Escape From New York

Yesterday I left Staten Island for the first time in nine years. That’s right, I hadn’t stepped foot off the island, even for other boroughs, in nine long years. Actually that time went by rather quickly.

The drive was surprisingly non-horrific. With two and five year olds in tow I braced myself for the worst. A couple older kids came along for the ride and Mom did the driving, which was heaven sent- I dislike highway driving to the point of phobia.

We went over the Goethals, the turnpike, various parkways. We stopped for lunch at McDonald’s; I had a double quarter pounder sans ketchup and I threw out the bun (not before offering it to the rest of the family, they declined). It was awkward but doable eating the floppy hamburger patties with my fingers, the meat was terribly overcooked. It was edible, but barely, to the tune of $5. My little guys shared french fries and chicken nuggets, mom had a salad, older kids had an egg mcmuffin, more nuggets and fries. For drinks we had water (me), lemonade, mocha latte and diet coke.

I was surprised how many black people and hispanics are now north of NYC. Nine years ago non-asian minorities faded out a certain radius beyond the metro area with the exception of Springfield, MA. Most of the diners at that connecticut McDonald’s were black or hispanic, and it didn’t turn all/mostly white until Vermont.

After five hours we reached my hometown; I didn’t move here until age seven but it’s essentially my hometown. I wondered if I would start crying after all these years. But it was anticlimactic. There were the gorgeous mountains, lush green rolling in distant landscape. There was the guns-n-ammo shop. More lush greenery, an auto shop. Some kind of manufacturing plant (the sole one in the area, industry here has been decimated). The veterinarian where our sick pets were euthanized so long ago. Pretty colonials and victorians, many but not all in disrepair.

We arrived home to my very grouchy father. Grouchy is my dad’s version of happy, it only goes downhill from there. My little guy was all over the place while we unpacked- I tried to lock him in a playroom via baby gate but he howled pitifully so I let him escape.

My parents had dinner but I told them I would eat later. I went for a walk around local roads and hopped briefly into the woods, climbing a steep incline padded with pine needles and thin weeds. Pine trees towered overhead like solemn angels. I sat under one and patiently slapped mosquitoes as they landed on my skin. Later I ate some salmon and semi-raw hamburgers. My mother was horrified as she packed them out of sight into the fridge, asking wasn’t I worried about eating rare beef? Nope.

This morning I went to walmart. I needed shampoo and razors, my five year old requested pretzels. My mom warned me: the town looked worse than ever, but as I drove it looked the same. There was a new CVS. There was an abandoned something or other. There was the middle school where I was mercilessly tormented by my peers. I peeked down the street to my childhood best friend’s house- I considered driving past but that would feel stalkerish. I have no idea if her parents are even still living, and she has long since moved away.

Walmart… it looked exactly the same as nine years ago, except the shopping carts were in terrible shape (nothing irks me more than lousy shopping carts) and the walls were dinged up, in need of repainting. Two women said hello and politely asked how are you? This jarred me. They don’t do that in Staten Island, not that Staten Islanders aren’t friendly in their own way.

I am here for my aunt’s funeral. There is some drama with her estate that has darkened my father’s mood from bad to worse. I feel mildly vulturish hanging around waiting for the proceedings to unfold, but I never asked for this money. It’s all very sad. She should have lived a good twenty, thirty years further. God gives and god takes away.

Calories in Squirrel Meat

[essentially spoiler free]

Early in season 5 of The Walking Dead we see Daryl enter stage left adorned with a mantle of dead squirrels. This made me wonder: exactly what caloric or other nutritional value does squirrel meat offer? Even a fat squirrel is a small creature, so how much nourishment could a single squirrel provide our band of survivalists?

Most meat has roughly the same caloric and protein content: about 50-70 calories, and 7ish grams of protein per ounce (interestingly, the same applies to a single chicken egg). Squirrel meat, according to the internet, is no different- clocking in at approximately 50 calories per ounce.

But how much meat does a squirrel yield? There are a surprising number of sites dedicated to the slaughter and preparation of squirrel. And eyeballing some of the pictures, like this one:

squirrel
(source)

…I’d guestimate it’s 4 ounces of meat, maybe closer to 3 when you pick out the bones. (I’ve been weighing everything I eat for two years now, I’m a good gauge of portion size.)

So poor Daryl expends all that effort, and all those arrows, for 150 calories per squirrel. I bet he uses more energy hunting those critters than he obtains from them. Also I’m fairly certain his manly crossbow would rip apart a squirrel on contact, but his squirrels are perfectly intact and bloodless

All this begs the obvious question: if squirrels can flourish in the zombie apocalypse, why not other animals like bears, boars, deer, rabbits, even cats and dogs! Hell, buffalo could make a comeback with their prairies no longer relegated to modern agriculture. Surely Daryl could utilize his epic crossbow skills to conquer larger, more practical game? One is reminded of Little House on the Prairie where a single bear sustained the family through winter.

Sometype of Rodent 2

This morning at 4:40am I was awoken by a clattering sound from outside. Initially I thought it might be a homeless person walking by, pushing their earthly possessions in a cart. But the clattering sound was too close to my bedroom for it to come from the street, nor was the sound fading as it should were someone walking past. I lay in bed wondering if I was imagining it, then finally walked upstairs and turned on the exterior light which is so bright it illuminates the entire street. Not a soul to be seen. I returned to bed and the clattering and scratching continued. Was it beast or man? I was afraid to go outside just in case it was a person trying to break in– though if it were a home intruder he was being very noisy about it. I walked back and forth by various windows until I pinpointed the source of the racket: the gutter downspout right next to my bedroom window. What on earth could get inside there, and why was it clearly struggling to get out?

I marched outside broom in hand, gave the downspout a few sound whacks, noticing that it was an enclosed segment emptying into an underground pipe. So either the critter came up from below or fell down from above. I wasn’t about to extricate it myself, for fear it might be something really disgusting– a diseased rat, or some swamp thing borne in the depths of the sewer system– I had images of the manticore from “Merlin” in my head.

manticore
From the sewers with love.

The broom whacking quieted whatever it was, and I went back to bed. Only to have the clattering and frantic scratching start all over again. Ugghhhh. So I drifted in and out of sleep, waking up every few minutes to this creature’s urgent agenda.

After I got the girls off to school I took advantage of daylight to investigate. Whatever was in there broke free; the downspout extension had been busted out (maybe my whacking it was of assistance), and the manticore is now roaming the earth.

Sometype of Rodent

The diagnosis on the van as stated on the receipt:

TOW TO SHOP-CUSTOMER STATES-CHECK ENGINE LIGHT ON
SCAN NUMEROUS CODES / UPON FURTHER INSPECTION
FOUND WIRING HARNESS ALL CHEWED UP BY SOMETYPE
OF RODENT / WIRING HARNESS FROM INJECTORS TO BEHIND
MANIFOLD ALL CHEWED

*

I have some usual suspects for that sometype of rodent.  It’s either the big, fat opossum who lives under my deck, the raccoon who lives behind the garage, or the tribe of squirrels that systematically invades the garbage cans which just happen to be located right next to the van.

I’ve discovered something odd about these squirrels.  When I move the garbage cans exactly 5 yards east they will not touch the garbage.  If I return the cans to their original spot the plunder begins anew. Are squirrels really so territorial that they won’t venture a few yards beyond the DMZ?

Perhaps they attacked the wiring harness as a counterinsurgency measure against the nice lady who disrupted their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Dreaming About Bloggers

Last night I had a vivid dream about a blogger whose blog I read frequently.  In the dream I lived in a quaint seaside town, like a mildly dilapidated, less sunny version of Port Wenn (from the charming TV show “Doc Martin”).  For some reason this blogger had arranged to visit my residence, and he arrived with great flourish and full of complaints.

He set himself up in my living room (not my real living room, but the dream living room) and demanded this and that from my kitchen which I dutifully produced.  We sat and talked for a while, but he grew increasingly bored by my presence, and eventually informed me that not only was he was diabetic, but that he needed to watch his afternoon soap operas.

So back to the kitchen I scurried (for diabetic-appropriate foods) while he kicked back remote in hand, and he clicked on “The Guiding Light” which he watched with rapt attention.  Meanwhile I’m thinking, in the dream, that it might be time to get rid of this guy and send him packing from whence he came.

First They Came for the Turkeys

There are a lot of wild turkeys on Staten Island.  So many, in fact, that the USDA is rounding them up for dinner (after testing deems the meat safe for consumption).  The turkeys wander all over Staten Island, but a particularly entrenched tribe resides on the grounds of the South Beach Psychiatric Center.

A group of 50 supporters– ranging from an astrophysicist to a public school teacher– staged a protest today, waving placards to shame the slaughter of turkeydom.  Even city council candidate John Mancuso weighed in, calling the turkeys “pillars of the community–” yes that’s right, pillars of the community.  He added: “This year it’s the turkeys. What’s next?”

Oh, I get it.  It’s like that quote, “first they came for the socialists.”  Except this time it’s “first they came for the turkeys.” What’s next, the Neocons?

turkey

If you look closely at this picture, the building to which those fleet-footed turkeys are scampering is the Center for Women’s Health, where I had sonograms and fetal echocardiograms for five of my seven full-term pregnancies.

What I don’t understand is, why didn’t they wait until November, and host a huge, wild turkey Thanksgiving barbecue? Imagine the family-friendly event that would be, redolent of early Thanksgivings where banquets were held outdoors. The turkeys could even be kosher slaughtered, fixings for an interfaith feast.

Leaf Cutter Ants

In one episode of “Medicine Men Go Wild,” the two doctors visit indigenous tribes in South America, where a female witch doctor educates them on the malevolent spirits of leaf cutter ants.  She blames various and sundry illnesses on these ants, and part of her witch doctor cures is to have a loved one, related to the sick patients, destroy leaf cutter ant nests.

Last night as I lay in bed, or actually this night, since I’m awake in the middle of the night coughing, hacking, miserable with chills and fever, and strangely around 8pm my eyes became cloudy, goopy, and painful, I started to have visions or half awake dreams of leaf cutter ants marching toward me and over my body.  And the whole notion of illness-causing-leaf-cutter-ant-spirits suddenly seemed entirely plausible to my fever addled brain.

So if anyone out there lives south of the border, could you burn a few leaf cutter ant nests for me?

Missionary Tales

My high school algebra teacher was a former missionary who had spent time in Africa.  In an effort to avoid any math instruction, my fellow students and I would prod her for tales of her adventures abroad.  One day she closed the algebra textbook, sat on the edge of her desk, and shared the following harrowing tale.

In one village in Africa they had a problem with army ants.  The ants would march en masse, devouring any and every edible item in their path.  If the ants headed toward their hut, she and her fellow missionaries had to stand with brooms on the porch swooshing them away until the raid was diverted elsewhere.  This effort sometimes took hours.

One man in her missionary group was a closet alcoholic.  He would sneak to the outhouse, drinking hard liquor in solitude until he passed out.  And one day this unfortunate, unconscious fellow happened to be in the path of a swarm of army ants.

When the missionaries eventually discovered him, there wasn’t much left.

Cicadas

17cicada

I saw the cicadas with mine own eyes today.  Running errands, I parked near Clove Lakes Park and was surprised, upon emerging from my vehicle, to hear an other-worldy chirring chorus enveloping the world around me with ghostly arms.  I’d never heard anything like it; I had goosebumps and stood there dumbstruck by the beauty of it.  There at my feet lay a cicada.  Thinking it was dead, I picked it up to bring home to show my children, but at my touch it started wriggling and got stuck on its back.  I knelt down closer and gently propped it back upright.  Then I saw more, and more, and more cicadas.  It was like the zombie horde.  Some were living, some dead, some half dead.  They crunched under my feet no matter how gingerly I picked my way around them– they lay that thick.  Apparently cicadas die soon after mating, so I assume the dying and dead ones had already found their soulmates so could die satisfied

Ants and Aphids

I just saw the most amazing thing.  As I have mentioned previously, we occasionally have ant invasions in our kitchen.  I normally just vacuum them up, and try to keep the floor free of crumbs, because I hate the smell of bug spray.  Well I just noticed a neat line of ants in the sunroom and what did one ant have in its clutches but a living aphid (the houseplants have some aphids on them.)  I have read about ants herding and protecting aphids to drink the sugary fluid they excrete, but had never seen it with my own eyes before.