Sunday, May 31, 2009

Marv Vs the Cicadas

Every 13 years, the South is alive with the sound of Cicadas. The Cicada is like a large combination dragon fly and House fly. They don't bite, and they don't sting. What they do is come up out of the ground and mate so that in another 13 years there can be more of them. And when it happens, there are more cicadas out there than you can shake a stick at!

The mating sound of the Cicada is a loud series of ticks and buzzes - mostly buzzes. To the male Cicada, the louder the sound, the better chance they have of finding a mate. Obviously then, females are attracted to the louder noise. They view the louder noise to be a better ...uh... father? Ok, let's say it, the better the sound, the more studly the cicada.

Enter in to this conflagration, Marv and his newest acquisition, a gas powered weed eater. Next to the chain saw, it is one of the greatest additions to a suthun man's lawn arsenal. Not those wimpy electric ones, but a full fledged 32cc gas eating, double stringed weed eating monster.

And when it's running full force, it roars with a loud buzz not unlike a monster cicada.

So, not being from the south, I took my new big weed eating monster and attacked the yard. The motor started up and in no time I was cutting weeds, edging the lawn and covered in female cicadas who thought of me as the most incredibly macho cicada that ever was. They were on my clothes, in my hair, and circling me like a squadron of fighters looking for a target. Never underestimate the tenacity of a horny female cicada.

Soon I found myself running for cover, carrying the growling weed eater (aka Cicada Bait) in one hand while I windmilled the other hand wildly in an effort to rid myself of the cloud of female admirers. No matter what I did, they only got thicker. My wife and daughter were at the back window of the house laughing their butts off. It took me a good 15-20 minutes to figure out that if I turned off the weed eater, they would eventually leave me alone.

I am fine now, but every so often I'll duck under the table when I hear a loud buzz.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Under the House

Any homeowner will tell you that there are two areas left just to repairmen. The attic and the crawl space. I've been in both and I can tell you that it takes me a long long time get ready to go under my house. I'm not claustrophobic. I am arachnophobic and the humidity of this area is like a blanket invitation to move into my crawl space. I hate spiders in the crawlspace... But that's not where it ends.

My house is in the 'burbs of Nashville. Even so, we've had trouble with all manner of woodland creatures - most notably the skunk. One morning when I headed out to the bus, I nearly got sprayed by one that decided to be lurking in my carport at 20 min before dawn. I tracked him for a few days and found his daily route. I quickly closed the fence where he was getting in. Undeterred, he ended up under my house one day. What he sprayed down there or why is unsure, but our bedroom suddenly smelled as if Pepi LePew was lounging at the foot of our bed.

We called a pest expert who also wouldn't go under the house (smart man) but did place a trap just inside the access door, which took 3 days for the skunk to get caught. Even with the special 'Pest Powder' he supposedly sprinkled down there the area under my house has never smelled the same. When faced with a task which must be done from 'down under', I sit at the door with my tools, wearing old clothes and take about 15-20 minutes to talk myself into making the trek. In this short time, I am already sweating heavily, shining my light into the door, poking at things with a long screw driver, killing anything that even remotely looks like a spider.

In order to get under my house I must open a small door on the side which is actually under an 'addition'. (Yes, that picture is actually my house, the door of which I replaced after the skunk got in..nice job eh?) I keep it shut and locked by bracing it with a handful of heavy cinder blocks. Once the door is out of the way, I have to sort of slide though on my stomach. (The previous owner didn't dig out enough room for someone to get under this area opf the house, let alone do any work. ) The area just inside the little door is a maze of fallen insulation but my arms can't get any working room to get them put back up. There are also small animal droppings and yes, spider webs and pieces of long dead spiders (did you know that brown reculse shed their entire body now and then? I hate spiders...) I use a strong light to find the webs, take them down and kill anything which moves. I put my tools into a bucket with a lid, to which I tie a long rope. Once all the way inside and in an area where I am able to move I will pull the bucket to me.

After I crawl down about 20 feet, and angle though a hole in the original foundation, I am under the house at that point I can now get around on my hands and knees and pull in the tool bucket. The ground is usually damp (it's spring in Nashville...rain rain and more rain) and the muddy earth below the 'moisture barrier' is smelly and has the viscosity of baby poop. Delightful.

Looking around, I see that the previous owner also has left me a nifty collection of used piping, scrap metal and even a kitchen sink. Southerners have a way of depositing construction refuse where it is merely unseen rather than where it belongs. My house is nearly 50 years old and there are more stories about what the previous owner did, along with what the construction codes were in the early 1960's which leaves me with more problems than just a few psycho spiders.

When I'm done with whatever brought me down there, I get out of the area the same way I came in. Once out, I have to strip completely on the patio (praying that the neighbors don't call the cops) and take my smelly dirty clothes directly to the laundry (where they are washed in hot water TWICE). A long hot shower and two bars of soap bring me back to some level of normalcy. Now, I just have to keep hoping that nothing takes me down there again - ever.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

This Southern Life - Marv Gets a Chainsaw

There are many things that every southern man requires to be accepted into the ranks of 'Southern Man'. A hunting dog. A pickup truck (though most any man wants one of these), a hunting rifle, and a chainsaw.

Here in the Mid South, the humidity and rain in the spring time cause plants and trees to grow so fast that you can almost track it with the naked eye. Every year we have to get out and clean out new trees, bushes, and overgrowth that wasn't there just one year ago. You can use a hack saw, a wood saw or what most suthun men want: a chain saw.

When we first moved in, my wife bought me this lovely 16" electric chainsaw. It had the biting capacity of a rabid poodle. Sure it could rip up your arm in no time flat, but when working on a huge tree, it was not very effective. In the late 90's Nashville was hit by a tornado, and we caught a lot of the damage. For DAYS, the air was filled with the sound of high powered gas chainsaws cutting the fallen trees. I used my little electric chainsaw but most of the guys looked at me with disdain.

Then recently, We were helping my mother in law clean out a garage. The MIL lived out in the boonies, with 100+ acres of brush and trees. When I mentioned my love of chainsaws, she took me out to the garage where she had FOUR of them - AND then gave me one of them.

As I hefted the huge beast, my testosterone level went up about three notches. When I mix the gas, I put a little on each wrist. When I pull the rope and the beast howls, and rips through a heavy stump or newly grown tree, I know I've become a man.

My wife doesn't understand. You see, she grew up with all this equipment but it was her MOTHER's not her Dads. My MIL had two, count 'em TWO riding lawn mowers to mow their huge place in the boonies. We won't go into how she ran over everything from branches to kiddie pools to hoses when she ran them, but she did have two - and two good brands to boot. So my wife just doesn't understand the ritual involved in my owning a chainsaw.

The first time I powered it up, I didn't even have anything to cut down. I had to go looking. As the engine whined with a RRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA it cut through a 10 inch tree with so little effort that I nearly danced around with joy. My wife would have loved that. Every time I go out to my shed, I check on the chain saw. I check the oil and see if any has leaked. I hang it in a special place and I pat it gently as I go out.

Every man out there knows what I"m talking about. It's not a Harley Motorcycle, or a hand gun, or a huge stereo. It's a chainsaw, and only a Southern Man would appreicate it. I am one step closer to being accepted as one of their own.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Legend of the CatMan

When I was a kid, I liked to fish. Well, I liked the rods and reels, and I liked the idea that if I put something on the end of a hook some stupid fish might bite and be caught and taken home and be eaten. Nice idea. Never happened. I mean I put a lot of bait into the water, and I snagged a lot of hooks on rocks and logs unseen, but I never got the two actions coordinated the point where I could actually CATCH a fish.

In the south, this is considered enough of a handicap to get me a special parking space. Fishing in the south is another of those time honored things that all men (and some women) do and do so well as to be genetic in origin. I don't fish. At least not any more. Even more so after I met James.

My friend James, now he Fishes (with the reqisite capital F). James fishes the way most people breathe. It's in his genes, and I've seen him in action. Every year James throws this huge Fish Fry. One year, not too long ago, I spent the night at his place so my wife and I could help set up for the big event which was to be the next day. The next morning, in the faint light of o-dark-thirty, I catch James hooking up his boat. I slip out and ask him what's up. He explains that he doesn't think there is enough fish so he's going to catch some more.

Most of us (ok, not me, people who really do fish) can spend an entire day fishing and come back with a few fish..maybe a nice string of 10-12. James headed out before dawn and returned a couple of hours later with two big coolers full of fish. James is the undisputed master. Hejust knows where the fish will be when he needs them.

James also stands out in my mind as The Catman. He is mostly retired and fishes every day now and one day called me up and told me that he had caught the biggest fish ever. If James had called me and told me he caught the Lock Ness Monster in the middle of Percy Priest Reservoir, I wouldn't doubt it. As for this monster catfish, I saw the picture. It's the biggest catfish I'd ever seen weighting in at 56 lb and over 4 foot long, one monster of yellow flat head catfish. I was so impressed I made a web page for him. It has since been deleted for reasons which have nothing to do with him or me.  
Or you can just see the picture here:
 = forgive me, friends, I've not looked in on this post in a while and have no idea why this picture is not showing.  I will fix it as soon as I can. It was a mighty fish, too....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Southern Sweet Tea

If you've ever been to the South, even the Mid South, like Nashville, you'll encounter a beverage in all restaurants which is called Sweet Tea. The Non Southerner usually imagines a glass of tea with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar stirred in ahead of time, maybe a touch of honey. How nice...nicely sweet...pre-sweetened, one might think. Not so. Imagine, instead, a nice tall glass of your typical restaurant iced tea but with about a cup of sugar in it. Yeah, that sweet. It's so sweet that it's like drinking syrup. The flavor of tea is lost to the flavor of sugar, sugar and more sugar.

Stranger still is the fact that this is only for TEA. You don't find people making Kool Aid with an inordinate amount of sugar, or there along side the Regular and Decaf find the "Suthun Sweet Coffee". Just Tea.

When you order in any restaurant, even the chain places like McDonald's and Burger King, you MUST specify Non-Sweet tea, or you will get sweet. I don't know why, in the south, Saying "I'd like some tea.." also means "with an inordinate amount of sugar even though I didn't ask for it", but that's the south. No one I can find knows where this custom started, and no one really cares. You don't try to understand it, you simply adjust.

Now, however, whenever I am home visiting in Colorado, I get the strangest stares when I order UN-Sweet tea. They must wonder what asylum I just broke out of.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Southern Multitasking

There are two great things about this picture. First is the fine work done by attaching the old grocery cart to the lawn mower and second is the use of the 2 x 4's in hooking up the groceries to the cart.

Now, I won't go into the thought that with the money spent on the lawn mower, he could have easily purchased a good used car, but this is another of those SUTHUN things that one-must-attain-above-all-else: the Riding Lawn Mower. (I want one real bad!) And it's not some junker, either. This thing is near new, clean and even the hubs are still bright yellow. I can be fairly sure that this thing cost more than my first car! (and that was new in 1971! LOL)

The last thought I have is how did the old lady get in? Was she lifted in or is there a set of steps made out of cinder blocks and bait buckets waiting at home? I can't see Bubba there lifting her up and into the cart, and I can't see her being bodily picked up and deposited on whatever it is she's sitting on, so I'm going to go with the Cinder Block Steps, or a nice high porch that he could pull up to and she merely steps it to the cart.

Yeah, the porch idea takes less planning..and after all that work on the cart, I'm pretty sure he's be glad for even less planning.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Southern Moment

The Southern Moment sits as a shining example of what it's lke to live in an area that is growing suburban and connected to the 'old south' at the same time. Because of its importance, both words are capitalized and you should have a Confederate Flag or Non-Light Beer handy to salute.

I share this defining Southern Moment so that we may all benefit from it's memory.

My wife and I were sitting on the front porch. We don't have a full front porch, it's more of a concrete set of three steps with a wide cement platform at the top before the door. This particular area we live in is southern-suburban. This means that the houses are close together, we have paved or cement driveways (some only use chatt) but no sidewalks. The roads are asphalt, but they end at the edge of the yard. It gives the place a very country feel even though we are in the heart of suburban Nashville. This particular warm day we sat outside, drinking iced tea and enjoying the sunshine. A few of my southern neighbors are also out enjoying the sunshine.

Then, it happens.

From down the street comes a rumbling sound, a muffler missing...well, everything, and the engine skipping every 5 or 6 strokes. An El Camino well past it's prime comes slowly down the street. It is brown, the color of mud and rust...mostly rust, in fact there is so much rust and fading paint that it is difficult to tell the original color...maybe cream..maybe's that bad. The front bumper and one headlight are held on with generous and skillful applications of Duct Tape. The windshield is a spiderweb of cracks and crazing. It's amazing that the occupants can see out.

There are two men in the tight little cab. They are both wearing dark, stained and dirty ball caps, the kind you get free with a fill up over at Larry's Cafe and Truck Stop. The front of the caps are so dirty that it is difficult to see any more than a faint outline of some logo of some forgotten bar, beer, NASCAR number or heavy machine manufacturer. The bills of the caps are rounded as if the caps are kept wrapped around a can of beer when not being worn. Do they ever take them off? Both men sport scrubby mangy beards, not trimmed, and not longer than about a weeks worth of stunted, thinning growth.

As the vehicle passes, I can see that the truck bed of the El Camino is the home to a large Rottweiler. Large? This may surely be the largest Rottweiler I have ever seen - the largest Rottweiler of all time. He is so large he does not have to raise his head to see over the cab of the El Camino. He turns his massive head to look at us and the weight of his lolling tongue causes the car to tip slightly to the side. He doesn't move and merely turns his head back to center allowing the car to once again ride level. As the El Camino moves down the street, I can see that one of the tail lights WAS kept on with duct tape, but has sprung loose and is hanging by it's wires, streamers of silver tape swinging gently in the passing breeze like the end of a parade float.

Oh, but the Southern Moment is not complete. For at the end of the block, only a couple of houses down from where we sit, the El Camino comes to a stop. BOTH doors pop open as if on cue and both riders lean out, facing downward. Both men then simultaneously spit a large viscous gob of tobacco juice and god-knows-what-else onto the street. Without further ado, both men pull back into the cab and the doors close as one. The car again starts, pulls around the corner and is gone.

The moment is over. Excuse me...the Southern Moment has occurred. You may salute your Confederate Flag, raise a non-light beer in it's memory.

I have never seen the car, the drivers or the Rottweiler again and anytime I regale friends with the story of the Southern Moment, they think I am making it up. I assure you that none of this is made up except that I don't really remember what we we drinking and iced tea seemed appropriate.

The Southern Moment shall now have it's place on the net.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Southern Life #1

I live in the South. Actually the MID-South, Nashville Tennessee. Music City USA. I am not a "Suthunuh," however. I don't have a southern accent being born and raised in Colorado. I don't chew 'tobakky' and do not listen to country music. (Living in Nashville this is almost a sin, but I try not to advertise that too much.) I have lived here for about 20 years and consider myself STILL not a "Suthunuh." 20 Years has given me a rather large number of 'Suthunuh' stories which I will attempt to write down now and then. Today, is a mere irritation.

Life here is laid back, uniquely Southern. It's odd.

Take today for example. For the last week, there have been only 2 days with sunshine. The rest of the time has been intermittent and steady rainfall. This happens every year about this time. There are reports of Tornadoes, and the local weather people show you those nifty weather radar maps, giving us a gleeful street by street tracing of tornadoes, would be tornadoes, and anything that may someday, if given the right situations turn into a tornado.

Back to the rain. Nashville is built on rock. yes, there's topsoil, but mainly just below the topsoil is rock. You need dynamite to put in a garden. Now, put this together with all that rain, and you get a very soggy area. Translated: Humidity. The humidity can reach 90-99% without precipitation. Nothing dries out in the air. The dishrag on the kitchen sink must be replaced daily because it mildews so easily.

Now, this brings me to the reason for my rant this morning. When I come out to my car, everything is covered in a heavy coating of moisture. The windshield of my car is covered in a heavy foggy mist. This is not the problem, however, as my windshield wipers make quick work of it. The problem is that the humidity is so high that the fog returns almost immediately.

So, there I am, driving down the road, not a drop of rain insight, but with the wipers on full tilt to keep ahead of the foggy windshield. The only nice thing is that I'm not alone. Most of the cars on the road, even those kept in a garage overnight are cold enough to produce the same effect.

Southern Life. Gotta love it...or at least tolerate it.