Last week I ventured out to North Dakota to visit Taylor, who has been living there for several months (preparing for an exam, hunting throughout the countryside, and being mischievous in general). Much fun was to be had (hence the naming of the weekend as Best Weekend Ever or "BWE"), but the potential was amplified by the fact that Norsk Høstfest, the world's largest Scandinavian festival, was to take place during my stay. Also, Taylor had promised to introduce me to the word of hunting as he had the animal kingdom in general, and that was bound to be fun (and also amusing for him). Here are some of the highlights from BWE in the form of short vignettes:
Not knowing how to pronounce the mysterious "ø," Taylor did some research and determined that saying "hoooooostfest" was probably the best we could do. So, on Friday morning, we ventured to Minot to see the Høst in person... And what a spectacle it was!
The first thing we noticed was the abundance of tour buses, and, more specifically, tour buses full of old people senior citizens. There were many, many of them, and we were the youngest by at least forty years. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...). Things almost got off to a rough start after one of the gentlemen below shouted at Taylor for trying to buy tickets at the wrong table (or perhaps just being a "whippersnapper" in general).
After Taylor picked up the tickets, we ventured inside to the Leif Eriksson Millennium Hall. To our left was Reykjavik Hall, straight ahead was Troll Stroll West, and to the right, Stockholm Hall. The choices were endless, but we were on a mission: to find and taste one of Høstfest's popular offerings, the Viking-on-a-Stick, whatever that was.
We wandered through the various halls, all named for either Leif Eriksson, a Scandinavian country/city, or, generally speaking, vikings and trolls. We came across many counters with Swedish pastries, a variety of denim clothing offerings (Taylor suggested a floor-length dress but that would have been a Bad Idea), and more than one stand advertising orthopedic/chiropractic/geriatric services (and by "more than one" I mean LOTS). We even saw an "Oof-Da Taco" and lutefisk, a curiously tampered-with dried-and-re-hydrated fish snack.
Speaking of the "Oof-da"/"Uff-da", there was tons of that going on. Taylor did some more research, and found out that it's Scandinavian for "wow," which I think is pretty appropriate for the whole BWE experience. Here he is with his new favorite t-shirt and hat with horns:
But where was our Viking-on-a-Stick??? We finally wandered into Oslo or Helsinki Hall, or Sdklfdfkerkhfe Alley (something like that), and suddenly there it was: a deep-fried meatball on a stick. We had to try one, so Taylor picked one up, and we sat down to our feast:
It was... interesting, to say the least. It tasted exactly like a deep-fried breaded Swedish meatball is supposed to taste like. On a stick. (Bonus: we amused our new grandfatherly friends at the table by making a big show of pretending to like enjoying the traditional cuisine).
In all, Høstfest was quite an experience-- great company, a crowd of friendly senior citizens people, tasty food, and a whole host of goblins/trolls/Lord of the Rings cast members (and in the photo below, what looks like Ross the Intern):
Høstfest accomplished/conquered, Taylor bought a pumpkin from a nearby farm that was PERFECT for carving. We debated on a theme for a few days, and decided it should be a lion. Through a team effort, it was carved, seeds were scooped out, hands were scrubbed (pumpkins are rather fragrant), and the design was carried out:
Taylor decided that he needed a mane, so we cut some grass in a field while out hunting (more on this later). Although it should be noted that he is very mantastic, here is Taylor also being crafty:
Pretty much, we made the Best Pumpkin Ever ("BPE" ??), as evidenced by the following:
Mantastic vs. Wild
Taylor is an amazing hunter (he showed me his photo album of incredible catches kills, in an effort to improve my animal knowledge-- seriously, he is talented and full of great stories and adventures), so it was only appropriate that we embark on such a mission. On the first day, we ventured out into Taylor's land to hunt pheasants.
Here is Taylor hunting (while I tromp around trying to startle the birds but instead take photos):
The land is beautiful, and full of birds, deer, and other creatures (mountain lions-- and mountain lion kittens!!-- had been sighted in the area). All was quiet on the western front until Taylor and I sighted several pheasants on the side of the road. Then:
Now we had something to eat for dinner! Taylor shot two other birds (one woefully escaped), but now we were ready for Pheasant Cookoff 2007, which took place on Saturday night.
Here was my contribution to the day's events-- camo print hunting wellington boots (with ribbons!!):
I know, Taylor was impressed too.
For good measure, here is Taylor stalking some wood ducks on the Mouse River:
I LOVED the hunting adventure, and the next day, Taylor was generous (and brave) enough to teach me how to shoot a gun. I would like to say that I was a natural, Annie Oakley-style, but instead I'll be honest. Taylor taught me the proper rules of using guns (#1, never point the gun at anyone, even if by accident, sorry Taylor!!!!!), and I tried to shoot a sunflower, missing by about a mile.
As it turns out, I am a rare left-handed hunter, and can't shoot on the right because I can't seem to close my left eye on command, to see my target properly (I cannot emphasize how bizarre this is). Well, I'm not that great from the left either, and after chasing pheasants all over the plain, my style can be best defined as John Wayne meets Elmer Fudd with little talent, a lack of timing, and general forgetfulness in turning the safety of the gun off because that's what you need to do to shoot a bird. Ooops (and I'll be better next time, I promiiiiiiiise)!!
But whatever, it was really fun!
BWE was, well, the Best Weekend Ever: I had an amazing time with Taylor (and his rascally dog Bosley, who I adore), learned about animals, football (specifically how to do proper Longhorns cheers), pheasantry (the shooting, cleaning, and cooking of), and North Dakota/Scandinavian lore.
Of all things in life, I figured that I had the animal kingdom covered. Figuring out how to submit federal taxes, learning how to create a financial model, and just plain getting-anywhere-on-time might seem out of reach, but at least I knew solid facts about the earth's creatures, right?
Otters, bears, cats, dogs, and ponies might have been under control, but I apparently missed the entire continent of Africa in my education, despite a family subscription to Zoobooks and a plethora of nature programs on tv.
The void in my knowledge became woefully (and hilariously) apparent when Taylor, hunter extrordinaire, sent me a link to a 24/7 live feed of a watering hole in South Africa. Behold, the Africam.
The Africam is brilliant in its simplicity: some dude at the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve aims a camera at Nkorho Pan, a pond, (and occasionally the surrounding fields) and films the animals. The pond plays host to a variety of creatures-- but certainly not the chipmunks, rats, and killer swans of Lincoln Park. Rather, the cast of the Africam is dominated by wildebeest, impala, elephants, and two amorous rhinos.
Taylor, whose knowledge of animals and adventures is on par with that of Jack Hanna or the late Steve Irwin (minus the khaki onesie, though I am told that he does own a great deal of safari apparel-- just not short-shorts, which is a shame), would watch the Africam and delight when a new creature showed up. A sample:
C: woah check out the watering hole
T: i don't see anything?
C: a dog or deer or something walked across the screen
T: oh ya, i can't tell what that is.... i'll bet ya it isn't a dog though haha
C: haha it looked like a big dog earlier
After I learned that domesticated canines simply don't frequent African watering holes, it was time for me to learn about the animals that do. But sometimes learning can be painful/amusing for the educated/Taylor:
Although I can properly identify approximately 25.0% of the creatures that frequent it, the watering hole is amazing. The other day a groupherdpack posse of lions ate a wildebeest (blue? black? white bearded??) with hyena(s) and vultures looking on. And a few Jeeps full of Asian tourists. Two rhinos "got together" on the shore one afternoon (the logistics of which are still puzzling), and I keep seeing a tiny creature resembling Taylor's half-poodle-half-terrier (a perrier??) Bosley flitting across the screen, though this might just be a transmission error.
Either way, the Africam has been wonderful. I am learning about "new" parts of the animal kingdom, and Taylor is able to impart his wealth of knowledge (and he hasn't made fun of me nearly as much as I deserve). It's fun to watch, to escape into a new world, and lie in wait, for maybe, just maybe, a real dog or the mysterious white-bearded wildebeest to scamper across the screen.
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) -- A Northern Ireland man bit his girlfriend's pet snake in half during a fight and remarked that it ''tasted lovely,'' lawyers testified Friday.
Shane Cooke, a 33-year-old bricklayer, was arraigned in Belfast High Court on charges of assaulting his girlfriend, Coleen McGleenon, and fatally torturing her royal python Aug. 4.
McGleenon's lawyers said he headbutted her twice and picked up her pet, put it in his mouth, and threw its severed head at her. ''Your snake tasted lovely,'' he was quoted as saying.
Cooke's lawyer, Adrian Higgins, said his client admitted both offenses and had attacked the snake because he knew his girlfriend loved it. He said Cooke, from the border village of Keady, had been consuming alcoholic drinks for several hours before the attack.
As you could tell from last week's post, I had fun babysitting my friend Jessi's Honey-Cat a few months ago. So what-- I like animals. I also like strange pictures of animals, especially if they are cats. This set of photos might be the best thing I've seen all day (except for that Thai Curry Chicken Salad at Starbucks-- that's pretty good too).
Of my friends and coworkers who love Harry Potter as much I do (and to all you haters out there who think it's crappy children's literature, I invite you to read books five through seven, and see that there's some seriously freaky stuff involved and maybe eight year olds shouldn't be reading them, so there), I am extremely far behind. A few friends finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by Saturday morning, and most were done sometime last weekend. I am still moseying through, and as of now, am on page 493.
Like fox in the snow, I just can't bring myself to rush through it; as she said, "This is the last time I will be able to read Harry Potter for the first time."
That, and it's a big, freakin' book!
UPDATE: Done, as of July 26! I only slept for four hours last night, which wasn't brilliant, but I had to finish... Wish work had a nap room...
Speaking of prison-chic, I'm pretty sure the video below of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines reenacting the "Thriller" video is the craziest thing I've seen all week... or ... ever.