Arachnid in the Bathtub!

And what kind of name is “Shelob” anyway?

Photo by Roman.

For this I beg your pardon. Some will object to the image quality. Meh! The lighting was poor that morning. Some will object to simply being presented with a spider. Eek! But the spider is now dead and I wish to present its image to all and sundry because I killed it out of fear. Although, when it appeared in the tub that morning, it was warned: You have six or seven hours to leave.

Centipedes heed this warning more often than not and are gone by then. If not, it is removed, scoop and toss, leaving it perhaps a bit less fit but still alive and able to do what it does so well: Hunt other bugs.

The spider remained in the tub and was whacked with a sandal. Yes, that is a double standard for rescues. Centipedes are reliably venomous and are far more alien-creepy than any spider could be and they move real fast. Using alarm as a standard, centipedes should die on sight. But centipedes seem to listen whereas spiders have a cold just-business-nothing-personal affect even though they may be harmless and shy. I lief leave spiders be when they’re not in the way. Otherwise…

So this is my apology to the spider. It was entirely personal. You were not even food.

Sun, Sand & Sales

It was a cold day some time in 1998 along a seemingly vacant beach in Loyola Park. A lonely vendor ventures, ever hopeful, into what would seem a market wasteland and…

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Loyola Park, 1998. Photo by Roman.

…he scores! Considering his small share of the sale price, he might have been better off eating his own merchandise, but he aspires to more than just feeding himself. Will he succeed with this pushcart? The odds are: He probably did not. But who knows? These customers appeared out of nowhere, after all. I suspect them of purchasing nostalgia as well as sweets. Sugar and childhood! How’s that for a sure thing?

Night Lights 6

Photo / graphic by Roman.

Where am I? My situational awareness is absent, reduced to warmth… comfort… bed… and as I begin to awaken I seem to rotate within some delimited space, falling toward a maximum probability until: I fit! That’s right. It’s night. I’m in bed and not at all ready for the day, which it is not. If you love me, I will sleep.

Yip

In the Time of Feeling Fragile

Photo by Roman.

I became ill several days ago. Oh no… I’ll not burden you with a mantra chant of symptoms: coincidental or otherwise, imaginary or all too real, amusing or gross.

So what is wrong and what of it?

How can I tell you? I mean… I do not know. Could be one thing. Could be another. Could be several things. A label would be idle speculation.

And so what of it…

Simply that it slowed me down… Yet that only made a small difference in what I’ve accomplished. No, this is not a triumph. Rather it is that I was already moving that slow.

–Yip

Here flies the banner…

Photo by Roman.

… of the Frost Queen and Her consort,
the Earl of Autumn.

They say Her Worship is the polar bear’s pajamas. But the Mister, He’s not so much, being Her mister-right-now, not mister-right. It’s a sinister business, if I may beg your pardon, but I predict She’ll be with Winter before long, Whomever that may be, as sure as the world spins.

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Photo by Roman.

As delicate as a silhouette against a shade, it draws the eye. Are we voyeurs to witness a leaf slowly shutting down, its life draining away to the greater tree, dreaming a blaze of sun-burnt color? Is this a guilty intimacy or a sacred sharing? Or is it after all only tomorrow is another year?

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Photo by Roman.

A drama fruit, a diva fruit, the apple of my eye?

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Photo by Roman.

The social gossip of courtiers… we heard it on the grapevine… which way’s the main stem… it’s the happening scene… the carnival crowd, grifters and peasants… in this strange, strange land where even the area codes are alien and beg repeating.

–Yip

The Old Family Home

a spider’s meditation

Photo by Roman.

Our old web was never worth all that much. Mom always said that it never caught anything but dust and Dad and Dad was barely enough to sustain a clutch of eggs. You’d think a window web would prosper but no, it was a waste land. I had a whole passel of sisters when we hatched but now there’s just me. When you live in a desert, you make do. Between Mom and me, my sisters lasted a while. Dinnertime was always a family affair.

Nothing is left. Time to move on. Thanks Mom. You were great.

— Yip

No New Messages

Fido’s net

Photos by Roman.

…on this doggy bulletin board.

“Huh?” you say?

Look: When a dog pees, it’s never just a matter of Fluphy relieving himself. It’s also a statement that Fluphy was here, and not just that Fluphy was here but many of the other things of importance to an interested dog. Fluphy’s health. Fluphy’s sex. What Fluphy has been eating. Maybe even Fluphy’s mood. All to be read by Fido and Spot and Puggy and Wee and all and sundry who come with a nose that can see.

And they reply with a pee of their own, maybe as perfunctory as a “like” or as voluminous as a treatise. Or maybe they’re just trolling.

Back in the days when the internet, for most of us, meant a long-distance telephone call to a desktop computer with a dial-up modem, there was a volunteer service that would pick up and deliver messages between message boards. Yep, it was called FIDO Net.

What with the current fad of teaching dogs and cats to speak, maybe pee has become an underground grapevine, a samizdat between the feral and the domestic. Careful! They may eat us all, someday.

But until then, they mostly keep us sane… or maybe just less deranged… Otherwise I might suggest that you author your own message to see what the dogs have to say in reply.

You’ve Got Mail!

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Peemail. Photo by Roman.

Post Script:
Don’t believe everything that I’ve written here. However. Dogs and cats do get information from scents, some of which is social and some of which overlaps that which humans gain through conversation and correspondence. But just what “some” is is still a matter of research and speculation.

And yes: People are teaching dogs and cats to “talk” and there is a small community of folks (and creatures) on YouTube where their efforts are documented. Whether it constitutes speech or not is a debatable assertion best left to those who study such things; I don’t know that there is a consensus on the matter. But it seems pretty obvious to me that at least some of the creatures have adapted the process (whether “speech” or not) to signal their desires and needs.

If you’re curious about this, my two favorites are Billi the cat and Bunny the dog.

Billi is an older cat and living proof that you can indeed teach old cats new tricks. But pause (begging your pardon) before trying this with your cat. After all, do you really want to know that your cat can not stand the really great music you are playing or that your Significant Other is making too much damned noise? For a while, “mad” was one of her favorite words.

Bunny the dog is a young whippersnapper with an existentialist bend… or maybe it’s just her humans… hard to say. But she is a genuinely joyful character (as most dogs are) and apparently pretty articulate, though sometimes she babbles. That may actually be one of her more interesting behaviors.

And then there is the question of identity, the conscious “I”. Both Billi and Bunny have confronted mirrors and seem to understand… about like humans confronting quantum physics for the first time. There’s also all sorts of research on this subject, including trail cams posted by mirrors in the wilderness. Some creatures seem to figure it out. Others clearly do not. And with others, it’s hard to say.

It’s an interesting question with implications ranging from religion to ethics to diet to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.

For my part, I promise not to eat any dog or cat with whom I am personally acquainted.

Dinosaur Watching

For some circumstance, for some reason, birds have not been much on my radar this spring, but I did not notice this until I began opening my windows in the face of our pleasant heat wave this May. It was quiet in the morning. Too quiet. And thinking back on it, April and March had been the same. This is the season when many birds sing out on the common themes of sex, real estate, and aint-i-wonderful. It’s a great racket, as any male will tell you if candid.

Now, I’m not a birder, for all that I like birds, albeit some birds more than others, and so I’m not adept at recognizing who’s who, even if one were an owl. But something was obviously missing.

It’s the chimney swifts. For all the years I’ve been living in this apartment, there’s been a perennial colony that populated the courtyard and the parking lot across the alley. They are noisy, quarrelsome birds whose musical twitter masks dominance games, though for insects it probably sounds like the boom of doom, as if painted by a targeting sonar. They are not totally absent (in fact I hear a few as I type) but they do not occupy the space as they did. The local swifts displayed an intimate knowledge of the courtyard and lot. These chimney swifts lately do not; they ain’t from this neighborhood.

Their absence makes me wonder what else is missing. Fewer robins, perhaps? Or starlings? There did seem to be the usual crew of sparrows that hunt for spiders along the corners of brickwork and windows. But the near absence of chimney swifts may be influencing my perceptions.

The good news is that for a second year, the nighthawks are back. For more than a decade, they were largely absent from my little part of Rogers Park. These are probably the common nighthawk, judging by their electric squawks. I’ve always found the sound of them at night to be a comfort, for some reason. They do seem to be starting their hunt for insects a few hours before sunset and continuing on for several hours after sunrise. Is that new? I’m not a birder; don’t ask me.

Oh! And I did see a pair of purple martins in the parking lot a few days ago. They were a childhood favorite. I grew up with a large yearly colony in my back yard.

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August, 2018; photo by Roman

There are also a few unknown songs in the neighborhood. Not being a bird nerd, I haven’t the foggiest… One sounds truly tropical… Is it even a bird?