All things weird and wonderful, 8

25 10 2011

About that last post. . .

Lynda Barry, as ever

I’ve never been a fan of bugs. Ladybugs, okay. Butterflies, yes, and caterpillers, cool (centipedes: not cool) but anything else, nuh-uh.

Some just bothered me, the way they bother everyone—flies, ants, mosquitoes—while others (silverfish: brrr!) seriously freaked me out. (That may have had something to do with the proximity of the attic to my childhood bedroom, and on more than one occasion pulling back the bedspread to find a—brrr!—silverfish darting about the sheets. Nobody wants that.)

Spiders, for some reason, never really bothered me, although I have a memory of getting up close and personal with a daddy longlegs in the crawlspace underneath my cousin’s cottage and seeing fangs. (That can’t be right, but that’s what the data in me old noggin says.) I was offered the chance of ex post facto explanation of this bug-discrepancy when I learned that spiders were arachnids, not insects, but, honestly, I think this is just a glitch in my general bug-phobia.

My friend B., on the other hand, didn’t mind bugs at all. Worms and snakes (or maybe it was just snakes) freaked her out, but she’d pick up a bug and bring it in close and just sort of go, “huh”.

(Excuse me for the break, but there’s one other bug that’s cool. Wait, two. Dragonflies. And praying mantes. THE ANTI-BUG POINT STILL HOLDS.)

We joked that we’d be great in the rain forest: I’d be clutching her screaming about all the bugs, and she’d be clutching me screaming about all the slimy crawly things.

Still, growing up in SmallTown Wisconsin, we rarely encountered any truly egregious species. Hell, I didn’t even see my first live cockroach until I was in Madison, and it was dead. (You know what I mean.)

Roaches, man, I. . . can’t. Let’s just say that living in Albuquerque, with it’s big-roaches-are-the-southwestern-ant was a trial. And the first time one flew off the wall at me, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh, it’s a wonder my eyes didn’t curl into the back of my head permanently.

And no, calling it a “water bug” doesn’t make it so.

(My grad-school friend D. told me of the time he was living near the U of Chicago, stuck his foot into his shoe, and, well, you know where this is going, right? I shook out my shoes before I put them on EVERY TIME when I live in Albuquerque. One never dropped out. Which was good, as I almost certainly would have tossed those shoes.)

I once looked at an apparently nice apartment in Steven’s Square in Minneapolis, and just after the rental agent assured me the building was roach-free, one fell on to the floor between us. We were both mortified.

My completely irrational and outsized fear of roaches actually impeded possible earlier moves to New York. (One of those moves landed me in Albuquerque. Oh, irony!). K. was a fellow grad student who had attended NYU, and she described how she couldn’t keep food in her apartment, for all the scuttling bugs. All those years, and I still remember the story. (That, and K. wore big wool turtleneck sweaters and kickin’ boots.)

And now, yes, I’ve seen the scuttling bugs in my apartment, and I get sprayed, but I have more-or-less successfully suppressed my hysteria at the sight of a roach and have managed to stop my thoughts from galloping toward the if-there’s-one-in-sight-there’s-twenty-thousand-in-hiding multiplier; now, my reaction is a curse, a sigh, a scoop-into-the-toilet-and-flush, and near-instant obliteration of the fact that there ever was a bug.

(Why the scoop-and-flush? You don’t actually expect me to step on those things, do you?)

J., who grew up in Tucson, did help to put the little bastards into context when she noted, at least they don’t bite—unlike, say, scorpions.

So, no, roaches aren’t weird and wonderful and neither are scorpions, but Lynda Barry is and this made me think of B. and J. and that is, if not weird, certainly wonderful.

On a completely unrelated note, B. and I, who volunteered as camp counselors (lifeguards! the best duty!) at Camp Bird in Crivitz, Wisconsin, were walking back from our cabin to the nightly campfire at the waterfront (which looked just like the waterfront in the Friday the 13th movies) and joking about, I dunno, whatever, when we heard this SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMIII IIIIINNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG sound slicing through the cabins just to the right of us.

We stopped dead on the trail. Whatthehellwasthat?! Was that a naked bloody screaming boy running through the woods with an axe?

We stood there. And stood there. And stood there. I don’t think either of us had a flashlight. And we stood there some more, until someone else with a flashlight came by and said something like, Hey.

We later told ourselves it was probably just a loon*. They had them there, and didn’t it sound like the screaming went over the lake? A naked bloody screaming boy with an axe couldn’t fly over the lake, could he? Could he?!

A loon, yeah.


*Click the tremolo—that comes closest. And if it wasn’t a loon. . . oh, come on, it was. It had to be.

Rooting thru my rutabega

19 07 2009

I am a lousy sick person.

I don’t ‘soldier on’ or ‘buck up’ or ‘git er done’ or any of that when I’m sick. Nope, I drag my sorry carcass home, try to sleep, sleep some more, and then, mm, sleep.

A little bit of reading, online and off, but no writing, no blogging, no trying to get in front of my class prep, no errands, no exercise.

Sleep, cough, sleep.

Of course, Jasper-the-vampire’s nocturnal rampages do add a bit of a variety, but not of the helpful sort.

(Okay, so, yeah, I watched some ‘Buffy’ on Hulu. Sue me.)

(And when the hell are they going to get more seasons?!)

Anyway. There’s the weekend.


Reading a story in the NYTimes on Green-Wood cemetery and wondering, once again, about my [lack of] plans for the forever-future.

No, I wasn’t that sick.

Still, the thought recurs: Where to rest my bones? Along with, Who will do to the digging/burning/tossing into the sea?

For better and for worse, New York is now my city, but I don’t know that I want to be buried here.

Bills and money and work and dating and life and writing  and I’ll spend my time worrying over my funeral.

Sounds about right.


Is there anything I could have said about the Sotomayor hearings that hasn’t already been said?

Didn’t think so.


The virus that ran rampant through my body got in the way of my responding to a post at The Pursuit of Harpyness on the response to the death of a 69 yo woman who had given birth to twins 3 years earlier.

. . . And I was going to discuss it in brief, here, but then it got all out of control and so I made it a different post. Which may or may not get posted.

That’s how it is.


This American Life is airing a story about bedbugs, and just finished a piece on cockroaches crawling into peoples’ ears.

Good lord.

Makes me want to puncture my eardrums.


This course I’m teaching is kicking my ass.

I’ve taught a version of it—bioethics—to undergraduates before, but it didn’t go well, so I completely revamped it. Out with a general discussion of genetics and stem cells and biotechnology, and in with concentration on human embryonic stem cells and assisted reproductive technologies.

(An aside: I’m using Liza Mundy’s Everything Conceivable to survey the ART field. Recommended.)

So far, so good, but man, shit has changed since I last taught it. This is the bummer about teaching about tech: Unlike, say, the ideas of Plato or Machiavelli, technologies do change, and are changed by the societies into which they’re introduced.

In other words, I can’t coast.

I hate that.


Re-entering the world of biotech and bioethics has caused me, once again, to question whether I should have stuck with it.

I know, I can only make decisions based on the information I have at the time, so retrospective decision-making is pointless, but.

But when one is dissatisfied with one’s current life, and one’s previous life had its pleasures, it’s tough not to wonder why I ditched that previous life.

Again, I know: how easy to forget the dissatisfactions of that previous life.

Still, I’ve spent my life jumping, and landing always with an eye toward the next jump. When I moved to New York, I said, That’s it. This is home.

Only I put a hidden asterisk by the declaration: (*If it works).

As if this place, and my life in this place, is supposed to work for me, as opposed to me working for my life.

I am not the first to note that a person carries her troubles with her, so it shouldn’t surprise me that my dissatisfactions have made their way to Brooklyn.

So now what? I bitch about the something more and the something else and then do nothing more or nothing else.

Can I blame that on the cold virus?