Tag Archives: Taxidermy

The Taxidermist*

 
There was a time I would go out of my way, past the subway station and down the vacant city blocks, past the dinky little pharmacy and the cramped and sloping tenements, just so I could stand under that big sign and stare in through the window.

TAXIDERMY STUDIO

Morning, afternoon – to my great relief and disappointment, it was never open.

And so I continued my vigil, as often I would find the time.

But on that day, I sensed something inside.

Movement.

Someone was in there. Very much alive.

 

He sat there at the far end of the studio, slumped behind an ancient makeshift table, hands folded primly across his belly. I glanced at the long nails on his fingertips and imagined them stripping skin from flesh. He was framed on one side by a black bear whose outstretched arm pawed tentatively at the air. On his other side stood two pheasants, male and female, their heads bowed low in supplication. He was crowned by a gigantic moose’s head, which jutted out from the wall behind him and hovered, it seemed, but mere inches from his own.

The studio was filled with a heavy, tactile musk. I swallowed a little with each breath to avoid choking on it. The floor was littered with rubber bands, glass eyes, plastic bags, skull fragments and errant tongues. I carefully picked my way around them. He waited until I stood just a few feet away from the table before he lifted his head, and spoke.

Chinese? Pay double.”

I’d lived in the big city long enough and had learned how to respond in kind.

“I’m Vietnamese. So I should only pay half.”

A twinkle came to his eye. He sat there plump and contented and smiled; a King or demi-god preached on an altar of bone and antler.

A deranged Buddha.

The Taxidermist.

 

I heard laughter, impossibly, to my right.

And there, between empty six-packs of Stella Artois, between Tim Hortons cups brimming with seedling plants and amongst a clutch of three scratching hens and a roaster, mid-strut, beside a yawning coyote and under the serene face of a mounted caribou, I saw him.

The Apprentice.

He was wearing a blue lab coat, faded and frayed at the edges, with metal picks and wooden skewers sticking out the pockets. Invisible just a moment before, he now sat there very plainly on a wooden stool, laughing and gesturing wildly around the studio.

“Nothing is for sale here, girl! The man works on commission only.” The Apprentice smiled at me. He jeered, biting the tip of his thumb.

I tried to explain…what?

That I had felt compelled to go out of my way just to stand in front of the studio?

That I did this more than I would like to confess, especially to myself?

That I needed to come inside?

For what?

All around us, from each corner and from every crevice of the poorly lit studio, The Taxidermist’s creations loomed – listening, waiting. Some lingered, merging with the dust and the shadows, while others leaped out in harsh relief, eager to meet my gaze. I caught the contemptuous glance of a thin-faced red squirrel. A wall of gaping fish – trophy pike, largemouth bass, a lonely gar – sighed audibility as a trio of raccoon skulls leered, mouths partially open. The pheasants regarded us inquisitively, while the coyote took in everything with his teeth bared, obviously bored.

“I just wanted to have a look,” I said.

“A look!” said The Taxidermist. “Vietnamese? You look like this,” he pulled the corners of his own blue eyes hard, as if tying to connect them to his ears. Watching me through narrow slits, he laughed. The Apprentice laughed.

It was early yet, but the sun was already setting into winter’s afternoon. The studio was so narrow and crowded that I had to turn around to leave. But I didn’t want to turn my back on The Taxidermist, and I didn’t want to lose sight of The Apprentice. Saying nothing, I willed myself to stay in place.

The Taxidermist rubbed out his face and shifted in his seat, suddenly became very sober.

“It’s OK. Is OK. Everyone,” he murmured, “is from Africa.”

“Everyone is from Africa,” repeated The Apprentice, nodding vigorously.

“You, me, Sammy Davis Junior,” said The Taxidermist, pointing. His accent was thick, but it rolled off his tongue sweetly, deliberately. I tried to place it (Central Europe? Polish, maybe?), but was interrupted by The Apprentice.

“Listen, girl! We’re all the same! Everything is the same! Everything but the skin, and sometimes the hair, and maybe the eyes,” he mused. He braced his hands against his legs against the stool. A metal pick fell to the floor as he did so, but he made no move to retrieve it.

“Have you ever seen aurora borealis?”

The Taxidermist, too, sat up. He reached out and began caressing the black bear on its neck and muzzle, his hands trailing countless rivulets in the soft dark fur.

“You see my shop? I do it all, except the eyes.”

“The man does it all,” confirmed The Apprentice, who started telling me about the lost art of taxidermy. About how the fleck of a brush can make or ruin a specimen completely. About how the positioning of the limbs or the ears or the curvature of muscle can deliver life and expression, or reduce a specimen to awful caricature. About where to cut along the carcass, keeping ever mindful of the toes and that delicate spot around the nose and lips.

The Apprentice rambled on about the animals that had passed through the studio, all creatures great and small (nothing illegal, no pets) and forever in debt to the exquisite touch of The Taxidermist. He spoke darkly of the hunters and sportsmen who had commissioned work from the studio and never returned to pick it up or pay for it.

“Like throwing away the fucking Mona Lisa. Like spitting in da Vinci’s face!”

The Taxidermist, The Apprentice assured me with a grand sweep of his arm, was a master of his art. A true master.

“The man, he knows,” he said, much to The Taxidermist’s obvious pleasure.

Did I, by the way, want to know the secret to taxidermy?

“Arsenic,” whispered The Taxidermist, leaning back against his seat, hands clasping again on his belly. He closed his eyes.

“I know,” here his voiced raised considerably, “what to do with the skin.”

 

But it was obvious, even from the outside looking in, that The Taxidermist’s masterpieces hadn’t left the studio in years. Most were covered in layers of dust and detritus, their coats dulled in uneven blotches by the sun, their fur and hair falling out in turns.

The studio was a wonder, and it was not; a halfway house for things otherwise forgotten, and going extinct everyday.

There were times, said the Taxidermist, when he would let out his more impressive specimens – the spiny porcupine or the smiling alligator, perhaps – to the movie studios and museums.

But no more.

The universities and colleges still ask him to take a on a student or two every semester and the newspapers still sometimes want him to do an interview for (what else?) human interest.

He no longer returns their calls.

The fish, the fowl, the severed and defleshed heads are less relics now than witnesses to the creeping decay and its final promise.

He will never sell them.

Of that I remain utterly certain.

 

It was almost dark now. I began laying down excuses to leave (“have to met up with some friends”, “dinnertime” “it’s almost dark now”), but was saved by The Apprentice, who jerked his head sharply to the side and caught my eye.

“Hey. I like Lenny Kravitz myself.”

He laughed so hard he almost fell off his stool. At this, The Taxidermist’s eyes flew open.

“Enough!” cried The Taxidermist, hands slamming so hard on the table I would swear he shattered it into splinters. His voice was piercing, insistent. It shocked me. The Apprentice, for his part, was reduced to a fit of giggles, which he tried to suppress with both hands over his mouth.

Pushing himself slowly from his seat, The Taxidermist stood up. Grinning, he playfully shook his head at The Apprentice then turned to address me.

“I need to go to my doctor’s appointment. My diabetes.”

He winked.

“Goodbye girl.”

I waited until The Apprentice joined him behind the table and watched as he helped The Taxidermist to the back of the store before I retreated to the front.

I walked out onto the sidewalk. I heard the loud click of the lock. I felt more than saw the lights go out behind me.

I may have looked back, but I don’t remember.
 
 
 
*Long-listed for the CBC’s “Canada Writes Competition”, June 2014.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Duck Calling

 

Duck Ducklings

The questions were unexpected and extraordinary.

“Are you raising ducklings?”

“How are you going to keep a duck in the city??”

“Will that be good for the ducks, especially with the dog being there???”

No mention of the fact that the duckling – at turns named Donald and Daisy and Howard and Daffy; at turns referred to as “it” or “they” – has two heads, or upon closer inspection (but not that close, isn’t the wooden stand a dead giveaway?) are clearly not alive.

All of the sudden, a two-headed duckling living in the city, being raised in my apartment and with my dog around, was as plain as the beaks on their faces. The real issue, the one more vital than the simple, evident fact of their existence, was my terrible and selfish decision to take the duckling home with me.

It was touching, in a way, and also remarkable; this concern for something so small and innocent. People do have a way of getting past the obvious.

I cleared the air (Everyone! These are fake real ducklings. Please stop asking how I am going to raise a duck in the city!), and laughed and laughed.

Soon after, I put the duckling under glass to keep the dust off of them.

And now I sometimes catch myself looking at it, terrified they cannot breathe.
 

Ducks Under Glass
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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@ The Gopher Hole Museum, Torrington, Alberta

 

Ice Skating Gophers
 
 
“So, do you have a taxidermist on site or how does this,” I paused to gesture around the room, “um, work?”

The woman standing next to me was standing next to me out of the same sheer curiously that compelled me to ask the question – that, indeed, compelled both Stephen and I to take a last-minute detour 130KM out of our way on this, our last day in Alberta, Canada.

The Gopher Hole Museum and Gift Shop. June 2012.

The woman standing next to me was Granny Gopher. The woman standing next to me could, in fact, be none other than Granny Gopher.

We were in the presence of the Grand Matriarch of a little speck of a place known as Torrington, Alberta.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnificent Torrington!

A place you could not rightly call beautiful. A two-minute walk in any direction takes you to the very edge of town, will take you to that exact spot on the Albertan horizon where the sky and earth fuse into a vast, indistinguishable one.

This has not in the least deterred the good people of Torrington, who decided to celebrate the awe and splendor of life in Torrington as they thought best.

Through taxidermy.

Through dead stuffed gophers to be exact.

The Cowboy

Why gophers?

Because, unless yet despite being employed otherwise, gophers are a bane on the town of Torrington, destroying crops and leaving holes around town, attracting still more pests in the form of predatory badgers that dig still more holes in their pursuit of Torrington gopher meat.

These holes can be dangerous. They can break legs: human, cattle and horse. They are unsightly and cause erosion.

Torrington’s residents kill Torrington gophers by the thousands.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Is the Gopher Hole Museum And Gift Shop world famous?

No. Not really.

True, when it opened its doors on June 1, 1996, there was a bit of what you could call a media frenzy – newspapers at home and abroad, including big name publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek ran stories of what could be called the Torrington’s embrace of its “controversial” museum.  But now, as we trudge on toward the end 2013, it is fair to say that Things have died down for Torrington’s Gopher Hole Museum and Gift Shop. Publicity comes at a trickle, these days.

It seems fitting, then, that it was only incidentally that we found out about Torrington.  A turn of events, a kind of kismet that you wouldn’t actually call fate had lead us Torrington:

“You’re into taxidermy, right?[1] So there’s this place that you should check out before you leave. It’s got all these stuffed squirrels or rats something. It’s like an hour away from Calgary.”
“It is expensive?”
“It should be like two dollars.”
“Okay. Maybe.”

That is how it went down.

Is the Gopher Hole Museum And Gift Shop infamous?

Again no. Not really, no.

There was that scrap it had with P.E.T.A. When Torrington settled on dead stuffed gophers to attract tourists, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote many, many letters. It was a campaign of protest. Of indignation. Protest letters soon followed from all over Canada, France, The United States, the Netherlands, Germany and Japan.

Eventually, Torrington sent a postcard to reply to P.E.T.A.

“Get stuffed,” is what it said.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Inside Torrington’s Gopher Hole Museum And Gift Shop.

“Television screens. The walls are full of little TVs”, is what I said to Stephen.

Inside Torrington

 
I lied a little above when I said Things have died down for the Gopher Hole Museum and Gift Shop. There was a bus full of visitors due that day Stephen and I were there. That’s also why Granny Gopher was there, in person persona, dressed up and ready – to entertain half of the group (12 people) outside in order to allow the other half to comfortably tour the very small museum. In the gift shop, which you enter and exit during your visit to the Gopher Hole Museum and Gift Shop, is a map. It is dotted with hundreds of pins representing visitors from all over the world.

But why gophers?

“Our museum is a whimsical portrayal of life in the tranquil hamlet of Torrington. There are 77 mounted gophers in 47 displays with different themes: hockey player, hairdresser, farmer, etc. Each character is dressed to compliment the artist’s picturesque background”, reads a handout I was given at the Gopher Hole Museum And Gift Shop.

“Admission:
Adult………$2.00
Under 14…… .50″

The gophers, I am convinced, could have been depicted doing absolutely anything, anywhere.

But almost all of the 47 TV boxes are of Torrington: the post office, the library, the Torrington Viscount School, Torrington’s Trinity Lutheran Church, Torrington’s Village Office, the Torrington Hotel and someplace called John’s Air Cooled Marine Engines Service.

Torrington Hotel

There is an unreal tangibility about the gophers of Torrington. Torrington’s gophers.

Because the gophers are embedded into Torrington’s very concrete, in a way, they fill Torrington’s very air.

There’s Clem T. GoFur, Torrington’s official greeter and town mascot.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Clem T. GoFur

Ladies and Gentlemen: Clem T. GoFur

Clem is 12 feet tall, clothed and smiling, and is the first thing you see as you turn in from the highway and into Torrington. There is a plaque listing, among other Things, his D.O.B (June 20, 1991). There is a nearby sign that reads, among other Things:

I am a handsome gopher
A mascot if you please
Torrington’s my place of birth
And where I take my ease

Hello to everyone of you
We’d like to shake your hand
Come in and see our heritage
Living off the land.
[2]

My feeling is that the sign is meant to compliment the lyrics of The Torrington Gopher Call Song, which includes, among other Things:

There’s millions of these rodents that are causing such a fuss,
They dig their home in the prairie loam, turning everything to dust.
If you fret and worry that the Gopher will be gone,
You can always take some with you and release them on your lawn
The moral of this story is to be wise before you speak,
Lots of us do like them, but their damage is not cheap.
There always will be gophers, their lives not in hand,
So just sit back and watch them as they dig up all our land.
[3]

Torrington’s fire hydrants are painted up as gophers – Clem’s GoFur Clan – at the apex of which sits Granny Gopher of course. You may find each of hydrants – each member of the GoFur Clan – on a self-guided walking tour of Torrington using the very thoughtful map provided at the Gopher Hole Museum and Gift Shop by the TORRINGTON TOURISM ACTION SOCIETY.

They have names and a pretty involved family tree, complete with individual back-stories.

The GoFur Clan

The GoFur Clan

They are as real as it gets.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“We don’t have an on-site taxidermist. There’s a man we send the gophers to. He stuffs them. Sometimes people send us gophers, like the albino one we have. The cowboy,” said Granny Gopher.

Why gophers?

Lacking lakes, mountains – natural attractions of any kind – without grand architecture or dramatic origins and bereft of anything you would call a vibrant arts or culture scene, Torrington looked deep into itself and came out the other side of itself.

Clem T. GoFur Too

If it happens in Torrington, it happens to Torrington, it happens through Torrington.

It had to have been always about the gophers.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

What is there left to say?

I have never encountered a place that meant itself so much as Torrington, Alberta.

 
 


[1] “Yeah.”

[2] By Carol Pfeifer, a Torrington resident.

[3] Lyrics by Dennis Oster.
 
 
***********************************************************************
 
The GoFur Clan [as described by the TORRINGTON TOURISM ACTION SOCIETY]:

1. Granny is the matriarch of the GoFur clan, the mother of Trixie, Mabel and Junior. Her grandson, Clem, is the official town greeter. Granny and Gramps were among the earliest settlers of this region, at a time when becoming a province of Canada was still in Alberta’s future.

2. Gramps is the patriarch of the GoFur clan who is getting a little too old to cut the mustard anymore but he sill enjoys a bit of barley, He’s always happy to welcome visitors whenever they drop in to see him at the south end of town.

3. Auntie Mame is Granny’s sister who married an elderly European count and went to live in Gofalia when she was still in her teens. They lived happily in their castle for many years but then the count died, Auntie Mame returned to Torrington to be with her kinfolk.

4. Trixie is Clem’s mom and the daughter of Gramps and Granny. She is a nurse who cares for the sick and bandages the scraped knees of the youngsters in town. When Homer was inured falling from a hay wagon that was passing through town, it was Trixie who cared for him and when love blossomed, married him.

5. Homer grew up in Saskatchewan and arrived in Torrington when he fell from a hay wagon that was passing through town. Trixie found him at the roadside and cared for him while he recovered from his injuries. They later married and raised their children, Clem, Tubby and Peggy Sue, in the town.

6. Mabel was the town’s schoolteacher when she met Butch on a hoilday. She is very involved with community affairs and still teaches part-time at the school while also raising a family of little GoFurs.

7. Butch is the sailor of the GoFur clan. He was a crewman on a cruise ship when Mabel met him. After a long courtship, they married and Butch settled down in Torrington. Shy and retiring, he’s often found peeking out at visitors from behind the bushes and shrubbery.

8. Junior is the bachelor son of Granny and Gramps. He’s the musician of the GoFur clan and is the leader of his own musical group which provides music for many local events. During the winter, he travels in the south but if you’re lucky, you may find him at home during the summer.

9. Ellie May [mentioned only in entry on Baby Jessie. See below].

10. Clem [mentioned only in entries of other GoFur family members].

11. Tubby is the comedian of the GoFur clan. At family gatherings, he’s always the one with a lampshade on his head, surrounded by smiling faces. Tubby is the opposite of his rather quiet, subdued brother, Clem [,] who stands at the entrance of town, watching visitors as they pass by.

12. Peggy Sue is the baby sister of Torrington’s official greater, Clem. She’s normally found just outside the Lutheran Church, dressed in her ‘Sunday best’, as she leaves church after attending Sunday School.

13. Baby Jessie is the daughter of Clem and Ellie May. She used to enjoy watching the trains that passed through Torrington. Now, even though the line has been closed and the track removed, she still likes to sit and remember those good times.

14. Clem Jr. is the “chip off the old block” who tries to imitate his father, Clem, in every way. You’ll notice that they even dress alike. When he grows up, he thinks he’d like to be a fireman. He likes to play on the swing and slide in the playground.

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MeTA/Physical

 
Without looking it up first, I’d say that a museum is a place where certain stories called and/or loosely categorized under “history” are told and, in service of that, where unique and/or expensive Things are stored and also displayed for posterity as well as in the service of some sort of tacitly agreed-upon although at times contentious and frequently negotiated collective memory.  Whatever “collective memory” is and way, much more frequently then you may think.

(The above has been edited only for spelling, punctuation and grammar.  Trust me.)

Second, according to a source with some import and authority in the defining of The Things – the dictionary[1] – a museum is:
 

: a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited;[2]

: an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value;[3]

: a girl that’s nice to look at, but impossible to get remotely intimate with.[4]
 

So even there we find but varying degrees of definition.

Museums at best, I think, purport certainty, the really successful kind that withstands change until and unless there is cause for otherwise.  The evidence must, of course, be extremely compelling.

What I do know of museums with some certainty is that museums have to be a kind of sexy now, with all manner of hands-on and stimulations and interactivities and augmented realities.

It is being thought provoking! It is juxtaposing narratives!  It is new! and exciting! specimens as you’ve never experienced them before!!!

It’s not just a matter of hype matching experience. Hype is in many ways part of the experience itself. Enmeshed.

THAT’S EDUTAINMENT! Possibly.

Some find this varying sexiness innovative and fresh; some find it troubling in the abstract; some find it downright bleak.  Others seem resigned to the whole affair as something that is happening anyway and is, granted, not without its more interesting aspects.  Writing of the collections of the lavish Natural History Museum in London, England, Richard Fortey muses rather primly that:
 

A museum is a place where the visitor can come to examine the evidence, as well as to be diverted. Before the exhibitions stated to tell stories, that was one of the main functions of a museum, and the evidence was laid out in ranks.  There are still galleries in the Natural History Museum displaying minerals, the objects themselves  – unadorned but for labels – a kind of museum of a museum, preserved in aspic from the days of such systematic rather than dramatic exhibits. Few people now find their way to these galleries (2008: 7).
 

Things were certainly bleak for the Banff Park Museum in Banff, Alberta, late into the 1950s, when the museum – whose neglect really began in 1932 when its curator, Norman Sanson, retired and there was no one to replace him – faced not only imminent closure but final closure by way of total demolishment.  The place, with its staring heads and dusty warblers, had become outdated, and a firetrap besides.

Circa 1903

CAPTION: “Detailed Douglas Fir woodwork blends with Victorian taxidermy; Western Canada’s first natural history museum was seen to be “An emblematic ornament to the Rocky Mountains Park of Canada.”

Fortunately, prominent citizens, as they are wont to do, objected to the closure and a plan was devised to save the museum.  But somewhere along the way, the BPM – centrally located and built in 1903 after Banff’s first natural history museum became too crowded and remained too distant  – went beyond restoration. In fact, it transcended it.  Or maybe the word is “transgressed”?

You don’t have to take my word on this one:

 

The Banff Park Museum is of national historic significance because this museum of museums developed by Norman Bethune Sanson reflects an early approach to the interpretation of natural history in Canada and because of the architectural style and detailing so characteristic of early federal buildings in the Park (Parks Canada Pamphlet, emphasis original).
 

In other words: it is the display of the displays that is on display:
 

This unique museum features remarkable displays of wildlife, but it is the fashion in which they are displayed which is of real interest here. Housed in a 1903 log cabin, the collection of specimens reflects an approach taken by naturalists at the beginning of the 20th century (emphasis mine).[5]
 

The instant your foot crosses the threshold of the Banff Park Museum’s carefully preserved yet wonderfully restored doors, you’re in two places at once, twice: the museum and the museum of the museum.

Bienvenue à tous!

Come one come all.

Strolling leisurely around the main hall and up the solid staircase with just that little bit of give, railings slightly sticky with other people’s fingerprints, amid glass cabinets of beasts great and small and others frozen in free-range, you really do appreciate how the BPM’s lantern-like windows and open space allow natural light to infuse entire building – itself beset with overhanging eaves, carved brackets and made of wood so deep and rich as to appear soft and golden even in the darker reaches of the museum – all the while catching sight of a few unassuming displays of newspaper clippings, blueprints and original designs that serve as gentle reassurance that (don’t worry!) you’re not actually, really, wholly there.

Removed from the moment, you are free to enjoy from a comfortable distance.

Touch with your eyes only, please!

“Help us protect this National Historic Site, by not leaning on the historic exhibit cases’ fragile rolled glass panes. They are original and irreplaceable artifacts too!” (Parks Canada Pamphlet).

Dr. Harlan Smith’s[6] once avant-garde exhibits (animals as they are found in their natural habitats!) blasé by our HD standards (animals as they are found in their natural habitats?) can now and again be indulged, although perhaps more as a good-natured parent patronizes a precocious child rather than as a breakthrough worthy of scholarly ecstasy.

Because people are funny with taxidermy – the collection of which remains of vital importance to the “interpretation of national history” (i.e. bodies posed and poised, stacked and patterned, and sometimes bones too) – especially if they perceive that they are not getting their money’s worth in terms of learning or fun or both or whatever.

At issue is the matter of what people get out of taxidermy, really, and what, exactly, and beyond the wrenchingly obvious, taxidermy is.

Science? Art? Sacrilege? 

I like how Rachel Poliquin puts it:
 

Taxidermy rebuilds animals with human longing. No longer purely animal, nor fully human-made, taxidermy is infinitely more than the sum of its parts. Technically speaking, the tanned skin of an animal stretched over an armature and adorned with glass eyes is really nothing more than a fancy species of upholstery. But encounters with taxidermy are as fundamentally different from encounters with leather sofas as they are from encounters with living animals, photographs of animals, or videos of animals. Taxidermy isn’t a sculpture or interpretation of an animal. It still is the animal but forever blurred with human desire (2012).
 

Taxidermy is a subculture (emphasis obvious), and it is at once delightful and distressing.  It requires order, after a fashion, and for that very reason seems to elude it at every turn.  It is certainly, as Poliquin states above and if nothing else, imposing.

The Big Bad.

“Predators were once considered mean and menacing, and mounted to look fearsome. The Museum’s 1914 handbook described predators like the wolf as ‘cunning and merciless’ while the white-tailed deer were ‘happy and carefree'” (Parks Canada Pamphlet).

So imagine how it is with old taxidermy, in which specimens were killed, stretched and sculpted in an abundance even we in our own prevalent excesses would gawk at, and the animals collected were made to be exaggeratingly vicious or disturbingly coy,[7] according to the sensibilities of the time (not that those have that changed much), and are silent and still and kind of…lumpy, besides.

Not to mention never ever getting up again, circumstances being what they are.

The beaver seems to really need the stump, ‘ere he risk falling over completely.

A museum of a museum, the Banff Park Museum offers a lot with the one hand without having to offer very much with the other.  Even the interactive stations on the main floor (set up, I suspect, mostly for children) – “good/OK touch stations” of various animal parts (a skull, a few antlers, some mattered fur and greasy animal hair, one great singular curl from a bighorn sheep) – seem almost an afterthought thrown alongside the main event: the museum’s museum of the museum.

Clever, very clever.  Ingenious even, considering that the BPM is pretty much doing what museums do anyway, but with a kind of mindful sleight-of-hand that is, well, hip.

It is what is happening.

So, is that it then for the Banff Park Museum?  Will it be like this, for always?  For forever? There doesn’t seem to be anywhere left to go.

What is forever anyway?

It’s an eternity so long as it lasts, to be sure.

 

References

Fortey, Richard. (2008). Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum. Alfred A. Knopf: New York.

Poliquin, Rachel. (2012). Obsessed: Taxidermy. Huffington Post [Online]. Available: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-poliquin/obsessed-taxidermy_b_1633059.html 


[1] Dictionaries themselves are, I know, highly political and often contentious sources of knowledge.  But we work with what we have and go from there.  We do what we can.

[6] An archaeologist working out of the National Museum in Ottawa, Harlan Smith designed many of the displays at the Banff Park Museum, the best and most immediate example of which is the impressive mountain goat and bighorn sheep “habitat” that greets visitors on the main floor.

[7] With all the connotations of “alluring”, “attractive” and “tempting” therein.

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Question? Answers!

 

“So, what do you do?”

I guess I’m getting to that age where I get asked that question a lot, and with some real expectation attached to it.

This is not unexpected.

People my age (or thereabouts, and in other words by now) have careers, real estate, cars, kids and, like, blu ray.[1]

Me? 

No.

Why?

Because!

No matter.  The question persists:

“So, what do you do?”  

The answer, “Nothing”, doesn’t satisfy and gives an air of cold detachment from the question, not to mention the asker.  Rest assured: it is unintentional, such aloofness!

Or at least I don’t mean it.

Especially since, “Oh, you’re in management?  That’s.  Amazing.”

So, in the spirit of begrudging acquiescence to banal inquiry, it’s come time to shore up a better list, a repertoire if you will, of new! exciting! suitable! answers.

Well, answers anyway.

Q:  “So, what do you do?”

A: _______________
 

1)   I am a Swamp People.

2)   Wrangling.

3)   The Erotic Arts.

4)   Loving you.

5)   Tina Fey Impersonator (not going well).

6)   “Going Greener than anyone has ever Greened before.”

7)   Preemptive Taxidermy.

8)   Icon Repair  😦 Þ 🙂

9)   Two words:  Sock.  Puppets.  Four words.  Six.  Seven.  No, eight.  TEN??

10)  Fish Monger!  (Fishwife?)

11)  “I work exclusively in the medium of Gummi.”

12)  COCKTAILS!!!

13)  Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box.

14)  Hard, industrial solvents.

15)  Pet Psychic (Afterworld Only/Weekends Only/Online Only/No Chinchillas/Cash Up Front).

16)  [Something Else to Do With Fish]

17)  “Well, these days, I’m under there.”[2]

18)  Shafting.

Can you dig it?

Mine too, baby.

19)  Baby Hypnosis.

20)  Subway Pusher (transportation, cold-cut combos, inclusive).

21)  Winston Churchill Impersonator (going exceedingly well).

22)  24 Hour Cosplay.

23)  Human Dryer.

24)  Bouncer.[3]

25)  Lips.[4]

26)  Following Jesus.[5]

27)  Dismantling the Hegemonic Bloc.[6]

28)  “Let me ask you.  Have you ever come face-to-face with a Cassowary in Full Crest after it’s done away with your entire team in the dead heat of jungle night?  You do that.  You do that and come back here and tell me what it’s like before you ever again ask me what I do.”

29)  Popping Caps.[7]

30)  Your Mom.[8]

31)  Homemade Botox.[9]

32)  Hollaback Girl.

33)  Family Tree Fan-Fiction.[10]

34)  Poof Reader [sic].[11]

35)  Ghost Hunter Hunter.[12]

36)  “You’d have to ask Cindy herself.  I am a robot She created in Her image, to deal with matters vis-à-vis this.  You.”

37)  Cryptozoology.  I Find Your Chupacabra or Yeti  in 30 minutes!  Or I don’t.

38)  “You ever notice how Batman and I are never in the same room?  Think on that.”[13]

39)  Abstract Sandwich Artist.
 

Pick and choose! 

But you may as well highlight #30.

It’s on.
 


[1] I do have Netflix depending on how popular Netflix is that day and whether Stephen is downloading anything at the same time I want, say, to watch Shakes the Clown again.

[2] Tee-hee!

[3] OK, yeah.  Me?  I know.  But you have to see the people that this actually works on.  I can’t even.  Wow.

[4] ?

[5] “Hey-Seuss”.  I was going to meet him at a farmer’s market but it was closed, which is perfect because he doesn’t actually exist.  No footprints.

[6] Just kidding.  No one does that.  Um, what’s hegemony?  Like even.

[7] Bap, bap, bap.

[8] Totes.

[9] Faux-tox.  It aspires to Botox but cheaps out, much like my clients.  Yes.  I come to your house and/or hotel room.

[10] Slowly, creatively, methodically, I gratify your desperate need for human connection in this crazy, fractured modern world, with its nuclear family units and hi-speed Internet, whist inflating your generational sense of self-important entitlement by grafting familial branches wherever you want them.  Shit, you can be related to Julius Caesar and David Beckhem for all I care.  Chaka Khan.  Whatever, man.

[11] Poop Reader [sic].

[12] All you have to do is follow the heavy, laboured path of ridiculous.

[13] YOU’RE WELCOME.

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