The Incredible and Oddly Riveting Dr. Pol

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I essentially do this at my job too but it’s mostly through email.

So I’m pretty sure I’m about the blow the lid off a new TV show right now. Being an animal lover, I was recently recommended a little gem of a program on Nat Geo Wild (a little niche, I know) called ‘The Incredible Dr. Pol’. It’s a Reality Show following a veteran veterinarian, if you will, and his family-run veterinary practice in the visceral metropolis of Weidman, Michigan. Now, if you’re the kind of person who thinks that puppy abscess drainage and Equine vaginal discharge are criminally underrepresented in American television, then this is SO the show for you. Apparently this artful piece of programing has been on the air since 2011 but since I’m not a weirdo who Googles “Eastern European Doctor Shows Probing Goat Anus” I’m just stumbling upon it now.

R.I.P. my friend…

First off, It’s a little refreshing to watch a reality show that doesn’t a) seem like it’s been scripted from the ground up by an intern at Interscope Records and b) isn’t centered around either the dregs of society or blond debutantes with HPV. So, I suppose that I had envisioned the show being about a rickety old man checking kittens’ heartbeats with a stethoscope and saying cute things like “She’s purrfect!” but Dr. Pol really gets down to the nitty gritty with these critters (ergo the “WILD” in Nat Geo Wild). In the first case I saw on one recent episode, this man and his sons hauled their pickup with a trailer in tow carrying a VERY sick looking cow. This thing was in really dire shape. She could barely stand, had mucus and tears running out of every orifice and just looked generally fucking awful. So Dr. Pol rolls up, takes a look at the ol’ girl, and then suddenly rams his entire arm in that cow’s vagina like he was Pooh Bear and that horse was a Bee Hive with brown discharge. So once he gets in there a MASSIVE deluge of fluid comes pouring out. THEN WE ALL REALIZE: SHE’S PREGNANT (omg omg omg). Does Dr. Pol say “well perhaps we should see if the calf comes out naturally”? Shit to the no! This cow is sick and we need to get that baby out STAT! He reaches back in and gets his son Charles (we’ll get there in a minute) to tie these barbaric, Medieval-looking chains to the baby and pull it out with all their force. It did not come out easily but once it did, it spills out covered in goop and it’s completely dead. It was really unsettling. I mean, I get it, it’s a part of life but yikes…and the worst part is that the dude’s kid showed absolutely no concern or remorse about the dead animal that fell out of another animal in front of them. In fact, one of them had the (un-descended) balls to smirk and say “can we eat it for dinner?”.  Homeboy needs to find some couth. Although Dr. Pol of course didn’t exactly bemoan this untimely cow death either because he deals with this every day and at least he probably saved the Mother cow. I genuinely considered pursuing a career as a Veterinarian recently until I realized how icky it was!

Love. Her.

Love. Her.

And don’t even get me started on the other cow that Dr. Pol had to kill on the spot because it was born without a butthole and wasn’t able release its own feces. Oh, and the cow that was starving because it was born with a dog’s mouth and the food it tried to eat would fall out (yes, those things really happened!!!).

One of the best parts of this show is Dr. Brenda, who, from what I can infer, is Dr. Pol’s right hand-man and the other Veterinarian at the practice. She’s a big gal and is a woman of few words, but she’s a also no-nonsense powerhouse of healing power and I love her. She had a case recently where a cow (they do have other animals besides cows but they’re not as interesting) was sick and turned out to have a “twisted stomach”. Now, that’s what happens to me when I drink too much and think a pound of al pastor at the taco truck sounds like a good idea but it ALSO means when one of a cow’s stomachs (they have like 30 or something) gets twisted and displaced IN THEIR BODY. So Dr. Brenda was on it! She and the farmers rigged up this network of ropes tied around the cow’s limbs they all pulled to get the animal on its back (which is actually harder than it looks) so she could somehow stitch the cow’s stomach back into place. Needless to say, this show does put my daily life in perspective. I get huffy when I get a work email that doesn’t have an emoticon, meanwhile Dr. Brenda is sewing cow stomachs and picking parasites out of Horse stool. There was also this one time where Dr. Brenda had to stay late because a woman called with a goat who had broken its leg and Dr. Brenda MacGyvered this splint out of pipe cleaners or something. So, basically she’s a saint in a human’s body.

Then there’s Dr. Pol’s son Charles. Charles is sort of the resident punching bag of the show. Apparently Charles moved away from Michigan to LA to become a TV producer but then conveniently returned to aid his father at work when some trucks full of cameras mysteriously appeared at their doorstep and started filming (I’m on to you, Chuckie). He is effectively his father’s assistant during an off-site job and seems to struggle not only with his work but also just about everything else in the world. He’s a sweet guy, but even I could catch a pig and hack its testicles off better than Charles. Sidenote: Charles is currently rocking a beard on the show and it’s making serious waves not only at work but at home [but I digress]. I have to feel bad for the guy for being the butt of every joke though. Or at least I did until he tried to make Eggs Benedict on Easter Sunday. He kept dropping the yolk down the sink and then the Hollandaise sauce broke so he just put out some fruit…it was disgraceful.

Charles WITH parents but WITHOUT beard.

Charles WITH parents but WITHOUT beard.

The show certainly doesn’t shy away from the ethically complex issue of animal euthanasia either. One man brought his Bloodhound in because it had broken its leg and was so violently angry about it he couldn’t be approached without attacking someone. I mean, while the owner was opening the door to his truck this dog bit his hand so bad HE needed to go to the hospital. So Dr. Pol whipped out a restraining tool, sedated the FUCK out of him and took some X-Rays. He then referred the owner to a specialist as the break was so severe even he couldn’t treat it (and he has his own show!!!). The owner called back and said “Doc, (I’m paraphrasing here) this dog is so out of control he’s a danger to everyone around him. I would like you to euthanize him”. When the owner brought the dog back, Dr. Pol, in an especially emotional moment, euthanized the animal right there. The owner talked about having him since he was a puppy and this otherwise stone-faced Midwestern farmer was reduced to a puddle of tears. All kidding aside though, sometimes I do believe euthanasia is the most humane way to treat an animal. It comes down to not only a quality of life but also an issue of public safety. I think in this case, Dr. Pol and the dog’s owner did the right thing.

If anyone wants to be fucking grossed out and oddly riveted I would recommend tuning in to this show, Saturdays at 10pm (I honestly think that’s its time slot). I’ll be there if you want to join me!

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An Evening At The Hollywood Bowl: Music By Glass – Dance By Diavolo

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Well if I’m not sticking to my car seat and finding creative ways to miss pool parties to avoid showing my body then it’s not summer in Los Angeles! But aside from the heat and the BBQs, something that screams summertime to me is an evening at every gay man/old person’s favorite outdoor amphitheater…the Hollywood bowl. I’ve had the pleasure of attending five different shows at the Bowl so far this season, most recently to see the fabulous and caustically witty Bramwell Tovey conduct Phillip Glass.

Now, everyone who has ears and and a central nervous-system knows that Phillip Glass is just amazing and badass. There’s something in it for everyone. His music is simple yet rich, pretty yet cerebral, and just downright wonderful. Someone could be trepanning my scull right now and I’d enjoy it as long as Songs From Liquid Days was playing in the background. So, needless to say you wouldn’t have to work very hard to make my enjoy “Music by Glass”, but Bramwell and the always astounding LA Philharmonic really knocked this one out of the park. For the most part.

The show started out with a piece called “The Chairman Dances” by John Adams, which I’d never heard (of). If you’re thinking to yourself “I never even knew the second president of the United States was a composer”, then you’re where I was last night. This piece was nothing short of MESMERIZING. I enjoyed it so much I pulled a Millennial and added it to a Spotify playlist this morning for handy access. The orchestra really killed it. Even though the sound and acoustics in an outdoor theater aren’t going to be spectacular, the performance just felt rich and LOUD in all the best possible ways. The ensemble had such a great sense of movement. The brass section really popped while the music of the piece oscillated back and forth like the most glorious tug-of-war match. All in all it was a relatively short piece but it was such a dynamite opener to this show.

The middle piece was a suite from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. The best part about it was that Bramwell comes out, sits at his cute little piano with his cute little English accent and takes you through the whole story of Romeo and Juliet (which I’m sure everyone knew but it’s LA so you can’t be too careful), highlighting all the different moments of the suite and all their musical signals. He has this really charming albeit at times biting wit when about the way he talks about music. He often peppers his speeches with phrases like “remember this for the next time you go to one of your Beverly Hills dinner parties” and “Alright you guys are cute, now shut up I’m talking”. Someone like him could very easily make you think “Ugh, I feel like I’m at a music lesson” but instead makes you say “Yay! I feel like I’m at a music lesson!”. The piece itself was of course lovely and beautiful but ultimately I’m thinking “alright when’s Phillip Glass happening?”

So he breaks for intermission and immediately after the lights go up, the crew (in their uber modern black shirt/slacks combo) wheels out this GIGANTIC statue sculpture into the middle of the stage. They then cover that thing with a giant screen so you can’t see all the tinkering I’m assuming was happening. The structure looked like a giant silver half-dome made out of Swiss cheese. About 25 minutes later they start the piece, Bramwell and his podium dwarfed by this monstrosity of a sculpture. The lights were turned low (frankly I’m not sure how the musicians actually read their music) and this giant upright plastic tube is revealed behind one of the screens (huh??). The performance starts, sans music I might add, with a handful of people clawing and climbing their way out of the tube and onto the stage. Once they’re all out of there, the music starts and the group all gravitates towards the Swiss cheese dome, and the dancing starts. The woman and gay men (I’m assuming) of the dance company all hover around it until slowly getting sucked in to its holes (hehe). The dome itself I didn’t realize was on some mechanism that let is rotate and and change angle. While the dancing wasn’t exactly Cirque Du Soleil (which apparently in this post is the gold standard of dance companies), they were a compelling addition to the piece of music. Oh, right the music. So the music was happening concurrently and was certainly a very nice rendition, but was a) a bit eclipsed by the dancing and b) not the absolute most gripping performance I’d ever been witness to. They were performing from Glass’ Symphony Number 3 which I’ve only heard segments of but remember thinking “Yep, this sounds like Phillip Glass” about it most of the time. I have to say the most compelling part of the whole shebang was this highly elaborate set with the mechanical moving dome and the really spectacular lighting design. And because we were right in the middle this strange optical illusion happened where the dome appeared to be concave when it was ACTUALLY convex (my mind is blowing all over again talking about it). The performance ended with one of the dancers crawling back into the tube, the other dancers lifting that tube and sliding it out of one of the holes of the dome as if to shoot her out like some drive-through ATM deposit chute (remember those?). HOW that tube was heavy enough to stay steady while people climbed through it but light enough to be lifted by three people is beyond me but there you go. The dancers lingered in the spotlight a beat too long of course during the curtain call but it was really a fascinating spectacle.

If you (the person reading this who’s NOT my mom) haven’t been to the Hollywood Bowl this summer then you should go STAT before they switch back to performing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on the 30th and you have to sit indoors to listen to music without deli sandwiches and way too much smuggled wine like a wild animal.