Monday, November 14, 2011

Flying Squirrels Rent the Apartment Above Us

Flying Squirrels do not actually fly. They glide. And they also inhabit the Penthouse apartment above us.

Why do flying squirrels live above us in such luxury you might ask?

Because they come from a long-line of wealthy flying squirrels, the ones who patented the cape they use to fly from tree to tree. The Wright Brothers invented the airplane, these squirrels above us invented a slick apparatus sealed to their backside used to jump from high altitudes and which separates their unique species from those fat, bushy gray squirrels who are grounded by nature.

Why do we live in a building where flying squirrels inhabit the Penthouse you might then ask?

Because in a tough economy, we have no choice other than to live where we can. We thought that having flying squirrels as neighbors wouldn't be all that bad considering they were descendants of such a famous family of flying squirrels. Also, the apartment we are renting has a nice view of the lake, some beautiful old trees, affordable rent, and a full-size basketball court downstairs to fulfill my obsession with foul shots. It's a 40 by 60 studio apartment with multiple spaces that allow for most of the comforts of home.

All was going well until we realized that there were more flying squirrels living above us than stipulated in our rental agreement. A few rich flying squirrels turned into generations of flying squirrels using the the Penthouse as a summer home before heading to Florida for the winter, or so we hoped.

Being the curious people that we are and hoping to catch a glimpse of the elder flying squirrel who holds the keys to their origin, we knocked on the door while clapping at the same time to warn them that we were approaching. For the first time the door was unlocked, inviting us in to a panoramic view of their living quarters.

The rich family of flying squirrels were unnecessarily untidy. But they were living large in this top-level apartment. They had scenic view of the lake, a myriad of trees to jump to, and a porch to watch the sun-set, perfect for drinking tea or coffee and devouring hordes of nuts. They had a ping-pong table which looked oddly similar to the one we have and mattresses of the highest quality strewn across the floor, perfect for entertaining guests on the weekend.

They also had secret passageways to all corners of the building to which we had no access despite some mention of it in our rental agreement. Yep, they were living well and we were somewhat jealous of their special arrangement.

However, life with flying squirrels was a challenge as you might imagine. The family of flying squirrels, the wise elders included, were impolite, noisy, and reckless.

They partied all night and slept all day. This was another unique trait of their species. They preferred the night hours to play, rummage for nuts, and engage in ritualistic drinking games that involved running in circles, dancing, and hide and seek. The difference however between their version of hide and seek and ours was that they all had infrared goggles to see in the dark.

My wife and I were in bed most nights staring up at the ceiling as they laughed and chirped and enjoyed themselves at our expense. I often hoped that I would hear the responsible shushing of an elder flying squirrel, telling his family to respect the nice couple downstairs, but it never came.

So their parties and dances went on for nights and nights. Respectful of the administrators of our building who had given us a good deal on our new digs, we were hard-pressed to ask for some help with the flying squirrel charade that lived above us.

We also knew that the administrators had a lot of business to take care of, you know, administering a building and all. But the intransigence of the flying squirrels eventually got the best of us and we paid a visit to the nice couple down the road in front of the lake.

We politely asked the couple if there was any way to rectify the flying squirrel situation in the Penthouse. And they politely informed us that the flying squirrels had previously owned the whole building (I had a hunch) and that evicting them would require a lengthy legal process and fees in the neighborhood of 5-10,000 dollars. It would be like trying to evict Jay-Zee from the Trump Tower they told me.

Their hands were tied. They dismissed us with a smile and some cookies. But as we were leaving, the administrator mentioned that he might just have a long-shot solution to our problems. He knew someone who had some experience dealing with eccentric flying squirrels. But mostly he suggested that we plug some of the holes to minimize the noise and put on some classical music at night to sleep.

That night, feeling resigned to our fate, the saga continued. We heard giggling coming from the kitchen. Flying squirrels were now actually in our apartment daring each other to steal beer from our refrigerator and crackers from our cupboard.

We jumped out of bed and turned on the lights. The remaining flying squirrel, an adolescent, scurried to a hole we had never seen before. Squeezing into the tiniest of spaces, another unique ability of his species, the flying squirrel escaped up a vent and was gone before we could ask him questions.

In light of this most concerning event, we covered up the hole with a sock and some metal wiring. But the flying squirrel proceeded to bite and gnaw at the other end of the hole. What was he doing? Is he crazy? Previously anti-social flying squirrel turned aggressive psycho-path.

But then, the next day, something happened that saved us. A local carpenter arrived at our building to fix and finish some of the outstanding structural issues that remained. Structural issues? Or flying-squirrel-busting savant disguised as carpenter?

The local carpenter worked diligently both inside and out, plugging holes and finishing the trim. Over time, he miraculously tamed the disobedient flying squirrels on the third floor. Come to think of it, he kind of looked like the human version of a flying squirrel. He had big teeth that could crack nuts, an agile frame adept at scaling ladders and tight-rope walking between boards, and thick eye glasses that allowed him to see in the dark and at great distances.

Briefly losing myself in thought, the only reasoning I had for his taming of the flying squirrels was that their relationship reminded me of the fear and reverence the Ewoks in Star Wars felt toward C3PO.

Actually, the answer was quite simple and no need for a weird Star Wars references: the carpenter knew how to evict flying squirrels with his cunning and his hammer and nails. He closed up their secret passageways and chopped off their access to the Penthouse. He used his savvy squirrel-speak to frighten them away as well as various forms of subtle intimidation. No need for legal fees or difficult conversations it turned out, the local carpenter was our savior too.

But...and there always is a somewhat schizo-frenetic flying squirrel still remains. Apparently, he is stocking up for a long winter and planning to squat there for the duration; his version of Occupy Wall Street in Nobleboro.

Our story ends with the other-worldly carpenter telling us that he would work his magic until Thanksgiving and then be gone. And if the flying squirrel is still there?

He suggested stuffed flying squirrel with mashed potatoes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

10 predictions for my lifetime

These predictions are not necessarily original but have come from me. They are based on what's happening and my feelings about the nature of things. I will admit, they are pretty optimistic overall, but I am an optimistic guy and believe that we are always moving forward as a people both collectively and individually toward greater levels of enlightenment.

Life is becoming more and more fast-paced. As life speeds up, so does greater potential for advancement but also obstacles. Nonetheless, our collective consciousness is raising and rising more than ever before. This ultimately leads to the experience of a more harmonious planet and peace on earth.

The following predictions are in no particular order:

1. Political upheaval and transformation (as currently seen in the Middle East) will only grow and reach more and more countries eventually leading to more democratic governments in places that lack democracy and systemic changes in current democracies. All events strengthen individual rights generally while supporting the collective good specifically.

2. Environmental calamity in its various forms will continue to occur as the earth shifts and re-balances. Thousands, may be millions, of people will be affected but these changes will usher in a new era of policy, sustainability, and increased solidarity among governments and people. These changes will affect population growth and ecological systems too in profound ways but be better for us in the long-run.

3. A transfer to alternative energy sources among nations and people will only grow in nature and scope. Advancement in these areas and increased distribution will lead to lower prices while phasing out traditional sources of energy mitigating future conflict.

4. The cultural and practical rise of social businesses, grass-roots development, and social entrepreneurs will only increase as more and more individuals are empowered and given the tools to advance human development. Grass-roots organizing around ideas, new principles, and basic solutions will lead to more innovation and a greater role in development for the poorer populations of the world. Governments will no longer be able to overlook the critical masses.

5. Our current unsustainable economic system and market dependence will give way to a new system of economics that relies on principles that support individual success as before but whose very nature allows for collective advancement and the narrowing of the gap between rich and poor. The end result is a more wealthy populous whose benefits are widespread for all of humanity.

6. The Southern Hemisphere and the emerging economies' influence will only increase. They will face the same decisions most developed economies faced during their rise but will usher in a new model for development away from traditional means. This will force developed countries to change their policies presenting the risk of conflict. Still, the inter-connectedness of both hemispheres, combined with new perceptions of material and social progress, will work together to avoid the greatest pitfalls of their differences. Overall, a re-balancing of power will occur where 'more' countries have a say in international issues ultimately leading to a more democratic global system.

7. War over energy and water will be averted on a grand scale because of the new systems of doing things and the greater cooperation and inter-connectedness among nations. The above-mentioned predictions will allow for a more caring and altruistic system where those poised to feel the greatest effects of energy and water depletion, will be helped and guided.

8. International Organizations and blocs of countries will increasingly experiment and come together around general principles leaving more opportunities for a one-world government to be formed. Experiments like the European Union are examples of the slow shift to collective policies and governance for blocs of countries.

9. The explosion of our aging population world-wide will lead to new solutions for caring for our elders, decreasing costs, and empowering them to live more active later years while re-incorporating them into society.

10. The United States will continue to experience sluggish growth for the next decade, fall behind, and then, faced with difficult challenges to its relevance, rebound as a global leader again but this time as a "super-partner," not a super-power.