Grizzly bears

Have a Mint

Have a Mint

When Michael and I moved out of the Brookline doghouse we found a rental apartment in a rundown tenement in Summerville, just over the town line from Cambridge. Local snobs not living there called it “Slummerville,” and our apartment was a pure monument to that truth. Housing quality diminished in direct proportion to rental pricing as one moved away from the trendy neighborhoods near Harvard and entered the working-class suburbs of Boston. It wasn’t that we wanted to live there. It was because we were on parental budgets that forced us to make do.

The place must have been made for midgets because every room in the apartment was about three fourths what would be considered normal. This included the height of the ceilings, all of which fostered a perpetual sense of claustrophobic containment. It gave new meaning to the terms ‘kitchenette’ or ‘dinette,’ with the entire layout being hardly big enough for one person let alone two. The interior was also so dark that the only plants we could hang in our windows that would remotely stand a chance to survive were mushrooms. Add in no air conditioning and the only way to stay cool was to go half-naked.

When my father saw it for the first and last time on his visit for my medical school graduation he was appalled.

  • I just can’t understand why you had to pick a place like this to live in.

What could I say? I had succeeded in coming in under a budget he had based on a 1941 rental pro forma.

Once again, like Big Funk, our décor was dismal and the furniture third or fourth hand. Then not being exactly the kind of place that fostered a keen desire to design or create a better interior in the first place, it was more like the kind of place that made one abandon all hope. The apartment did nothing to help our social lives either, as it was so embarrassing, we never brought dates home. The exception was the doped up Chinese girl, who was oblivious to her surroundings and barely knew if it was day or night anyway.


Myself and dog lover Bob― over for a visit, a drink and a spliff


The landlord/owners were an elderly Irish couple, Alice and Joe, who no longer had any desire, much less even the physical or mental capacities required to maintain the place. They could barely remember when it was time to collect the rent; or then tried to collect it twice when they forgot they already had. But what difference did it really make in the grand scheme of things? It was our last year of Medical School and there was finally a light at the end of the educational tunnel. Pretty soon we would be independent; starting to make lots of real money and would no longer have to live like lepers in a cold cellar.

We used an old packing trunk for a coffee table, covered it with a paisley print cloth, and in the middle of it had placed a small glass bowl filled with some gallstones that Michael had procured after a surgical case. Apparently, it was one of the worst gall bladder cases on record with the diseased sack containing at least twenty yellow-orange multifaceted perfectly smooth lustrous stones that looked like extra-large driveway pebbles.

In a fit of perverse and bored fun we had attached a little sign on the bowl that read: 

Fine Mint Candy. Have one!



Because of our decadently embarrassing dwelling we rarely if ever had any real guests over anyway and forgot about the inside joke of the gallstone candy dish. The dish had simply blended invisibly into the rest of the sordid background where it had become a fixture. We had so forgotten about it that we were paying virtually no attention to it the night my brother happened to visit, got very drunk, stoned on pot, and then got literally stoned as he began to chomp on the little yellow mints.

He had already consumed about three of them and was chewing on his chalky fourth before we realized it, then told him what they really were. Being four sheets to the wind and nearly in his cups, the only response he could mumble was:

  • God. No wonder these things are chewy and tasteless. I thought maybe you guys left the candy out so long that it got stale.

It wasn’t until the next day when he finally sobered up that the full realization of what he had done hit home, which made him sick and nauseated in retrospect.

  • Shit, I can’t believe you guys let me eat somebody’s gallstones.
  • Better than some other nasty things you can put in your mouth in a state of abject drunken waste, my brother.

Actually, in some primitive native cultures it is believed that if a man consumes pieces of desiccated grizzly bear gall bladders, he can prevent sexual impotency, or if already impotent, reverse the curse. Like some other men I have known, I guess these natives may have thought of their bear enhanced erections as somehow becoming ferocious wild beasts on the prowl for fresh meat.

But trust me―the last thing my brother got from his little debauched snack was a nice big hard on. Toward the end of our lease term, old Joe had a stroke and although we begged Alice to let us help, she refused to even take him to the hospital. He was paralyzed on his left side, aphasic and dribbling down his chin, but Alice said that he had a good life and that the hospital would kill him for sure. So, she put him in a lounge chair, stroked his motionless side several times a day in a fruitless effort to bring it back to life, and after a brief period of time let him die a natural and compassionate death.

Although it is probably true that old Joe would not have survived the hospital anyway, it was more likely that the food Alice attempted to stuff food down his throat every day and that subsequently trickled into his lungs instead of into his gullet was the more probable and proximate cause of his eventual demise: Aspiration pneumonia.


R.I.P. 1973

Old Joe

Killed with kindness




Myself and former rommate Bob/Personal photo
© Photo: Gallstones Deutche Welle
Source:Deutche Welle


























Hunting Big Game

Hunting Big Game 

There can be nothing worse than having a squirrel get loose in your house. If one happens to come down your chimney when you are not at home it will desperately try to escape to the outside by tearing at or chewing the window frames or by shredding any other wooden elements juxtaposed to daylight.

Once confronted there would then be the additional problem of actually trying to catch it and to control it without being scratched or bitten which would risk exposure to rabies. The chaotic scene in the National Lampoon Christmas movie in which the squirrel gets loose in the house and gets chased by the dog, while leaving the premises completely trashed is not very far from the truth.

Several solutions are possible. Uncle Oak’s method of blasting it with buckshot may potentially be the most effective but is certainly the least practical. Or one can chase them around with all the outside doors open, but with no guarantee that the frightened disoriented animal will recognize this as a safe way to exit.

My next-door neighbor, Doug had one get into his home, which caused no amount of frenzied chaotic screaming. He and his wife chased the animal around for hours until it finally ran into a bathroom where they shut the door behind it. This is obviously only a temporary solution that then requires a next step in the extraction process.

Doug said he was willing to gear himself up in a makeshift triple clothing layered armored outfit, but even this does not guarantee a happy outcome when actually having to confront the beast. Besides that, what type of head armor does one wear to keep it out of your hair or away from the eyes, a knight’s helmet? After regrouping and waiting awhile, brave Doug suited up, gloved up, grabbed a bat and a broom and made ready to do battle. He slowly opened the bathroom door to peer in, but the squirrel was nowhere to be found.

After waiting long enough but not hearing any noise, he and his wife then scoured the bathroom looking for it but to no avail or absolutely any idea as to how it had escaped. That was when someone got the bright idea of looking inside the toilet bowl, where sure enough they found one totally inert, and fully drowned rodent. The squirrel, it seems had somehow managed to flip the seat top down on itself, then after falling in had thus secured its own pitiful demise.

My own experience was not as dramatic but equally distressing. I have a fireplace in my bedroom, which has glass doors in front of the firebox.

Once in early Spring I kept hearing an odd clicking or soft chatting noise coming intermittently from the fireplace. It took two days for me to realize that there were tiny paw prints all over the inside of the glass doors, at which time I opened them and ventured a peek up the flu. Tucked up behind the baffle was a little ball of fur, which was being very still and very quiet but at the same time was also obviously respiring and thus intuitively was also very much alive. I was lucky that it did not decide to bolt.

After several calls to local wildlife rescue centers, I was given the phone number of Gentle Jim, “The Trapper.” Doing my best to describe the fur, Jim told me it was probably a squirrel and he would come over with some traps. When he arrived he said that it is not unusual for a female squirrel to come down a chimney as it tries to run away from several rutting males. As the female then tries to escape, eventually the fastest male is the one who gets the reward. During this frenzied treetop and roof top aerobatic activity, the female does not always look where she is going. Then with some scrambling plunges she is really only seeking the nearest haven of potential safety. This particular squirrel had a unique form of birth control in mind.

Of course I then had to suffer the lecture on how lucky I was I had the fireplace doors closed, how the animal would have wrecked my house, why I should get chimney baffles, where to get them, what kind and from whom.

Anyway, the Trapper’s wife specialized in making her own special bait out of honey, grain and peanuts which was homogenized and placed into a little cup that sat on the trap spring. Jim said that since the squirrel hadn’t eaten in several days he expected very quick results to occur within a day or so. He sauntered out asking me to call him when the animal was in the trap. Sure enough, on the very next day there was the squirrel, trapped in Jim’s little metal cage. He came back to pick it up, stating that he was required to release the animal, but that it would have to be more than twenty miles away so that it would not return to this area. This made no sense to me at all because squirrels are ubiquitous anyway, but who can argue with an expert?

I was then presented a bill for $190 that I gladly paid promptly while wondering how many calls this trapper actually receives in a year and perhaps I should consider a career change. The overhead is cheap, all you have to do is drive over to someone’s house, drop off a small baited cage; then pick it up again when it is sprung. True, I suppose, as long as you do not live in mountain lion, grizzly bear or rattlesnake country.

I never did get chimney baffles, calculating that only one squirrel intrusion after seventeen years of living in this house was pretty good odds against a repeat incident. But I have since had to safely extract and release from the same chimney, one very bewildered Crow and one terribly sooty Catbird.

Things could always be worse of course, as another neighbor up the street got raccoons in her attic when she went to Florida for the winter. Not only did they create a terrible mess because of the length of time they had been in there nesting, but getting them out was a great adventure in animal control tactics. On the day they were relocated, it looked like a swat team assault in the driveway outside. Those raccoons had established a cozy little home, which they were not about to give up without a good healthy fight.

I suppose, while it is probably reasonable to say that one should have the right to keep his home free of unwanted feral visitors, it is also equally reasonable to assume that animals in the wild should have an equally reciprocal right to keep unwanted human trespassers out of theirs; even if their methods of removing you may not be as humane or as tidy as the method employed by Gentle Jim the animal trapper. I doubt that a Grizzly bear would do it in a politely genteel manner as it tries to rip your face right off your head.





Two men in a tent were awakened by a grizzly bear invading their campsite.

As the first man bolted barefoot out of the tent to run away, he saw the other man quickly tying on his sneakers. 

The first man yelled:

  • What, are you crazy? You don’t have time to put on your shoes. Run. Run. I’m already ten yards ahead of you.

The second man said:  

  • You’re the crazy one. Don’t you realize that the only thing that I have to do right now is to run faster than you do?  



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