Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Florida Wood Rat Crisis!

Many of us have excess time on our hands these days and some of us are even putting it to good use doing all kinds of things. These things would include picking up musical instruments, playing them in some cases, trying to buy paint (assuming you don’t live in the State of Michigan), painting things, taking note of the fact that zoo animals are now fornicating at an alarming rate because nobody is gawking at them, and last but not least, figuring out that “Social Distancing” is just a pretentious way of saying “Don’t get too close to other people.”

After all, you could be right beside someone but remain mute and/or generally uncommunicative. To me, that would be an example of being socially distant but still physically proximate. Meanwhile you would remain square in the genetically-modified nano-gunsights of any stray viruses that might happen to be wafting your way from the other person. If the viruses had genetically-modified nano-gunsights, that is.

Basically, I don’t think Social Distancing is a very precise name for a behavioural constraint.

Socially distanced couple immediately after a fight over toilet paper. (She won.)

I thought maybe I was the only one who had a Social Distancing bone stuck in my throat until I saw this poster put out by the Department Of Thinking Up Things You Can Do With A Hockey Stick. Or maybe it was from the Government Of Alberta. Same thing.

Anyways, apparently somebody else had second thoughts-or even first thoughts-about Social Distancing and decided to do something about it. Just in case you thought the following poster was an example of the increasing problem we’re having with Fake Posters, here is the link:

And here is the poster:

Plus, if they cough or sneeze you can also whack them with the hockey stick

Yes!! Thank you Government of Alberta! Long live clarity of written speech.

Meanwhile, when you’re not brandishing your hockey stick, one of the other things you could be doing with your time is learning about the plight of the beleagured Key Largo Wood Rat. (Key Largo is in South Florida, doing its level (!) best to stay above the water level.)

By the way, I just want you to know that “Florida Wood Rat Crisis!” can be rearranged into the following cryptic exclamation:

“Orc dirt! I do owl safaris”

What does that even mean? I have no idea. Really. It was the best thing I could come up with. And it took me like two hours. A LOT like two hours in fact. One hundred and twenty minutes to be exact. If you can come up with something less incoherent in under two hours let me know. I’ll send you an autographed hockey stick.

Hockey stick signed by noted virologist and pro athlete Gordie “Monkeypox” Howe

The animals we’re going to be concerned with for the rest of this discussion fall into the general category of “critters” according to my wife’s taxonomy. These critters are pack rats that inhabit a large swath of the United States as far west as Colorado and as far south as large parts of Cuba including Miami.

The Key Largo Wood Rats-which I happen to think is actually a pretty excellent name for an NHL hockety team- earn their name mostly because they live in Key Largo, but also because these rats are known for building startlingly large homes. (Not unlike retired NHL hockey players!) And everyone knows that “even the wildlife in Florida want enormous homes”.

abandoned Florida Wood Rat den
Example of an enormous abandoned Key Largo Wood Rat lair

Seriously, these industrious little 15-inch long creatures construct massive forest dens by dragging countless sticks and full-on branches for yards through the thick underbrush. These dens can be up to 4 feet high and 6 to 8 feet in diameter and are often festooned to taste with things like shells, discarded Sharpie caps, Eucalyptus Floral Semi-Sheer Rod Pocket Curtain Panels, frayed bungee cords and old videotape copies of the movie “Willard”. So really, we’re talking about a creature that is kind of like a little land beaver who has picked up the decorating skills of an octopus-or maybe Martha Stewart. Or both.

Conical Wood Rat den
Newly-constructed Florida Wood Rat house awaiting festooning by industrious occupant

Overall though, despite their flair for decorating, the Wood Rats along Key Largo have been in decline due to pressure from agriculture and construction of things like missile silos and luxury resorts. Predation from snakes, raccoons, Shoebill Cranes, Komodo Dragons, warthogs and a huge raving horde of feral cats hasn’t helped.

The KLWRs don’t make it any easier for themselves either. Take another look at that large cone-shaped pile of sticks and branches in the photo above. That is a lot of sticks and branches. When the rats construct their houses, they make a TON of noise dragging all that stuff through the forest in the middle of the night. They might as well strap small magnesium flares to their heads and lay down on dinner plates, as far as the ravenous feral cats are concerned.

There have been efforts to curtail the cats by catching them, sterilizing them, lopping off the tops of their left ears to mark them and then releasing them back into the wilds of the local luxury resorts. This seemed to work until the cats banded together and started lopping off the tips of the left ears of their unsterilized companions. The whole program ground to a halt. Never underestimate the intelligence of feral cats.

But there’s one thing to remember about Key Largo. It’s only about a half-mile wide. Sooner or later people will probably start trying to jump over it with Jet Skis.

I feel like this guy is NOT going to make it

Not all of them will be related to Evel Knieval. (For those of you who weren’t around in the 1970’s, Evel Knieval was a motorcycle stunt jumper.) Therefore, Key Largo may soon be littered with the hulls of defunct Jet Skis and researchers have already proved that the wood rats will happily move into empty Jet Ski hulls. (I’m not making this up.) Then the rats can rest safely and happily in their new homes and stop lying down on metaphorical dinner plates with small metaphorical magnesium flares strapped to their heads every night.

So there’s always hope.

Just ask Evel Knieval.

Evel Knieval courageously attempting to pilot his specially-engineered rocket motorcycle “Monkeypox” across the Snake River Gorge
Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

There and Back Again (With Apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien)

I initially titled this post:

There And Back Again: In Which I Leave Calgary at 6 AM One Tuesday Morning, Fly To Miami And Return To Calgary 30 Hours Later Carrying Little or No Luggage and Committing No Felonies That I Know Of, In Case You Were Wondering

But I shortened it.

This whole business started back in 1993, when I was a Family Doctor in Emo, Ontario. We Emo-ites had our choice of two largish newspapers: The Winnipeg Free Press and The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal.  I liked the Free Press, as it carried Dave Barry’s hilarious weekly humor column, entitled: Dave Barry.  Here’s a link to one of his oldies, published around the time I was in Emo: Tarts Afire.  Mr. Barry is a man who unquestionably knows how to have a good time with everyday household objects including small appliances.  For this, I commend him.

I was doing a bit of humor writing back then, and eventually sent Dave some material.  In the fullness of time, he was kind enough to send me a postcard, which I keep in a temperature- and humidity-controlled vault, next to my cigars.



After twenty-two years, it’s not that legible, but if you peer at it closely, you still can’t read it. Maybe it’s due to the special lamination process I put it through-the same process used to preserve priceless documents like the original edition of the Kama Sutra, and Santa’s pilot’s license.  Anyway, it says:

Dear George:

They don’t actually let you near patients do they?

With Alarm,

Dave Barry MD.

We now fast forward to June 2015 when I started writing these columns.  I sent a few of them to Dave earlier this year, and once again he kindly sent me another postcard:


Inexplicably, in late August I was seized by a powerful urge to shake Dave’s hand before I died (or before he did).  And as fate would decree, it turned out that he was still alive, and was about to embark on a tour to promote his new book: “Best. State. Ever. A Florida Man Defends His Homeland”.  (I feel like maybe that last period should have gone inside the quotation marks but I’ll leave it alone for now.)

The first stop on the tour was Tuesday, Sept 6 at the stately (and old) Coral Gables Congregational Church, coincidentally located in Coral Gables, a city just south of Downtown Miami.


Next thing you know it’s 4 AM, Tuesday September 6, 2016 (a banner day!) and I’m headed to the Calgary airport to catch a plane to Dallas or maybe it’s Houston, followed by another flight from there to Miami.

4:00 AM I leave my house.

6:00 AM: U.S. Customs, Calgary International Airport.  The Customs Officer looks askance at me, as I have no luggage, and I’m basically making an assault run to Miami.  But he actually knows who Dave Barry is.  We become friends.

5:00 PM: I land in Miami. (I came through either Dallas, or Houston; I forget which.) I check into my hotel room, which is conveniently located on the airport departure level.  Well, the front desk is, anyway.  The book-signing begins at 7:30 PM, so  I have lots of time.  I pace around  my hotel room for a while, then grab a bite to eat.

6:00 PM: I hail a cab. The driver seems uncertain about the current location of Coral Gables let alone the church.  I start to squirm.  He mutters something which sounds like “Lajeune”.  I wonder if that’s his wife’s name, a French epithet, the name of a street, or what. He appears to set out on a northerly vector, but soon we turn south. I stop squirming.  It starts to rain.

6:15 PM: We are still heading south. I notice that we are on Le Jeune Rd. I take comfort in this.  Then the driver asks me how much farther it is to the church.  I gently remind him that his part in this is to know where he’s going and my part is to pay him for this knowledge.  I suggest he call his dispatcher. I whip out my smart phone to look at a map.  He whips out a small object which appears to have waxed string spooling out from it and stretching back north the way we’ve come.  It’s raining harder now.

6:30 PM: I reach the conclusion we should have hung a right about 4 blocks ago.  My driver has come to the same conclusion after a lengthy conversation with his dispatcher, via what I now realize is a tin-can phone.  We turn around and head north.  He apologizes and explains that he never comes to the airport, and does all his driving over at the beach.  That being the case, I’m tempted to ask him what in the heck he was doing picking up fares at the airport instead of the beach, but I refrain.

6:30-6:45 PM: We are heading the right way but are encountering a lot of complicated traffic circles. I’m squirming again, and it’s still raining.

6:46 PM: I point out the church to the driver, as he is about to go past it.  A bunch of people are filing in a door at the side of the building.  I take encouragement from this.  By the time I pay the driver and exit the cab, they have all disappeared.  Undaunted, I press on around the building, ignoring  numerous paper signs bearing arrows on them.  Above the arrows, the words “Books and Books” are printed.  Books and Books is the bookstore sponsoring the event.  I know this but have somehow blocked it out of my conscious mind.

6:51 PM: I find myself in an open courtyard within the confines of the church.  It’s still raining.  I still have oodles of time.  I see a guy on the opposite side of the courtyard, pacing around and having a smoke.  I go up to him and ask him where the event is.  He points me to a door leading back into one side of the courtyard.  He seems to have a bit of a hunted look in his eye.

6:52 PM: I find myself outside a small room, after navigating many twists and turns.  I go in the room.  People are drinking coffee and eating cookies at a side table.  A cheerful woman with a nametag shakes my hand and says her name is Sandy.  Or maybe it’s Phyllis.  I tell her my name.  I look around.  The room seems very small.  In a quavery voice, I say to cheerful Sandy/Phyllis, “Is this the Dave Barry event?”  She cheerfully informs me that actually, it’s an AA meeting.  My heart leaps!  This could only have happened to me if I’m close enough to the man himself, to feel the reality-warping effect of the Barryon Rays he emits.  I leave the small room.

6:53-6:55 PM: I make my way back the way I came, this time paying much more attention to those signs I saw on the way in.  I follow a rivulet of people who have three things in common: they’re older than I; they all have way better tans then I do; they look rich. I gaze furtively at my battered Converse sneakers, which coincidentally happen to be on my feet, and press on.

6:59 PM: Oh Happy Day! I am in line to pick up my pre-ordered copy of: Best.State.Ever.

7:00 PM: I am seated next to the centre aisle, in the church itself.  I squirm a bit more. I find out that the people beside me have relatives in Northern Alberta.


7:30 PM: Dave appears and starts talking.  Alleleuia indeed!

The theme of the talk was all the weird stuff that happens in Florida, through no fault of native Floridians, and actually due to so many weird people moving to Florida every day.  Dave got off to a good start, regaling us with the story of a woman who crashed her car in March 2010 whilst en route to the Keys to visit her boyfriend, accompanied by, of all people, her ex-husband.  Surprisingly, she ran (!) into trouble because she was attempting to spruce up her “personal area”, as Dave put it, by giving it a trim.

Where are all the self-driving cars when you need one?

Anyway, it’s all here: Woman crashes car while shaving bikini area

Dave then went on to talk about some of Florida’s old-time tourist attractions starting with a sort of Grecian Sponge Temple named Spongeorama.  (Spongeorama is a Greek outburst which means:  there are a shit-ton of different kinds of sponges in  here!)  He then moved on to walk us through the Weeki Watchee Springs Mermaid Show.  I actually went there when I was three years old, and I still remember the place; I would recognize that manatee anywhere.  In the poster below and right, the manatee is in the centre of the group.



Dave was just starting into telling us about his  stay in The Villages of Geriatric Line-Dancing , when I interrupted him and asked him a question:

ME: “Dave, did all this take place before, or after, the invention of the cordless electric razor?”

The room went quiet, and I think he sort of squinted at me with a puzzled expression.

ME AGAIN: “You know, per your anecdote about the woman who had to tend to her personal area, as you put it, whilst driving.”

DAVE: “Ohhh.  Are you still stuck on that?”

ME: “Yeah, I just can’t seem to move past it.”

DAVE: “I can’t wait to find out what you’re thinking about Spongeorama.”

That exchange drew lots of laughs.  What can I say?  I wanted him to remember me.  I didn’t come all the way to Miami just to lay up.  And I don’t even golf.  (But I love that movie Tin Cup, starring Elias Koteas and Nia Vardalos.  Or maybe it was Kevin Costner and Rene Russo.  I forget.)

All too soon, the talk was over, and we were in line to get our books signed, shake Dave’s hand, and get on with our lives.  When it was my turn, I told him “I’m the guy who flew 3000 miles down here from Calgary, in Canada, for this.”

“Cal-gah-ree  huh,” he said, seeming a tad bemused.  I think I was probably about the 300th person in the line, so I can’t blame him for being slightly shell-shocked at that point in the evening.  I forget what we else we said.  Maybe something about the 1994 postcard.  But we laughed, shook hands, and a nice woman ahead of me took some pictures.  Dave is wearing the blue shirt, and I am wearing Converse (not shown).  Those are his glasses.


9:30 PM: I have the good sense to walk one block to a famous Miami fixture, The Biltmore Hotel Miami Coral Gables, to hail a cab. The driver confides to me in a conspiratorial tone that most cabbies don’t know their way around the city.

9:30-9:49 PM:  I ponder this new piece of information during my short ride back to the hotel.

9:50 PM: I arrive back at the hotel.  Eventually I go to bed.

6:00 AM Wednesday: I’m on a plane and headed for Calgary, via Dallas, or maybe Houston.  I can’t remember.  It’s been an eventful 30 hours, with lots of take-offs and landings, just to get a book signed.

12:30 PM Wednesday: I’m back in Calgary and back on my treadmill.  Nobody even knew I was gone.

Well, that’s one more thing off my bucket list and one more thing on my reading list.

Best.State.Ever. signed and delivered.JPG