Tag Archives: squirrels


It’s been another week of the no-way-in-hell-is this-an-appropriate-temp-for-Boston-in-April: teens and 20s at night, highs in the 30s, snow every other day. The one day it got above 40 degrees didn’t count because the accompanying 50-mile-an-hour winds made my face hurt. So, I’m still a bit cranky. When I reviewed all the random notes I have jotted down as possible posts, none of them spoke to me, and one was clearly an unfortunate auto-correct accident. What exactly is “Waging. Nonviolence George lakes Betsy leondar-right”? Ya got me. Not only can you not make that up, you actually can’t do anything useful with it.

We no longer have a hamster who can save me in these moments, but I do have urban  wildlife. So this week, I present to you the dozing squirrel. He’s a bit fuzzy, but I kid you not, last week when I looked out my back window I saw the squirrel laying still on a branch. It was so weird for a squirrel to be motionless in the middle of the day, it caught my eye; I watched him for a bit. He was in a sunbeam, and he was definitely dozing in it, cat-like. It was, of course, not a warm day — winter seems to have had one too many at the bar and can’t get up and leave. But the squirrel was making the best of it.

So here’s to sleeping squirrels, sunbeams on a cold day, and a hope that next week will bring warmer temps and an interesting blog.

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Dead Squirrels and Killer Bees

I recently posted this picture on Facebook, shortly after it appeared in my front yard. I’m not against such things—after all I planted silk tulips in the snow banks this winter—a classy broad, I am not. And my neighbor across the street has a similar decoration that is just a straight-on pinwheel. That’s simple and a classic, so I’m cool with it. But this thing in my front yard…presumably my upstairs neighbor put it there, but it looks to me like a drunken demented garden gnome has come to life to build an army of clown bicycle-riding killer bees, and this one is the prototype. What? It could happen. Although I also can’t deny the plausibility of another idea my friend posted–that it was an alien monitoring device. I’ve watched enough X-Files to know that is exactly the way aliens would try to hide in plain sight. You’ve been warned, and you’re welcome.

But it was another comment a friend made that brought rushing back a memory that I clearly have put out of my mind. He wrote, “Whatever it is, it’s better than the ‘taxidermied’ squirrel.”

Oh, god, that squirrel. Stuffed in a not-professional, but home-made kind of way. Nailed to the tree branches. Be glad this was before cell phone cameras.

About 15 years ago my then husband and I bought a condo in Revere. It was four blocks from the ocean, was affordable, and featured a mix of contractors, ice cream truck owners, recent immigrants, old-school Italians, and good old fashioned white trash. OK, so maybe the white trash label is a little harsh. With my own lack of housekeeping skills and love of Cheez Whiz and crock pots, I could be accused of it in certain circles. There were some neat, winterized seaside cottages in the neighborhood, but my condo seemed to be surrounded more by tumbledown dwellings with swayback rooflines. The one next door, which housed the people responsible for the stuffed tree squirrel, produced a scent of ode to feline piss, detectable from the street.

Actually now that I think about it, most of my friends reference that squirrel at least once a year or so, and to them I send out a group apology—clearly they can’t forget about this thing, and it seems maybe to even have scarred them some. I’m not sure why I can forget it— maybe I was still trying to cope with the loss of my gentrified, cool neighborhood in Somerville where we could no longer afford the rent. I was already far away from writer-infested coffee shops and over-priced bistros, so a taxidermied squirrel just seemed like one more thing to endure. The squirrel was also quiet and didn’t impede my daily activities, so I could cross it off my list of “Neighborhood Things to Be Concerned About.” It was kind of a long list, but here a few highlights:

Plant killers. My downstairs condo neighbors were a couple in their 50s, working class, and chronically underemployed. At first I felt sorry for them because I assumed their situation was due to age discrimination. The constant stream of perfectly healthy plants that showed up on a weekly basis in the trash cans, however, should have tipped me off that there might be other forces in play. More on that later. The woman worked at a Home Depot, so when the plants first started showing up, I thought maybe she got the extras from work, and couldn’t say no because they were free, and then realized she didn’t have the room or the right sunlight, or something. See, this is the occupational hazard of being a writer—I can make up shit about just about anything, and that is not necessarily good. Any normal person would have said, “Why is she throwing away perfectly healthy looking plants? What’s wrong with this person?” OK, maybe not the first time, but after a few times and establishing there was a regular plant massacre, most normal people would have decided there was something amiss.

Something amiss. So yes, the plants were just the tip of the iceberg with those two. Being chronically underemployed also meant they were chronically late with their condo fees, at one point for more than a year. Even though she worked at a bank as a teller before taking early retirement and becoming a plant killer, my neighbor didn’t want to “be responsible” for being the condo trustee. Like leaving money and numbers to the word girl here is a better idea. They had the smallest condo and paid the smallest fee, but they were the first ones to complain about any increase, even though we all paid more, some of us twice as much. I’ll give them credit, though; they had sad stories about why they couldn’t pay, but they never tried to hide their incompetence from me. I was the one who kept thinking, they couldn’t possibly be this fill-in-the-blank—incompetent, mean (to plants), irresponsible, bad with money, etc. It took me 10 years, but I finally came to realize, despite my best efforts to think it wasn’t possible, that they were truly stupid. I don’t use that word lightly—people say that word all the time, when they really mean lazy, or did not make the most of an education, or “you’re not acting the way I want you to act.” For 10 years I pulled out my hair trying to figure out how to get through to them and kept changing my approach. Surely it must be me; people have different communication styles and I just hadn’t found the right one. But since I went through every possible way to say, “condo owners must pay their condo fee,” I finally had to admit defeat and declare them stupid. And to this day, they are the only truly stupid people I have ever met.

Welfare mother. You think this is just a republican fabrication? I sure did. As a lefty liberal who worked in a social service agency, I saw firsthand how poverty creates obstacles to self-improvement. We offered free English classes for who didn’t speak it, but the “free part” didn’t help them with an unpredictable multi-job schedule, having to depend on unreliable busses that take hours to get anywhere, and having kids who are sick a lot, because being poor is very bad for your health. But I’m sorry to report welfare mothers are a real thing, and one moved in next door to us. She had five kids, but only one small one lived with her. The rest were farmed out to foster homes. She had babies with different men as a source of income. Not really a career choice I had considered, and I couldn’t say it was working for her. She spent a lot of time getting into screaming fights with the neighbor across the street. The only good news is that these people are naturally transient, so she didn’t stay too long.

Yelling in the streets. All I will say about this is that before I moved to this neighborhood where people had yelling fights in the street with each other or sometimes simply stood outside to have loud arguments on their cell phones, I would have given you a long detailed discussion about why keeping dysfunction behind closed doors is detrimental to people’s mental health. There’s a reason why the majority of fiction, plays, and movies feature the dysfunction that middle and upper class people hide behind their well-groomed, picturesque closed doors. That’s good drama. Turns out the real thing in your streets is not so good. Got problems? Take a note from people with money and keep it in your house, please.

A sign on the telephone pole saying: “You park in my space, I breaka you face.” No explanation needed.

That taxidermied squirrel really didn’t seem so bad.

Short Takes Round Up (Or, I Didn’t Finish My Post in Time)

I didn’t have time to finish my usual post because I was too busy having fun saving the world, so please forgive me. Instead, I bring to you photos of random things I’ve come upon. Apologies to my FB friends who have seen these before, but maybe you haven’t seen them because FB keeps changing its feed algorithm. Also, am reusing and recycling, so if you complain, you’ll make yourself look bad. So there.

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I came upon this on my way to work walking to the train and posted “My! Looks like Barbie had quite a night last night!” That set off quite a spirited discussion, which ended with me initiating talks with the Mattel to launch two new lines: “Walk of Shame Barbie” and “Tart Barbie.” I’m sure they will call me back soon.


I also found this one on my way to work. I thought it was a killer bee, but turns out it’s a cicada, a word I can never say and always have to look up to spell. My sharp-eyed friends informed me what it was and also commented that they can be attacked by ginormous bees, while others named her and commented on the Chapstick. Using these prompts and nothing but my wits, I came up with this story, which I will turn into a picture book as soon as the Mattel deal is sealed.

“Despite the fact that Katie was self-conscious about her pointy butt and obsessed with keeping her face smooth with Chapstick, she was the kind of cicada who’d be the first to send you a get well card if you’d been attacked by one of those nasty ginormous wasps.”

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From earlier in the summer, these are the first “fruits” of my little patio garden. What the heck? I diagnosed it as “Butt Rot,” which must be a real thing because none of my sharp-eyed friends corrected me.

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I call this “Up Periscope”–the rest of the bush is pooped out from blooming all summer and the branches are like, “Aw, screw it, fall is coming, I need a rest.” Except Perky Pete at the top. This branch is like the four-year-old at Christmas trying to wake everyone up. “Guys! Guys! Check this out! It’s really cool!”

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And finally there’s this guy. This is the White Squirrel Saga. For a number of years there has been a white squirrel running around near my work, He’s kind of an unofficial mascot and a topic of conversation, like “I saw the white squirrel today,” and “What was the white squirrel doing.” Well not long ago, my coworker came in breathless to inform us she’d witnessed the horror of the white squirrel being devoured by a hawk. We were all stunned, but after a few moments of reflection, we realized that being a white squirrel, while entertaining for us, pretty much sucks for him. It’s like a sign saying to hawks, “Hey, here I am, come eat me!”  But there was hope, my coworker told me there was an other one, which I didn’t realize. So the next few days followed and we were content we still had a white squirrel left…until I came upon him flattened in the road. While I was standing there, mourning, a car (not the one that hit him) actually stopped, and the woman rolled down her window and yelled, “Oh no! The white squirrel!” Oh no, indeed. I duly informed my coworkers and now we were sad. Such a rare animal, our beloved mascot, and we’d been blessed by having two of them. A few sad days followed, until lo! I saw another white squirrel! There must be three of them. I reported back to my coworkers and we were jubilant until we, being fickle humans, started to think about it. Heck if there are three, that’s not very rare, is it? Maybe there is a whole family of them. What’s so special about that? OK, we did have that thought , but we came to our senses. Look at that face. We’re still rooting for ya little guy!