Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey tales

Pride goeth before a fall.

It began with the turkey. The turkey had to be better this year!

I went to the market on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and bypassed the frozen turkeys in favor of a fresh one, a nice little 13-pounder. I have trouble getting frozen turkeys defrosted in time, no matter how soon I put them in the fridge. So this year would be different. The turkey would be fresh.

If I noticed the words organic and free-range, they failed to register.

Until I got to the register, I mean. Imagine the deer-in-the-headlights look on my face when that turkey rang up at $41.11. I stared blankly at the bored, gum-snapping teenage cashier. How could I admit to her that I wanted to trade in my organic and free-range turkey, unpolluted by antibiotics, used to the happy, carefree life outside the coop, for a deep-frozen, overfed lump of turkey which would end up, even after days of defrosting, in my sink on Thanksgiving morning with me cursing at it?

Naturally, I lacked the nerve to trade in the bird. Once in the car, I hurriedly peeled the price label off. Whew! What J. doesn't know wouldn't hurt him.

On Thanksgiving Day, I roasted the bird just as I normally would. All seemed well. Before dinner, I carved the breast meat: nice and juicy and tender. Then I went for the drumsticks -- J.'s favorite.

They wouldn't detach from the bird. I got out my electric knife, and ground away at them, the blade singing loudly on the bone. I pulled and tugged with my carving fork. I grabbed hold of one leg and twisted viciously. Nope. They weren't going anywhere.

"Where are my drumsticks?" J. asked, as he sat down. I had to admit I couldn't get them loose.

"What's wrong with this turkey?" he asked from the kitchen. "Are you sure you cooked it long enough? The legs don't want to come off."

In the end he got one loose, with a loud snap.

At the table, as the rest of us enjoyed the tender white meat, J. looked like that painting of Henry VIII, while tearing at the drumstick with his teeth. And glaring. Glaring at me. "I've never had a turkey this tough," he sulked.

After dinner, J.'s habit is to carve up the rest of the turkey, so we can dispose of the carcass, while I rest in the living room from my labors. "The meat doesn't want to come off," he yelled. "Why is this giving me such a hard time?"

"I don't know," I yelled back. It must have built up its muscles running on the free-range. You know, where the deer and the antelope play.

"Please don't buy a turkey like this again," he shouted.

Trust me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My eye is on the sparrow

Actually, that's all I'm seeing at my backyard birdfeeder. Sparrows.

Back in the summer I had quite a variety of birds: cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees, and a bird which I think was a type of woodpecker. Now? Sparrows. I know all the birds haven't flown to warmer climes. The question, then, is: where are they?

I posed this question to my friend, who looked at me with pity before asking me what I was using as feed.

"I don't know," I said. "Seed. I get it in bags at the grocery store."

My friend winced, and gave me the address of a nearby birdseed emporium. I found my way there, and was suddenly in bird wonderland.

There I found every birdfeeding and bird-watching accessory known to man. Ground feeders. Pole feeders. Squirrel baffles. Birdhouses of all sizes, even bird apartment-buildings for purple martens. High-powered optics for viewing birds. And a puzzling array of foods: nyjer seed, peanuts, corn, you name it. Plus several seed blends, in enormous 20-pound bags.

After browsing around in delirium, I hesitantly approached the woman at the counter. She was a friendly-looking type, a little older than I am, with a pleasantly outdoorsy outfit of flannel shirt and jeans. I explained that I needed new birdseed, because I was only attracting sparrows.

Her demeanor changed slightly. "Are you buying your seed at the grocery store?" As if this were a destination of ill repute.

Guilty as charged. "Well, um ..."

"Millet!" she snapped, as if leveling a curse at me.

"Excuse me?"

"Those blends are full of millet. That's garbage, filler. Only sparrows will eat that." She patted my hand. "Let's get you some real seed."

I trailed in her wake, ashamed to have been feedy garbagey food to those little, brown garbage-eaters. Twenty minutes later, I staggered out of the store with a 20-lb. bag of pricey mixed seeds. No filler here! Nothing but the best!

When the birdfeeders became empty again, I filled them with the new mix. How exciting! I waited for the birds, in their wondrous variety, to descend on my little buffet.

And waited.

And waited.

This morning, first thing, I heard the dogs barking by the window. This was a very good sign, as their mission in life seems to be making sure I am alerted every time a bird enters the yard.

And there they were, in throngs, at least twice as many as I'd ever had at my feeders before, and ... they were all brown.

They were sparrows!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why am I not surprised?

OK, the election is history. The lawn signs are gone. I am sleeping like a baby, in the knowledge that Obama will be our next President. It's now time for me to turn to the other issues that matter to this blog.

One is the Prop 8 fiasco that has taken place in California, where a slender, 52% majority voted to deny a basic human and civil right to a significant segment of the human population. What next? It's a slippery slope, ladies and gents. It's not much of an imaginative leap from marriage to property ownership, enfranchisement, and other basic rights. Are you going to take those away from the LGBT folks as well?

Of course, speaking prominently on the question of Prop 8 was one of its major supporters, Saddleback Church's Pastor Rick Warren, who appears on this blog from time to time whenever I need an example of a wolf in sheep's clothing, or a portrait of an aquatic bottom-feeder. In justifying his views, Pastor Warren had recourse to the Bible, a 2000-year-old collection of documents written by many authors in a tribal civilization where cultural paranoia was often in evidence. Of course, Pastor Warren believes that the Bible and all it contains is the inviolable word of God, from the depiction of God's six-day labors in Creation to the quaint story of Adam and Eve. In fact, he states, God has told us what to think in the matter of marriage:

"For 5,000 years, EVERY culture and EVERY religion -- not just Christianity -- has defined marriage as a contract between men and women," Warren wrote. "There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2% of our population. This is one issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have publicly opposed the redefinition of marriage to include so-called 'gay marriage.' Even some gay leaders, like Al Rantel of KABC oppose watering down the definition of marriage. "Of course, my longtime opposition is well known. This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about. There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue."

Rick, Rick, Rick. It must be wonderful to be able to go through life without doubts, leaning on the the Bible in every situation. That way you don't ever have to think. You can just agree with every opinion expressed by a mainly illiterate, nomadic people who lived several millennia ago. Forget any reference to the modern world. Forget that the LGBT population totals far more than 2% -- probably 10-15%. It's not about appeasement, Rick. It's about justice.

Forget that we have brains, and we're supposed to use them -- along with our hearts. Forget that Jesus stood for inclusion, for the power of love against hate, for the dignity and value of every being.

That muffled sound I hear is Jesus weeping.