Friday, November 2, 2007

The Palmetto Bug

Written 2 November, 2007

The Palmetto Bug

If you took an ordinary house cockroach, pumped it full of steroids and growth hormones, and sent it to the Arthropod gym for six months, you’d wind up with the insect equivalent of the Governator.

You would have a palmetto bug.

It’s also called water bug. Both names are euphemisms. It’s really just a giant roach. Think two inches. If you live south of Atlanta, think three inches.

Than the goddess, it’s not a hungry roach. Well, maybe it is, but unlike the brown roach and the German cockroach it doesn’t dwell in the dark corners of your house and come out at night in hordes to look for delectable crumbs. Or at least I don't think it does.

No, these guys just wander in, look around, and die.

It’s the period between wandering in and dying that makes me hate them.

There’s nothing like sitting at your desk, absorbed in the electrons dancing across your computer screen, and feeling chitinous feet making their way across your bare feet.

Let’s face it, it could stop your heart.

It doesn’t matter how often I have my house treated, palmetto bugs find their way inside. They don’t appear in great numbers, I’m happy to say, just singly, and there are never more than two or three a week, but they’re creepy, and I wish they would go away.

I’ve not read up on the history of the palmetto bug, but I suspect we’re at the northern limit of their range; I once watched hundreds covering the carport of a friend in Augusta, but I only rarely see them outside. They’re more-or-less nocturnal, although I often see them in the daylight. And they’re pretty fast once alerted by a flying shoe or when narrowly missed by a rolled-up magazine. They scurry into corners, then come out later, when you’re asleep, and die so you’ll step on them as you sleepily make your way to the kitchen for your morning tea.

I’ve learned not to trust upside-down palmetto bugs. Often, they’re not yet dead. So I routinely crush them, pressing with a rolled-up paper towel until I hear their carapaces pop. And you have to press hard, since they're armored. And the little buggers can fly! Sooo creepy!

Having done what I could to get rid of them (put down boric acid, had Colleen the bug lady out to treat the house), I’m resigned to the occasional presence of these nuisance bugs.

But I really wish they wouldn’t walk across my feet while I’m at the computer.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mr. Possum Has a Close Call

Mr. Possum Has a Close Call

There are eight million possum stories in the Naked City. This is one of them.

Call me an irresponsible person. I rarely fold up the handles of my trash can so the top is locked on securely.

I’m usually lucky. My trash is undisturbed.

No so one night a few weeks ago, after I took out a load of especially delicious smelly garbage..

When I got up, some critter—I figured a dog, but I was wrong—had knocked over my can and papers and plastic were scattered everywhere.

I picked them up and took the can to the curb for emptying. It was garbage day. Tuesday.

When I came home from work Wednesday evening, I retrieved the top of the trash can from the ivy bed (the garbage man had once again missed my glass globe; he likes to take it out), stuck it on top of the can, and dragged the can around to the side of my house.

Some time after dark I went outside to get something from my little pickup truck; on the way back in, I thought to myself, “You know, there’s nothing in the can, but I should make sure the lid is on top, because something really liked the garbage that was in it.” And so I pull the handles up around the lid, locking securely in its place.

On Sunday, I took the trash out.


That’s Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. And the highs had been in the high 80s.

I took off the lid and there, in the bottom of the can, was the most bedraggled, miserable-looking opossum I had ever seen—and possums always manage to look miserable. It’s fur was greasy and wet-looking, and it looked up at me with a “okay, eat me now!” look in its eyes.

OMG! The poor thing had been there for five days in the heat! It had to be on its last legs!

I did what I thought would be best for Mr. Possum (no babies clinging to its fur, so probably Mr.). I tipped the can over and went back inside.

I came back out 30 minutes later and there was the possum, still cowering inside the garbage can. It hadn’t moved an inch.

Possums aren’t the brightest of animals, and I knew that. I raised the bottom of the can and rolled it gently until Mr. Possum slid out and he made his way with great possum dignity across my yard and into the kudzu and ivy that will one day strangle my absentee landlord neighbor’s firstborn.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how thirsty and how hungry and how hot and how cold that poor thing must have been all the while it was trapped in that garbage can. And I somehow knew if I had taken one day longer, I would have found an expired possum in that can.

Mr. Possum, wherever you are, the best to you. And I won’t be locking the tops of my garbage can any more. Promise.

Welcome to My Blog!

Written 28 October, 2007

Hi there and welcome to my blog about the tiny town of Pine Lake, GA!

Pine Lake, population between 600 and 800 (there is some disagreement between the U.S. Census Bureau and our mayor) is an incorporated city right in the middle of the huge metropolitan area of Atlanta.

Atlanta is a huge metropolis with the world's businest airport (sometimes Chicago's O'Hare pulls briefly ahead), a population of early 5 million, about 4 million of whom are yuppies, and more McMansions than you can shake a stick at.

In the middle of Atlanta's hauteur and grandeur lies Pine Lake, full of little houses and quirky people, looking like a summer camp in stark contrast to the "chateaux" (that's actually the name of a nearby subdivision).

I moved here in 1998, when I bought my first-ever house, an edifice that began life in 1936 as a one-room cabin with outdoor plumbing and a well. It was built when Pine Lake was a vacation spot, a blue-collar resort in which bitsy 20x100 foot plots of land were priced at $69.95 and the world was experiencing the lead-up to World War II.

My house has grown since then, and so has Pine Lake. I'll be writing about both, and more, in this blog.

Feel free to comment, and here's to ya!