Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Living Creatures, For Now

Normally I treat living creatures with care. For example, just two weeks ago I found a stray kitten in my parking lot, scooped her up in a soft towel, and paid for her veterinary care. I have two spiders thriving in my bathroom. However, when insects or arachnids harass me, I take them out.

One day I was buying a fly swatter and tactlessly remarked that there was gonna be a fly killing spree at my place. The saleslady blanched: "I don't kill anything. I figure they have as much right to be here as I do." I redeemed myself from my discourteousness by not pointing out that flies vomit on her food. You see, normally I am quite tactful.

However, if I would definitely hurt a fly, then you can only imagine what sort of rampage I might undertake to eradicate, say, a cicada in my bedroom ceiling. For the past eight days, about the average cicada lifespan, I have been tormented by cicada mating calls. My entire hit list consists of one item:

1) cicada.

First I sprayed the eaves with insecticide. That didn't work. My landlady was unable to get access to the attic crawlspace, so she bought me earplugs and called an exterminator. The exterminators were booked solid, so she drilled two holes in my ceiling and sprayed insecticide through them before resealing the holes, but there was a thick layer of insulation that she couldn't penetrate very well, and this attack strategy had no effect.

The earplugs prevented me from hearing my alarm clock so I overslept and was almost late to work, but I could still hear the cicada right above my head. My landlady cut a hole in my closet ceiling, threw up a bug bomb or two, and resealed the hole. The cicada moved to the exterior wall of my bathroom. It was quieter at first, but then another cicada moved into the living room ceiling, and at 4 a.m. the two of them began a serenade at full volume in nearly perfect unison. I put the earplugs back in.

This morning I sprayed insecticide on the back eaves and through the holes in my siding. Tonight the saga continues.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Well, All Right

This week I walked into a music store wearing a linen shirt and generally looking sleek, well-fed, and as they say, respectable, a look that I have cultivated for the past ten years or so and am finally getting right. A salesman immediately asked if he could help me, and not in a way that meant he wanted me to leave the store, which was nice. I inquired politely, "I have heard something about a new Iggy Pop compilation. You wouldn't happen to know if that's available yet, would you?"

To his credit, he didn't bat an eye. He took me directly to the Iggy Pop c.d., which I happily purchased using some of the proceeds from my respectable employment. I can become a regular middle class American, but I can't forego my superior taste in music.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Upper Iowa River

Last weekend I canoed the Upper Iowa River for the first time, with an assortment of people from various canoeing clubs and the Sierra Club. It was a beautiful river, and I had a good time with the "Class 1 Riffles." I'd like to go back and canoe down more slowly so I could see more of the bluffs. Canoeing with an unfamiliar partner is always inefficient, and my partner and I had entirely different philosophies about steering, so the two of us had to work pretty hard to keep up with the others.

It was funny to be with a group of nice and likable people with whom I had a lot in common, but to feel like we had little in common. Our similarities included a political orientation somewhere in the left wing, enjoyment of good food and beer, love of the outdoors, love of rivers, and a propensity to pick up litter. I think that our differences are most conveniently summed up by our choice of T-shirts: They all wore canoeing T-shirts, food co-op T-shirts, environmentally focused T-shirts, and I wore an angry-looking samurai.

Be that as it may, I had far more in common with the friendly river cleanup squadron than with the drunken mob inhabiting most of the commercial campground where we pitched our tents. Even the employees were drunk, driving around at 10:30 at night noisily collecting canoes from people's campsites. One night I slept with my 10-inch heavy steel flashlight next to me in my sleeping bag after some lout who could barely stand invited me to make out with him. I asked around later, and apparently not all women are routinely propositioned by drunken louts; I'm just special that way.

It was a pretty spot and would be fantastic on a weeknight. The smoke from the fireworks and campfires hung around the bluffs and somewhat obscured the stars, but we could still see some of the Milky Way belt, so there was very little light pollution.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Two Bike Trails

I explored two new bicycle trails where I can get passed by people on light road bikes who aren't working nearly as hard as I am. My only satisfaction has to be my thigh muscles.

First I rode the trail along the Mississippi River in Davenport and Bettendorf. The paved part is not terribly long, but it looked like it continued as a gravel path. I didn't try the gravel since it wasn't marked, and 16 miles or so were enough for me that day. It's a pretty route, especially the south end.

The north end goes through a lot of civilization, passing riverboat casinos, factories, and a couple of bridges. The most memorable part of the north end was passing under a bridge and then hearing a thunk on the top of my bicycle helmet. I thought, "Was I just divebombed by a bird? Naw..." and I pedalled faster, figuring the bird would let me leave in peace.


I could sense the bird behind me, dipping and rising like some World War II fighter pilot ready to strafe, but I wasn't about to get divebombed a third time. I brought the bike to a dramatic stop across the whole bike path, hollering in my gravelly predator voice, "That's it, bird! Now you're gonna get it!"

She flew off. On my way back she came for me again, a red-winged blackbird, but this time I was watching for her. She flew overhead, and every time she started to swoop downward, I yelled at her menacingly and shook my fist in the air. I was fully prepared to clobber her and knock her right out of the sky, and she knew it and stayed out of reach.

Now that I have passed through safely, I will leave her in peace and not return to that bike path until her babies are grown.

The other new trail was the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. This is a rails-to-trails path and really amazingly dull. It's just a straight shot, no bends or small hills to liven things up. I went about 10 miles before turning back, rationing my single bottle of water in the heat, stopping at a park for more water on the way back, and making it to town for Gatorade in the nick of time, just as I was beginning to feel dizzy.

Once you get about 6 miles out of Cedar Rapids, you find some pretty trees and streams, as well as a little shade here and there, so although it's still a straight shot, at least there's more visual interest and a break from the relentless sun. Next time I'll start from Boyson Road at the edge of Hiawatha, rather than from inside the city of Cedar Rapids, so I will reach the shady part of the trail more quickly. Bicycling will be more enjoyable when temperatures get below 90 degrees later this month.

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