Saturday, 18 January 2014

Deer Hunting In Paris: Book Review

Gotta flash this one up to you. A while back another former vegetarian Paula Lee got in touch saying 'we have some mutual friends and you might like my book'. I do, a lot. She is very very funny.

Deer Hunting in Paris: A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat

Paula grew up in Maine, which has it's own Paris [who knew?] and lives in Paris [actual Paris], She lives the life of a european academic, she's got all the enthusiasm's of the ex-pat, knows where to eat, and all the cultural sights. The book really captures what its like to live in a foreign city, seeing all the things that are invisible in our home town's. One afternoon, sitting in the sunshine she's surfing a dating site 'for a friend' and sees a guy who piqued her curiosity, and happened to be from a few towns away from where she grew up.

Having moved an ocean away to take up the life of a european intellectual, the book is a record of her adventure rediscovering rural american life with her new boyfriend, who isn't above teasing his 'city-fied blue state girlfriend' . Some very funny scenes follow.

Paula leaps off the page, with her stories of a childhood being a minister's daughter as her korean family make their version of the american dream in rural Maine. Being a bit 'bookish' [to say the least] Paula also peppers the pages with snippets from some very obscure old books on hunting and eating. Through the accident of love she revisits her childhood through the eyes of a more worldly traveler. And its fucking hilarious.

Here are a few snippets from one of our emails conversations.

SBW: What's the best piece of 'woodsman's lore you've picked up?

PL: ...The part I liked best about that outing was Patrick smelling the snow to determine how old the rabbit tracks were. I am still not sure that technique works. He and his brother, my boyfriend John, love to try and convince me that certain "woodsman lore" is for real when it's actually just them making sh*t up.

SBW: In your book I get a sense of a very busy childhood - lessons, chores, work, the church etc Did you always have a wanderlust for travel? And why Paris - probably the second most 'up itself' city europe has to offer?

PL: Every girl wants to go Paris. It's just a question of "which" Paris: foodie Paris, fashion Paris, arty Paris, romantic Paris? I ended up with ratty Paris, which was just fine with me but I don't think it's good for tourism.

SBW: There's a great moment where you seem to see your own anthropomorphism; Homer the dog is either 'got' by coyotes or kidnapped - your new family don't seem that concerned by the fate of a working dog and not very good one at that - but you're still ' but its Homer!' imbuing him with personality, how did that change?

PL: Until I'd met Patrick's pack, I'd never experienced hunting dogs that actually hunt. They're like furry space aliens with wagging tails. Who knew that beagles thrill with doggy joy when there are real rabbits to chase instead of tennis balls?

SBW: In my experience the french are a lot more 'whole animal' than the English, with some americans in between and lots of your fellow countryman even more squeamish than the english, how long did it take you to adapt?

PL: Never understood the squeamish thing. I'll put it this way: for Christmas, John bought me muck boots to wear when shoveling manure, a new skinning knife, and a meat grinder to make venison sausage. I was very happy.

SBW: Why do you hide 'Guns and Ammo' on a church day?
PL: Can't hide the actual guns.

SBW: Looking from the outside the 'culture wars' between americans who can read and americans who watch Fox seem laughable how would you describe them to an overseas observer?

PL: Well, I argue with the Fox News people and John reminds me that they can't hear me, being on television and all. So I guess that it's in a nutshell: a liberal trying to debate with talking heads who don't care what I say, and a conservative reminding a liberal that you can't change reality by yelling more loudly.

SBW: The "sighting my rifle' story is very good, you capture the moment very well, have you thought about buying him a laser bore-sight?

PL: What he really wants is a tank. You can get them on the internet.

SBW: My GF calls internet dating 'shopping for men' I loved the idea of you browsing on behalf of a friend and finding john - have you ever found anyone for anyone? I ask as a GBF found me for my GF.

PL: See: "Tank." You can find just about anything on Amazon. Including frozen whole rabbits.

SBW: Does john ever come to paris to visit you, and does he hunt in france?

PL: John came to France. And to England. He didn't come to Korea. Poor guy finally got so exasperated by my month-long disappearances that we broke up. Then I came back; we had a huge row, and after a Bonobo-monkey-like negotiation session we resumed our relationship. It would be a thrill to hunt in France but have no idea how to arrange that. It's difficult enough to arrange in Massachusetts (a blue state made up of "readers," very anti-hunting).

SBW: When we were emailing about these questions you were skinning a 6 point buck with one hand and texting me with the other, and in the book you express an unfulfilled interest in tanning, have you learned to brain tan?

PL: "Have you learned to brain tan?" Trying saying that in an elevator! So far, it's coyote bait and a bit of suet for the chickadees.

SBW: I used to see a blogger from Massachusetts and she characterised / mocked the bostonians for including the word[s] 'wicked-awesome' in every sentence, was she being unfair?

PL: It is a wicked awesome place except for the Massholes who live here.

You can find her book on Amazon HERE

This post was brought to you, by me and the lovely people at Grammarly, I use Grammarly's free plagiarism checker because encouraging people to do their own writing instead of plagiarizing will make them better writers, I think of it as an act of kindness. It's also 'wicked-awesome' for confirming citations, which can come in very handy.
More soon

Friday, 10 January 2014

Dude You're Screwed. With Pathfinder Tom

'Tomahawk is a snaggle toothed, piratical, bacon eating, cigar smoking, borderline alcoholic, that travels the world, exploring wilderness areas and seeing the sites. He can often be found in 3rd world bars telling drunken "I was there" stories to impress tourists.' - from Tom's blog

Been a while since one of the gang appeared on TV, this time its the blogger known as Pathfinder Tom showing us how its done on a show for Discovery called 'Dude You're Screwed'.

The premise is a simple one; a group of survival experts gather together and take it in turns to kidnap each other, with the kidnapped guy being dropped off in some inhospitable terrain, and having to find his way out. His progress may or may not be hindered by some stuff the others have 'gifted' him to carry along. The show manages to avoid the stunts and sensationalism or earnestness, and instead has guys who know their shit and are having a laugh out MacGyver-ing each other on a lads weekend away. Kind of Bushcraft-TopGear?

Tom is cast in the role of  the group's  'wise old guy' or Zen-sage. Who does less to achieve more and wins without competing. All whilst lugging along; a bunch of flowers, some anti freeze, and golf bag, that the other contestants have chosen for him.

I was pleased to see 'wise' as one of the characters the producers had chosen, we've seen military-guy vs earth-guy on these shows before so widening the casting made a refreshing change, for once even that great stereotype of american TV 'British-guy' wasn't of the Hugh Grant mould. Of course the difficulties inherent in filming mean that there is a staged quality to some of the scenes, but I massively prefer that to stunt-cam style where voice overs saying "here's one the production crew got ready while I was still asleep in the hotel" have to be added later. For me by being honestly fake the show was better than those who have tried to fake honesty. So far, so zen.

Followers of Toms blog, will know that while the rest of us are [to varying degrees] playing at it, Tom lives off grid well over 300 days a year. He does a bit of contracting, teaches at Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, or guides, but for the most part he just seems to enjoy himself traveling and living off the land or from things dumped at the fringes of 'civilisation'.
While every other 'survival dude' on tv seems to have a bag, clothing range or knife to endorse, his survival knife is at least 20 years old and cost less than $20. Most of the rest of his gear is literally dumpster-dived. I've been reading his blog for years and I can't remember him once recommending any particular brand of anything, other than Johnny Walker.
Tom lives as near to free as you can - both feet in the wild, and just a toehold in the modern world. Interesting chap, on TV he seems just like he does on the pages of his blog, which I guess is what this storytelling malarky is all about?

Well worth a watch
More soon