ON HATING SQUIRRELS, AND LOVING BELUSHI

Animal lovers won’t like this, but I hate squirrels.

It wasn’t always like that.  I once thought squirrels were kind of cute.  Even in New York City, in Central Park, the squirrels were pretty nice. Of course, when you think about it, that’s probably because the millions of people who visit the park feed the squirrels peanuts, and popcorn and berries, and chestnuts…  because they’re cute.  Which begs the question: what came first?  The feeding, or the cute?

Out here on the left coast (and I do mean LEFT), our squirrels are like super-squirrels.  They can climb up stucco walls.  Or down.  Today, one was climbing up this stucco part of the wall, and then leapt over 8 feet of wood wall to another stucco section!  Just like Rocky of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame!  Although he wasn’t wearing a helmet! And he had something in his mouth!  Probably something he stole from someone’s plants.  And he sits up there on the railing of a porch and eats his nut, or whatever it was, with a look of triumphant satisfaction. The little f–ker.

rockysquirrel
Ours don’t even wear helmets!      Copyright: someone else.

You should see them eat! It’s like watching one of those kitchen tools that spins an apple around and peels it. Will it core a apple (see: Honeymooners)?  I don’t know, but they do this and food is flying all over the place.  They’re not just ravenous, they are total slobs!

In LA, people don’t feed squirrels, for the most part, because they don’t want them to keep coming back.  But they don’t need us to feed them. There’s food all over the place out here. Fruit trees are abundant year round. Unripe avocados are like giant nuts to a squirrel.  We had an avocado tree right outside the window in our last place.  This squirrel took it over once a year and would eat as many avocados as he could get his dirty little paws on.  He would viciously attack any other squirrel who tried to eat from that tree. Their paws are like human hands. Very dexterous. And this squirrel would take a few bites, and then drop the avocado and move on. He’d decimate the crop, but only eat part of the avocado. I believe this was just to spite me. 

Up here in Woodland Hills there is plenty to eat also, including my tomatoes, so I put them in a cage.  So far, so good.  Last year, these bastards waited until I was about to pick a beautiful red, ripe tomato.  I’d go out there, thinking, this is the day to pick that tomato!  And no tomato!  Oh, there it is, half eaten on the lawn.

tomatocage
Once the little buggers figure out they can just climb up the outside of the mesh, I’m screwed.

These squirrels are sneaky and have bad intent.  They’ll eat anything.  Did you know they eat flowers?  Yep, especially hibiscus.  It helps them digest and is a good blood cleanser or something.  Clearly, it does not have the same calming effects on squirrels as on humans. Whatever, we have a nice hibiscus plant outside the back door, and the blooms last like a day until the little assholes can be seen running off with a red flower in their mouths.

And they slink around like John Belushi in Animal House.  If you’re too young to remember Animal House, I hate you.  But you should watch it if your parents didn’t force you to already.  In any event, the scene where Bluto is sneaking up on the sorority house so he can get a ladder and climb up to look at the girls undress, he kind of moves like a commando attacking an outpost, or a spy, moving so he can’t be seen.  It’s funny because… he CAN be seen!  He’s fooling no one, just a pudgy guy sneaking up on a building.  Same with the squirrels, nobody is paying attention (with the exception of yours truly).  They sneak up on inanimate objects.  They just sneak everywhere.  Here’s one sneaking up on an unsuspecting tree.

(Aside: Did you just gloss over the part about Bluto climbing a ladder to watch sorority girls undress? How does John Belushi do that scene, peeping-Tom-ing a sorority house, and make it funny but not creepy? Today, a movie protagonist could never do something so creepy and toxically masculine, but it’s still funny when you see Belushi do it.  He’s like a dancer.  If someone put this in a film today, heads would roll.  He revisits this move in the clip below, when Bluto and D-Day try sneak Niedermeier’s horse into Dean Wermer’s office.  I just wrote that last sentence without the aid of Google.  Now back to squirrels.)

bluto
Do the Bluto, do the Bluto. 

These filthy furballs move around as if they know they are up to no good, which is interesting, because that would indicate some sort of self awareness and system of values, of right and wrong, which is a very advanced social trait. Sure, they’re just getting more food, but they know it’s usually someone else’s food and that they’re not supposed to be taking it.  And I reinforce this knowledge by squirting them with my garden house on “jet” anytime they get within 20 feet of my personal space.  So sue me, ASPCA.  At this point, all I need to do is go outside and turn on the hose, and they hightail it (literally) up the nearest eucalyptus.  Smart little bastards. Am I training them, or they me?

Given the above experiences, the answer to my first question is, the feeding. Squirrels are assholes and essentially lazy, so if you feed them they don’t have to look for food and in order to keep on not having to forage for food they just get cuter and friendlier to get more food from gullible humans, the way dogs do.  This is why some people think squirrels are cute.  But unlike most dogs, their essence is not cute.

A gift from the media gods supporting my opinion on squirrels arrived today in the form of an article in that bastion of quality journalism, the NY Daily News (digital edition) about some meth-lab owner in Alabama who was accused of giving his attack squirrel meth.  Yes, he guarded his meth lab with… an attack squirrel! But he denied it. “Paulk described the 10-month-old rodent as an ‘a–shole’ and a ‘mean motherf—ker’ but said he would never dream of giving him drugs.”

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Paulk makes meth, but refuses to give any to his squirrel.  Photo stolen from NY Daily News, 6/19/19

Paulk is not my pseudonym, people. It’s just a coincidence.  It’s the guy’s last name.  These folks always have weird names. “’You can’t give squirrels meth,’ Paulk said in the video. ‘It would kill them! I’m pretty sure. I’ve never tried it.’” You see how he caught himself there?  How could he, a meth producer and distributor who employs his own attack squirrel, POSSIBLY know that meth would kill a squirrel?

You can’t make this stuff up folks. And now you have yet one more reason not to go to Alabama. Ever.  Don’t believe me? Read it and weep. >Squirrel on Meth?

This (the squirrels, not the meth) brings back fond memories of my father’s annual summer-into-fall War of the Squirrels.  Every year, one squirrel would find our yard. We had two apple trees, and they were very apple-y.  I mean, really they were more apple than tree.  A squirrel would get wind of the fruity bounty, and start eating the apples.  My dad loved these damn apples and we were going to make pies at the end of the growing season, goddamn it! and this squirrel was not going to stop us.

So being a DIY-er even before that was a thing, Dad bought a squirrel trap.  He’d put a nice apple in there, and the squirrel would go in, and the gate would close and trap it.  Then came the fun part!  We’d fill up a basin with water, drop in the trap, and drown the weasel!  Ahahahahah!

Relax, just kidding.  Dad would never drown anything, except maybe a kishke in gravy.  We’d take the varmint to the county park a few miles away and release it.  Which was fine until the next squirrel found our yard.

So I realized today that this battle has been going on in my family for decades.  I would like to call a truce, but these rodent bastards are relentless.  So therefore, the battle continues.  Bring it on, you rats with furry tails, you!

This is where I usually say something like there are no squirrels in my book. Well, there aren’t, but if you want to support my writing efforts, in addition to liking and sharing this post, read my novel, Smoking in Bed.  It’s good, and you’ll have a nice time reading, I promise.  Thanks!

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