Monday, September 28, 2009

Louie, Louie: He Gotta Go!

“Is that @#$@$#ing Louie again?!?!” I screech in disbelief. I hear a laugh from inside the kitchen and possibly a muttered “I told you so,” though fortunately my husband is smart enough not to outright taunt a pregnant woman.

In fairness, he did tell me so. Over a year ago when we moved to the ‘burbs and I proudly told him we had a chipmunk of our very own, he warned me it would be nothing but trouble. And two days later when we started hearing what sounded like digging coming up from our floor boards, I got THE LOOK. Going out to investigate, we found that the chipmunk had burrowed under the concrete of the stairs out in the front of our house, and was most certainly trying to dig his way into the comfort of our newly purchased home.

I immediately told Scott that he could not kill the chipmunk. I’d even given him a name: Louie. I repeated over and over “you can’t kill Louie.” Louie to me signified one of the few benefits of living in the middle of nowhere: wildlife. Every morning I would go down and do the laundry or work out in the basement and I would see Louie sitting on the deck, eating seeds from the trees and plants in our yard. There was something bucolic and comforting in this, and so when I saw Scott reaching for the keys to go to Home Depot, I put my foot down.

What followed was something out of Caddyshack as he tried to find non-violent but effective ways of letting Louie know he was not welcome INSIDE our house. First he tried putting a hose down the hole. No wet chipmunks came running out, and two days later we heard the scratching under the floor boards again. Plan B was stuffing the hole with a broom, assuming it would somehow keep Louie out of his hole long enough for him to get the picture. I was sure this would result in a call to our neighborhood association as Scott hadn’t bothered to break the broom handle, and so we really just had a huge yellow broom sticking out of our stairs for weeks. But somehow, Louie still appeared on the deck, we still saw him running around the yard. Though no digging, which seemed to pacify my husband, if not worry me a little.

Unbeknownst to me, Scott had taken, shall we say, other precautions. By shoving some gopher poison down there, figuring if it was enough to kill a gopher, it would be more than enough to kill the chipmunk. I found out when I caught him delightedly looking at a pile of green slime on the steps about a month after the broom incident. After considerable cajoling, he admitted he was convinced it was the barf of a dying chipmunk and he had prevailed. While I reconsidered who I had married, I kept my eyes peeled, sure Louie was the survivor I thought he was.

And a month later, the digging sound returned. Far as I was concerned at this point, Louie had earned his right. The damn chipmunk has 9 lives, let him run in the yard. He’d failed to get into the house up until this point, it was unlikely he’d really chew his way through before winter. Somehow Louie sensed the war was over and he’d won his nest, and he actually stopped digging and when he wasn’t sitting on my deck or sunning himself, things seemed quite peaceful.

So why then, you my wonder, was I now cursing Louie’s name so violently? Well, the initial problem with our little arrangement was we had gotten a puppy. And about a month after getting her, she figured out she was supposed to chase animals, including Louie. So from upstairs I hear the puppy scratching at the door. Problem 2? I’m pregnant and getting up and down the stairs isn’t exactly the easiest thing these days, so to go all the way down to find out that the puppy was not, in fact, in danger of piddling my floor, but rather was being taunted by my former chipmunk friend was a bit of a kick in the head.

But the absolute LAST straw happened about a week ago and was what led to my salty tirade. Because of previously mentioned Problem 2, my body temperature is about 10 degrees hotter than normal and so I am constantly sitting with the windows open and the fans going. This means I have to get used to certain ambient noises of suburbia — lawnmowers, neighbor’s conversations, ball games going on in the park down the road. And birds, oh the birds!

All day I was listening to insistent chirping and I finally had it, went outside and got ready to scare whatever bird was sitting in my tree. Previously mentioned Problem 2 also gives me a bit of a hair trigger temper, the truth must be told. Anyway, I see no bird. What I DO see is Louie looking at me from the tree hanging over our top-story porch. I am watching what looks like a little chipmunk barking, only it’s making this horrible high-pitched chirp. I try doing a quick “HEY” screech that usually scares the squirrels, but as already discussed, Louie is made of tougher stuff. He moves not an inch.

This goes on for days. I’m trying to take a conference call and there’s Louie chirping. I’m trying to watch TV and there’s Louie. Insistently chirping to a point where I am actually missing him dig under the floor boards. I throw things, whatever I can find. I even am tempted to throw a flower pot before I realize it means more yard mess I have to clean up, and since the dog is outside all the time, the last thing I need is an emergency vet trip to remove flowerpot remains from her trachea.

The upshot is this: the detante Louie and I reached last year when I was newly engaged and new to the ‘burbs has been replaced with homicidal plans of my own. I WILL stop the chirping. If anyone has any ideas for humane ways to do so, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Confession and Introduction

Confession: I DID actually grow up in the suburbs. However, being raised by native New Yorkers, I had sort of an odd upbringing in the sense that I didn’t feel a lot of the “suburban experience,” at least as I am experiencing it now. Granted, we knew our neighbors, and when I was a kid I rode bikes with them and did lemonade stands and all those quaint childhood rituals, so I wasn’t totally citified. I just never felt truly at home in the suburbs where I would go to school and hear teachers say to other kids “oh I had your mom in class” or had a mom ask my mom “you’re the black Stephanie’s mom, right?” The second I turned 18 and graduated high school I was on the next flight to Boston, determined never to return to suburbia again.

I kept my word until I turned 30. My then fiancĂ© and I had been living together in a very small condo near the city and it was time to make the leap to a house. We looked at about 40 houses and could not decide what to do. The younger part of us, “Young Hip Urban Us,” wanted a cool starter house in the cities, dreaming of pushing our baby’s stroller through the streets of Minneapolis, getting ice cream at the mom and pop shops, buying outfits at the little boutiques.

Then the market tanked and reality kicked in and we realized a starter house could end up being a 10-year commitment. We began to factor in school districts, resale value, all the adult things we’d been studiously avoiding as problems for “Future Us.”

So Future Us began to explore the suburbs, trying to stay as close to the city as possible. And our realtor kept leading us further and further West. When she mentioned the city we currently live in, we thought, not for the first time, about firing her. Because there was NO WAY we were going to live “out there.” I had heard tales about that city when I was growing up. I recall being jealous of them because they always got school off when it snowed since the dirt roads weren’t plowed fast enough or kids couldn’t get around on their tractors.

Our realtor was determined it would meet all our requirements and more, and we very grudgingly agreed to see a few houses and witness the new highway that supposedly meant we could get to the farm land in under an hour. We were dubious to say the least, but true enough, we did get there in about 30 minutes from the condo. It wasn’t ideal, but it would mean less than a 45 minute commute for both of us, which was one of our deal-breakers.

In addition to the highway, the neighborhood boasted miles of trails for biking and walking, a beautiful new community center, steadily rising schools, and even a Target or two. And once we saw the price tag on a house with a yard, a playground in the back, easy access to the trails, we were sold. And thus began what I have to say has been one of the strangest rides of my life, including wildlife, door-to-door salesmen, and more adventures to come, I’m sure. If you can relate, share your goofy suburban stories, and if you’re one of my city friends, well here’s to you! I’ll always be a little jealous of you, but I have better stories, so there!