Don’t look a stink bug in the mouth


The point is moot.

Last week, I posted online an open letter to October that prompted a brief exchange of opinions on whether to call a potential World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles the “Beltway” or “Parkway” series.

One reader (the only one, for all I know) suggested I should have called it the “Parkway” series.  She apparently took the view of those who say “Parkway” makes more sense because the Baltimore-Washington Parkway actually connects the two cities, while the two beltways don’t have much, if anything, to do with each other.

The debate over what to call such a series was fun while it lasted, but it hardly matters now. The Nationals have been knocked out of Major League Baseball’s postseason, leaving me to conclude once again that October is a capricious month.

While I still look forward to the cooler temperatures and the browns, reds, yellows and golds of autumn, October has left my 16-year-old son and me without a dog in the MLB hunt.

It has also brought the enemy back to the gates.

Stink bugs.

I found one hanging around my front door last week. And since then, a few have broken through my defenses and have attempted to set up camp inside my once tranquil home.

I like to think of myself as a mild-mannered sort of fellow, but stink bugs bring out The Terminator in me. They are to me what squirrels are to our dog Rodney, something to be mercilessly chased out of our back yard.

But since my bark is not quite as startling as Rodney’s and since my wife would likely object if I armed myself with a shotgun like Arnold Schwarzenegger does in the movies, I have to make do with a spray bottle filled with soapy water. A spray bottle may not have the same kick as a shotgun, but at least it’s not as messy.

Our exterminator (as opposed to Schwarzenegger’s Terminator) told me a few years ago that soapy water is about as good as anything else at getting rid of stink bugs. It’s supposed to clog up the bug’s pores and suffocate them.

Once doused, I generally toss their little stink bug carcasses outside or flush them down the toilet, but after what a friend recently suggested, discarding them so carelessly seems wasteful.

He said I should throw them in a frying pan and eat them as a snack as people do in other parts of the world. Apparently, they “taste like bubble gum.”

Bubble gum?

I didn’t need to know that.

But come to think of it, maybe harvesting stink bugs makes more sense than flushing them.

I’m told they are full of protein. I could even use them to add an unusual flavor to the pot of chili I’m thinking of whipping up this weekend. And better yet, I could save some money on snacks for our always hungry son.

He probably won’t notice, anyway. He’s still distracted by baseball’s postseason.

On stink bugs and baseball: An open letter to October


Dear October,

I just thought you should know that our relationship is fraying.

If not for Major League Baseball’s postseason, I worry you’d leave me with nothing to look forward to but a cough I can’t shake, deer to dodge on the commute and, worst of all, stink bugs.

Don’t get me wrong, October. I still adore the cooler temperatures you bring. I love turning off the AC and throwing open the windows. You’re a welcome change from the heat and humidity of a West Virginia summer.

And, the browns, reds, yellows and golds of the season you usher in are simply spectacular. You make me thankful I live where the trees show their colors in such awe-inspiring fashion.

But the change of seasons isn’t enough anymore.

October, you’re in danger of becoming too much trouble.

My opinion of you began changing with the snowstorm you brought in 2011. My front yard still carries the scars, or more to the point, the stumps.

We used to have four gorgeous Bradford Pear trees. They never failed to brighten my day when they bloomed in the spring. But the storm you sent spelled disaster for trees that were still sporting leaves. Two of our Bradfords couldn’t handle the pressure and came crashing down.

I got to know my chainsaw pretty well that year.

Thanks October for leaving me paranoid about a similar storm knocking down our remaining Bradfords.

And, thanks for leaving me constantly clearing my throat.

I know September started it, but you’ve kept the air around me stoked with allergens. They are driving my mucous membranes crazy.

Thanks October for the post-nasal drip. I can’t stop coughing.

And, thanks for encouraging the deer to cross my path during my commute. If they were any more active, I’d have to drive a tank just to make it safely to the office.

And, thanks October for bringing one of my other enemies back to the gates of my home.

Stink bugs.

I found one hanging around my front door this week. Upon further inspection, I discovered he brought along some of his buddies.

You should know, October, that when it comes to stink bugs, I have the mindset of a Dalek – those murderous, plunger wielding tin cups who vex Doctor Who on the venerable science fiction TV series. They are intent on ANNIHILATING everything that stands in their way.

I’d like to annihilate stink bugs, but they seem impervious.

October, I’d appreciate it if you stopped bringing them back to my house each fall.

In fact, October, if it wasn’t for baseball, I’d spurn you.

But you’re redeeming yourself. You’ve brought the tantalizing potential for a Beltway World Series.

So I’ll make you a deal, October.

Grant my wish. Put the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. In return, I’ll gladly live with your faults.

In fact, I’ll never say another bad word about you.

Just please, do something about those stink bugs while you’re at it. They’re not helping your reputation.

I took some time to consider a “curious” question this week


Despite the dishes that needed to cleaned and put away, the kitchen floor that needed to be mopped, the laundry that needed to be dried and folded, the carpets that needed to be vacuumed and the bathrooms that needed to be made presentable in case the neighbors showed up, I actually took a few hours for myself this week.

In fact, I even put off a trip to the grocery store, opting instead to have a pizza delivered to satisfy our teenage son’s bottomless stomach just so l could be totally free to concentrate on the really big question of the day – is Curious George a monkey or an ape?

I hesitate to say which side of the debate I come down on. After all, I’m a journalist. We’re supposed to keep our opinions on issues of public importance to ourselves. It has to do with maintaining journalistic credibility, a cornerstone of the profession.

For example, if I were free to join a group dedicated to convincing others that George is an ape because he has no tail, would you trust me to fairly represent the arguments of those who accept him as a monkey because that’s how he’s referred to in the books?

Whether Curious George is an ape or a monkey is probably a question best left to primate experts, or better yet, “The Man in the Yellow Hat.” But that didn’t stop the debate from spilling over into my Facebook feed, giving me an excuse (not that I necessarily need one) to overlook household chores.

I welcomed the respite. That’s because my wife and I seem to have no down time. Take a typical week at our house. We not only toil at our jobs, but we also make sure the kids get to school on time, and that they go to marching band practice, theater and choir rehearsals, girl scouts, dance classes, piano lessons, orthodontist appointments and football games.

All four of us seem to go in all sorts of directions at once and I haven’t even mentioned our pets.

Our cat Skitty and dog Rodney had their annual veterinarian appointments this week. They each suffered various indignities, the major one involving Skitty and her Pet Taxi, the carrier we use to transport her.  I spent way too much time trying to trick her into getting into it. Eventually, I lost patience and had to risk her claws by simply stuffing her inside it. She meowed in protest the whole way to the vet’s office and back.

At least I didn’t have to cram Rodney into one of those things. Dogs are generally too big to carry around like a piece of luggage.

In my mind, those two trips to the vet plus all our other obligations equaled a break when I found myself alone this week.

The only thing is, I’m not sure what I’m going to tell my wife when she asks why I haven’t gotten the hammer and drill out to install the new shelves our daughter wants mounted on the wall above her dresser.

“Well, you see honey. There was this thing about Curious George on Facebook ….”

Even “The Man in the Yellow Hat” wouldn’t buy that.