Okay. So it doesn’t require a season for the easily offended to be, well, you know. They’re out there, feelings fully exposed like hot electrical wires and waiting to let anybody know that something said or seen or posted made them feel all yucky. Which, if you live in their skin, I suppose is somewhat understandable. And if you live in my skin – which is that of someone not easily offended – you live with the constant knowledge that something you did or said is going to offend the easily offended.
This is one of those stories.
It was back in my Warner Brothers days. Friends of mine were throwing an old-fashioned dinner party. Because it was around Christmas, this party was to include a Christmas goose. But I’ll get to that soon enough.
Because I was taught never to show up to a party empty-handed, my contribution was a stick of some very special – not to mention equally tasty – salami. What was so darn special about the salami is that it was from a large black bear I’d hunted and my father had killed.
Why hadn’t I both hunted and killed it? Because in California – as well the rest of the country – hunting is wisely regulated by state fish and game boards. I had drawn a deer tag. My father had drawn the bear tag. So while hunting on a distant ridge in the Sierras, with both wind and cover working to my benefit, I happened upon the bear instead of the big buck I was hoping to bag. Instead of pushing on with my own hunt, I climbed off the ridge, hiked the mile or so to where my father had been hunting, informed him about the very large bear, then plotting ahead to where I thought the animal might’ve foraged to, put on the stalk and let my father take the shot.
Now, for those of you offended by hunting, I expect you’ve already clicked off to somewhere else or are composing a nasty comment. Just remember. This was not a trophy hunt. And we ate the damn bear. Thus, the bear salami I brought to the party.
The party’s hostess, my friend Valen, was more than thrilled by my offering, having already sampled the salami the day I brought a stick to share with the office. She quickly cut it into a platter of appetizer-sized slices and passed it around to her dinner guests with cheese and crackers. Everybody appeared to enjoy the bear salami, including actress Cassandra Petersen – aka TV’s famed late night movie host, Elvira Mistress of the Dark.
As dinner was about to be served, the hostess – who had just roasted her first Christmas goose – hadn’t a glimmer how to carve it. So she asked me.
“Carve a goose?” I said. “I haven’t a clue.”
“You’ve carved a turkey before, right?” she asked.
“Can’t say I have,” I replied.
After asking the other men at the party, none of whom claimed to have any carving chops, Valen made an announcement:
“Well, Doug killed the bear and is the only hunter here,” she began, “which means he must have experience with knives, so I nominate him to carve the goose.”
With other dinner guests sounding off their agreement, I was off to the kitchen to carve-slash-butcher Valen’s Christmas goose. As I stood over the bird with sharpened instruments, I tried to channel my late Uncle Bill. For most of our Thanksgivings, he’d been the chief turkey carver. I cut into the bird and prayed for a decent result.
A long dinner table had been set up in the couple’s apartment, taking a serious swath out of the center of the living room. As the meal was served, I noticed that a pair of place settings were conspicuously empty.
“Who’s missing?” I asked Valen.
“Cassandra and her date,” whispered Valen, passing various platters. “Seems she was offended by your killing the bear.”
“Technically, I didn’t kill it,” I said. “But yeah. I hunted it. And she ate the salami.”
“And she liked it,” said Valen. “But that was before she learned it was a bear that you killed.”
“Oy,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I love the salami. I love that you killed the bear and I love that you carved my goose.”
“Yeah. But she was your guest too.”
“Fuck her,” said Valen, not one to deny her feelings. With that, she lifted her glass and offered a Christmas toast.
I don’t hunt anymore. Not for any reason other than it’s no longer much of an interest. Maybe it’s a been-there-done-that thing. Or possibly because it was one of the few things I did with my father. For fifteen-or-so fall seasons, we’d hunt wild birds and big game, butcher what we bagged and beseech my mother to cook it.
Just last week, my son forwarded me an amusing Reddit post. It was a photo of a Starbucks cookie platter, featuring adorable cartoon polar bears with red scarves around their necks. Only, if you looked at the photo through my amused prism, those scarves could also appear like bloody wounds. I laughed and thought, whoops, Starbucks might be recalling those cookies. Then I tweeted out the photo.
As I write this post, my Twitter feed is continuing to choke with non-followers who’ve seen someone else’s retweet of my original tweet. Some are as amused. But an equal contingent are lashing back at me, offended, letting me know their displeasure with what I thought (and still do think) was a funny mistake.
Oh well. ‘Tis the season.
Because this is my last post of the year, here’s hoping the season brings you all joy and comfort. Blog fans, be sure to pick up a copy of THE SMOKING GUN as a gift or for yourself. There are unpublished pieces within with which you should find continued entertainment.