Sunday, June 26, 2011

Theodore strikes back

While we were bopping around on the road to Boise and back, Theodore, my unwelcome Mountain Beaver, was given free reign to restore his burrow entrances in my backyard.  So yesterday was the first time I actually had an opportunity to get out there and renew my efforts to discourage him from turning my backyard into a Mountain Beaver condo with multiple entrances.

I filled a couple of the worst holes with a couple of bags of used kitty litter courtesy of my three cats. I topped off the holes with large rocks and some concrete stepping stones. This morning Theodore was back. He didn't try reopening the holes I'd plugged with cat litter, but he did pop up in a new hole almost on the path to my garden shed. And despite all of the information I'd read about Mountain Beavers being nocturnal and rarely seen, Theodore was out there in plain site actively burrowing away.

I grabbed my camera and snapped several shots (using a zoom because I'm not going to test the "aggressive behavior" info I've also read about). They are a bit blurry, but you can get an idea of what Theodore looks like.

This afternoon I ventured through the gate to continue my project to reclaim the overgrown slope in my backyard. Once again I plugged up Theodore's new burrow entrances with large rocks and yet another concrete stepping stone. I then proceeded to battle the Horsetails, ivy and other assorted weeds that have taken over the landscaping, keeping a machete within reach in case Theodore wanted to talk about kitty litter. But he didn't make another appearance. But I imagine he's still there plotting his next move.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Nutz to you

Since I am dissing on things related to our recent road trip, I might as well express my disgust for Hummers. Give me one good reason why anyone outside of Iraq needs to drive around in an armored troop carrier. They are big, ugly, bad for the environment and obnoxious.

To add insult to injury we saw one in one of the dink towns we were passing through on our way to Idaho that had a handicapped permit hanging on the rear view mirror and what looked like chromed testicles hanging from the rear bumper. Turns out there is a company called "Thatsnutz" that sells trailer hitches in various colors that resemble a scrotum.

This is wrong on so many levels.

I have never understood why people need to try and make up for their inadequacies and insecurities by owning muscle cars,  big trucks or vehicles that cost as much money as the GNP of many third world countries. It reminds me of the old joke that asks what is the difference between a Porsche and a porcupine: the porcupine has the pricks on the outside.

If a person is defined by the car they drive then they must a a pretty pitiful life.

I also despise bumper stickers, mud flaps with sayings like "Mean and Nasty" on them and antenna balls.

And don't get me started on gold trim packages.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Who Walmarted?

I am not a person who goes to Walmart. Even if I put aside the various accusations of how they treat employees or drive small businesses out of business, I just can't wrap my mind around shopping at Walmart. Maybe it is because I associate Walmarts with trailer parks and other symbols of America's great unwashed masses.

Don't get me wrong, I am not an elitist in the sense that I want to shop at exclusive boutiques. I just prefer to shop at places that don't reek of stale popcorn and have clientele who resemble extras in a Night of the Living Dead sequel.

But we were in Hermiston, Oregon, a burg half way between our home in Washington state and my birthplace in Boise where I was taking my family for a reunion of sorts. And our hotel was a block or two away from a Walmart and we needed a few items. When you are traveling with toddlers, you tend to put aside minor aversions to places such as Walmart for convenience sake. After all, I was also a stranger in Hermiston and no one I knew would actually see me set foot in a Walmart.

.In a fashion, Walmarts are not that different than a Target. But for some reason, a Target seems less seedy and consumption obsessed. Walmarts seem like the next generation of K-marts, the tawdry mega stores of my childhood. I come from a generation familiar with blue light specials and bags of submarine sandwiches for a $1.00. So you would think I wouldn't be bothered by a seedy Walmart.

This wasn't the first time I'd been in a Walmart. I think I mentioned that I took my family to one near my home town around Christmas when I was searching for a replacement for my white artificial Elvis Christmas tree. Since I'd bought the original Elvis tree at a K-mart, I figured Walmart would have a suitable replacement. But after encountering a bedraggled rat in the Christmas tree section of the store, I quickly herded my family out of the place.

I didn't see any rats in the Hermiston Walmart. I kept scanning the floors for them, however. I was tempted to interrogate the greeter about rodent infestations as we walked in, but he seemed totally focused on his one primary task, trying to appear cheery and welcoming while being paid minimum wage.

And speaking of the greeters at Walmart, I had this idea some time back. Walmart should start building senior residences into their stores. It's a genius idea, really. They'd have a built in workforce who could work their in exchange for room and board. After all, the stores offer medical services, eye exams and crappy food.

But I digress.

I wish I could say that I was pleasantly surprised by my visit to Walmart. But I wasn't. We wandered through aisle after aisle of merchandise that I'm sure was cheaper than most stores. But then again it was generally crap that no one really needed. There were tons of flat screen televisions and DVD players beckoning to a clientele that on a whole didn't appear to be able to afford food let alone cheap electronics. Regardless, Walmart offers up the American dream at discount prices.

We grabbed the stuff we came for and dashed out past the bleary eyed greeter into the daylight. I was anxious to get back to the hotel and go swimming. I had this uncontrollable  urge to immerse myself in water. I'm pretty sure it had something to do with having spent time in a Walmart.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Now cough

I realize that no one really wants to hear how you are feeling despite the automatic, "How are you feeling" greetings you get when they walk by your office and you sound as if you are trying to cough up a major internal organ. What they really want to ask is, "Are you infectious and why don't you go lock yourself in a sound proof room where you won't disgust and annoy the rest of us."

I know this because this is what I normally think when I ask someone how they feel. Now that I'm the disgusting coughing one hacking up phlegm and killing forest after forest worth of tissues, I realize karma is a major bitch. I also realize that medical science has not progressed much from the days of bleeding and applying leeches.

After more than two weeks of coughing, wheezing and making sounds that kept conjuring up the phrase "death rattle" in my disease obsessed brain, I gave in and made a doctor's appointment. There are far too many things I'd rather do than go to the doctor than I could list in a thousand blog posts. But you can only put up with the disgusted looks and comments of sympathetic coworkers and family members who suggest you go to a doctor or float off on an ice flow before you break down and visit the doctor.

I wasn't optimistic that the doctor could or would do anything to help. After keeping me waiting the prerequisite 20 minutes in the exam room she came in and immediately asked, "How are you feeling" which has an even worse translation when coming from a doctor. It essential means, "How long do I have to listen to you whine before I can simply bill my $200 and send you on your way to let what ever crude you'd come down with runs its course."

The doctor did immediately decline shaking my hand and kept a good six feet between me and her. She listened to my symptoms and reluctantly said, "Let's take a look" as she donned rubber gloves and picked up her instruments to peek into my ears and nose and listen to my lungs. She proceeded to check and inform me I had post nasal drip and a bad cough.

My four year old had made this diagnosis days earlier without the benefit of medical school.

She then told me that it was probably started out as a viral thing and may have turned into an infection. So she gave me a prescription for some antibiotics with the caveat that they may or may not help and an inhaler that might help the cough. Then she told me to come back in a week or so if things didn't get better.  I walked out shaking my head at my gullibility for once again going to a doctor assuming they were actually going to offer up a cure rather than a guess.

Regardless, I have been taking my pills and breathing my inhaler and I have to say I really don't feel much better. But when people make some comment about my hacking and sniffling, I can confidently say that I've been to a doctor. They seem relieved since this indicates that I must not be contagious.

Then when they are away from their desks, I go and lick their telephone receivers.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Pee de resistance

I jokingly suggested that an online site selling predator urine to ward off pesky little animals like a Mountain Beaver might be called I was wrong. The site is called It is a company in Maine that specializes in selling urine for all occasions. If you have any questions, you simply email the pee-man for answers.

Of course one of the first questions I had was how you go about collecting bobcat, coyote, mountain lion or fox pee. And the pee-man obviously gets this question a lot because he has page dedicated to pee collection. Apparently you don't have to approach animals in the wild with a specimen jar. The urine comes from zoos and wildlife refuges where apparently they have figured out a way to collect urine.

I can't resist saying that collecting predator pee would be a profession where you are required to be pissed off all the time.

Stop, I am killing me.

Regardless, I'm not ready to plunk down $23.99 for 12 ounces of Bobcat pee to piss off Theodore, my Mountain Beaver. Theodore, by the way, did unplug one of the burrow entrances I'd covered up and plugged with stones. I was tempted to pee in the burrow while growling like a bobcat, but my wife frowns on that type of behavior. I am, however, considering shoveling used kitty litter into the hole. God knows I have ready supply of that with three cats in the house.

I think there may be a reality program in here somewhere: Man versus Mountain Beaver. I could dress like Ozzie Osbourne and mutter unintelligibly while pouring jars of urine down Theodore's burrow. I think I could milk if for two or three seasons before being bumped off the network and being replaced by the Pee-Man and his day to day exploits in the predator pee business.

I live a rich and full life.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Golly Wally, is that a Mountain Beaver?

If you are like me (and I assume most people), you have probably never heard of a Mountain Beaver. The ironic thing about a Mountain Beaver is that it doesn't really live in the mountains and it isn't a beaver. It is actually more of a prehistoric rat without a tail that one author described as looking kind of like a furry football with claws and teeth.

Apparently the Mountain Beaver hasn't changed much in 40,000 years. The only thing they seem to do is burrow and eat vegetation -- primarily ferns, rhododendrons and tree bark (which is probably why they got confused with beavers). They need to live near water because their kidneys haven't evolved in 40,000 years either so they need to drink the equivalent of 2/3 their body weight each day.

Lewis and Clark were some of the first people to write about the Mountain Beaver after being sold a couple of robes made out of their fur by local natives. Like much of the world, Lewis and Clark never actually got to see a Mountain Beaver, just their fur because they are very shy critters and fairly anti-social. This may because they also have the nasty habit of eating their own poop so they don't get invited to many parties.

Why do I devote so much precious blog space to an evolved animal from the rat family? Because I have met a Mountain Beaver.

We just bought our house about a year ago. And one of the cool but high maintenance aspects of it is that although it doesn't have a backyard, it has a forested section that our deck overlooks that slopes down to a creek. The forested property had been landscaped at one time, but has more or less been reclaimed by nature  over the years before we bought the house. I decided to re-reclaim it a couple of weekends ago.

Little did I know that my little patch of wilderness would be considered a Club Med for the average Mountain Beaver. It has ferns, rhodies, trees, a creek and lots of soft dirt for burrowing. And until I started clearing it away, it had plenty of ground cover to shield the many entrances to the Mountain Beaver's burrow from prying eyes.

It didn't take much clearing of ivy and horsetails to uncover the first burrow entrance. If you aren't familiar with horsetails, they are ironically also a prehistoric throwback, but from the plant world. They resemble a horse's tale (thus the name) but come apart in sections when you pull on them. They don't spread through seeds, but through spores. So I have a prehistoric rat and prehistoric plants thriving in my backyard. What's next, T-Rex?

Anyway, I assumed the hole was a gopher hole, (albeit for a big gopher ). So I throw a couple of rocks in it and cover it with dirt. Then I go about my futile effort to pull out ivy and horsetails. The following weekend I take up the gauntlet again. When I go through the gate, I discover that the burrow has been uncovered and the rocks pushed out. I begin get a bit edgy about an animal big enough push out a fair sized rock. So I throw a bigger rock down the hole, cover it up again and place a larger rock on top.

After finishing my day's weeding, I'm standing on my deck looking over the slope and I see something move down a few yards from the original burrow entrance. I watch for a minute and sure enough I see this brown animal the size of a football pushing out dirt and brazenly piling it up around the entrance of a new hole. It seems oblivious to that fact that the sun is still out and it is exposed to prying eyes.

My wife opens the gate and walks down the steps past the burrowing critter and it doesn't stop pushing dirt out of the new entrance. Its as if it was making a point of showing us that no matter how many holes we covered up, it could dig new ones. I wouldn't have been surprised if it had lifted a furry paw and flipped a middle claw up at me.

That night my wife does an Internet search. She has apparently heard rumors about something called a Mountain Gopher. Sure enough, the few photos of the "elusive" and rarely seen Mountain Beaver is the creature burrowing on the slope behind my house. As with most information on the Web, I find a smattering of information, mostly regurgitated versions of the same text stating that a Mountain Beaver is basically a prehistoric rodent with a pissy attitude an no tail that is rarely seen and often misunderstood.

One official Washington State site provides helpful suggestions on how to discourage a Mountain Beaver from living in your backyard by being a bad neighbor. This involves filling up every burrow entrance you can find with old newspapers or used kitty litter (I'm not sure how this will faze an animal that eats its own crap). They also suggest wadding up old rags soaked with bobcat or coyote urine and shoving them into the burrows with a coat hanger. Apparently you can purchase bobcat and coyote urine online or at local trapping stores. I don't think Walmart carries it but if they do I'm sure the urine would sell at a very reasonable price. I haven't done a search for online outlets, but I imagine the companies have names like or

They also suggest that you can trap the Mountain Beavers, but chances are if you kill one, another one will move into his or her old burrow since the Mountain Beaver real estate market is pretty competitive.

For now I just filled in five or six of the burrow entrances with rocks and dirt. I can tell you that I was a bit nervous on Sunday while I continued clearing the ivy and horsetails waiting to be leaped on by a disgruntled Mountain Beaver. Being savaged by a feral Mountain Beaver is not the way I want to go out. For one, it would sound pretty pitiful on the evening news:

Anchorperson Jennifer: This breaking news, an Edmonds man was attacked today by a Mountain Beaver in what was described as a dispute over kitty litter and bobcat urine. Never heard of a Mountain Beaver, Steve, have you?
Anchorperson Steve: Not much Jennifer, but I hear they are more vicious than the elusive Jackalope.
So far I haven't seen any signs that Theodore (that's what I've decided to call my Mountain Beaver... it was Beaver Cleaver's real name on the Leave it to Beaver series) has unplugged the burrow entrances I filled in on Sunday. But I know he is down there, probably watching old Rambo videos plotting his revenge.

In the meantime, I'm going to go run a search for bobcat urine and hope I don't get in trouble with my IT department for surfing "blocked" Web sites.

Friday, June 03, 2011

A slice of melon collie anyone?

I have always leaned more towards bittersweet melancholy rather than saccharine-laced nostalgia. I would say it is a middle aged thing, but I pretty much have always felt this way. Maybe it is because my soul, if not an old one, is a middle aged one and has learned to recognize irony over many lifetimes.

It's not that I am feeling particularly melancholy. I was just looking at one of the stat counting programs that loosely identifies who is looking at what on my blog. For the most part people drift in using Blogger's "Next Blog" function. I pay little attention to them. They are tourists looking for giant balls of twine along the Information Highway.

The second highest traffic comes from people doing Google searches. I pay almost no attention to them either because the generally are looking for porn or help eliminating vermin from their crawl spaces. Or for some inexplicable reason they want to know why clams are supposed to be so happy. My blog post posing the burning question, "Are clams really happy?" remains my number one visited page. I hope these people find closure after reading my essay on the subject.

The most interesting visitor's to my site are the ones who seem to navigate deliberately to my blog. I imagine they may have once been visitors from category number one or two, but were curious enough to come back. Regardless I clicked on one link to the archives of my May 2006 blog posts. I was quite prolific in 2006. I began reading some of my old posts. One of the curses and blessings of being middle aged is being able to read something you wrote five years ago and basically have little or no recollection of writing it. It is really quite refreshing.

At the risk of sounding conceited, I was quite moved by some of the things I'd written. This is where the melancholy comes in.  In a post written ironically about Blogger's "Next Blog" function I wrote:

My forays into Blogger's "Next Blog" feature this last week has made me wonder. What are we looking for? Do we expect to stumble onto some blog out there with the answers? Would whatever power that motivates life's direction use as the forum for unlocking the key to existence? Is this all some fantastic DaVinci code where the pieces to the ultimate puzzle are hidden in the detris of mindless blogs about paint ball strategy or minutia about American Idol winners?

I don't think so. If there is an answer in the blog world, I think it may be a collective one. Perhaps it is just that we are all trying to look inside by turning ourselves inside out in a blog post. It's as if the computer has become our confessional and we sit waiting for affirmation that we are not alone in our sins of being human. We want to know that it is okay to not always know where we are going or if it is the right direction.

I think it is human nature to always look for a sign that we are not alone.

Now that may be a load of crap, but it is pretty profound if I say so myself (and I do and did). But it was really this post that pushed my melancholy button. It was a post about a planned trip back to my birthplace, Boise:

I find it odd after living in Seattle for about 24 years to return to my birthplace. I realize Boise has changed a great deal in those 24-years, but I can't help but sense the time warp aspect of the place in my memory. I won't be staying at the house I grew up in although my mom has plenty of room. I refuse to sleep in the basement in my old room with the leopard-patterned paneling listening to the water pump run every 15 minutes. And after living with 250 premium channels on a HD bigscreen television, I can't bring myself to watch local Boise channels on a 19-inch television in my mom's family room while she sleeps in an easy chair. I also can't bring myself to shower in a bathroom the size of a telephone booth (I can't believe it was once shared by 5 people in one house). But the real reason I won't stay at my mother's house is that there really is no more room there because it is already too full of memories.

You can never really go back. But you can hover above it all, observing where you were. I'll wander from room to room staring at timelines of family photos on the walls, listening to my mom lecturing her dog about chasing the neighborhood squirrels. I'll drive around the town on autopilot remembering the pizza parlour that is now a tattoo parlour. And I'll drive by my grade school remembering those walks home, stopping to catch waterskippers in a drainage ditch in a distant time before kid's pictures ended up on the side's of milk cartoons. I may walk around the downtown or the mall, looking into faces, wondering if I'll see anyone I recognize. But they will all be new faces.

Then I'll return to my generic hotel room that could be anyplace in the country and wonder why I am a stranger in a place where I first drew a breath. And I'll try not to think about the time when my mother rejoins my father and the family home is merely a photograph replaced by multiplexes and townhouses.

And I'll realize that it is all inevitable and it wouldn't have mattered if I'd been crowned King instead of ending up a middle-aged bureaucrat commuting by train rather than a royal carriage. Because even kings have no control over time.

That's where the melon collie came dashing out of the past nipping at little Timmy's heels. The irony in all of this, is that thoughts like these are part of the legacy of me I want my children to read some day in hopes they'll understand papa a little better once I'm either gone or lost somewhere in senility. And they are buried in the May 2006 archive of a blog best know for explaining why clams aren't really so happy.

Yes, Alanis, it is ironic, don't you think?