Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Night Fright

When I was first married, back in the late '70s, we couldn't afford much, but we found a cheap apartment in Hollywood. Not the nice part of town but downtown. It was across the street from where a bunch of hookers lived (apparently they avoided our apartment building because you needed a key to get in the front door of the building). That apartment came furnished, which we needed, but it was also furnished with cockroaches. Lots of them. We used to go out to horror movies a lot, just to see depictions of someone whose life was worse than ours.

Six months later, when the lease was up, we hightailed it out of there for the suburbs, where we found a brand new house that had been built by the landlord, who also lived on the property. The lot was about half an acre, very deep and skinny, and it had a tiny old house on the front corner. The landlords had built themselves a big, narrow two-story house on the other front corner, and the garage was on the end of the house that was away from the street. Across the long driveway from the landlord's house, directly behind the tiny old house, the landlords had built two tiny new one-bedroom houses, and they rented out all three of the tiny houses, of which the middle one was ours. The way they designed their house, the landlords could (and did) come out of their master bedroom and onto the flat roof of the garage, where they could overlook their domain. As uncomfortable as it could be living in an outbuilding of a feudal manor, it was a million times better than living with cockroaches.

Now, we were still pretty broke, so we didn't have much in the way of furniture. Our decor was Early American Garage Sale combined with Stuff We Made Ourselves. Our living room couch during family gatherings was the back seat pulled out of our 1964 Mercedes 220Sb (the car was a wedding gift from one of my husband's college roommates - he had found the car abandoned in a field and got the Sheriff's title to it and rebuilt the engine for us). Our mattress was nothing more than a big piece of foam on the carpet.

Life was pretty good there. We liked our rental neighbors and tried not to interact much with our feudal lords.

One Saturday morning, probably about 7:00 (an ungodly hour for a Saturday), I opened my eyes a crack, because I'd heard a soft noise outside next to the house. Not far from where I was lying, I noticed a line of ants walking along the top of the baseboard. In my desire to get back to sleep, my mind calculated that the ants weren't approaching me, and so I decided I could tell my husband about it later, so I closed my eyes and slept some more.

The noise outside continued and must have become more forceful, because my husband suddenly sat straight up in bed and expressed his annoyance and determination to investigate. That's when I woke up, opened my eyes again, and saw that the line of ants had become a superhighway of at least four lanes that followed the baseboard, turned a corner, climbed up the wall to the 4-inch potted philodendron that rested on the windowsill, and climbed up the side of the pot and into the dirt. Horrified, I looked more closely: all those ants were carrying eggs.

My husband came back from his investigation. It seemed Mr. Lord of the Manor had taken it in his mind to do a bit of weeding right next to our house at the crack of dawn and had dug up an ant's nest with his shovel, and the newly homeless ants had decided to move lock, stock, and hatchery right into my philodendron. CREEPED. ME. OUT!!!

After much Raid and airing out of the room - and the Raided philodendron in the garbage can - we resumed life again. Because this is California, we've had ant invasions countless times in countless abodes, but they haven't brought their eggs with them. Most of the time they're looking for something to take home with them. They die for their efforts, of course, because this is me we're talking about.

Fast forward to last night. Friday night. A good night. My son came over with the new (to him) game he bought, used, at the game store, and we gave it a try. It's called, Hansa, based on the old Hanseatic League. My son won, and then he and my daughter played Carcassonne while I hit the treadmill, and then after my daughter won, my son went home. My daughter was pretty tired, so she went over to the power strip to unplug her laptop before going to bed. She let out a disgusted, "Mom, there's a million ants over here!"

When I got over there and peeked behind the shelves that hold all our TV-attached devices, the power strip had ants crawling all over it, and the narrow space between that and the wall was black with them. I didn't know if some sort of horrible vermin had died back there and attracted all of them, or what. It was repulsive. And it's been years since there's been a husband to call to come deal with it.

We moved the shelves out of the way, and then my daughter sprayed the heck out of them. They were coming in from under the bottom of the baseboard. This is what it looked like post-spraying, when they were all DEAD.

There was nothing they were trying to eat or take home. All those white things were their eggs. They had decided that making their new home under the warmth of the power strip was just the thing for a Friday night. I can't begin to say how many times and in how many ways we expressed our revulsion at what was happening in our very own home.

After inspecting the rest of the house and seeing no other incursions, we finally went to bed to give the bug spray a chance to dry before we tried vacuuming.

In the morning the real work began. We moved furniture for better access, vacuumed, swept, and wiped down all the wires with wet disinfecting wipes. As a last task, I wiped all the ants off the power strip - top, bottom, and sides - then set it down on the blue-ray player while I wiped off its power cord. I picked up the power strip to start putting everything back together when I noticed a bunch of white eggs on the top of the black player. Noooo!!!

Then I hit the power strip against the floor a couple times , and this happened:

Their new nest was INSIDE the power strip! That thing had to go. We got out a brand-new garbage bag for the power strip and vacuum cleaner bag (once the new pile of disgust was cleaned up), because you can't trust the plastic shopping bags you get at stores to be air- and ant egg-tight. Since my daughter needed to go to Walmart for some food, she volunteered to pick up a new power strip. This one is a wall-mount model, so there should be less opportunity for the ants to make their home inside it (at least, that's what we're telling ourselves).

All of our various pieces of electronic equipment are now plugged in, and we're back in business. We have no idea what gave the ants the idea that it was time to move - it's not as though our landlord  was digging in the dirt beside the house - and I know better than to ask God what on earth He was thinking.

It says in the book of Revelation that God will wipe every tear from our eyes. I am confident that this memory, too, will be wiped away along with my tears when I get to heaven. It can't be the kind of thing we have to think about forever. Eternity without ants and their eggs is a very, very comforting thought.

Monday, May 30, 2016

For Memorial Day

I'm spending a quiet Memorial Day NOT going to Costco to pick up some food item or other that I've run out of (and consequently NOT chatting with my Costco buddies). I appreciate the fact that Costco closes on holidays in order to give their employees time to spend those holidays at home with their families.

Instead, I've been catching up on some of my internet reading, those articles and opinion columns I've opened in separate tabs in the morning to read later when I have a few minutes to rub together. Normally, that means very late at night when I'm beyond sleepy, and I end up just scanning the columns and deciding that I don't want to take the time to read most of them after all. Sometimes I fall asleep sitting in front of the computer, and one time when I woke up from this, both of my hands were asleep from having dozed off with my face cupped in my hands.

So it's a treat to be able to read when I'm actually awake. Which brings me to today's reading...

The Library of Law and Liberty yesterday reprinted a Memorial Day column from 2013 by Richard Reinsch, called, With the Old Breed. It's Reinsch's take on Eugene Sledge’s book of the same name. Reinsch explains, "I’ve been reading With the Old Breed, Eugene Sledge’s classic account of his experiences in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Many have come to know his story from the successful 2010 HBO Series The Pacific that relied in part on his diary of these two battles." 

I've mentioned before that I don't have much family connection to World War II. My dad was too young to enlist, and his dad had fought in World War I. By WWII, he was stateside training the troops until after the war, when he was sent to Europe to do Graves Registration work for a couple years. Still, my heart seeks out stories that highlight America's greatness, and World War II was about the last time when that greatness shone brightly throughout our nation. Not only did good menand good women as wellvolunteer to fight against the wickedness and evil that threatened to take over the world, but on the home front, individuals, corporations, and even Hollywood and the news media supported our war efforts. Dissenters were relatively few and far between.

Not so now. And stories like the one told by Eugene Sledge only serve to highlight the changes that have occurred in America since then. 

In his opening, Reinsch includes a quote from the book:

The narrative “Sledgehammer” provides is compelling, horrific, and fascinating. A member of the famous 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, he describes the landing on Peleliu:
Huge geysers of water rose around the amtracs ahead of us as they approached the reef. The beach was now marked along its length by a continuous sheet of flame backed by a thick wall of smoke. It seemed as though a huge volcano had erupted from the sea, and rather than heading for an island, we were being drawn into the vortex of a flaming abyss. For many it was to be oblivion.

The accounts of the island battles are appalling. There is little redeeming value, Sledge concludes, from these sojourns into hell. But the “Old Breed” must abide, he says.

And who are the Old Breed for Sledge? At one level, this was simply the nickname given to the First Marine Division that had served in the earliest engagements of the Pacific campaign at Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester. That much is true. Their lineage is great, stretching back to World War I.  Sledge is proud of being a part of this unit of men, and it comes blaring through the text. No punches are pulled in his description of the fighting.

One more quote from Reinsch:

Sledge is at turns bitter at his training officers in boot camp and in later preparatory phases. Camp was humiliating and physically exhaustive. Failure at a task led to a visit from the screaming instructor. You operated without requisite sleep. However, in a footnote he criticizes those who now critique the Marines for being too extreme, too inhumane in their training. Sledge knows that in the mud of combat, the discipline and the supports such training gives your will are all that a Marine possesses. It comforted him, he reports, that the man in his foxhole, and in surrounding foxholes, had received the same treatment.

That men enduredand continue to endure—such training and then willingly engage in overwhelmingly dangerous battle on our behalf is both humbling and impressive beyond measure. Those who paid the ultimate price deserve daily the remembrance and honor they receive each year on Memorial Day.