Early Winter Fundraiser 2017, Day Six
Today is the final day of our quarterly fundraising week. For those who have been tardy about clinking the tip cup, there are still 24 hours left! After that, your carriage will turn into a pumpkin drawn by voles.
On my good days — which come and go — cooking and gardening are my favorite activities. With December coming in, my time outside is more limited, though I’m still planting spring bulbs. The skunks don’t eat bulbs, thank Heavens, but the voles sure do. So one of the things I do is bury each one with bone meal (for the bulb) and a healthy dose of cayenne powder in the hole to discourage the voles. Doesn’t hurt the bulb, but it sure does cause the voles some pain. Liberal sprinklings of powdered coyote urine also make them feel unwelcome.
As for cooking, it is the one thing I can do with almost no effort. I’ve been the supper cook in my house since I was ten years old: my mother worked, so I cooked. It was a matter of self-defense, because otherwise she’d come home and fix poached eggs. It wasn’t long before I was doing the weekly shopping. It was a long, hot haul from the grocery store to home.
The B claims I can take a pickle and a glass of water and make a meal for six. Okay, that’s hyperbole, but it’s also the reason why I chose this cartoon: I like to celebrate unlikely food. In this episode, Fat Freddy’s Cat knows darn well his Furry Friends don’t like mouses — he’s releasing them for his own future dining entertainment.
[Remember the late B. Kliban’s cats? My favorite was the one who did the BB King imitation, here. After reading the legalese on that site, it seems one daren’t quote it directly, but that’s still one of my favorite little ditties on cats’ favorite food. It must be the juxtaposition of the lyrics with that BB King-esque blues guitar.]
These quarterly fundraisers are much on my mind when I make my grocery list. How well we do in a given quarter decides the menus for the coming three months. But I’m used to that: being married to a starving artist taught me to make do. In fact, one of our first arguments was in a grocery store: living on very little (I was job-hunting then) meant watching every penny. So we came to the crucial moment of deciding whether to classify parmesan cheese as a necessity or a luxury. The Baron thought it was something we could live without, while I made the case for: “What is the point of living without parmesan for flavor?” Neither of us can remember who won that ‘discussion’. Probably moi — the B is ever a pushover for women’s wantings. Smart man.
I love the things Americans often consider the nasty bits — you know… those tasty entrails. For years I didn’t cook tongue or kidneys or sweetbreads because family members would flee. Now I cook ’em when I can get em’ while still maintaining a standard diet for the Baron and assorted relatives/friends. I love braunschweiger, and I know the difference between it and liverwurst; no one else will eat either one. Oh, well — more for me. Chicken foot broth, anyone? Actually, I prefer to combine the feet with the stripped carcass of the chicken; it makes for a more deeply-flavored broth. I’ve never had prairie oysters, but I’ll bet they make good eating, too.
It was too cold today to work outside so I stayed by the stove, making oxtail soup and pondering this post, this fundraiser… Pondering is a by-product of food preparation in my experience. When the broth was done, I removed the bone and gristle, skimmed the fat for other uses, and made a beef vegetable soup, roasting the vegetables first.
As long as I remove the bones and gristle, the Baron likes it just fine. I saved half the broth to make sweet and sour cabbage later this week. That’s one dish the B really likes, and it’s always better the next day. Once a guest of ours said, with tears in his eyes, that the sweet and sour cabbage I’d served for supper was as good as his Bubbe’s. I was touched by his declaration but made him promise never to tell her that; what grandmother could forgive such a betrayal?
Of late, the flavors of Indian foods don’t appeal as they once did. I’m returning to the comfort food of my childhood, which means that oxymoron, Irish cuisine — or what passed for middle-class food in Ireland when my mother was growing up. Back then, “Irish food” was cabbage, ham, lamb stew, beef brisket. Or shepherd’s pie [these days, I cut the starch by blending mashed potatoes with pureed cauliflower]. We seldom had roasts; they were too expensive. But my mother could wax eloquent on the size of the roast in her childhood. Or her mother’s recipe for trifle.
One time her youngest brother, my Irish immigrant uncle who lived with us for a while when he first came to America (my mother was his sponsor), brought home a steak and asked me to prepare it. I cooked it the same way I did every other piece of beef: braised in a thickened broth. In other words, a flatter version of stew. Ummm…it wasn’t a culinary hit; I’d committed the sin of “ruining a nice bit of beef”. To his credit, my uncle ate it anyway and the next day he came home with another steak and showed me how to prepare it properly. My first taste of rare beef! Who knew such a bloody thing could be so good?
Though she was an indifferent cook, my mother took to American foods with gusto. We could (and did) get buckets of fresh shrimp for ten cents a pound. And she loved collard greens with fatback. Grits with eggs and bacon on Sunday mornings. The point of ketchup was lost on her, though. Since it was decidedly American she’d buy a bottle…and after a year or so in the Florida heat it would gum up and turn dark so we’d throw it away and she’d buy a fresh bottle. To this day I’ve never figured it out either; I only use ketchup to make the red seafood sauce the Baron likes. The commercial kind has way too much sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
It must be hard for families today to maintain supper routines. Often both parents work, the kids have sports activities, everyone is connected to a device of some kind. I hope (and literally pray) that children are learning the loving routines involved in breaking bread together every day. Those habits are the mortar that will cement their lives as they grow up and look back fondly at the family of their young years.
Saturday’s generosity came in from:
Stateside: Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas
Near Abroad: Dominican Republic
Far Abroad: The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK
Australia: New South Wales
The Baron will post a wrap-up of the week (featuring a full list of the places donors came from) sometime tomorrow.
Saturday’s update from the Baron:
Continuing with the Furry Freak Brothers theme, the image at the top is the famous poster of Freewheelin’ Franklin with his big fat doobie.
In my senior year in college there was a guy in our dorm who was a dead ringer for Franklin, right down to the hair and hat. But his schnozz wasn’t quite as big as the Freaker’s.
Those were the days. Sigh…
After long acquaintance with the New Testament, especially the Gospels, it becomes clear that some of the parables that Jesus told must have been quite humorous to an audience immersed in the language and context of first-century Judea. For example, consider the Parable of the Unjust Judge, as told in Luke 18:2-8 (New International Version):
“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
The widow and the judge were probably both recognizable character types in the context of the time. Widows had very limited rights under Jewish law in those days; that’s why the judge didn’t have to rule in her favor. So she would have been portrayed as pushy and loud-mouthed, and the judge was probably vain, pompous, and haughty.
Who knows what facial expressions and hand gestures Jesus used to mime this story? Did he put on the voices of each character in turn?
It was probably quite a hoot for those who heard it; that’s one of the reasons it was remembered and passed down. But it had to migrate from the original Aramaic into spoken and then written Greek, losing its original flavor in the process. And we English-speakers get yet another translation.
Only intuition can ferret out the humor that must have been contained in the original. The same is probably true of other parables, especially the Parable of the Shrewd Steward (Luke 16:1-13).
Anyway, I was thinking about it this morning, and I realized that a condensed version of the Parable of the Unjust Judge is the old adage: “It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.”
And that’s what we’re doing here this week: being the squeaky wheel. We keep pestering y’all until you give in and make the tip cup clink, just to get us out of your hair.
And all in order to acquire the grease to keep Gates of Vienna’s great axle turning.
Maybe Dymphna can play the role of the importunate widow, and I can play the shrewd steward…
Friday’s largesse arrived from:
Stateside: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming
Far Abroad: France, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and the UK
Canada: British Columbia and Yukon
Friday’s update from Dymphna:
Obviously, the Baron and I are having fun, fun, fun with Phat Phreddy’s potty-mouthed feline. He and his humans say things we wouldn’t otherwise allow. It was a sixties thing, eh?
But back to business, y’all.
The business of this post is not fighting Islam and its bloody-minded adherents. Nope, this little space is devoted to begging for money so we can continue to fight Islam.
I used to mind having to ask for donations — having to spend a week thinking about the business of survival during these quarterly blegs. But that squeamishness has long since vanished. And if it hadn’t by now, the occasional ugly comments (deleted before any of them ever see daylight) calling us “hillbillies” who are merely online for the money would bother me. But these past ten? twelve? [note from the Baron: thirteen] years have toughened the fiber of my being; ironically, I’m grateful for the nastygrams (there are very few) since they allow me to see how far I’ve come in a decade. I can both laugh at the hatred and flick off the evil from my shoulder with one garden-dirt-smeared-finger while continuing to plant next spring’s hyacinth bulbs (and while the Baron toils in the vineyard upstairs with Vlad and the translators and the essayists).
It used to be I wanted to see evil in Thomas Aquinas’ terms, i.e., as the absence of good. But I’m not so naïve anymore. Evil is a thing, a reality that can arise in any human heart given the right (or wrong) conditions.
Col. Bunny mentioned in the comments today his encounter with a nest of yellow jackets. It was dismally similar to my experience several decades ago. Those pestilential insects are the embodiment of evil; should you accidentally disturb a nest, they will pursue you into the house and continue the attack. Tiny jihadists is what they are.
I never met one of these things until I moved to Schloss Bodissey. Talk about a revelation from Hell! It was a warm day in July and I was mowing the grass. I used to like to mow until that sudden encounter with evil; I haven’t mowed a blade of grass since. From seemingly nowhere I began to feel fierce pain in my feet and legs, and then my hands. A buzzing noise made me aware I was being stung repeatedly. I ran toward the house and they flew with me. I burst into the entry hall and began tearing off my clothes (is there a pattern here?). They had followed me in; I could see them buzzing against the window in the door and struggling to get out of the material of the clothing I’d thrown on the floor. By then I was panicked: not only by the pain but by the evil persistence of these buzzing demons. I ran into the bathroom, closed the door and got into the shower. None of them made it into my sanctuary under the water, thank God.
Later, after I’d calmed down and after the Baron had managed to kill the marauders who’d made it inside, the B told me all about yellow jackets. While I took aspirin and antihistamines for the pain and swelling, he explained how they operate. Yellow jackets use their pheromones on you as their homing device. Devilishly clever. Because it wasn’t he who’d attacked their nest by sending a lawn mower over it, he didn’t emit anything that turned on their radar. Thus he was able to come into the house and hunt down the invaders.
Here’s the fun part, though: the B later went outside to sit near the mower during the early evening and watch the dark string of workers all swirling down into that hole in the ground. He marked the area with a stick and when the summer light had completely faded, he walked outside to their lair armed with a purpose and a gasoline (petrol) can. As he would do many times in the years to come — when he would be the one fleeing inside to escape — he poured liberal amounts of gas into the hole, made a small dribble leading away from there and then lit a match. Buh-bye, you killers.
The next day I had to take an already-scheduled typing test… and failed with drooping colors. My swollen fingers wouldn’t obey. [But I got the job anyway.] Later, we dug up the nest: it was quite large and very dead. I’m not sure another such attack wouldn’t kill me so we keep epi-pens on hand, just in case. The wounds on my ankles took the longest to heal — probably due to the relative lack of blood circulation there? Those underneath, on my arches, healed rapidly, so who knows?
Skunks love to dig up yellow jacket nests, which is why I don’t want to banish them from our province entirely. Just from under the house.
The moral of the story? All God’s Dangers ain’t a skunk…[I first read that book (the link) in 1975. How times have changed. But the larger truths contained therein remain timeless.]
Blessings be on all who have donated to the cause this time around. Our plea to those who have yet to hit the cup — may you be so inclined in the next few days. If you don’t want to use PayPal, leave a note in the comments and the B will give you further information.
Thursday’s gifts came in from:
Stateside: Arizona, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, and Texas
Far Abroad: Finland, Germany, Indonesia, New Zealand, and the UK
Canada: British Columbia and Ontario
Australia: Australian Capital Territory and Victoria
Thursday update from the Baron:
For some reason turnout has slacked off for the last day and a half of the fundraiser. It made me wonder if the recent sensational revelations about gropin’-and-rapin’ male celebrities (Dymphna refers to them as “Dickie Boys”) have enticed a lot of our readers away and kept their eyes glued to the digital tabloids.
I assume that they’ll wander back here later in the week, after their prurient curiosity has been satisfied.
But it’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor — how the mighty have fallen. I wonder who else is sweating, dreading a registered letter from some angry woman’s lawyer…?
It’s likely that another factor in the donation slowdown is that times are tough all over. Despite the stock market’s wild ride to the top of the roller coaster, most ordinary people are on lean rations. So we can only hope that any readers who aren’t holding a coin purse with moths flying out of it, or wearing a barrel, will find their way to the tip cup on our sidebar and drop in a nickel or two. Canadian nickels also accepted.
A little afterthought on the skunk news: Dymphna told you that the skunks dig up Japanese beetle grubs in our yard. And when they do, it looks like someone has perched in the top of the hickory tree and raked the lawn with AR-15 fire. Neatly drilled little holes, one after another, all across the yard.
She doesn’t think that’s worth the price of a skunk-blast, but the polecats have another epicurean habit that I’m grateful for: they dig up yellow jacket nests. On more than one occasion I’ve gone out in the morning and found a large hole in the lawn, with what look like honeycombs or big wasp nests scattered around in the dirt. No yellow jackets in sight — either the skunk ate them all, or they departed after their crèche was devoured. Those emissaries of Satan evidently don’t sting skunks, or perhaps the skunks don’t pay any attention to yellow jacket stings (which is hard to imagine).
Anyway… if the skunks would just stay out of the crawl space, they’d be fine with me.
The comic strip at the top of this page is the first half of the “Fat Freddy’s Cat Song” by Gilbert Shelton. You’ll notice that Mr. Cat gets a little more leeway than our commenters do when it comes to various forms of, ahem, vulgar expression. And the second half of the song, which will appear tomorrow or the next day, will be even more naughty.
It’s all for the sake of Art (and I don’t mean Spiegelman).
Wednesday’s donors wandered in from:
Stateside: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia
Far Abroad: The UK
Canada: Newfoundland and Ontario
Many thanks to all you doughty folks!
Wednesday’s update from Dymphna:
This image is one I asked to have scanned specifically for this third day. I’d studied it carefully the first time I saw it many years ago because it was so… so accurate. I knew a few people like that. If you lived through that era, the loving detail on the cover is worth your time. Even now it resonates.
Notice the tin roof on the small addition? It’s similar to the one here on Schloss Bodissey, at least the older section of our house. Coming here to Central Virginia after spending my early adulthood in New England, these tin roofs everywhere seemed quaint. And the thrumming noise of rainstorms was a delightful way to fall asleep. Besides, you never have to worry about falling slates.
See the pot plants surrounding the house and the shadow of the helicopter? We used to watch the pot ’copters fly overhead, searching our woods. No doubt it looked suspicious, since I had worn a path out to my compost pile under the trees. Helicopters still fly over, but now they drop ladybugs to deal with the damage to the pine plantations. No one cares about pot anymore. Maybe the death of jihad in America will be like that? I mean, a slow fade to indifference because it all came to nothing? One can hope.
We had a vegetable garden the first few years we were here and used to plant okra — having lived in Louisiana for a while, I love Cajun food. Gumbo can’t gumb without okra (sassafras leaves were another consideration, but I preferred okra). The man who used to deliver truckloads of wood for our kitchen stove was sure that those tall, skinny okra plants, long past flowering by October, were proof of our growing forbidden herbs… and somewhere we have a photo of the two of us posed as though we were the subject of Grant Woods’ “American Gothic” couple, just like the homage in front of the house. We don’t have that upstairs window, though.
There are lots more details in that image; I’ll leave you to find them and take your own little walk down memory lane.
Notice there were no skunks depicted, however. So, in the vein of “stories-that-will-be-amusing-once-you-survive,” I’ll recount my own unfortunate meeting with one of those varmints. It wasn’t here in the Middle of Beyond, either. Skunks are everywhere.
This was in the period shortly before I met the Baron. To deal with anxiety, I had begun running three miles a day. As any jogger knows, putting one foot in front of another can become addictive; my neighborhood was safe so I was able to run in the evening after work. One time in the dark — I forgot to leave the porch light on — I ran up the short flight of steps to the porch of my townhouse. Hearing a rustle in the English ivy, I turned around to encounter the full spray of eau de skunk onto my running clothes.
Since I’d elevated myself to the porch, that critter was much lower down on the ground than I was. Thus his aim reached only as far as my pants legs and shoes. Luckily for me, my face and hair were spared… but the vapors stung my eyes and nose and throat anyway. I think the average mammal must go into shock after such an attack: flight sets in. Without pausing to reason it out, right there I tore off all my clothes plus shoes and socks, dashing into the hall and up the stairs. Fortunately, I’d stored vinegar in the bathroom for cleaning; it accompanied me into the bath. A long, calming tepid shower followed, using every concoction I could find in the linen closet once I’d emptied out the vinegar bottle. Later, I got out rubber gloves and a plastic bag to pick up my ruined clothing. Not daring to put the bag in my car, I walked a mile to a communal dumpster. I couldn’t immediately think of any skunk deterrent for that little green space by the door. Later that night, I emptied a ripe cat litter box over the railing, figuring cats and skunks probably weren’t friends.
Sadly, there was no internet back then. I couldn’t get on YouTube to find any antidotes for my problem, so I did the next best thing: I took a few days off from work to scrub the outside area of the house, and the remaining scent on the stairs and shower curtain. My boss was all for me not coming into our cramped office until the smell subsided. It was a right good while before I trusted being able to go out in public without concern about others moving away instinctively.
All these years later? It’s finally a funny story. Well, mostly funny, except for recent moments when I’ve come into our front hall and been treated to the unmistakable skunk scent wafting up this time not from an ivy bed, but from the crawl space.
Today was a good day for fundraising. It is heartening to both of us that so many of you come back each quarter. Where would we be without you? For some reason, I’m reminded of the gypsy beggars the Baron told me he encountered in Vienna when he was there a few years ago, back when it was still possible to have Counterjihad conferences. Sometimes my mind goes to that image when I fret that donors will forget to come by… and then y’all do indeed show up, and the sun comes out again…
Tuesday’s places of origin:
Stateside: California, Maine, New York, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming
Far Abroad: Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the UK
Canada: Ontario and Quebec
A note on the header image: It’s a collaboration between Gilbert Shelton and the late Dave Sheridan. After the Furry Freak Brothers had been around for a few years, the two artists started working together. Mr. Shelton had the comic genius, the gift of caricature, and a flair for zaniness, while Mr. Sheridan had an unsurpassed talent for three-dimensional composition, rendering, and other advanced artistic skills.
Tuesday update from the Baron:
A big thank you to everyone you chipped in on the first day! And quite a widely-scattered crew you are, too.
Yesterday Dymphna forgot to mention that we tithe our fundraising to Vlad Tepes, due to the invaluable service that he performs with video. He and I kind of divide up the labor: I concentrate on text and graphics, and he concentrates on audio and video. Video reaches more people than text, so his work is actually more important than mine.
So when you make our tip cup clink (remember: it’s on the left sidebar of the main page), be aware that Vlad gets 10% of your gift. If you think he deserves more, he’s got a donation button at his site.
Before I get into the Freak Brothers, I’d like to add to what Dymphna said last night about the skunk that blasted us from the crawl space. This was by far the worst skunk-stench I’ve ever smelled, but then again, I’ve never been directly targeted by one.
The skunk trappers came out and set a trap by the hole, baited with cat food and a peanut butter sandwich (they say skunks love peanut butter). The trap was made out of a section of large PVC pipe, and on three successive nights the bait disappeared without tripping the door to shut behind the animal.
So they tried a different kind of trap, a larger cage trap, with a special arrangement of plastic plates added to the outside to protect the trappers from a skunk blast. The following morning there was an animal in the trap, but it wasn’t a skunk — it was a CAT. The same color as Fat Freddy’s Cat, but otherwise not like him at all. I’d never seen it before, and it appeared to be absolutely feral. It was terrified and frantic, biting at the metal mesh of the cage as the trappers hauled it away from the house. When they released it, it lit out at top speed into the woods, leaping like a gazelle. I’ve never seen a cat run so fast before.
And by the way: the cat had eaten the entire peanut butter sandwich while it was in the cage.
The skunk experts surmised that our resident skunk had been under the house when that same cat crawled under it, startling Madame Skunk and causing her to spray. The skunk was frightened away, and didn’t come back. The cat kept returning, but after his horrific experience in the cage, he will probably never come back again.
To test their theory, the skunk experts put a series of twigs across the mouth of the hole, resting lightly and not inhibiting entry at all. They asked me to check every morning and see if the twigs were still in place. That was the day before Thanksgiving, and I checked every morning — nothing had been disturbed. I called the skunk guys today, and we agreed that no animal is under the house now, and that I should take the opportunity to fill up the hole. Which I did this afternoon, using a large amount of dirt with a thick layer of gravel as icing.
Now comes Phase Two of the skunk-thwarting process: Dymphna and I have to call the crawl space man to come out and animal-proof the crawl space, and then evaluate the damage that has been done. He and the skunk trappers are friends, but he quit trapping because the Commonwealth of Virginia, in its infinite wisdom, decided that skunk trappers had to be licensed. The crawl space man didn’t want to go through the hassle, but his friends went ahead and did it. That’s why we have licensed skunk trappers and a crawl space expert, working in tandem.
And that brings you up-to-date on the Great Skunk Crisis at Schloss Bodissey. I’m sure we’ll have more to report later in the week.
We’re doing humor again in this fundraiser, and nothing is funnier than Gilbert Shelton’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. The cover at the top of the page is from 1972; I’m not sure what issue number it is. The brothers, from left to right, are Freewheelin’ Franklin, Fat Freddy, and Phineas Phreak. You can see Fat Freddy’s Cat at the lower left.
R. Crumb was the greatest of the Underground comic artists of the ’60s and ’70s, but Gilbert Shelton was the funniest. He had that rare gift for zany madcap slapstick, similar in some way’s to Walt Kelly’s immortal Pogo strips.
Actually, I shouldn’t talk about Crumb and Shelton in the past tense; they’re still alive. They’re old and in the way now, but still beavering away at their craft.
Monday’s kind donors checked in from:
Stateside: California, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas
Far Abroad: Germany, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK
Australia: New South Wales
Dymphna’s post on Day One:
The rhythm of the seasons here at Gates of Vienna includes four quarterly fundraisers per year. Regular readers are used to seeing these week-long extravaganzas once every quarter, in which we exhort our audience to help us keep going. The last one was the Summer Fundraiser, so this one should be the Autumn Fundraiser, right?
Well, yes, it should be. But here’s the problem: when we plan a fundraiser for a particular week, Murphy often rears his ugly head and forces us to postpone it. One of us gets sick. Or maybe there’s an infrastructure crisis with this aging and cranky manse, the venerable Schloss Bodissey. Or some mandatory time-consuming project appears that doesn’t leave enough room for a fundraiser (which is more time-consuming than any other GoV adventure).
Each time Murphy pranks us, the week of the fundraiser slides a little further forward in the quarter. By the time we managed to do this year’s summer bleg, we had reached the last week of August, the week before Labor Day. That was the last possible date for a fundraiser that could reasonably be labeled “summer”.
So when autumn came along, we faced a similar situation: we planned it for the week before Thanksgiving. Then Murphy’s Law kicked in, forcing us to kick the can (or the tip cup) two weeks down the road. To the American mind, anything after Thanksgiving and before December 25 is considered part of the Christmas season, and therefore winter.
So here we are. We’ve qualified it as “Early Winter” to distinguish it from the typical winter fundraiser, which takes place sometime after New Year’s Day and before the first forsythia blooms.
We’re calling it “Bracket Creep” because that’s what the phenomenon of the gradually slipping fundraiser resembles. This term is a reference to what used to happen to the federal taxpayer, as inflation drove up both prices and his salary, forcing him into a higher tax bracket even though he was not at all wealthier.
It could also be called “The Precession of the Fundraisers”, analogous to a well-known cosmic phenomenon, but that’s too cumbersome and Latinate for our purposes.
So “Bracket Creep” it is. Our version is more cheerful than the IRS’s, since it involves money coming in, rather than money going out to feed the increasingly ravenous maw of Uncle Sam and his federal behemoth.
It’s about your hand bracketing the mouse and creeping over to the left sidebar on our main page to clink the tip cup and help us keep this site going for another quarter. A precessional quarter, but a quarter nonetheless.
There were various Murphys this time, but the biggest is not yet fixed for good. It began earlier in the fall, while we ignored the prodromal signs — e.g., small holes in the ground where grubs had been dug up for midnight feasts, leaving mounds of dirt to be replaced and tamped down. Despite the holes, praise be for grub-eaters.
Because of the following events, this fundraiser has become crucial. You may consider the result (not yet finally resolved) to be hilarious. We certainly would if we didn’t actually reside here and weren’t forced to repair the damage, in addition to preventing further attacks.
It turns out the grub-eater was a skunk. A skunk who’d burrowed under the foundation into the crawl space to make herself comfortable for the winter. Now, skunks are fine as long as nothing stresses them — and who knows what might stress one of those creatures enough to cause them to release the skunk oil through their anal glands??
People who live in the country are familiar with the whiff of skunk, especially in the spring, when they migrate for mating. It’s not an alarming situation, merely a fleeting nose scrunch. And everyone knows the rules about not leaving garbage outside, securing trash cans, etc. But when you have grubs, you often have skunk visitors anyway. Sometimes even skunk residents, if it’s been a busy Japanese beetle season.
One night a couple of weeks ago I’d fallen asleep early (as I am supposed to do). The Baron was still upstairs working away. All of a sudden I was startled awake by a noxious fire in the kitchen. At least in my sleepy state that’s what I thought it was. I could even picture the flaming coffee grounds with chopped garlic as the mixture blazed away on the stove. Running to the kitchen, I saw that all was quiet, though my olfactory nerves were still on fire. At that point, the B came down the stairs, fully awake and aware. “SKUNK!”, he said.
Panic chased me, especially as I moved anywhere toward the bedroom, where the smell was most dire. At the same time I was exhausted; “wired and tired” is the usual description for this state. We lit scented candles, and I made a scarf arrangement with lavender/lemon oils to cover my nose and mouth. Eventually, we slept, more or less.
The next day I found a local skunk exterminator who also repairs any access holes animals could use to get into the crawl space. The one I found was the same company a friend recommended as having treated his own home. So the process has begun. The skunk is no longer in the vicinity (best guess) but there are steps to be taken before we can seal the holes for good and replace the crawl space encapsulation we’d put in a number of years ago; it is disintegrating right on time.
Even as we were going through this, after I came down from the ceiling of hysteria and desire for revenge against the striped demon, I kept reminding myself that in a few years this would be a funny anecdote. Even when such experiences are awful to live through, they’re invariably amusing in the long term… if you can successfully resolve them and no one gets hurt. So far, so good, but I’ll leave more details for the next episode since it has been the Baron’s task to check the skunk traps and call the trappers… this saga is far from over.
Meanwhile, even before the Odiferous Attack, I’d been planning to use the video below to begin a discussion of humor. Many readers have responded to my enthusiastic discovery of Professor Jordan Peterson, and given that our fundraisers are devoted to humor now, this is a concatenation of several themes: humor, animal antics that aren’t funny to those on the receiving end, and the necessity for the human soul to laugh and sing. [Not coincidentally, Insane Northern Korea has now forbidden laughter and singing. Mohammed lives!]
I liked Peterson even more when I learned he was using Gilbert Shelton’s comics as a template for benign humor:
Of the Dramatis Personae in the strips of Shelton’s underground comics, Fat Freddy’s cat is the most interesting. Perhaps because he’s the only one not stoned?
That’s the eponymous cat at the top of this post, from the cover of Fat Freddy’s Cat #3. Peruse the picture carefully, and see if you can find each of the gifts that FF’s Cat has left for his bug-eyed master. The neatly coiled kitty turd on the cushion is my favorite.
And so we begin this Fundraiser Octave. By the time we finish, it will be the First Sunday of Advent and some of you will be baking fruit cakes or dousing them with brandy. Or both. By way of kicking off this event, today we had a synchronous donation from New York. ’Tis thrilling indeed to hear from the Soviet State where once the Dutch plied their trade in the New World.
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