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Daphne — Urban Mouse Hunter

He looked at me, twitching his whiskers, taunting me… mocking me…

It wasn’t a subtle appearance—they were bold as if they perceived themselves to be thoroughly welcome house guests, anticipating their own set of fresh linens and tasty late night snacks.

20110930-mice-on-bedding-IMG-3948A pair of beady little black eyes and long gray whiskers jutting out from a tiny furry body appeared from behind a box of unopened oatmeal. We stood there staring at each other for a bit, then he scurried into my stove, out of view. I took in a deep breath and sighed. I hoped we could be friends, but these sorts of friendships never end well. One thing was certain, however…

Damnit! I have mice. Oh, sure I only saw the one, but where there’s one, there’s more. How many more is anyone’s guess.

I quickly decided that the last thing I want these infernal things to do is go running all over the apartment and get into my food in the kitchen. So, they’ve commandeered the stove—great. The stove is theirs for the time being until I can figure out how to capture these vermin. That means for me that the stove is off limits. I certainly don’t want to prepare food where these things are dwelling. They are not the tidiest of creatures to put it mildly.

How to keep them out of my food? Well, I will feed them, of course! If they eat their own food, they will stay away from mine. (Interestingly, that tactic actually worked. Don’t knock insanity until you’ve tried it!)

I’ve found that they are quite fond of peanut butter and crackers, and I realized that there were certain times of day that they went about foraging. They seemed quite pleased with the convenient and thoughtful bits I’d leave for them. Little did they realize that my ultimate goal was their capture. I’m certain they found me very hospitable.

And capture I did! Two—the only two I thought I had—I placed their food into an open cage that I had set on the stove. When they entered, I slammed a bit of plastic over the opening so they couldn’t escape. I then secured the opening door behind them, and I had mice in a cage.

How did that work? So, yes. This means that I had to stand alone in my kitchen, during the times I knew they dined, and waited patiently to make my move. Yes, this took hours. Yes, this happened over a matter of days…longer, actually. No, I have no discernible life—stop judging me, okay?

Oh, no. The story doesn’t end here—this is only the beginning…

As I went about my mouse-free life, my mother suddenly fell ill, and I needed to stay at her apartment and help with her dog and a few other responsibilities as she recuperated. Meanwhile, I had a cat that stayed in my apartment, and I would visit her daily, feed her, pet her—all of those things you do with cats as they go about mauling you for fun. Then, when I realized that my stay at my mother’s was going to be extended, I moved the cat over to her place, too.

I’d still go visit my apartment, clean, check on things, discard old food, etc. And, that’s when I noticed it—a pair of old slacks I had meant to donate had pieces shredded from it, and it was lying on the closet floor. I examined other bits of this and that to notice more shredded fabric and debris. Mice!

Now it was clear that while I rid myself of a couple rodents, several more made their way in and called my mostly vacant apartment home. I noticed droppings here and there, food packages with holes in them, and of course the shredded fabric where they attempted to make little nests for themselves.

I decided it was time to move back in, and reclaim my apartment from these vermin. Bastards aren’t even paying rent!

This time there will not be any attempts at trapping them by hand, but I did go out and buy several “no kill” mouse traps, still with the thought in mind that I would just relocate the furry fiends, and we could all just go about our lives… separately.

One afternoon, I’m sleeping. (Hey! I work at night…) I wake up to find a pile of sunflower seed shells up next to my pillow. I was livid! The little bastard is taunting me, mocking me!

I could just picture him there, piling up his mid-day lunch next to my head, then crunched away on my seeds with a smug little look on his face whilst watching me sleep. As if I was some sort of entertainment to him, an amusement.

All sense of civility left me. I yelled at the worthless cat, threw out the “no kill” traps and banged on the stove to make sure the little critters were paying close attention and officially declared war!

I called an exterminator and set an appointment—they would arrive in three days. Yeah, I know. Most of you are thinking—what the hell took you so long? Look, when I was a kid, friends of mine had mice as pets. It’s not as simple as it might seem. Of course other friends had pets like snakes and lizards that ate mice, but I didn’t have access to a snake or carnivorous lizard at the moment, and the cat, like I said—worthless.

I need a mouser…

Walking back to my car late at night, I noticed something. We have a family of half-feral cats living among us. One is friendly enough that she lets me pick her up. Idea! Maybe I can do away with the expense of the exterminator and just kidnap this cat to do a little mousing.

I went back into my apartment, and shoved my worthless cat over on the bed so that I could try to get some sleep. When I’ve almost drifted off, I see my worthless cat out of the corner of my eye prancing around. I look up, and there she is in the center of the room… with a mouse in her mouth!

I sit up in glee—what a wonderful sight. Life’s food chain in full action! My cat isn’t worthless after all! But, if she’s such a great mouser, and she indeed appears to be, why haven’t I seen any mouse corpses lying around?

catmouseJust then, she walks over towards me, and just beside the bed, she is still toying with its near lifeless body.  I watcher paw it, nibble it, lick it and suck on it until I watch her devour it whole… little bones, tail whiskers and all!

The next day I cancelled my appointment with the exterminator. It appears that I’m living with one, and she’s finally covering her share of the rent in labor. Good cat!

 

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A message to St. Petersburg, Florida: what economic development SHOULD mean to the city.

Hello St. Petersburg. This is a personal note to my city: Yes, you are my birthplace, my definition of home. You were the landscape of most of the greatest moments in my life and most profound experiences. You raised me, taught me about life, love, disappointment, forgiveness and redemption. I know you well. You know me well. I’m worried about you.

Central Avenue

Your downtown area has come a long way since my childhood, but not without cost.

You’re much more beautiful than I remember–landscaping, building renovations and a really cool strip of art galleries, restaurants and shops streaming down Central Ave. First Fridays were a brilliant idea. Even with all of this, your arts culture is quite understated. Possibly more understated than in the 70s and 80s when it was still just a toddler, learning how to walk on your city streets.

Then, people were on fire about possibilities and growing the culture. There was a successful, dedicated, for-profit local arts magazine, and people were excited to volunteer, promote and fund-raise for the arts. They were passionate about attending concerts, exhibits and shows. Now, well, things are a bit less passionate–a community more difficult to motivate and patrons and benefactors are increasingly challenging to cultivate.

I understand the economy is nothing short of frightening. I understand that the arts may not be top on the list of priorities and initiatives to charge revitalization and business sustainability in St. Petersburg for its citizens. I get you. I really do. I’m asking you to try to put all the fear aside for just a moment right now. For just this moment, think only in terms of possibilities and opportunities. Think about vision. What do you see? I challenge you to consider that he arts may very well be the one thing that matters most in St. Petersburg RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW.

You need to improve education: the arts are an immeasurable vessel to introduce youth and young adults to applied interdisciplinary studies and to help cultivate creative critical thinking and problem-solving skills (I’ll write a separate post on this next–I promise). You need to attract big talent in business, commerce, investing, entertainment and design: just give them a reason to be here. Give them a place where they, their families and their peers will be fed and inspired. They’ll come, and they will help you solve any additional problems that may come with a sudden spike in population, because they know how to solve problems and they want to stay and invite others.

Why is St. Petersburg the best place to do this thing? At the start, you have two–TWO incredible museums, the likes of which no other Floridian city can compare: 1) St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts & 2) Salvador Dali Museum.

Let’s be clear–the value (artistic, monetary and historical) standing collection in the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts is nothing less than a priceless prize. The collection is so exquisite, just in its standing collection alone (e.g. Monet, O’Keeffe). Very few museums today would ever be able to afford a collection like this–one that we are blessed to have right along our waterfront.

Salvador Dali, a consummate leader in the Surrealist Movement, he later moved into scientific and religious subjects and finally into the classic style, his mastery of painting technique is not criticized. Never confined to a style nor artistic medium, Dali also left behind sculpture, film, performance art and photography for us to enjoy. The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg houses the most comprehensive collection of Dali’s work, and the museum has an incredible reputation of continuously finding innovative ways of exhibiting and showcasing this extraordinary art.

Not to mention, St. Petersburg, you have a sensational presence of galleries, a concert hall, small theatres and outstanding resident visual and performing artists and arts teachers. All of these treasured buildings and art collections mixed with incredibly talented people–ah, the people. Yet, the world still does not think of St. Petersburg, Florida as a substantial creative locale–a place to be culturally fed and nurtured with small-venue opportunities for artists and aspiring artists to learn and practice, hone their craft and debut the next BIG thing in the arts. Why not?

St. Petersburg has everything it needs to be the primordial ooze of artistic development–to cultivate and nurture outstanding, world-class visual and performing artists. It has all of the elements needed to be the birthplace of progressive artistic and cultural movements.

Concerned about cost? It’s free! Well, at least low-cost, and certainly fodder for prime grantwriting opportunities (wink, wink, nudge, nudge): National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities on just the federal level alone.

St. Petersburg waterfront

Already, you have the urbanized conveniences needed within your city or very close-by: fine dining and casual dining, some 24-hour businesses, nearly every service and large-chain is well-represented in most neighborhoods. It is a hot competative sailing destination and lauded fishing locale. Let’s not forget, also, the spectacular coastlines, beaches and sunshine. This is Florida. This is St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg, what we are lacking is a targeted, unified vision; an organized, passionate movement; and sincere belief that this will come to fruition–that this is the destiny of St. Petersburg’s future. So, what will it be, St. Petersburg? What do you have to lose by trying and giving it your all? What would you have to gain? Will you share in the vision? Will you dare to be great?

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