Old, Old Blog

Everything was good fun until my nice, shiny website got hacked and was used to spam Germany. Here are two posts I saved from The Great Delete of 2008.

What Is Christmas Doing in My Halloween?

Dear Corporate America,

I wasn’t happy—but I wasn’t irate, either—about the melding of Christmas and Thanksgiving. Since I tend to put things off, having a few more weeks to wrap my head around the upcoming “Send Out Greetings and/or Gifts” days is a bit of a gift in itself. I would prefer to have Thanksgiving remain as it had been throughout my childhood: a firm line on the calendar which no peppy tune or bit of twinkly, tinselly decor could cross. But I understand why that line got a bit muddled. Thanksgiving, with its somewhat confusing mix of concepts (togetherness coupled with large-scale slaughter), has never lended itself to massive amounts of product sales. I don’t think schools even know what to do anymore. I haven’t seen any kids wandering home with construction-paper headdresses and pilgrim hats in years.

So, fine. I can deal with hearing Jingle Bells on the loudspeaker or watching “A Christmas Story” in late November.

But get the hell away from Halloween.

As I type, it’s barely the middle of October, the time for creepy ghosts and jack-o-lanterns; for witches’ hats and cauldrons and broomsticks; for skeletons and bats, and plasticky vampire teeth and tubes of fake blood. But what do I find? Tinsel-covered plastic evergreens, gigantic red-and-white stockings, package-filled sleighs, buckets of ornaments, and garland-covered archways. Entering a department store is like entering Whoville. I want Halloween-costume zombies, not zonked-out Christmas shoppers.

I’m no Scrooge. I think Christmas is great. Why? Because it’s special. Just like Halloween is special. But something that goes on and on and frigging on for months without end is not special.

There are Christmas Stores out there for Christmas Addicts—those hyped-up people who can’t live without their fix of cinnamon potpourri; their country-cute placards wishing everyone JoyJoyJoy; their Santa-themed dish sets. When the craving strikes in the heat of July, there are places they can go to find their Winter Wonderland. Even the Internet is chock-full of things to buy or just gawk at if there’s no dedicated Christmas Store nearby.

Even I get a little anxious for the eggnog cartons to arrive in stores, or the excuse to start amassing the ingredients for “glog.” I’ve even been known to keep the tiny colored lights I’ve strewn around my living room up far beyond the New Year.

But honestly, why is it that Christmas is swallowing up Halloween? Is it because we, the “American People” are so upset at the state of things that we’re trying to bring thoughts of peace and goodwill into our daily lives? Is it because we’re trying to remember that the primary teaching, the truth of the symbol and being of Christ is love?

Not likely. We’ve got Christmas Crap in stores because Christmas is the biggest money-maker we’ve got…as far as general commercial consumption goes, that is. It probably falls short of the military-industrial complex money-makers, or the oil and coal industries, and so on. But, hell, maybe not, what with the Shopping Season kicking off in October. Winter holiday…in Autumn. Is nothing sacred anymore?

I jokingly said that I would be decorating a Halloween Tree this Christmas. I think I’m not joking anymore. I’m going to give homemade candy canes to the Trick-or-Treaters and carve pumpkins for Santa.

Ants? ANTS! 

I’m going to talk about my latest obsession. The one that should absolutely convince my rather easy-going neighbors that I am a loony of the highest order. No, I don’t mean my odd musical habits, although busting out the recorder when my violin was in the shop did cause some alarm. (Hey, it was that or the banjo. Finding the power-cord for the synth would have taken too long, even if it would have upped my Cool Factor.)

No, my latest obsession is not so fun, and is ruining my karma if the Janists are to be believed.

Ants. Or, as I hear the word in my head: ANTS.

The war actually began last year in a different city altogether. I’m not saying that they followed me (though the timing for each invasion would be about right for the distance needed to travel).

The first one happened on Gardner St. in Hollywood. An entire colony came in my bedroom window after one of the big rains and divided itself between my potted plant and coffeemaker (yes, I had a coffeemaker by my bed; best alarm clock ever). I shut the window, rejoiced that I would be moving soon, and sprayed most of them with lavender-scented counter-scrub. The stragglers died of starvation over the next several days, while I slept the light sleep of the paranoid.

I moved into a little semi-subterranean shoebox on Mt. Olympus (near Laurel Canyon) and spent many happy, ant-free months. I was unfazed by the odd bee-invader (crushed by hard-thrown dvd cases…I felt like a Ninja). I co-existed with those freaky House Centipedes. Even the mouse who thought my wine-rack was a gymnasium wasn’t anything to get upset about.

But the ants. The ANTS, no.

They way the place was set up, one wall was set directly against the side of Mt. Olympus itself. I’d had concerns about mudslides and earthquakes (especially after a huge crack errupted, spewing decrepit insulation and asbestos-like powdery nastiness near my clothes closet). It hadn’t occurred to me that ants—ANTS by the thousands, if not tens of thousands—would decide to pour into my relatively food-free home while I was at work and fill up my refrigerator and freezer.

But they did.

They entered from several pin-sized holes in the ceiling near the “dirt-wall” and divided into two enthusiastic groups. Half chose to go into the refrigerator to become stupefied with cold; the rest chose the freezer, where they passed out in great crunchy, icy mounds. Honestly, the whole situation drove me slightly mad. Spraying whatever cleaners I could lay my hands on, scooping paper-towel wads full of carcasses into plastic bags, sponging more dead down the running sink…all while the rest of the colony was still trying to get in. It took hours. I’m not exaggerating. It took hours, and it took my sanity. I became filled with a killing mindset I only like to visit for short periods of time–for earwigs, silverfish, certain spiders, etc. One hit, and it’s over. This went on and on. A spree, a berserker rage.

Not good.

Having stemmed the tide, I ran off to the hardware store and bought “no mess” ant baits. Well, yeah, they’re no mess unless you have to tape them to your ceiling. Then they’re one hell of a mess. But the ants liked them. They fed from them happily while I tried to sleep. I called the landlord the next day and attempted to explain the horrendous seriousness of the situation.

“Ants,” I said. “There are ANTS. Everywhere.

When I got home, the place had been sprayed. No ants.

For two whole days.

When they started coming back (I say back, but I don’t know if it was the same batch or a new colony—it didn’t matter, they had to be stopped) I smushed green sculpting clay I had left over from a class into every gap and crack I could see. Then I covered that with white camera tape. And set more bait.

Invasion became a constant concern. I was jumping at shadows and tiny movements. Have I mentioned I’m terribly nearsighted? I couldn’t take my glasses off in my own home. If I did, I felt compelled to do “ant checks” every so often. Not good. Not healthy. When I was away from home, I worried that ANTS were moving in.

That was in October. I had to go out of town—family emergency—and while I was wondering what the future would bring, I also wondered what was going on in my apartment. It was with great relief when I returned after a week’s absence and found no ants. No ANTS. Hooray. A month later, I found myself moving.

Here I am in Santa Barbara, in a little cottage with a garden, and they’ve found me again.

According to the helpful guy in the hardware store—where I’ve been several times within the last few weeks—the entire city is under attack. Great.

They’ve come into my living room. They’ve been in my bathroom and headed for my clothes closet. They’ve poured into my kitchen from the back door and two cracks near the window. They’ve invaded the cupboards—upper and lower—from inside the walls.


Every space inside every wall could be chock-full o’ ANTS.

Obviously, still suffering from flashbacks from the whole “scoop out the freezer” incident, I went a little nuts. Six cans of killing/barrier spray later, I felt pretty secure. I’ve pretty much washed down the interior and exterior of my home.

Yet it wasn’t enough. When it would rain, I’d be safe. When it would stop, I’d see the little buggers trying to make their way inside. All too often, one would—and I would squish it and wonder if there were more.

They were living too nearby. I had to find them at their source and kill them all. When I’m not writing, I’m outside with some kind of a spray—soap and water seems to do it—and getting the scouts. Or nests. I’ve set useless outdoor traps all over the place. I’ve ripped out large amounts of grass from the perimeter of the yard (the better to see the ants). I even spent an entire afternoon tearing up the brick patio beside the house—which resulted in the discovery of several large colonies, including one that extended inside my bathroom wall. There they were, scurrying around the rotting wood, carrying their little eggs and thinking life was good. Well—HA—I showed them. And used up all the soap in the house.

It’s this last stuff that might make the neighbors a little concerned. Tearing up one’s yard…not really normal. Wandering around the exterior of one’s home, eyes intent, spray bottle in hand…not normal. Hunkering down, studying the ground or peering around foliage while muttering to oneself…again, not normal.

But that’s where I am. That’s where they’ve put me. Ever vigilant. Ready to kill.