Saturday, February 20, 2021

Rats All The Way Down

The virus times have been awful for everyone.  I've frankly always hated all those feel-better mantras such as "Whenever God closes a door, he opens a window".  I mean, what the hell, why not just leave the door open.  So I'm not in any way saying there is an upside to the virus times, because there isn't, but, since we can't do anything else, we've been spending a lot of time on the back patio, and we've learned to appreciate just hanging outside.  It's nice to see all the stars.

The virus times have allowed me to do the sort of entertaining that I love - extremely half-ass entertaining.  I can invite people over and not do *anything* but ensure the patio chair cushions are dry.  Sometimes I will also shake you a martini, or bring out my tray of jank candles, or give you an electric blanket, or light the fire table.  But mostly we just sit on my patio chairs and talk.

It's winter now, so a lot of patio time happens when it's dark outside.  Behind our back patio is a lower field, and then Adobe Creek, which is usually free of water, but full of wildlife.  During the day there are lots of animals to see, such as deer, jackrabbits, little bunnies, crows, and squirrels.  During the night there are lots of animals to hear, such as rats, rats, rats, opossums, raccoons, and coyotes.

In the bay area we have many, many Norway Rats.  They can be up to 8 inches long and make nests in trees, in creek beds, under the hood of your car, in your potting shed, in crawl spaces under your house, basically anywhere.  At night, when we sit outside, we can hear the rats foraging for food.  And we tell ourselves that maybe the noises are emanating from some marginally cuter animals, such as opossums or raccoons, but deep down inside, we know it's rats.  It's always rats.  It's rats all the way down.

Lately the nighttime rat noises have been interspersed with the yipping of coyotes.  Coyotes actually yip.  It's kind of cool to be sitting outside and hear the coyotes yipping, and then to hear all the outside dogs in the neighborhood losing their collective minds and howling back.  It's like a free concert!

We have an intercom system built into the house that enables us to play music inside and outside, so sometimes we do that.  I try to remember to turn off the outside speakers when we come back in, but sometimes I forget.  One time I forgot for weeks, which led to this interesting situation.

Our property adjoins the back fences of several houses on Middlebury Lane.  The residents of Middlebury Lane have been kind enough to include us in their gatherings, and over the years we have gotten to know them fairly well.

One year as we were drinking and socializing at one of these events, my neighbor Tim came up to me and said, very politely, all things considered, "Do you think maybe you could stop playing music at 7 am in your back yard?"

And I had one of those moments they show in films where a series of events replays rapidly in your mind.  Weeks before we had used the outside speakers, I never turned them off, and in an effort to get the kids out of bed for school, every morning at 7 am I had been blasting the Fountains of Wayne song "Bright Future in Sales" which features the lyric "I've got to get my shit together, cause I can't live like this forever..."

So, yeah, I was pretty embarrassed.  Ever since then I sort of obsessively check to make sure we aren't blasting the neighbors with my current musical obsession.  Lately I'm really into my curated Pandora station, Cake Radio, featuring, you guessed it, the songs of Cake.  Also a lot of Bowling for Soup, They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, All-American Rejects, Sugar Ray, etc.

I love that dumb plaque people put in their kitchens that says "I Love To Cook With Wine, Sometimes I Even Put It In The Food".  It's funny because it's true.  I find that cooking with wine goes really well with blasting Cake Radio.

I've wandered away from my theme of patio entertaining, but you can blame it on the entire bottle of Liquid Light Sauvignon Blanc I drank on my back patio earlier tonight.  I know I drank the whole bottle because everyone else was drinking red wine and the Liquid Light bottle is empty...

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Some Anecdotes Involving Boats

It's been a real mood booster having outdoor dining open again, and I'm sure the restaurants and their owners and employees appreciate it also.  We had a lovely socially distanced dinner with our friends Steve and Colleen at La Scala in downtown Los Altos last night and somehow the conversation turned to canoeing, which fired some deep-seated neurons and caused me to remember a few light-craft oriented anecdotes from my past.

Winter Canoeing in Kentucky

My dad was career Army and we were stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky when I was in the 6th-8th grade.  My mom had a good friend on base, Mrs. Franks, who, like my mom, had one daughter and two sons.  For reasons that I will have to consult my mom about, she and Mrs. Franks established a Girl Scout Troop, which also involved all four of their sons.

We did a lot of camping and hiking with our two families and whatever Girl Scouts cared to join us.  The trip that I recalled last night was a winter canoeing trip along some creek or river.  As I remember (which isn't saying much, it's been many years and many mixed drinks since then and I may have this completely wrong) I was in a canoe with Julie Franks.

Julie saw something interesting on the banks of the creek (river?) and stood up to look back and point and tell the other canoes.  And this is where it gets cinematic - as she was looking back she got clocked in the back of the head by an overhanging branch and went straight into the water.

I remember this as being highly inconvenient but also undeniably funny.

Summer Rafting in Virginia

In the middle of my 9th grade year, my dad got reassigned to the Pentagon and our family moved from Kentucky to Northern Virginia.  If you are thinking, "Oh, I bet it was fun to change schools in the middle of 9th grade", I can assure you that it was not, but that's a boring and sad story that I am sure you can imagine for yourself.  Let's just say that I read a lot of books and became overly involved with the Catholic Youth Organization at my church.

I think it was with a CYO group that I went rubber rafting on the Shenandoah; I'm not entirely sure but the organization I went with is not germane to my story, so, whatever.

Our group got into our rubber raft with our cooler containing lunches and set off down the river.  It was a pleasant day, and the rapids were not challenging, and we were having a good time, and then we saw two rocks ahead of us.

Our choices, as we saw them, were to go left, go between the rocks, or go right.  We decided to go between the rocks, but as our raft snagged and expelled us and all our belongings into the river, we realized that it was only one rock lightly covered by water and we had just steered directly onto it.

We drifted down river as our raft stayed firmly on the rock and all our lunches, shoes, etc floated away forever.  Our group managed to get over to the bank and reunite, and we stood looking upriver at our water-imprisoned raft.

As we were on the riverbank bemoaning our fate, a helicopter hove into view, trailing a massive hook on a rope.  At this point, many other rubber rafts beached themselves on the banks to have a look, because, what the hell, a helicopter was hovering overhead.

The helicopter made several passes over the raft until it got the hook under the raft, at which point the raft popped up in the air and began floating down the river.  We caught it, and got in, and finished the trip.

Pirates of the Caribbean

We visited Disneyland for the first time when our youngest daughter Amy was about three years old, and we made a terrible error.  We took her on the ride "Snow White's Scary Adventures", which the rest of us did not find to be scary, but Amy absolutely did.

She found it to be so scary that for years, she refused to go on any so-called "dark" rides at Disneyland - any rides which are not completely out-of-doors.  The next time we were all at Disneyland, Amy was maybe five years old, and while Larry and Susan and Ellen did all the fun rides, Amy and I rode the f*&#ing carousel over and over.

After dinner, we went back to our hotel, and then up to our room, where Larry and all three girls fell asleep.  I was eager to get back to the park to ride all the things I had missed, and as any mother of young children will tell you, I was absolutely thrilled to be alone.

I rode the Haunted Mansion, and Indiana Jones, and then I headed to Pirates of the Caribbean.  Since I was alone, I was added to a lively boat of young men.  We set out in high spirits, and had proceeded about one-fourth of the way through the ride when our boat came to a sudden halt.

The lights came up, hitherto unseen doors popped open from behind the pirate tableaus, people in coveralls with wrenches began wandering about.

As we were stalled I began to chat with the men in my boat.  It turned out they were all current or former employees of Disneyland, all gay, and all super willing to dish.  It was the most fun I've ever had at Disneyland.

I asked them "Do you ever get tired of telling guests where the bathrooms are?" and the answers delighted me.  My favorite response: one of guys said "I don't mind telling people where the toilets are.  I mean, we all have to go, right?  But here's what I hate: I'll tell some lady where the toilets are and she'll say 'But is that the closest one?', and that just makes me crazy.  I feel like saying 'No, I just like that one better', or 'No, you just look like you could use some exercise', I mean, what the hell?"

God, I miss Disneyland, and random strangers.