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February 2, 2009

Civic Duty and Wildlife

On Thursday and Friday of last week I had jury duty. Jury duty is the weirdest assortment of people all together in one room you can imagine. My favorites are the people who magically lose the ability to speak English for the duration of jury selection.

By the way, when I got back from my first day of Jury service on Thursday I already had my first Netflix movie waiting for me in the mail. So I have decided to reverse my earlier opinion and say I'm impressed. I realize that my Netflix issue stemmed entirely from my envy and deep jealousy of those people who have more relaxed schedules and can work free movie time into their days without having to forgo things like dinner or sleep. I'm just a little over-scheduled, which is my issue and not yours or the Netflix corporation's problem. And I know this. And it's one of those things I'm working on it, it's on a list somewhere I'm sure.

I haven't found time to watch the movie yet, but I will. By the way, the first movie I got is Shirley Valentine, I haven't seen it in ages and they don't carry it at my local Blockbuster and I've been wanting to watch it (is it a Freudian subtext that the movie is about escaping the drudgery of your own life?). So yay for Netflix. I think the next movie in my queue is a documentary about Hasidim.

I am a class-A nerd.

- - -

Thursday started out weird before I even arrived at the Van Nuys courthouse.

It was supposed to be a good morning, where I could sleep in because I didn't have to be in the jury waiting room until 8:30 a.m., and the commute from here to the courthouse is about an hour and twenty minutes less than the commute to my office. (There's something very wrong with that picture, I know.)

Anyway, I was planning on sleeping in until the decadent hour of 6:30 a.m. (!!!) and taking a leisurely shower and having a nice cup of coffee while the cats snuggled around and watched a tivo'd episode of The Daily Show with me on the sofa. Doesn't that sound like a good way to start a day?

Instead, around 5:30 a.m. I heard a crazyass animal wail and all the cats jumped awake and ran to the back window, and I grabbed my glasses and tried to peer into the darkness through the window and see WHAT THE HELL WAS TRANSPIRING IN MY BACK YARD.

I put on my Uggs and turned on the back patio lights and stood out on the back porch asking, "Who's there? What's happening?" as if something would answer. And it was so dark that I saw nothing but I could hear these crazy animal cries coming from the back yard. And rustling. Lots of rustling.

Now my back yard is vast and wild. It is at least four times the size of my actual house, and stretches off into inky darkness that the porch lights can't penetrate. And any number of wild animal things could be happening, none of them good. The first and worse case scenario involved coyotes, which may sound crazy here in Encino-adjacent but a few months back I was out for my morning walk very early (before sunrise) and I saw two coyotes running down my street. I lived in Topanga Canyon for many years and I know what a coyote looks like, it was no little dog or strangely skinny German Shepard. You see a coyote once and you know. But I figured they must have been displaced from all the wildfires, that was back in November when half the North Valley was on fire.

So my very worst fear was that some coyote was back there with something. And all the rustling and noises were coming from this scary area:

spookybackyard1.jpg
Very Mysterious Backyard Growing Thing


But in the dark it looks like this:

spookybackyard2.jpg
SPOOKY Mysterious Backyard Hiding Place


And then I remembered that we have possums, or opossums, some sort of possumlike animals living nearby, because sometimes I can see them on the patio eating the Meow Mix meant for the stray cat who lives in the neighborhood.

So maybe it was a possum back there, I thought, maybe it was a possum having babies. Then I wondered if suburban rodents make animal crying sounds while giving birth. Which I can not remember having ever wondered about before in my entire life because I am not a great outdoors kind of person! I do not want wildlife in my back yard! Yes, I spent part of my childhood growing up on a farm, but we had COWS for chrissakes, normal livestock, and DUCKS and horses. We didn't have coyotes and possums and whatever the hell was in my current big-city backyard!

It was not a good morning. I was beginning to rethink my eventual future life plan of resettling somewhere more pastoral, like a ranch in the Southeast or some mountain retreat in Colorado. If I can't handle the wildlife in Encino-adj., I'm not sure how I would do in the so-called "pastoral" wild yonder. Maybe my goal should be to find an apartment with no yard on the beach in San Diego.

So I kept trying to shine a flashlight into the impenetrable murkiness of doom. I wondered if I should call someone. I wondered if I should make coffee.

Finally the sun started to come up and the sky lightened and as the backyard became more visible, I grabbed a big metal rake from the garage and crept around the other side of the yard to find out what was in the shrubbery. I walked as far away as possible while maintaining visual contact with the moving underbrush. That is when I saw a large -- REALLY LARGE -- gray furry backside.

"Oh my God we have wild boar in Encino," I said to the shrubbery.

(Obviously I am really great in the outdoors.)

And right then the furry best turned and looked right at me. And it was the world's most gigantic RACCOON. It had the perfect black eye mask, and it must have weighed a good forty pounds. I mean this guy hasn't been missing any meals. And just then something else rustled and for a split second I was afraid raccoons were maybe carnivorous and this would be something VERY BAD but instead out popped another black masked face, this one smaller and decidedly underneath the big guy.

Which is when I exclaimed out loud with complete shock, "OH MY GOD THERE IS RACCOON PORN HAPPENING IN MY BACKYARD."

So all that noise had been because some Rocky Raccoon brought his ladyfriend back for a night of romance and animal love. IN MY BACKYARD. In Encino-Adjacent!!

- - -

On Saturday when the gardeners came, I showed them the scene of the, uh, animal planet documentary, and asked them if they could start removing some of the crazyass overgrown ivy and perhaps cut back the amount of habitat in the backyard. I love animals, truly I do, but I can't live in the house that is makeout point for all the wildlife in the neighborhood.

I realize I live in the Valley and backyard aerobics is a billion-dollar industry, but I don't even have a permit. And the lighting is really bad.

Weird, weird, weird weird weird.

Posted by laurie at February 2, 2009 8:24 AM