Monday, March 06, 2006

Super Varmints

Growing up in suburban Colorado meant that cheese-resistant mice could be outfoxed with some peanut butter or a jar of bacon fat.
I recall a pleasant afternoon spent extracting a nearly drowned mouse from his plunge into the grease and observing his woozy, stumbly decline into death-by-bacon. He seemed so utterly satisfied.
Other business with vermin included blindly reaching a groping hand down into the long six inch-wide PVC tube in the lawn to fish out errant toads when the irrigation was acting funny.
Oh, and there were the bunnies and groundhogs to be dealt with. My dad did something to these, though I won't ask what and neither should you, really.

Pests. Really cute pests. Colorado has pests who can be sold to Buena Vista or Disney and quickly caricatured with darling, diminutive homes, furniture, vests and shoes, trials and temptations, families, and songs.

But here I am in the most expensive real estate market on the entire planet and what vermin does my buck buy me here? Bedbugs? Roaches? Lice? No. Not just. Add, "super" to the front of each of these. You would think the people would have demanded better here.

Ok then. Here's the (partial) roster.

I read (in bed naturally) in the New Yorker not very long ago that even rich, pretty people are being confronted with these cheeky blood suckers.
"It's becoming an epidemic," said Jeffrey Eisenberg, the owner of Pest Away Exterminating, an Upper West Side business that receives about 125 bedbug calls a week, compared with just a handful five years ago. "People are being tortured, and so am I. I spend half my day talking to hysterical people about bedbugs."
(That would be me if I had bedbugs.)
Well, Gothamists. Looks like we better just leave that heaving, soggy-but-free mattress on the sidewalk from now on. My friend Elizabeth is a notorious trash picker. Bedbugs could ruin her home-decor M.O. Hopefully they don't cling to wood and lampshades.

Right on. No prob. I am clean. Clean enough (thought I). Yet, naked and vulnerable, I found a roach one day that was about two inches long enjoying my clean-enough bathroom wall (yes, I was naked and vulnerable, but upon re-reading this sentence, I have decided not to edit it in the interest of fairness to vermin. I attest that the roach was naked, and I assume, felt vulnerable. See, I try to be fair.)
I picked the roach up with toilet paper, its antennae waving around in a wild WTF manner, applied a pinching pressure, and with the other hand, called Elizabeth for reassurance. (What was I thinking calling Elizbeth for reassurance?)
(You may now be getting the impression that Elizabeth is gross. She's not exactly. She is just on a first-name basis with gross.)
In an even voice, Elizabeth told me that roaches can live and even perform romantic duties (screw) for like 48 hours after their heads are cut off. I took no chances then and with the bang-trimming scissors in the medicine cabinet, cut the roach up into 6-10 pieces and flushed him/them away. I resisted the urge to call Elizabeth to ask if individual pieces of roaches can crawl up the sewer system and reassemble to enter your bottom. I am fairly certain they can.

Oh lice. I know we shall meet someday.
On Friday, Boone came home with the latest note in a neverending series of such notes saying that these meanies have made yet another appearance in the classroom. Lice and Fifth's Disease. It's a wonder the New York City schools manage to even make it to lunchtime everyday. This time the lice were camping out on a little girl who tends to be dressed to the nines. My children are regularly far, far, far less well-groomed than she. I felt a chill in the spine, a tingle on the scalp. After once again reading the descriptions of these bugs and their tricks, I took down my bun and clawed at my head while trying to examine my own scalp in the mirror.
I then called the children in and picked at dandruff pieces and pencil shavings on their scalps. I asked them if their heads itched, phrasing the question differently over and over until they finally said, "I guess so." The lice are phantom-lice for now, but surely this status is temporary. And how about you, dear reader? Surely your scalp is itchy?
Are you sure?
How about now?
I can help you, I think.
One of the moms from school emailed everyone with the name and number of the Hasidic Jewish nit-picker (ah-hah! The origin of that word.) She said it was truly the only way to go for delousing. I googled the nit-picker's name, Abigail Rosenfeld, and found a media darling. I suppose she's the only game in the borough. According to the NY Sun:
The mother of 13, Ms. Rosenfeld honed her skills as a teenager as she helped her mother remove nits from her brothers and sisters. She has gained such fame that earlier this year a pediatrician from Boston flew into the city with her children to Ms. Rosenfeld because nobody had been able to rid her children of nits. (Note to self: do not sit on airplane seats previously occupied by Boston pediatricians or their offspring.)

Since Hasidic girls don't have much in the way of careers to look forward to, Abigail's thriving business must be somewhat enviable if not controversial in her community.
In Manhattan, however, there is another Jewish (Orthodox maybe, though not Hasidic....I think) team for the lice. Their effort is a bit more assertive as they reportedly dispatch white-coated examiners to the schools who then send crabby evidence home on a piece of tape to horrified parents.
The upshot apparently is this: over-the-counter remedies aren't hacking it anymore. We're looking perhaps at resistant strains of lice.


Oh, for the days of bunnies.

Even superbunnies.

(But keep your supermice. We've got 'em.)


Anonymous dug said...

here, we've got vols. they live under the snow all winter eating your grass.

i just put my grass in. as the snow melts, i see that it is no longer there.

also, we have very dextrous mice. i put out traps with peanut butter. i return to find them licked clean, unsprung. so apparently, i have mice as pets now.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous KeepYerBag said...

When I lived in Phoenix, a cockroach the size of a Hershey bar owned my bedroom for four days. He kicked me out and made me sleep on the living room sofa.

I don't miss those monsters at all.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Lilac Penguin said...

We have mutaint roaches salled palmetto bugs... One of the things I miss about Wisconsin, too cold for roaches...

7:59 PM  
Anonymous BIG Mike said...

We don't have to worry about roaches. The spiders eat them. The toads eat the spiders. The snakes eat the toads.

I'm just wondering if I should make the kids sleep on the kitchen floor so the roaches can eat the lice.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Tim D said...

Here in the UK we used to have Nitty Nora the Bug Explorer, or Nit Nurse, visit schools regularly. They don't do it anymore and head lice are rife. They boys have all had them and the only sure fire way to get rid is the nit comb and squishing them between your thumb nails (the nits that is, not the kids).

Tim - scratch,scratch

PS maybe my Verification word is a new super head lice treatment - "Rdaxlziz, kills lice dead"

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Notorious trashpicker? Please note: I don't dig through trash cans any more than you do. I paw, or perhaps rifle through, items specifically left on the sidewalk for others who might be interested in adopting them. I'm diverting things from the landfill (at least for a while) and I'm practicing "source reduction" - buying less new stuff - and therefore treading lighter on the you-know-what.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Tim D said...

You shouted "Garbage Picker!"
Garbage Picker
Garbage picker
Garbage picker
Garbage Picker
Garbage picker

I find my own treasures
In other peoples trash
You measured your pleasures by my treasures
'til you measured them against my cash

6:19 AM  
Blogger newbrooklyner said...

dug, vols are cute, no? Could be pets too? Then tasty maybe?
Mice are not tasty. Unless steeped in bacon fat.

Keepyer, I think the NYC roaches must retire in Arizona. Did you develop roach madness? I have to will myself not to obsess. I want to be mentally healthy.

Lilac p, "palmetto bug" is a fancy name. I shall henceforth call NYC vermin palmetto bedbugs, palmetto lice, and palmetto roaches. Also, palmetto rats.

Big mike, your little foodchain is good and stuff until you and your family are not at the top at some point. I don't know your vermin, but I hope for the best for you and yours. I wouldn't put my kids out on the kitchen floor alone at night when there are kangaroos hopping around, but that's just me.

Timd, I envy your cavalier attitude toward nits. The very description of pinching nits makes me lose weight instantly.
By the way, if this blog becomes a feature film, you will curate the soundtrack.

Elizabeth, treading lighter on the Earth, right? Yes, of course, but I suspect there's more to it than that. I admit that the tightwad in me loves you for your curbside shopping.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Adriana's Friend said...

And in D.C. we have uber mosquitos. Those Asian Tiger mosquitos that carry West Nile and are out 24/7 and that leave a bite the size of a quarter, which then bruises. Lovely.

As for roaches, I'm hoping my new house is roach-free, but then I was a very clean apartment dweller for four years in downtown D.C. and had roaches.

As for Palmetto bugs, that's just the new, genteel southern way of saying "bugs."

10:44 AM  
Blogger akwoman said...

love your blog, i am glad you didn't leave and will miss errorism. I may not have time to be as active as i'd like. could you stop by my space and give me some thoughts/. thanks

10:25 PM  
Anonymous BIG Mike said...

Lori, Don't let the kangaroos scare you. They eat less grass per capita than sheep. There'll be a picture of some local kangaroos on my post Thursday night.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Edie said...

Having lived in Brooklyn, NY as a young adult I can identify with the whole "vermin" dilema. As for the "super roaches"... never underestimate them... you may be clean enough to eat off your floors, your children may squeek as they walk and your walls may blind you with their clean shine... roaches and mice will come, and they will take up residence... and you will have to feed them, whether you want to or not... and they will NEVER pay rent.

You see, in NY you are living with everyone else's level of cleanliness, not just your own. Walls do not mean a thing to the vermin...nor do streets or alleys, or anything else that we humans see as some kind of boundary... they think the whole city is one big townhouse.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all of you near Brooklyn, you can visit "The Lice Lady". Abigail Rosenfeld has been checking for nits for over 25 years, and now has a website. You can visit it at

3:01 PM  
Blogger Md osman Maya said...

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2:45 PM  
Blogger Md osman Maya said...

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4:51 AM  
Blogger Manar Koutb said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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8:29 AM  
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9:04 PM  

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