Welcome to Florida, Here is Your Hamster Ball

Of all the things I found most annoying about being Up North, the one that kept coming back and soaking me to the bone was being cold.

Hate it.

Mind you, when I hear descriptions of what the Moslem World thinks heaven will be like, I immediately picture a certain spot in Valley Forge National Park.

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You know, Pennsylvania.

I got spoiled by just how pretty country is up there.  Any time after the trees come in until the leaves fall.  Beautiful country. 

Rolling hills, small babbling brooks pouring off the sides of those same hills to get to the valleys where a river flows.  Open fields, green verdant mountainsides.

I could easily speak of New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, and a dozen places other like that.

Then the leaves fall and we’re miserable until the trees are back in full leaf again.   The world gets locked in by this ugly white stuff and things just go dormant.  Including the people.  It’s dark, cold, and covered in ice and snow.  At the peak of this thing called Winter, people are getting into survival gear just to walk to the corner shops for some milk and a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread.

You know, so when the power goes out due to a freak snowstorm they can make some French Toast.

There’s a caveat there.  When it’s green they have mosquitoes.  But you can duck away from them.  Just keep moving.

After all, far be it that you aren’t food for something else.

But for the most part, they don’t get inside to harass you.  It’s a rare and random occurrence that you hear one, maybe once a month, in the house.  The House is where you live, and not them.  Outside is for the times you are moving to somewhere else, or doing something else that keeps you moving.  They’re small and can’t keep up.

Here in Florida I often think we need to build a dome over the town and just pump pesticides into it, then let everyone back into it.

Give the natural world a reset.  Leave the Iguanas, Boa Constrictors, and Pythons in there as well.  They don’t belong here either.

That thought comes to me frequently when I hear a certain sound.

EEEEEEEE!  In my left ear.

I reach up to that appliance that I never really thought there was a need for Up North, and turn it on full blast.

The Ceiling Fan.

It’s not on so much to cool me.  I’m fine at a temperature that would wilt a Scotsman.  It’s to keep the mosquitoes away until I can come after it with a spray of instant death, or just a clap of the hands.

Great, now the dog’s scared.  Besides, the mosquitoes here can bench press a Buick or carry off a Moose.

I’m muttering about how cold it is in here and I’m overheard.

“Turn off the fan then”.
“No, I’m already a quart low and I don’t want to donate any more blood to my pets!”
“Is there a mosquito in the house AGAIN?”
“When isn’t there?”

I’m sitting in a down draft that would cause me to consider whether I could stand upright in it outdoors, and I’m being asked if I’m cold.

The mosquito is hovering, over there, just out of the “cooling breezes”, waiting.  She knows I have to leave my little Hamster Ball of wind.


Then she will drink the sweet, sweet nectar of my arm so that she may make children.

Not. If. I. Can. Help. It.

I go into the Kitchen.  Washer’s beeping its insistent “BeepBeepBeepBeepBeep…”.  I look in the Red Solo Cup on the counter.  There’s the culprit!

There are a dozen seeds in there I’m trying to get going.  Meyer Lemons.  Wonderful fruit that are almost sweet enough to eat from hand.  In the little puddle of water with the seeds there are some wrigglers.

I drain them out into the sink with a maniacal laugh.

In my best Mad Scientist (boo!) voice I tell them: “Live no longer my children for you meet doom in the whirling chamber of death!”.

I turn on the hottest water I can, and the garbage disposal, and they go down into the dark beyond of the sanitary sewer.

I laugh as I turn it all off and empty the Washer.

One less group of blood suckers down.

I bend down to move the clothes into the Dryer, close the door, and hear a familiar sound.


That’s what you get for Living Outdoors.  They get inside.  Besides, you left the Hamster Ball.  Go back to the safe zone, they’ll get you again.

But no, you eventually have to wander out of that safe zone where the little blighters are waiting.

Walk near the nearest source of water and they’ll be there.

In this case, the bathroom.  The drafts grab hold of them and draw them into the hallway where they smell the water.  I walk into the bathroom and close the door.  The lights come on full, four large CFL lights that are so bright you have to shade  your eyes at 5AM when you’re up.

I hear it.  EEEEEEEE!
She’s in here.

I look over to the bathtub and she’s coming for me.  I close the one door, then the other to seal the mosquito in.

Do my own business, then it’s personal.

I arm myself with the tile cleaner and open the door.

Immediately she sees me.  The battle is on!  I notice she’s moving slowly.

The bottle gets set down and … CLAP!!!!!


I’m safe for another day.  Scratching my right arm, I realize she got me too.


Cold Climate Walk In Freezer Space – Humor

I was talking with my cousin from Nebraska earlier today and he reminded me of a little trick we used to do up in Pennsylvania.

Can’t do it here.  I’m in Florida.  You see it went all the way down to 60 yesterday.  My pool is hovering in the high 50s now. 

We would do our shopping in bulk.  I aggressively shop the coupons and the “deals” at the big box warehouse stores.   Doing that has managed to cut our food budget down by about a quarter to a third depending on whether or not we’re needing something that I’d call derisively a luxury.

The problem with shopping coupons is that it is what THEY want you to get.  Farmer Douglas has a good year and too many chickens are raised so you get a special deal on roasters at 1.19 a pound.  There’s a glut on corn so there’s another brick of 8 cans in the pantry. 

You know that sort of thing.

I also bake, so if there’s a good season for fruit, I’ll be making jams and jellies and baking cookies.

That means the freezer gets stuffed.

You can tell when someone buys too much in a cold climate.  Look out back, the yard is covered with snow and cans of soda.  The cooler went out back in November and was filled one year with chicken parts, frozen ravioli, snow and a block of concrete would be set on top.  Since I was in an urban area it would keep the critters out, both two and four legged.

So now my mind is going a little nutty.   I have a pool in the back yard.  Nice big Cement Pond since I moved to Bev-er-lee with Granny on the roof of the car.  Now, I’m looking for a net bag.  There’s a six-pack of soda that’s getting tossed into the pool and will get tied up to the ladder in the deep end so nobody will freak out when they see cans floating around.

It’s been a long holiday weekend and my refrigerator is stuffed.  If it were Pennsylvania, I’d be getting that cooler out of the basement again and filling it with snow and leftovers and so on.

Come to think of it that chicken from last night was particularly excellent.  Hey?  When’s lunch again?

What does a Country Bar and Jamaican Mangoes have in common?

Last night I had a walk.  All by myself, and not with the dog, I went out the door in the evening warm.   The weather had ended its fitful rains and all that was left of Tropical Storm Debby was a lot of wind coming in the wrong direction, off the Everglades. 

It was a bit like walking in a hairdryer toward the end of the walk but that’s part of living in Subtropical South Florida in late June.

I was alone with my thoughts, walking North on Northeast 6th Avenue toward Oakland Park when I stumbled on something.  Looking down at my right foot I noticed the familiar orange color of a squished fruit.  I laughed at myself thinking, only I could be walking around town and have Mangoes find me.

This was a massive tree, more than 30 feet tall, shading the yard and draping over their privacy fence and sidewalk beyond.  Making a mental note of the location, I walked onward to the bar.

My friends were not there, despite my arriving late after having three different people ask me why I was alone and wanting to share their own drama.  One friend worried about where Mrs Dog was.  Another about his pending move.  A third saying hello and asking about how I was doing.  It’s nice living in a small town, even if it is surrounded by a much larger neighbor.

After hanging around and watching the instructor do her Country Line Dancing routine for about 10 minutes, I left.   Country music is neither.  I really can’t abide Country Music preferring the static of my own thoughts to that prattle.  Like the old joke goes:  Play the song backward and get your dog back, your wife back, and your truck back.

As I was walking back toward the house, I was thinking about that tree and how amusing it was to go out for a walk alone for the first time in recent memory and stumble across a small pile of fruit.  Literally a windfall, I thought, for the neighbor.  Enjoy it.

Going back more than 20 years in my thoughts I was trying to remember the name of a woman with whom I worked.   I couldn’t remember her name, but I could remember the story and the love she showed in the story.  Like most stories of that kind, she was probably romanticizing it, and after all this time, I only knew of the highlights.

She was a born Jamaican.  Beautiful tall and statuesque woman with deep brown skin.   Sweet of demeanor, and pleasant to speak with.  One day we were talking over lunch and she started talking about the differences of what it was like to grow up in Jamaica and living in Suburban Jenkintown PA.  You couldn’t walk long distances in Jenkintown, the roads didn’t have reliable sidewalks for the task, but you could in Jamaica.  Where she lived, she’d walk down the road and said that if she were hungry, all she needed to do was reach up and pick a Mango and go on her way with sweet juice dripping down her arm.  On Jamaica, people didn’t plant trees for decoration like we do here.   A tree had to have a purpose.  If you plant a tree it needed to give back to society more than the protection and shade it offers.  It should give forth fruit or nuts.   Apparently where this woman grew up, the streets were lined with gold in the form of mangoes.

That thought stuck with me to this day, especially as I bent down to pick up one choice mango from the swale for later enjoyment.

I’ve got a bottlebrush tree in front of my yard, but it is old with termites and dying.   When it goes, I’ll have to choose what to plant there.  When I plant it, you can be sure that it will give something back.