Edge of America premieres tonight, Jan. 22 at 9|8c, followed by another all-new episode at 9:30|8:30c. Watch as Geoff rounds up rattlesnakes and gets his first taste of calf fries in Oklahoma, and tries his hand at tall bike jousting in Oregon.
Meet Geoff Edgers
In this first blog entry, let me introduce myself. I’m a writer who usually reports on other people. I’ve written for magazines, I’ve written children’s books and, for the last 11 years, I’ve been an arts and entertainment reporter on the staff of the Boston Globe newspaper.
I confess, the concept for Edge of America emerged out of my midlife crisis. It wasn’t the kind of crisis that makes some men buy red Mustangs or proclaim their loyalty to Maker’s Mark. I had a creative crisis. How do I truly embrace the sense of adventure that I’d been so focused on when I was getting out of college so many years ago? How do I square my desire to be a family man, to mow the lawn and sit by the fire, with my need to do the unexpected? That crisis led me to make my first foray onto the screen, the 2010 documentary, Do It Again, about my irrational attempt to reunite the ‘60s rock band, the Kinks. The film led to Edge of America.
So what are the rules on this show? I must do what I report on. And I must share that experience with you, my viewing friend, as it happens. Do I always want to do what I’m doing? Intellectually, yes. But when you’re standing in a steamy room with a decapitated snake and its bloody, still-beating heart sits on the table in front of you, it’s easy to forget the mission. Would it be easier to sit at my desk and file my story? Sure. But trust me. You wouldn’t want to watch.
The Edge of Oklahoma
Here’s an idea for the first day you’ve ever hosted a TV show: Do something uncomfortable. I’m not talking Jackass uncomfortable. I mean, to those guys, letting an alligator snap at the family jewels is as big whoop as my daughter asking for another American Girl doll. I’m talking something so outside your realm of behavior that the act is impossible to explain to anyone who actually knows you. They just have to see it.
That’s how I ended up in a field in Oklahoma holding a bloody clamp over a bull. I came to Stillwater to chow down on some calf fries at a wildly popular festival. Sounds innocent enough, until, that is, you realize what calf fries are: sliced bull testicles that have been battered and cooked in oil. And then you consider an important element of Edge of America: the doing. This show doesn’t just find the unexpected things people do for fun. It requires me to dig into the scene more deeply.
Some TV shows might mention calf fries and cut to the host grimacing and reluctantly taking a chew. Edge of America is about taking that great leap into the unknown. That’s why I spent the day 1 of my TV career performing a castration and entering a calf fry contest. Will you cringe? Perhaps. Cover your eyes? Probably. But I have a feeling you’ll be back.
The Edge of Oregon
I know somebody, somewhere is faking it on TV. But don’t tell that to my right shoulder. Because it’s been wrecked for months, ever since I decided to partake in a bike toss in Portland. That’s right. You take a bike and try to throw it as far as it’ll go. I went into the competition like I do every contest: to win. You’ll have to watch our Oregon episode to know how I did. But as Frank, my physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital can attest, the toss didn’t do wonders for my right shoulder. I’ve been trying to rehabilitate it ever since.
What can you say about Oregon? It’s the perfect state for Edge of America. Portland, the most famous city, has all those food trucks, micro-breweries and bicycles. But it’s also got a will to be weird.
As my friend Peter, a longtime Oregonian, wrote when I told him I was coming to town: “When you find yourself driving down the street behind a guy on a triple-high unicycle who rides while juggling — during a morning commute on a rainy spring morning, no parades/circuses/events/anything out of the ordinary in sight … and you’re not even surprised, then you’ve really arrived.”
Finding bike jousters took a little hustle, but I’d seen clips of these guys on YouTube and had to experience it first hand. You couldn’t cast a scene better. This was no Hollywood set. The street had been shut down for punk rock bands. A group of homeless people — a few with that meth-head quality — were lying around on mattresses. Brian, my guide, gave me his bike to ride. It wasn’t until I was up and holding the heavy pipe joust under my right arm that I realized that the left brake was busted.
My mentor on this escapade? Reverend Phil. He kept telling me to search out his work in the world of bike porn. I did. I regret it every day.
The beauty is that was just one side of Oregon. As if one some rambling, surrealist, adventure orchestrated by Fellini and Joyce Kilmer’s love child, I also found myself at a tree climbing competition, in an artist’s shop holding a chainsaw and at a track in Tillamook County. In the latter, I held a squealing pig under my arm as I tried to crank to life a Model T. Need to understand why people tell me I’ve got the best job in the world? Just watch this segment.