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Sunday, December 18, 2005

When It Rains It...Whatever.

I woke up this morning saying to myself there's no chance in hell I'm stepping foot outside in weather like this today.

I appreciate that it rained so heavy and the wind tore loose last night giving the city what is Mother Nature's equivalent of the drive-thru car wash (or in the case of my neighborhood, Mother Nature's Enema) and my somnial equivalent of a white-noise deep sleep machine. Trust me, the pound of wind and rain is a welcome change to the rumble of motorcycles, horns, and sirens at 4 in the morning. Just turn the dial to All-Night Storm, and can you throw in a few flowerpots being knocked over for good measure? I just knew that I didn't want to step out into it today, if I didn't have to.

That was until I realized The Leak. This, of course, is the annual leak, generally followed or preceded by the annual Ant Invasion. It would be cool if these two things were just references to has-been 80s Rock groups but, unfortunately, in real life they don't rock quite so much.

The leak this year took a turn for the dramatic and instead of just ruining a book or two, decided to creep down a portion of the wall between the drywall and the paint creating a nasty blister that slowly inched down until we decided to pop it with a push pin; it's pus squirting into a pot, when not on us, and then eventually a towel.

That was only a highlight of things to come.

We called our landlord, who is new since our building was sold, and only got an answering machine. For all we knew, he could've been in Saudi Arabia. Like our previous landlords, he's an absentee landlord, which we generally prefer, except when there's an emergency. Yeah, I know. In a perfect world and all.

Word to new landlords: If the tenants say their roof generally leaks once a year during the heavy rains, perhaps it might pay off to have the drains cleaned BEFORE the rains hit, rather than replacing costly drywalls or whatever afterwards?

Of course, now we'll have to have the building owner's repair crew come in and gawk at the Pop Culture museum we call home while they replace the damaged part of the wall, which means one of us will have to take time off work to let them in since we hate strangers in our home when we're not here. I mean, what kinda freak doesn't?

So, to prevent any further water damage to the walls, Bruce donned his rainjacket and headed upstairs to see if he could fix the drains himself, and like a well-meaning sap, I followed – sans raingear. Not long after, both him and I are on our hands and knees cleaning out the drains that lead down into the drainage pipes that eventually run into the bay. Using a toothbrush, we scrub dirt, oily soot, and God knows what else from around the entrance of the drains, freeing the water that had been backed up and seeping into our otherwise dry abode. In one case, I had to pull up a few boards to get to one drain and, despite an obscene case of plumber's butt, I managed to clean it out and put it back together.

Calgone, Take Me Away!

After getting cleaned up, I sat down at the computer and started browsing the web to get my mind off of the crap we just cleaned up, only to have the sensation of small things crawling on my feet and legs. I looked down around my chair and focused hard on the floor.

Yup. It's the ants. Oh, so glad you could make it. No, please be my guest! Please come in from the rain. Would you like a Hot Pocket?

Warning: The next scene depicts cruelty and death towards other living beings.

At the first sign of ants, I get out the Windex. This killing tip was given to us by a sweet old Russian man who use to come around and exterminate the ants and other vermin when our building had them really bad. I considered asking the old man how he came upon his killing technique and whether it was ever utilized on enemies of the KGB, but I didn't want him sweetening up on me. Still, it works, at least on small invasions. On chronic cases, it still pays to get out the extremely gross, extremely toxic Raid. But I figure with the peace of mind a zero population of ants gives me compared to a year or so of my life potentially cut short, I'd rather just reach for that terrifyingly efficient killing poison and say my prayers later.

It sure beats trying everything under the kitchen sink first and then finding out that none of it works. This happened to me when, at the age of 8, I was left home alone during a particularly nasty raining spell that caused ants to invade our kitchen like the Mongols over Asia (note: this is not a reference to an 80s Rock group – but there was a group called Youth In Asia). In a panic, and barely literate, I grabbed anything I could from underneath the kitchen sink and started bombing the place – double-fisted like Chow Yun Fat in Hard Boiled. Easy-Off, Pledge, Lysol, Formula 409 – this was my first chemical romance of necessity in the Ant War of 1981 which I fought like a pipsqueak Spanish Republican with a live-fast-die-young chip on his future Go-Go's listening shoulder. Ya Basta! I say! No Pasaran! To the Max!

I learned early on what the smell of victory was really like, and it smelled nothing like napalm in the morning. It smelled strangely minty with an undertone of degreaser and a lingering of wood polish. However, judging from the look of absolute horror on my mother's face when she arrived home from work, that was a battle won, but a war horribly, horribly lost. Who. Knew?

To this day, I credit my juvenile self with creating the seminal poison-resistant gene that has mutated ants into lifeforms that will survive humanity long after we are dead and buried. Yes, I was the butterfly wings that created that hurricane, baby. No need to thank me.

It is after the annihilation of hundreds of living things that I suddenly feel the need to eat vegetarian. Without delving too deeply into bad taste or necessarily offending the dozens of people who read this blog I mean no offense to, I also wonder if this is why Hitler, allegedly, was vegetarian. What? Is this like instant self-imposed karma or some need to cleanse myself of the killing or is it just overkill boredom that I don't really, particularly, want a big slab of bloody meat tonight? Is it guilt or boredom that drives culinary ethics? Is the craving for local, organic, natural, thus pure and good, foods just the superficial allevement of ugly, horrible, wretched crimes and personal faults the consumers of such things have? Hum.

Deep thoughts aside, I was happy when Bruce said he was cooking and it would be a vegetarian meal.

I love Bruce's portobello mushroom burgers. What he does is take portobello mushroom caps and marinates them in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, paprika, and other spices for about 30 minutes.

Then he broils them on each side for a couple of minutes. After that, he assembles the sandwich according to how you want. He usually uses Brother Junipers Wild Rice and Onion rolls and goat cheese, but tonight we had to settle for Safeway sesame seed hamburger buns and Manouri (Greek sheep milk cheese). I know. Ol' darn!

Added to that are sliced red onions and roasted red peppers, accompanied by creamy horseradish sauce or Dijon mustard. Ah!!!

In addition, he made corn fritters using the recipe from an America's Test Kitchen cookbook, and they serve as a swell sidedish.

I guess there was a silver lining to this cloud.



Blogger drbiggles said...

Dang, even if this area doesn't get "real" weather, there are some points of hell worth noting.
We went through that and more 6 years ago. I remember drilling a hole in the kitchen sealing to let the water drain down only to catch a solid stream of wiggly ants in the water bowl. Sigh.
I spent a few months attempting to handle the problem myselfl, no luck. I called a pro and it was handled that day. Yay!


10:53 AM  

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