Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Poison Wars




I’m not into this idea that all insects need to be poisoned, stomped, broomed to death, or executed via firing squad.  However, there are some insects, chief among them being fireants and yellow jackets, who don’t do enough good to make up for the damage they do. Both parties are super aggressive stingers who haven’t the least bit of live-and-let-live in them. I didn’t start the war between those species and myself and I haven’t the ways and means to end it.

The broadcasting of poison in an area to get rid of one species usually winds up killing hundreds of beneficial insects and most of those would be eating the pest insects if left to their own devices. But the poison wars leave everyone dead except us and whoever it is we are trying to get rid of, and that’s the irony of it all.

I went after some yellow jackets earlier this year and I took a can of poison with me. This was an all-out frontal assault on their nest and there could be only one survivor. Yellow jackets tend to massively attack their prey, and in this case it was me, so I got dinged over a dozen times before I was able to close their front door and build a pretty good fire on top of the nest. I dug the still smoldering ruins out of the ground and honestly, they would have been so much better off allowing the mutts and me some space.

Dragonflies are a lot better at killing flying insects than we are and they are insects, too. The poison wars have cost us more dragonflies than mosquitoes and if you’ve ever tried to buy dragonfly larvae then you know what it costs to try to reintroduce them to an ecosystem.  The tools we need to rid us of pests occur naturally yet there is little profit in this for those who market poison as the only path to freedom from what bugs us.

That said…


My mailbox has become a haven for roaches. It’s not like I leave food out overnight in my mailbox or keep pizza boxes stacked up in the corner of my mailbox. Oddly, I cannot imagine why roaches would decide that a metal box with my name on it might be a place for hundreds, nay, thousands of their kind to congregate. The other day I stopped to get my mail in the predawn darkness and there were dozens of them hiding in between the junk mail and notices that I could get a new credit card simply by filling out a form and sending it in. Okay, that’s junk mail too, nevermind.

Three of them landed in front of the speedometer as if awed by the acceleration of their species. I was able to kill a pair of the intrepid roach explorers but the third escaped me. I think there are a few left in my truck but none have surfaced again and I have vacuumed the truck out on a daily basis in an effort to make sure none can hide from me. I dread being on a date or something like that and have one drop in the lap on some unsuspecting woman. That might be a deal breaker, especially if she leaps from the truck while it is moving.

Is there a protocol for this? If I send flowers to a woman who has been maimed while ejecting from my truck due to insect attack is this considered empathy or romance? I fear I do not date enough to be good enough to recognize the more subtle points of the ritual.


This morning I took the can of poison I used on the yellow jackets and went after the roach haven my mailbox has become. Without ceremony or proclamation I opened the door and let the nukefest begin. Caught so unawares were they most of them were drenched in the first salvo, unable to scurry underneath the offer of a 3.14156% mortgage rate that would make my life as easy as pie. Some managed to make it to the bottom of the junk mail pile where AAA would have me towed to safety in any emergency, even an insect related one, for a low month membership fee, but it was far too late for them all. A mailbox is a metal box canyon and I brought death and destruction upon their hideout.  As I watched their bodies dropping to the ground I wondered why there wasn’t some resident spider or some lurking mantis here, but no… they were all long gone before the war started.

The Poison War has brought even those of us who despise the products to use them. We have little choice now; all the predators are gone. We are as trapped as the bug in my mailbox for we have lost all ability to create habitat for beneficial insects and we have done little but helped evolve those we seek to destroy. Even now I suspect there are roaches under my mailbox who are stoned, not dying, and they will return. And they will have the munchies.

Take Care,

Mike

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Finding Frank

I had a business meeting that ran way past where it should have stopped. I was late getting off work to begin with and was tired of people and talking and tired of not being where I wanted to be and tired of doing something I did not want to do. I never buy bottled water because the plastic bottles always wind up the Pacific but dehydration had begun to set in.
There was a woman in the store who was crying and she was desperate because her cell phone had just died and she had just found Frank. She wanted to borrow my phone, the store’s phone, anyone’s phone, but she wanted to call her son, who lives near Atlanta, to come get Frank.
She got Frank, a pit bull, when he was a puppy, two years ago, and she kept him tethered to a tree outside her house. Frank got away a week ago and she had looked in the animal shelter for him every day and she had put out flyers and she had waited for Frank to come home. Today she found him in the ditch near her house where the weeds were thick. I told her I would get Frank for her.

Frank had been hit by a car or a truck and he had been hit hard. A loop of his intestines hung out of his belly. Frank had survived the hit and had crawled towards home. The intestines stretched out behind him where he had crawled. The piece of broken chain attached to his collar trailed out nearly as long. Judging from his state of decay Frank had been dead for a few days. The stench was overwhelming and only got worse. His tail bones had been dislodged from the skin and stuck out obscenely straight. There were two very large patched of hide hanging down. Frank’s back legs had been crushed along with his hips. One of his back legs gave and nearly came off. The woman turned and threw up. She walked a couple of steps then when down on her hands and knees and retched. Frank was bloated and maggots were falling off of him when I picked him up and put him on my tailgate.

She asked me if I could dig a grave for Frank and I told her I would. All she had was a flat nosed shovel and it was pretty clear I couldn’t dig a grave with it. After about fifteen minutes of trying she asked me to stop and honestly I didn’t have much left. She asked me if I would take Frank out into woods away from the house and I told her I would.

Frank’s body was falling apart when I took him off the tailgate. I left him out by a beaver dam, in a place a dog would have loved to nose around and swim, I took the collar and chain off his neck and tossed it into the water. Frank was finally free and he was finally safe.  I sat in my truck and tried to remember whatever else I could say, it was clear the woman had loved Frank and his death had hurt her.

Frank lived his life on the end of a ten foot long chain. He died with that much of his insides on the outside. His family had to find him in that condition and that is the only way I will ever remember Frank.



Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dark Shadows: A Movie Review





If you can’t get Tim Burton and Johnny Depp into a project that involves a 70’s vampire soap opera then you might as well write it off because without those two it’s going to be a horrible mess. As it turns out, even with those two, it is still a horrible mess. “Dark Shadows” is one of those movies that is every bit as wretched as the reviews suggest that it is.

But how can this be? The movie has Eva Green and Michelle Pfeiffer cast in it. Those two alone, even in a mediocre movie ought be able to pull off a memorable scene or two, right?

You’d be wrong and I was too.

But the movie has Alice Cooper in it and surely that alone would be enough to pull the movie off the bottom shelf of the last VHS rental store in the suburbs of Moose Eye Montana, but no. Alice Cooper cannot save this film for it was already undead before he put on his strait jacket.

You want to know what kills this film? Karen Carpenter. The number of people who want to go to a vampire movie and then have to listen to Karen Carpenter sing an entire song would equal the same number of people who think “Dark Shadows” was the best movie ever. The song drags out like fingernails across the back of a hyena covered in excrement. No movie can survive five minutes under the mute button. No movie should try.

Remember the film “Juno”? That was one of those movies where the soundtrack was allowed to run free and even in a very good movie it can be a distraction. But for a movie that is already wounded by bad writing it’s like a stake in the heart, so to speak.

Yet it only gets worse. The whole build up to the end just limps along with the excitement of watching a gerbil on a wheel. The physics of the movie’s world doesn’t seem to make sense even to the characters. The ending is meh, meh, and then there is the climatic meh at the end where we are threatened with a meh sequel.

I’m happy I didn’t pay good money to see this movie and I am sorry I wasted two hours of my life and a Netflix pick watching it.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Charge Of The White Brigade; Dog Adoption and Umbrella Drinks


I once tried to light a fire in a barrel using gasoline and a match. The gasoline was old as hell and it didn’t smell like real gas at all. So when I threw the match into the barrel nothing happened for a second and I took that one step forward to see what had gone wrong.  The sound of gasoline fumes suddenly catching fire is a sound that is quite unmistakable. WHOOOF! And there I was, without my eyebrows and with the top part of my hair fizzled. I also received some second degree burns on my face for my troubles.

When I started an outside job over twenty years ago I noticed all the old timers wore long sleeve shirts and for most of them it was far too late. Decades of working out in direct sunlight had blasted their skin with enough radiation most of them had odd looking white growths on their arms. “Sun Spots” they called these things and nearly all of them had scars where the growths had been removed surgically and some of them had actually gone to a doctor to have this procedure done.

I went from working on the road to doing land surveying a couple of years later and it was just as bad as far as exposure to direct sunlight for long periods of time. So one day I decided to start wearing more and more protective clothing.  I bought a hat with a wide brim and started wearing long sleeves even in the very heat of Summer. What I discovered is that in a humid environment where there is a furnace in the sky, long sleeves will do you more good than short sleeves. With short sleeves the sweat from your body is blasted away from your skin before it was time to cool you. A long sleeve shirt holds the moisture in and saves it. Trust me, I’ve been working outside and doing yardwork and hiding from the sun for about fifteen years. I know what works.

A woman once told me if she was ever in a house fire she hoped we were still together because I nearly glowed in the dark I was so white and she would just follow the Casper to safety.  “The Whitest White Man Ever” is how a co-worker described me. I even went so far to design a hat that had a flap in the back to keep the sun off my neck and a flap in the front to keep the sun off my face. Of course, this made me look like a terrorist so when I walked into a store one day wearing this get up the clerk nearly shot me without a word. The irony of being killed because of wearing protective clothing would not have been lost on me, in my final seconds.

Anyway, I received an invitation to lie by a pool and drink with a truly intriguing woman and after a decade and a half of living in the shadows I decided to come out into the light. Smartly, I decided to get a little sun before venturing out into Death Valley. The front yard takes an hour or so to mow and how much sun could a man get in an hour, in the early morning? Surely, I thought to myself, I wouldn’t get fried in so short of time.



So, there I was in a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of shorts. I’ve awoken in bed with more clothing on than this. Hell, I’ve had sex wearing more clothes than this, but that’s another story for another time and I was much younger, mind you.


I felt exposed and naked. The native insects reminded me that bare skin is tasty and is good with a side order of blood smeared across the sting area after being scratched. But I was determined to get the front yard mowed completely, before retreating. The Charge of the White Brigade began with good intent. By the time I was half way through the event parts of my body where tingling. This, I thought to myself, is what a vampire feels right before he bursts into flames with a scream.  My back, my head, and my legs, okay, after writing that I realized that covers more body than is left, but those were the areas that seemed to be the most affected. Once done with the yard I took a shower. I had a dog adoption event that I had volunteered for and in the shower I realized that there were areas on my body that were going to have to be covered with clothing, not that dogs care, but trying to get a family to adopt a dog might include me having clothes covering most of my body.

Irony, once again, is amused by my attempts at living.


So it really wasn’t that bad. Okay, it was. I wore a hat and my bald head itched the entire time I was there but that was better than my skull looking like the tip of a match. My shoulders were torched fairly well and at one time a kindly older man clapped me on the left shoulder and I nearly screamed aloud. The two things I have most studiously avoid in my life, strange people and sunlight, came together on a Saturday afternoon and I realize I do neither of them very well.

The idea of more direct sunlight is something that I do not think I can do, pool or no pool, intriguing woman or none. I do not think I did particularly well talking people into adopting dogs but a couple of dogs made their way into families with my help or perhaps in spite of it. I cannot say.

I do feel drained and totally exhausted today.  The same feeling I had from being scorched by that barrel with gasoline in it extended to my body this very morning, and only my eyebrows being intact is different. Yet as overwhelmed as being at an adoption event might be I did feel like I helped in some small way in getting dogs into homes. Into that light I will have to venture into again.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"August and Everything After"

The air this morning was hanging like a dead man left to rot. As I watched the eastern sky go from grey to a lighter grey I realized that mowing at seven wasn’t going to happen. My shirt clung to my skin with a prickly sort of moisture that doesn’t feel like dew, or rain, or waterfalls. No, this is a rodent’s breath type wetness that seems to be cloying and stagnant. Gnats and mosquitoes are swimming in it, thriving in the thick air and nothing else can. There is no breeze. There is not a hint of freshness in the dawn’s awakening. I pull the cord to the mower and the blue smoke hangs in the air like a disease looking for the dying to claim.

This is early August in all its finest. True enough, this has been a wet cool Summer if it has been anything at all. There has been to killing heat. Sam has survived this Summer now, the end is in sight. If I can get the aging Grey past the next month the heat will be gone for another six or seven months. This time next month the days will be noticeable shorter in the morning and in the afternoon and the heat, even when it can rise above triple digits cannot stay there long. No, the calendar count stays for no man, no reason, and no season. The Summer Solstice was forty-three days ago and in another forty-three the Equinox will be nearly here. The first half of Summer is always the worst and it will spend the next half struggling to make some heated memory, like an aging lover trying to stay just one more night.

A mowed last Saturday, or perhaps it was last Friday, yes, Friday, and the grass is still thick and tall right now. But July is gone now. The blast furnace that was the growing season has ended for nearly all things that exploded out of the wet Spring we had. This is not the end by no means and the spot in the yard that, for reasons that escape me, grow grass thicker and taller than anywhere else, are just so. Yet the edges where the grass grows more slowly doesn’t need as much attention. There are signs that this Summer has begun to pass. Even as it saps my energy with the heat and humidity I can tell it is not able to hit nearly as hard.

The driveway is full of white beach sand and little grass grows in the wheel paths. There is a canine which roams late at night and if he, or she, is a coyote it is a very large one. I do not think there is a dog nearby who I do not know. There are also small tracks of canine, one feline, raccoon and an opossum. But mostly I am curious about the canine. Mentally, I compare the tracks to those made by Lucas and realize this dog is half the size of the Loki Mutt at least. That gives me an idea of the size but no idea of who it might be and why it is here.

The mower’s path is back and forth, around and around, and each pass signals less work to be done, more has been done, yet I was right here, in this very spot last week and next week I will return here, an empty harvest of grass heads, decapitated without cause except to have a green carpet of uniform height and a total lack of biodiversity. I stopped mowing one year and my neighbors cut my yard for me. Later they told me they assumed my mower was broken and I didn’t want to bother them to borrow one. It’s a lot more work to mow someone else’s grass than your own so I decided to keep my yard looking like someone really does live here and mow.

There is a swale in the front yard that has turned into a river of sorts a few times this year and the grass there is snarly thick. I have to mow the swale at an angle to get the deck of the mower to cut the sides of the swale perfectly. The swale is one of the lines of division in the yard. The driveway, the garden, the old stump, and the swale are my demarcations that I use to turn the yard into smaller blocks of mowing. It’s like drinking one beer at a time instead of pouring the six pack into a larger container. Gnats swarm, the temperature rises, the humidity increases, the sweat pours off of me, but the task at hand does become less.

It has something to do with the season, this I am sure of, but I get all of the front yard cut and a considerable piece of the back done with one tank of gas. The last part of the back yard is where Bert began digging craters many years ago and the new dogs have adopted the crater field as their own. Sam is a trencher but Bert build bomb shelters. The L Hounds are both diggers but not like Bert was. The main crater was one he dug and I’m not sure how to fill it in without digging a hole of my own. It’s odd how you have to go out and get dirt to fill in holes that dogs dig. It’s like they hide the dirt from the holes where it cannot be found.

At last, the mowing is done. I will be back again this same time next week, certainly, but soon it will be a job I have to do every ten days or so and then two weeks, and then…one more time before I quit for the season. The dogs are all happy the mower is off and as I look over the yard I realize I can now see some of the late Summer vines on the fences. A change is occurring, very slowly, but very steadily.
It always has been and it always will.

Take Care,

Mike