July 23, 2014

Home is a Wounded Heart

I floated lazily downstream on a makeshift raft I had created, the hot afternoon sun tanning my young skin, bees buzzing the honeysuckle that grew along its banks, a green-eyed dragonfly hovering before my hand-shielded face. There weren’t any other sounds for miles, just the running water emptying into tranquil pools that slowed the raft and spun it slowly before picking up a mesmerizing speed again in the shallows. Overhead, the sky was cloudless and translucent blue. My thoughts were lost in its vastness. Only my heel touching the lukewarm water brought me back to Earth.

I had that memory last night, watching television: how different it was from the reality of another world. Children, as young as I was then, scrambled for footing on the muddied banks of a Faroese island, grappling with their elders for the ropes that had caught a pilot whale in his death throes. The animal, groaning in agony, his head gruesomely severed behind the blowhole, thrashed violently in the blood-tainted waters, among his dead and dying companions, but to no avail. [Read more...]

Hit by a Truck

I admit it. I enjoy the Backstreet Boys’ megahit song, “I Want It That Way.” There’s something about its harmony, its rhythm, that enables me, despite its literal translation, to escape the grim reality of our work long enough to actually feel good about being alive.

And so it was quite ironic that I was listening to it one night while driving, reveling in a pricelessly rare escapism, when I was, well, hit by a truck.

I think, if I didn’t write, I’d be a director. I’m drawn to obscure images, abstract points of view, deviated angles on the otherwise routine panorama that makes up our daily lives. While driving interstate highways, for example, I savor the rhythm of the trucks and their trailers that crawl our nation’s biways. I’m able to ignore the environmental drawbacks long enough to appreciate efficient machinery in motion. Their speeds, in California, are limited to 55 mph while autos can drive as fast as 70. We usually pass them — sometimes, for some of us, the execution of the pass is accompanied by music, like a scene from right out of a movie, precision-scripted, well-directed, and artistically scored. [Read more...]

Torn in Half

A number of years ago, I was involved in the prosecution of a case in which a young calf had been forced to walk the auction block after his hind legs had been severed below the hocks. Defenders of the action claimed it was common practice to sometimes sell calves who had been maimed during the birthing delivery. Steel tongs are often used to turn calves around inside the cows when nature has failed to position them properly. Injuries occur, and in this case (as in many, the auction’s owners declared), the calf’s hind legs had been severed at the joints.

And so here he came: a little black calf, barely a month old, dragging himself along on his front hooves while stumps of hind legs attempted to keep up. Onto the auction block he went, where he was promptly bought by a meatpacking company. [Read more...]