This Thing Called Courage

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wood Ducks and Woodcocks, Lemon Pound Cake and Gwangi

FIONN AND I sallied forth yesterday afternoon to visit our wonderful and very dear friend Sean in West Concord, a delightful little-- and unpretentious-- village between Concord Center and Acton. Part of the fun is visiting one of my favorite stores, the fabulous (but very expensive) Deborah's Natural Gourmet, where you can buy, among other things, organic dandelion greens just plucked from the hill farms of central Massachusetts, locally made Kombucha, and cruelty-free what-have-you. On the way we stopped at my 'local' library, the august Robbins Library in Arlington, to return a few things and see if my 'order' was ready. (As part of the Minuteman Library Network, Robbins allows patrons to order things from anywhere in their 26-town extensive system, and have it delivered to the library of one's choice, all from your computer.) I had ordered a book and also a film, the wonderful (so I've been told) film adapatation of The Man Who Planted Trees, directed by French filmmaker/artist Frederic Beck, based upon the classic story by French author Jean Giano. (Read it if you haven't.) My order wasn't in though, so later we settled on watching The Valley of Gwangi, one of the worst movies (and ergo funniest) I've ever seen-- a kind of low budget King Kong Western, in which Mexicans dance and talk like Eastern European gypsies and the one-eyed woman who leads them speaks forbodingly and often of "The Curse of Gwangi!" Oi. I get to do my laundry at Sean's too, which is also convenient, as well as enjoy the pleasure of his society. After an early supper in which I helped Sean get rid of his leftover ham, despite my vegen leanings (anything for a friend-- Fionn was most anxious to help as well) we took to the road so we could take Fionn for a ramble. Sean brought us to the delightful Rolling Meadows Conservation Area, in nearby Boxborough, on the way to which we passed through the delightful village of South Acton, which has some incredible architecture from the 19th Century. When we reached our rustic destination, we were the only car in the minuscule lot. We like that. We rolled across the open meadows, still very barren and soggy, then pushed into the deep dark woods, made up mostly of close-quartered Eastern White Pine, looking like bamboo. By and by we came to this small but rushing river, which is a tributary of Nashoba Brook (which runs into the Assabet, and when the Assabet and Sudbury Rivers join, they form the Concord River, which flows into the Merrimack) where we startled (and I do mean startled) two pair of Wood Ducks (see photo above). It was the first time in my life I'd seen these gorgeous native water birds, so I was thrilled, and their calls and cries as they absconded were sounds I had never heard before-- quite different from other waterfowl.
Eventually we came back to the meadow. Once there we put Fionn in the car, then waited (it was just about sunset) to see if any woodcocks might inhabit these meadows. They did! There were two of them peenting away, and when one, and/or then the other, took to the sky to perform the sky dance, we had unlimited viewing of this marvel of spring, thanks to the open nature of the large meadows. Heaven!!! We clutched onto each other in our zeal. After a bit we left them to their own devices, in the hopes that impressed females were waiting in the wings nearby to reward the males for their aerial histrionics. L'amour, l'amour, toujours l'amour. Sean heard more woodcocks in the field ont he other side of the road, which is private property. Not that that's ever stopped me, but I was cold by then, having worn shorts as one does this time of year, wisely or not, whenever the temperature goes above freezing. A discussion of the river's name and destination led to a discussion of Nashoba Baking Company, producers of the best bread I ever ate (purchased at Whole Foods, 6.99 for half a loaf-- ouch!) and Sean shocked me by saying the bakery was only several doors down from him. We drove to it-- one gets to it by parking in a gas station parking lot (not a propitious beginning, I'll admit, but what do I care? I wasn't to the manor born.) Sean explained the rather intricate and draconian parking measures: there is room for six cars here, along a certain (poorly defined) line; if you transgress you will be towed away, with alacrity and glee. But wait! To overcome this problemo, you go back out to Commonwealth Street, take a right, take another right, and come into a larger parking area tucked away near woods. You get out of the car and hear the rushing of waters. Then you traverse a wooden pedestrian bridge that the bakery had built just for patrons, and come to the back of the building (are you following?) which is really the front of this very lovely glass and wood bakery/cafe with tables and heavenly, yeasty smells. They couldn't, we imagined, be open at this hour, but inside a dozen people sat around tables and sofas in one corner, looking earnest and shuffling papers. I walked in while Sean watched Fionn, waited at the counter, and was finally approached by a very nice and handsome man, who told me the bakery was closed, (darn it) but that he had some free samples for me. He led me over to where the meeting was being held, and told me to help myself as he held up a tray heavy-laden with many slices of fresh baked goods. I took two thick slices of lemon-cranberry pound cake; he told me to take more, as he had seen my friend outside. What a lovely gesture!!! Thoroughly warming and just plan kind, the type of gracious little nothings we live so much without these days, to our loss. We were as warmed by his kindness as we were by the delicious, moist, and probably very un-vegen lemon cranberry pound cake. Dee-lish, as we used to say. From then it was back home, to the Valley of Gwangi, starring James Franciscus (looking like a skinny bleach-blonde clone going to a West Hollywood Halloween party as a cowboy) and the lovely but not very convincing Gila Golan (is she from those much-disputed Heights?) as T.J. Breckinridge, star and owner of her own traveling wild-west circus. To cut to the chase, they and their assistants (including 'Rowdy' and 'Bean') discover the Valley of Gwangi by squeezing through a crack in a cliff in the Mexican desert, on the other side of which is a tyrannosaurus rex, pterodactyls, and other creatures one normally doesn't associate with the Mexican desert. Ms. Golan spends most of the movie dramatically calling for her assistants ("Rowdy! Bean!" sounding like she's down at the Minute Clinic explaining her gastritus) while Fransicus bends over a lot in his tight jeans, revealing a very bony and ultimately unsatisfying behind. The T-Rex is captured, of course, for T.J.'s Wild West show, and-- surprise!-- gets loose during his sold-out debut, giving us fifteen minutes of hundreds of Mexican extras running out of what looks like a bull-fighting ring. Gwangi seizes and chews up one or two of them but, like Bill Clinton, or perhaps Monica, doesn't swallow, spitting them out instead. The panicked crowd takes to the giant cathedral (well, wouldn't you?) but the crafty Gwangi (the T-Rex) follows them there and, despite James Fransicus holding back the three-story heavy oaken doors, makes his way in-- perhaps to go to Confession to absolve himself from being in this stinker of a movie. That's as far as we got, and I didn't lose any sleep wondering what happened. Perhaps Gwangi, like that man in the old joke who went streaking in church, was caught by the organ. And James Franciscus just the man to do it.


Anonymous Allen said...

I loved this piece and wish I was out there with Joe and Sean that day. As for wonderful bakeries, check out the Copper Angel Bakery in Warwick, Mass., for excellent bread and pastries and pizzas. Limited hours are: Thursday and Friday, 4-8 p.m. and Saturday, 8a.m. to - 8 p.m.

10:25 AM  
Blogger BiscuitsBoy said...

Thanks Allen-- it was all very wonderful and spontaneous-- we played the day as it laid, and joy was the result...

11:43 AM  

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