Tag Archives: writing

I have mice in my attic

Yo, Birdwell. I’m in your attic, eating your pink fiberglass insulation.


No, it is not meant to be a whimsical description of my general mental health, even if an accurate one.

I live with a cat. A cat of barn-cat lineage. The cat slumbers peacefully at my side, oblivious to the mouse sounds. Apparently he is off duty for the night. It might be time to review the Birdwell-Cat contract. You (Cat) will receive a warm place to sleep, food, water, occasional ear scratches and an indoor shitter (that I, the Birdwell, will clean for you). In exchange you will kill mice.

Seems fairly straightforward to me.

But I have mice in my attic.

I can hear them whooping it up, as I sit and write. It’s quiet when I write, so I hear their every scamper, chew and tail swipe. Each toast they make to the dry, warm, pink fiberglass insulated home they have gnawed out for themselves travels through the walls enough to make me consider going up there and moving some stuff around, if for nothing more than to disrupt their revelry.

But still, I have mice in my attic.

I own no less than a dozen mouse traps, all of which are deployed in and around my compound, including the attic.
Over one winter season I caught eleven mice and one mole. I have caught small birds, a toad and a garter snake in my mouse traps. I have consulted others in the catching of mice, even the ‘smarter’ ones that have survived a trap or two.

Even so, mice in my attic.

I have poisoned mice living in my yard equipment, sniped them with my BB gun and slingshot, used their nests to start a campfire and even juggled three (white) mice at Walt’s House of Horrors.

No matter. Mice. In my attic.

My traps are baited with peanut butter, one of the all around best baits. It smells good, tastes good and has a slight amount of stickiness ideal for holding a small rodent in place for the split second it takes for the SNAP!

Nope. Mice. Attic.

Unwelcome rodents taking up quarters with no intention of doing any good. Maybe a short glass of whisky will take my mind off of them. Or, at least to join in their celebration. On the way to the bar I might even poke the cat, just to bring his attention to the mice.

In the attic.

What a Douche_bag…

Do you realize how vulgar that is?

The above title and subtitle were taken from a dialog between my wife and I, a few years back. I was admonishing someone who had wronged me (pro’ly while driving) and wifey responded. I still repeat both phrases to myself, at random times. It always give me a chuckle.

The term ‘Douche_bag’ is about as New Jersey as a taylor ham and egg sandwich.

Here in the NJ/NY Metropolitan area we are not known for our patience or politeness. Not by a long shot. Nor will we ever score high on our defensive driving skills or our ability to give others the benefit of a doubt.

No. Offense and blind accusations are the norm in these parts.

There are a lot of people who fit the loose definition of a douche_bag around here.

A lot.

I say ‘loose’ because we are not talking about a feminine hygene product here, we’re talking about people’s behavior and as such any number of words, deeds, looks, glances, real or imagined slights; questionable driving, parking or other motor vehicle skils; general disposition and/or impatience can get you slapped with the ‘douche_bag’ tag.

I recall hanging out with some friends from the South and describing someone from my past as a ‘douche_bag’.

A marked silence fell about the room.
“Really?” Drawled one of guests. “You mean they looked like one, or they clean feminine…”
“Wait a sec, dude.” I interrupted. “I don’t know what one looks like, nor am I broaching the subject of cleanliness ‘down under’ as it were. I’m simply stating how this person was acting.”
“So he was squishy, spurting warm water and smell…”
“Stop. I beg of you. I think we’re experiencing some kind of a disconnect here. Maybe it’s a Mason-Dixon dialect issue or perhaps the term ‘douche_bag has fallen out of the vernacular.”

“It’s a Jersey thing.” My friend, who relocated from up here to down there, explained, much to the relief of everyone. “He means ‘an impolite, self-centered, rude asshole.”

“Ohhhh…” Serveral others exclaimed. “Now I get it.”

I wasn’t so sure. But what I did understand was that folks down South tend to use much kinder words to describe their antagonists than we here in the Tri-state area. Then again, they might not have the same density of douche_bags per square mile as we do.

#douche_bag (Say it out loud, like this: ‘hashtag douche bag’).

The underscore?
Funny you should ask.
I was partaking in a week-long computer class with a friend of mine. At the time we threw the term ‘douche bag’ around quite freely, as mates ’round these parts tend to do.

The instructor was emphasing, at length, the fact that the underscore character ( _ ) was (and still is) an acceptable character to use in your password.
“Butter_dish, coffee_cup, drive_way…” He illustrated needlessly, including the word ‘underscore’ in his lesson.
I looked at my friend and said, (once again in my life, louder than was appropriate), “Douche_bag.”
It actually brought the class to a halt. Not only was the instructor looking at me, but a good deal of my classmates were, as well.
“What?” Said I, not sure if I had violated the rules of politeness (there were only guys in the room). “He’s my friend.”
“Do you always talk to your friend like that?” Someone queried.
“Yeah.” Both my friend and I replied at the same time. “Don’t you?”

And ever since that day, when I key, type or otherwise spell ‘douche_bag’ I insert the underscore character. It’s sort of a tip of the hat, if you will, to that friend and that time.

Again, typical Jersey guy stuff.

Your atypical douche_bag has a lot in common with your garden variety asshole in that they are only concerned with themselves. But I think a douche_bag is more narcissistic than an asshole. (or maybe it’s the other way around?)

Douche_bags are somewhat blind to others, they can only see as far as their own needs. Assholes know what they’re doing and do it anyway. Douche_bags can’t see beyond their own immediate selves. Assholes do things out of malice.


Neither tag is desireable, to say the least, but we have all worn the hat (asshat). Wrongly accussed or not, people throw both terms around quite freely. So you shouldn’t be too greatly offended when one or the other is hurled at you, although that is easier said than done. No one likes to be called either.

There is, however, a certain solace in calling someone else a douche_bag. Not much, but enough to take the edge off of whatever offense you have suffered. Just slightly.

I have also noticed that when I call someone else a douche_bag. I say it with a noted measure of disgust in my tone, which must harken back to the feminie hygene reference.

How vulgar, indeed.

Whadayamean, whadayamean?

Say it fast, it sounds funny.

Broken down this is a quintessentially Jersey response to someone asking “What do you mean?” (phonetically – Whadayamean?). It is the natural reply someone would give when they don’t quite understand what is being told to them.

To which you, or the person being queried responds, in exasperation, ‘Whaddayamean, ‘whaddaymean?’?!
Because you (or the person doing the explaining) can’t, at that moment, understand why there is a lack understanding on the receiving end (neccessitating yet another explaination).

It is a result of not understanding why the other person doesn’t understand or why they are asking (perhaps in exasperation themselves) ‘whaddaymean?’ Because you, yourself, don’t understand their lack of understanding.

It’s all very clear.

(follow the punctuation, folks. It is very telling).

Person1: Then, if you see the light on the VPN connector is still lit and connected, disconnect it.
Person2: Whaddaymean?
Person1: Whaddaymean, ‘whaddayamean?’?! If the connector is connected, disconnect it. Simple as that.
Person2: Oh. Got it.




Flies piss me off.

Sure, vicious green-heads and biting flies certainly top the list, as do the demon spawn black flies of the north woods. A cloud of gnats circling my head is most unwelcome. I would be hard pressed to put one above the other on my shitake list, sharing space, as they do, with the detested mosquito.

But so do house flies and mostly when they are in my house.

I have noted through careful (and sometimes altered) observation that outdoor aerial insect activity commences at about 40 degrees F (4.4 degrees Celcius/277.6 degrees Kelvin). Below that temperature their internal insect juices are too cold and viscous for flight, sort of like cheap hydraulic fluid or that grease the corner bodega cooks their french fries in.

At about that temperature, and usually in a beam of sunshine, the cold weather fliers come out. The cold weather flies are not nuisance flies. They are some kind of flight enabled insect or bug that doesn’t fly around my head endlessly. They seem to mostly be concerned only with their flight, which in the insect world is mostly about having sex. I would think eating might be high on their list, but there isn’t a whole lot around to eat at 40 degrees, so sex it is.

Motherfarking houseflies, however, re-animate at a higher temperature. Somewhere around 70 degrees or so (21.1C/294.3 K). I have noticed that it is a few degrees higher than their nuisence-mates, the detested stinkbug. Stinkbugs become active around 68 degrees, plus or minus.



How could I possibly know such details about this shitake, you ask? Because my home was infested with stinkbugs at one time, then another. I normally keep the heat down to a miserly 62 (16.6 C/289.8 K) when the family is gone and bring it up to 68 at night. At this temperature very few, if any, stinkbugs make an appearance.

Oh, but put on a pot of water for pasta or fire up a couple of burners for side dishes and kitchen temperatures climb to a balmy 70 or so. Before you can say ‘grab a can of Raid’ there is one, then another, banging into the lights, bouncing off of the ceiling and disrupting the cadence of meal preparation. Who the fark knows where they come from, but they must squeeze out of the woodwork or something.

Flies, on the other hand, need a few more degrees and need it to hold at that temperature for a while. That is why they seem to come out during a warm spell, or at the end of winter.

At first only a few hearty souls come around. Plump, and/or hairy and capable of hunkering down somewhere in the house for the duration of the cold weather. Large enough to escape cobwebs or fend off the soft, easy-living household arachnid.

Some are small, nimble and require little in the way of sustenance to carry through the off season. Others obviously are living off accumulated fat and looking more or less like a small bumblebee.

Fortunately, the early emergent flies are a little slower than their mid- or late season brethren and thus are somewhat more susceptible to strikes, swats and flicks with fingers. And good thing, too. But they are an welcomed reminder of what is to come. Just the fact that I have to endure the curious buzzing of a early emergent housefly during meal preparation, or libation blending pisses me off.

The other day I cracked a small fly with a tea towel. The cat gave me a curious look, so I cracked the towel at him (just to keep him sharp) and flicked the expired fly carcass into his food dish as a warning against any future non-verbal comments.

A PSA from Mother Nature

Pleasant weather? Wait for it.

Weather watching is a part time hobby of mine. I like to study the movements of the jet stream, paths of storms, El Nino and his jealous sister, la Nina, which phase the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Icelandic low are in, how much of the great lakes are frozen over the course of winter, as well as other factors that all tie in together to produce our weather patterns. Yes, I consult the Farmer’s Almanac, as a guideline. I watch several different news and weather channels (and that is the extent of my television, unless there is a Pink Floyd documentary on).

I put no stock, whatsoever, in Groundhogs (they are usually wrong).

In weather, rarely is anything absolute. There are too many factors involved. Patterns are present, but these patterns are often so spread out over time that they go unnoticed by most.

I am also moved to predict, on or about Groundhog Day each year, how much longer we will be locked in the grips of frozen slop. This year I purposely avoided making said prediction because I didn’t have much to go on. The ground was frozen, and had been for months. There was heavy snow cover and few days of full sun, even fewer days above freezing. I didn’t see any of the natural signs I look for.

So when we hit a week straight of 40’s with a foray into the high 50’s in early March, I was surprised. Then again, I have seen long, cold, snowy winters before and recalled that they tended to break more sooner than later.

On my way back from the store last Sunday, I looked across a sun lit copse of trees alongside the highway. Sure enough, I saw buds pushing on quite a few trees. Not much, but enough to change the look of the tree tops from dead sticks to sort of fuzzy. Sort of.

Then rain, and a lot of it. Warm rain from the south. This is exactly the kind of thing that obliterates the snow and causes the emergence of spring peepers.

But not this time.

Small of body, big of voice

Small fog, loud peep(er)

Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer, proper) are the harbinger of Spring for me. Folk lore says that if you hear peepers 3 nights in a row freezing weather is done with. For the most part, that seems to hold true. I listen carefully for their heralding chorus at this time of the year. So far, they have been silent.

Forecasts call for another week of 40’s and, although not the best temperature for frolicking out-of-doors, it still equates to melt. The snow cover is retreating quickly, exposing flattened shrubbery and landscaping that was compressed by mounds snow and ice for upwards of two months straight. At least they were shielded from the bitter cold.

Filthy mounds of snow, diminishing like glaciers with black lung disease, expose long forgotten items that didn’t escape the onslaught.

As I write this, we have come out the other side of another relatively warm rain system from the south. But the temperatures have dropped back down into the 30′ and the peepers have not made an appearance.

Sit tight, folks.

Groundhog Day 2015

Bite me!

Bite me!

It would seem that at least one groundhog had enough of being dragged out of hibernation and forced into making a prediction on the arrival of Spring. Some ‘town father’ (asshat) up in Wisconsin leaned in to hear what the fat weasel had to say for itself and promptly got bitten on the ear.

Score one for the rodent.

The mayor, clutching his damaged lobe, then proclaimed that Spring would be early this year. Keep in mind this is in Wisconsin, a northern-most state with the (mostly frozen) Lake Michigan snuggling up on its right side and Lake Superior giving it a headbutt.

Closer to home, Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania’s celebrity ground weasel, indicated that there would be six more weeks of winter. In my backyard, there were no woodchuck sightings (and there damn well better not be).

So, in my own style, let me say a few things to the mayor (I realize that you may be hard of hearing, but I will refrain from using CAPS).

  •  We don’t ‘listen’ to the groundhog. He predicts of his own accord.
  • If Pennsylvania is predicting six more weeks of winter, Wisconsin will certainly experience at least the same, if not more.
  • Spring will always arrive between the 20 and 22 of March, regardless of what your resident weasel-chuck predicts. Nothing short of a catastrophic asteroid strike on the earth will change that.
  • Don’t put your fat head near the fat rodent. He is every bit as grumpy as you would be if woken up from a peaceful slumber.

That will be all.

Rodents are like squash

A pile of friggin' squash

A pile of friggin’ squash

As is well documented here, rodents are not highly regarded. Not that they should be. After all, their gnawing, nesting, crawling around in dark places, pestilence carrying and general squeaky chitter-chatter are not endearing.

And let’s not get started on that tail.

On the hierarchical scale of things, rodents occupy the base levels. Somewhat above bugs; flying, stinging or otherwise, but quite lower than, say, a cute puppy or a furry kitten. Even a squawking bird is a rung or two higher.

Rodents are the mammalian equivalent of squash – they have their place in the grand scheme of things, but you would reach for a potato or the creamed spinach long before the roasted spaghetti squash.

One can easily see why rodents take the brunt of human dislike. No one wants a rodent around anymore than they want a steaming plate of poached pumpkin or baked Hubbard squash on the dinner table.

Rodents, just like pumpkins, squash or gourds, make great targets. I can recall several times when the Birdcrew would purchase a few select sized pumpkins specifically for that purpose. Squash holds up quite well to marble strikes, bullets and arrows. You can use them over and over again. When you’re done, you can smash them, thus getting out some inner aggression, or you can throw them into the fire. Few people (that I know of) would have a problem with either a squash or a rodent being on the receiving end of a projectile.

Just like squash, rodents are filled with yucky stuff. And they tend to linger – like that pumpkin that you leave on the front porch around Halloween. It slowly deflates into a leaking compost display until it needs to be picked up with a snow shovel. That, or you can wait until a hard freeze then chisel it off the step.

The mouse whacked by the trap in the garage will stay there until it starts to smell, or the wife screeches about it. By then it will be somewhat less plump than when it was first discovered.

Seems like there is always a rodent poking around somewhere – the mouse in the garage, the groundhog under the shed, chipmunks in the shrubbery, moles, voles and shrews in the backyard.

Rodents and squash come in all sorts of varieties. The better to fool you with. Acorn, butternut, Hubbard, turban, spaghetti, goose neck, pumpkin, green, yellow, summer, winter – all squash.

Rats, mice, squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, chipmunks, moles, voles, shrews, capybara – all rodents.

Can a squash kill a rodent? I think so. If you were to hit a mouse with, say, a 2 lb. butternut squash, I’d bet you would smoke it but good.

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