Monday, August 30, 2010

The Green Machine - The Time That ... we went dancing

When we weren’t defending our country, we liked to have a good time. Often this meant heading out to Richmond, Virginia to hit the bars and joints around town. On one such occasion, we decided to go dancing.

Now before you get all wound up … assumption making … let me set the record straight. No, we were not picking up chicks. We just wanted to have a few drinks and shake a leg. Like that Cindi Lauper song … Boys, they wanta have fun.

Furthermore, no one in their right mine would pick up a girl where we were. It was an ugly bar. I realize that we were no prizes either. No one was shouting, “There’s Fabio” when we strolled in the door. So, when I say that there was not an attractive girl in the place, it was like the pot calling the kettle black. It was an ugly bar … and that’s a fact. And that is what caused all the trouble.

We were reveling in our maleness … bolstered by demon rum. We taunted one another on the sheer ugliness of the other's dance partner with nary a glace in the mirror. The incident at the bar literally tipped the scales for me. I approached a girl sitting there and motioned my desire for a dance. I avoided asking her verbally in that the signaling technique was far less painful to my delicate ego when told no and less likely to trigger teenage memories of rejection.

She smiled and hopped down from the bar stool. The building shook. I searched for her in the semi-darkness and found her directly to my front, but well below the five foot line on my pocket altimeter. The optical illusion fostered by the bar stool setting revealed, I performed my obligatory dance ... resisting the temptation to rest my elbow on the top of her head. My buddies had seen it all and eagerly awaited my return.

Boys will be boys and my buddies savaged me. I expected no less and vowed to myself 1) to get them back and 2) to redeem myself. Moments later, redemption walked through the door. She was obviously lost because she came in the joint we were in and she was gorgeous. Without hesitation, I slid, belly to the ground, through the tall grasses of the Serengeti and coiled myself to pounce. The instant that she turned away from the herd, I was on her … “Would you like to dance?” She answered with a glance and I took her hand and led her to the dance floor.

The dance floor was packed … shoulder to shoulder. My kind of dance floor … anonymity reigns. Innumerable bodies … a quivering mass of arms and legs … moved as one. Packed together like sardines in a can, we measured our moves in inches or less. I knew my buddies were watching … envious of my conquest. This fact alone emboldened me. I decided to perform the MOVE … my patented cool spin … never before seen beyond the confines of my bedroom mirror.

Suddenly, the mass of bodies parted, ever so slightly, providing me with at least a foot of maneuvering space. More than enough to effect the MOVE. I went for it. Arms tucked closely to my torso, fists clinched, I swirled in a modified boxer’s stance to my left. Simultaneously, my partner leaned forward … ever so slightly … more like an inebriated sway.

My fist connected to her chin with a resounding splat. Instantly, everything shifted to slow motion. I saw her knees buckle. I saw her eyes roll back. The crowd parted like the Red Sea and she hit the floor … out cold.

The Red Sea refilled the void around her with concerned dancers. They patted her wrists; they gently shook her; they asked if she was okay. I took another approach. I did the will-o-the-wisp. I was invisible. One second, I was knocking her out … the next, I was gone. I was standing at the bar with my buddies. They did not see the actual punch.

“What happened over there?” I asked. To myself, I thought, “Timmmmmber!”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Green Machine - The Time That ... they created a new squad

There had been a slight problem. It had been going on for quite a while. Basically, there were four of us and we did everything together. The problem seemed t o be that our concept of when it was okay to be together and the general plan for the company training appeared to be in conflict. At the time, the four of us were assigned to four different squads. So, every time the squad was called upon to do something, the squad leader had to search for one of us. And of course, they found us hanging out with one of the other three. I’m not sure what the big deal was, but the squad leaders acted like it irked them to no end. To this day, I believe this to be a negative reflection on their abilities to maintain a cool demeanor under fire and shutter to think how they would handle themselves under combat conditions. But, I am not trying to say that working with the four of us was like being in combat although we may have been slightly ahead of our time in terms of thinking outside the box in a military situation.

One of the LT’s had an idea and for once, I think it was a good one. He proposed to form a super squad. That is my term not his. He would the four of us in the same squad together. The rational was this. If we remained in different squads, we would just continue to disappear at just the wrong time and the sergeants would continually be searching for us. Everyone was in agreement that to keep us apart was a vigil and a constant irritant. They also agreed that even if they put us in the same squad, realistically, we would continue to disappear. In fact, the situation might even worsen. However, they concluded that when we were found, they would at least have squad integrity and they would have reduced the effort from four separate searches to a mere one. Done deal. Everyone was in agreement at last.

That’s when something strange happened. Without a word being said, the sergeants strolled to the LT’s desk, removed the stripes from their collars, and tossed them on the desk. To a man, they all stated that they would rather be demoted than take on the new squad. To say the least, the LT was taken aback. That’s when he had his second big idea. The win-win solution. As he explained, “Marshall is the key. I understand him. Subconsciously, he is craving leadership and responsibility. He can handle those other guys.

In first formation the next morning, the four of us waited patiently in line, wondering who our new squad leader would be. The LT emerged from his office and waved for me to come over. He put his arm around my shoulder and explained the situation to me. I was astounded to learn that a postal clerk like him, with no formal training in psych-therapy or analysis whatsoever, was able to read my subconscious thoughts and needs as if they were an open book. Once he revealed to me my desire to lead, the fires that hidden craving began to burn out of control in my gut. The taste of sergeant filled my mouth and oozed over my taste buds. “Marshall,” he said, “I’m gonna take a chance on you. Show me what you can do, and the squad leader position is yours.”. “You won’t regret this,” I replied. “I said this, not knowing the task before me.

The LT proceeded with the pre-exercise briefing for the company. A compass course had been lain out and each squad was to demonstrate their compass and maps proficiency by maneuvering undetected through the ten checkpoints and then reporting on the enemy strengths and deployment at each site upon their return to our base camp. I was to lead the super squad on the mission.

I gathered my squad together and headed out in the direction of our first map coordinates. A hundred paces later, I signaled for the squad to halt and had them take a seat in a small shady grove. A reached in my fatigue pocket and pulled out a deck of cards. From the sleeve of my coat, I produced a fifth of Jack Daniels. “Deal ‘em,” I said.

Eights hours and a fifth later, we heard the sounds of honking horns signaling the end of the exercise. We marched the 100 yards back to base camp where other squads, tired from their ten mile hikes, lay scattered helter skelter on the grass. I was summoned to the LT’s tent to make my report, but they soon gave up. I thought my report was quite inventive and entertaining, but there seemed to be some other opinions on the matter. Outside the tent, the LT gathered the company for his post-exercise critique and I want sent to join them.

A couple of facts about the LT. He is very short and kinda stocky with somewhat chubby cheeks. He mounted a nearby stump to elevate him above his audience and began his performance. Like a mother hen, I ushered my men right up front to hear it all. Standing beside the stump, I was exactly the same height as the LT. So as not to miss a word, I leaned in, placing my nose about an inch from his. He tried to ignore me. After each sentence, I would turn and make chucking noises and shake by jaws violently in the direction of my men. Finally, he could take no more and shouted at me, “What the hell are you doing”? I replied for all to hear, “My men do not understand chipmunk, sir. I am translating”. I was ordered to leave the group in a crude, unprofessional way. I stormed through the group, ripped the company radio from my back and threw it against a tree, shouted “I’m not going to play anymore”, and sat down on a log pouting. I thought this to be a theatrical performance worthy of praise, but the praise was not forthcoming.

First formation on the following day. I assumed the position of honor at the head of my squad for anther day of training. The LT emerged from the office and walked in a beeline toward me. He looked me straight in the eye and in a voice dripping with sarcasm said, “Git to the end of the line. You don’t deserve to be a sergeant”.

I think now that the LT has another squad in mind for me. Now I know how Chuck Connors must have felt in the TV show “Branded”.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Green Machine - The Time That ... we stormed the Normandy beaches

It was the perfect storm … the collision of multiple disturbances into a supernova of destruction. Not storms per se in this case, but ideas. Incredibly stupid ideas. Someone’s stroke of genius. Someone’s perfect plan. We would be given amphibious training. Should WWII break out again, we would be ready. Never mind that beach landings were obsolete. We would hit the beaches – John Wayne’s one and all. We would have our Longest Day. For some, this would prove to be incredibly true. To inspire us in this simulated glory, they sent the second storm … a shake & bake, 2nd Lieutenant to lead the charge. It would be his first command and I was assigned to be his radioman, his RTO. That meant that I would have to hang out with him the during the whole exercise.

They loaded us on to buses for the trip to Virginia Beach from Altavista (about four hours) at 5:00 AM. The new LT (Lt. Farris) ceremoniously introduced himself with the "if you play nice, so will I" speech from the front of the bus. Someone close to me chimed in with “Did he say Sergeant Ferris like the Ferris wheel”? It could have been me. I don’t listen that well at 5:00AM. We discovered right away that he was sensitive about his name and rank something that we would not forget. [Tip #1 - NEVER LET THE ENEMY SEE YOUR WEAKNESSES.]

Once we understood exactly who we were dealing with, everyone settled down for the ride. For my crew, that meant cracking a beer and dealing a few hands of poker. The betting on the first hand was furious until five natural aces showed up and we realized that we were playing with a pinochle deck. Before long, nature beckoned and fate pulled up a chair … the LT needed to go to the bathroom ...which was in the back of the bus … where we resided! [Tip #2 - NEVER VENTURE INTO HOSTILE TERRITORY ALONE.] The door no sooner closed behind him than it was blocked with the beer cooler and a bevy of willing booted feet. [Tip #3 - IF THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY IN, THEN THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY OUT.]His requests to be let out were calmly delivered at first. The cat-calls and innuendos may have influenced his mood. “We know what you are doing in there”. “We saw the bar of soap”. “You should be ashamed”. [Tip #4 - NEVER GET CAUGHT WITH YOUR PANTS DOWN.] Less mature guys would never have let him out. We generously let him out in about one-half hour. Yet, we received no thanks. Instead, we were subjected to threats, accusations, and severe potty-mouth. [Tip #5 - DO NOT INITIATE AN ATTACK WHEN VASTLY OUTNUMBERED BY THE ENEMY.] We assured him that we were innocent and pointed out that there was no way that he could see through a door anyway. It appears that whatever he did to himself in the bathroom may have caused him to develop a speech impediment. I think the Top realized this as well. [Tip #6 - ALWAYS HAVE A COMRADE TO COVER YOUR BACK.] The Top appeared from nowhere and gently led the LT away. [Tip #7 - KNOW YOUR ENEMY.]

To his credit, the LT was able to regain his composure a couple of hours later thanks to some whispered advice from the Top. He approached me one-on-one with some fatherly advice about slowing down on the beer drinking since I would be called upon to keep up with him the next day on the beach landing since I would be his RTO. I thanked him profusely and told him that I would do my best.

We arrived in Virginia Beach late, but with just enough in time for an exercise designed to prepare us for hitting the beaches the next day. Failure training. My confidence waned a bit when confronted with a first training on what to do if your landing craft sinks. The company was driven to a secluded cove where we donned life preservers and loaded onto a large barge. Our training instructions were, “OK, gentlemen, line up facing the rear of the vessel. In turn, you will jump off the rear of the vessel. At that time, you will swim to the far shore, being careful not to be stung by the jellyfish (of which the bay was full). You will lie backward on your preserver with your face up. Do not lie with your face down since you will drown.” Into the water, we leaped ...lemmings one and all.I regained my confidence knowing that I was ready for any disaster. Plus, I would get to wear wet boots for the rest of the weekend. I did not see the LT jump from the barge, but I am sure he must have. This made it very difficult for me to follow him as I was supposed to do, what with my being his faithful RTO and all. When I saw him next, he was dry ... just like I saw him last. This led me to conclude that being an LT, he could walk on water.

The fact that we were awakened at 5:00 AM was proof enough got me that we were indeed to experience the Longest Day. We were trucked to the beach and loaded onto ancient WWII landing crafts. I admit it was kinda cool, at first, as we battered our way through the surf and into the Atlantic Ocean. We proceeded to a pre-determined location offshore where we began the phase known as “staging”.

Staging was simple enough. Groups of the landing crafts gathered and circled as they awaited further instructions. The circling continued for more than hour. The purpose, I believe, was to help us relieve ourselves of our meager breakfasts. Packed into the lower, airless levels of the crafts, it only took 15 minutes of bouncing around on the waves and inhaling diesel fumes before the retching began. Two twins from our company, barfed in unison like pistons, alternating the hanging over the rail "up piston" with the cringing on the floor "down piston" positions. They were a mechanical wonder to behold.

I wedged myself into a corner in hopes of maintaining what was left of my dignity. In a rare Good Samaritan moment, I grabbed the back pack straps of an old soldier who appeared to be in danger of throwing up his toenails and collapsing. No good deed goes unpunished, they say. For my efforts, he turned to face me and stuck a helmet full of puke under my nose, asking what he should do with it. I shoved past him and ran to the front rails, climbed to the top and gasped for fresh air. I wondered aloud if we had been transformed into a parallel universe and had landed in an ancient Roman vomitorium. My toga was well-soiled. The sight of the LT, standing in the fresh air on the upper level of the landing craft, grinning and nearly peeing his pants with glee, snapped me out of my trance. I called to him and suggested in a frank and direct manner that he should try it out down in the lower level with his men. [Tip #8 - REMEMBER, YOU GIVE THE ORDERS … NOT THE MEN.]

To my amazement, that is exactly what he did. He even brought that stupid grin with him. It only took ten minutes. In less time than it would take to get our crew to salute an officer, he was sitting flat on his butt in about six inches of filthy saltwater and vomit, retching non-stop. Meanwhile, while our leader surveyed the contents of his stomach, our landing craft raced toward the beach. D-Day at last! The LT staggered to his feet when the craft hit the shore and managed to shout to me to fall in behind him with the radio. The craft door swung down and the men poured out and headed inland at a run.

The moment had arrived. I would now be called upon to try to keep up with the LT in the simulated action. Two steps later, my fears were allayed. The LT sunk to his knees in the surf, too weak to go further. With a shaky voice and tears welling in his eyes, he turned his red smoke canister (used to signal the charge across the beach) over to a nearby sergeant. The LT loved those smoke grenades.

I had a decision to make. I left him there on the beach ... left him for the simulated buzzards … but I would see him again all too soon!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Green Machine - The Time That ... my boots weren't polished

I want to say right up front that I don’t blame the first sergeant . Things build up … mole hills transform into mountains. I’ll be the first to admit it. I was not good at polishing my boots. And, I had been busy. What brought it all to a head was the Company inspection. Sometimes you’re forced to made bad choices. I need some boots to go fishing and I wore my army boots. They did get caked with mud … and I didn’t have time to get the mud off. It was the loose mud on the boots that set him off.

It was just like him to bring up old stuff. I never denied that I had not polished my boots for four years. That should have been enough. The yelling was totally unnecessary. Had he not started yelling, I probably would have been remorseful. I don’t think it was just the boots though. He was using the boots as an excuse to yell at me because of my short-hair wig. The Top hated those wigs. He was old school.

The yelling turned to threats. My pay would be docked. I would be sent on active duty. I would be sent straight to Nam. Through it all … I was a perfect soldier … rock solid at attention! I did snicker a couple of times, but I couldn’t help it – my buddies kept saying things.

I am a man of my word if nothing else. I made a promise. I promised to have my boots polished by the next morning … spit-polished.

And I would have too. The next morning … 5:00 AM … I realized that I had no black boot polish. I looked everywhere. Finally, I found the cordovan polish. I smeared it on and hit a few licks with the brush. Should I have knocked off the mud first? Maybe … but it was 5:00AM!

The Company stood, like statues in a graveyard, at full attention. The Top worked his way up and down the lines of soldiers, one man at a time, inspecting as he went. His mass blocked out the sun when he stopped before be. He dissected me top to bottom. At my boots, he froze. The cordovan polished glistened red in the morning light.

It was my first time ever seeing someone truly speechless. Beads of sweat popped out on his forehead and trickled down toward his chin. He was quite the morning drinker. He surprised me next. He placed his foot on the toe of my boot and twisted and ground the red polish into the toe. Then, he looked straight into my eyes and in a calm voice said, “Marshall, you have exactly five minutes to get those boots polished, or you and I will have a little talk with the Company Commander”.

My image with the men prevented me from racing to the supply room, but I knew the Top meant it. I tore the supply room apart looking for a solution. And , then I saw it. I grabbed the can of high-gloss, black spray paint and let fly. I raced back to the formation with a minute to spare.

The Top made his way to me slowly. Everyone for primed for the event that had to be … they were watching. His stare settled on the shiny black boots. Had I to do it over again, I might have knocked the dried mud off this time. I don’t really recall when the cursing stopped, or how we ended up in the Company Commander’s office. The Captain demanded an explanation. I gave him the minute details. I didn’t leave out my feelings about how the effort I had made to comply didn’t seem to matter. My initiative using the cordovan and then the black paint were never commended. I pointed out how the behavior exhibited by the Top, not only destroyed initiative, but was a threat to the esprit de corps of the entire company.

I don’t think the Company Commander cared what I thought. In no uncertain terms, he laid down the law. I caved in. I promised never to do it again. His last words to me were, “Do you understand me soldier?”

“Yes Sir, Captain,” I shouted. Beyond any doubt … I understood all too well!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Green Machine - Introduction

Mr. Marshall, answer the question … and remember, you are still under oath. Admit it! You didn’t want to help your country, did you? You didn’t want to do your part, did you? It was ALL about you, wasn’t it? Admit it … admit it … admit it!

I confess. Okay, okay. I admit it! I didn’t want to go to Nam. My draft # was up. I was a draft-dodger. I joined the National Guard. But, I tried to do right. I was even gung ho in basic training. It was Big Bays, Bear and Trogden. I fell in with a bad crowd. When I got back to the home unit, I fell in with a bad crowd. It was big Bays … Bear … and especially Trogden. It was not my fault.

For example, there was the time that …

The Trail of Tears

Long since do I recognize the day or the time. It is enough to place one foot in front of another in an endless pursuit of the distant horizon. Rhythmically, the pains shoot across my buttocks and down alternating legs to ankles swollen and red and throbbing arches. Eyes, once glistening and alert, now arid deserts … lifeless and dull. My people call it the Trail of Tears, but the tears are no more. Only the story remains … and yes, the memory … yes, the memory … and the pain … yes, the pain. They remain.

Yet, again, I revert to old habits. I have begun at the end and proceed to the beginning. Although the real beginning may in actuality be some obtuse alignment of planets and stars and forgone conclusions of free will or destiny. Our plan was basically to drive to Richford, Vermont to spend the night with our friends, Pam and Rich. From there, we would cross into Canada and stop at a favorite bakery in Abercorn. We planned to work our way to Sherbrooke via several tourist stops along the way and then take in the sights of Sherbrooke for two nights. One more day of side trips would put us at North Hatley on the lake for rest and relaxation and some fishing for me. The last day was left open to accommodate more fishing before returning home.

The first day was going smoothly. We zigzagged our way the length of Vermont, stopping only for a quick picture of the bowling ball yard sculpture, and arrived in Richford late in the day. Incidentally, Rich works at a micro-brewery and also makes homemade beers and more recently wines. He couldn’t wait to break open several special beers for me to try and as many new wines. I thought that I said, “I don’t drink anymore”. However, from the look on Rich’s face, I must have said, “Santa Claus is dead” instead. I graciously agreed to taste each of the brews that he presented in the future when someone else opened them to drink. I will not forget that face … it was the Lindberg baby is missing face.

Lots to do that second day … an early start was essential to work it all in. Regardless of my need to be on the road, there were old stores to rehash and new ones to reveal. The 11:00 AM departure merely meant that a couple of stops might need to be eliminated from the itinerary. Even that would be soon forgotten as I stuffed the Abercorn shortbread cookies, one after another, into my gaping maw. We pulled into the parking lot of the bakery … not a care in the world of more consequence than what to eat first … shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate … sticky buns … the muffins … or a loaf of fresh-baked bread. The lot was uncharacteristically empty. It was Anne that I sent to the door. I did not allow myself to hear her message. Nevertheless, her mouth formed the words, “Closed on Wednesdays”. I was shameless in my grief.

We drove without speaking. On to the quartz crystal mine, Mine Cristal Quebec. The only one of its kind in Canada. My stomach and I took turns grumbling. The mine would snap me out of it. Of this, I was certain. The mine tour was in French. We had the English version on tape to follow along. The instructions for the tape player were in French. Anne and I had no difficulty understanding every 700th word. Maybe I am being nick-picky. Maybe it is just a matter of semantics. A mine is a hole deep in the ground where cool stuff is found – like gold, or silver , or quartz. This mine, however, was on top of the ground. I call that a “ditch”. On to UFO Land and the real world.

A little background might be helpful at this point. There is this guy in Saint-Adrien who claims to have been receiving messages frorm alien beings for years. He opened a tourist attraction called UFO Land. I say, “When things are going wacky … go wacky. It is the only sane thing to do”. We set our galactic GPS for Saint-Adrien and headed out. On the ride, we switched tours guides from the 2009 version to the 2010 version we had picked up at the tourist info building. UFO Land no longer exits. Apparently, the time for talking was over. On some dark and lonely night, the owner of UFO Land was sucked up on a beam of light into a glowing orb and whisked away … and for me, I too feel like I am receiving messages from an alien source. I flicked on the warp-drives and turned the car around.

Sherbrooke would be my refuse and my respite. We were booked at the Marco Polo B&B and I had selected the African-themed room. I am a suspicious person. It comes from having been a school principal. The last email from the B&B caused a slight rise in my eyebrow, I admit. “My English is not so good like my wife’s”. That said, we were graciously greeted at the door by a beaming, welcoming face. I believe the relevant phrase is “déjà vu”. “Welcome to the Marco Polo. There has been a slight problem with your reservation. You do not have the African-themed room. My English is not so good as my wife’s.” We did not head up the stairwell in front of us. Instead, we veered through the dog gate … though the dining room (lifting our bags over the table to get through the small opening) … though the owners’ den … though the kitchen … and up the narrow stairwell to the Indian-themed room. If nothing else, I am a flexible person. No problem. Life will go on! A mere seed tick in a world of parasites. A few more drops of my life-blood. Indeed, Sherbrooke proved to be a respite. So much so, that for the briefest moment, I thought that it was all over.

There is a natural order of things – chronological being one example. To understand what is next, you must understand what is not next, but was before … before it all began. My original idea was to go to a B&B around Parc Frontenac or Lac Megantic for a couple of nights on a lake. This would enable me to fish while Anne hung out on the beach. Rooms were scarce. I had one … but while I waited for responses from two other potential B&B’s, the room was booked. Instead , I found a place in North Hatley. There were ramifications. I had set my sights on a visit to a salvage artist. It was one of those events that you put the star by in your itinerary notes. Gone. The fishing was in jeopardy. The salvage artist was out of the question. Mentally, I drew a line through the star.

But, on a brighter note, the room I booked in North Hatley was at the Chocolatier B&B. Things were looking up! I put my disappointments aside and sped to North Hatley. Along the way, we did a short side trip to the Miellerie Lune de Miel, the honeybee farm. The brochures were beautiful and the tour sounded fascinating. Reality was slightly different … I never saw the first bee. The closest I came was the bee in my bonnet to leave. We still had a little more time before check-in at the B&B, so we stopped by Rose de Champs, the rose farm. I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been when the 200+ varieties of roses were still in bloom.

No more asides. To the Chocolatier B&B. It was gorgeous … we were greeted with chocolate. No we did not book a room with a private bath as we thought. We shared the bath down the hall. More chocolate si vous plait!

My memory fails me … did I mention the lavender farm, Bleu Lavande? I believe it to be the second largest in North America. No matter. I have seen the brochure and the farm is a sea of purple vistas and an ocean of old lady aromas. It was #2 on my must see list. I received the word from the Chocolatier B&B owner … in a casual aside. Like … “Oh, yeah! They mowed the lavender at Bleu Lavande. There are just rows of stalks now”. The message did not improve with a French accent.

So, there you have it … my Canadian vacation … one that Chevy Chase or John Candy would have been proud to have. There is more of course … like the five times Anne knocked herself silly by running in to my canoe hanging off the back of the car. On a positive note … it never rained … that being said, the canoe never got wet.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Apologies to Roy Rogers

Fondue ismaking a comeback. That is one of the reasons that I chose Fondue Folie from the many restaurants in Sherbrooke , Canada to try. The other reason was the variety of menu choices. Here is how it works for the table de hote. First, you select a shared broth. Anne and I chose the beef and onion broth since we thought the other two choices might overpower some of our meat selections.

Step two is to select an entree for each of us. For Anne, it was escargot and brie. Snails ... great start to an eclectic meal. I had never tried tartare. Of the four kinds offered , I thought I would give wapiti a whirl. If you are wondering, that is elk. The taste was interesting, but I must admit I was not to enamoured of the texture.

On to the meats. There was about a dozen options. Anne decided on a seafood and fowl combination since each of us got to make two selections with our meal. She chose scallops and duck. I got to try two meats that I had never tasted before. Ostrich was my first choice ( thought it might taste like chicken ). My second choice was horse ( it did not taste like chicken). I was a little disappointed, however, since the guidebook we had read said they had alligator and kangaroo. But, I coped.

The sauces was step four. We each got to pick four. For Anne, the four included a Caesar sauce, a citrus mustard, Indian curry, and Italian tomato-based sauce. For me, it was a Montreal pepper sauce, a chipote sauce, kiwi and yogurt, and a Dijon mustard. I must admit, the sauces were the stars of the meal.

We were stuffed. Like Trigger. But, it was our job to eat dessert. Dark chocolate fondue for Anne and butterscotch for me with marshmallows and fruit.

My taste buds are exhausted! Roy and Dale ... sorry!