Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The End of Summer Bites

All I wanted to do was wack some weeds before my wife’s happy hour guests arrived.  So I fired up the ECHO and started shredding some grass, thinking about the cold beers waiting for me in the cooler.

            I was just about done, finishing the area around a large deck box that we keep below the desk for lawn games, e-z ups, bee spray, etc., when my legs started burning.

            At first I thought it was just dirt and pieces of grass pelting me, so I continued on. But then the pain got worse, and I looked down and saw a cloud of bees coming after me from beneath the deck box, with three of the nastier ones stinging the shit out of my calves.

            I dropped the wacker and got the hell out of there.

            I grabbed an ice cube from the cooler, along with a well-deserved beer, and from a safe distance, iced my leg as I watched the hundreds of bees swarming around the deck box. And I DO mean hundreds. I have no problem exaggerating the truth for comic effect, but this is no hyperbole.  There were hundreds of them. Hundreds of angry, vengeful bees, all looking for the guy who just wacked their house.

            Fortunately, they didn’t get a good look at me, which was unfortunate for my three-year old son and the kids of the Happy Hour crowd that would soon be arriving.  All expecting to play croquet, swing on the swings, and go in the pool.  Worried that they would become unwitting victims of the bees’ revenge, I figured I better “take care” of the problem.

            Problem was, all the spray was in the box that they were protecting. After briefly flirting with the idea of creating some sort of flame thrower, I wisely decided to go to the store and buy some more spray.  Only, rather than go to Home Depot, where the “good” stuff was, I thought I’d save some time and go to a closer place so that I could get back and spray the bees before the kids got there.

            Fifteen minutes, and dollars, later, I was back, armed with three cans of foaming spray that promised to kill on contact.

            They lied

            I stood about six feet away and sent a mighty blast of foam towards the bees, covering them, the grass, and the side of the box in a shaving cream like substance – and then watched in horror as they ate their way out of it and zoomed after me. WTF?

            I had assumed that “on contact” meant instant death, but maybe I was wrong. So I grabbed another beer and waited, from a safe distance, to see if they would start dying shortly after contact.
            They didn’t

            By then the kids had started arriving, so I went into the garage and dug out the roll of yellow caution tape that I rarely get to use, and strung a protective plastic barrier between the bees and the rest of the yard. I warned the kids to stay away from the area, helped myself to another beer, and began plotting my nighttime raid on the hive, when I’ve repeatedly been told, the bees would be dormant and easy to slaughter.

            They weren’t

            Around nine o’clock, and nine beers later (remember when I said I had no problem exaggerating for comic effect?), I crept towards the deck box and slowly opened it, silently removing the can of good bee spray that was inside. So far, so good, I thought. Not a single bee or sting in sight.

            I figured the nest was under the box, and really wanting to get them good, decided I better move it before napalming them. This proved easier said than done, since as I’ve mentioned, it was full of heavy things like horseshoes, bocce sets, an e-z up canopy, gallons of torch fuel, and who knows what else. Point is, with a flashlight in one hand and killer bee spray in the other, my little hip shoves weren’t having much effect on moving the box.

            So I put the stuff down and gave a might heave. The beam of the flashlight in the grass let me know I had made a BIG mistake. The bees were not sleeping, and in fact, were quite ready for me, and before I could grab my spray, they were swarming and stinging me again.

            I ran up onto the deck, swearing and swatting and ripping my t-shirt off in the process, after one bee managed to get inside and started stinging my chest.

            “What ya doin’?” one of my wife’s friends called out from her seat at the firepit, as the rest of them hooted and catcalled at my unannounced strip show.

            “Bees,” I stammered. “I was spraying the bees…”

            “And you, what?” she interrupted. “Decided to offer them as much exposed flesh as possible?”

            Their cackling and heckling broke something in me, and next thing I know,  I'm making a beeline through the yard for the dropped flashlight and spray. Heedless of the bees, I picked the can up and calmy walked back to the deck, where I unleashed a torrent of spray into the newly exposed hive.

            “Death from above!” I shouted (not really. Remember that comic effect thing?) as I emptied the can and tossed it down into the ruins of their home. “That’ll teach you a lesson I will never forget!”

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Half a Tank is All it Takes

I recently returned from a week in the Berkshires, and while everything is unpacked, I still can’t get over the difference 100 miles can make. All it took was three hours and five gallons of gas to feel like I was living on another planet. And no, I’m not talking about the beautiful mountains, friendly people, rolling farmland, and fresh air – of which there was plenty. I’m talking about more important things. Eye-opening things. Things like…

House numbers in the 20,000’s!  Seriously. We were driving on Route 2 and the mailboxes had numbers on them that looked like advertisements for the latest MegaBucks jackpot. I’ve seen addresses in the low thousands before, but 24,771 just seems ridiculous.

Towns with no cell service! I don’t own a phone, so I never would have noticed, but I overheard a man in what was formerly Alice’s Restaurant (more on that later) ask the waitress if people always had trouble getting a signal in there, or if it was just him.  She matter of factly told him there was NO cell phone service. Period. He looked at her like she was speaking another language, and said, “So I have to go outside?” And she said, “No. There’s no signal in the entire town!”

Stores and restaurants with no names! We drove by several establishments with no discernible signs or names. They were clearly open for business, and customers were going in and out of them, but from the road you could not tell if it was a hardware store, luncheonette, or pharmacy.  And then you walk in and find it's all three. On a related note, there were several places that proclaimed their unusual combos, such as the Laundromat AND car wash, book store AND bait shop, and antiques AND farm fresh egg stand that we passed.

Stockbridge does not celebrate its claim to fame! I’m a big Arlo Guthrie fan, so when I saw we were near the home of Officer Obie and the place that was “just a half a mile from the railroad track” that lent its name to his song, “Alice’s Restaurant” I just had to stop. But while it was a very cute little town, there was nothing to commemorate its place in music history. We went to the police officer station and found only tributes to Norman Rockwell. We walked Main Street and found more tributes to Norman Rockwell. We ate at Theresa’s Stockbridge CafĂ©, which was once Alice’s Restaurant, and did have some Arlo pics on the wall (and thankfully no Rockwells!) But they didn’t offer a Thanksgiving feast that could not be beat, or even so much as a turkey sandwich on the menu. Whatever happened to getting anything you want?

But other than that, I did get everything that I wanted out of our little trip. Time with the family. Time away from the cat.  We fed goats, explored Howe’s Cavern, danced to a Dead band under a bridge in Troy, and enjoyed many locally brewed beers. I know in some of our larger states it can be a hundred miles between gas stations, but around here, those same hundred miles can bring you to a whole new world.  A world where a town not only openly rejects “fame” in favor of respect, but is also free from the sounds of cell phones! A world where a good name matters less than a good reputation. A world where books and worms live happily together – which now that I think of it, actually makes sense.

 But I still don’t see the point in those high house numbers! They're just stupid.