the diary thing 
Ii - indianWE ATE MOOSE LAST NIGHT. A few months ago, we were given some moose steaks by K.'s sister, three thick slabs of dark grey-purple meat with a neat cross-section of bone in the centre. They sat in the freezer until last weekend, when K. suddenly started cleaning out the packed fridge, dropped the moose steaks into a pyrex baking dish and proclaimed that we were having them for dinner sometime this week.

After a couple of days, they'd thawed enough to consider a marinade. "It's got to be high acid," K. told me. "Red wine, vinegar, lemons, some oil -- but no salt." I peered at the thawing meat; solid slabs of muscle, with barely a hint of fat except for two or three thin, translucent veins running from the edge to the knob of bone. I took them out of their plastic wrap, doused them in chianti, added some splashes of rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar, a few cloves of crushed garlic and a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes.

A couple of days passed, and I decided that there was probably a difference between marinating and fermenting. I sauteed two cartons of mushrooms in some butter and garlic, and made my classic roast potatoes in mustard coating. I waited till K. was home before hauling out the cast-iron pan and slapping the steak on the heat.

"Splash some marinade in there while you're cooking," K. instructed. "There's not a lot of fat on those things." The marinade, I noticed the day before, had taken on a distinctly gamey smell that was now erupting into the apartment from the kitchen. This was no hormone-fed t-bone -- the smell was mossy and thick, loamy and damp; there was no way you could mistake it for farmed beef. Even after three days in a high-acid marinade, there was still some stubborness to this flesh, but I wouldn't have called it tough. The gamey flavour -- rich and round -- was still in the meat, along with a healthy whiff of chianti.

Strike another one off the list of "quintessentially Canadian moments". All I have to try now are prarie oysters and beaver tails.

"The final test of fame is to have a crazy person imagine he is you."
- Anonymous

Moose steaks and an unhappy rock star.

THERE SHOULD BE A LAW, I tell you. Rock bands -- there should be a law mandating their break-up after a decade or their first charity concert, whichever comes first. Okay, I'm being facetious, but two bits of news from R.E.M. this weekend made me shake my head with something like shame. I used to love this band, many, many years ago, when their lyrics were indecipherable and their production budgets something less than WTO quotes. I got over it, thank God, well before "Shiny Happy People", but I still take R.E.M. personally, so it's hard to ignore absurd bits of news like those that popped up on my news alert this weekend.

Michael Stipe -- a man who once complimented me on my shoes -- has apparently taken issue with the speed bump in front of his historical home in Athens, Georgia, going so far as to erect a huge sign on his lawn decrying the passive traffic control feature as "idiotic". It seems that a man who has spoken out against every human rights crime from homophobia to land mines would have some sense of perspective, but this little tiff just seems cranky, the kind of bad-neighbour belligerence that gets called "quixotic", at best, by sympathetic reporters. Perhaps M. Stipe finds the sound of revving cars lulls him to sleep, but an informal survey of your average neighbour will probably show that speed bumps are considered a godsend on residential streets, especially ones with kids. Raging against speed bumps sounds a bit too much like complaining about water filtration, or decrying the high cost of traffic guards. It also sounds like the kind of thing someone does when they've lost touch with reality. 

Which brings me to the next bit of news. Peter Buck -- R.E.M.'s guitarist and widely considered the band's "rock and roll" persona -- was arrested after an air rage incident on a British Airways flight from Seattle to London. There was an assault on a flight attendant, some smashed crockery, and demands for more booze, apparently. It's the kind of behaviour we expect from a Gallagher brother, or a securities analyst whose job is in trouble after a few too many bad calls. That it happened in first class will probably be even more pathetic to those of us who fly in coach, for whom the added legroom, choice of movies and magazines, and decent food on real plates would compensate for the tedium of transAtlantic flights. But not for Mr. Buck, apparently.

The last time I saw P. Buck, besides the photo shoot where M. Stipe admired my footwear, was at a house party, about fifteen years ago, after the band played Massey Hall. They were expecting a wilder scene, probably -- more girls and drinks, I expect -- instead of a couple of two-fours and the houseful of adoring fans, most of whom were in local bands, who sat and gawked at them. I tried to loosen things up by joining Buck at the dining room table where he sat, rather glumly, being adored silently by a group of musicians and their girlfriends, and asking him about New Orleans, where he'd just moved, and about U.S. current events. It was pointless, really, and I felt like a gladhandler. He had some opinions, of course, but mostly just seemed like a guy who liked being in a band, who probably couldn't imagine a nicer place to be except, perhaps, not at this particular low-note of a party.

A decade and a half later, I've watched his expression in videos and photo shoots change from noncommittal cool to sullen glare, the look of a man whose cherished dream turned into a sorry joke. There's "Shiny Happy People", of course, and a front man who hangs out with movie stars, and whose messianic pretentions seem just barely in control. Perhaps there's something unhappy about being in a band who can't live in the same city with each other, whose rehearsals have to be co-ordinated like a military incursion. There's the drummer who left -- an old pal whose choice of home life over the road probably seems like a rebuke -- and the unhappy fact that you're is a forty-plus superstar guitarist whose band is years from hip relevance, and which is only notable these days for the astronomical sums it can command in contract negotiations. Like most "rock and roll" types, I'm sure the snide comments he once made about the Stones and the Who nag at him, even on the executive jet from the Houston gig to the Tampa gig. 

And so, drunk in first class on a BA flight to a charity gig in London. Hating his life and taking it out on some poor flight attendant who makes a quintillionth of his wage, paunchy and bleary-eyed and still wearing his white shirts untucked over black jeans. ("'Waitress in the Sky'. Wasn't that a Replacements song?" the guitarist mumbles to himself. "I should call Westerberg. Fucking Westerberg. Critics still love him. Doesn't sell shit. Hmmph.") How many guitars do you own, Mr. Buck? "They all think they're bloody Keith Richards," grumbles the securities analyst from ING Barings in the window seat after the guitarist has been pacified, shamefacedly avoiding the glares of other passengers and the necks craning into the aisles back in Coach, trying to peer through the crack in the curtain separating the classes. Self-hatred is a terrible thing, Mr. Buck, for not the least of reasons that it inspires no sympathy, whatsoever, from mere acquaintances or passersby.

writing ©2001
Rick McGinnis
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