Grateful

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Last evening as I was picking my way down a rutted forest road I had to stop to let three enormous javelinas cross the road.  This is the first time I’ve seen javelinas, although I’ve smelled them, and I’ve seen their lying-down places where they rest.

I had no idea that javelinas range so far north.  I thought they were a Texas and Mexican border kind of thing, but I guess not.

Javelinas are the northern cousins of the peccary, a wild and voracious pig that travels in packs and eats anything alive that it can overpower, even adult humans.  I was trekking with a native guide through the jungle in Costa Rica when we smelled the peculiar and disgusting aroma of peccary.  We tiptoed as close as the guide felt safe, staying downwind.  If the pigs got a whiff of us, the guide said, we would be dinner.

There must have been thirty of them, with a huge boar standing sentry.  That herd of pigs could run us over and make a meal of us in seconds, he said.  So we tiptoed back the way we had come, avoiding the horrible trees with long sharp spikes all over their trunks. 

Who can have read or seen the movie “Old Yeller” that does not vividly recall the terrifying fight between Yeller and the javelinas (I think they call them “wild boars”)?  Poor Old Yeller got himself tusked up pretty bad.

I thought of that last night at dusk, when I found a decent camping spot not very far from where the wild pigs crossed the road.  Atina fretted because I wouldn’t let her out after dark.  She would be no match for a hungry, angry, or frightened tusker.

I actually ate wild pig once.  My first ex-husband’s folks lived in South Florida.  They (the folks) ate anything they could catch.  Kind of like javelinas, come to think of it.

By the time he was a year old, my son had eaten (raw tuna, but that’s normal) fried squirrel (pretty good, actually), pheasant, wild duck, fried alligator tail (very much like chewing on an old tire, vaguely reminiscent of fish), javelina, crawdads, and who knows what else.  I tried not to look.  (He lived through it, and acquired a taste for weird and disgusting food.)

Some distant relatives threw a party out in the bush.  They owned a ranch, so they took a couple of days off and barbecued a whole cow and a couple of whole pigs.

One of the teenage sons trapped wild pigs in a pit trap, hauled them out of the pit, popped them into a pen, and fattened them up for eating for a month or so.

Normally javelinas are very tough, because they have to travel long distances, and they have to work for their food, subsisting on acorns, and anything they can root up or catch, such as household pets and small children.

Fattened up javelinas taste mighty good.  Tender and sweet, but not kosher.

At the ranch barbecue, the eating was all done outside in the blazing South Florida sun.  There was a large pole building right near the barbecue pit, but we weren’t allowed to congregate in there, for inside the barn was a gigantic U-shaped assemblage of banquet tables groaning with “salads,” the kind made of canned fruit ruined with gobs of pink or green colored Kool Whip, and punctuated with contrasting colored tiny marshmallows.  Some of the endless variations on this theme were sprinkled with toasted coconut.  I believe they call this “Ambrosia.”

Much more interesting were the tables laden with every kind of pie: blackberry, mulberry, cherry, lemon,  chocolate cream, banana cream, and my personal favorite, Shoo-fly pie.  Shoo-fly pie, if you haven’t had it, is all about the thick layer of molasses that blankets a rich, flaky crust on the bottom.  The crust and molasses are baked slowly till the molasses thickens.  Then a layer of vanilla custard is poured on top, the pie is cooled, and topped with whipped cream (or not).  The result is that the molasses kind of makes its way up through the custard, resulting in a delightful variety of tastes and textures.  Shoo-fly pie, yum.  Forbidden to diabetics.

Regrettably, we must return now to the present.

After two days of cardiology testing, Atina and I decided to do the old splitsky into the woods.  It’s Memorial Day Weekend, so I’m pretty sure that most of the good spots are taken by three day weekend revelers.  So I studied the Forest Service map and picked a likely looking road.

It took some searching, but voila, the photo above shows you the delightful camping spot I found, with a fine view of the San Francisco Peaks, which are the Westernmost boundary of the Navajo tribal lands, marked by four sacred mountains.

We’re sitting right about 8,000 feet, elevation wise.  Glad I filled the propane tank; it’s gonna be a cold night.

Not Camping Here

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I think it was once a skunk.  It doesn’t smell like skunk, but then it is a bit aged.  I’m inclined to think it was a skunk; otherwise it would have been totally eaten by now.

I am impressed at the length of its spine.  And its feet are not prehensile, like those of a possum.  I have never seen a possum corpse just lying around.  They’re good eatin’, I hear.  Maybe that’s why you never see them: the carrion eaters clean-up crew get to them first.

In my youth I had a friend who had a family to feed, but no money.

He was a practical man.  Whenever he found a fresh road kill that wasn’t too mangled, he’d take it home, clean it, and put it in his enormous deep freeze.  They’d make possum stew, raccoon stew, and if lucky and careful of the law, deer stew.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To show the possum that it could be done.

I was exhausted, so I did camp there for one night.  In the evening, when the air currents lie low, is the best time for scent tracking.  Atina’s eyes grow wolfish when she latches onto a scent–in this case, skunk perfume!  I followed along as she was tracking, and soon I caught whiffs of eau du striped kitty.  Uh-oh, I see their burrows!  Yikes, let’s get out of here!

Atina has her nose buried in one of the burrows-oh no! What will I do if she gets skunk sprayed?

I couldn’t let her in the van.  What could I do?  I don’t have a crate I could put outside.  And Little Miss has not spent a single night away from me since she bounced into my life last July.  Even if I had a crate, imagine her misery if I left her outside!

And then what?

How would I get her somewhere with water for washing?  I would have to take her to the vet, but that would mean stinking up the van…

Let me tell you, skunk spray is a complex stink bomb.  It’s made of a cocktail of volatile oils that penetrate absolutely everything. I wish my perfumes lasted that long!  I’m talking about the perfumes I make.  I could take a lesson from the skunks!

There’s no way to isolate it, and there is really no way to remove it, since the volatile oils penetrate skin and hair.  And wood, leather, fabrics….everything.

All the classic skunk stink remedies like bathing in tomato juice, lemon juice, etc, merely mask the eau de skunk with something else, making it more tolerable for a few hours.

I quickly decided that since skunk mitigation would be impossible, the better part of wisdom would be to scram.

We did.  First thing in the morning….and I am relieved to say, without skunk disasters.

Higher and Deeper

The wind howls and rocks the van.  We feel like we’re in a space ship, hurtling through a hostile zone:

“The wind blew and spit icicles in their faces…” –Carl Sandburg

Periodically in the night we were awakened by crashes as layers of ice and snow slid off the sides of the van and smashed on the punky snow below.

Poor Atina was frantic to go out at first light, but we couldn’t risk it due to extreme high winds.  And since every window is covered either by Reflectix or by handy insulating layers of snow and ice, the only way to check the situation would be to open the main hatch and risk having the door blown shut on some body part–not worth the risk.  So I told Atina to cross her legs till the wind took a break!

When things settled down to where I was pretty sure we would not be impaled with flying tree branches, Atina watched anxiously as I slowly and deliberately donned layer after layer of mountaineering gear: double layer of silk underwear, water and windproof pants, microfleece vest, mask, thick wool socks, high altitude ski parka, ski gloves, and I sure wish I had a pair of goggles but I don’t.  I’ll have to hope that the anti-fog stuff I sprayed on my glasses actually works.

My parka hails from my ski bum days in the ’90s.  One of the benefits of my recent shocking weight loss is that it fits me again, over multiple layers of other warm things. Yay!

The hood of this parka snugs up into a visored helmet, thanks to a system of drawcords that don’t even get in the way like some annoying others I’ve had.  It’s designed for extreme conditions.  I love my good old EMS parka!  (Eastern Mountain Sports, not Emergency Medical System)

When I get finished with the ski togs system, not a square inch of exposed skin will remain, with the exception of what gets around my glasses.

Blizzard footwear: a pair of knee high fleece lined rain boots.  Love ’em.

Hiking sticks, because I fall over easily.

Had to kick the main hatch, also known as side door, open, as it had, as expected, frozen shut during the night.  A dangerous shower of icicles and chunks of solid frozen junk clattered off the roof.  I shut the door again to let the debris pass before trying to exit.  Atina bored holes in me with desperate eyes.

When it seemed safe, I opened the door and stepped out into a howling wasteland of grey.  Atina jumped out and made a yellow spot.

Very, very unfortunately, the sky has made layers of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and back to the beginning.  So instead of having nice drifts of light, fluffy white powder, we’ve got….crud.  It’s all frozen together.  Tomorrow it will be rock-hard.  The night time temperatures will be in the teens, with daytime temps above freezing.  That means a melt/freeze cycle that will just create a foot or so of nasty grey ice that would take a jackhammer to bust through.

My nice RV park people plowed out my driveway yesterday, but today you can’t even tell they did it.  I sure hope they’ll help me get out of here after this storm passes.

I wish I’d taken a shower before the storm hit.  I was so busy making preparations that I didn’t get to it.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll walk over on Saturday and get a nice hot one.

Well.  Snow is one thing, but I hadn’t counted on this wind.  I ain’t going out there unless absolutely necessary.  I’ll stay dirty till tomorrow.

 

The Bed Bug Chronicles Parte The Seconde

…in which we continue our woeful tale of The War of the Bed Bugs.bed-bugs

The Big Shot Professional exterminator made off with my infested camping cot and 200 shekels (approximately 65 US Dollars), leaving me with a completely empty apartment…or was it?  I strongly suspected that in folding up said cot, he had dumped some unwanted guests onto the quarry stone floor.  There were deep gaps between the quarries, which could harbor anything.

So I got out the bleach.  In Israel we don’t have wimpy 1% sodium hypochlorite bleach like we do in America.  We have 5%, which burns through rubber gloves, shreds clothing, and makes your eyes water as soon as you open the bottle.

I dumped enough into a bucket of water to kill anything, or so I thought, and swilled it around the stone floor, letting it fill the cracks between the stones.  Then I turned on the fan and got out of there.

After a severe coughing spell that threatened to activate my stress incontinence, I ambled over to my favorite coffee den in the Shuk to think things over and decide what my best course of action was.  Actually, my choices were few and none.  I couldn’t go back to Ron’s, seeing that he was also infested; and I really couldn’t visit myself on any of my other friends because of the risk of contagion: the little beasts conveniently travel in the seams of your clothes, the soles of your shoes–not to mention your luggage.  Damn, I was stuck.

I hit upon one good idea: the apartment came with a flat tarred roof that extended over three buildings.  I had access to it via an Arab-built wooden ladder that my landlord, a contractor, had doubtless saved from one of his many construction projects.  In Israel, the construction industry is almost exclusively run by Arabs. Instead of scaffolding they often use purpose-built ladders, which are abandoned, in many instances, after they are no longer needed.  They are sturdily built, reminding me of the ladders that the Pueblo Indians use for getting up and down the levels of their dwellings.  Mine was perfect for getting up to the roof.

There are two things that reliably kill bed bugs: dry heat above 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and prolonged freezing temperatures.  So after my coffee I went next door to the variety store and bought a bunch of black plastic bags, the better to cook bugs in.  I went home and loaded my clothes and anything else that could take high heat into these bags and hauled them up to the roof.  Also my luggage and my dog’s doggie travel carrier.  I must have made 25 trips up and down that damn ladder.  Let’s not forget that I was still suffering from the concussion I got from taking one on the chin, and it was becoming apparent that I had “done something” to my right shoulder in the same wreck, so I had to be extra careful on my excursions up and down the ladder.

Did I mention that the ambient temperatures were hovering around 40 Centigrade/104 Fahrenheit?  Well, they were.  Good for killing bedbugs, bad for people on Lithium.  I was feeling it.

Finally everything I owned was either on the roof baking or in the freezer freezing.  I wondered if my external hard drive would survive freezing, but since it certainly would not live through broiling I thought the freezer was the better risk.

As I stood there wheezing in the bleach fumes, it occurred to me that I no longer had a bed.  My Israeli mattress, a 3 inch thick strip of hard foam, was on the roof baking.  The Professional Expert Exterminator had pronounced that to be unnecessary, but I was taking no chances.

Under normal circumstances, I would have simply tossed the mattress on the floor until I could get some semblance of a bedstead; but Jerusalem quarry stones are not only very hard, but uneven and pointy in many places.  Not only that, but the proximity to my bleach job might melt the foam, and kill me via asphyxiation.

Then came one of those “lightbulb moments.”  Indeed, I did have a bedstead!

Three years ago, I was forced by family circumstances to give up my long-term lease on a beautiful house in the same neighborhood.  A very sweet couple moved in, and I had left them my bed; but they had their own, and they were storing mine–for when I returned to Jerusalem for good.

I called them, and within the hour had my old bed back.  Tears of gratitude welled in my eyes–or was it just from the bleach?

Nightfall, and I hauled myself back up the ladder for the last time that day, to fetch my mattress down.  Something nagged at me, paranoia perhaps, that I should run down to Davidka Square and buy myself a brand new mattress wrapped in plastic, but then again I had had the cover off of this one and inspected all the seams for signs of bed bug poo, and eggs, and all of the signs and symptoms of infestation, and found none.  I told myself firmly to have confidence in my own expertise, and plunked the mattress on my good old bedstead.

This wasn’t just any bedstead.  I had bought it in 1989, just after my ex-husband moved out and took every stick of furniture in the apartment with him (he was moving into an unfurnished apartment, you see), including the bed.  So I invested in this wonderfully simple bedstead made of hardwood slats, that came apart and went together in a few minutes’ time, perfect for the young upwardly mobile professional lifestyle.

The first night was blissfully bugless.  I awoke, anxious, and checked myself over for new bites; and finding none, rejoiced.  Even my dog was scratching less.  She is allergic to everything, and, as I found out later, bed bugs feed on anything with blood in it, including warm-blooded animals.   I took her food out of the freezer, and took myself out for Israeli Breakfast to celebrate.  If you haven’t had Israeli Breakfast, you haven’t had breakfast.  I will tell you all about Israeli Breakfast another time.

It is with great sadness that I must inform you that the third morning dawned with a peppering of itchy welts.  I freaked out.

I called Sammy.

Sammy showed up the next morning with a backpack sprayer and a respirator mask.  Now, I thought with satisfaction, we’ll get something done about this.  I stood guard over his van, which he had left in a tow-away zone, while he did his thing.  He came running out of the apartment followed by a noxious white cloud, coughing through his mask.  Jesus, I thought, what the hell did he spray in there?  I didn’t care, as long as it killed the damn bugs.

I was told to abandon the place for three hours, and then wash the floors very well.  VERY well, he said, looking significantly at Noga, my dog.  Sammy raises champion Pekingese, and knows what dogs can handle and what they can’t.

I left the apartment to air out for eight hours instead of three, just for good measure; then I went after the floors with a vengeance.  I washed them VERY well.  But I did NOT wash the bedstead.  I wanted anything lurking in there to be DEAD.  And so it was that as I was inspecting the bed, a very sick bed bug tottered out of one of the joints of the headboard.  It looked like its shell was melting.  Ugh, and GOOD.  Death to you!  Death!  And then another one, fat with my blood, dragged itself out from beneath one of the legs.  Oh. My. God.  Even now the hair stands up on the back of my neck to think of….what it…..had certainly done….

To be continued……