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Rodent Code Red—Could It Be Karma?

September 7, 2017

One of my jobs at CUE Haven is pest control, which entails stocking poison bait stations and maintaining traps to keep invasive possums, weasels and rats from killing both our plantings and the native birds we are trying to bring back.  Just last week I gleefully updated our running totals of pests caught and a few days ago gave a presentation to some high school students on the benefits of whacking introduced baddies.

Somewhere in the rat world, they decided it was time to extract a little vengeance.

As a result of this merciless campaign, among other things, we’ve learned what dead rat smells like and that’s why I was alarmed when we got home the other day and my wife said, “Do you smell a dead rat?”

“Indeed I do,” I responded.

I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about our living conditions, but this has happened before.  We have lots of bush around the house and a crawl space underneath and every couple of years we get a whiff of something that’s not quite right but at the same time not horrendous.  I’ve been able to deal with it by spraying some stuff a guy gave me that he claims is used to deodorize cars and hotel rooms that have been smoked in and crime scenes.  And it’s always worked.

Not this time, however.  The stench just got stronger and it seemed to be coming from everywhere.  I kept spritzing until the bottle ran dry and the look on my face was probably how Bruce Willis would have looked if he’d ever run out of bullets in Die Hard.  He probably would have said something similar to my utterances, too.

There was only one thing to do.  Actually two–a sane person would have called in professional help.  But I decided it was time to gird my loins and go down into the crawl space to see if I could find the source of the problem and (the horror) deal with it.

Over three days, I went down twice but was unable to find anything—it didn’t even smell down there.  But the odor was becoming localized in the downstairs bathroom which shares two walls with the crawl space.  That spawned a new theory of where the creature was and a plan for extraction.

Because I didn’t have one of these

I went to plan B, the homemade version

It was hard for my wife to get a clear picture because she was laughing too hard to hold the camera steady.  But she wasn’t the one who was going into the hole!  I, for one, wasn’t laughing.

Even with the greater confidence that my protective gear afforded, I was unable to see any evidence of a rodent incursion.  The insulation was intact, nothing was chewed or disturbed and there were no body parts in evidence.

I gave up the search, but we were truly getting alarmed at the quality and intensity of the smell.  I had inspected every inch of the bathroom where the scent was the strongest but found no possible source.  For some reason it seemed strongest in the shower.  There was no way it could be coming from the drainpipe.  I’d even knelt down and checked.  I looked around for a possible source and that’s when I saw the recessed light fixture.  Please, no!

Getting up on a ladder confirmed my suspicions and my worst fear.  These recessed lights sit in the ceiling cavity.  What if the rat had been walking along and got zapped?  Would it catch on fire?  I was forced to act and the only thing to do was to pull the fixture out of the ceiling.  But what if the rat fell out when I did that?  With maggots on it? There wasn’t enough digitalis in the Southern Hemisphere to bring me back from that experience!

Ascending the ladder and making sure I wasn’t positioned directly underneath,  I took out the light bulb.  I tugged at the fixture while holding a bucket underneath.  The fixture slid out easily and there was nothing there!

Except a lot more stink!

I examined the cavity with a flashlight and didn’t see anything.  I wasn’t sure if I was happy about that or not.  Emboldened by not having had a decomposing rat flop out of the ceiling I took a closer look.  I saw something that looked like a wire where no wires were supposed to be.  Using some kitchen tongs that will never be used again I gave it a tug.


Of course, the thing didn’t have the decency to pull out easily.  Which somehow made it even scarier.  How could it have gotten wedged between the light bracket and the insulation?  Shouldn’t it have shrunk?

My new primal fear became having the thing come flying out at me when I finally dislodged it, but after a bit of breathless (literally) work, it plopped obligingly into the bucket.

Open windows and a lot of incense are getting things back to normal odor wise.  My blood pressure will take a little longer!

Some Ado About Something!

April 2, 2017

It may sound like heresy, but I think that some of the best live theater I’ve ever seen has been in Auckland.  I think it’s a combination of the English tradition combined with Polynesian humor and creativity combined with a willingness to take chances and be innovative.

All that continued last night at the Pop Up Globe where we saw Much Ado About Nothing.

Let me answer your first question, which I’m sure is “What is the Pop Up Globe.”  It’s a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre made of metal and wood scaffolding with corrugated iron walls.  They call it “the world’s first full scale temporary working replica of the second Globe.”  The term pop up comes from the fact that it can be taken down, moved and reassembled.  Last season it was downtown but this year it’s moved out to the suburbs where there’s more room.  And free parking!

We got to the theater and had a walk around.  It really does look like the Globe Theater.

And of course, it wouldn’t be the Globe Theatre without . . .

This year they are doing Henry V, Othello, As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing.   The company includes some well known NZ actors and the entire company performs in all of the plays.

The atmosphere was more like a rock concert than a Shakespeare play—the venue and the theatre helped to create a party atmosphere and the audience was definitely there to have fun.  The demographic was definitely not what we are used to when we go to the more mainstream theatre.  For once we were above the average age of the audience!

To be honest, the venue is suboptimal for sound and viewing.  But that didn’t matter.  It was more about the event.

To add to the fun, when local NZ companies do Shakespeare, they take huge liberties.  One time we saw an outdoor Macbeth in which the final sword fight took place in the seats among the audience.  Another time we saw a Taming of the Shrew which started outside in a field.  A pickup truck drove up hauling a trailer with a boxing ring.  Kate’s suitors all took her on in the ring and she knocked them all out until Petruchio showed up in a 60s surfmobile.  The play then went inside, but for the wedding scene moved into an auditorium and the audience were the wedding guests with the cast circulating among us.

It was no different for Much Ado About Nothing.  Ancient Messina became Samoa and the costumes were sort of a mix of Samoan and Renaissance.  For the wedding scene at the end they did this wild Polynesian dance complete with fireworks—which of course got everyone remembering that the first Globe theatre burned down because of sparks from cannon fire!

The character Dogberry, who is the constable, for some reason is portrayed as an airport customs officer with a (real) sniffer dog.  (For most of the play, the dog is “lost” and spends its time wandering among the groundlings getting petted.)  Anyway, at the beginning of the play, Dogberry pretends to confiscate a cell phone off someone in the audience and starts on what sounds like the usual make sure your cell phone is off reminder.  Instead he encourages everyone to leave their phones on to take pictures but to make sure they are on silent.  Then he says if you don’t put it on silent this is what will happen and throws the phone to the dog who destroys it.

Here are some of the authorized pictures I took.

This is the view from our seats—you can see the scaffolding the theater is built with.  And yes, they used all of the doors and windows and top balcony on the stage in the course of the performance.

This is the scene where Benedik is supposed to be hiding in the arbor and overhears the guys talking about Beatrice.  He’s really hanging from a swing which came down from above and which he has to tell the operator when to raise and lower it.  For some reason, Friar Francis is playing the saxophone to the right.

This is the final scene with the wedding dance. The fireworks are just starting on the sides of the balcony.

I’m sure some Shakespeare purists were offended but it was a lot of fun.  They use the same cast for all of the plays and it will be interesting to see how they do the history and tragedy plays because the comedy we saw was so irreverent.  There were references to contemporary events, digressions as the actors addressed the audience or consulted the crew on points of staging and of course a lot of audience interaction.

We took our nephews, ages 14 and 16.  Before we went the younger one asked “It is a comedy comedy or a Shakespeare comedy?” They both had a really good time and absolutely loved it and now actually want to read the actual play and see more live theatre.  Mission accomplished!

Congratulations and best wishes to the Pop Up Globe company for their rich addition to Auckland’s artistic life—a great way to get people interested in Shakespeare and live theatre!

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