Urban Life

Reid Farmer’s browsing of the L.A. Times finds this report of a lost South American reptile at large in the suburbs. The animal is believed to be a spectacled caiman, estimated at 6 to 8 feet and possibly 200 pounds, which must be a big one if the caiman I knew from Panama are any comparison.

From the story by Ashley Powers, Times Staff Writer:

“The reptile, which has a jaw like a steel trap, has been playing hide-and-seek in Machado Lake with its hunters, who are armed with just a few nets and a raw chicken….”‘One fellow said he was fishing and it came up on shore. He said he cast the line out and hooked it,’ said Kevin Regan, assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. ‘Someone said kids were throwing tortillas at it, flour tortillas.'”

Steve Bodio thinks this quote brings the story up to snuff as blog-fodder here:

“‘It’s such an urban area, people just don’t see [wildlife]…and they’re like,
‘Oh, nature!’ It scares them,'”

I agree–not that nature is scary (though some of it is and should be!), but that people just don’t see it where they don’t expect it. For perhaps obvious reasons, we don’t expect “real” nature to find us in the suburbs.

Whether or not an escaped pet crocodilian qualifies as real nature, its present setting in a California city park makes it a surprising find. In other places, large reptiles are quite at home in the urban jungle.

Soon after moving to Louisiana, some local friends (two of them biologists) took me out in a canoe, loaded with beer and headlamps, for an evening of hands-on alligator “labwork” ten minutes from the French Quarter. We caught many by hand (small ones, naturally) and snared a few monsters with noose poles once the alcohol kicked in. I needn’t say it was dumb, dumb, dumb. While three of us sat on the back of an exhausted leviathan we drug ashore, this began to dawn on us: Um, what next?

(No reptiles or people were injured in the events described above.)

No Steenking Penguins, But What’s Left?

…Matt, who is raising twin girls and trying not to screw that up, replies:

“I’ve been thinking to bring my girls (they’re 4) to this flick [March]. It would be their first theater experience. But my folks, both regular film-goers and two of my most trusted movie critics, refused to recommend it even for kids. So I hesitated, and now with your input will look for another venue for my kids’ debut.

“I have long since given up hope to find some popular entertainment to further the worldview I’ve been trying to instill in my girls. A feature-length documentary on real animals would seem to have a better chance than anything animated (which they adore), but after narration and editing and adding music, I don’t guess there is much difference.

“Where are even the moderately realistic nature shows of my own youth? Our cable TV has a whole channel devoted to animal-related programming, and yet I can’t remember seeing so much as flash of tooth or claw. An entire sequence of a predator’s kill from start to finish? Not since the National Geographic Specials I watched as a kid myself.

“It’s too much to ask of Hollywood to raise my children, I know it. But I also know that if I did not regularly drag home carcasses of dead animals and dissect them in view of my kids, they would have no direct evidence that:

(A) Meat comes from dead animals, right off the bone (and it tastes good!)
(B) All living things die
(C) Some animals kill other animals
(D) We are animals

“That the twins would not otherwise know the correct physical proportions of a rabbit or a bird almost goes without saying. As a witness to children’s television, I can testify that the creatures representing small animals therein look imagined by artists two or three generations removed from any who’ve held real animals in hand. That might even be the case!”

Fan (non)fiction

Matt here, and let me tell you how (and who): I’m a falconer and a reader with about equal enthusiasm for each pursuit, which explains my familiarity with Steve Bodio’s work. I am a Bodio fan and have been since my first days as a falconer in the mid-80s. A couple years ago I stumbled into Steve’s email address (on a blog, in fact) and sent him the first of a series of shameless fan mail. If you know Steve, you will expect he replied with grace and courtesy, and he did.

These days I work as a Web administrator for a university library system, which provides me a skill set to offer a hero-figure a little service in return. So we set up Steve’s website and this blog, and that explains my involvement in the Bodiosphere.

I take this opportunity to post on Steve’s blog with (I swear it!) reluctance. Or at least trepidation. But he invited, and like a vampire I am obliged to step inside.

My goal/ulterior motive for helping Steve create his blog is to get him posting about the writer’s craft. I am a wanna-be writer and I eat this stuff up. Another hero, Hemingway, knew there were people like me, and he spoke to us—sometimes plainly in the middle of unrelated narrative. Wonderful! I hoped Steve would do the same, and sometimes he does.

To a recent post on the nature of book publishing, I offered the comment:

“…I see it as something like the creation of an elephant: low birthrate + long gestation + prolonged adolescence = one big, smart, long-lived, tough-skinned critter.”

To which my friend, writer and fellow falconer Rebecca O’Connor, replied:

“…we do the book writing thing because we can’t help ourselves anyway. It’s not like we WANT to wait around for it be published and permanent. We just can’t stop ourselves. But…if you want to gestate elephants (which sounds VERY uncomfortable) who am I to tell you to stop. :-)”

Having seen my wife gestate twins, I have no wish to break ground in that field! But I have to admit I want to write a permanent book. That’s my goal, tho I see it as a distant one. My near-term objective is to write readable facsimiles of my heroes’ prose—fan fiction, I guess, except not fiction…

So Steve: Did you start writing by emulating your heroes? If so, when did you stop doing that and become Steve Bodio?
(I’ll hang up now and listen to your answer.)