Thanksgiving. I’d plop myself down in front of the TV and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by March of the Wooden Soldiers. The comforting smells of pumpkin pie and turkey wafting out of the kitchen as my uncles and cousins tried to kill each other in a haze of alcoholic fueled hostility. Ah, childhood.
Steve and Chana were in the kitchen mixing up a batch of Agent Orange Punch* and there I was watching German porn in a superheated trailer checking myself for gunshot wounds and wondering if I’d have to fight a dog for my Thanksgiving dinner.
Life IS like a box of fucking chocolates!
Not nearly as picturesque as I’d imagined a Vermont Thanksgiving might be.
The naked German lady was scratching her left nipple with a black leather riding crop when the picture faded out. I decided to pop in a video tape rather than try to figure out Steve’s satellite command center.
I put Evil Dead II into the top loader VCR to see how Bruce Campbell handled a friendly gathering at a cabin in the woods.
Ash fukken rules.
Chana was having a religious argument with a girl wearing a big crucifix. Turns out the girl was born again and Chana, as you might recall from a previous blog, was a witch.
You see that’s the thing about the isolation out in the hills. If you don’t find Jesus, he comes looking for you. In fact, he’s probably the only guy who could find you. Or you end up playing for the other team like Chana.
I opened my mouth to interject something witty to break the tension. What came out was projectile vomit.
Oh god! *blargh!* The steamers.
Should have known better – I ate steamers only once before and I got violently ill then too. I was never sure if it was some fluke or if I really had a shellfish allergy.
I think I figured it out that night.
Or it could have been the beer, mushrooms, pure grain alcohol and 300 degree heat. Who the fuck knows?
What, do I look like a fucking doctor or something?
I stumbled outside to the fire pit. The strange faces of mountain folk glowed eerily from the other side of the fire – floating white balloon heads and one looney black one grinned back at me. I made a run for it. I stopped under a pine tree and heaved out the last of the clams, hanging onto the tree trunk for dear life as I puked up a lung.
As I was down on all fours in the snow, I saw in front of me the telltale bone and fur regurgitation of an owl feast.
I’d found the tree where the owl was hiding.
I never said a word.
Full of the naked and the dead like in that book by Norm Mailer,
Body bloated and puffy from Everclear, steamers and prawn,
I laid myself down for a long Technicolor yawn.
Happy Thanksgiving folks!
God bless us!
…and you too Mr. Owl!