28 Sep

Snaring the Balrog

“The trick to snaring a Balrog,” Mom said, sliding the maggoty squirrel off the spatula onto the ground inside the wire loop, “is knowing they’re gourmet scavengers.” She scattered leaves haphazardly over the wire loop and cocked spring. “The deader their food, the better. Like a fine cheese.”

28 Sep

Skin Deep

Some women are sexy outside-in. Supermodels, for example. They wear their sexiness like a skin, like makeup, like a new set of clothes. Like a magazine ad. They’re sexy like Photoshop is sexy.

Some women are sexy inside-out. My wife. She’s sexy at the foundation, and it shines out through her eyes (sometimes preternaturally bright), her skin (sometimes preternaturally soft and citrusy), the long smile dimple on her left cheek, her ability to see that sexiness in herself and occasionally flaunt it “oh honey” style, her shameless sense of rhythm, and her shyness at being called sexy in public. (If she reads this, I’m in for it. And that’s all you’re going to get.)

10 Sep

Eating the Balrog

You are evil and I hope you get lots of awards and have to fly to strange countries where the food tastes like fried balrog.
– Writer’s Curse

When I was 13, my brother and I had to eat fried Balrog every day for a week after my Dad lost his job of 20 years as a machinist when the Boeing plant shut down and Mom had to trap our food in the woods behind our house (big woods, thousands of acres, 20 our’s). Balrog’s not that bad–sort of a gamy cross between grass-fed beef and frog legs–not much fat. The belches were hellfire, though, and were not allowed at dinner (or within 20 feet of the house). It also made our dog Cinder’s eyes (and his piles) glow orange–let’s just say “pissed off” was too lean of an expression to describe Mom when she caught us feeding him from the table.

Dad didn’t believe in Balrog, so Mom told him it was the end of last year’s cow we’d purchased from the aptly named Cowdens cross the road. (Mr. Cowden, a single dad with a glass eye and two kids our age–Theresa (my first crush) and her younger brother David–raised and sold cows for milk and meat to supplement his income from driving dozer at the county dump.) Within six months Dad got a job selling real estate, Mom had taken up with Mr. Cowden, Mom and Dad divorced, and we moved to Portland to live with Dad and my grandma. He told us that he and Mom had completely agreed to the arrangement, but we’d heard him yelling at her that she lived in a fantasy world and until she came back to reality, she wouldn’t be fit to raise our cat. The way she cried we were pretty sure that he hit her for emphasis.

To prove him wrong, she and the cat rented a small house behind a nice Christian family in Beaverton. We saw them every two weeks, or when she remembered. She had a hard time keeping her calendar straight, but she taught us how to drive a car (a classic Willy’s jeep), how to track game in the woods bordering town, how to identify medicinal herbs, and how to drink. Dad taught us how to be responsible. My grandma taught us how to love apple dumplings (she’d never heard of Balrog or pixie apples or fairy honey or sweet dryad tea, but did grow prehistoric-sized rhubarb big enough to hide under and seemed to take delight in telling us how poisonous it was if eaten raw–I do miss her.)

Notes

The Tolkein giant is your basic primeval Balrog. Today’s garden variety Balrog is a burrower with only vestigial wings and otherwise looks like a cross between a fruit bat and an angry beaver and, on all fours, is the size of a pot-bellied pig. Mom used scotch bonnets as bait or, when those were hard to find, spicy Polish sausage (which was also useful in snaring my younger brother).

You have to boil the meat before roasting or it smells horrible–like backfat soaked in gasoline. Otherwise, it’s quite tender and delicious–almost indistinguishable from pulled pork.

It’s also delicious–some would say best–served cold and, when dried, keeps almost forever. When I find it, I’ll pass on Mom’s recipe for Balrog pemmican made with red huckleberries (actually my Grandfather’s recipe he learned as a boy from an old Sioux army scout. Grandpa grew up in Butte, Montana, where his father was a manager for the Montana Mining Company. He said they sometimes found things in those big open pit mines that no one liked to talk about and the Native Americans were hired to handle.)

Song

You Bash the Balrog

Words: Lee Gold
Music: ‘Waltzing Matilda’
Courtesy of my friend Found on Web

Once a jolly Cleric, and a magic-using Elf,
And a mighty Dwarf with a sword plus three
Left their native village, out to get their share of pelf.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.

CHORUS:

You bash the Balrog, you bash the Balrog,
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.
(Last 2 lines of verse)

First they met a Goblin, with a fire-breathing Hound.
They bashed, and they smashed, and they scragged him with glee.
Afterwards they searched him, and a magic potion found.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.

CHORUS

The low-wisdom Swordsman picked it up and drank it down.
Changed into a wolf immediately.
No one could dispel it, so they headed back toward town.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb the tree.

CHORUS

Then a voice bellowed, “Who has slain the Goblin King?”
Round turned our heroes; what did they see?
Swooping down upon them was a Balrog on the wing.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.

CHORUS

The Balrog fell upon them, and his flame began to rage.
The Wolf whimpered low and he tried to flee.
“Help!” screamed the Cleric. “Ditto!” yelled the Elven Mage.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.

CHORUS

They ran through the forest, seeking for a place to hide,
Pursued by the Balrog so fierce to see.
“Wait,” cried the Elf-mage. “I have got a plan,” he lied.
“You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb the tree.”

CHORUS

Once a mighty Balrog slew a cleric and an elf
And a smallish wolf who had teeth plus three.
Skinned them and tanned their hides and kept them on a closet shelf.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb the tree.

CHORUS

(Alternative and much-preferred final verse – clever elves should be rewarded, after all!)
Once a mighty Balrog slew a jolly cleric and
Skinned a smallish wolf who had teeth plus three.
But the Elf got away, and he’s living with a Dryad band.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb the tree.

CHORUS


I think the author of this song should have kept in “billabong”–one of those Australian words of mystery from my childhood. There’s no doubt in my mind, after singing this out loud, that a billabong is the home of the Balrog. (Yes, I know what it really is.)

06 Sep

Follow-up Exercise

Now select some of those strangers you’re sharing space with and follow them mentally to their destination. What do they do and say on the way? What conflicts do they encounter, if any? What’s the next thing they do? Do they have a destination? Romantic, mundane, romantically mundane? What’s caught in their teeth that they don’t notice yet? Is their right ear deaf and does their left overcompensate? Do their shoes fit? What are they listening to on their music players? What are they reading? Are they reading the same page over and over, their mind elsewhere? Are they self conscious or think people are watching them and thinking about them, imagining all sorts of things? What’s in their pockets (anything precious)?

01 Sep

Writing Exercise

In a given public situation, especially where you and others are in a enclosed, even confined space, imagine an emergency or disaster (small or large) that requires you all to stay and even work together for period of time you define. There’s no one else, just you and them. Maybe remote contact via cellphones or other devices (outside or within your group), maybe not. Write a list of one or more scenarios. Look around and catalog these fellow travelers, then write character sketches in the context of those scenarios. Avoid cliches, or at least the obvious cliches. Try to avoid heroes and victims.

It could be a restaurant, a dinner with friends, a wedding, a market or store, a library, where you work or go to school. If it’s a store, maybe it’s a mundane location like a supermarket, maybe it’s a sex toy shop. What if it was up to you and the other “perv’s” to save the world? (Yeah, “perv’s” is a judgmental joke here.)

I do this exercise at least once a week during my bus or MAX train commute (and whenever I visit a sex shop), sometimes mentally and sometimes in my notebook. (It makes the sex shop staff think I’m a cop.)