late-August compost mites
Saturday, August 20 2011
location: near Sligo Creek Park, Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland
Like me, Gretchen's father (who is probably more of a gadget freak than I am) recently got an iPad, and it's now his most faithful companion. He's loaded it with apps (most of them free) and takes it everywhere. This morning, for example, he took it with him to the post office to read from while waiting in line. He said that the flickering light from the fluorescent lights shining through ceiling fans makes the reading of normal printed material impossible. It was good to me to finally talk to someone who actually knows how to use an iPad; it's all pretty intuitive and I've been using it okay, but I'd been a little confused about things like how one app can send data to another.
Gretchen spent the morning socializing with a friend down in the District, leaving me to while away my time in the house. Mostly hid out away from her parents, feeling a little embarrassed that I wasn't helping them prepare for today's lunch birthday party but also feeling it inappropriate to suddenly march up and offer help when I'd already been absent for so long. At one point I took a bath in a tiny conventional-sized bathtub (I'm used to the biggie-sized tub back home).
At some point the house was set up and guests started trickling in, including the 87 year old birthday girl herself. I was given driving instructions and sent to pick up Gretchen from the Silver Spring Metro station, though our presence was being kept a secret so as to surprise the guest of honor.
There was an odd feedback noise in the living room (now containing nearly a dozen mostly older Americans) when I next returned to it. It was whining hum that would periodically go up or down an octave. I asked Gretchen about it and she indicated that it was probably the birthday girl's hearing aid, which was not properly-fitted and had been turned up so loud that it was feeding back on itself.
I thought I was going to have a miserable time at the lunch, but wine was served and there ended up being interesting conversations that ranged in subject from politics to the believability of charges of rape. Those present mostly seemed to feel that if a woman made a series of decisions that included inviting a man up to her room and, say, sleeping with him, then she probably can't expect to make a charge of rape stick. Gretchen disagreed and proceeded to relate to everyone a story that (of those present) only I had heard before. It seems that back in college she accompanied her young sabra of a Jewish studies professor to Nova Scotia for some sort of conference, and upon arriving at his hotel, announced that she was tired, and asked if she could please take a nap in his bed. At that point the professor announced that he too wished to take a nap. So then Gretchen lay there for a half hour or an hour, unable to sleep, unable to even move, wondering why she didn't have the guts to tell her professor how inappropriate he was being. And, as she pointed out, had she been raped, who would have believed her? She'd gone to his room and asked to sleep in his bed! As with any great story, it was a little bit shocking and a little bit self-deprecating.
During the dessert course, I took Eleanor for a run in Sligo Creek Park (Gretchen couldn't get away, and I didn't feel confident I could control Sally if she were to repeat yesterday's stunt). While in the park, I saw two speckled deer fawns further up the slope. They didn't seem particularly concerned by either me or Sally; perhaps they don't encounter many offleash dogs these days. In any case, I didn't want Eleanor to chase them, so I turned around.
After all the lunch guests departed and we'd packed the car with all the things we'd been given by either Gretchen's parents or the birthday girl (who has had to downsize since moving into an assisted living facility), we started our drive back to Hurley.
We'd only been driving for a few minutes before Marie (aka "the Baby") went back to the litter box in the foot well behind the driver's seat and proceeded to squirt out a puddle of noxious diarrhea. Usually these days she prefers to piss inside the litter box and to shit next to it. But there was no room next to the litter box in the confines of the foot well, so only a little bit dribbled out onto the car's upholstery. It smelled to high heavens, so someone was going to have to take care of it. Since Gretchen was driving, either I was going to have to clean it up or the dogs were. Usually the dogs are more interested in cat shit than they were being on this occasion, so it looked like this was going to be my job. Unfortunately, we had only some old semi-used paper towels, so after I used those up, I tore some pages from a ratty old road atlas and made them more absorbent by crumbling and uncrumbling them. It gave Gretchen some satisfaction to know I'd used Montana and Mississippi to clean up the shit.
From there the drive was uneventful until milepost 56 on the New Jersey Turnpike, where the highway goes from two northbound lands to three. From there it was stop and go traffic for 16 miles, all the way up to milepost 72, where the highway gains either two or three additional northbound lanes for a total of five or six.
We took a piss break for the dogs at a gas station rest stop along the Garden State Parkway. The rest stop claimed not to have bathrooms, but that didn't keep us from finding places to piss as well.
Once we got to Hurley, the house smelled of mold from having been closed up for so long during what must have been a relentless series of rainstorms. We went around cleaning up the most obvious patches of mold, including an archipelago of black spots spreading across the refrigerator. Our friend Sarah the vegan would be spending the night, so I went down in the basement to open doors and windows and turn on the new ceiling fan. I also cleaned up some spots of mold growing in the carpet where some critter had tracked in some nutrients and moisture on its feet.
In other disgusting biological news, I found myself swarmed by little dot-sized mites. They were the color of my skin and could only be seen due to their frantic motion. At first I though the mite outbreak was in the laboratory, but later it turned out that the mites had come from either the brownhouse or the compost bin, both of which are aswarm with late-August compost mites.
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