Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How it came that I took a faceful of skunk juice


Rudy, the 11-year-old mutt and Milo, the young 14 pound Yorkie mix were five houses from home at the end of a two mile walk. We’d already run the gauntlet…keeping Milo’s leash secure at all the trouble points – where Grand River traffic flies past perilously close to the sidewalk; where the big German Shepherd rushes the sidewalk; where Milo wants to charge the gate where two Golden Retrievers live. It was autopilot the last few hundred yards to home.

Lost in thought – a topic I can’t retrieve – I was surprised when the leash tore out of my hand.


Damn! A cat. He’s going to kill the neighbor’s cat. Can’t let that happen.

I can be quick. And Milo had now made contact with the “cat” underneath a bush and out of sight. It was about the same distance from the middle of the baseline to a well-placed shot in the corner. I can get there.

But it wasn’t the tennis court, and my pivot to the right was awkard and staggering. As I lunged toward the bush I fell forward, grabbing for Milo’s leash with my free hand. My other hand death-gripped Rudy’s leash – I wasn’t about to let him join the attack – and he was dragged with me toward the bush.

I missed Milo’s leash, but arrested my fall by landing on my knees, falling forward on my free forearm. I looked up.


No. Cat!

The mind plays funny tricks. In retrospect, there were four fully-formed thoughts that raced through my head in the next millisecond. The last three were barfed forth by some primitive part of my anscestoral brain as a defense mechanism against a truth too ugly to confront.

  1. Skunk!
  2. No, it can not be a skunk. (Because my face is only a foot, maybe two, from it. So, no. Therefore it can not be a skunk)
  3. It is a cat. A cat that looks uncannily like a skunk. How unusual!
  4. I do not smell skunk. If it were a skunk, it would have sprayed me. It is definitely not a skunk. Definitely. A cat that looks like a skunk! Striking.

I saw the stream coming. Point blank. In my eyes. Up my nostrils. In my mouth.

What happened next is spot-on with anything I’ve read about people who’ve been teargassed or pepper sprayed at close range. Throw in a couple cop cars, drop 30 pounds, and I could’ve been a flailing, Tasered, meth addict subdued on an episode of Cops.

I shot upright and staggered into the neighbor’s driveway. My face felt on fire. My eyes tightly shut, tears streaming, snot flailing out my nostrils, drool lolling out my mouth. I dropped to my knees and vomited.

How long was I paralyzed on my knees, cursing, drooling and snotting? A minute? Three? 30 seconds that felt like five minutes?

I still had a hammer grip on Rudy’s leash, but Milo?

The scrappy little bastard showed up in our lives this summer. Ragged and burr-covered. Nothing but an old-fashioned clear flea collar to testify that someone had once tried to own him. Heroic efforts to locate an owner failed. And he defaulted to us.

His proclivity for bolting joyously through an open gate and disappearing on racous adventures gave some clue to his vagrant nature. Now he was on the loose. In the dark. With a skunk. And I was helpless.


What to do. Call Karen.

I unlimbered the iPhone from my pocket. I was doing something proactive and it felt good. A first step toward taking control. Call for backup! Cool in a crisis! Wait. I can’t open my eyes. I kneeled, stupefied for some inderminate amount of time. Would I be able to see in another minute? Wait it out? Or will it be an hour? Should I try and feel my way to the neighbor’s door and knock? (“Hi. I’ve been sprayed in the face by a skunk. Can you take my phone and dial “Karen?” This is my dog, Rudy. Say hi to the nice people Rudy. Do you see my other dog? Can I use your restroom? Just kidding!”

All the while, my face burned. Each breath sucked nature’s original nerve agent through my inflamed nostrils. Teary saline gushed down my cheeks.

A little panic, crept in. Raw jabbing at the outskirts of racing thoughts. Will I need to go to the hospital for this? Could it be serious? I’ll Google it on my phone! Wait, what? No. Can’t use my phone, right.

Gradually, I was able to crack open an eye, then two. Milo. He was right there. Bewildered. Maybe frightened. And he’d stuck by.

I grabbed his leash. Dialed Karen.
Having just emerged from a long, hot shower before bed, she answered.

Hi there!

I’m having a crisis. We all got skunked. I’ll be there in a minute.

Our screaming match, the first in more than a year I would guess, was inevitable in retrospect.

When I stumbled into our yard, shutting the gate behind and began stripping off collars and clothing, things were on the upswing. Ninety seconds earlier I was blind, helpless, vomiting man with a missing dog and the possibility of an emergency room visit. Now I had secured both dogs, regained vision, alerted reinforcements, and the worst-case-scenario – hospitalization – seemed remote.

For Karen, that trajectory was different.  She was a few minutes away from a warm bed, a book, and drifting off to sleep after a long Monday. Ninety seconds later, her husband was drooling and staggering about the driveway, her terrified dogs were cowering, she was rushing to put clothes on the hideous scent of skunk had already begun wafting into the house.

She assembled our armaments. And, for the love of God. Write this down.

--- Fresh hydrogen peroxide
--- Baking soda
--- Dawn dishwashing detergent

Nothing removes skunk odor. This comes closest. We know this from experience. But never one like this.

I watched, still crying and drooling, outside. She held her phone up. Jesus! She’s trying to find the exact recipe. Just dump the shit in a bowl! I barged in … a move that will cost me in June when I’m working in the hot, damp kitchen.

It says a half a cup of soda.
 I don’t think it matters.

It says to apply it as soon as possible.
Damnit, that’s what I’m trying to do.

It says to rinse your eyes with water.
\Seriously, I can barely keep them open without running water over them. Oh damn that hurts. What bullshit web site did you read that on?)

It stinks. Yeah, I am aware of that….BECAUSE IT SHOT UP MY NOSTRILS!



She left. And she reminded me this morning that she did not use the F word during the exchange.

I poured the bubbling mixture over the terrified dogs in the garage. Milo shook Fear? Cold? Crummy time of year to be bathing dogs outdoors.

I rubbed the peroxide mix into my face. My hair. Up my nostrils. Shit was real now.
Leashing the dogs back up, I literally dragged them down to flights of stairs and into the tiny, standup shower stall. Barely enough room for a person, much less this miserable collection of stinking beasts.

I rinsed off the peroxide as best I could. And we sat. Shivering. While Karen checked out of the grocery store. “Have a good night,” the clerk beamed. Probably not.


Milo and I slept downstairs. Rudy, who we unwisely determined “wasn’t that bad” slept in our bedroom with Karen. Every hour she awoke to open or close windows.

I’ve taken a “skunk day” off work. Milo’s at the groomer. Karen’s at work where she reports red, itchy, watery eyes; respiratory irritation; headache and nausea. And her coworkers say she smells. They’re probably imagining it. I’m fine, save for red eyes and 4 hours sleep.

The house, for all I know, is a stinking hellhole. But all I can smell is the occasional rank smell on me, my dogs, or, especially, the nifty new down coat Karen found me last fall. Best coat I ever owned, toxic beyond salvation. Also destined for waste disposal:

--- Michigan State sweatshirt (this can’t be a good Tournament omen)
--- Workout pants
--- Iphone cover
--- Leashes, collars, harness
--- Socks (shoes?)

Mom laughed hysterically. The way she only does when I’ve been utterly humiliated.

“You know, Mr.  McDuffie (our late friend who was curator of reptiles at the Cincinnati Zoo) used to get skunked all the time. He said the odor would go away in a week (hey, that’s actually not that bad!… count on Mom for looking at the sunny side!)

“….but that then months later on some warm, humid day no one at church would sit next to him it would come back so bad!”

 I love that woman!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What Nolan Finley really means

No links in this post. Just some plain English translations of Nolan Finley's
recent column spreading unfounded terror among the citizenry.......

EPA raises risk of blackouts  As an opinion columnist, I do not need a source or any data or attribution for this statement, unlike the poor schlubs in the newsroom who are required to substantiate statements they make in their stories. Can you imagine?!

An especially stormy summer gives us a taste of what life would be like if the electric umbilical cord attached to the side of our homes were to run dry.
Prepare to panic

Silent air conditioners and refrigerators full of spoiling food is the shared experience in countless neighborhoods hit by weather related power outages.

Saved by the backup
A generous generating reserve in the state kept the power interruptions fewer than they might have been. Despite an unrelenting heat wave, no blackouts occurred because of shortages in electricity supplies, says Steve Kurmas, president and chief operating officer of Detroit Edison, a DTE Energy subsidiary. The utilities did their jobs. I’m about to use their talking points to string together this column.

DTE has a production capacity that exceeds normal demand by 26 percent, and is more than twice the standard 12 percent reserve, Kurmas says. That's largely because the recession wiped out so many customers in this region. So when demand peaks, DTE can ramp up production to cover the load, even on hottest days. Customers are paying to maintain capacity they don’t need, but on a handful of days a year, the utility is able to fire up the oldest, least efficient, most expensive and dirtiest coal plants to meet demand. It may well be less expensive to buy that  energy from the electric grid, but exploring that would collapse the premise of the column.

EPA energy killers You thought I was going to use "job killers" again, didn't you!
That's the situation today. Four years from now, who knows?
Between now and then, DTE will have to shutter 10 coal-burning units, reducing capacity by 20 percent to meet new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal plants. Updating the plants to comply with the new EPA standards in the three-year period allowed would be massively expensive. So DTE will take them off line. Anybody with brainwave activity would question my contention that the utility will shut down 10 coal plants in 36 months, but I'm counting on no one applying critical thinking here.

That will reduce reserves to 6 percent and leave the system vulnerable to blackouts on scorching hot days like the ones we've had this month. Now you may panic.  I remain calm because I know full well the huge lobbying power of the coal industry will easily tie the whole thing up in court for a decade.
Kurmas says DTE has no intention of allowing reserve capacity to drop so low. The utility also is not panicking because they know this too. The company is taking time to assess the regulations, and to get some clarifications from the EPA. Michiganders are going to be funding a new team of utility company lobbyists and lawyers to castrate this idea. If there's a change in the White House next year, it will likely mean a new regulatory ballgame. We all know a new administration will mean more delays, if not a complete about face. Utility lobbyists can outlast any president.

But the plan now is to replace the coal burners with plants that operate on natural gas. That's cleaner power, but costlier. I am pointedly ignoring mountains of credible evidence that energy efficiency programs have vast potential to meet energy needs at a fraction of the cost of gas, nuclear, coal, windmills, solar, etc. Instead, I will pretend natural gas plants are our only option. I'm also not going to mention the conclusions of our state's Public Service Commission, which foresees no need for a new coal plant for more than a decade.

Watch your wallets
Kurmas says to expect electricity bills to soar by 25 to 35 percent. Panic, I tell you! I need not provide any source for this claim, because you can trust the man from the utility company. For residential customers, that'll leave less money to spend on other goods and services, further closing the damper on the economy.
For power-intensive businesses, such as manufacturers, it will mean higher operating costs that will have to be offset either by raising prices or trimming workers. Manufacturers can lower their costs with energy efficiency upgrades, but you'll have to read that elsewhere. We're against that because dope-smoking hippie environmentalists are for it.
The consequences of the coal mandate will be huge. And yet such a momentous change was pushed through by regulatory fiat, without a vote by our elected representatives.
President Barack Obama has proven wholly inept at putting Americans back to work. But as an economy killer, he is without equal. I stray from the topic here to take a generalized, gratuitous shot at the President, who by most accounts is moderately liberal but by the Detroit News’s standards is a raving, communist devil.
The EPA's move to turn the occasional summertime power outage into a daily threat is just the latest example.
(313) 222-2064
Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The News. Read more of his recent columns and read his blog at detnews.com/finley. Also watch him at 7:30 p.m. Fridays on “Am I Right?” on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Catching up: Michigan River News; North America's awesome-ist marathon river race and some guy who treaded water 17 hours in Huron

Geez. Looks like we've got some catching up to do!

In June, the Michigan Environmental Council released a report showing that the state’s oldest coal-fired power plants cost $1.5 billion annually in health care costs and damages – the equivalent of $500 annually for a  family. We pay for that in our health care premiums and copays. It is not reflected in our electricity rates, nor is it ever cited by clean energy opponents when they compare the costs of various energy sources. But it should be. Dirty air costs us, new reports increasingly show.

The Mackinac Center is still clinging to the status quo though, prompting this response from some really smart and handsome dude.

If you’re a fan of Michigan’s rivers (and who’s not?) check out the news Michigan River News web site co-founded by my MEC colleague Andrew McGlashen. The coolest river news lately is a Circuit Court ruling that a dam must be fully removed from the Pigeon River, after numerous fish kills. Thanks to our friends at Trout Unlimited’s Michigan chapter for fighting for the ecosystem.

The RiverNews guys will be at the awesome AuSable River Canoe Marathon this weekend. It’s the longest nonstop canoe race in North America, and been part of our pure Michigan summers for 64 years.

Finally, this guy is my hero for the day, 17 hours without a life jacket in Lake Huron, “I have people that depend on me,” he said.