ConTemporal was pretty much awesome, I don’t mind telling you. If no one had mentioned it was a first-year convention, I would’ve never known; it went smoothly as can be, it was filled with lovely people who knew what they were doing, and I got to hang out with a couple of ladies I haven’t seen often enough in the last few years. (Big ups to my homies Natania Barron and Sara Harvey!)
For a few of the day-to-day shenanigans – and pictures of my Bonus! roommate adorable 17-month-old Miss B – go kick around my Twitter feed. I had a wonderful time, really – and I hope the event continues and prospers in the years to come.
Of course, my recent adventures didn’t stop there. As soon as I got home, I had a houseguest – my mom, who was passing through on her way from Iowa back to Florida.
It’s kind of a long story, but to make it short: my mom drove my grandmother and my great aunt up to Iowa, in order to clean up the aunt’s house so she can sell it. This proved to be a mighty undertaking, and for the last couple of weeks, the three of them have been sorting things out in Ames. Now that things are as sorted as they’re going to get (without a bulldozer, by the sound of it) the trio is headed back to the tropics.
(My mom stayed with me; the elders got their own hotel room. My great-aunt has special needs that my house can’t really accommodate.)
We did supper last night and breakfast this morning, and then I sent the Itty Bitty Biddy Committee on its way. Click the link if you wonder why I call them that. Keep in mind, I’m only 5 ft. 5 in. tall (in those shoes), and my mom (in the sunglasses) is wearing platform flip-flops.
By then, it was lunchtime. I took a break and went to decompress by doing a little shopping* – inspired largely by a conversation with Natania over the weekend. She had some kick-ass sunglasses. I asked about them. And then she told me of the marvels of STEIN MART. It turns out that Stein Mart is basically a Marshalls/Ross/T.J.Maxx aimed specifically at septuagenarian wild-women bound for Miami in a caftan caravan.
I spent a hundred dollars there, and walked out with more than I could carry, including a truly kick-ass pair of sunglasses. It takes so little to make me happy.
Then again, sometimes it takes a whole giant pain in the ass to make me happy. To wit: We have chimney swifts.
I like chimney swifts; they are adorable, useful birds that occupy an important place in the ecosystem. (Read: they eat a shit-ton of bugs.) They are also protected by Federal Law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which is good – because increasingly, they are running out of places to nest.
These days, their favorite places to nest are uncapped, disused chimneys** – but more and more, people are capping their chimneys, leaving these little guys without a place to hang their metaphoric hats.
We have two uncapped, disused chimneys. (Out of three. The third one is a gas log refit.) One of these chimneys dumps down to a fireplace in our bedroom.
I’m not going to lie to you – it’s gorgeous. It’s also about six feet away from our heads when we sleep at night, and I tell you what, baby chimney swifts are LOUD AS FUCK. Particularly when their adorable cheepy whiny FEED US cries are amplified by a chimney and the echo chamber created by an old coal-burning fireplace with a cast-iron summer cover.
It is DOPPLER BABY CHIMNEY SWEEPS up in here, every morning right before dawn for an hour or two.
Look, I bet these baby chimney sweeps are just about the cutest damn things in the world – and I wish them the very best. I would not hurt them for the world. I want them to grow up and nosh down on up to 6000 bitey, annoying southern bugs every single night, for shits and giggles and also because they are delicious.
But my husband and I would really like to get some sleep.
I asked around and googled around, and it turns out that when you’re talking about a chimney like ours – with a non-functional fireplace, broken fire-brick, etc. – the best thing to do is stuff a plastic barrier up there, and then cram the flue full of fiberglass insulation. On the one hand, ewww. On the other hand, that didn’t sound too difficult. So I went to the hardware store and picked up some fiberglass batting.
Then, while my husband lounged in the study, listening to swank music through his headphones, blissfully unaware of my capacity for handling gross tasks … I donned gloves and popped off the fireplace’s cover.
Inside, I found ancient ashes, broken bricks, a rusted-out coal-basket grate, and a whole lot of birdshit. I also found wee tiny pieces of broken eggs from where the babies hatched – at least two or three of them, I should think, given the wreckage. I covered my nose and mouth, dragged out the vacuum, and sucked out the worst of the nasty bird goo; then I unpacked the fiberglass batting and stuffed that junk as tightly up the flue as I possibly could.
This was somewhat tricky because, as mentioned, the fire brick is broken and the fireplace’s interior is in shambles. But I bought four small bales of the batting, and I successfully crammed three of them in their entirety up inside that damn space, so here’s hoping it’s enough. Enough to…well, keep the noise down, I guess.
And if it doesn’t work? I suppose we won’t sleep much around dawn, because it’s not like I’m going to shoot fireworks up there, or hire a disreputable pest control company to scoop them out. (It’s illegal, but some jackasses will do it regardless.)
Anyway. Come fall, when the feathered interlopers wander off, I suppose we’ll need to yank that batting back out of the flue. I predict there will be a whole lot of gagging on my part, and ultimately, there will be a few fat black trash bags filled with fiberglass batting and bird poo.
* Yes. I required decompression. They are lovely, and … rather a lot to handle, en masse.
** They only hang around in the summer, so it’s sort of a time-share thing if the chimneys see regular use. Basically, there’s no real risk that anyone, anywhere, risks birdie flambe.