There’s a rat in the kitchen

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And four more in the 2nd bedroom.

Also, there are nine snakes.

They are all ball pythons and are kept in custom drawers, so you can’t really see them unless you slide open the drawers. This is my wife’s project. For the past two years or so, she has been–I’m not sure what the right term is–raising? harboring? collecting?–snakes and has taken over a good portion of the back bedroom housing them along with a regular circuit of rats, that, originally were kept for the purpose of snake food, but after the discovery that one of the feeding rats was pregnant, decided to purchase a large 2-story cage to house the Mama rat and her 9 babies. This was several months ago.

Eventually, a second cage was needed as, apparently, rats fuck like bunnies and at an alarmingly young age. So the males were separated from the females and a search for adoptive families began. It was decided that these would be pet rats, so a third container was needed for the feeding rats and so the colony expanded.

Five of the baby rats were adopted (as well as Mama), as, thankfully, Karen knows several families with young kids who love rats, leaving us with just a couple of boy rats. But we have become the de facto ratsitters for these families, and with summer now in full swing, vacations are happening, and so the rat numbers have increased once more. Though, now, the feeding rats are mixed in with the pet rats and I can’t help but picture them all forming cliques, the pet rats pretending like the feeding rats don’t exist, not allowing them to join the daytime sleeping pile. “You stay over there, street rat! Don’t infect us with your dirty diseases!” I imagine the horny boy rats devising strategies to escape their cage and sneak over to the girl cage. “That latch up there? By the top of the cage? I’m pretty sure if we climb on each other’s shoulders, we could undo that clasp.”

Last week, Karen, while cleaning out the boys rat cage, forgot to close the door before going to bed. In the morning, she discovered her error and both rats were nowhere to be seen. We checked the girls’ cage but they weren’t there. Since they tended to squirm their way into dark, tight spaces, finding them could become a time-consuming process.

When Karen returned home after work, she donned her camping headlamp and settled in for an evening of rat-catching. As soon as she entered the back bedroom she saw that one of the boy rats was already back in the cage, eating his pebbly rat food. He’d clearly returned back home, realizing, like a suburban teenage runaway, that Mom and Dad keep good food in the fridge and pantry. That it ain’t so much better roaming free in the big bad world. The other rat was not far away, scurrying behind the cage on the desk. I think he was also trying to get back to his barred home, but was too dumb to figure out how to do it. There’s got to be a dumb one and a smart one, right?

I will admit that the rats are cute, and exhibit a fair amount of personality. They are soft and furry and usually don’t mind being handled. The snakes, though, I don’t see their appeal. They are slimy, anti-social, slithery and seem to barely tolerate cuddling at best. If/when Karen’s snake phase ends (and I know this public revealing will lead to a backlash revolt of 9 more snakes), I will be privately (cause no one reads this) thrilled. I will even be OK if she replaces the snakes with a capybara.

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UB40 was one band from the 80’s that I never liked. I found their reggae sound to be a bit fluffy and lightweight. Red, Red Wine never made me feel fine. It was the anti-Marley, the anti-Tosh. But they did have one song that I have always enjoyed and there are extended versions of this song out there with great instrumental breaks. So, UB40 had it in them to be fantastically musical, but kept it hidden (at least from me) most of the time. “Rat in Mi Kitchen” is enormously catchy. It’s a song that when you hear it, you have to sing along. And it’s easy enough, because there’s like only two lines to the song.

There’s a rat in mi kitchen, what am I gonna do?/ There’s a rat in mi kitchen what am I gonna do?        I’m gonna fix that rat that’s what I’m gonna do/ I’m gonna fix that rat.

OK, there are a few other lines, but 90 percent of the lyrics are the above.

There hopefully are no rats in mi kitchen other than the one in the photo above. Cause we got enough of them in the rest of the house to last us for the time being.

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Gun Control – Anvil

I tend to stay out of hot button (or even cold button) political discussions as they usually lead to me feeling woefully uninformed and even more depressed or angry or both. My way of entering the mosh-pit of political conversation is to find a piece of art that speaks for me better than I think I can for myself.

The seemingly endless string of mass shootings that have raged out of control in this country is one such topic that I struggle to add anything new to the discussion. In the Bay Area where I live, the large majority of people here are advocates for strict gun control laws and this is great, cause I couldn’t imagine living in a city where most of the citizens are NRA members who believe they have to maintain a personal arsenal in case the guvneyment comes and takes away their guns and their freedoms and their collection of sleeveless Kid Rock t-shirts. Semi-automatic and automatic weapons are needed for the coming civil war, didn’t you know that?

Thankfully, Anvil — one of the great heavy metal bands of the past 40 years — have created the perfect head-banging anthem to address these issues. For me, hearing Steve “Lips” Kudlow scream “Gun Control” over and over between lines like Are you a vigilante? and Another sniper on a hill? and Are you a big game hunter? is a more effective plea for action or expression of exasperation  than another obvious and whiny folk ballad (sorry, recent Neil Young).

Even though their medium is Big-Dumb-Loud Heavy Metal, which usually tends to glorify violence and violent imagery (often with tongue in cheek), Anvil has flipped the tables and created the first great hard rock song tackling the importance of gun control.

I doubt Hillary Clinton will be playing this at her rallies, but I’m doing my part to spread the gospel of Anvil.

Protect The Constitution
Another twenty-one die
Is it the institution?
Are we to question why?
Is ownerwhip essential
For everyone to have?
But what is your credential?
Or have you just gone mad?
Wounds to bleed from
Do we need some?
Gun control
Gun control

Fear, anger and jealousy
Distortion of reality

Gun control
Gun control
Gun control
Gun control

Do you defend your family?
Or go and rob a bank?
Do you defend your country?
For that who do we thank?
Do we need some?
Gun control
Gun control

And if this is all a bit too political for your tastes, you can always switch back to any of Anvil’s many great Spinal-Tap like tunes. Like this one.

 

Closing Time – Semisonic

There are some songs that I find so insanely cloying, yet for some reason they also maintain a semblance of wistfulness. Songs that lead to dialogue in my head that goes like this: “Ugh! I hate (am sick of) this song! Why am I crying?” And I feel simultaneously manipulated and weak for succumbing to such manipulation. Usually this happens when I cannot control the source of the music, like when a song is playing in a grocery store or someone else’s car or a restaurant.

And the thing is, the lyrics to the song don’t even have to be sad. I’m not talking “Cat’s in the Cradle” here. There just has to be some small hint of longing; it could be a minor chord, it could be a stupid line like, I know who I want to take me home. Maybe you are single and lonely and easily susceptible to cliches and banal lyrics like this remind you of going back to your studio apartment alone (again) and that dull ache in your gut has suddenly turned to a stabbing pain and CAN YOU FUCKING CHANGE THIS SONG, BARTENDER!! Can’t you play something empowering, like THIS?

And maybe you are in a relationship or married and blissfully happy, but when that goddamned song came out (in 1997) you were single and so when it appears out of nowhere to assault your eardrums and tear ducts, it brings the heartache right back, like you suddenly reverted into the former self you were determined to keep buried.

Cause who, listening to this song for the first time today, would be moved to tears? I mean, look at the lyrics. They are alternately generic and idiotic. Let’s discuss.

Closing time                                                                                                                                                         Open all the doors and let you out into the world
Closing time
Turn the lights up over every boy and every girl.
Closing time
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer.
Closing time
You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.

I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
I know who I want to take me home.
Take me home

Closing time
Time for you to go out to the places you will be from.
Closing time
This room won’t be open ’til your brothers or your sisters come.
So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend.

Closing time
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

First off, who is the narrator here? The verse is some 3rd person, a bartender or an all-knowing force (you). Then the chorus is 1st person (me). That’s already confusing. I mean, there are songs that pull off the dual perspective thing really well (usually via two characters/duet, a la “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” – not sure why that was the first example to pop in my head), but this is not one of them.

And then there are these two lines:  Time for you to go out to the places you will be from. /  Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

I think they are meant to be read/heard as poetic or deep, but come off as obtuse and non-sensical. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end?  That’s like some bullshit I would have come up with while really stoned in 11th grade.

But, yet. BUT YET. There I am in the middle of the freezer aisle at Safeway, innocently shopping for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie and the next thing I know, tears are streaming down my face and I’m filled with a profound feeling that I’ll forever be alone. And the worst part of it is that it’s the instrumental musak version of Closing Time.

Read more:  Semisonic – Closing Time Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Suicide Blonde – INXS

Seven years after Suicide Blonde took over the radio charts in 1990, this song would forever have a much darker connotation. Far be it for me to comment on the mental states of those who end their lives, but what I remember hearing about in the press at the time was how Michael Hutchence had killed himself during auto-erotic asphyxiation gone awry. Since the lay person, such as myself, saw Hutchence as a supermodel dating rock-star with obvious (sexual) charisma, this explanation seemed to fit my/our idea of possibility. Though, in my quick research on this matter, it appears that this was never mentioned in the coroner’s report. It was information told to the press by his then girlfriend Paula Yates. The report claimed his death to be a combination of heroin, prescription meds and depression. Which is less original to be sure; which doesn’t match the playboy/rock-star/movie-star/ladies man persona that Hutchence portrayed in the public eye. I remember watching him in videos like the one above (and the one below) and thinking: how I would love to be like him: all sinewy sexual confidence, great voice, thick wavy locks, Mick Jagger lips–the perfect lead singer for the post-hard rock era.

It does mystify. How someone with so much obvious talent can end their life, intentional or otherwise. I was affected by Hutchence’s death more than Kurt Cobain. More than Amy Winehouse. If only because their deaths seemed inevitable. Sad and tragic, but not surprising. I wasn’t Mystified by them.

I’m sure most people and most critics will never put Hutchence in the same musical pantheon as Cobain and Winehouse, even though he had been part of 10 hit albums and 20 plus hit songs. INXS were never really considered a great band, but even to this day, when any of their songs come on the radio, I turn the volume up. They were one of the first bands to get regular airplay on MTV in the early 80’s and I remember feeling elation/confusion/excitement at their first video from their great album, Shabooh Shoobah, “The One Thing.”

To me, this video and this song represent everything great about early 80’s new wave: Rock and roll excess, not taking itself seriously, a great catchy guitar riff, and well placed saxophone.

There have been a ton of musical deaths this year, enough to last a decade (I’ll tackle those another time), and maybe it’s the shock and awe of so many of my musical heroes passing (in just the first six months of 2016) that led me to want to revisit some of the others who’ve left us way too soon.

I refused to watch Rock Star: INXS when it aired back in 2004. INXS wasn’t some stupid reality show. The fact that the rest of the band thought it just fine to tarnish their reputation for a few million quid (what is the Australian currency? Should I look it up?), pissed me off. I will admit, though, to watching the next version of the show, Rock Star: Supernova, as I could give two shits about Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), Jason Newstead (ex-Metallica) and Gilby Clarke (ex-GnR). No one could ever replace Michael Hutchence in my mind, not some middling, wanna-be, reality-TV b-lister (blister), not anyone. I can’t even find the strength to read up on the list of all the others who attempted to sing those classic 80s songs.

I know when people die, we are supposed to move on…they would have wanted us to find new heroes!  But I have a hard time believing that Michael Hutchence, had he known that his passing would lead to Rock Star: INXS, would have taken that last snort of heroin, would have tied that extra knot in the rope, would have added his name to the ever-growing list of gone-too-soon.

I Eat Cannibals

But I don’t eat red meat.

I was a vegan for about 10 months, back in 1997, and I would have hit the one year mark or even longer had I not been attacked by a pack of humorless VEEGANS. I don’t wish to disparage all vegans, I’m sure there are a few with a sense of humor and a healthy dose of cynicism. But the ones at the brunch I’d been invited to attend that fateful late summer Sunday morning were not those sort of vegans.

It all began a week prior, when my jokester coworkers at Legal Video Services decided to adorn my truck’s bumper with a Carl’s Jr. sticker that proclaimed in all caps, I EAT MEAT. It was a very popular bumper sticker at the time, mainly because one could easily black out the letters I and the AT at the end. Yes, EAT ME. That’s how most of the other car owners chose to customize their stickers, and it was the best form of advertising the Carl’s Jr. ad agency ever came up with, until the dripping burger juice on buxom bikini babes TV spots that would come a decade later.

It took me a day or two to notice the sticker on my truck, but when I did find it, I did not wreak holy havoc upon my merry prankster coworkers. No, I found it hilarious and was actually touched that they took the time to procure said sticker and apply it to said bumper. I worked the night shift, so I pictured them sneaking out in the dark, dressed in black, one stationed near my desk as a lookout, sniggering as they rubbed a sweaty palm across the sticker to adhere it completely.

So, a week later, when I parked my truck in front of my fellow vegan friend’s home for brunch, fruit-salad in hand, I’d completely forgotten that I had been driving THE DEVIL’S HARDBODY. So, after five minutes of struggling to mingle with the pachouli-scented crowd (I know, stereotype – but these folks didn’t offer anything to dispel it), I sat on the couch with my soy-cheese broccoli-carrot quiche and beet-ginger juice. It was then that I overheard a woman complaining, loudly, to a group of attentive, sallow-faced 20 somethings that “On the way in, I saw a truck with an abominable bumper sticker that read –and I almost threw up in my mouth–EAT MEAT!” The group jumped back, an involuntary expansion of the circle, hands to mouth, eyes agape, each of them uniformly horrified. “In front of THIS HOUSE?” one of them asked. If I hadn’t been paying attention I would have thought they were referring to a drive-by-shooting or a hit-and-run.

That evening I ate an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, despite my lactose intolerance….

If that brunch had had a theme song, it would have been Toto Cuelo’s “I Eat Cannibals.” This was the epitome of a 1-hit-wonder, but when you have the station First Wave playing on your SiriusXM car stereo, it feels like just yesterday that this song came out. It’s what I love in a throwaway fun song: silliness, group-sing, tribal drums and big and bad haircuts.

If you grew up not hearing this song on the radio or the dance floor, your life is a little less complete than it should be.

I eat cannibals – feed on animal – your love is so edible to me – I eat cannibals                                            I eat cannibals – it’s incredible – you bring out the animal in me – I eat cannibals

The rest of the profound lyrics can be found here.

 

Eye in the Sky

The Alan Parsons Project had essentially one hit song during their mildly successful recording career: 1983’s “Eye in the Sky.” Though to be fair, Alan Parsons did have far greater success a decade earlier as  recording engineer of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and other classic albums of the 70s/80s. So, it’s not like the guy was some one-hit wonder. In fact APP released 10 albums between ’76 and ’86, so he was consistent and prolific, and there’s a good chance, if you were alive at the time, that you heard a few other songs of his on the radio. Nothing as regularly played (even today) as “Eye in the Sky” though.

Like most songs that appear in my head and spin in circles, EitS maintains a smooth catchiness that feels, at first, like a comforting hug, but soon becomes the hug that lasts too long. It looks like the bastard child of ELO and Christopher Cross. All 80’s salon-perm and excess sensitivity. Which, I know, sounds AMAZING, but, I had a salon perm for a hot-minute (around that time, in fact) and believe me, there’s nothing amazing about it (sorry no photo link).

I decided to look up the lyrics to the song, as the ones I could remember didn’t give me a clear idea of what the song is about.

Don’t think sorry’s easily said / Don’t try, turnin’ tables instead
You’ve taken lots of chances before / But I ain’t gonna give anymore

Don’t ask me, That’s how it goes/Cause part of me knows what you’re thinking
I am the eye in the sky / looking at you / I can read your mind

Didn’t help much. It seems like a breakup song at times, other times it sounds like the voice of an all-knowing force proclaiming its omniscient powers. Then I found this page and it gives a lot of backstory and general trivia around the song and the album. Thank you, internet!

So, it’s possible the song is about ceiling cameras in casinos, and is an extension from their previous album, Turn of A Friendly Card, but, perhaps it’s about all of these things and none of them. It’s so lyrically vague that it could be about lampposts and I couldn’t argue.

There’s nothing threatening about this song (musically) and yet, there it is, three days later, still repeating in my brain, like an insidious soft-rock virus, and I may have to resort to death by smooth-rock distraction, but sometimes it’s hard to tell which is the lesser evil.

Maybe the Eye in the Sky is the benevolent force that controls what songs stick in my head, in essence, the Ear in the Sky. Or perhaps the Nose in the Sky. Do I smell a remake?