Saturday, September 18, 2010

The night I wore a hundred black widows

I posted the following the other day:

...and, while five of you "liked" it (I will assume you like my hilariously witty status-update writing, not my misfortune), more of you requested pictures, via Facebook and other means. I must really be getting a reputation for ALWAYS having a camera on hand. But no. Sorry. The following is the best I could do.

I intended to go to bed. Waylaid by incessant meowing and chomping of my appendages, I detoured to feed the cats instead. A few minutes later I was sprinting about my backyard, shirtless, at 1 a.m., covered in spiders and ripping my hair out.

The fact that when I told this to my husband all he did was shrug and say "Well, if you were going to be tearing your clothes off in the dark, you could at least have invited me;" with no comment as to the late hour, my outdoor indecency, or the spider-infested condition of my half-clothed form; speaks volumes about the extreme nature of my spider-related activities. However, everyone has a limit. I reached mine this week.

Let me back up. I really was on my way to bed. I had stayed up once again pissing away time on Facebook working, and it was much later than I realized. I dragged myself from the office chair to the stairs, only to be ambushed by both cats. I knew their dishes were full, so I picked them up, plunked them before the dishes, and returned to the stairs. They chased me down again, so I followed them back to the dishes, again, telling them that they're fine; there's a ton of food right there. They favored me With what is wrong with you? looks, so I switched the kitchen light on ... to see the dishes pulsating with about ten zillion ants. They were methodically carrying away morsels of cat food in a procession stretching across the kitchen and dining room.

Bedtime was definitely off. First, the cats were now quite sure I was trying to kill them; and second, even the most passing contact with ants invariably leaves me a lumpy, swollen, itchy mass of ... well, I'm not sure what, exactly, but it's not attractive.
Inspired by Hyperbole and a Half's spider equation, even though I usually love arachnids. 
I scooped up both cats -- who were pretty ticked by now -- tossed them in the office, and set to work eradicating the ants. So far, so good. Pain in the ass, but I was dealing like a champ.

Then I got the bright idea to go check for the ants' trail outside. I'm a huge advocate of "live and let live" but with cats/kids/food/living and still looking human at stake, I had to keep these ants out of the house. I figured I'd stop it at the source. My shoes were closed in the office with the cats, but my husband's super-ugly humongous Crocs were available. They flopped around on my feet, but who cares, I thought. It's not like I'm going to be running around in them.

Hideous clown shoes on feet, flashlight in one hand and poison in the other, I crept outside. No ants anywhere. I did, however, notice several giant black widows.

They seemed to be converting our stepladder into a quickly filling apartment complex. I decided that while I had the poison ready, it was eviction day (again, proximity issue - most spiders, black widows included, are highly respected in this house). I walked forward to get a good angle at the first one. When I did, for some reason, my hair kept getting in my face. I brushed it away, but there were a whole bunch of hairs in my face.

I kept brushing them off, but the hair was really sticky. And stretchy. And my hair was still getting in my face, especially from in front of me and also from above ... wait. What?

That's when I noticed that I had also walked into a giant clump of hair, and there were still pieces floating in the air. I aimed the flashlight toward the nuisance, and noticed that every "hair" floating -- and landing on my face and head -- looked like this:

...and that the giant swath on my chest looked like this:

By this point, I was quite unsurprised to find a spent egg sac beside one of the females. It looked quite innocuous -- like a flimsy, hollowed out piece of Kix cereal. It had hatched, and a hundred or so black widow spiderlings had moved to the top rung of the ladder, where I hadn't even looked since black widows tend to prefer low corners. They had attached their temporary home to some anchor -- I never figured out what, exactly, after blundering through it -- where dozens and dozens were just hanging out. The rest were dispersing on tiny bits of web they let out, no doubt to take over the small fraction of my yard that is not yet occupied by their sisters.

I saw and noticed all this -- the egg sac; the dispersal method; even the Kix cereal analogy, which I've used for years -- in a fraction of a second. I love black widows. I really do. I'm intimately familar with them. I can promise you I wouldn't be recounting that part otherwise, because I certainly didn't take time to put it together at that moment. There is such a thing as being TOO intimately familiar with an animal, and I would say the line is definitely crossed when hundreds of offspring of an extremely venomous spider are currently landing in one's hair, face, boobs. Eyes. MOUTH.

Upon realizing I was wearing a spider hair mask, a spider face mask, and a spider vest, I remained supremely calm and rational.

In the interest of optimal spider removal, I decided to go after their stronghold, which was now my torso. I tore their new base from my body.

...but somehow, this did little to make me look collected and dignified. I'm not sure why.

After sprinting several shirtless laps around the yard while shrieking calmly removing the remaining spiders and web, I tracked down one of the Crocs, which had flown across the yard at some point. I recovered the poison and flashlight. I couldn't find the shirt. I went inside.

There were more ants. Tons more.

I didn't have time to find another shirt, because now the ants were dispersing. I had to drop down and get them right now. I thought all the spiders were out of my hair. Besides, it's not like the babies are harmful anyway. But what if they were still in my hair? I thought. What if they hitchhike on my head, drop off in corners, and become giant, venomous adults? And this time it would be INDOORS. I had to find some way to contain them until I was sure. I had to quarantine my head.

Hats were out. They have holes, and besides, my husband would totally freak if I defiled his Sun Devils hat in such a manner.

We have lots of bags. They're sort of head sized.

Imagine you're my husband. You get home from work late. You might picture your wife snuggled in a cozy shirt, if it's warm, or more likely (in Arizona) sweating it out in some flirty camisole and pajama shorts. You might imagine that, after a calm, sane evening, she's tucked your son in, cleaned up the house, and is either serenely awaiting your arrival or already asleep in bed, waiting to cuddle contentedly up to you.

Instead, you get this:

I'd just like to point out one thing. The Crocs are still the stupidest-looking part of that ensemble.

Read some less-insane stuff about black widows, and see some pretty (real) pictures, here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Go read my article, and other updates

Was my last post really that long ago? And was it really the goofy MS Paint faces post? Sorry, all.

I've been at least semi-busy. An article of mine is up right now (read it here; more on that in a second). I've had family business. Since my family is not entirely composed of chronic over-sharers, it will remain private, but obviously, family comes before my egocentric chronicling (usually). My husband's birthday just passed, but we didn't really get to celebrate it. I've been doing bit of growing up, a bit of walking outside, quite a bit of writing, a lot of to-be-processed photography, and a lot of doughnut-eating-while-driving. On a related note, paranoid rearview-mirror-monitoring is easier to do without a giant apple fritter hanging from one's mouth, and one only feels more incompetent, freakish, and paranoid when the police car pulls along side one's car and watches the spectacle of extricating the giant pastry with glaze-varnished hands. Just saying.

So, the article. Go read it, if you're so inclined. It's about Darrell Ankarlo. Until recently, he was the host of "Ankarlo Mornings” on 92.3 FM KTAR. The reason this is no longer the case is what my story explores, but it's really only part of the story.

Most of what you might have read about him online, approving or disapproving, has to do with his political and ideological views. I don't talk about that. If you pay attention, or if you've read my one or two pertinent posts, you probably can ferret out my approximate political views. However, I'm not a political writer. I never will be. (I will, however, argue with you in person. Just ask my husband.)

What I am is a people writer. A storyteller. Darrell and his wife Laurie have a story.

A few things about my conversation with them: Darrell got injured - badly - on the way home from a good deed in a long list of good deeds he's done. He has a super-close relationship with his wife. Watching them talk, when Darrell's really going, is like watching a verbal tennis match with lots of laughter, eye-rolling, and wifely tsk-ing. When he's not really going, his wife picks up the slack, but it's so natural that you don't realize it. Darrell has high expectations, of himself and others, and he'll let you know. He does his best to meet them and help others to do the same. Darrell gets very annoyed when Starbucks decides to rearrange the furniture in the middle of our interview, and partly owing to his injury, he lacks the mental filter that reminds most of us to not loudly voice such annoyance. His lack of a filter causes much hand wringing for his wife, and must cause some problems, but it's actually pretty refreshing to witness. Laurie is one heck of a strong woman. They both checked me out online before agreeing to meet with me. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Read about the rest in the story.