29 August 2015

Horse Sense

Shortly after taking office, New York City's Mayor Bill De Blasio seemed to make the banning of horse-drawn carriages in Manhattan his primary mandate. As it seems with just about everything these days in the U S of A, there are extremely vocal groups arguing for, groups just as vocal arguing against, and probably a group thousands of times larger than both groups combined who are completely unaware of or apathetic to the cause.

On the issue, I'm not sure where I stand beyond preferring to cease any cruelty to animals if there's any cruelty to be ceased. I'm neither equine rights fanatic nor starry-eyed lover of the iconic horse-drawn carriages of NYC, fondly remembering lusty fondling beneath the blanket in the back of a brougham, driver oblivious to—or jaded and uncaring of—passengers stoking (and stroking) the boilers of libido just a few feet aft. (It does prompt one to wonder what sort of juices might be all over those blankets, and the frequency of laundering. And you thought cheap motel bedspreads lit up under long-wave ultraviolet light.) For me, they're there in the background, a part of the cityscape that has always been; if I ever did ride in one, the experience was so non-important that I don't remember it. But I might miss them, perhaps by proxy for others, since deep down I guess I really don't personally give a shit, horse or other, were they to be gone.

I do remember reading about the horses of New York City some time back, perhaps in the New Yorker magazine, and if memory serves, the piece pronounced the whole thing humane, the stables clean, the staff caring and attentive, the horses, like the people and pets of the city, hardened to and apparently not traumatized by the cacophony about them. On second thought, maybe that was about the horses of the mounted police. And in Time.


Once removed from the streets, will we come to learn that the horses' fate was to be slaughtered and re-purposed into dog food? I suppose, if they are miserable in their lives as carriage slaves, it might be a relatively quick and humane release from their living hell. We can still tell all the little kids and horny lovers that they were transported to farms upstate and are living their remaining years in relaxed bliss, eating five-star oats and hay and banging or being banged by super-hot country fillies and stallions.

08 August 2015

Wasted Talent

I was once told, by an old salt whom I respected and whose opinion I valued, that "you have boating in your blood the way you run that thing," that thing being the Rhana-B, my father's bristol, 1963 Egg Harbor 37, his last in a long line of boats before he swallowed the anchor back in the mid-seventies. [Link is to same model, different boat.] My reply was along the lines of (but to be honest, probably not as polished as), "In my blood, perhaps, but I don't have boating in my heart."

That something is/was "in your blood" doesn't necessarily mean it's beneficial. Jewelry, thanks to a family business, was in my blood for years. So was alcohol. Neither were the best things for me.

Just because you have the capability to do something well doesn't mean you love, or even like, doing it—or should do it, if you truly dislike whatever it may be. I grew up on and around (and not frightened or throwing up over the side of) boats and didn't mind running my father's pride-and-joys, it just was not something I would pursue or continue on my own despite all the exposure and experience. Some are quick to call this ability to do but choice to not do "wasted talent." To them, I offer this:

Think of something you truly dislike, even hate doing, but despite that, genetics and/or environment created a sick little joke that made you an absolute prodigy at whatever it might be. Would you want to do it for the rest of your life? Yes, you say, if you can make a great living doing it. Don't be so quick to make that deal.

Continuing to use pleasure boating as an example, the forces of romance, status and pride can seemingly fog the concept of a good time. So many of the boat owners I witnessed during The Boating Years looked positively panicked and miserable running these complicated and expensive toys they owned, much of the misery coming from their near total operator incompetence manifesting for all to see at the most critical times, e. g., backing down into a slip or rafting with another boat. And I speak not of new boaters "learning the ropes" (including that they're called lines) who with practice become proficient and capable yachtsmen; I speak of those who have been putting themselves through this for years, with little or no improvement in skill and confidence. Who likes a hobby that regularly betrays one's incompetence and causes embarrassment? All those people manning boat hooks and dropping fenders over the side aren't the boating community joining together to help and be courteous, they're merely scrambling to defend their own and other people's personal property from damage—they've seen this "captain" in action before, and no, it wasn't just a small scrape. Pardon my conceit, but when I backed dad's boat into the slip, people on either side just hoisted their glasses in salute and stayed right where they were.

Once she's all tied up and the engines are shut down, the owner/operator should walk from the helm and stand on the bridge with a look of pride and accomplishment on his face, not weak-kneed, I-need-a-drink relief from the torment finally being over until the next good time he has to suffer through.

Whatever your hobby or "claim to fame," from boating to baking, you should love performing the process as much as you love presenting the achievement. It may sometimes offer a challenge, but should never be an ordeal.

Not everyone who wants to dance can, but not everyone who can dance wants to.

02 August 2015

They Killed Cecil

For about a week now, during periods when we're not anticipating what verbal vomit will next be ejected from The Donald's mouth or pretending that the parched and burning west coast is not indicative of much bigger problems to come, a large part of the country (and the world) has been lighting the torches and sharpening the pitchforks in a hunt for the hunter—one Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who, in a theoretically "good and legal" hunt gone terribly bad and illegal, paid fifty grand to (apparently) accidentally shoot to death a locally well-known and loved—not to mention physically distinctive—13-year-old male Southwest African lion named Cecil. As the news of Cecil's death exploded on social and other media, Dr. Palmer went to ground, if not at the suggestion of his attorney, by his own survival instincts: I'm guessing there are more than a few scopes both virtual and literal trained on Dr. Palmer's head.

Even buying that the guides—and the hunter—truly believed that this hunt was "clean," that they had no clue which lion they were killing, his tracking collar perhaps obscured by Cecil's glorious and famously black mane; even allowing that it's allowable to lure any animal out of a national park for the purpose of shooting it; and even allowing and accepting the practice of hanging dead animals' heads, skins and other body parts on the wall as trophy or decor, what exactly is it that makes one feel good, proud and satisfied about taking the life of an animal that has no reason—food, threat, injury, disease, overpopulation—to be killed? And why is first shooting the animal with an arrow and not successfully killing it, then finishing it off more than a day later not cruelty and torture? (I get that Cecil ran for cover, as would most anything shot by an arrow. What I don't get, in an age where we've taken the projectile to much more reliable and efficient heights, is why we're still shooting things with arrows. More "sporting?" Tell it to the wounded and suffering animal.)

As stated earlier in this fledgling blog (though for very different reasons), I am neither belt-buckle-proud NRA-member and game hunter nor all-guns-are-evil bumper-sticker vegetarian activist. I do not attempt to force myself into eating a diet other than that of the omnivore I am by design, and, like many of my kind, choose to not dwell on the lives and deaths experienced by the animals who gave their former and suffered the latter to become the neatly butchered and shrink-wrapped chunks of beef, pork and poultry upon which I feast. Call me a hypocrite, but at least an honest one.

What I cannot wrap my head around is the mind that gets off on killing for pleasure and trophy animals of any kind, but I suppose more so those considered rare and exotic. Which is not to flat-out say, It's wrong, but is merely my personal opinion. Mr. Palmer, after taking Cecil, no doubt assumed The Pose, most typically one foot on the kill, weapon in hand, now infamous vitreous white-toothed smile (he puts his mouth where his money is) beaming for the lens. And Cecil may have been the ideal example that so easily lends his killing to public outrage: capable of invoking "The Lion King" images as well as those of an actual, locally (and now globally) famous and beloved animal, something you cannot achieve by simply killing for free a common deer or even ordinary black bear.

Why this is so hard for me to understand makes little sense. We kill our own species, oftentimes complete with some variation of The Pose; throughout history we've painted and photographed images of conquerors holding up severed human heads, trophies of The Hunt. Perhaps taking big and/or exotic game puts more value on the prize. It's the most killing fun you can have for fifty grand without killing another human being.