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Invasion of the crispy, brown demons

Crispy, brown demons are invading my yard, and for once it’s not part of my artwork.

If I figure out how to incorporate them, however, they soon shall be.

Perhaps invasion is too strong a word. There are about a half dozen of these crispy critters, which are apparently the exoskeletons of some type of demonic looking insect.

Demonic close up/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Demonic close up/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

What first caught my eye was how the exoskeleton is left behind still clinging in precarious places, like the thin plastic tube I used for the tail of a rock rat or the side of a concrete tree border.

insect1
Demonic side view/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

I am enthralled with these little demons and, although insects in general give me the heebie-jeebies, I have come to adore these and some other Tucson bugs:

Tarantula hawk wasp/File photo
Tarantula hawk wasp/File photo

The tarantula hawk wasp. These large black bugs with bright reddish-orange wings are about the size of hummingbirds. They appear menacing and evil. They are beautiful.

• Those giant mosquito-looking things that are not mosquitoes. They are easy to smash and don’t leave green innards behind.

Moths. They are easy to cup in the hand and take back outside, which gives you the feeling that you are a worthwhile, very saintly person and leads to a good night’s sleep.

Southern Arizona is also ideal because it lacks other insects we have come to abhor, like the cockroach.

Sure, Tucson may have those giant sewer bugs that folks call roaches. These can be seen swarming under lampposts and atop manhole covers.

But I shall never again have the roach invasion that hit when I lived above a Brooklyn pizzeria. Here the world “invasion” is not too strong a word.

The roaches bred like bunnies in the large sacks of pizza flour and then worked their way upstairs. One early morning they started plopping from the ceiling like plump, crunchy raindrops.

I’ll take the crispy, brown demons any day.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

What insects to you love to hate? Hate to love?

Have you ever been invaded? What happened?

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The glory of mud

Mud gets a bad rap. It’s dirty. It’s messy. And it’s historically been the reason behind many matted shag carpets or smeary footprints on white linoleum.

But there’s another side of mud, the marvelous and miraculous side, that cannot go unnoted.

Oregon marsh mud/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Oregon marsh mud/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

A bee sting made my finger swollen, stiff and itchy. It hit its intolerable peak while I was in Moon Smoke Shop and I began rubbing it like a mad woman.

I mentioned it to the guy behind the counter because I had this strange feeling that the guys at Moon Smoke Shop, specifically the one on the corner of Grant Road and Alvernon Way, would know what to do for a bee sting. They did.

“Pack it in mud,” the manager/owner said. He explained this folk remedy supposedly sucked the stinger out as the mud dried.

While it may seem somewhat stupid to pack germy, wet dirt around a swollen bee sting sore, which was now ripped open after I tried to gouge out the invisible stinger with tweezers, I gave it a whirl.

More marsh mud/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
More marsh mud/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

The instant I packed the mud around the sore, the soothing began. The pulsing went down. It stopped itching. My finger felt like it was encased in a soft, cozy cocoon.

By the time the mud dried and flaked off, the swelling was gone and my finger could bend.

Mud not only sucks out bee stingers, but it is known to be equally effective for sucking other toxins from the body. Mud masks and mud wraps are in high demand, especially for the gads of tourists who flock to the ultra-healing black mud by the Dead Sea.

People are digging it (excuse the pun).

Even if you don’t care to heal yourself with mud, you can always wrestle in it, name your band Primus and write a song about it, or use it in the title of a poem:

Catapault/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Catapault/Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Soap Would be the Opposite of Mud
The Antonym Poem by Ryn Gargulinski

insects are
the opposite of frogs
(if we had to pick opposites)
cats would be the opposite
of dogs and fish would be
the opposite of birds and
hats would be the opposite
of shoes and the Charleston
would be
as opposed to
an epileptic seizure

_____

Since arid Tucson is not usually known for its mud, I’ll share the recipe I used to make my own.
Mud recipe:
2 parts dirt
1 part water
Stir well with stick

Mud, o glorious, mud/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Mud, oh glorious mud/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Of course, mud still has its dangers. We already discussed the havoc it can wreck on shag rugs and white linoleum, but it can also pose a number of other hazards.
• Mudslides kill thousands when they slickly shimmy down a mountain and consume entire villages
• Mud can suffocate you if you fall face down in a gushy pool of it and try to inhale
• Heavy mud can suck off your shoes and render them useless
• Mud clumps, when thrown at anyone who scores on you as goalie in a soccer game, get you a red card (not that I’d know from experience).

Share your own mud recipe below!

How has mud enhanced or ruined your life?

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Artist’s Sketchbook: RYNchimes

Part of the beauty of creating art is not knowing what the heck you’ll come up with. Such was the case when I got a request for windchimes.

After trial and error with the welder, some wire, metal hunks and wood, I threw all the error in a heap and came up with the following creation:

RYNchimes/Ryn Gargulinski
RYNchimes/Ryn Gargulinski

These RYNchimes may not sound like a symphony, but they are guaranteed not to rust, crust or bleed (although they could probably kill a small child if they fell on his head).

The biggest lesson I learned during this experiment was how incredibly awesome the Dremel rotary tool is. While I’ve used this lethal, spinning machine for sanding and grinding edges, this is the first time I’ve used it to cut through metal.

Sparks are quite pretty as long as they are not flying at your eyes.

Alternate RYNchime views.

Proof they can hang in a tree/Ryn Gargulinski
Proof they can hang in a tree/Ryn Gargulinski
Back view showing plug spring thing, long hollow thing and twisted metal thing next to the three sawed-off fence post pieces/Ryn Gargulinski
Back view showing plug spring thing, long hollow thing and twisted metal thing next to the three sawed-off fence post pieces/Ryn Gargulinski

I don’t know yet if the person likes them. If not, I have plenty of saw blades and old fence posts to cut through for the next set.

Have you ever had the joy of using a Dremel rotary tool?

For what? The instructions say not to use it for dentistry.

Did you get sparks in your eyes and go blind?

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Boycott Tucson's evil weed

Hemlock may kill you, a giant saguaro could crush your skull and poinsettias will poison your cat. But nothing is as evil as Bermuda grass.

This fast-growing and invasive turf grass should instead be classified as a weed. It’s just as ugly and unwanted.

My experience with Bermuda grass began when I bought a house with a small lawn area infused with the stuff. While at first the Bermuda grass pretended to be user-friendly and green, it soon showed its true colors: brown.

Neighbor's Bermuda lawn/Ryn Gargulinski
Neighbor's Bermuda lawn/Ryn Gargulinski

It also exhibited a number of other annoying idiosyncrasies. Like looking like regurgitated hay.

Although Bermuda grass is supposed to die off in the winter and come back in the spring, mine only seemed to get the first half right.

Yes, I watered it. Tended to it. Treated it with loving care. Then I tried to violently rip it out and re-seed with some “as-seen-on-TV” miracle grass.

Nearly two years later, I’m still ripping.

Bermuda grass has the uncanny ability to snake its roots to depths unknown. One chunk I eventually pulled up may have had some molten rock attached from the earth’s core.

Just as the grass snakes to the deep depths of the earth, roping through palm tree roots and choking anything that dares exist beneath your house, its top layer goes wild on the surface.

Most of the lawn may remain dead, especially where you want it to be lush and green. But long tendrils of the stuff will thrive around the edges, pushing through gravel, onto patios and disrupting ornamental stepping stones and lawn borders.

Bermuda tendrils on lawn borders/Ryn Gargulinski
Bermuda tendrils on lawn borders/Ryn Gargulinski

I think one tendril strangled a pack rat.

After several reseedings and weekly patch-ups, my lawn still has large areas of brown and crispy Bermuda grass. When even Sawyer, Mr. Dig-Dug Dog can’t unearth the stuff, you know it’s bad.

My lawn with remaining Bermuda patches/Ryn Gargulinski
My lawn with remaining Bermuda patches/Ryn Gargulinski

Bermuda grass rating (1-10): Negative 1,056
I bet even bufflegrass is more fun than this stuff.

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The real reason behind Tucson’s high food prices

Bananas skin our wallets at 59 cents per pound. A single red pepper pops bank account, often weighing in at more than $1.50. Give us a break.

Sure, it’s rather costly to have fresh fruits and veggies hauled to the middle of the desert from those faraway, lush places in which they thrive. But that’s not the real reason behind Tucson’s high food prices.

The culprit is the stolen shopping cart.

These four-wheeled creatures show up in some of the strangest places. Shopping cart spottings of late have included the wash, the river walk, random street corners, several bus stops and behind a post office on Speedway Boulevard where two carts were converging on a mailbox. They appeared to be accosting the poor defenseless mail container who could not even be saved by the threat of federal prosecution.

Carts accosting a mailbox/Ryn Gargulinski
Carts accosting a mailbox/Ryn Gargulinski

Supermarkets across the city have not issued any reports that pinpoint exactly how much money is lost due to stolen shopping carts, but we can surmise stores make up the loss by over-pricing peppers.

Cart at a bus stop/Ryn Gargulinski
Cart at a bus stop/Ryn Gargulinski

Stolen shopping carts are so common and costly that some stores employ brake shoe locks that stop the cart from rambling beyond the store’s parking lot. Others imprint the kiddie seats with a warning that it’s not nice to steal.

Best Buy cart on river walk, miles from any Best Buy/Ryn Gargulinski
Best Buy cart on river walk, miles from any Best Buy/Ryn Gargulinski

Still others may caution a security camera is watching the potential thief from a tower somewhere where a guard is equipped with the same weaponry found at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Pelican Bay guard tower/Ryn Gargulinski
Pelican Bay guard tower/Ryn Gargulinski

To make matters even costlier, Arizona Revised Statute 44-1799.33 explains how the shopping cart’s original owners may have to reimburse the city if the cart has become impounded after laying around in the wash, river walk, random street corner, bus stop or converging on a mailbox on Speedway.

How unfair. Fines should be issued instead to those caught stealing the carts or using them as playthings in the sand.

Tucson, fight back. Bring those wayward shopping carts back home. Shopping carts found out and about can be returned to their store of origin by simply attaching them with bungee cords to your car roof.

Roll the cart directly to the store manager and tell him where you found it and how you went to great lengths to bring it back. Then ask for a discount on bananas and peppers.

You never know. It may just work. And it will also save that poor Speedway mailbox from further harassment.

Anyone not sure what is meant by “shopping cart,” can check out the definition at ARS 44-0179.31

Where’s the strangest place you’ve seen a wayward shopping cart?

Have you ever stolen a shopping cart? If yes, shame on you.

Have you ever returned one to its rightful owner? If yes, you deserve a free banana.

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