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goose attack bike rider

This story continues from our last episode, where the wannabe writer/ overly costumed bike rider encounterd aggressive avian species.

 

Before (damn close to) drowning to death on the Grand Canyon, Tim Cahill claims that he was once Pecked to Death by Ducks.

 

You mean those cute little, beautifully colored birds that peacefully ply your neighborhood park pond?

 

Hmmm. And I thought him the rugged adventurer of the wild outdoors.

 

I wonder if he has ever been face-to-face with a really pissed off goose…you know, those massive Canadian Honkers with a wingspan that reaches over six feet across.

 

I have, and it was a horrifying experience, as we stood there in shotgun-to-slightly-bloodied-body combat, which may explain why the big bird was extremely agitated at me.

 

   attack goose

 

Before you excoriate me with extreme prejudice, I admit that I eat meat.

 

In my earlier years, I attempted to obtain at least some of my animal-based protein myself, legally, with great care and respect, and sans post-hunt wall mountings. Truth-be-told, if I depended on my hunting prowess, I would have starved to death.

 

My “successes” included a few game birds that my hunting buddies gave me because: a) I couldn’t hit shit, b) they felt sorry for me, and c) I brought the beer (for after, when the guns were put away, of course).

 

Oh yeah, and I did once bring home an unlucky buck that I am pretty sure died of either a heart attack from my near misses zinging by, or quite possibly, of laughing to death at how many times I did miss.  See item “a)” above.

 

While I have not become a vegetarian, I have long since given up all forms of hunting, except catch-and-release fly-fishing, which, if you have ever seen me attempt, is pretty much the same as not doing it.

 

elmer fudd down

Back to my goose face off, this occurred many years ago, along the shores of Honey Lake in Lassen County, up in northeast California.

 

After that bird had the misfortune to fly into a pellet or two, that may, or may not, have come from my general direction, the hapless, innocent animal landed in the cropped straw-colored field nearby.

 

My buddies, who were in their hunting blinds, yelled over that I needed to do the humane thing and go over and “dispatch” the wounded creature, as well as get the bird for the meat that was supposedly the purpose of the process.

 

So, I walked over, with shotgun in hand, to do…what? I had not really thought that through.

 

When I got within a couple of feet of the mostly stunned creature, it dawned on me that I certainly could not shoot it at that range, as it would obliterate any meat that I was planning on taking home to create some gourmet dinner entrée that you see gracing the cover of food magazines.

 

Unfortunately, mine more often resembled—and tasted—like one of the deflate-gate footballs.

 

In other words, my cooking acumen of wild game was at the same level of expertise as my obtaining of said menu ingredients.

 

I couldn’t hit shit, and, I couldn’t cook shit either, which, if you think about it, kind of complemented each other.

 

I guess I could have charged the very large, very much still alive, very much unhappy wounded animal with my hunting knife held in my teeth, and tackled it, but this thing was really big up close and was really, really giving me very dirty looks and rude hissing noises.

 

   goose facedown

 

So, I  grabbed the barrel of my shotgun and decided to club the poor beast to put it out of its misery…and maybe mine.

 

Imagine the scene as I chased this bird around the open field, wildly swinging my long-gun towards its head, as my buddies were hysterically cackling—well, like geese—at the spectacle.

 

Yes, you did read that I was holding the business end of the barrel, clearly in my attempt to gain admission to the Darwin Awards finalists (with emphasis on finalists).

 

This went on for some time until both the goose and the hunter became completely exhausted. All I can say is that it did not end up well for either one of us.

 

   goose revenge

 

No, luckily I did not gut shoot myself, as some PETA members might have preferred to see.

 

I had to go home and pluck about “one million” feathers, as they wafted up into my nostrils and mouth, and over most of my body, then butcher the bird, which details I will spare you, except to say, I’m still trying to get various goose bits out from under my fingernails.

 

Let’s just say, the next time you eat that Thanksgiving turkey, which I suspect you got in the neatly bagged, bare skin stage, you might include that fact in your thanks for the day.

 

And, I give thanks every day that the only stalking I have to do to get my next meat-based meal is at the supermarket, while avoiding crashing my shopping cart into any wild kids running down the aisles.

 

Nowadays, that’s wild enough for me.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I have been in hiding.

 

It is difficult to crank out blog posts when you are hiding under the desk.

 

Maybe it had something to do when my last bike ride almost turned into an horrific scene reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds

 

Opening scene: The camera pans a bucolic country road of rolling hills and then focuses on an old farmstead with fading paint and a picket fence, and a stand of stately cottonwood shade trees.

 

Along the barely two-lane road,  the picture picks up a pack of strolling peacocks, some of which were strutting colorful plumage in a perfect picture of rural serenity.

 

Then the camera zooms in on an approach of a Tour de France wannabe, replete with body-conforming Latex bike shorts and a colorful skintight biking jersey, which leaves the viewer with no doubt that body-conforming is not necessarily a good thing.

 

As the background soundtrack rises to a menacing crescendo. the peacocks turn in unison, glaring in annoyance of the advancing bike rider. The pudgy, hirsute bike rider skids to a stop just at the sight of the larger-than-you-might-think birds as they appear to be sharpening their claws on the roadway.

 

   angry peacock

 

In a rare instance of good judgment, I…I mean the bike rider in the movie…flips his bike towards home and pedals furiously while frequently peering over his shoulder, checking if a flock of angry birds have taken flight in his direction, knowing that they can fly a lot-better-than-you-might-think.

 

Unbeknownst to the bike rider, like an unending Grade-B horror flick, the dangers had taken but only a brief hiatus.

 

Just as the hapless central character of our story makes the final turn for his home, he glances at a troop of wild turkeys strolling peacefully down the middle of the road.

 

     turkeys in road

 

Given the encounter with the peacocks just moments prior, and now seeing the very large turkeys beginning to form a gauntlet along the only road to home, as the background music foretells that a character in the movie is about to bite the dust, a flashback begins of another wild bird encounter some many years previous.

 

      turkey attacks bike rider

 

Like a Quentin Tarantino saga, alas this ends the story contained on Reel One.

 

Stay tuned.

 

      turkey versus bike tire

 

In the meantime, it’s back under the desk.

 

Cue, woeful, haunting melody as the credits roll.

Senior Citizen models

The expanding image of the typical American has broadened as a trending topic on a large scale.

 

Yeah, I get it. We have gotten fat.

 

As we travel the world, our image—as our bellies—have grown yet another trait that identifies us in a not very complimentary manner.

 

Speaking of our manners, that is exactly what birthed the concept of the Ugly American. Going back to the 50’s, many a foreign resident viewed us as being,

“…loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric…”

 

Thanks to fast foods, high fructose corn syrup, and 24/7 digital distractions, we have added our girth (literally) to that litany of negative credentials.

 

I feel it every time I get stuck in the middle seat on a nine-hour transatlantic flight, with some overweight guy bulging well into my personal airspace.

 

Of all the thoughts that go through my mind in those instances, that this guy is really the new image of a sexy body is not one of the top ten that I think about. Not even on the top one hundred.

 

Of course, truth be told, I need only look in a mirror to see that guy might be me, especially if the wife-person keeps baking plates of incredible sweet treats, like the amazing dark chocolate dipped, marzipan-tasting, almond cookies I found on a plate on the kitchen counter.

(Which, I later found out were for her club meeting the next day…oops.)

 

The result of all my high calorie grazing is, now that I have topped 60, my weight keeps inching up, along with my belt size.

 

I have been thinking about doing something about this, which is not to be confused with actually doing something about this.

 

Now it comes out that I don’t have to do anything about this; I could have gorged myself on the entire plate of treats.

(Hey, I was already in deep doo-doo.)

 

What momentous, life-altering event changed the world view of my physical condition?

 

Thanks to Breaking News from Jon Stewart, I learned that it was no longer necessary to suck in my ample gut whenever I was in sight of the fairer sex.

 

If this story was legitimate,  I could breathe out knowing that my ample belly was now considered not only desirable, but even—gasp—sexy. The news goes that I am packing what is a highly desirable manly bulge above my beltline.

 

According to a recent story in the New York Daily News,

Women are lusting after dudes with “dad bods” — a little extra gut around the middle.”

 

Even Hollywood heartthrob megastars have been seen sporting the look.

 

 

           dicaprio on boat dad bod

 

 

Kristen Schaal, on the Daily Show segment said,

“You don’t have to be a dad to have a Dad Bod, you just have to be really lazy.”

 

Schaal even claimed that,

…women are lining up at the Dad Bod buffet.” 

 

Well, I’m here to tell you that either the story is bogus, or I have been lining up at the wrong buffets.

 

I have tried three Old Country Buffets and two Sizzlers and I keep getting the same looks of disdain from all the women I parade by. This was especially unexpected, since I was sporting my outfit of yoga pants and a lycra top.

 

In the meantime, the wife-person has started to get suspicious why I want to go eat at yet another buffet, and more worrisome, why I keep strutting up and down the buffet line over and over.

 

I was starting to get skeptical, but even Jimmy Fallon acknowledged the Dad Bod phenomenon in his Pros & Cons segment. Here are a couple of them:

PRO: No longer worrying about what you see on the scale.

CON: Because your gut is blocking the view.

PRO: Being comfortable of having a soft, flabby body with zero muscle tone..

CON: Realizing you still need to lose 75 pounds to attain that [Dad Bod] physique. 

 

Well, since this news is on the internet, it must be true. So, maybe I will go try a big slice from that berry pie I saw in the refrigerator.

 

I’m sure she made it for me.

There are many lessons one obtains by surviving over six decades of an active life; such as, a tennis ball rolls off a roof better than a frisbee.

 

One tag for this post might be travel insurance, but before you tune out, let me assure you, I am not talking about the type of insurance that—excuse the non sequitur—some television lizard is hawking.

 

You are in the wrong place if you want a detailed description of the best monetary travel expense coverage; for that, I suggest you go read the renowned travel advice dude, Christopher Elliot for guidance in that arena.

 

No, I’m thinking more about how to ensure your return from your travel adventures, and specifically, who you travel with may be the most powerful protection.

Along with some good fortune, of course.

 

I have had a (relatively) long life, apparently by being blessed with more than my fair share of blind-ass luck.

 

As I am about to briefly recount some of my karmatic chapters of travails survived, I wonder what they add up to.

 

Let’s see, the first I-could-have-died instance was flying out of the backseat of a moving car and landing on  my head. This was while riding in the family Hudson along the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland.

 

Oh, should I mention I was on my mother’s lap at the time? Hmmm.

 

Some years later, there was my stuck-at-sea adventure on a too-short-for-me windsurfer in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, off the coast of Baja.

 

And then, almost drowning myself, along with a couple of family members, while non-whitewater rafting on the Green River in southern Utah.

 

O.K. I think I am going to fast-forward to my most recent event, so I do not get even more paranoid than I already am. Hey, even cats have their limited number of lives.

 

Earlier this year, I was on the far side of Panama for a few weeks of sailing, snorkeling, and scuba, when the heartache I began to experience was well beyond my natural missing of the wonderful wife-person.

 

Three and a half days later, I was back home, heart issue shockingly resolved, but informed of a totally unrelated superfluous protuberance perched on an internal organ, which I was told required removal.

Ironically, this was discovered by a “cat” scan, although no cats were found therein.

 

In a number of those tales, part of my luck was having travel companions willing and able to offer a timely hand.

 

Maybe that factor is the best form of travel insurance there is.

 

Just ask my travel writing mentor, and sometimes—O.K., just one time—travel companion, Tim Cahill about that.  Tim recently died (not a hyperbole), but thanks to the proximity, skill, and immediate action of his whitewater raft mates, to be forever known as the “Colorado River Miracle Team,” he lived again to tell the story.

 

You just never know where and when your time is up, or, apparently, for some of us, when our nine lives have been fully accounted.

 

In Cahill’s account of his Grand Canyon reawakening, he does not get all philosophical about life’s kismet. No, he realized how much he enjoys playing “roof ball” with his dog, Dexter.

 

After my latest (perceived?) near-death experience, once again I attempted to emulate my longtime, one-way, literary bromance with Tim Cahill by taking the dog outside and flinging the frisbee on to the roof.

 

As Foxley the dog eagerly anticipated retrieving his favorite toy as it rolled off the roof, alas, I was reminded of yet one more thing I don’t do as good as Tim.

 

As the dog looked upward, I hunted for a long pole to retrieve the frisbee, which lay flat on the roof.

 

 

             Foxley frisbee

Worst trip of my life

I have returned from my weeklong treacherous travail to the edge of the Coma Canyon abyss.

 

My torso has become a palate of deep purple, yellow and green, against a canvas of pale skin.

 

I am minus one organ, which I am convinced was pummeled into submission before being sliced out, leaving a trail of over a dozen industrial-grade, stainless steel staples.

 

Somewhere along the path, I was shocked with electrical paddles.

 

I am Frankenstein.

 

And, I have the T-shirt to prove it.

 

       I am Frank

O.K. Axl, I’ll take Rock & Roll Bands of the ‘80’s for $1,000.

 

I’m starting to wonder if the purpose of this multi-media, global adventure humor website, or “blooogggg…ack, ack, cough, cough, as the wife-person says it, like she’s trying to clear a hairball from her throat, is primarily to provide a historical perspective for my younger reader.

 

Some of us are looking at the far side of sextdecades; that’s (kind of) Latin for six decades, or 60 years; NOT six decades of sex.

(Old people having sex…that’s just gross, as my daughters keep telling me.)

 

Anyway, our generations have a completely different point of reference for historical events. We lived it, while you may have happened to stumble onto it while exploring the World of Google.

 

   Panama hotel view

 

That brilliant and perceptive concept came to mind as I was thinking of my recent—albeit, short-lived—trip to Panama. My early exit had nothing to do with the psychological warfare waged against a CIA-trained, Medellin Cartel member named Manuel Noriega, which took place some 25 years ago.

 

That operation was not the nifty package that the Navy Seal team was hoping to wrap up. After 10 days of blasting, heavy metal Guns and Roses, and other earsplitting rock music, the notorious drug dealer—and ex-BFF of the United States—finally raised the white earplugs and gave himself up.

"Reportedly the song "I Fought The Law" by The Clash was played repeatedly along with "Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses; another song in the line-up was "Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die" by Jethro Tull.

 

      jungle colors

 

Without providing exceedingly boring and excessively graphic details on the physical deterioration of my current travel adventures into the advanced latter years of middle age, I will just say that this is my Official Year of The Wheels Beginning to Fall off the Bus.

 

The gist of this inevitable human condition is that my planned two-week sailing and snorkeling sojourn along the Caribbean coast of Panama, turned into a one-day, welcome to the world of airline change fees and astronomical increased, last minute flight and hotel costs.

 

My immediate alternatives were either a visit to a local clinic, which even the locals recommended I avoid, or a 40 minute panga voyage over rough seas, to some unknown medical facility. Plus, the fact that the extent of my limited Spanish and poor pronunciation, was an ability to order more beer or inquire as to the location of the nearest toilet, I was worried they might think I was saying,

Creo que voy a tener un bebe.”

 

So, I opted to fly back to Panama City, and then home to the states, a two-day trek.

 

   Air Panama PAC to BOC

 

So, what in holy hell does this have to do with some two-and-a-half decades-old military event, dealing with a drug dealing dictator dude you likely have never heard of?

 

Well, my only Panamanian point of reference were either some gigantic ditch that crosses the country, or the story of the rock music-driven eviction of an infamous, poor acne-pitted, pineapple-faced, ex-dictator.

 

As the latter occurred at the exact moment in time I was experiencing the most significant emotional event of my life¹—albeit, mine was in the middle of the Sea of Cortez of Mexico—the two events are inexorably linked in whatever remaining gray matter of mine, which has not yet turned to mush.

(¹ See previously published reports of my famous Stuck At Sea story.

To reiterate, ignore the oft-repeated, misstated account that I was “lost at sea.” I knew EXACTLY where I was and where I wanted to go; I just couldn’t get there from there. Although, ironically, the epic north winds were blowing me towards Panama.)

 

Back to my recent ill-fated adventure: Happily, I made it back home, and with certain medical treatments administered, and particular excess body parts soon-to-be excised, I soon hope to be able to quote Noriega in the letter he wrote to his wife, just before giving into the ten days of aural abuse, and once again say,

"I go now on an adventure."

 

Personally, I can’t blame old Manuel for surrendering. My parents expressed the same sentiment during my high school and early college years with what was blaring from my bedroom stereo.

 

 

   Red Frog bar sign

They say to travel with your eyes wide open, in order to completely capture the wonderful world as it unfolds like a road map in front of you.

 

I would add to that: You should travel with your mouth wide open, so you get a taste of the area you are adventuring through.

 

scooter on street

Unless, of course, you happen to be motoring on a Motorino at the time, searching for the perfect pizza pie.

 

Those bugs stuck in your teeth tend to make a lousy pizza topping.

 

My journey of culinary contentment began on Main Street of the tiny town of Mt. Shasta, way up in northern California, some 15-years ago. It was there that I discovered a small bakery, with shelves brimming with beautifully baked loaves of bread. The proprietor explained that the secret of his creations was the wood-fired oven smack in the middle of his establishment.

 

I had never seen such a thing, but, as a wildland fire fighter with a possibly worrisome worship of the open flame, I knew at once that I must build such a structure.

 

But, probably not in the middle of the wife-person’s cherished 1906 farm house kitchen.

 

The owner of the Oven Bakery suggested I purchase a book entitled The Bread Builders, for a guide to constructing an oven and building the perfect loaf. All I would need were a “few bricks and a bit of mortar.”

 

That was some 15-years ago.

 

In the interim, wood-fired pizza purveyors have become as ubiquitous as craft beer brewpubs and farm-to-table restaurants. There are probably a dozen or so in the Sacramento area, alone. Apparently, I am not the only one fascinated by fire and the resultant amazing flavors it imparts on almost any kind of cooking.

 

And, in the last few years, it is not at all uncommon for individuals to place one of these ovens on their backyard patio, or inside as the centerpiece of their kitchen. So much so, that in certain crowded  San Francisco Bay Area neighborhoods, they are being smoked out by them (but, probably more so from backyard smokers than efficient ovens with a good chimney).

 

Except, at our place, the only evidence of my interest has been a frayed, 15-year old book and a big fat pile of the best of intentions.  When the wife-person would ask me to explain my lack of execution, I would say,

“Sorry, dear, I’ll get to it.”

 

But, as, Felix Unger once said, "Sorry doesn’t feed the Admiral’s cat." 

 

Nor, does it feed the hunger for a hand-kneaded, delicious delicacy with the perfect cornicione crust, topped with a chunky sauce from San Marzano Italian tomatoes,  a moderate amount of the quintessential Mozzarella di Bufala cheese, and a few leaves of fresh basil.

 

The cornicione crust refers to the sought-after puffy finish along the pizza margin, while the di Bufala cheese is the classic cheese made from the Italian water buffalo.

 

But, thanks to either the generosity of heart or the lack of patience for another 15-years of waiting, the wife-person gently suggested I go get the “guts” for a quality wood-fired oven, get off my foundation, and begin building.

 

It was about that period of time that Number Two Daughter introduced us to Mac Duff’s Public House, in South Lake Tahoe, where we thoroughly enjoyed what came out of their indoor, wood-fired oven; from the thoroughly tasty pizza crust, to an amazing truffle oil mac & cheese, to a fantastically flavored bread pudding for dessert, it was all good.

 

Their bar ain’t bad, either, assuming you like great beer and a good selection of whiskies.

Mugnaini logo

 

I noticed a distinctive, stylistic letter “M” at the oven opening, and was told that the oven was from a company called Mugnaini.

 

 

 

After virtual minutes of language lessons on Italian, garnered primarily by watching vintage Sofia Loren movies while she was in her prime (and oh, what a beautiful, scantily clad Italian pin-up she was in her prime),

“…no dear, I’m watching masonry lessons on YouTube.”

I learned that Mugnaini is pronounced “Moog-and-innie,” or possibly, “Mug-a-yinie,” no wait, it’s “Moon-ya-ini,”…I think.

 

I guess it’s back to watching old Sofia Loren movies.

 

Long story even longer, after I over-researched the world of wood-fired ovens, as I am wont to do, I eventually purchased the belly of the beast, so to speak, in kit form from Mugnaini, and got to building.

 

For some portions of the project I proved to be highly qualified.

 

the big dig begins

 

With impressive shovel manipulation—including the commensurate blisters—I was able to dig out a footing and deftly drive and dump the wheelbarrow around the corner (I don’t think my neighbor has noticed the newly formed, small mountain on his place yet. Or, maybe he has.

“No Mr. Reynolds, I don’t know where that ponderous pile of dirt might have come from.

Yes, I do, if fact, have a big hole in the ground over at our place.”

 

pile of dirt

 

Then, thanks to the kindness of another neighbor, and those YouTube videos, I learned how to pile a bunch of cinderblocks, and then fill them with concrete.

 

          masonary intern

 

Laying out the pieces of the pizza oven puzzle I began to wonder what in the hell I got myself into.

 

dome ready to set

 

Finally, after countless hours of impassioned phone calls to the inexplicably patient staff at Mugnaini (namely, Reese) from a hapless do-it-yourself-er, wannabe builder…namely, me…I finally—almost—finished the construction.

 

(It’s only minus a few pieces of trim and a plaster finish.)

 

forms off

 

But, at least it was time to kick the tires (or, in this case, the massive monolith of cinderblocks, rebar, and concrete) and LIGHT THE FIRE!

 

first fire

 

After a prescribed burn schedule, just like the old days when I got to light hundreds of acres of brush and grass on fire (to benefit wildlife habitat)—and get paid for it—with the wife-person’s skilled preparation techniques, I got the first pie slid into the breach.

 

All 700 degrees of it.

 

first home pizza pic

 

After a mere 90-seconds at that blazing temperature, I could finally enjoy the fruits of my labor with a slice of my favorite fresh mushrooms, black olives, and Italian (what else) sausage pizza.

 

O.K., I ate the whole damn thing by myself, accompanied with a wonderful bottle of locally sourced, farm-to-my mouth red wine.

 

fruits of the labor

 

I wonder if my neighbor would mind if I parked an Italian water buffalo on his property.

 

Italian water buffalo wikipedia

               "WildWaterBuffalo(Bubalus bubalis arnee)" by Djambalawa

 

 

I just have to find a YouTube video on how to milk one of these things.

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