Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I gotta move.

It's not just my human neighbors (see 5/17 entry) giving me grief. Now I'm getting it from the plants and animals.

The people in the apartment below me (which includes the previously-mentioned grunting guy in the bathtub) have a mini-garden in front of their door. It looks like a tiny jungle at their entrance. Which is fine for them. I wouldn't do it.

See, I kinda have a phobia about plants. You ever see Invasion of the Body Snatchers? These plants from outer space came to Earth and started duplicating everyone, turning them into emotionless pod people. Scared the bejeezus outta me. To this day, I won't have a fern, flower or fichus in my house. And don't tell me it was just a movie -- it could happen. I say tear down the rain forest. Never trust a living thing that doesn't move, doesn't make sound, or reproduces by having sex with itself.

So the people below me have a baby palm tree that's grown up from their garden to reach the balcony by my apartment. Okay, I've learned to tolerate this green monstrosity outside, blocking my view with its ominous fronds, but now there's a new development.

I've been told it's an old variety of Birds of Paradise,so named because its growths resemble a bird's beak and pointy feathers. I call them Ugly Sap-Dripping Bulbs. Their nectar must be sweet, as it attracts hummingbirds (cute), flies (gross), and squirrels (creepy!).

Normally, I don't mind the squirrels. I admire their ability to survive in urban environments, scampering playfully up the sparse trees, foraging for food with their acrobatics. Some call them bushy-tailed rats, but they don't typically scavenge your garbage or beg for breadcrumbs like pigeons or seagulls.

But when a squirrel is using your front step as his local hangout--a restaurant for rodents, if you will--it could make you a bit uneasy. Every time I open my door, there's Rocky (as in Bullwinkle's pal), gnawing away at the palm tree. He'd run away, but each time, stay a little closer, and come right back. Uppity buck-toothed bastard. I just didn't feel comfortable with this. It was time to act.

I went outside with a long serrated kitchen knife. No, I wasn't going to hurt the squirrel. I was just going to cut off his food supply. Literally. Don't worry, you PETA or ASPCA folks. Like I said, these tenacious fur-balls always manage to thrive; I wasn't going to starve him. Just get him to go away.

Problem was: he didn't go away. As I sawed away at these sap sacs, Rocky kept walking down the banister toward me and the tree. What was he trying to do? Was he claiming his territory? Trying to get in one last snack before I hacked away his meal ticket? Fight me for the food? Step off, mofo!

I'd chase him away, but he'd come right back. And he got bolder and bolder each time. Shouting or stomping my foot soon wasn't good enough. I had to swat the newspaper at the banister, shaking up his tightrope to get him to dash off to a safe distance, up the other tree in front of the apartment building. I'd work on pruning more of the palm tree, look over, and there'd he be again, inching up. I'm sure it looked comical, me chasing this little guy back and forth, especially as Rocky got more defiant. Sometimes he'd stand with his back to me, waving his bushy tail like a cobra to a snake charmer. That squirrel was mooning me! Taunting me: "Nyah, nyah!"

OK, Rocky, you can play. Pretend you're the Masticator ("I'll be buck!"). But I'm on the chopping spree. Ooh, there goes another bird of paradise, flying away from the tree. Who's the sap and who's the pain in the nectar now, hunh?

Then the squirrel faced me, his beady black eyes staring me down, sneering with those oversized teeth. And there was that tail again. Swishing back and forth as if he wanted to have a stand-off. I raised my knife like a samurai sword and sized up the two opponents.

I definitely had the size advantage. Brains, I'm not sure. After all, I'm fighting with a friggin' squirrel. But I also got a scimitar and the LA Times.

The squirrel had speed and agility. He also had those tiny chompers and sharp claws. Oh yeah, and the strong possibility of a scorching case of rabies.

If I had to lay odds, I'd put even money on us both. It was man vs. beast. A Santa Monica Mexican stand-off.

Just then, one of my neighbors came outside. It was one of the quieter ones, but Rocky didn't know the difference. He got nervous - squirrelly, you might say - and zipped off. Ha-ha! I laughed uproariously! Rocky (and my neighbor) surely thought I was crazy. Yeah, crazy like a fox squirrel. I cut off the last juicy part of the tree, giving him no reason to come around anymore, not until those birds of paradise grow back next year.

It sure was a memorable morning. That was one persistent squirrel. I just hope they don't have as good a memory, 'cause if Rocky's holding a grudge, well, he's got lots of little furry friends. And maybe he won't wait 'til next year...

Jeez. I'm kinda scared to come home tonight...


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