Archive for the ‘Out Of The Will: Writing About The Relatives’ Category

A Few Holiday Highlights

December 29, 2008

This year Little Sister was in charge of our traditional family Christmas Eve dinner. And the fact that I lived to tell about it indicates that she not only got the skinny-with-large-boobs gene and the genius-IQ gene, but the I-can-cook-like-Julia-Child gene. I must be destined to win the Mega Millions or maybe I’m going to achieve reality show fame. Because those are the only two things the Universe can give me to make up for the genetic shortchanging.

*******

In an attempt at jollying up Chez Apartment, I outlined my floor-to-ceiling windows with holiday twinkle lights. Bionic Kitty ate 14 of the bulbs and I suspect she mildly electrocuted herself. But she has yet to die. That cat is freaking immortal.

*******

I don’t understand why, despite repeated requests, nobody gave me the Unicorn. Please note, I will happily accept late gift submissions. Also, my birthday is in May, Webbernets. On the upside, I received 6 bottles of champagne from various clients. New Year’s will be bright and merry, followed by a brief stint in rehab.

*******

A few days ago, District McFly* and I went on a spree of holiday festiveness. We saw carolers, checked out the (strangely troll-filled) train display at Union Station and picked up some last minute gifts. Everything was going well and we were appropriately merry and Yule-ish until we set off for the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse.

As we approached the Capitol, there was a tree, pimped out in bulbs and lights. Yet it had a Charlie Brownish feel to it. I turned to District McFly and asked if the pathetic fir was the National Christmas Tree. We looked at each other, and agreed: that was not the tree, because if it represented the best Congress could buy this year, then the economy was in worse shape than we thought. We walked some more, trying to figure out where the Ellipse was in relation to the Capitol Building. All the while, we attempted to suppress any tourist vibes we might be giving off. But after 15 minutes or so, no tree, no Ellipse, nothing. Finally, I decided to suck it up and asked the only other person in the area who wasn’t carrying a map and thus, was most likely to know where the tree was stashed. He informed us that the Ellipse is actually the front lawn of the White House.

Oh.

Despite four years of combined DC-residency, District McFly and I are still apparently unable to locate major national landmarks. I thought the Ellipse was near the Capitol and since I had unknowingly been appointed Holiday Excursion Guide, we had headed there. When I pointed out that I’ve only lived in DC for a year, and consequently can claim Landmark Stupidity, District McFly was all, “But I thought you knew where it was, Benevolent Leader,” and I responded, “Yeah, but you’ve lived here longer! You should have the Sightseeing Map programmed into your brain by now.” While we clearly share the innate ability to locate bars, vegetarian restaurants, and all-locations with favorable single men ratios, any other sense of direction or tourist-site awareness eludes us.

Eventually, we made our way to the Ellipse. And on the way, we took a montage of pictures. All of me and various trees, which I intend to use next year, when I get crafty and make holiday cards. The caption will be, “So NOT the National Christmas Tree.”

*District McFly asked me to explain a key aspect of name. McFly’s essentially short for My Carbon Footprint is Littler than Yours.

My Boyfriend, The Hunter

December 10, 2008

Apparently this is deer season. Or it’s deer season in some states but not others. Or maybe it just ended. Since I’m not really inclined to shoot things, my knowledge of the hunting calendar is lacking. But recently, in one of those relationship moments where you look at your bedmate and think, “How the bloody hell did I not know that about you?” I learned that eCrush owns guns. Plural. Also, as part of his quest to out-Republican the Republicans (and maybe partially to prove his manliness despite his love of madras), he hunts.

My knowledge of eCrush’s second-amendment-loving, Bambi-killing nature came about rather abruptly. It was the holidays, he went to visit family, and I thought that meant carb-overloading, consumption of box wine, and a turkey coma. You know, like it does for most Americans. My happy illusion ended when I called him to check in.

eCrush: Can’t talk now. There is a doe in my sight line.

Me: WHAT?

eCrush: I am engaging in deer population control. This is a good thing.

Me: You are hunting? Since when do you hunt? AND you brought your iPhone into that hut tree house thing?

eCrush: It’s called a tree stand.

Me: The point is, tree stand, orange camo, IPHONE. Which one of these things doesn’t belong? Besides the obvious: YOU!

I spent hours debating my willingness to date somebody who hunts. And owns a Scent Control Parka. But ultimately, I decided I shouldn’t end a good thing when hunting ranks darn low on my General Problems With Republicans List. Also, eCrush and I are both from central Ohio. Lots of people hunt there. The appreciation of the sport is so widespread it crosses socio-economic lines and conquers political affiliation. I know women who hunt and I’ve got friends who own land specifically so they can go shoot things on it. They also have ginoramus smoker contraptions to better dry out their deer meat. And in law school, half the guys went missing each year during bow season. Those that remained were either gay or from out of state. Hell, even my dad has a BB pistol to better battle the squirrels. All that being said, I’ve become pretty acclimated to the Scary Killer Sportsman concept. I just don’t like it.

Despite my repeated aversion to stalking innocent animals and then shooting them dead, eCrush is determined that I try it. He is adamant that I’d make a great huntress. Like the DC version of Artemis. I contend that nothing about me says I Love To Spend Time In Nature, let alone Bambi Sniper. Also, with my long and sordid history of klutz behavior, I’m sure I’d pull a Cheney and then we’d be the lead story on Fox News. I can just see Shepard Smith all, “…and in a shocking story of love gone horribly wrong, a liberal DC Attorney shot her prominent Republican boyfriend in the ass yesterday. Her camp claims it was simply a hunting accident, but our anonymous White House sources suggest otherwise. For more, let’s go to…” Yeah. Nightmare.

But eCrush won’t give up. Initially, he tried a Let’s Hunt Together bribe: new shoes. Clearly, eCrush knows his target audience and he almost had me. But he fouled it up when he mentioned the shoes weren’t from Nordstroms. Instead, he intended to give me shoes designed specifically for trail hiking and by extension, suitable for prolonged tree stand time. I asked if the fancy hunting sneakers would also help me run away from rampaging bears, and eCrush didn’t think that was funny, so, end of conversation. Since then, eCrush has wisely stopped his attempts at bribery. Even he admits Midwestern Sexy does not look good in camouflage. Consequently, he’s not tried to bribe me with survivalist-wanna-be-type pants. But last night, he broke out a new tactic: proof of ability.

eCrush (batting his puppy dog eyes): Why won’t you come (insert pheasant/quail/other fowl – I know it’s a bird. Aside from that, I don’t pay attention) hunting?

Me (all please, not this again): Moral issues. We’ve been over this.

eCrush (convinced he’s got a trump card): Well, if I can prove you’d be good at it, will you agree to go?

Me (doing a killer Skeptical Nicholson impression): HA! This, I am interested in.

That’s were eCrush proudly brandished an old school Nintendo.

eCrush (all jubilant): DUCK HUNT!

Two hours later, eCrush admitted defeat. Because if my Nintendo aim was that bad? He didn’t actually want me to come along for the real life version. Score one for me. And the general wildlife population of Maryland.

Never Name Your Kid Katherine

December 3, 2008

When I was born, my dad nicknamed me Blondie. After the dog. It was not an auspicious beginning but I guess I should be grateful that Dad limited the Blondie use. While filling out the birth certificate for both Little Brother and Little Sister, he enacted the ultimate veto by ignoring the names my parents had agreed upon and rechristening both my siblings. Knowing Dad’s track record, and considering his much-loved dog was given away just a few days before I was born, it would not have been a stretch for Dad to decide Katherine was out and Blondie was in. I’m sure he’d have justified it as a memorial to that fabled Lab while dooming me to a life of explaining that, yes, I was legally named after a dog.

Aside from Blondie, my life has been awash in pet names. Actually, each phase of my life can be charted by what people were calling me at the time. Right now I’m operating under KJ, Rine (which is the bastardization of Katherine; born because eCrush is too lazy to say my full name) and Chuckles (don’t ask; I don’t get it either). My formative years were awash in Katherine derivatives: Kat, Chatty Cathy, Katy-did, Katrina Ballerina. And there was also Thunder Thighs. Yup. Little Brother bestowed that gem. He’d break it out when he was on the receiving end of an Extreme Brother Beat Down and he had no other recourse. It was sort of his verbal trump card. Its use guaranteed I’d throttle him, but he’d sacrifice because he knew how much Thunder Things pissed me off. Eventually he stopped using the nickname, but it left its mark. Strangely enough, being called Thunder Thighs has instilled a lifelong hatred of chicken wings. To this day, on 25 cent wing night, the unique logic of my ten-year-old self dominates and I can’t participate. Basically I associate chicken wings with chicken thighs and in some twisty mental way, my own thighs. So, eating chicken wings? It’s like doing a Donner Party on yourself.

Then there was the whole Katie- Kate-Katherine evolution. Being called Katie was acceptable until about eighth grade. At that point, it no longer aligned with my newfound Mature Sensibilities so I took advantage of moving to a new school and renamed. Goodbye, Katie. Hello, Kate. After years of dedicated correction, I finally got my parents to drop the “i.” Yet my extended family remains rooted in Katie. It’s been over a decade since I’ve undergone the Kate upgrade, but if I phone any of my assorted aunts and self-identify as such, there’s a pause followed by, “Who?” At that point I’ve got a choice: hang up or sigh, give in to 29 years of history and grudgingly call myself by the name they recognize.

In college, when I tried to make the move from Kate to Katherine, I stupidly mentioned it to my mom. Her response was a two page email wondering if my constant name switches were an early warning sign of schizophrenia and offering medical attention while I was still on her insurance. I tried to explain that it wasn’t so much multiple personalities as it was reverting to the name she picked out. Also, there a desire to be a bit more professional than the name Katy-Did allowed. Still, I never made it to Katherine-status in college. Too many high schoolers followed me from my piece of suburbia. You can only grunt, “My name is Katherine,” so many times before you accept four more years of name stagnation. It took ‘til law school to make transition. Of course, for the first three weeks I had to muzzle Aaron Reed, who followed me from high school to college and then onto get out JDs. Still, it was worth it.

But rewind all the way back in eighth grade, when I was attempting that Katie/Kate swap. That’s about the same time I got another stellar nickname. A week into classes, there was an all grade assembly which included a segment I fondly refer to New Kid Embarrassment Times A Million. Each of the three new kids was asked to stand up. One by one, the guidance counselor announced our names, where we’d previously attended school and a fun fact about us. (This is Chucky! He comes to us from Cleveland and likes to play the tuba! Poor Chucky. All hope of moving up the social ladder pitifully crushed thanks to the public identification of his Bandie status.) I was the last one she introduced. Blessedly, she got the Kate part right and my fun fact was innocuous. But then she revealed where I’d last lived. From that day, every boy from my particular piece of Ohio called me Abu Dhabi. Even at our ten year reunion.

So, of course, when Aaron “I stalked Katherine through the great educational institutions of the world” Reed would see me in the college dining hall, he’d shout, “Yo! Abuuuuuuuu!” I’d pretend to ignore the Crazy Man while silently renewing my vow of revenge on that guidance counselor. The one time a college friend was around for Aaron’s Abu Display, I refused to tell her the story. After all, this was the same friend who had ushered in a new age of nicknames. The last thing she needed was more ammunition; she’d done enough name damage during sophomore year when she drunkenly realized masturbate ends in an “ate” sound. She was so drunk-excited; you’d have thought she’d invented the orgasm. That night of alcoholic excess kicked off the MasturKate era. And also ForniKate, EradiKate, ExhilarKate, ExonerKate, TitillKate, and 226 other ends-in-ate names. I know the exact count because we kept a running list in rainbow colored marker on our dry erase board for the semester. And junior year, the list evolved into a drinking game. I’m told that game was passed on, sort of like a nickname virus, through my specialized program, where it lives on and routinely taxes the minds of underage binge drinkers, as they struggle to think of new “ate” words.

Admittedly, it’s great that my nickname suffering has led to increased alcoholic consumption. My inner sorority girl is skipping around in delight. But really, I’m not sure that particular glory makes up for moments like last night’s drunk dial. A college friend left a message. It was four minutes of her chanting, “MasturKate likes to ForniKate! I rhyme! MasturKate likes to ForniKate! I rhyme!”  Over. And. Over. Again.  Moments like that? They make me wish Dad had named me after the dog.

This Explains Lots, or Thanksgiving At My House

December 1, 2008

Our family stuffing recipe requires eleventy gazillion loaves of bread be left out overnight to dry. Which, of course, we forgot. So Thursday afternoon, I stood over bread pieces heaped on the dining room table, armed with a blow dryer, attempting to save tradition via high heat and a low setting.

Also, my mom swears free-range, organic turkey really is supposed to be pink.

Weddings: Misery Dressed Up In Tulle

November 13, 2008

It seems Little Brother is engaged. And to a real woman; not the blow-up doll I always secretly expected. Naturally, I’m tickled pink about the situation. Little Brother’s fiancé is a sweetheart with a promising shoe collection and a strange willingness to join the insanity that defines my family. Also, this addition to the Thanksgiving Attendance Roster surely means that I will be bumped to the Big Kids Table at long, long last. But the real icing this engagement puts on my Cake of Life: Little Brother is the new target of my mother’s constant “how long ‘til you give me some freaking grandkids” cross-examinations. I can practically hear her setting the Nine Month Stop Watch all the way from Ohio. So, yeah, generally this engagement news makes me see gum drops and unicorns. Except for one small, itty bitty detail: I actually have to attend
this wedding. And being there is spirit doesn’t count. (I asked.)

Apparently, everybody in my family likes attending weddings. Crack smokers. And they seem particularly pumped for this one. It’s the first family wedding in my generation and there’s the bonus that my parents aren’t paying for it. But my family has never been to a wedding without an open bar or had Official Bridesmaid Duties like holding 50 pounds of tulle and lace above their head while crammed into a two foot by two foot, hygienically questionable bathroom stall with a bride breaking the seal. And I don’t think they’ve sat at the singles table, where their sorority sister’s thrice-divorced and bitchy-even-when-not-intoxicated second cousin asked them if they’re sure they’re not a lesbian because they are almost 30 and never been married. And if not a lesbian, then maybe just sexually frigid? Yeah, weddings are oodles of fun and I love them.

After the lesbian incident, I finally wised up and instituted a Personal Wedding Attendance Policy. The thought being, I if I have to shell out money for presents/travel/dress/Valium, then I should find some aspect of the wedding amusing, and preferably due to the personal humiliation of others. Or at the very least, that I be able to pound enough free drinks to dull the attendance related pain.

So now I will not go to any wedding which does not include at last two of the following:

  • An open bar
  • That awesome chair moshing thing the Jews do and/or The Chicken Dance
  • A blood relation taking vows
  • A celebrity in attendance
  • Butt bows, hats and/or parasols for the bridesmaids (the exception is, of course, when I am a bridesmaid; then the required outfit cannot be the least bit taste questionable)
  • An obnoxious theme, bonus if it requires the wedding party to dress up in tights (again, not applicable if I am in the one wearing themed clothing)
  • Kilts (this is especially appealing if it’s a fall wedding and outside, thus increasing the possibility of a strong breeze/kilt disaster)
  • Possible bride pregnancy and viciously speculating relatives
  • A budget of over $100,000 or other indicators of excessive and/or tacky ostentation (i.e. a Cinderella Princess carriage or doves)
  • A tropical destination, but only if it’s not hurricane season and the terrorist alert color is under Yellow
  • Me giving a toast or me in a white dress
  • Vegas

So the other day, when Mother gave me a tentative Save The Date, I informed her of my Attendance Policy and asked which two qualifications this wedding would meet. She explained that short of the total annihilation of the human race, there is no way I’m getting out of attending this wedding. Based on her choice words, I’m pretty sure that even if I did get mauled to death by lipstick wearing Republican pit bulls between now and June, come ceremony time, my mom would just prop my coffin up beside her and be all, “See, your little brother did it. He found somebody to reproduce with. I’m getting my grandbabies, no thanks to you. This means Little Brother’s getting the good china when I die. And you? Well, all you get is a life of barren misery and the Corelle.”

The True Story of the Shitmobile

October 10, 2008

My brother tells it this way:

One delightful morning, an Angelic Boy was riding to school. As his older sister drove, he innocently rolled down the car window. Being a model child and upstanding citizen, he was not doing anything improper. It was just that Angelic Boy was channeling his inner Thoreau. He wanted to appreciate the early spring morning and align his chi before the craziness of high school began for the day. As Angelic Boy was revealing in Nature, a big bad voice, that of Older Bossy Know It All Sister, told him to shut the (deleted for the sensitive ears of the viewing audience) window. While Older Bossy Sister did not give a reason for her unreasonable and foundless demand, Angelic Boy was raised to believe in good manners and listening to one’s elders. With a sad sigh, he complied. Slowly, as if was protesting the injustice, the very wrongness, of closing Angelic Brother’s great gateway to nature, the window crept up. Then, without warning or provocation, it stopped. Just like that. The window would no longer go up, but remained in limbo, halfway up, halfway down. The end.

Clearly, the way my brother tells it is wrong.

The real story behind the Shitmobile goes something like this… Our school district didn’t have any high school bus service. They claimed it was to save money, but everybody knew better. If the rich area Mommies and Daddies gave their little darlings cars the minute they were old enough to get driving permits, why bother? But not all Mommies and Daddies are loaded and/or believe 16 year-olds should drive BMWs. Nope. My parents gave me the Shitmobile. And that was only because they were sick of driving me to school.

The Shitmobile came by its name honestly. Many moons before this particular story occurs, my parents had bought a used, decade-old Honda for my father to commute in. At the time, he happened to be stationed in Pennsylvania and we lived in Central Ohio. For about a year, he drove eleventy bajillion miles to see us on the weekends. Eventually, he retired and for awhile, so did the Shitmobile. Oh, and did I mention that at some point during one of his trips back to PA, Dad hit some black ice and took the Shitmobile over a guardrail? Thankfully, he was safe, but the Parents decided not to fix the damage to the car. Who would when it was a tenuous step above Junker?

At some point after I was given responsibility for the Shitmobile, it was mysteriously love tapped in the back. In an effort to avert grounding, I had tried to hide the damage by finding some white paint and finger painting over the scratch gash Grand Canyon sized gouge. Except the garage was really dark when the repair attempt occurred and I didn’t know that the general car dirtiness was mixing with the paint. The haphazard patch actually accentuated the damage and the area retained a general dark gray tinge from that day. To add to the ghetto aesthetic, the Honda emblem had been pulled off during this love tap incident and I crazy glued it back on. The glue didn’t hold long and eventually the Honda emblem was lost in the streets of Columbus. Classy. (On a side note, I would like to take this opportunity to confess. Mom and Dad: that the love tap did not in fact occur in the Junior Class parking lot, as I’m sure you know. I hit a mailbox. Angela Hu’s mailbox, very late at night, as I tried to gun the car, in reverse, over the two foot deep drainage ditch in her front yard. Yes, I was parked in her front yard. Also, I might have actually been breaking curfew. And there might have been 8-or-so teenagers with varying levels of intoxication crammed in the back seat. I can’t remember exactly. Just so you know, it’s too late to ground me.)

Anyway, to compound the Shitmobile’s shitactularness, the car was in the early stages of rusting out. And the thing would overheat. Driving could only occur with the temperature blasting at the Living on the Face of the Fiery Sun setting. Not a huge problem from October to May, but man, the summer sucked. But the real crowning glory was the front passenger side window; the window my stupid little brother broke and my father later secured in the up and closed position with an entire roll of duct tape and sheer willpower. Because the window story has entered the family mythos, I would like to make sure it’s recorded correctly. Little Brother claims my telling is inaccurate, and in response I’d like to say three things to the stupid turdface. First, my version is the correct and accurate telling, so shut up already. Second, I have a blog and my audience is bigger. I win. And third, nana bobo.

So, without further ado, I present a recounting of the events related to the Shitmobile’s broken window:

For several days, while I drove Little Brother to and from school, he’d been randomly rolling the passenger side window up and down, up and down. It remains unclear what his purpose was, but I am pretty sure it had something to do with boredom and a general state of obnoxiousness. Occasionally, I think I also heard counting. At one point, I swear he said something like, “432, 433, 434…” My theory is Little Brother wanted to see how many times he could roll the window before it broke. And apparently, that number was pretty high. Regardless, Little Brother denies that he was doing anything with the window before the day in question. Whatever. *teenage eye roll*

The morning the window died, Little Brother was once again on an up/down rolling rampage. After the fifth or sixth time he’d lowered it, I asked Little Brother to knock it off. I asked nicely and cited the cold ass spring weather as the reason to shut the window. I know I asked nicely. I was always nice. Anyhoodles, because Little Brother was often a Little Shit, he said something along the lines of “make me.” Once again, stretching the very essence of teenage patience, I quietly asked him to roll the window up. No big shocker; he wouldn’t do it. So, I asked him one more time. But this time, I included something like “and if you don’t, you’re walking home after school.” Knowing I might get in parental trouble for making good on my threat but also realizing I could make his entire life Generally Hellish, Little Brother began to roll up the window. Except it stopped halfway up and wouldn’t budge.

Now, Little Brother might not be totally responsible for the window power switch burning out. The car was old, it was shitty, stuff breaks, yada yada yada. But I know all the pointless up and down action over the last few days hadn’t helped. Any little stressor is bound to break something that’s held together with duct tape, spit, and the Grace of God. Little Brother should have known better than to unnecessarily fiddle with the window. And as anybody with siblings understands, if Little Brother was the last one touching it, then he broke it. That’s how it works in Sibling World. So, even if there were extenuating circumstances, Little Brother was ultimately responsible (and to this day remains to blame) for that window breaking.

Because he was so clearly at fault, I let Little Brother have as we drove for two blocks. There is nothing quite like a rampaging teenage girl whose car (even a crappy, sorry excuse for a car) has been victimized by a younger sibling. In my fury, I produced screams only dogs could hear and I’m pretty sure Little Brother’s hearing was irrevocably impaired. Eventually, we reached a gas station and pulled in. The details remain fuzzy, but I know I continued to yell at Little Brother as a mechanic tried to get the window up. After about an hour, gravity had overcome any remaining strength in the window seal and the glass slid down into the door frame. The nice mechanic tried to retrieve it, but in the end, he had to settle for taping plastic over the hole. Off Little Brother and I went, me still yelling like a fishwife, him still cowering, the window still down. As we parked at school, I prayed for two things: first that my friends wouldn’t see and second, for justice.

It rained that day; the gusty, lashing rain that sometimes sweeps across the prairie states and dies a spectacular death over Central Ohio. The temporary plastic didn’t stand a chance. When Little Brother and I emerged from school and opened up the Shitmobile, a small river of water was running from the front passenger seat and collecting on the all-weather floor mats. And Little Brother, despite a perfectly dry back seat, insisted on sitting in the front. His teenage dignity demanded it. To this day, I vividly remember the sucking sound as the water-logged seat began to bear his weight. I can still see the little fountains that squirted up around his hinny as he sat. But most of all, I remember my satisfaction and utter belief it cosmic justice. It seems God does listen to sincere and heartfelt prayer.

I am supposedly related to you? An update…

August 13, 2006

I went over to retrieve my pillow cases. Little Brother and Friend were on the patio with a cooler of beers. And a swimming pool.

It measures 12 feet around and is 30 inches deep and holds up to 1,700 gallons. And it only cost “about $100.”

My dad’s going to be so proud!


The Pool Box
Originally uploaded by kjohnsonesq.


It comes with a filter!
Originally uploaded by kjohnsonesq.


Pool construction, part 1
Originally uploaded by kjohnsonesq.


The pool being put together
Originally uploaded by kjohnsonesq.


The fancy filter on the pool
Originally uploaded by kjohnsonesq.


All this could be yours for $100
Originally uploaded by kjohnsonesq.

I am supposedly related to you?

August 13, 2006

My parents are out of town this week. Mom went down to Florida to work on her tan and to take a refresher course on “How to Properly Interrogate Your Daughter Regarding Her Love Life” from my grandmother. Afterall, she’s been a little lax lately. My dad is at wood working boot camp where he will be making a cabinet. And, he’s visiting my other grandmother. So, I fully expect him to come back with some cookies. That leaves my brother home alone. Yep, he’s still living at Chez Parental.

I went over to my parents’ house this morning at about 9:30. Yes, I know that’s a bit early to bother Little Brother on a weekend, but I had 5 laundry baskets of dirty clothes and no clean undies. The situation was dire and I was not about to go to a laundry mat when there was an unused washer and dryer at Mom and Dad’s. (Note to self: after you buy a bigger bed, get a washer and dryer) Further, I had called Little Brother the day before to let him know I would be making use of the laundry facilities today. He had ample warning.

Anyway, I showed up, laundry baskets in tow, and opened the door. I walked in to find Little Brother and Friend watching MTV2. In Spanish. Needless to say, neither one of them is conversant in any language but English (despite my family living in Germany for six years). I did some wash, sat outside on the hammock, changed the load, and went back outside. They were still watching MTV2. In Spanish. Once again, I did a few more loads, made a late lunch, enjoyed the hammock. Little Brother and Friend were still watching MTV2. In Spanish. I finished my laundry, folded everything, hauled it out to the car, said goodbye (no response), and left.

I just called over there to see if I left my pillow cases. I asked my brother what he was doing. “Nothing. Just watching a little MTV2 in Spanish.”

You Hunt, Me Shoot

March 20, 2006

Today is the official first day of spring and the time of year I most enjoy. It’s not that I particularly like tulips, or because it gets warmer, but because I associate spring with the best guy in the world: my father. Any day now, Dad will break out his gardening stuff, the lawnmower and his ammo.

It all began about six or seven years ago when something happened to my father. I don’t know if working from home just wasn’t exciting anymore, or he missed the army’s sanctioned participation in war games, or an alien probe got him, but suddenly the backyard became The Place to Be Protected and Nourished and the rather large squirrel population that inhabited the yard became Yard Enemy Number One. To my Dad, the squirrels were even more horrible and offensive than dandelions and any of them that lived within a 50 yard radius of the house had to be driven out.

Dad started his campaign to protect the sacred zone in a low key manner using some traps and smoky stuff. His tactics didn’t work and the squirrel population continued to flourish. So, Dad asked his yard-obsessed neighbor for advice, looked online, and read up on natural squirrel deterrents. Eventually, he decided to buy some fox urine to sprinkle around the yard hoping the appallingly pungent aroma would act as a squirrel deterrent. Alas, it was not to be. Mom got wind of his plan and vetoed it based on the human breathe-ability factor and hygiene concerns. Meanwhile, engaged in a continuous backyard beautification project, Dad purchased several bird feeders. These birdfeeders were the type the Lowes’ sales person swore had been designed, engineered and product tested to keep squirrels out of the bird goodies (and my dad figured the extra $15 cost was well worth it if it would help starve the little buggers out). But, the Einstein of squirrels apparently lives on our block. Within days, the squirrels had figured out how to raid the multiple birdfeeders and soon it was Squirrel Thanksgiving for the backyard squirrel population and, to make matters worse, they even invited the squirrelly neighbors. Never one to be defeated by a rodent, my dad got serious. He once again researched on the internet until he came up with a sure fire plan: he bought a BB pistol.

This was not just any BB pistol. It was the deluxe spring air loaded version with a range of 70 yards maximum, and the capacity to shoot 12 repeating rounds. The bazooka of the BB handheld world. Along with the BB pistol, Dad bought several boxes of BB pellets and got to work. At first, Dad would occasionally go onto the back porch and fire off a few shots. But the squirrels quickly learned to flee beyond range when they heard the back door open and so Operation Drive Out the Little Suckers go stepped up. One afternoon, Dad took the screens out of the downstairs windows and a few times a day, he would crank one open and let that BB pistol do its magic. This met with more success as squirrels are apparently confused by the concept that there were multiple windows that could open resulting in an ever shifting barrage of BB pellets. At last, Dad was making headway in the Great Squirrel War, but it was still not good enough. As long as there were squirrels in the backyard, they were a constant reminder of lost plantings and bulbs, and they taunted my father. Soon, my father had the screens out of all the windows that faced the backyard, and extra pellets by each bank of windows. He could go from room to room, following the squirrels along their Path of Flight, and effectively shoot at them.

This turned out to be the key strategic move in Dad’s quest to get the oversized rats with fluffy tails out of his domain. Over dinner, we’d be regaled with stories of the squirrel that “jumped five feet and then went running” when Dad shot it. When Dad opened a window, the squirrels would scatter, and he could be heard muttering, “That’s right, and tell all your little squirrel buddies to stay away, too.” After some diligent staking out at windows, most of the squirrels had moved onto other birdfeeder-rich backyards. Dad was happy, the BB pistol was getting a much deserved rest, and the backyard was flourishing. Then the new neighbors moved in. With a dog. In squirrel world, there is apparently only one thing worse than a yard with a determined man and a BB pistol: a yard with a yappy Shitzu. Thus, my dad still wages war every spring and I wait anxiously until he brings out the ammo again.