Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Real Housewives of Berkshire County

By Felix Carroll

Dear Executives at Bravo,

How does this sound: Real Housewives of Berkshire County.

That’s right. Let it sink in. Like anyone in their right mind, I’m a huge, huge fan of your Real Housewives franchise, particularly Real Housewives of New Jersey — season two — when Ashley pulls out Danielle's extensions. And the shopping spree in Italy and how Caroline should have just stayed home. And when Gia fails her audition and hires a dialect coach. And Danielle: Jeez, find your birth mother already, will ya!

With that in mind, the possibilities for a reality show here in Berkshire County are self-evident. Without further adieu allow me to acquaint you with your potential new cast. (I spoke with all of them; they are totally on board, though Bobbi is going hiking in Peru for most of the fall, just so you know):

Bobbi: Hiker/canoer/camper and English-as-a-second language teacher. Her husband, Tricky, plays in a David Bromberg cover band. Her vindictive neighbors make it known they buy only processed foods now following that embarrassing stunt Bobbi pulled at the farm share.

Selena: Sells raw milk out of her garage and lives with a terrible secret: Her twin boys hate the outdoors. Her husband, Scott, disappeared two years ago during a trip to Boston to lobby lawmakers for cell service in the hilltowns.

Helga: The goat raiser, cheesemaker, poisonously jealous of her sister Marybeth, a goat raiser and cheesemaker whose Castel Branco cheese is a knock-off of Helga’s Castel Branco cheese knock-off.

Leanne: The part-time co-op cashier and single mother with a lonely heart. She dreams of finding a handsome, young farmer with a masters degree in soil science and settling down and growing mesclun (and maybe fingerling potatoes).

I know you guys don’t “plan” storylines for each episode (wink-wink). I know it’s all about allowing events to unfold naturally (wink-wink), but, to get you started, here are some “potential” episodes that “could happen” under the “right circumstances” (wink-wink).

Episode 1: “Prairie Home Composters”
Bobbi wins an Eton Microlink FR160 hand-cranked weather radio at the fire department’s pig roast. Since she thinks she knows everything, she refuses to read the manual and stupidly mistakes a forecast of scattered showers in Greene County for 70 percent chance of severe thunderstorms in Berkshire County. The weather turns out to be perfect, but it’s too late now for a hike. Meanwhile, Leanne gets into a knock-down drag-out with Helga at the Tanglewood ticket office (Main Gate), accusing Helga of misleading her to “Prairie Home Companion.” “You told me it was James Taylor with Carole King, you rotten liar!” Helga apologizes. “Come on, let’s go in. Please. Garrison Keillor is a national treasure, and I brought some rosé.” Meanwhile, Selena is convinced the USDA has her home under surveillance.

Episode 2: “Uppity-Up with Muckety-Muckboots”
Meeting at the coffee shop after zumba, the girls talk style. Bobbi “just so happens” to have the latest Cabela catalog in her purse. “Oooo, look at that,” says Selena, flipping through the pages. “Formfitting, two-tone mini-mesh. How practical.” Leanne leans in. “Yeah, ok, but why would anyone buy a base layer top with no insect-blocker treatment?” Bobbi gives her a look. (If you could get inside her brain, you’d hear tick-tick-tick-KA-BOOM!) Leanne then announces she’s going to get a pumpkin muffin. She makes a fuss about it, walking to the counter with a clomp-clomp-clomp. No wonder: She’s wearing a chic pair of Sorel muck boots with the rubber buckles and micro fleece lining — and she wants everyone to know it. Helga whispers, “She paid a fortune for them — like 85 bucks!” Bobbi loses it. “It’s not even going to rain today. We’re expecting clear skies with a high near 81.”

Episode 3: “You Say Brattish, I Say ‘Where’s the Radish?’”
Leanne announces she has met a cute guy who owns an auger. Meanwhile, her angry 16-year-old daughter Jenni pulls up her mother’s potted heirloom tomato plants, replacing them with a Brandywine hybrid that has lackluster disease resistance. Meanwhile, Helga and Selma’s feud reignites after Helga returns from a two-day yogurt-making workshop only to discover that all her radishes have been stolen from her root cellar. She wrongly accuses Selena who had spent the entire two days working out a new water containment system on her property. Helga snaps at her: “Yeah, God forbid a drop of rain falls on your house and makes a clear getaway down the driveway!” Meanwhile, Bobbi and Tricky are invited to a soiree hosted by the second-homeowners’ lake association. The hosts had hoped Bobbi and Tricky would add local color to the gathering, but are upset that the two don’t smell like cow manure.

Episode 4: “Bring on the Bling”
Leanne’s cute guy arrives at her house unannounced and surprises her with a food dehydrator. “It was my mother’s,” he says. Meanwhile, Helga decides to settle the score with her sister Marybeth once and for all by hiring a hitman to filch Marybeth’s goat stanchion. Meanwhile, Selena has finally taken her New England thriftiness way too far when she invites the ladies over and soft boils a dozen eggs in the dishwasher.

Well, my friends at Bravo — what do you think? We can’t wait to show you what a real egg yoke looks like. You’ve never seen such yellow!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blowing his own horns

A thorough Internet search reveals that no funeral companies in the region offer Viking funerals. So now we’ve got ourselves a problem.

All told, my father hasn’t asked for too much from his kids over the years. He wants a card on Father’s Day. If you cook dinner for him, he’d like a side of creamed spinach. No big deal. 

But upon his death, he’ll be high maintenance.

Old age now has him surrounded, so we now turn to his wishes regarding his mortal remains. He speaks of his desire to have his body placed on a wooden raft and set out to sea from his favorite beach in Scituate, Mass. Once set adrift, he wants an archer on the beach to shoot flaming arrows onto the raft with the intention of setting the raft ablaze and cremating his body. We were hoping he was kidding. He's not. He put his wishes into writing.

So many things are wrong with this. Logistically, legally, psychologically. It’s hard to know where to begin.

A staid, 9 to 5 salesman his adult life, he’s gotten flamboyant in his later years, checking off item by item on his “bucket list.” Having never once shown any inclination to do anything artistic, he suddenly took up watercolors a few years back. In the beginning stages, his lighthouses looked like dildos under attack by an aggressive sunset. Now two of his lighthouses have hung on the walls at the local bank. He's a good painter.

He ran with the bulls in Pamplona in 2009. Not only did he not get killed, but a photographer captured him (we think it was him), panic-stricken, running for his life down the narrow, crowded streets of Spain chased by three sets of sharp horns. The photograph was posted with an AP story on Google News. (If that wasn't him, it certainly looked like him. He says it was him.)

But his bucket list also includes living independently for another 20 years to the ripe old age of 93. This is highly unlikely, and he now knows it. The Viking funeral was to be the denouement to a hard-charging, late-life embrace of danger and personal heroics — actions that would earn him victory marches through the marble arch of family legend. However, the Viking funeral is no longer the denouement; it’s now part of the list, just above skydiving.

He has requested that before the raft is set out to sea we triple-check to see if he has a pulse. He has also requested that the arrow not pierce his body. He has repeated these two conditions as if they are the only hindrances to an otherwise mundane undertaking.

Of his four children, the oldest has declared himself a conscientious objector. That has left the three of us with the burden of either somehow pulling this off or building a strong enough case against it so as to bed down, guilt-free, on the evening following the funeral, grieving the loss of a parent the way normal people grieve — that is to say, without fear that the authorities will come banging on the door.

Maybe we'll assign my sister Jen to be in charge of logistics. Namely, tidal charts, raft construction and archer procurement. (So far, the logistics are not looking good.) My brother Jim will handle permitting and, consequently, the many laws that surely will be broken if we attempt to pull this off (I count no less than five separate government agencies that would find reason to arrest us.)

I’ll handle historical research and the science of cremation. (My research thus far cannot be contained within the kindly confines of parentheses, so I’ll meet you on the other side of this closing, curved enclosure.)

First: Vikings were jerks.

Far more innocent people have been impaled by their stupid horned helmets than all the double-dealing, Pamplonian imbeciles to have ever dodged a bull’s horn.

Secondly: Vikings were typically interred in the ground, not at sea, and when they were interred at sea, an innocent girl was brought aboard to join the deceased in the journey to the realm of the dead. (My father has his faults, but he's basically a gentleman.)

Vikings were seafaring. The closest my father comes to seafaring is that he paints lighthouses.

Furthermore, cremation requires temperatures of between 1,400-2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and can take 90 minutes to two hours. Unless the raft is made of steel and loaded down with a few dozen pallets, I only imagine my father’s charred body eventually washing ashore, which would leave his progeny in a predicament. 

We do like the romance of it all, and no final decision has been made. But probably the most deciding factor is that he has set aside a mere $10,000 for his funeral, which will surely leave us with a huge debt. No money left even to buy a keg for an Irish wake. 

Chucking his body from a plane and having it parachute into the sea would be a cleaner, more fiscally responsible operation, plus another bucket list item to check off. I'm just saying.