YESTERDAY, friends, I promised you a little something. Or rather, a bunch of big, hairy, evil, deadly somethings, plural. And today…? Well, today I deliver.
Because as I find out again and again, over and over, on each trip there…
Now understand this: I saw a good deal many more than I photographed. But after a while, you become desensitized to the horror. You go numb. You’re in a constant state of shock. Your fingers are trembling too much to work the knobs and dials on your blogging camera.
That or you’re running for your goddamn life.
Look at this monster. And I pray to God you’re not eating.
On my screen the damn thing is life size, and I have a big screen. Oh, some will claim it’s a harmless orb weaver – a common garden spider that keeps down the pest population. I ask you: If this is the good guy, what in holy hell must the “pests” be like?! And did you get a good look at those pedipalps?!
Next up – and I warn you, it just gets worse – is this eight-legged spawn of Satan:
Again – on my computer – about life size. Consider yourself lucky if you’re looking at this on a smartphone. The body alone was the size of a big ripe cherry tomato, which was ironic because he and his extended family were living…
…in a large garden of cherry tomato plants. And among my chores while visiting was to pick cherry tomatoes for the salad for dinner! (The website said “charming bed and breakfast;” it was more of a socialist granola-y hippy commune. Everyone had to do their share of the work all while singing folk songs about Obama. On the plus side, clothing was optional.)
Anyway, let’s go in for a closeup of that particular behemoth.
As you can see, it’s a little out of focus. My hands were shaking. Yours would be too.
Like I said, I had to reach in there and pluck off cherry tomatoes roughly the same size and shape as these spider’s abdomens, or as they’re scientifically known, bloated venom sacs. Thank God I finally got that cataract surgery last year or I probably wouldn’t be coming home with all eleven of my fingers intact.
Onward! We need to get through this, gang. We’ll be stronger people for it if we do. Yeah, keep telling yourself that.
Check out this obscene colossus of hair and legs:
I honestly don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that moments later, a huge wasp appeared, attacked and stung it, and began dragging its lethargic, paralyzed body into a hole. (True!) Because that brings up the issue of the other entomological wildlife in Virginia, this veritable statewide Jurassic Park for insects. But more on that later.
Have a look at this unholy beast:
Disgusting. And not merely because he still hasn’t redeemed that Groupon to have his webhole bleached.
I’m pretty sure this is the same bastard from the second picture in this photographic essay (industry term). There were easily dozens of this particular repulsive and horrifying variety all over. Some were just easier to photograph than others. And might I, once again, point out those pedipalps? This vile creature could bench press a freaking cicada.
I alluded to other heinous bugs. These leaping hellions, for instance:
Is it just me or does the one on top, with its abhorrent insectoid features, somehow manage to look indignant at being photographed? (But, hell, if such glares were enough to detract me from snapping pictures of hideous creatures furiously engaged in an unholy act, my Tumblr page of fat, bearded men in their sixties in the bushes at San Onofre wouldn’t be getting so many hits, right?)
Where was I? Ah yes – walk across the lawn and these foul creatures fly up all around you in enormous numbers. I, and now you, can’t help but to find it amusing that in such a God-fearing part of the country, these locusts are busy procreating in anticipation for when the Creator orders up a new plague. (As though the never-ending profusion of stinkbugs He’s already sent wasn’t enough!)
Speaking of Him, what in God’s name is this abomination?
Don’t bother answering. No one knows. Apparently I’ve discovered a new species of freaky, disgusting bug with a tail nearly the length of its reptilian body that we must assume is razor sharp, stronger than steel, and can puncture flesh and bone to deliver a deadly toxin – for which there is no antidote – directly to the heart. I shall name it Musca colubrus daemonus ted parsnippus, or Ted’s Demon Serpent Fly. Why don’t one of you get started on the Wikipedia page for it for me?
Virginia doesn’t just have gigantic spiders, locusts and stinkbugs by the truckload and Ted’s Demon Serpent Flies™, oh heavens no, that would never be enough. Jesus. It also has those coronary-causing house centipedes.
From US Department of Agriculture Chief Entomologist Charles Lester Marlatt’s 1902 masterwork “Circular #48 – The House Centipede”:
Now you know why I stopped wearing women’s clothes.
And don’t even get me started on the horrifying monster locally known as the “bell hornet” or as it should be known, the “Hell Hornet.” And I’m capitalizing it to show it respect.
Once again – on my computer screen…? Life-size, folks. Life-freakin’-size!
Now I’ll say this: It’s unclear exactly what type of evil, stinging monster bedevils the good glade-people of Hill, Virginia because “bell hornet” is indeed a regional name for this winged horror – the few references to “bell hornet” I can find online seem to be from folks in this part of the state (which is kind of refreshing, right – that local colloquialisms still exist, right?). The above photo is actually of a European hornet, from a European website, taken in the proud country of Europe.
But everything I’ve read about these malevolent European giants dovetail (hornet-tail?) with what I was told as well as witnessed firsthand in Virginia – they’re enormous, they destroy apples right on the tree, their sting burns for days, they are active at night and attracted to light – and the ones I saw looked just like this!
The relaxing tranquility we were enjoying one evening at local hotspot Field View Tavern was shattered by the sudden and house-shaking pounding on a sliding patio door – a bell hornet looking for fresh victims. Disaster was thankfully averted before the glass gave out only when one of the proprietors managed to scare it off with a crossbow. But they knew the hornet would be back. Hopefully, they’ll again be ready for it.
I think we’ve cleansed our palate enough. Back to the spiders.
The lion’s share – or lion spider’s share, if such a spider exists, and I think at this point we can all presume it does exist and lives in Virginia – the lion spider’s share of enormous Virginia spiders will of course be found in the state’s copious fields and meadows, where they don’t bother building dainty little frou-frou webs but rather actively stalk their prey – insects, field mice, voles, woodchucks, livestock and, yes, in the cases where ranchers have developed a tenuous but symbiotic relationship with the ferocious arachnids, the occasional trespasser.
Don’t believe me? Well, then just try to step into that yonder meadow there.
I reckon you won’t make it past the barbed wire.
AS YOU KNOW, each fall the Parsnips head to the glades of Hill, Virginia for a few days of horrifying spider-peeping. We usually go in October to witness the herds of magnificent, nightmare-inducing Daddy-Long-Legs descending from the mountains for the coming winter. But Courtney is on a stupid field hockey team and has stupid field hockey games almost every weekend next month and so apparently now we’re supposed to rearrange our entire vacation schedule around the “needs” of our children. (This is exactly why I haven’t encouraged Jacob to join anything at school – I’m not making that mistake twice!)
So we missed out on the Daddies (thanks, Courtney), but by going early, we were there for the tail-end of their now summer-long Stinkbug Festival!
It started off just a few years ago as “Stinkbug Days” but as this adorably pungent and hardy invasive species has multiplied exponentially and adapted to Virginia’s climate, it was decided to extend the event all season long.
Look! Look! Way off in the distance, beyond that cluster of trees, you can see the festival’s famous stinkbug-shaped blimp!
The blimp takes folks up over the thick, black clouds of swarming stinkbugs to get a “stinkbug’s-eye view” of all the damage this mischievous little fellow has done to the local soybean crop, decimating the area’s economy. Adorable!
We followed the airship to the fairgrounds where we enjoyed stinkbug tea (actually just iced tea a few stinkbugs fell into), stinkbug chili-cheese fries (regular chili-cheese fries a handful of stinkbugs clumsily dive-bombed onto), stinkbug funnel cakes (apparently they got into the batter), and a local delicacy - fresh, raw stinkbugs (technically, a couple just flew into Jacob’s mouth when he yawned).
What a wonderful time! Even getting stranded at the top of the Ferris wheel for three hours in the scorching sun and steaming humidity – after a mega-cluster of stinkbugs, attracted by the heat of the engine that powers the ride, crawled into the motor and irreparably burned it out – couldn’t dampen our spirits!
Ah, memories to last a lifetime. (Nearly a week later and Courtney’s still pulling the little marmorated guys out of her hair.) But as delightfully malodorous the stinkbugs were, we were in town for the gross and enormous spiders.
Brother, we weren’t disappointed!
First thing you want to do when heading out on a Virginia spider safari is you want to rent a spinnehund from a local doggery. Don’t be fooled! Its small size belies its fierceness and bravery.
These animals have been specially bred to fearlessly run into Virginia’s vicious field spider burrows and roust them out. They’re quick, too – much faster than the spiders they go after – and this breed has, over generations, developed a tolerance for Virginia field spider venom, should an angry arachnid manage to get its disgusting, hairy pedipalps on him. What would instantly kill you or me only temporarily stuns the small but brave spinnehund.
This particular breed has been developed to also wrangle the more aggressive Virginia road spider. His coat helps him to blend into the pavement so the eight-legged bastard cannot see him as easily. Can you find our rent-a-dog in the photo above? Oh, look carefully, he’s there!
With our trusty spinnehund packed neatly away in my napsack (A misnomer, really – there’s no napping with gigantic and deadly Virginia spiders around every corner. In fact, once you come face-to-pedipalps with one of these ferocious and bloodthirsty creatures, you’ll likely never sleep again) we were ready to see some spiders! Big, nasty, disgusting spiders! And hoo boy, we did!
Tomorrow: Spider gallery! Oh yes – there will be pedipalps!
The Wacky Package for this one pretty much writes itself. “Nature’s Way” into “Against Nature,” the fruits and vegetables are now various organs, and so on. Topps, when might I expect my check?
A) Woodstock farting.
B) The folks at Iconix Brand Group and Peanuts Worldwide LLC high-fiving each other for this latest merchandising home run designed to keep the Peanuts characters “relevant” twelve years after the last original strip ran and the death of their creator (who somehow managed to draw a comic strip for half a century without resorting to toilet humor).
C) Charles Schulz rolling over in his grave.
SO the other day I was in danger of running out of gin and Tinactin so I had to run to the grocery store and stock up. And also pick up dinner for the kids – they’re always eating. I was going to get something healthy, like a frozen pizza, but once again, I was outvoted. Kids! What can you do, right?
So we went with the Little Debbie Zebra Cakes. (Fifth Sunday in a row – you’d think they’d be getting sick of them by now.)
Anyway, as we were leaving – and you’ll get a kick out of this part: some things never change – little Savannah spied the gumball machines (Remember those things?) and ran up to them shrieking as she does, using that high-pitched screech that she knows just goes through me! Dammit, Savannah!
And of course, you know what’s next:
“Daddy! Daddy! Can I have fifty cents for a tramp stamp? Pleeeeeease! Daddy, I want a tramp stamp! Pleeeeease?! It’s only fifty cents! Pleeeeeeeease, Daddy!”
Well, like you would be, I was disgusted. The girl is seven years old!
“What do I look like, an ATM? Use your babysitting money!”
Hey, at least she didn’t go for one of the things on either side, because we’ve taught her that Disney’s an evil corporation.
IT’S FUNNY how things work out sometimes. I was leaving the gym the other day and I came across this in the parking lot.
And as it turns out, I’d been thinking about changing my wireless service provider, and I’d also been looking for a new business opportunity to invest in.
Now if this guy sells Bomb Pops, too, I’ll be killing three birds with one stone.
WITH the Halloween season already upon us, can “Back to School” shopping be far behind?
Of course, Back to School season has already started, this second to last week of July, at your neighborhood Walmart. Actually, it probably started a few weeks ago, probably before even school was out, but despite what you think of me, I don’t go in Walmart but every few months, so how the hell would I know for sure?
Also, don’t you judge me! I don’t make a point of giving you the ol’ stink-eye for the places you frequent! ::cough cough clothing-optional yarn store cough::
The thing about Walmart and their big Back to School push (retail term) is that – hate them as we’re morally obligated to – they do have some really cheap deals on a lot of stuff.
Take for instance these notebooks!
What would you pay for one? No, come on – what would you pay? One subject, 70 sheets. Go ahead – tell me.
Well, you’re a fool then! You’re a fool for paying as much as you just said, because at Walmart, they sell these babies for just seventeen cents American!
No, in this case I’m not a filthy liar! Look! Look!
But the thing is, even if you’re a stupid kid still in school (ha ha, loser!), what the hell are you going to use these for? Doesn’t matter – for seventeen cents each, you’re going to be buying – or making Mommy buy – like eight. But the pages aren’t perforated so what good are they? You hand in some assignment on pages torn out of one of these notebooks with those spiral-bound-torn frilly edges, you’re going to piss off Mrs. Butler. (Hi Mrs. Butler! Remember me? I have a blog now!)
Above: An example of A+ level writing marred by D+ quality spiral-bound notebook paper. Don’t make the mistake I did – I nearly had to repeat 10th grade because of this!
Trust me, pal, you’re better off just handing in nothing and taking a zero for the assigment. (Beg and plead at the end of the semester – Mrs. Butler’s a total pushover.)
Also, do kids even hand in assignments on paper any more? It’s not that I think everything is handed in via email, it’s just that I have such a low opinion of anyone significantly younger than me that I presume even if kids today (Kids today…!) are assigned anything on paper, they just don’t bother to do it. Come on, we’ve all seen “Blackboard Jungle!” It featured a young Jamie Farr!
But whether you’re a stupid kid or someone older who’s no longer legally allowed to attend or go within 500 feet of high school like myself, you see these for 17¢ and you buy a few and then you stick them in your desk drawer at home and when next Back to School season comes around, you buy more and add them to the wad, not realizing you already had a bunch.
Now these things:
How much would you pay? Wrong sir! Wrong!
As it turns out, you’d only pay fifty cents! Fifty cents American is all!
But again, I ask: Composition books? Has anyone since about, what, 1920 actually used these for their named purpose? The pages are in there permanently. They’re not perforated, brother! They’re not even individually spirally bound. They’re double-leaf pages so if you somehow manage, like an idiot, to tear out page 1-2 cleanly, page 199-200 is now loose, too. Great.
As we further dumb down primary and secondary education – especially here in Los Angeles! – is there really a need for composition books? Correct me if I’m wrong, but they’re for compositions! Who’s composing anything in grade school, junior high (oh, excuse me, “middle school” – ooh la la!) or high school that’s going to be hand-written across 200 pages?!
So why are they still selling these things in the 21st century? Why don’t they sell colonial-era hornbooks in bulk while they’re at it, too?
And ink wells and Buster Brown hats and book straps!Why doesn’t Walmart sell those things too? Especially book straps – that’d piss off about a thousand annoying sellers over there on Etsy, heh heh!
Yet you and I, we go to Walmart during their Back to School event (industry term), and we poke around and find stuff we think we can use because it’s so cheap! Two glue sticks for a quarter?! We’ll take eighty!
And then what happens? After a month and a half, we’ve only used one and the other seventy-nine are dried up and completely inedible.
NO NO NO! Not that alien invasion! That one began a long time ago and – from what I’m seeing around Southern California – is nearly complete! You presumed I meant the invasion of our streams and rivers by the New Zealand Mud Snail, right?
No, I’m talking about the other, sinister alien invasion! Like from outer space is what I mean!
You know – the one where they come down to our planet, and secretly infiltrate our civilization while they begin to learn our customs, our ways…and our weaknesses.
Perhaps using some sort of money-ray…
…Perhaps using some sort of money-ray – just like that [see above] – they manage to bankroll enough dough-re-mi to establish a manufacturing concern so that they might interact with us on various levels of society, from the lowliest, filthiest, never-graduated-from-art-school janitor on to the greediest, laziest union assembly-line workers all the way up to the loftiest, highest-minded and wealthiest investors with MBAs from only the finest business schools – to find out how to defeat us.
Now these aliens, they don’t want to call too much attention to their new company, see, so they need a sort of seemingly benign, innocuous, non-descript product.
How about…why, how about a plastic garbage pail! Sure, a waste basket! Perfect!
Now for a name! And this is where they made their fatal mistake. For you see, these invaders have such contempt for you and me – the dominant species on planet Earth – that they couldn’t resist naming their company something condescending and insulting – so confident were they of the imminent destruction of mankind.
I can almost hear the CEO himself, Zoroxx, probably, laughing during a board meeting as he named the company! “Ah ha ha! The stupid people of earth have no idea! I will crush them all and also crumple them up like discarded pieces of paper and toss them asunder, like so many crumpled pieces of paper. Ha ha ha! Simple humans! Ah ha ha ha – hey, wait, that’s great! Let’s use that! Also, Maryanne, sweetheart, get me a latte.”
Thus the company was named!
And it would have happened, too, if it weren’t for a plucky little fella name of Ted - me! – who happened to see this in the grocery store last night and uncover their devious plot.
(For the record, all I did was uncover their devious plot. Someone else still has to actually stop them.)
And, geez, I only had to go to like eight freakin’ Pep Boys before I found it in stock!
I tell you, these fix-it tickets are a pain in the ass!
SO I WAS AT my local Big Lots the other day, searching for recently expired “limited edition” holiday-themed breakfast cereal.
I wasn’t disappointed!
By the way, like you, I detest this current version of Cap’n Crunch. And I say this with a certain amount of trepidation, because there’s some graphic artist out there who drew this – and by the way can draw way better than I ever could – and he (or she!) is just doing his (or her!) job and probably is merely giving the Quaker people what they want.
Not literally the Quaker people – that is, not the religious sect – but “the Quaker people” meaning the people at Quaker Oats, itself a division of PepsiCo since 2001. But who’s to say the people at Quaker Oats / PepsiCo aren’t themselves of the Quaker faith? Who’s to say?
Also, did I ever tell you how I used to be a delivery boy for PepsiCo? It’s true! Well, not technically PepsiCo, but for a company that exclusively did graphics work for PepsiCo’s in-house art department. Oh, it was years ago.
There! Purchase, New York! I was a strapping young man, the summer after graduating high school and—-
Oh forget it.
Anyway, my point was that I hate how Cap’n Crunch looks now, and now, so do you.
His head and nose is the same size and shape of the hideous 70s-80s-90s version of Fred Flintstone. Why can’t they go back to the more stylized, original, 60s, Jay Ward Studio design? Of Cap’n Crunch, not Fred Flintstone! Nobody likes a smartass.
It’s not like there’s nobody around who could draw the Cap’n like that. I mean, Flickr is full of you people who delight in drawing vintage characters the way they’re supposed to be drawn and also better than me. So hop to it! Get those cocktail napkins and Prismacolors out! Get to work! Chop-chop!
And you guys at PepsiCo-slash-Quaker Oats! You keep doing your silly Pepsi “Throwback” vintage cans and your retro cereal boxes – well, for God’s sake, get your heads out of your asses and okay a non-limited edition redesign for the Cap’n Crunch box!
I can’t believe I have to be the one - yet again! – to state the obvious! My God, you PepsiCo people and you Flickr folks – you’re perfect for each other! Everyone sees it but you two! Everyone! The way you’re always teasing each other whenever we all go out. And you always manage to sit next to each other when we go to the movies. Jeez, it’s so obvious you’re into one another! What the hell is it going to take to get you two together?
Wait, wait. There was something else I was working towards here…
Oh, yes – went to Big Lots, found the expired cereal that’s been sitting there since last year, continued poking around, saw these things:
So just how lazy is your cat that you’re buying these?! Cats are the one self-cleaning pet that there is!
“Between Bath” wipes?! Who bathes a cat? If I was stupid enough to try to get Mr. Whiskers anywhere near the tub, it’d be off to the emergency room for stitches and tetanus shots for me, brother!
Hell, I can’t imagine even trying to wipe him down with what amounts to be a Wet-Nap without putting on my chain mail shirt, motocross helmet and black rubber welding gloves. (And with my luck, then Debbie walks in and wonders why I’m wearing the outfit when it’s not even Saturday night and the kids aren’t at her mother’s.)
And “great for pets on the go”…?! On the go where? Who brings a cat anywhere? Cats aren’t “on the go.” They’re the “stay-behind” pet! They’re the Official Stay-Behind Pet of the 2012 Summer Olympics! They’re everywhere they want to be, which is at home! “Pets on the go…!” Sheesh.
So, by abruptly switching gears and completely changing the subject halfway through, making obscure cartoon references that only a handful of people will get, constructing elaborate and abstract analogies that make sense to even fewer readers, and going on for way too long, that’s how I single-handedly blew out the transmission of a blog-post heading down the internet at 80 miles an hour at three in the morning and managed to lose most of my, what, six regular readers.
“Oh Commander, that’s amazing!”