This guy pushed me to the shoulder today on my way to work. If you center the transaxle of a Humvee equidistant from each curb, then floor it for a full block, two and half tons of banana yellow tempered steel will leave the Little People with limited option not to give way. It’s called owning the road. A concept Che would understand.
Sherwood Forest is a hidden enclave of elegant one-story ranch houses on sprawling lots with deep setbacks. Four bedroom, three bath, 1950’s Connecticut. The kind of house Mr. Sheldrake took the 6:15 train home to in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. If you had the money to buy one, tear it down, and replace it with something twice as big, would you build this? Would you go full New Yerevan Brutalist? Would you pave over the front yard and add the tallest fence in the neighborhood?
Yesterday was my day off and glorious weather indeed and Trixie and I circumnavigated Van Nuys by foot and paw until we ended up at MacLeod sharing a pint with Andrew as the sun went down. I was heading out the door when Alastair approached:
Would I care to judge the Haggis bake-off at the Burns Supper in a few hours time?
Why, Haggis! The wild game of Scotland? Of course I would. I pictured something porcine and cuddly, gamboling about in the Highland grasses toward the hunter’s snare, one leg shorter than the other, to accommodate the slopes. Fatty, yet savory.
I could say it is a testimony to my affection for MacLeod Ale and for Alastair that I returned to the tavern. But the truth is the sheer grossness of sheeps pluck, cooked in an animal stomach lining, (or as they say in the British Isles, pudding) held a primal, forbidden appeal. The gastronomical equivalent of jumping off a railroad trestle at night into an icy river. It was a call to manhood. If men in skirts can do it, who am I to be a pussy?
So, girding my intestinal tract with a bit o’ Nutty Broon, I screwed my courage to the sticking place, and awaited the bagpipes under the blue and white bars of Scotland. Alastair piped his way to the table, at which point the evening belonged to the Bard of Ayrshire:
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.
And onward for eight glorious stanzas. Then, with no verse remaining to spare us our duty, we, the judges, approached the four Haggi.
Haggis is….hard to describe. People will misdirect you with claims of ‘spicy oatmeal’. They’re lying. It’s a time machine, to a world centuries past when white men hunted with spears. To eat sheep organs is to squat by a campfire in the rain and smell the funk of sizzling gristle slowly overtaking the funk of one’s unwashed asscrack, and think: Aye, tis a blessing not to starve. Better this than the turnips again. To hell with Edward the Longshanks! You can try to repurpose it for modern tastes as a tamale or a soufflé but in the end there is no way to disguise the primitive nature of the transaction. You are an animal, by necessity eating the entrails of a lesser animal. You are halfway on the evolutionary journey from the thatch hut to the airplane and it’s an open question whether you will survive to tell your grandchildren the tale.
The Haggi at MacLeod proved creative, prolific and in the end…surprisingly tasty. A little peaty Scotch helps. All the tickling of the primal impulses: the pipes, the grog, the slaughtered sheep, put me in an amorous frame of mind.
Arriving home, I addressed my bonnie lassie, Mrs. U, who ducked under the covers and was blunt:
“Kiss me not, with ye haggis mouth.”
“But mah lassie, I bring ye the drunken murmurings of Rabbie Burns upon me very lips”
“Kiss me NOT.”
“The very lips which proclaimed ye fair luv evrlastin”
And like a snake, she coiled out of reach.
It was worth it.
Did you ever think Iggy Pop was going to outlive Glenn Frey?
In 1976 Glenn was living in a castle atop Laurel Canyon. He was fronting what would prove to be, in the fullness of time, a billion-dollar business empire. Back in the era when people actually bought records, they bought Eagles records by the warehouse-full. In subsequent years, the entire Eagles back catalogue would be re-issued on compact disc at inflated prices and not suffer for lack of buyers. Somewhere in the world, every minute of the day, a radio station was playing Hotel California and sending royalty checks to Glenn. In an era marked by decadence and debauchery, he stood out as a figure of relative sobriety and strong work ethic.
In 1976 Iggy Pop was living on the street in Hollywood, “what with the heroin and the drinking and the general carousing’, as he delicately put it. Before David Bowie graciously brought him to Berlin and resuscitated his career, he was right down there with Johnny Thunders from the New York Dolls selling hand drawings on the sidewalk for smack money. No one thought he would live to see the Reagan administration, let alone live to swing his wrinkled c**k around on stage in defiance of Father Time and public decency. This is to say nothing of his sexual proclivities.
Glenn Frey managed the Eagles brand with the business instincts of Bill Gates. It will take three generations of his heirs to blow through all the money he banked. In the end, none of it prevented him from clocking out at age 67 with ulcerative colitis. Iggy, who lived his life with the impulse control of a 14-year-old, is going to sleep tonight with a Russian Barbie under his arm.
If you want to amuse God, make plans.
Perhaps it is fitting the state flag depicts an extinct species of grizzly: Ursos Actos Californicus, which was completely wiped out within 75 years of the discovery of gold in 1848. The last grizzlies were seen in captivity in arranged fights to the death with bulls before wagering audiences. Then they were no more. We honor them in murals and as football mascots. We’ve built a mythology around them of an untrammeled Eden.
There are plans afoot to restore the grizzly to California, assuming the competing claims of other species and their affiliated lobbies can be satisfied, which they never will. We fight mightily to preserve bait fish and field grouse and feral cats. But people displaced by dirt cheap illegal labor? We are pitiless.
We applaud ourselves for our benevolence when we issue swipe cards and cheap cell phones to the dispossessed, as though this balances the scales of the injustice done to them by open borders. We leave them to lash up their pushcarts like Conestoga wagon trains and wander through their days tracing figure eights across the street grid and sleeping in storm channels. Our outrage, our public shaming, we reserve for those benighted rubes who have the exquisitely poor taste to call this Brazilianization of California by its rightful name.