Saturday, April 17 2010
There has been an Barred Owl hanging around our yard on and off for the past week or so. He (and, since he's small, I'm assuming he's male) likes to perch on the fat telephone cable above the end of our driveway, where he looks down at the rough overgrown patch of lawn near the road that we abandoned to forest succession about six years ago. This patch is surely home to many small mammals, and this accounts for its popularity not only with owls, but also with our cats Clarence and Julius (aka Stripey). Of course, Barred Owls and cats can be a bad combination given the fact that the former will occasion prey on the latter. This particular owl is a small Barred Owl, so our big boy cats are probably safe. But Sylvia and Marie (aka the Baby) might have something to worry about.
Both Gretchen and I got a chance to look at the Barred Owl through binoculars from the laboratory this afternoon. It was a cloudy afternoon, but this particular owl seems to have no reservations about hunting in the middle of a bright sunny day. Gretchen decided to name him Leon in punful homage to Leon Botstein, President of Bard College.
This evening Gretchen and I went with our dogs to the farm animal sanctuary in Willow to attend a birthday party for our friend Nemo (of "buttfinger" fame). When we arrived, those who weren't cooking in the kitchen were assembling the wire skeleton for a life-sized cow head that would be made of papier mâché. Being the artsy type and not too comfortable in a kitchen, I gravitated to the headmaking team. Also on my team was an precocious four year old boy named Gos (short for Gossamer) who insisted on helping out, though the result of his help was that our supply of chicken wire was merged with bits of string to form a nonsensical abstract arrangement that he then proceeded to drag back and forth across the floor. Gos was very protective of the remnants of a roll of chicken wire, which he'd come to believe belonged to him.
Nevertheless, I managed to make a pair of very convincing chicken wire ears for the cow.
Dinner ended up being a make-it-yourself vegan burrito bar, with several bean, rice, and fake meat components. It was possible for me to make a burrito that perfectly matched the idealized burrito in my brain, and I ate until stuffed. As for Gretchen, her appetite seemed to recover somewhat from whatever had been troubling her and she was able to eat a fair amount.
I'd been drinking red wine, but I soon discovered that red wine doesn't go well with Mexican food, so eventually I transitioned to various tequila-containing beverages.
After dinner, someone mixed up a big batch of paste (just flour and water) and we proceeded to lay down the first layer of papier mâché on the cow's wire skeleton. But there were too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, so I eventually bailed on that job. Meanwhile Sally the dog, who had been underfoot during the papier mâchéing, was all covered with paste drips.
Someone else there had a dog that didn't seem to get along well with Sally and Eleanor and kept picking fights with them. Eleanor reacted by being clinging and sticking extremely close to either Gretchen or me. As for Sally, she's not the kind of dog who will allow herself to be bullied. Her attitude was, "Oh you want to fight with me? Okay bitch, bring it awhn!" It was decided by all involved that the other dog was the troublemaker, so she was locked away for a time in bedroom.
Towards the end of our time at the dinner party, I noticed a bottle of Czech absinthe, so eventually someone poured me a glass in the complicated manner absinthe is poured. I hadn't had any absinthe since a semi-successful series of wormwood experiments back in Charlottesville back in the mid-1990s. It turned out that this particular brand of absinthe wasn't the kind that had contributed to the psychotic extremes of Van Gogh; the chemicals that do those things had been removed. All it had in common with real absinthe was alcohol and flavor. Unlike the acrid stuff from the mid-90s, this tasted somewhat like Jägermeister.
I hadn't had that word in my head until someone at the party used it to describe the flavor of this absinthe. I don't know about you, but when I hear "Jägermeister," I immediately think of the kind of people who drink it. The picture I have in my head is a dopey conformist college guy with a backwards baseball cap and only two mental modes: football fandom and date rape. In a social situation, I'm always in comic mode, so with the word "Jägermeister" in the air, there had to be some comic material to be mined in the image I had of Jägermeister's typical consumer. The word "date rape" is inherently funny, but not to anyone who has actually been date raped. Its comedy lies in the confluence of shocking, familiarity, and desperation. I looked around at the mix of men and women around me, decided the risk was worth taking, and went with this joke, "The thing I don't like about Jägermeister is that it makes me feel like a date rapist." Happily, this was my most well-received line of the evening.
Just before we left the party, we participated in a diversion known as "ugly face." The idea is to make the ugliest face possible in the most unflattering illumination, and then someone snaps a picture. For whatever reason, Gretchen and I proved especially talented and screwing our faces up into hideous arrangements, ones which made us look as though we had extra chromosomes and spliced-in genes from sea invertebrates.
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