Friday, November 04, 2005

Stuart Not-So-Little

Back to the weather. The weather is amazing in Astoria. In New England, where I was brought up, weather is a very big deal. In L.A., there is no weather. Weathermen/ladies are just news-fillers when there aren't enough brutal murders to keep the general population quivering in their boots ... vacuous talking heads declaring doom in shrill voices because there's a 10% chance of rain. It's good to be back in real weather again.

In my email this morning there were about five weather alerts for high winds and flood watches. I looked out the kitchen window, and it must have been between monsoons, because nothing was happening.

This afternoon, while matting a truck-load of prints in front of the kitchen window, it was a weather side-show. It got black, and it poured sideways. Then the wind kicked up, and the huge tree in the neighbor's yard was doing the mambo. Everything stopped. The sun came out, and I could see all the way across the river. Clouds started rolling down the river, and you could actually see the rain-line obscure the hills across the way as the storm moved east. Then, inexplicably, it started to hail pea-sized pellets for about five minutes. The sun came out again, another monsoon with wind blew in and shook the back of the house, then more hail. All in a period of about 2 1/2 hours.

Fabulous show, but unfortunately, the area rats decided that my basement was a good place to wait it all out. One side of the house is still old cardboardy stuff that the Victorians put up when the house was built, which I haven't had the chance to replace yet. Of course, it is full of holes, so the rats come scampering in. They won't come upstairs because I have cats, and I don't hear them in the walls, but they are paryting hearty in the basement.

They are truly brazen little buggers. When I went down to get some canned goods this afternoon, three of them were having a tea party on the bottom cellar stair. They scooted off when I started down, and the coast seemed clear when I got to the shelves that hold the canned goods. I reached in for a can, and could see a slight movement just to the left of my hand. It was a rat, hanging his head over from the shelf above, looking at me upside down, twitching his whiskers at me. Actually, he was rather cute for a rat, a rather larger version of Stuart Little. I know, I know Stuart Little was a mouse. So a rat could be Stuart-Not-So-Little, perhaps.

So I read up on how to get rid of rats without leaving a wake of furry mangled bodies, and the old cure is apparently cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil placed strategically everywhere they come in, and everywhere they like to hang out. Now the trick is to find some peppermint oil out here at the edge of the earth. And it has to be the oil, not the extract, because apparently the extract makes them drunk. Just what I need, a basement full of drunken rats, cavorting in the canned goods.

My large dog is having a grand time with the rats, and he would be very disappointed if I actually manage to send them on their way. He loves to go lunging down into the basement and be a fearless rat-hunter, leaving a trail of squeaks behind him. He would not know what to do with a rat if he actually caught one, but to him, the fun is all in the chase. This is the same dog who is terrified of wind, hail, or any weather (he was brought up in L.A.). So when he gets anxious, I just send him to the cellar to go on rat-patrol.

The weather is quiet at the moment, and so is the dog, who is snoozing between anxiety attacks and rat-chases. So I will take this opportunity to sneak off to bed early before the weather changes again.

Astoria Photografpix

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