Suburban Wildlife Run Amock

The near north suburbs of Chicago have little in common with the deep woods. And yet we have our own slice of wildlife. For example, there is a family of raccoons living in a tree in our backyard. The mother raccoon is huge and can be found outside our back door from time to time in the early evening. She looks mean and I would not want to accidentally surprise her as I walk from our garage to the house. Nothing good could come of that.

I have witnessed deer and a coyote  within a few miles north of our house. However right in my backyard except for the aforementioned raccoon, the creatures tend to be small. Squirrels dominate followed by birds and for the first time in the 15 years we have lived here, a chipmunk has recently appeared.

It all came to a head during the adventure hike I refer to as “the walk between my garage and the back door.” So here is what happened.

I take the first careful steps outside the sanctity of the garage. We have taken to making noises just like the park rangers tell you to as you hike through bear country. In our case, it is to avoid the mama raccoon.

Immediately I see a couple of squirrels on the ground 2 feet to the left of the back door. They seem to be agitatedly chattering. I stealth-fully, slowly moved ahead. Big Mistake. By focusing on the squirrels on the left I almost stepped on 3 other squirrel guys (or gals) directly in my path. That seemed to set off the fireworks.

Squirrels running at mach speed in all directions. There are three trees in the immediate area and the squirrels scattered to all. Quickly another 5 or six appeared and the next thing I knew for 3 solid minutes about a dozen squirrels were wildly chasing each other. It is hard to describe without video footage the mayhem that ensued. The motion, the noise level and the chaos were unbelievable!

To my right half way up one tree I thought I saw two squirrels mating. One was behind the other with his (I am assuming gender) paws holding fast to the middle of the body of the squirrel in front. The front squirrel however seemed to be pulling away as hard as it could with no success initially. Finally a third squirrel ran at the other two giving the front squirrel the break she needed. She escapes only to be chases by both of the other two squirrels down the tree, through some bushes and back up the tree. My best guess is that this was a squirrely menage-a-trois gone wrong.

Then as fast as the mayhem ensued, it was over. I stood for a moment stunned. I looked to see the chipmunk sitting on top of the gas meter on the south end of the house. Four feet higher was the robin sitting in the nest she had made in the curve of one of our drain pipes.

Sure why not nest there. It was a lot quieter than in the trees.

I And You

This week I  have been witness to far too much “I”.  In this case “I” are all of the people putting their needs first and act as if either there is no one else in the universe or even if there is, it does not matter.  the desires, not even needs, of I trumps you.

From the ridiculous to the rude.

On the ridiculous side, this has been my week for public teeth cleaning.  In an earlier post I described the woman flossing while behind the wheel of her car. Midweek, as I was rushing through the airport I saw a 20 something male standing in the main aisle with this contorted facial expression. As I passed him I realized he too was flossing for all the world to see.  Four steps away was a bathroom. Then last night just before the curtain went up I noticed a man actively using a toothpick. This went on for a couple of minutes. I wanted to yell down, “I bet your mother did not raise you this way”.  But in a crowded theater that would have been rude.

Other I tunes included the driver of a Prius who was weaving through traffic on the highway at high speeds. On a couple of occasions the car barely made it through the tiny space between cars. An accident just about to happen.

The best of all traveling to an appointment an appointment in a city far, far away only to have the person I was there to see decide she was too busy for me.  At least her assistant was apologetic.

And yet in this same week there were too incidents of you before me that really touched me. In the first one, a work colleague spent much of two days working on a proposal that early in the process we decided he was not the right person to be working on the project should we get it. He had tons of other work obligations  and yet sacrificed his time for the greater good. As he said to me, ” Isn’t this just what we do? ”  meaning do the right thing, the mensch thing.  I knew that too often WE (everyone on our team) did not act that way but a few of us did anyway.

Then at the end of a long and brutal workweek, after 5 pm before a holiday weekend another non-I gesture. One of the administrative assistance in the group I manage, but not someone who works directly with me stopped by. My body language must have been reflecting the frustration and exhaustion I was feeling. Normally, as a “leader” I try to hide it better.

Instead of rushing for the door to begin her holiday weekend she came by to see how I was doing. She asked if I was OK. I told her it had just been a tough week but that everything would be good next week. She told me to let her know if there was anything she could do to help. She was sincere, not sucking up to the boss. Just as sincerely I thanked her and told her to go be with her family and enjoy the long weekend.

I must be doing something right to have a few “YOU”s and not all “I”s in my life.

Six Weeks, But Never Too, Late

Went on my first bike ride of the season Saturday. A bit over 20 miles. Normal aches and pains from a first ride.

The first ride should have been early April. Since I plan to complete a century ride in late September I am way, way behind schedule.

Something is happening that has been making me less passionate about my passions. Readers fo this blog know how important biking has become to me over the last several years. Despite careening past 50, and no 50 is NOT the new 40, at least for 2 years in a row I could say that I rode 100 miles. That was a source of pride and gave me some bragging rights.

But not last year. Never got the legs in gear.

This year is worse with the late start. No excuses, at least no good ones. I had some modest fears about how my body would respond but if there was going to be trouble, no reason to wait 6 weeks to find out. Will need to make more time than once a week if this is to work out.

I may need to give in and join a bike club so I can run in a pack. Maybe that will bring some of the fun back.

20 miles down, 1000 to go.

When Driving, No Make-Up, No Texting, No…Flossing?

Last night I was in the car waiting for the light to turn green when I casually glanced to my left. The woman behind the wheel  was intensely flossing her teeth. I am guessing that the rapid motion may have been due to the limited time until the light would change.

Now I have seen people do many things while behind the wheel including eating  food, putting on make-up, using their cell phones or reaching into the back seat to get something that they obviously could not live with until they exited the car.  This was my first flossing. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in oral hygiene. I am just not sure that I would floss in my car — unless I was in a dark corner of  a parking lot maybe and the brisket that was stuck between my teeth was causing tremendous pain. And I was not disgusted by the act, it just seemed odd and unnecessary.

Admittedly the act could have been worse. She could have been driving while flossing. The thing is that I do not know if she does that as well as flossing at a stop light. The first behavior is strange enough so who knows.

My wife asked me if I would floss in public. I gave one of those flippant answers that I am famous for. You know, the throwaway comments that I never really give any thought to. So I said, “Sure, I do not care. I would do anything in public.” The regret grew intense the moment the last syllable was spoken. I knew exactly what she was thinking. Puerto Vallarta , 1993, on the rocks, a boat full of tourists goes by.

OK. Maybe not anything in public…certainly no flossing!

Not Your Next American Idol

I work in a fairly buttoned down profession. Many of the people who do what I do are straight-laced. Occasionally you meet some people with flair and talents well outside our line of work. For example, one former co-worker had been a professional dancer of the Lord of the Dance variety.

And then there was Joey.

I am not sure where we found Joey. Rumor was that a gaggle of my co-workers were in a bar one night and they met this strange man-child who asked what we did and whether there were any openings. Next thing I knew there was Joey showing up for work.

JoJo, as I started calling him, was a good employee. I was a seasoned pro when he started and he was one of the new guys. He learned quickly, did not let his lack of prior experience in what we do get in his way and he did good work. But really who cares about Joey as a worker bee.

We care, and you should care, about Joey the singer. Now JoJo was not your next American Idol. He was not a rocker, an R&B guy and not even a little bit country despite his Virginia roots.

Nope. Joey sang Barber Shop. You know, striped pole. Quartet. Music Man.

He had a group of his own but also sang in a large chorale groups. He competed in real competitions. I am ashamed to say that I never got to see JoJo perform in his groups. The closest I came was his last night when a bunch of us went to a karaoke bar (I did my best Elvis imitation. True story.)

Joey left our Chicago office and moved to Atlanta to be marry a woman whose smile could light up a dark room. Good move on his part. But contact slowed to a crawl.

Today Joey called to see how things were going. We caught up. His family is good, beautiful wife and two young children. Work is good. But he has not sung in a group in quite a while. Fortunately for the world, or the three readers of this blog, he was caught on video and stored on YouTube.

Here he is with his group the Pinstripes. (JoJo is the handsome one in front of the mike. BTW Joey, the music is much better than the comedy. Where did you get your routine? An old Red Skelton show?)

Here he is, my fav barbershop singer, Joey.

Pax Man: Death Of A Blog

One of the first blogs I began reading recently bit the dust.  Pax Romano’s Ramblings has provided insight, humor, pathos and great pics for years and has held a noticeable place in my life.

While Pax’s wisdom and humor  can be found on Facebook, we mourn the death of  a great blog.