Mystery writers Wade, Miller, Kuhlken, early homosex politics, Chicano MacArthur winner, Britannica in La Jolla, on board with Michael Reagan
Various Authors 8:30 a.m., March 24
My attendance to the San Diego Humane Society Fur Ball had me thinking about animals and hunting. If you have never been to the Fur Ball and you love animals, I highly recommend you check it out. It is great fun, lots of delicious food and cocktails, live music, plenty of terrific prizes to hopefully win, and if you don't win, that's okay. It's for a good cause. Speaking of food, if you are a vegetarian such as myself, most functions offer vegetarian entrees. These are most likely to be filled with cheese, which I like to think is to ease the drunkenness that ensues after they ply you with multiple glasses of liquor to increase the odds of your getting pooh-pooh-faced and raising your hand during the open bidding for a prize worth $300.00 that you get for a mere $2,500.00. If you are a vegan, you are typically screwed unless you prepare far in advance. I tried to be a vegan at one point, having been educated about the evils of dairy by none other than Dan Piraro, the crafty creator of the comic strip, Bizaro, but I became tired of starving to death when all around me were tucking into their entrees with undisguised gusto.
Now, I don't mean to sound lofty. I don't attend many "functions" and I am not a hardcore, card-carrying carnivore hater. My revulsion toward meat stems less from the killing of animals for food than the manner in which these animals were treated prior to, during, and after. The great Mahatma Gandhi's quote about a nation being judged by the way it treats its animals has been exhausted to the point of being a cliché, but damn it, it's true. And I'm no Ingrid Newkirk, that plucky PETA champion whose intentions I admire but whose tactics I use to question, until I met her. I don't bomb research clinics or hurl water balloons full of red paint at well heeled, fur wearing ladies of a certain social-economic status, and I don't march on the steps of the capital building in a lettuce bikini. What I do is adhere to a certain advocacy for the humane treatment of animals. I've always been drawn to animals. One of my own cats has nothing but disdain for me, which worsens with each pathetic attempt to gain her affection. The only cat in the house to send me to the emergency room, I love her none the less.
But right now I am referring not to the unspeakable manner in which most animals are raised in the name of agriculture, but rather them being hunted for "sport". Some would beg to differ, citing our position on the food chain, which is rubbish. Put the gun wielding hunter out in the woods with nothing but his instincts to survive and he would perish. To call hunting a sport is ridiculous, given that a bear, armed with a gun and the capacity to use it, would kick our ass. Not to mention that guns are a relatively recent invention in the history of evolution, and one of the reasons why animals have not evolved to the point of practiced self-defense against humans is they never needed to. This may sound naïve and simplistic to the hunting enthusiast, but to that I say "prove it". It may also explain the little thrill I get when I hear about hunters shooting each other. Prior to the introduction of guns, animals were hunted for food using skill, cunning and primitive weapons. All other parts of the animal were utilized - skin, bones, teeth and tendons, to make clubs, spears, knives, clothing and tools. If you missed your mark, you went hungry, not to mention cold and vulnerable to another caveman dragging your lady by the hair back to his cave. But then along came the gun, and with it, this brilliant idea - "Hey, let's hunt animals for fun!!"
First are the sophisticated hunters, the ones that participate in African big game supervised cullings, or what we less civilized refer to as canned hunts. These hunters are typically patrons of the art of taxidermy. I recently read a story in Vanity Fair about the burning down of Deyrolle, considered to be one of the greatest taxidermy establishments in the world. I hated this masturbatory article and its detailing of the excessive catering to its owner, Prince Louis Albert. 60 firemen had been called, along with 50 French soldiers and hundreds of local police, during which Louis Albert was told "Prince, the army is at your disposal." Hermes issued a limited edition silk scarf named "Plumes", with proceeds going to benefit Deyrolle, and Christie's chimed in "Deyrolle is an institution." Businesses from all of Europe, and for that matter, the world, were willing to donate an outrageous amount of money toward its restoration. I could go on and on but you get my drift. This was not a more deserving children's hospital, or even a bona fide zoo full of living, breathing creatures, but an ancient business (albeit one that had received a considerable makeover), and this entire article glossed over the fact that these animals were DEAD. Two sentences stand out and I shall quote them here: "In taxidermy's modern form, the objective is not static conservation but robust vitality. Stuffed and mounted animals seem to leap or fly from their pedestals." Feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but robust vitality and leaping and flying are traits I typically attribute to the living. Here I unfortunately must give credit where credit is due. Prince Louis Albert does attempt to lend to the "sport" of hunting a certain air of aristocracy and decency, and I believe he does think himself to be contributing to taxidermy as a form of historic art, preserving a variety of species in "haunting magnificence", while also attempting to preserve this much beloved establishment who's unfortunate time has come. But instead of using the considerable amount of funds coming from Europe's most influential to create sanctuaries for endangered species, he intends to restore Deyrolle to its former non-breathing magnificence, and the donations of stuffed and mounted death are pouring in from all corners of the globe.
As an aside, imagine my chagrin when the cause of the fire was determined not to be that of which I had hoped, some crazed PETA member hurling mol tov cocktails through the window (I KNOW what I said earlier, but I don't participate, therefore I am faultless), but the work of something much more benign, a decidedly less impressive short circuit.
Crossing the pond, at the other end of the spectrum we have the American hunter. The pick-up truck driving, chrome mud-flap chick sporting, stained wife-beater and 34 inch waist jeans and belt sitting far below a 42 inch gut wearing, proud owner of a Pine Grove 1995 double wide 24x48 foot trailer dwelling, height of cuisine being a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast thinking variety is of whom I speak. These guys really slay me. Completely uninformed about the current state of our environment and the realities of what will happen to America if we don't cease our sense of entitlement to the exclusion of all else, and really not giving a crap even if they were, their God is Charlton Heston, their church the NRA. What possesses these beer-swilling bullies, sitting on their toilets reading Guns and Ammo, miniscule penises hardening at the sight of an A-K 47 semi-automatic, to kill? What drives them to establish themselves as the dominant kingpin of the food chain by shooting innocent animals? Is it a mean boss, an unhappy, let-herself-go wife who resents her lot in life, maybe a couple of unappreciative, paternity questionable kids? Where is the sport in using a telescopic, high-powered rifle, setting a poor beast in your sights where he cannot see, let alone smell you, and pulling the trigger? Animal substituted for boss, wife or kids, meat discarded, head mounted, a trophy to your "skill"?
Not the definition of hunting, but the definition of murder.