Murder and cars

I’m writing the final chapters of my latest novel and am trying to devise unusual ways to kill off some of its less desirable characters. It’s taking a toll on me; never thought killing people would become tiresome. So, I am taking a break and reflecting on one of life’s small victories.

In earlier days, other parents and I observed that, when we loaned our cars to newly minted teen age drivers masquerading as our children, the car usually came back empty of gas, the driver’s seat reconfigured, the rearview mirror misadjusted, and, most irritating, all the radio buttons playing something like “My Sharona.” Those were the days.

I take comfort in the fact that those children now have children who most likely are equally discourteous to their parents’ cars. And when my kids bitch about theirs, I am justified in smiling and suggesting what goes around comes around. Sometimes they don’t talk to me for days.

During the winter I find it necessary to bring my car to a commercial car wash because it’s too cold to do it myself. The people there do an excellent job, with one exception. The four-foot three-inch man assigned to drive the car the thirty feet from the car wash exit to the spot where it’s dried always cranks the driver’s seat to within inches of the accelerator. It may be days before I am able to return it to my sweet spot. It makes me cranky.

Last year Nancy bought a new Subaru sedan replete with more gadgets, levers, and toggle switches than I can count. Neither of us knows how they all work. We thought “blue tooth” referred to smutty dental work. The one thing I mastered this year, however, was adjusting the driver’s seat to suit each of us and setting buttons one and two accordingly. I’m button two.

Today I had to run errands and took Nancy’s car to have it washed. As expected, Shorty adjusted the driver’s seat to his liking for the thirty-foot journey from the wash. He had a kind of malignant, smirky look when he signaled for me to drive the car away. I triumphantly pushed button number two and watched the driver’s seat obediently conform itself to MY desired position. One button. One push. Victory.

I’ve been feeling good about that all afternoon. Now I must decide whether to kill someone with a cross bow.

Costa Rica — Pura Vida

With unaccustomed wisdom, Nancy and I planned our fifth visit to Costa Rica last November. We wanted a warm and pleasant place  where we could escape Northern New Jersey’s customary drismal January weather. The week before we left, temperatures hovered unpleasantly near zero. We almost didn’t mind arising at 4 am to catch the early flight to San Jose.

Costa Rica (“the rich coast” Columbus is supposed to have named it) is close to the equator in Central America. It has numerous ecosystems–dry forest, cloud forest, rain forest, arid forest…you get the idea. It also has some active volcanoes that occasionally wipe out entire villages, but also create wonderfully fertile soil. Cut a pole off a tree, stick it in the ground for a fence post, and it sprouts leaves in a few weeks. Hence, the living fences surrounding coffee, banana, pineapple, coconut, sugar cane, and other plantations. Costa Rican coffee is exceptional. Its high octane caffeine provides a promising beginning to every day there.

Costa Rica is bordered on the north by Nicaragua, on the south by Panama,. and the “Ticos,” as in many neighborhoods, have mixed feelings about their neighbors. They have very friendly relations with Panama, but are not crazy about the “Nicos” to the north. The country’s population is five million, of which one million (according to local friends) are immigrants from Nicaragua who provide much of the hard labor needed to bring in lush harvests. Fortunately, political leaders recognize the need for these helpful laborers, and do not follow northern bad examples of trying to keep them out.

Pura vida (“pure life”) describes a happy and relaxed outlook on life. Just saying the words in response to “how are you?” is satisfying. Rather than expanding on this thought, here’s a photo of of a Capuchin monkey demonstrating pura vida–totally relaxed but ready for mischief.

006Copyright 2018 Rolf C. Margenau-Capuchin Monky

The country’s most important import is tourists– 1.7 million each year. They come mostly from the US and Canada for eco-tourism and are the Costa Rica’s primary income producer. Like us, they tour in well-appointed new buses, stay in hotels ranging from posh to pleasant, eat too well, and are delighted by natural beauty and wildlife. We saw many exotic animals, principally at a wildlife rescue center, one of which is below. I’ve seen many pheasants display, but they have been shy about showing their backsides. That mystery is now revealed.

220Copyright 2017 Rolf Margenau

225Copyright 2017 Rolf Margenau

The country’s oldest city, Cartago, was founded in 1563, and the country is dotted with charming old villages and small cities. Catholic churches anchor the central squares of those places. Here’s a view of the one in Zarcero.

Rolf Margenau Photo

Up close, the gray tiles that cover the church are discovered to be vinyl . So much for ancient masonry!

We swam at turtle beaches, took a cable car ride through lush tropical forest, bathed in volcano heated hot bathes, cruised jungle rivers, and visited all the forest areas. The warmth of the climate and the people was appreciated. And the weather was much warmer in New Jersey when we returned. We didn’t see a volcanic eruption, but the sunsets made up for that.

039Copyright 2018 Rolf C. Margenau-CR Sunsets

Pura Vida!

Hawk – A Dilemma

I almost had to make a difficult decision today. It involved an immature red-tailed hawk sitting on the lower limb of the magnolia in our back yard.

Some background first: Our house bear, whom we’ve named Clyde, has been visiting our bird feeders for four years. He’s close to 400 pounds, but remains intimidated by Luci-fur, our cairn terrier, who occasionally escorts him off the property. When Clyde first visited, he snapped off one limp of my carefully pruned “V” shaped Asian pear tree and ate it like an ear of corn. Then he came up the hill to the feeders behind the house and picnicked on them.

Understanding that, if I can reach the feeder so can the bear, I raised the feeders to a height of 14 feet. They are raised and lowered by loosening and tightening the clothes line supporting them—every morning and evening because there is always the chance Bonnie might show up.

We are not sure whether she is related to Clyde, but she is also very large. The first time she was here, she had two yearling cubs and two babies with her. The cubs scrambled up the posts supporting the feeders and trashed them all. The next time she showed up, Luci-fur and I exchanged words with her, and she chose to depart, though slowly.

So, the 14-foot-high bird feeders are fifteen feet from the kitchen window, and the magnolia is fifteen feet north of that. Nature has graced up with a blizzard today, so I made sure the feeders were full this morning and dumped little piles of seed around for the ground feeders. The birds were appreciative and looked especially attractive with their feathers fluffed up against the cold and wind. The cardinals really stood out in the snow.

Later, I saw that all the birds had disappeared. The reason was obvious. The young hawk sat on the magnolia branch that suffered deer rub this fall. He was close to the feeders and his sharp eyes surveyed the yard for little birds—his prey. We know that hawks have been there before from the dandelion-like blossoms of gray, red, or blue feathers on the ground from time to time. Hawks eat little birds. That’s how they make their living.

I surmised two things. The hawk probably would kill a little bird this wintry day, and, if I banged on the window, he would leave. I stood there for at least five minutes watching the hawk and trying to decide. Maybe I am becoming indecisive at my age. Then the hawk left. Decision averted.

So, what would you have done?