Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Score

Pepino , oh, you little mouse
Oh, won't you go away.
Find yourself another house to run around and play.
You scare my girl, you eat my cheese, you even drink my wine.
I try so hard to catch you, but you trick me all the time.
--Lou Monte, "Pepino, the Italian Mouse"

After a day of no mouse sightings (living or dead), but some evidence of a mouse's existence (e.g., peanut butter clearly licked from an unsprung trap by a very small, very stealthy, lightweight tongue), I woke yesterday to find an ex-mouse in the clamp of sprung steel and wood behind the stove. I was happy to see an end to our mouse problem, but a bit disturbed that I had to have a direct hand in the end of this little rodent's life. After all, he (or she) was just doing what comes naturally, right?

So, with a heavy heart, I cleared the trap. While dropping the body unceremoniously into the garbage, I spied another former mouse in the snap of a trap behind the garbage. I was very surprised. For some reason, even with ample experience with rodent infestation and removal (don't ask), I was not expecting two. And so, "the holocaust was complete." (Please refer to The Great Gatsby).

Until this morning, when I awoke to find another one behind the garbage can. I now have three little meeses on my conscience. How will I sleep at night?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Additions and Subtractions (Mickey Must Die)

Last night, after Monkey and I arrived home from our Turkey Day trip, I was cleaning the coffee pot when I noticed that the carafe was broken. Neither of us know how this happened, but, considering it was the carafe to a nineteen dollar coffee maker that we bought five years ago, it was not much of a big deal. I resolved to drink tea in the morning and stop at Panera on the way to work.

Which I did, but not before noticing that something had entered the house to replace the loss of the coffee maker.

As I stood at the counter, pouring water from the kettle into my mug in the fluorescent-lighted pre-dawn kitchen, a little brown mouse scampered out from behind the pantry shelf and along the base of the counter. When he saw me, he leaped about a foot in the air, did a 180, and hauled ass back behind the pantry shelf. For a moment, I could not believe my eyes. Until I looked behind the pantry and saw it snuggling under a stack of paper bags.

So, this evening, after school, I went directly to Target to buy a new coffee maker...and some mouse traps. Stand by for developments.

Oh, and, if seeing a mouse in my house was not strange enough for me, I noticed that Missouri is #1 in the BCS?! What is happening to my world?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Doing the Unthinkable

Back in the day, before I lived in Stinkin' Lincoln, before I lived in CoMo, before I lived in HoCo, before I got married, I lived with a friend of mine in a little house in Hamilton, a neighborhood in the northeast section of Baltimore. She owned the house, and I had moved in with her from a second floor apartment in a house not two blocks down the street. It was so close that the move took forever, since I never rented a truck or anything. I borrowed this old Ford Econoline van from my dad, that smelled like chicken blood and Big Gulps. We used to use it to make short trip deliveries for the wholesale biz, but anyway....

This little house had a few trees around it. In the fall, the leaves fell, as they are wont to do.

For most of my life up to that point (about 26 years), I had raked nary a leaf. I never saw the point in it (nor did I ever have the necessity to do it). I always figured that, well, that was where the leaves were supposed to be, right. Mama Nature didn't drop all those leaves just to give us all something to do, did she?

But, this particular year, for whatever reason (I think I was compelled by my housemate/landlord), I went out and raked leaves. And damn if she didn't take a picture of it. Lucky for us all, I do not have a copy handy, and, if I did, it would be in an old-fashioned format, one you could put in an album, with pages; one that you'd have to say, "Careful, don't get fingerprints on it." Remember those kind of pictures?

I bring this up (the raking, not the photo albums), because I spent a good deal of Saturday raking leaves, trimming bushes, and generally preparing for winter. On Sunday, I wrapped the water heater and weather stripped the doors. That, I don't mind. The leaves, however, are something I need to reconcile myself with.

There were so many, and the backyard is already patchy and thatchy enough. I had to do it. I had no choice. Still, a part of me wishes...well, I just hope I don't get all lawn obsessive like the rest of the block and start watering my lawn in the summer. Now that...that's just plain stupid.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On This Day in History

Last year, on this date, I had reached the 20K word mark on my novel, The Fingers of Time (formerly The Trials of Vernon). Today, I am just under 10K for this year's attempt, If This Were A Movie. I am despairing, but I am not giving up. I was not the most productive writer this weekend past, but a friend of Monkey's was in town from Minnesota. I didn't write much at all. I have knocked out about 4000 words between today and yesterday, but I will really have to get cooking this weekend if I have any hope of finishing this puppy.

Just thought you might want to know what has been occupying my time (or, at least, my thoughts, since I am not actually DOING anything) lately.

I'll try to be better next time.

Friday, November 09, 2007

My Good Fortune and Borrowings

Today I find myself with a day off. Our school is hosting the state volleyball tournament (how am I supposed to say that, Osculator?), giving all of the teachers and students a three day weekend. Hoorah!

I plan on spending it cleaning the house, catching up on the "novel" (I know the Dingo doesn't believe it possible, but I do...), which I am far behind on, and, of course, because there really are no true days off for a teacher, planning and grading.

School has been an up and down proposition these past few weeks. I am still having a hell of a time with my "younger" students, but I was evealuated on Wednesday, and I think it went well. I have a follow-up on Tuesday, and we will get our feedback then, but I am positive. So, as Carl says, I got that going for me.

Other than that, I have little to report.

In response to a comment from a reader (hello, Ethan!), I would suspect that western societies are not more prone to psychological disorders. Studies may show a higher occurence of them, but that reason may have something to do with taboos in other societies against reporting or seeking help for psychological conditions. Keep in mind, I am not even an citizen-expert on this subject, but, if I remember, I will consult with Monkey (who is a professional expert) and get back to you.

As, Hodg-man likes to say in his closing: that is all.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The End of A Very Long Western Story: Lodge of the Bear, Old Muddy, and A Palace of Corn

We spent most of our last day in western SD visiting what is known officially in the US as Devils Tower. The igneous monolith, made famous as Richard Dreyfuss' obsession in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is actually known by many other names in the various languages of American Indians. Lakota call it Bear's Lodge Butte. Most of the Indian names have something to do with a bear. The Indian story of the butte's origins involves a bear, a flat rock, and some sisters, if I am not completely mistaken. The bear (which was some kin to the girls turned into a bear, I think), chased the girls. They fled and asked a flat rock to help them. The rock asked the girls to circle the rock several times, and, as they did, the rock rose up to the heavens, forming the butte. As it rose, the bear's claws scratched the characteristic ridges around its perimeter. The girls wound up becoming stars, or something. I don't recall what happened to the bear. At any rate, it's an awesome story (not retold very apologies).

Geologist tell several different stories, but all of them involve magma and cooling and erosion and fractals (or hexagons or something) and millions of years. That story is awesome, too, but, it's a different kind of awesome.

Whatever story you adhere to, Devils Tower is a magnificent site. It towers up out of the gentle hills of eastern Wyoming, creating a spiritual magnet for many. It has been a sacred site to American Indians (understandably) from time untold. Climbers are drawn to the tower, too. The National Park Service is caught in the middle, trying to respect American Indian spiritual beliefs, yet allowing rock climbers to scamper up and down the ridged face of the formation. Honestly, I don't know if that really is a balance, at all, but I do know that the view into the Belle Fourche Valley from the base of the Tower is a glimpse into paradise itself.

We made it back to Hill City, after taking about a hundred pictures of Devils Tower (we circled the entire thing on foot), in time to see the lighting of Mount Rushmore. My inadequate photography skills left us with little in the way of quality proof of the sight, so I'll spare you. Suffice it to say that it gets chilly in the Black Hills in October when the sun goes down, and you haven't eaten since breakfast.

The next morning we made our way back east. Traveling through southern South Dakota this time, we crossed the Missouri River at Oacoma and Chamberlain, where they have an extensive Lewis and Clark exhibit at the I90 rest stop. Needless to say, I have had my fill of L & C, after the last couple of years in Missouri, but this was impressive. They even had a full-size replica keel boat inside the rest stop. That's worth a stop (that and having to go to the bathroom, anyway).

Our last destination in SD was Mitchell. Home of the disappointing Corn Palace. We snapped a few pics, but, while admiring the artistry of the corn murals, we found ourselves underwhelmed by the little corny building next to city hall. The fact that within they were staging some extreme fight club event didn't help to increase my "Wow" meter reading.

The sun set as we passed south down US77, through the Winnebago and Omaha Indian Reservations, through the towns of Oakland (the award-winning Swedish capital of Nebraska), Wahoo, Fremont, and Ceresco, and, finally pulled into the drive of our house. A cursory unpacking, and we were off to bed, looking forward to Saturday and Sunday, so we could rest up from our relaxing 2000 mile drive around the wilds of the old Wild West.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Very Long Western Story, Part Four: The Wind and the Badlands

One of the drawbacks of being in a place that gets a lot of summer tourism during the month of October is that some places that may be recommended or interesting wind up being closed or on an off-season, short schedule. If you'll recall, Monkey's and my last visit to Maine during early June (off-season, there), found us having difficulties finding recommended places for lunch due to the fact that it was 2pm and most of the places closed at 1pm because it wasn't "summah, yet."

The same fate befell us here in South Dakota (where I was surprised that many of the locals have what I once thought was just a Minnesota accent--it's apparently more of an Upper Midwest "o." I guess, if I would have paid more attention during Fargo, in which Frances McDormand used the same accent to great effect (in NORTH Dakota)....). We arrived at Wind Cave at about 3:25. The last cave tour went out at 3, so we didn't actually get to tour the cave, which is like a labyrinth down there (we saw a map)! We did get to walk around to the back of the visitor's center and see the natural mouth of the cave, through which Alvin McDonald passed thousands of times as he explored and mapped the extensive cave throughout his life. He must have been a pretty small guy.

And that about did it for the exploring on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, we proceeded east to Interior, SD, where we then headed northwesterly into Badlands National Park. It was a vision beyond words, really. The closest, I imagine, that I will ever get to being on a different planet, without ever leaving my own, the badlands are simply an awesome, unique place. And every step changed the perspective. I surely would not have wanted to pass through this place in an earlier time, without water or shelter, or the means to pass through relatively quickly. I imagine that many folks died passing through the badlands, or at the least suffered immensely. But, looking upon them now, in the settled, soft 21st century, where we visit dreadful natural places as destinations to snap a few pics and head back to the motel, they are beautiful.

The badlands were a haul, and, adding to the trip a visit to the ridiculous Wall Drug (you gotta see it to understand), and a stop in Rapid City for some grub, that was the day on Wednesday. Thursday would take us from Badlands to worse, as we headed west, into Wyoming (The Equality State?) to witness the startlement known as Devils Tower.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Here We Go Again

We interrupt "A Very Long Western Story" to bring you this important message: it's on again!