Mattiti vs. the Vacation Varmints

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | 1 Comment(s)

So this is one of those posts people.  One of the one's i warn you about ahead of time.  It's gross.  It is also a true story of something that happened to me a few days ago.  So if you are the type of person who stops following blogs because of reading hilarious tails of truly disgusting things happening to other people.  Skip this one.  It's not for you. (mom and dad, you already know this one, so you might as well keep going.)

We got home from a whirlwind vacation about a week ago.  And, as one does, we began taking stock of the state of our house upon return.  Well, after i took stock of my four things i sat down to watch some baseball.  Mmf kept taking stock.  As she moves to the kitchen i hunker down on the couch, reveling in the feeling of home.  And then i hear her scream. 

Now its not some horror movie shriek or anything, but mmf definitely full volume screams momentarily.  This is bad for two reasons. 

1.  Women from Vermont don't scream at a whole bunch of things.  Mmf grew up pretty much in the middle of the woods and sees most animals as neighbors more than potential threats or something to scream at.  its all, "Hello Mr. Bear, are you enjoying your midday stroll.  Nice seeing you. Say hi to the cubs for me."  So if she's screaming, its *not* good.

2.  The last scream-able situation had happened recently.  While staying with mmf's family out on the north shore of boston, a bat got into the house.  Actually, it got into mmf's parents room.  The first night.  We discussed said adventure at breakfast.  I believe my input went something like, "If i see that goddamn bat i'm gonna scream like a little girl."  Looking back, i realize that if you were watching a movie of my life--viewing this situation from your tv at home--this would be the moment everyone on the couch would groan with obvious foreshadowing.  But at the time, it seemed like the only thing to say. 

Of course, the next night, as i was bringing Grover in from a walk around 12:30 in the morning, batman resurfaced in the main room.  And that bat was friggin big.  Not the size of a car or anything crazy, but, with wings spread, probably the size of my forearm.  Grover (our pup for those of you who are new here) decided to sit all pretty-like and hope that the bat might be a new friend to play with.  He sat and followed the bat with his head as if he were watching a bizarre tennis match.  I was not as calm.  I may have blacked out.  but i did NOT scream.  take that me!  there was, however, a fair bit of panicking on my part.  Grover, on the other hand, realized that the bat was not going to play with him and went onto the couch to sleep (his bed was upstairs, however).  He wouldn't come, and after a trying day, i just had no more energy to be alone, afraid and wrestling with a dog while trying to prevent a bat from getting upstairs to where we were sleeping (turns out he did get back into the parents room . . . oops).  Anyways, long story medium length, i woke up mmf and she threw a towel over her head, marched directly out to grover, pulled him off the couch and upstairs.  She is my knight in shining armor.  

All this should accentuate how bad hearing her scream felt.  Beacaue, a la the bat--whatever it was that was causing her to scream, it was my turn . . .

Mmf: "There's a dead baby mouse in the tinfoil/saran wrap/sandwich bag drawer."
Me: "But there isn't even food in there."
Mmf: "i don't think i can do this one."
Me: "ok, i need to mentally prepare for this."  (to myself, chanting) "i'm about to see a rat baby [technically a mouse, but give me a break], im about to see  a rat baby. i'm about to see a rat baby."

I am two step to toward the kitchen when i hear it.  She gasps.  Full gasp.  Movie gasp. Horror gasp.  My baby is gasping.  This. Is. NOT. Good.   I can't even comprehend what it is making her gasp, but i already know i should have toughed it out with the bat. 

Me: "What is it hon"
Mmf:  "A nest.  In the sandwich box."

She says this while turned away from the drawer itself.  It's gross enough that she hasn't stopped to look at the details.  I did.  Here's what i saw:

1 mostly unused roll of tinfoil.
1 mostly used roll of saranwrap.
1 open box of sandwich bags with many bags still inside.
1 dead hairy mouse fetus, whole and on the drawer bottom
1 dead hairy mouse fetus, bled out across the drawer bottom
432 (ish?) dead hairy mouse baby fetuses, nested in said sandwich box--all snug as a bug in  . . . well, as a mouse baby in a sandwich box nest.

I'm going to be honest with you folks.  You can't un-see that.  And i still see it sometimes.  The rest of that day i saw friggin ghost dead mouse babies everywhere.  Every dust ball, every semi-hidden remote control--i was a very jumpy chap. 

Our first thought was to just pull out the drawer and dump it whole hog (whole dead mouse nest) into a garbage bag.  Turns out, the drawers in our kitchen are the one thing that doesn't come apart (unlike our dishwasher).  Had to go at it by hand.  Well, gloved hand and paper towels.  The one that had bled out was the grossest.  The brown lining (there is no sliver lining to this story) here was that i could dump the nest without having to pull all those individual suckers out.  All in all the experience left me running and gagging for the toilet.  Just dry heaves.  That's composure. 

While i was gloved i decided to wipe the whole drawer down a bit.  It is now 2 weeks later, and while we have bought new saran wrap, tinfoil, and sandwich bags, they are all still out on the counter. 

Cause i still can't open that drawer. 

Letters From Japan: Part Next

Thursday, August 25, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

Hey y'all.  (I have a southern accent when i'm embarrassed).  I'm been very busy .  Busy busy busy.  So here are a few excerpts from writings in 2003 when i was away in japan teaching english to elementary and middle school kids.  hope you enjoy.

Recent adventures.
Ok--Im starting with the most frivolous because Im so psyched about it.  Up here in japan--where I am--its ski country. There are those that ski and those that don’t live here.  And last week I bought not one but 2 pairs of skis.  Ok--so one was only 40 bucks and used (for rock skis til the snow gets good) but the other pair----mmmmmmmm-- LOVE THEM.  Im so happy that I finally got off my somewhat nerotic ass and made a purchase.  This recent acquisition has led me to fits of almost comatose-like starring at the clouds begging them to deliver their white nectar upon me.  Along with this purchase I also acquire . . .. . . BEDDING.  im officially out of the sleeping bag and into the sheets and acomforter.  Only took me a month and a half --go matt go. 

But now sad news--at the time of my first email I believe you were introduced to my car---Carrdvark.  The Honda civic shuttle that looked like an aardvark and made pokeman like sounds.  Well--One month in and an inspection later and I receive this CLASSIC email from the mechanic (and the guy I bought it from): “Please no more driving the car. the case will be a serious accident in the future.  The steering, braking and suspension system are important.”  awesome email --simple awesome--so caardvark is dead and im tooling around in a loaner Toyota tercel which im not naming because I will hopefully soon have a new car. And then ill tell you all about it. Cars--cyclical--like a circle --they go around.


ok--where to begin.  Ahh yes--school lunch --the best place of all.  Now first off school lunch is the most randomly priced thing ever.  Today it was 233 yen (about 2 dollars) . usually its thereabouts but NEVER NEVER a round number. 256, 301,  273--I just don’t get it.  Today for lunch I had Chinese dumplings with kim chi and testicle soup.  Oops.  Did I say testicle soup--I mean THREE testicle soup.  I would love to give you all the witty punch line where I tell you what the testi sized balls in my soup were . .  (editors note: since then I have surmised these were quail eggs). . But even in front of a captive 4th grade audience there wasn’t no way that shit was going into my mouth.  Im all for international understanding, but I had to take a firm george bush like stand on that one (theres my political commentary for this email).

Tomorrow is the English speech contest. Students from every middle school around here send representatives to give speechs (7 and 8th graders read the ones from a book--9th graders write their own) and I, yes, me, gets to be the lucky judge---whoooooopie.  That means over the past month each individual school has tried to find ways to make me judge their individual school speeches -pick my favorite kid et al., give themselves a leg up --  this contest has more corruption than the mob.  Its nutty and funny and sad and im in the direct center of it.  Wish me luck.

A bit about the education down hear.  The kids bow before every class--I like that bit--and after that its a crap shoot.  Generally I think the biggest variable is the homeroom teacher--ESPECIALLY in elementary school.  Ive had classes where the kid were SOOOOOO excited to learn English and participated and were genki (energetic) and generally speaking, their teacher is also interested in English.  Ive also had classes that were totally asleep.--usually their teacher can be found correcting papers in the back of the room not giving a shit. And worst of all the teachers who exert no authority over there kids--those kids run rampant and punch (especially in the private areas) and do the "kancho" (this is totally true) where they put their hands together like there was a pretend gun and try to jam their fingers up your butt.  I have learned to grow eyes in the back of my head--they always told us that school was a prison--they didn't know how right they were.  I had one such class like this on Monday--ive never wanted to start swinging away at kids more in my life--these 2nd graders hit me continuously for 40 mins and their 50 some year old teacher just sat there ineffectually trying to get a little quiet which never came--they totally didn't respect her and took it out on me.  I only escaped after class by enlisting some 6th graders to round up the 2nd graders that wouldn't stop pummeling me and throw them out of the room--they saved me (and they didn't seem to mind throwing the little kids around either).  I felt like a mob boss--I liked it .  ps --after that class I seriously weighed the merits of smoking cigarettes.  Which many of the teachers do by the way--in front of the students even.  And apparently Gunma is better than most places.

Many have also asked for an update on the toilet situation.  Well--ive got the whole squatting thing DOWN--sadly--but the new challenge is wiping.  In that position its almost impossible to wipe front to back, and since only one male I know wipes back to front, im still left figuring it out.  It also puzzles me what woman do--maybe when my Japanese gets better I can ask people these questions--im sure they’ll love it almost as much as you guys enjoy hearing about it. 



More White People Problems

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

There are some technologies and practices that, as they get passed by the constant change of the faster, more powerful, great convenience, become almost quaint.  Winding wrist watches come to mind.  As do rowboats (shrug). One carry-over from the past that I thoroughly do not approve of is bathroom attendants.

I’m not saying they don’t do a job.  If there is a bathroom attendant present, the chances are certainly much greater that you will have a clean john to greet you.  And that has value.  But, for the sake of argument, lets put the pro of a clean stall up against these cons.

1.    Worst job in the entire fucking universe.  Ok, hyperbole aside, spending one’s whole work day inside (for the sake of a more visceral example, you can picture me going into the charlotte airport bathroom today) a large row of toilets is horrible.  Its horrible.  Especially (close your eyes if you don’t like the gross stuff) airport bathrooms where people are cycling through, dropping kids off at the pool and getting on out of there.  The effect is  . . .well . . . smelly.  Not only that but you are expected to greet and say goodbye to all users.  And, in said welcome, you are also subtly trying to ask patrons of the bathroom (foreshadowing) to drop you a buck as much because your life is sucking as for the work you are doing.  There are worse jobs.  I have done them.  Maintaining the kibbutz sewer system was worse.  But it was also less humiliating.  At least when I was wading in poo only my coworkers were laughing at me.  Just don’t expect to see me handing you a towel as you are washing up from your bowel movement any time soon.

2.   Nobody wants to socialize in the bathroom.  There are once again exceptions.  Co-ed bathrooms and showers in college led to great harmonizing, community building, and a better understanding of gender.  Also, sometimes, I will enter a bathroom with a group of friends, and there will be simultaneous peeing and merriment.  Not often. 

At almost all other times, silence is golden.  I don’t want to be greeted entering the bathroom.  I’m ok being incognito about my bathroom needs (this blog seems to make that statement a boldface lie—but you get me).  I can get my own towel, I have never used aftershave or mouthwash when exiting a public bathroom (and I don’t see that changing), and I rarely go to the nearest bathroom to share any hot news flash.  Even a talker like myself is ok with a little quiet time in the potty room.

3.   I do not enjoy, or like being seen, as a bathroom patron.  I hate the whole concept.  I mean, should I really need money to take a pee.  Or rather, should I feel like I should need money to go to the bathroom?  No.  No no no.  This is different from those 50 cents to use gas station bathrooms (the fee is for use not cleanliness—obviously).  I can go to the bathroom, start to finish, by myself.  The idea that by placing another human in the bathroom that we can turn everyone’s need to use lavatories into another revenue stream (pee pun), is frankly a bit disconcerting.   Maybe I should point out to these geniuses of business that excrement makes great fertilizer, and that they should be paying ME for my service of providing them with free fertilizer.  Wouldn’t you like to see a video of that conversation?  Me too.

Jack Hanna Day Part II

Saturday, August 6, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

This was an epic snorkel.

Maho Bay is always good for two reasons.  The beach is adjacent the parking and the snorkeling is always decent.  There is also a healthy amount of sea-grass around, so you always have a chance of a turtle sighting.  Well folks, the good grass must be growing right now because it was turtle-mania out there.  One turtle two turtle three turtle NINE!  They were practically rolling in packs.  3 big fat faced green turtles, the cows of the Caribbean, with there soulfully big eyes staring back at you.  Some smaller guys, stuffing their faces trying to beef up.  And interspersed with the turtles . . . rays.  I saw a family of 3, all the size of the top of a coffee-table, cruising the grass strip.  You know, just putting in an appearance.  

The real gems, as always, were much harder to spot.  Octopi.  You may recall that finding an octopus, in my family, is the equivalent of the pubescent warrior being sent out on the plains alone, only to return with the head of a lion in his hands.  Ok, maybe not quite that dramatic . . . but its big.  These screwball animals can be pretty much any color or shape, and they spend most of their time making hiding places.  This hiding actually becomes their undoing (to being spotted by me at least), because there are certain characteristics (empty shells near the entrance to a hole/cave/indention) that draw me to investigate certain crevices more thoroughly (why do I think this line is going to be quoted back to me in the comments?)  And, low and behold, I found not one, but two verified octopi.   The first of which had what I would consider a deluxe hidey-hole, complete with a huge conch playing body-guard just to the side of a sizable cave on the ocean floor (sizable for an octopus mind you).  It’s like I killed a whole FAMILY of lions.  Wait, that doesn’t feel right.  Um . . . it was awesomeface sandwich, lets leave it at that.

The conch (and more specifically their shells) were one of the coolest parts of the snorkel.  Usually you see one or two of these shells (sometimes with conch inside, sometimes not) along the sea-bed.  But today, they were everywhere.  And they were all inhabited.  And it seemed that some conch somewhere gave the retreat sign, cause these conch were absolutely trucking it alone the sand.  Now, since a conch is essentially a huge snail in a shell, you must wonder what “trucking it” looks like.  Here ya go.  To move, the conch sticks itself out of the bottom of the shell similar to the gondolas in italy.  But, because of their clunky shape and lack of real steering, it just kind of pops them up haphazardly like a popcorn kernel popping or, even more accurately, like a person imitating a whale breaching.  So, a bunch of conch trucking looks like a seabed of gorgeous shells popping like its hot in a semi-consistent direction.  Pretty surreal and beautiful. 

It was, by almost any standard, a great snorkel.  As we toweled off and moved to avoid the asshats’ cigarette smoke coming from next to us, our smiles were hard to contain.  If we hadn’t seen any more animals for the rest of the day, it would have still been amazing.  As it turns out, this right here was the perfect amount of animals.  But there were more.

We saw some deer on the drive home.  No biggie.  I mean, kind of a biggie as deer are native to the island and have no real predators here, but it was a small and cute little deer and while it didn’t move to avoid my car, it didn’t run at it either. 

Understandably, when we got home we were exhausted.  Mmf went to nap in the bedroom and I took my book out to the hammock.  My hammock. The mattock.  It is, bar none, my favorite place in the entire world.  Not today though. 

I fell asleep in the hammock per usual.  I had pretty much done that on purpose.  Because it was heading toward dust, I also lay a towel over me, with only my next and head exposed.  When I awoke, it felt like carpenter ants had just set up shop inside my body.  My back was on fire.  Freaking fire.  And my neck scratched horribly.  I ran to mmf in the bedroom.

“I got bit. I’m pretty sure I got bit bad.”  Initially she giggled.  I’m funny, its understandable.  But when I turned to show her my back, the laughing stopped and the gasping started.  It looked like about 15 different relief maps of Hawaii had been built across my entire back.  Apparently, bugs can bite through hammock.  Noted.  They also had taken the easy way and chomped at my jaw and neck.  I was a fire ant.  I just wanted to take a bath in cortisone cream.  I settled for a burning hot shower.  Which helped.  A little.    I think I blacked out after that. 

I'm too Sexy for My Shell

Friday, August 5, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

So, i was going to paste a few pictures into my last post, and then i thought, wait, you know how i was talking to them about the crazy photo shoot mmf had with the crab(s).  Well folks here it is.  With a few sunset photos thrown in for mama.  Mama loves a good sunset.

the artist and her muse

rocky weather. i kill internet.

"Let me in!"

very Dawson's Creek

life turned upside down

Add caption

you just keep me holding on!


Jack Hanna Day Part 1

There is only a small subset of things in life that one can control.  The rest, im afraid, is beyond us.  And while I’m sure there is someone on this island for which internet not coming through the wires is a fixable problem, for me, it is something completely out of control.  Not coincidentally, it is also extremely related to my lack of ability to post new entries while down here.  That said, if you are reading this, I found a hotspot (pictures will be added to this point as the internet allows. 

Two days ago was, for us, that one day of vacation that you hope for when you arrive.  It was a Jack Hanna day, filled with animals from start to finish.   It began, as all days down here do, with coffee on the perch of our house, overlooking the ocean.  While I was staring dreamily out at the waves (scanning hopelessly for the passing whales which never seem to breach), I realized mmf was attending to something much more local.  Somehow, and I really have no idea how, a big ass crab had clawed its way to our perch, and was now hanging by a claw and two feet from the edge, a 6 foot drop below. 

Mmf and I had very different reactions to this news.  I went the practical route.  I’m all A) he wont die if he falls, he has a shell (I still believe this to be true) and B) all I need to do is go boil some water and we have crab cakes for breakfast.  I could tim gunn it and make it work.  A little aioli.  Some eggs.  Boom . . .breakfast.

Mmf is from Vermont.  Like, wayyyyyyy up there.  I’m not positive but I suspect that along with teaching the children up there that skis are actually their modified legs, they all commune with their animal friends and may even learn to speak to the wildlife.  Mmf thought the big blue crap (who I named “Cake”) was just the cutest little budgeybudgeybudgey (say all these words together in baby talk and you’ll get a close approximation to how she sounded).  Long story short, I was not going get to cook this critter, and he might even be replacing me in the bed. 

So she picks it up.  I would not have done that.  Not cause its dangerous, mind you, but because that’s just the craziest thing in the world to do and I am I huge wimp.  She did wear kitchen gloves as protection, but still, she was having a gay ol time letting the guy run along the stone pathway after she removed him from his precarious ledge.   When lifted, it became clear that underneath the crabs torso was a bundle of black stuff.  The crab was taking pieces of said stuff and popping them in his/her mouth.  I say his/her here and now because the black soil like stuff was either some sort of food he was hiding, or eggs she was now protecting through ingestion.  It was at this point that I lost interest in said crab and went back to reading.  Mmf, crab savior that she is, re-donned the gloves and hiked that Marco Polo of a crab explorer doing the cliff and replaced him into the relative wild.  She comes back from her adventure with a smile that says to me “I may not be vegan but I’m a WAY better person than you.”  Thankfully, I knew that already.

About an hour later, mmf inside, I remain at my perch like a British solider in front of the palace.  I look at the clam sea below and spot an eagle ray gliding just beyond the rock/shore line.  I scream to mmf.  Loudly.  I’ve seen turtles from the perch a bunch of times, but this is both my first ray sighting, and the body shape and wing span of the ray is unique and I know it to be an eagle ray, which is rare in and of itself.  They can move though.  Mmf finally comes to the ledge about 2 minutes later.  She has very obviously been summoned mid-shower.  I am remorseless and even a bit pissy about her slow response to my shrieking.  The ray has swum too far down the shore to still make out.  She’s seems semi-pissed at me, so I drop it.

On our drive out to the day’s snorkel, we jam to the tunes of the island.  There are a limited number of English radio stations on the island.  Even fewer play songs you have ever heard of.  One of our favorites is a classic rock station that plays “Steve Miller Band” fair.  We like.  This station is 104.9, The Mongoose.  It’s called the mongoose because those little elongated furry cute ass rodents live well on this island.  While there are no snakes on this island (which is nice), the Riki-tiki-tavis of the island seem to make due with the multitude of other lizard inhabitants (and im sure insects and fruit and whatnot).  I digress.  Anyways, as we are driving, the radio station takes a mini-break for station identification.  I swear that at the same time that the dude says “the mongoooooooooose,” a mongoose flies out from the forest along the road and runs full bore in front of our car.  Awesome.

If you believe in signs, which I usually do not, seeing all of these animals pre-snorkel is a good one. Animals beget more animals is the theory there.  And if you are one of those people, then I’m glad you weren’t with us, because in this particular story you would be right, and then I would have to deal with a whole car ride home of “be open to the signs” this and “Celestine Prophecy” that.  And you might get left roadside.  I digress once again.

We met up with one of mmf’s closest childhood friends from VT who happens to manage one of the most well-known and awesome bars on the island.   We don our masks and fins and get out there.  Before entering, however, we see a baby nurse shark, cruising the shallows.  We also watch the tourists reaction to this, which is to all converge around the poor little guy in a circle.  I think, “make a shark feel cornered.  That’s perfect, just like they tell you.”  Had I known the stupidity they were about to share with the beach, I might have even said something then.   Thankfully, the shark had the wherewithal to get the hell out of there.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see him again.  I blame the morons.
We are in the water, masks on, fins being adjusted, when mmf looks over to the bloated tourists once again.  (I should clarify that while tourists can be annoying, I have no real grudge against the population as a whole.  And I realize that I fall in that weird Brittney-esc middle ground myself, “not a tourist, not yet a local.”  But these tourist were fuck-wits, so allow me to vent on them without generalizing to all people getting away from it all.) 

To fully describe what was taking place, and my reaction, I need to tell you of a different snorkel spot on the island.  A place called Waterlemon Kay.  While I will spare you a full description of the spot, it takes about a mile hike to get out to the kay itself, but 9 times out of 10 it is the best snorkel you’ll have on the island.  Because of the extra effort necessary, less people end up finding there way to this gem, and its coral and aquatic inhabitants (a big nurse shark, a huge turtle, squid, etc.) has remained more undisturbed than some of the other, more popular, beaches.  One particularly beautiful oddity of this spot is that, during the right seasons, it is absolutely covered with deep sea starfish.  They are these big jumbo starfish that vary in color and, especially when viewed in the 100’s, are breathtaking.  My brother, in particular, feels deeply connected to these starfish.  Deeply.  He may or may not have declared himself the starfish king.  And while this may seem crazy on the outside, for our family it is completely par for the course.  We all love octopi (finding them in particular), I search for whales, mom loves collecting shells (like in an almost scary way), and dad’s a turtle man.  All of this is to say, I’m glad that my brother wasn’t here to witness what these fuck-wit tourists did next.

I look over and the large breast mother (of a family that we would later find smoking together at the waters edge—a sight that would make me mentally imagine I had a flame thrower and could seer the skin right off their bubbly bodies) has two starfish in her hands!!!  You don’t touch the wildlife.  You idiotic self-centered crap columns.  You don’t touch the wildlife!  Then, with her family’s high school egging on and cameras at the ready, the orca floats onto her back like an otter that ate a manatee, and places one starfish on each of her flour-sack breasts.   I am livid.  Mmf is livid.  Our island friend is livid.  You’re not the little mermaid whorehat.  You know how I know.  Because what you are doing is so stupid that not even a cartoon woman would use cartoon live animals to cover her breasts.  She used shells.  I want to assure her that she DOES resemble a certain octopus-bodied character from the same film.  I am about to say something to the family about their blatant disregard for anything other than themselves when mmf’s friend says that she often has to physically bite her tongue.  I think, “its not my tongue I want to bite.”  But I’m on vacation, so I turn and head out to enjoy the sea responsibly (I regret not saying anything now).

To be continued…  was it a good snorkel?  (amazing)  could there be MORE animals (many more).  Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of these are the animals in your neighborhood!!