Thursday, March 22, 2007

Now Playing: Munich

Steven Spielberg frustrates me sometimes. Last year was a banner year for him with the crowd pleaser War of the Worlds and the deeper, and more emotional Munich. I hated the first, and have just seen and loved the second. The last time he did a double feature in one year was back in 1993 with Jurassic Park and Schindler's List and I love it when he cranks things out. When he's working on a harsh deadline, he seems to rise to the challenge and he does magnificent work with Munich.

Based on the true events at the 1972 Munich Olympics in which several Palestinian terrorists working for an organization called Black September infiltrated Olympic Village and seized the Israeli dorms, capturing most of the athletes. The ensuing stand-off and confrontation when the terrorists tried to flee at the Munich Airport resulted in a bloodbath as all of the athletes and terrorists were killed. The Arab world at the time declared it a great victory.

Israel declared war, but not overtly. Instead, they sent a team of handpicked men after the targeted planners of Munich and the film chronicles their hunt.

This is brutal, stark work harkening back to the great films of the 1970s. Spielberg brilliantly recreates the world as it was right down to the innocence of the time. Munich came on the heels of a number of world changing events, and this was one of the first major attacks where terrorists were given a face and a name to everyone. The men on the hunt, though, had very specific names and faces to track down and they were relentless in their pursuit. But eventually word made it to the other side and the men found themselves as much the prey as they were the hunter.

Eric Bana make have taken a lot of guff for the overblown disaster that was Hulk but he's a sharp actor with very keen instincts. He plays the team leader, a devoted young man with a family who risks everything for the sake of national vengence. Guiding him down this slippery slope is the brilliant Geoffrey Rush who is merciless in his desire to prune what he views as nothing more than weeds. Anytime Rush shows up you know he's going to bring his A-game which is why I'm so excited about his return in the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie because his Barbossa was the best part of the first film next to Johnny Depp.

Daniel Craig continues to impress me by choosing work that completely takes him away from James Bond and I hope that Casino Royale's mammoth success means he has better and better scripts to choose from. He's solid here as the driver and he and Bana have a solid rapport with one another.

The only demerit I'd throw at Munich is a cliched technique that Spielberg obviously knows inside and out and that he, frankly, should have known better than to use here. Even high school kids today know about Munich and what happened. We don't need to flashback to it throughout the film resulting in a B-story where we want to see what happened. The finale at the airport is relentless, brutal and proof of a master film maker at work, but it would have been far more powerful if we didn't keep cutting back to Bana making love to his wife.

Even I wouldn't stoop to that as a metaphor and I'm fairly shameless in exploiting emotions.

But overall I can see why a lot of people praised it. Top to bottom it's excellent work from everyone involved.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Now Playing: The Constant Gardener

Sometimes a movie comes along and knocks the wind out of your sails. It's been a long, long time since one has done that to me (what can I say? I'm hard to surprise.) but The Constant Gardener left me floored, stunned, angry, and emotionally wrecked. In short, it kicked my teeth in and for that alone I loved it.

To say the least, the movie is an emotional drain as British assistant diplomat to Africa Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) and his activist wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy involving governments and drug companies all vying for billions in profit at the expense of the African soul. Justin is blind to the damage his employers are wrecking on millions because he considers himself a small man, incapable of helping even one person. Tessa is convinced that one person can make a difference and her goal behind the scenes is to expose as much of the corruption as possible.

The first shocker is the opening car wreck where Tessa dies. She's killed in the opening frames and after a few flashbacks where we see the abrupt courtship between Justin and Tessa, the film follows Justin's increasingly frustrated attempts to uncover what his wife was working on. One of the many beauties of this film is seeing a man who dearly loved his wife try to make good by her by continuing her work. She may have kept him in the dark for her own reasons, some obvious, some not, but it remained important work nonetheless.

As Justin's understanding of Tessa's work grows, so does his fury. He's never blinded by rage though. If anything, the further down the rabbit hole he sinks the more determined he is to see things through regardless of what it costs him. He understands that a man with nothing to lose is someone to fear, and the Powers That Be soon understand that as well.

Weisz may have won an Oscar for her role here but I'll be damned if I can understand why. She and Fiennes have perfect chemistry, but she's always been sort of a blank to me. I've heard that criticism leveled at other starlets like Jessica Biel and while that's certainly true, I will accept that Weisz is the better actress between the two. She just never goes beyond the surface here, in my opinion, but obviously I'm in the minority since she's clutching her Oscar while I'm left dreaming of mine. She's strong enough as Tessa Quayle, a woman determined to change the world while protecting her husband from its dark secrets at the same time. Whenever Tessa and Justin are on screen together you can see and feel the spark between them, even if they don't initially understand it themselves. She even tells him early on, "You'll learn me."

Justin realizes after she's gone that he failed miserably to do so. In picking up the pieces of his life, he begins to realize that hers never really fit in with his. As he plunges headlong into his pursuit of what happened a funny thing happens. He falls in love with her all over again as he begins to understand what exactly she went up against and was crushed by. Fiennes pours his heart and soul into Justin and the final sequence is heartbreaking, the closing shot and final line of dialogue in particular. Fiennes shows how closed off Justin was in the beginning, and how he is steadily reborn through the course of the film. Fiennes anchors The Constant Gardener in such a strong way that even some of the flakier aspects of the plot are easily forgiven.

This is a stunning film from director Fernando Meirelles who knocks it way out of the park. Even though the film does sometimes show off for the sake of showing off, it still feels like a passion project. It also captures the sheer anger of John Le Carre's novel as it shows just how brutal and unforgiving life is in Africa, and just how far down its nose the drug companies view the continent. It's stunning stuff by itself, but the heart and soul of the film remains the love story between Justin and Tessa and that aspect is fantastic. See this film immediately if you get the chance.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Duck Hunt - Part 2

I hadn't bothered with the alarm clock since dad is usually up at 5 a.m. anyway and I figured, rightly so, that he'd knock on the door when it was time to get up. Knock he did right at the stroke of 5:15-ish. Oddly enough, I didn't have any trouble waking up and just throwing on clothes, but I did feel somewhat out of place when I saw both dad and Brother G wearing the same camo shirts while I made do with a light green one I wore down the day before.

We sauntered out into the lodge as only we men can do and found absolutely nothing waiting for us in terms of breakfast. So Brother G and I snagged some water bottles from behind the bar, then found some stiff granola bars to munch on before the big hunt.

Mmmm, tasted like victory mixed with peanut butter.

Once we scarfed those down, our guide walked in and asked if we were all set. Guide-Me-Yonder then walked us out to his truck where we loaded up our guns, ammo, flack jackets, mortars, walkie-talkies, and some Snapple (don't ask). Once everything was ready, Guide-Me-Yonder put pedal to metal and we tore off down the winding road and headed towards the river.

It bears mentioning that it was pitch black outside underneath a cloud-covered sky and with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees. Basically the absolute worst weather possible for duck hunting.

We arrived at the river bank a short while later, then unloaded our gear from the truck and moved it over to the long raft Guide-Me-Yonder had in a trailer we'd been towing. Since it was black outside, and silly me for leaving my night vision goggles back at Casa de Skim, I'd completely missed it. Guide-Me-Yonder threw the raft on the ground, which we promptly filled with equipment, let Ol' Yeller out of her cage so she could run around, then picked up some rope at the front of the raft and wrapped it around his upper half.

At first I thought that was sort of a peculiar way to hang yourself, driving down to a river with three other guys with guns and a dog then wrapping a rope around your neck and walking away until it stranggles you, but he pulled the raft over onto the river (which I hadn't seen since it was, wait for it, pitch black) and started heading towards our spot. We followed as best we could.

Now, here's where we were - a small river in central Texas at roughly 5:45 a.m. on an overcast morning. Zero visibility except from the lone flashlight Guide-Me-Yonder was pointing out in front of him, and he was about 30 feet in front of us. We were covered head-to-toe in gear that would make a survivalist proud, and the thick black high-water boots we had on were trudging through the riverbed while the water hit us mid-thigh. Oh, and because this wasn't fun enough we carried our shotguns on our shoulders. I carried mine across both shoulders because it seemed to provide better balance, but that didn't stop or even slow the stream of profanities issuing forth from Yours Truly's otherwise clean mouth whenever I slipped.

We hiked like this for around 10 minutes which meant all of us were sweating like hogs in August by the time we reached our designated "hot spot." Looking at it from the river, I took the right flank, Brother G took the left flank, and dad took the middle. Meanwhile, Guide-Me-Yonder and Ol' Yeller set up a little ways to my left, and there we waited for the flocks to come hither. We sat there a moment in silence before Guide-Me-Yonder stood up and walked to the river where he proceeded to toss several duck lures into the black water. When he returned to his spot, we all hunkered down. We waited for roughly 45 minutes before the first hint of trouble stirred up.

We heard the echo of a few shots fired down river (to my left) and figured the birds would eventually migrate down to us. Then we heard the distant roar of something else, something that belongs on a river but not at that moment. It was an airboat firing up its engine, and the noise must have carried down stream far past our hot spot. Airboats by themselves are not something one uses when stealth is a key factor like in, say, duck hunting, where you need your enemy to pretty much be up on you without realizing it before you can get a clean shot.

Guess what went right out the window the second that fool fired up his engine? If you said "any chance of surprising anything between here and Kansas" then five points are awarded to Gryffindor. It was unreal that this fool would go out RIGHT THAT SECOND and look for his spot, which he did while right in front of us.

The roar of his engine grew and grew and grew until we saw him spin around the corner and slowly go past us. One would think he'd be in a hurry to get to his spot considering he was late, but not this clown. Oh no, he decided to take his sweet time and slowly inched his boat upstream while waving his floodlight to and fro looking for his own hot spot while we just stared at him. He must have seen us pointing our guns at him with a "YOU WILL LEAVE RIGHT THIS SECOND!!!" look on our camo-covered faces because he hurried past where we were once he recognized he was in the wrong spot. He tore down the river and eventually his engine switched off...

Only to switch back on a few moments later as he kept going.

"That fella's gonna get his ass blown off if he pulls that crap again going back in," said Guide-Me-Yonder.

"No kidding," replied my dad. "What sort of asshat comes out late in a %#$@'n airboat? It's not like the birds are deaf. Hell, they probably heard him two states over."
In short, we were already hot under the collar from the clothes, the weather, and sludging through the riverbed but now we were pissed too. At least we were armed and could start blasting at any moment so relieving stress was the least of our worries.

Guide-Me-Yonder waded out into the river and reset the faux ducks he'd dropped as lures when we first arrived, since they were now everywhere but where they should have been. Once he finished, he motioned us to reset ourselves and get ready. So we shifted our weight on our seats, rechecked our firearms, chugged some beer, smoked some weed, flipped through the available men's magazines, made smores, and basically waited like bumps on logs for the next hour.

Then we heard it.

It was soft, and at first our ears didn't pick it up. But the wind carried a slight sound upon its back and Guide-Me-Yonder whispered to us to get ready. We stared at the sky in vain trying to pick out which birds were ducks, yet all we saw were crows and more crows and maybe a plane. But that could have been a duck too.

Guide-Me-Yonder shouted at us and we three kings of army surplus looked up again and spotted two birds flying overhead. Four shotguns turned towards the sky and opened fire with a thundering cacophony.
We emptied our guns at these nefarious foes, only to see nothing in the sky once the smoke cleared. We looked at the water below to see if their scattered remains were at least visible, but there was nothing.

Not even a feather.

It felt like that scene in Predator where Mac grabs the mini-gun and unleashes Hell on the jungle followed shortly by Dutch, Dillon, Poncho, and the remaining team who open up nine cans of whoop-ass only to hit air.
"Not a thing, not a &*$%'in trace. No blood, no bodies. We hit nothing," said Poncho.
We, too, sat in awe. Clearly, this breed of bird was far more devious than we'd been lead to believe. One minute they're flitting harmlessly about and the next... they pull a Houdini and vanish before our very eyes.

Oh, it was on.

Guide-Me-Yonder warned us to prepare for more ducks. I wondered how any of them could have heard that racket and thought it sounded like a reasonable place to relax and have a cold one. Of course, their slippery friends may have gone back and told them that right in front of us was the best place to chill because we'd hit everything but them. Clearly, the Army was mistaken in rejecting my application for sniper, though that may also have to do with listing "Pisces" under accomplishments.

We threw some more brush up in front of our position, then radioed for backup. After we were laughed off the frequency by the police, Guide-Me-Yonder decided some recon was in order. He whistled to Ol' Yeller and they headed downstream a bit to see whether Charlie was around the bend. They exchanged hand/paw signals and went in tandem down the river, only to return a few minutes later.

"They are coming..." he said.
We readied ourselves for the onslaught, and hid in our respective foxholes. The brush was pulled high and nary a foe would evade us this time. Then we heard Guide-Me-Yonder whistle. When we turned to look at him he was pointing at the stream off to his left and then we saw them.

Two birds, minding their own business, thinking they were so high and mighty as to defy us.

We cocked, locked, and were ready to rock when Guide-Me-Yonder whistled again at us. He raised his weapon and aimed at the birds, as did we all, then nodded his head at Yours Truly to take the first shot. I aimed right between them and squeezed the trigger.

The scattershot hit them both square in the chest and they launched into the air.
The one on the right made it about six inches off the water's surface before Guide-Me-Yonder's shot brought it back down. Brother G and my dad fired as well but neither hit the second target.
Guide-Me-Yonder's next shot took down the fell beast and it splashed into the water followed a split second by Ol' Yeller leaping after it. Once the dog snatched up the first bird, he returned and dropped it right at our feet then headed back out for the second one.

I understand now why people who have been in combat say firefights never last as long as they do in the movies, and describe "engagements" as quick and startling. It was over before we knew it, but we were victorious...

"Heads up!" shouted Guide-Me-Yonder.
We spun around and looked straight up to see another few birds coming in, and the shotguns went up and blasted the birds out of the sky. Two more were felled by this last round, and while I suspect Guide-Me-Yonder was the one who tagged these as well it remains unclear who fired from the Grassy Knoll. There may have been additional shooters but with so much carnage it was difficult to tell friend from foe. Fortunately, we five made it out alive with our victory birds safely tucked away.

Then we heard the roar of the airboat again, and it sounded like it was coming straight at us.

Yes, again.

"Oh for the love of God..." said dad.
Sure enough, that bloody airboat came roaring around the bend and headed straight at us. It flew past us without so much as a glance and headed down river. Once it was out of sight, each of us loosened our grip on the guns. Instinctively, we'd all wanted to shoot the fool but fortunately restrained ourselves.

We agreed that it had been a fine hunt, then took a round of pictures holding up our guns and dead birds in celebration of our victory. After gathering up the decoys and throwing them back into the sled, we headed towards the spot where we came in. Since it was pitch black at the time we arrived I figured Guide-Me-Yonder's thoughts were to just head in the driection we came from and when we see our truck we'd be fine. So it was that we hiked back through the river lugging our guns, ammo, flack jackets, mortars, walkie-talkies, and what was left of the Snapple (really, don't ask).

After loading things up when we made it back to the truck, Guide-Me-Yonder and Ol' Yeller's noses perked up simultaneously. At first, I figured Charlie was hiding in the bush somewhere waiting to ambush us but since none of us was taken out by a sniper on the way up stream I figured we were safe.

"Hold it a sec," Guide-Me-Yonder said under his breath. "Gotta check somethin' I saw up stream."
He walked back to the river and waded in a few feet, then knelt and looked off in the distance for a minute. Meanwhile, we finished unloading our guns and were ready to head back to the ranch for some breakfast when Guide-Me-Yonder walked up.
"Spotted a couple a birds up the river a stretch," he drawled. "Let's hop on in and go check 'em out."
We crammed back into the truck and Guide-Me-Yonder peeled off up the hill and around the bend.

Imagine our surprise when he turned around a corner and we found ourselves watching a Motorcross track fly by on the left.

"We get roughly 500 to a thousand folk down here come March," Guide-Me-Yonder said. "People who live 'round here hate it 'cause of the traffic, but it brings in good money to the ranch."
Of all the things I didn't expect to see that day, a Motorcross track would rank pretty high on the list. I had to admit to being curious to see it when the place was hopping because it looked well laid out. I really got a close look when Guide-Me-Yonder cut a hard right and my face smacked into the window courtesy of the G-force. It didn't help that Brother G thought shoving me against the door would be funny.

His time will come. Oh yes, it will come and that right soon.

We came to a screeching halt on the other side of the course, then fled the vehicle alongside dad and Guide-Me-Yonder. Ol' Yeller stayed in the kennel as Guide-Me-Yonder motioned to us to follow him. He pointed over a hill towards some trees.

"Right on the other side of that is a path leadin' down to the river. You two head that way, and me and your dad'll head back towards the river to try and flush 'em towards ya."
Eh, why not? It worked so well in Predator, so why not in real life? That would be sarcasm, just to clarify for those in the peanut gallery.

Brother G and I loaded up then headed towards the woods. When we reached the edge we walked further in wondering what we were looking for. So long as it wasn't the Blair Witch I figured we'd be all right. Then we found what Guide-Me-Yonder initially pointed us towards.

A ravine was about three feet down and completely covered in fresh mud.

"Any bets on whether it's actually quicksand?" I asked.

"If you want to go first and get pulled under then I'm taking your birds," replied Brother G.

Ahh, brotherly love. Nothing quite like it.

We found a small path (by "small" I mean roughly the width of my thigh) down towards the river and made it to the edge. We carefully slid into the knee-deep water and looked down river where we saw a flock of ducks sitting. With weapons at the ready, we waited for the signal from the far end. And waited. And waited some more.


The flock took off and headed north which was away from us. Brother G and I looked at one another and we both shrugged. We stood there in the water for another minute before I heard dad shouting my name.

"Guess it's time to leave," I said.
We helped one another up into the ravine and back towards the truck where dad and Guide-Me-Yonder were waiting.
"Let's get back and snag some breakfast, what do you say?" asked my dad.

"Sounds like a plan," I replied.

We hopped into the truck and again were slammed into the windows as Guide-Me-Yonder debated whether the truck could actually take the Motorcross track. Happily he only made it up one hill before opting to forgo the rest. Unhappily, that meant a straight shot downhill with Guide-Me-Yonder shouting "YEEEEHAAAAWWWWW!!!" at the top of his lungs and refused to hit the brakes.

My shorts were not amused.

Eventually, we made it back to the hacienda in one piece and unloaded our gear. Walking into the building we smelled food, but couldn't peg what exactly it was.

"Welcome back, senors," said the helpful waitress in a thick Mexican accent. "Today the chef has prepared some grilled ahi tuna along with an assortment of greens and cabbage for your lunch."
We looked at each other.
"Wasn't there a place called The Skillet back up the highway?" I asked.

"You know," replied my dad as he pointed at me, "I seem to recall just such a place. Shall we head that way?"

Brother G and I were already climbing into our trucks by the time dad finished his question. After killing game and showing the world what monumental badassery the Skim family was capable of, we demanded hot food guaranteed to clog every artery in our bodies. Grilled ahi tuna?

Sorry chef, but we're hunters. Hunters don't do grilled ahi tuna.

After lunch, dad and I headed back to Big D while Brother G split off towards Cow Town. It was an excellent way to spend Friday and Saturday morning and I figured I'd get the chance to rest once I walked back through the doors of Casa de Skim. Flying past the Wal-Mart driver still stuck in the southbound traffic was kind of funny, but by this point the traffic jam had turned into an armed stand-off complete with SWAT units so humor was in the eye of the beholder.

On the plus side, a pretty cool event would happen that evening which I was completely unprepared for. Dad mentioned he'd love to do this again so we'll see what happens next season. Here's hoping the flock we scared off doesn't use the interim to plan revenge for their fallen comrades.

Duck Hunt - Part 1

A few weekends ago, my dad, brother (Brother G) and I (Yours Truly) headed south of the metroplex in search of big game. By "big game" I mean "tiny ducks that are crafty buggers" and the weather couldn't have been nicer for the last weekend of the season. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the mid-60's.

If you know anything about duck hunting, this is the absolute worst weather for it. In an ideal world, it would have been raining, or at least about to, the temperature would have been down in the 20s or 30s, and we'd have been hating life so much that blasting anything out of the sky would have brought instant relief.

Male bonding at its finest, ladies and gents.

Since Brother G was coming from Cow Town he was going to meet dad and Yours Truly at the ranch we were staying at. In the meantime, dad and I braved getting out of Big D alive in south-bound rush hour traffic at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday while the North Dallas Autobahn was under construction. In short, we were so monumentally screwed right from the start it was a wonder we made it through at all.
"Oh don't worry, just hop on the Tollway and you'll be fine," Mother Dearest assured us before we left. "All that construction... surely they wouldn't be doing it during rush hour!"
Ahh, but this is Big D, boys and girls, and performing large-scale construction projects on major thoroughfares at the absolute worst time imaginable is what they specialize in. It also helps that seldom does one see a construction worker actually working. For the most part, things are just blocked off thus diverting traffic into one or two lanes when six would not be enough. Meanwhile, the road crew is off getting a brew.

In short, Big D has its head up its rear end so far that when it opens it's mouth you can talk to the head resting on the tongue.

It took us roughly half an hour to cover the few miles from where we entered to the southern-most toll plaza and by the time we arrived we were thankful the guns were stowed in the back because we were ready to start blasting. When we managed to make it through that nightmare, we crossed over onto I-35E south-bound and that actually flowed for a little bit. Once we crossed over Frozen Trinity and continued south we saw a seconds-old wreck in the north-bound lane.
"Man, what is it about being with you and seeing wrecks?" dad asked me.

"Hey, at least we're not in them," I replied.

Just kidding.

But he was right. Usually whenever it's just the two of us driving somewhere we see a wreck as it happens at which point he whips out his cell and rings 911. It's the oddest thing too, because neither of us has an explanation for it. Sort of like Bigfoot and Roswell, and how three people unrelated to my company are standing outside my office right this second having a very loud conversation for no apparent reason. If they're trying to feel cool by discussing the latest financial market forecasts then they need a) new subject matter, and b) to recognize that financial statements are the last thing on this planet I care about. Well, that and tapioca.

Traffic flowed southbound up to a point just south of the 67 split and there we came to a dead stop... for close to an hour. When we finally were moving again we covered a matter of inches, not feet, and we could not figure out what was going on. Also, it is important to note that while I have a flash temper, it is nothing compared to the short fuse my dad has especially when it comes to ridiculous traffic congestion. He pealed off on the side road and we flew past the stacked up cars and trucks. One Wal-Mart truck driver in particular was leaning out his window waving his fists and shouting. Any normal person would have mistaken his pleasant approach as the Texan way of saying "hello," but an observant fellow like Yours Truly noted the firearm in his hand and chose not to wave back.

Actually, this is the Texan way of saying hello on the freeway, now that I think about it.

We did this for roughly another half hour, too. When we managed to get south of a small town I noticed on the road that the three available lanes funneled down to one and that the line was stacked up for several miles. Fortunately, we found a spot to get back on I-35 that was far enough south that the lanes opened back up. Dad gunned it and we raced the encroaching darkness trying to get to the ranch before sundown. The goal? Put me on the gun range and have me knock out some shooting since the last time I'd fired a gun was when I was 15.

Let's just say it's been a while.

We hit Hillsboro and hung a right then gunned it along some winding two lane road that lasted for-freaking-ever, but at this point I'd resigned myself to never leaving the road again. I figured by this point we may as well go all Mad Max on everyone we saw because weren't getting out of that truck anytime soon. At least it had butt warmers and satellite radio, though listening to Kelly Clarkson with your dad while on a road trip to kill ducks is a new experience in awkwardness that I wouldn't recommend to the faint of heart.

When we made it to the WB Ranch (no affiliation to the studio) we pulled up in front of the very large resort-style main house. I opened the door and fell out of the car since I'd been unable to feel my legs for the last half hour. Dad, of course, walked around like it was nothing and he went to check us in. He came back out a few minutes later and kicked me in the leg.
"Hey, let's get some shooting in while it's still light out. They've got a gun for you to use so let's go."
So I climbed back in the truck and Dad drove us out to the gun range which was about a minute west of the house. By this point, I'd regained enough feeling from the waist down to be able to stand on my own so we got out and Dad tossed me the shotgun. It was a very nice over/under double-barrel shotgun made in Italy, which means it fires cleanly and efficiently and doesn't have much of a kick.

For the record, the last time I'd fired anything comparable I was roughly 14 or 15 and wasn't the strongest lad on the block. As such, the rifles and shotguns I fired back then tended to hurt me far more than they probably should have. It took me a few shots to get the feel of firing a weapon again after so long, but my eyesight and instincts quickly regained their focus. Dad pulled the trap trigger and shot a clay pidgeon up into the air.


Tagged it with the first shot and blew it up nicely. Aww, yeah.

We stood out there for the next 20 minutes while I warmed up to shooting again and my aim was spot-on for the most part. If I wasn't blasting the targets dead-on I was at least clipping them enough to send chunks flying, so I was feeling pretty good about myself. Brother G drove up and we caravaned back to the main house where we met the other guests. Apparently this is a pretty big thing to do for people and this group were going out on a mixed-game hunt the next morning. Translation: Over the course of a day they'd be presented with a variety of animals to blast out of the sky whereas our hunt was more, uh, specialized.

The three of us drove back to the hacienda and unloaded our trucks. We each had our own room and the beds were nice and comfortable. While I wouldn't go so far as to describe them as "spacious" I would say that comfort was foremost in the designer's mind. As was "garish Western theme" but to paint a more accurate picture we must return to the main entry.

Imagine you're standing two feet away from a bison. You look it in the eyes, it stares back at you then snorts, its tail swatting the flies away from its backside. All this time you're also holding your nose with both hands because the thing smells so awful the only thing your brain has a desire for is an immediate and lengthy shower. Now take that thing's head and stick it on a wall. Now put another on the opposite wall. Add roughly a hundred variety of antlers and horns to the general decor be it chandeliers or even tables, then throw some stretched cow hide over most of the furniture and tile floors and call it a day.

Basically it's what happens when someone who used to work as a sales clerk for Western Warehouse designs a room, then throws a gourmet chef in the kitchen because the place wasn't ostentatious enough.

On the flip side, they did have a nice fireplace as well as a good chef who served up some very tasty strip steak. Outside there was a roaring fireplace surrounded by three of the biggest, widest, and deepest leather benches I've ever sat on. Correction - you don't sit on these, you lay back on them. I'm 6'1" and sitting so my back was against the rear of the bench meant my legs were pointed straight out in the air. My dad and Brother G both lit up cigars, Cubans of course, while the three of us talked and enjoyed the night air. We retired shortly thereafter and hit the sack because morning was going to be on us soon enough.

Oh, did it ever.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Request From the Peanut Gallery

So it's been brought to my attention recently that I need to divulge with greater frequency the goings-on of My Fair Lady and Yours Truly's lives. Rest assured that when such interesting bon mots should surface they will soon appear for your viewing pleasure. Simply commenting that My Fair Lady worked late one night while I sat at home and watched TV or vice versa does not strike me as interesting enough to comment on.

Now, that being said let me assure you that additional stories will crop up from time to time but they must pique my interest enough for me to write about them. For example, anytime I do battle with My Fair Lady's German-engineered vehicle high comedy will result.

Also, it's become obvious after the cruise saga that writing out lengthy stories is far more fun for me and gives you, Dear Constant Reader, plenty of bang for your buck. The downside is whenever I'm writing one of these it tends to take all of my focus and as such the blog posts become less frequent. Apologies all around, but a large post is coming up this week.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Dangers of Tahoe

What you are about to read is a story told to Yours Truly this morning by the Travelling Man. I have altered the screen names but otherwise this is as it happened, shocking in its immediacy...
Travelling Man: dude, i should tell you about my failed trip to Tahoe last week
Travelling Man: it's a good story
Yours Truly: do share
Yours Truly: /loves story time
Travelling Man: well children, once upon a time, Todd was trying to go skiing in Tahoe
Travelling Man: w/ 3 friends.
Travelling Man: He flew out to Reno 2 Saturdays ago... in the morning
Travelling Man: all of a sudden, a huge dust storm blew into Dallas
Travelling Man: the evil dust storm grounded all the flights... Todd's friends couldn't fly out of Dallas all day
Travelling Man: Todd was stuck in Reno and lost $60 at blackjack
Travelling Man: things were looking down
Travelling Man: The next day, the evil storm was vanquished by the heroic elf of the lower woodlands, and the 2 friends flew to Reno (1 friend bailed
Travelling Man: At that moment, a fell wind blew across Tahoe, and caused a massive winter storm
Travelling Man: The 3 travellers bought chains for the SUV and tried to make it to Tahoe, but were turned away by the vicious whipper winds
Travelling Man: Regrouping at a local Starbucks tavern, the three decided to retreat back to Dallas
Travelling Man: Todd's 2 friends each bought additional $300 plane tickets that evening to Dallas
Travelling Man: Todd couldn't get out until Tuesday
Travelling Man: But fortune was about to smile upon Todd.
Travelling Man: In Reno, Todd played a $40 stake at a blackjack table, and walked away with $120
Travelling Man: Making back the $60 he lost on the first night, Todd left Reno for Dallas with $20 of the Casino's money
Travelling Man: Todd was victorious, but the Casino vowed it would get its revenge
Travelling Man: The End.
Yours Truly: /raises hand to ask a question
Travelling Man: yes
Travelling Man: skinny kid in the front
Yours Truly: What's an enema?
Travelling Man: class dismissed
Nothing like a good story to get the day started right.