If there is a bear in your house, you are rich.

Gatsby conversation.

This is the point in The Great Gatsby unit where I pull up Zillow and go “house shopping” on the Gold Coast of Long Island where the novel takes place because my students and I have a spare 45 million to spend. This is meant to illustrate the extravagant wealth of our characters and it’s fun. For 13.8 million we can buy a plot of land on Gatsby Lane, but everyone will have to bring tents. Indoor and outdoor pools were the norm. We found an indoor basketball court. One house had an insane 14 bathrooms which we determined was two weeks worth of pooping.

We were talking about redecorating—because for 9.8 million that plaid carpet had to go!—and bearskin rugs. One student strongly advocated for leaning into the retro carpet and adding a bearskin rug with the head on it. Amazing.

Student (not the redecorator) stating with great authority: “If you have a bear in your house, you’ve gotta be rich,.”

Me joyfully shrieking: ” I HAVE A BEAR IN MY HOUSE! HE’S IN MY KITCHEN. I’M RICH!”

Student clarifying that, no no, I needed more than the head although they agreed that Maury was nice and appreciated that he came with a hat.

Miles knows Maury is a sign of great wealth.

Fleas Navidad

IMG_8921a

Miles, always the professional.

Oddly enough, I got it together this year in time to actually order and send my cards before Christmas. Shocking!  Only taxidermied pets had to wear costumes. Everybody else just needed to behave for like 5-10 minutes each.

It was a lot to ask.

Birdie tried to be as focused as Miles, but her sassy nature (and Olivia) got in the way.

Dec2019_xmascard1

The Wigglebothum barely tried.

“Psssssttt, Ross, what are we looking at? That squirrel??”

IMG_8948

Dec2019

Sookie, of course, went into hiding the instant she sensed the costume bag and camera. However as I was cleaning up, she was casually camped out on the Ripple Rug chuckling at outwitting me once again. Seeing an opportunity, I scooped her up and really wrapped up the photo shoot.

Disclaimer: I literally had to lock the two of us in the bathroombecause I needed both hands to pull the Santa hat on. There was no way Sookie was hanging around for that.

Dec2019_xmascard

Olivia was less than helpful here.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Miles, Sookie, Birdie, Olivia Wigglebothum, W. Charles Marmota, Ross the Holiday Armadillo, Cheese Curds, Maury Bearassed, and The Weasel (name TBD)

IMG_8937

Seriously, can I just take it?!

For the first time in over a week, I don’t feel like immediately crawling back into bed as a response to everything life has to offer. I’m still stuffy and have a good hacking cough when provoked, but most brain function and physicality has returned. Having been very sedentary and just having read an article about the horrors of visceral fat-I gots some a that-I was up for a walk in actual sunlight. It was still cold, but there was bright blue sky and visible plant life to make an Ohio dweller believe in the possibility of spring. Plus it’s the end of the quarter and I have SOOOOO much grading and being sick didn’t help so I had to run…walk moderately quickly away for a bit.

I saw clusters of snowdrops in a small wooded area.

The native plants prairie area had been mowed and cleared for the winter, but small green things were peeking through. The vernal pools in this part of the park were muddy and overflowing from rain. However I’m a sucker for a mirrored tree line picture.

I call this one Ducks Digging in Trees.

In the rose garden portion of the park, I gawked at a tree, watching this very poised nuthatch, several chickadees and two different types of woodpeckers do their thing. Meanwhile the second wedding/ engagement party I’d seen that day tromped by in formal wear and giant winter coats, ready to freeze for photo shoots.

It was all very sunny and simple until I spotted a mound in the middle of the grass between walk ways and rose beds. Maybe everybody else wasn’t looking or maybe they saw dirt or a mound of leaves. However Brain saw fur and yelled, “ WE SHOULD LOOK AT IT NOW!”

Yep. Dead raccoon.

Intellectually, I knew it was dead. Wild animals do not typically curl up like house cats in a sunspot in the afternoon in the middle of a busy park for a little shut eye. Spring sunbeams or not. However I will admit to approaching with caution and staying a few feet away.

It was a lovely, smallish raccoon with reddish tones to its ringed tail and back, but blonde highlights around its ears and face. It did not smell, although it may have been bloating slightly. I couldn’t see any physical damage, and gazed around trying to come up with a likely death scenario. There was no immediate tree to have dropped from although being tossed out in recent high winds might have been a possibility. All roads were just too far away to drag a car broken body from. It did not appear chewed on so something bigger probably didn’t bring it here unless a vulture dropped his lunch. Old age? Poison? Heart attack?

While one part of Brain was sifting forensic scenarios, another part was hissing, “Someone is going to notice you hanging out with this raccoon, weirdo.” Yet another Brain denizen really had priorities straight and was like: “IMAGINE THE TAXIDERMY POSSIBILITIES! BUT WE’RE NOT VISITING HOME UNTIL LATER THIS MONTH. THERE’S NO ROOM IN THE FREEZER FOR THAT. GAH, EAT ALL THE FREEZER FOOD! CAN YOU JUST TAKE A RACCOON? WHAT DO WE HAVE IN THE CAR? TARP? THIS IS A PUBLIC PARK SHOULD I ALERT AUTHORITIES AND… SERIOUSLY, CAN I JUST TAKE IT? LIKE NO ONE ELSE SEEMS INTERESTED.”

At a loss for the next step, I took a really bad photo as if I wasn’t really taking a photo of a dead raccoon because the hissy part of Brain was all:”People will see you, you fucking psycho” and promptly texted my sister and MomBert. As per usual, they were not super helpful.

So I texted my dad the picture and basic message. Predictably, he immediately called because he and the company at his house found my predicament hilarious. He did not really have any good answers about legalities other than let it become some other creature’s dinner. The vultures are back after all.

Build Your Own Deer

Of all the taxidermy and various bits of death in my house, I do not have a traditional deer mount. Probably because they’re just too traditional, and take up a lot of space. I have plenty of deer skulls, and maybe someday, I’ll find that mount whose level of “What’s your deal???” demands that it be purchased.

Until then birch wood Bucky will do! I was in a store that claimed it sold exclusively from Etsy dealers when I came across cardboard Bucky. MomBert and I both reacted because Bucky is the name of one of my skulls and has a loooonnnnng story behind it which I don’t think I’ve ever written. I love Etsy, so I immediately found the online shop, noted the price mark up between the online store and the physical one I was standing in, noted the Black Friday sale happening online and the array of options for Bucky then resolved to shop later.

The Etsy shop is called CardboardSafari and the animal options are overwhelming! Bucky alone comes in four sizes, multiple materials and prints. I bought the Leah Yellowbird pattern on birch wood although Bucky almost lost out to Fred the moose who had fantastic antlers. I also purchased a small Bucky printed with a map of New York City for the friend who is a part of the loooonnnnng story. (I am reminding you they were on SALE!)

Bucky arrived as four planks of birch in a long flat box. The pieces easily popped out and I sorted them for assembling. img_1563

I discovered that there were tiny sequence numbers on the pieces which were particularly helpful for the layered head. Assembly was really easy. I put it together while watching Dumplin on Netflix.

***Side note: I discovered that I had the novel Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy in my classroom library and read it before watching the movie. Both versions are just okay, but the movie lacks the character and plot development that the book has. There were several plot points in the movie that did not seem to make logical jumps, lacking the information from the novel.

img_1564

Assembled Bucky has a place in the Happy Morning Sunshine Time room. He has been investigated by three of four cats. Although as Olivia Wigglebothum demonstrated, he may not be stable enough to be  a reliable chin scratcher.

img_1561

Cheese Curds…yum

My friends were telling shopping online drunk stories. One impulsively bought two concert tickets from the convenience of her couch. She didn’t know who the second ticket would be for, she just knew she wanted to go. Another less successful purchase was over $300 worth of the same pair of Ray-bans. This friend’s phone screen was in the eternally spinning, internet death spiral, and she didn’t realize that her frantic tapping to refresh was actually buying multiple sunglasses. Yet another friend waxed sentimental over the thrill of receiving “surprise” packages that she had forgotten purchasing while drunk.

Wanting to be a part of things, I used my natural conversation stopping talent to contribute, “I bought a dead squirrel online.”

Silent stares.

“I wasn’t drunk, but I was really tired and it was late.”

I’m sure there are many times when they wonder why they know me.

Every once in awhile I’ll troll through eBay investigating their taxidermy offerings. Everything is always too big, too expensive, or too…I don’t know… normal. I just don’t need a deer mount, ya know.

Then I came across little Cheese Curds’ listing. I thought, “Wow. If any dead taxidermied  squirrel needs me, it’s this guy.”

Adorable squirrel mount, this poor little guy was hit nearby my home but now lives on forever! He is priced slightly lower due to his face being damaged due to the condition he was found in.

cheesecurds1

Bargain squirrel!

I could not stop maniacally giggling when the package arrived from Wisconsin. His slightly derpy look and state of origin immediately communicated his name: Cheese Curds.

cheesecurds

We went through our usual introduction rituals. Only 50% of the cat population seemed interested in a sniff down.

IMG_9439

I attempted to have Cheese Curds model the latest sombrero, but he kept tipping over. As advertised, he’s just a  little guy.

IMG_9440

However his little stature means that I may have found the resident of my wooden clock case! It’s now just a matter of landing on design. My first thought was a background scene and velvet stage curtains, but after the Dia de los Muertos adventure, a nicho box might be fun.

IMG_9442

Until designs are decided on, Cheese Curds will keep Maury company.cheesecurds2a

Today in Bad Taxidermy Choices

Hello, today in Bad Taxidermy Choices, I’d like to talk to you about the Indy 500 Mink. This elusive little bugger is all geared up to drink champagne, and celebrate with the pit crew after an exhilarating day of turning left.

His price tag may only say $12, but his beady eyes and attention to racing details screams, “PRICELESS!” IMG_4650

(Someone liberated one of Gma’s mink stoles for this re-purposing. The whole contraption is being held up by one of those doll stands that is supposed to grasp the doll around the waist. If I had ANY affinity for racing, I might have spent the $12 even though the doll stand had a $30 price tag on it. Hard pass on that.)

We all know that deer mounts are a dime a dozen, so it takes a really special eye to handcraft Rudolph then seamlessly blend him in with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, questionable antelope, and big horn sheep.

Rudolph’s fur is now a delectable crust of  some silvery white craft paint off the shelves of Jo-Ann Fabrics or maybe leftover house paint.  Who can say? I assume the electrical source is threaded through the mouth.

Genius!

IMG_7283

While Rudolph was compelling, Disgruntled Fox  was the real star of this booth. His derpy, snaggly snout slurred, “Takes me homes, preazzzzz.”

Unfortunately at $239 Disgruntled was out of my price range. This was no Indy 500 Mink. In fact, every thing in this booth was priced with $39 as an end number. Magic number, I guess.

IMG_7358

These bad taxidermy choices are not to be confused with these crap taxidermy choices which started as a website and are now in a book which a thoughtful friend got me for Christmas.

******Side note: when I searched Crap Taxidermy in Amazon, it showed up with another book called Images You Should Not Masturbate To. It is worth following the link just to read the Customer Review comments.

img_7917

My Inheritance

My dad is an arms dealer. So for my recent birthday, I got the squirrel from his shop that opened in 1976 in what was our laundry room at the time. In taxidermy years the squirrel is a couple of years younger than me, but really, given his size, is probably my age. Old ass squirrel.

Miles: “The Hell..? Not this shit again.”img_6237

This squirrel is the full package…mostly. My step-mother helpfully pointed out that he appeared to “be a fully intact male.” I pointed out that he only looked partially intact and a little crooked. My squirrel does have two nuts, but one is in his mouth.

img_6240

This was really hard to light.

At any rate, Mr. Grey: Business Squirrel is excited to create a partnership.

Mr. Grey: “We need to talk about your TPS reports.”

Mr. Red: “I seem to have misplaced my stapler.”

img_6317

Mr. Red’s tie may be from 1976.

If I acquire a third squirrel, he will be called Mr. Pink so they can do scenes from Reservoir Dogs.

I Should Have Bought that Noodle Rat

We were wandering through a flea market and I was telling my mom about a classroom conversation involving “tooth art.” As a class we were discussing Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby. There are many indicators that Meyer is not on the up and up, but my favorite is his cufflinks made out of human molars. “What does this suggest about Wolfsheim, children?” asks their all-wise and insightful teacher pulling teeth to get ideas rather than cufflinks.

This sparked a story about some t.v. show that one of them saw sometime about someone who had a whole closet full of teeth that they made “tooth art” out of or something. (I love the specifics.) HOW WEIRD!

This made me pause in class to take a mental inventory of all the things in my house that would qualify as “WEIRD” on the level of a closet full of teeth. It was a long-ish list. Then I showed them pictures of Maury because I had just installed him in the kitchen and who wouldn’t be excited about a bear head! ***side note: not teenagers. My mom, however, was inspired to create her own tooth art out of my baby teeth. This is what the tooth fairy really does. (I don’t think you’ll find this on Pinterest until I put it there.)

IMG_9716

Thankfully she provided extra teeth just in case.

As this story concluded, we happened upon a vendor who had made art out of a variety of things: teeth, hair, dead bees, antique postcards etc… They also had a taxidermied wiggly something on what looked like a sprig of mistletoe. They called it a “noodle rat” which is creative weirdo for “stoat.” I already had a dead squirrel in a bag, so much as I wanted a noodle rat Christmas ornament I did not inquire as to the pricing.

I purchased Mr. Grey earlier in the day for $30. He is the only piece of taxidermy that I have purchased so far. Maury, Ross, and W. Charles have all been gifts.

The conversation went like this:

MomBert: “Look! A squirrel on a log!”

Me: “Yeeeeaaaaaaaa,that’s kind of a big log.”

MomBert: “That’s a good looking squirrel. It’s $35. Ask him if he’ll take $30.”

Me: “mmmmmmmm”

MomBert: “If you don’t buy it, you’re just going to cry about it later. ‘Oh, I wish I had bought that squirrel.'”

She knows me.

Me: “Fine.”

I should have bought that noodle rat.

mrgrey

Mr. Grey. 

Introducing Your Cats to Bears

IMG_8610

Just leave the laundry here.

After a drug deal-like exchange in a rainy parking lot, Maury has made it in to the house and is patiently hanging out on the washer. Twice now, I’ve walked in there to start a load, and then left because…well… there’s a bear on my washing machine so…maybe later.

It turns out that he’s Canadian, so he’s been nothing but polite. I haven’t cleaned any clothes, but I did give Maury a good dusting and wipe down. He had some cobweb boogies in his snout and his mouth was super dusty. I don’t know what modern taxidermy does, but Maury’s 1960’s structure lets you see all the way to the back of his cardboard looking brain cavity. Yes, I totally took a flashlight to him, hoping my friend’s grandpa stored treasure inside his bear head. No luck with that, but no giant bugs either so win win.

The cats don’t seem to care about things I leave on the washer, but MomBert has managed to discover Maury. I let her find the last blog post herself. Either that or my sister ratted me out.

She’s psyched!

textbear

Officially, I’m going with Maury Bearassed or M. Bearassed. Yep.

MomBert doesn’t have to live with Maury, but the cats do, so introductions seemed necessary. (I let the girls get high first. It was Friday night, c’mon.) The cats are currently living with Bucky, W.Charles Marmota, Ross the Holiday Armadillo,  Shaggy, and some other random bits and pieces so they’re used to this.

Miles was so unimpressed that it hurt a little.

Miles: “Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me?”

IMG_8620

Geeeeeez, lady.

The girls were more enthusiastic.

The girls: “OMG, bear! Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Your. Breath. Is. Awful.”

bearbreath

It smells like you just ate a salmon swimming upstream Get a TicTac.

Bear breath doesn’t smell good, I guess.

Sookie decided that Maury’s breath wasn’t unbearable (can’t help it), and may have found a new love. She’s also crazy high on the nip so it could just be a fling.

IMG_8629