Curry and Death.

I spent most of yesterday shoveling ice and slush -- from the inside of my garage. The entire thing flooded, despite a 2-foot-deep trench I dug in front of the garage doors. The trench just filled up with water and then overflowed. I must have taken about 20 five-gallon buckets of half-frozen water out of that trench yesterday afternoon. Needless to say, it sucked ass. The first thing I am going to do when the snow is gone is hire someone to regrade my driveway so it's no longer higher than the garage floor. I don't care if they have to dig it down so deep I end up needing fucking stairs to get from the driveway to the lawn -- this is the last year I will have an ice-skating rink (and then a pond) inside my garage.

As I was trying to get my lawnmower unstuck from the ice-encrusted garage floor, I was pondering what to write about. Not a lot of funny stuff has happened to me lately, and I've been slacking off in the blogging department because I've been sick for the last week and a half with the worst headache of my entire life. It was so bad I thought I blew a tube in my brain but it turned out to be my first-ever sinus infection. What the hell, sinuses. After all this time you decide to screw with me? Tonight is the first night I'm able to think in complete sentences, so what am I doing? I'm entertaining you, that's what. Why? Because I care. Anyway, yanking the shit out of my frozen lawnmower reminded me of a time when I was still living home and my parents got new "across the street" neighbors, and I think it's a tale worth telling. Or maybe it's not and that's just my inflamed sinuses talking. I guess we'll see. It's a little gross, so be prepared.

When I was a teenager, the house across the street went up for sale. It wasn't for sale for very long because this was the 80's and aside from parachute pants and mullets, things were swell. We lived in a pretty middle-class, tighty-whitey neighborhood, so it was sort of a surprise when an Indian couple moved in. I think I found out later he was a doctor, and I don't think his wife worked, since she was home all day. I don't remember her name, but for the sake of this story, I'll call her Ahladita, because I just looked it up and it means "in a happy mood" and she was always smiling and waving.

She spoke very little English, but she seemed friendly enough. She would periodically bring over dishes of indian food that my mother couldn't stand the smell of. To her credit, she actually tried it the first time, but it was so spicy she couldn't eat it. So from that point on, she would politely accept it, and then when Ahladita left, she'd immediately bury it in the backyard. No, not really. She just double bagged it and put it with the outside trash. Basically, it got the same treatment as the used cat litter. We were an Irish-Italian meat and potatoes family. We didn't know what curry was, and we didn't want to know.

My mother worked part-time as a medical transcriptionist, so she worked out of her home office. I found out later that 'home office' was IRS code for what I normally just called 'the dining room table' but that's between my father and the government. It's only relevant to the story because as a result of working part-time from home, the bulk of the weekly yard work fell to her.

My mother would plant flowers, weed the flowerbeds, mow the lawn, rake the leaves, put mulch down, you name it. The first week they moved in, my mother would see Ahladita across the street, doing the same chores, and they would wave to each other, even though they didn't have a common word between them. One day, my mother noticed something. Whenever she would start to do a particular chore, so would Ahladita. If my mother weeded the flower beds, Ahladita would weed the flowerbeds. If my mother decided to trim the shrubs, Ahladita would trim the shubs. It occurred to my mother that Ahladita thought there were proper times to do things, and was trying to fit in by doing the same things my mother did at exactly the same times. You can't fault the logic, really. It was just a little creepy.

The following week, my father came home from Sears with a new self-propelled, walk behind lawnmower for my mother. As she was using it, she noticed Ahladita watching from across the street. After my mother was done mowing, Ahladita came over and took a closer look at at it. The next day, my mother saw Ahladita pushing the same exact lawn mower back and forth across her lawn.

It was about 95 degrees outside, and Ahladita was streaming sweat, and her sari was soaked. She was leaning into the lawnmower like an ox into a yoke. My mother watched for a second, then realized that the lawnmower Ahladita was pushing wasn't making any noise. She was pushing a non-running self-propelled lawnmower back and forth across the lawn. My mother called my father downstairs, and he went over to check it out. Turns out not only was the lawnmower not running, it also didn't have any gas or oil in it. She basically took it out of the box and started pushing it around.

My dad went back to his garage and got some oil and gas and the mower set up, then showed her how to use it. After that, my parents sort of adopted Ahladita and her husband. Any time they had a question, they'd come over and ask.

One day, Ahladita came over and wiggled her fingers and asked my mother something about worms. My mother wasn't sure what the heck she was talking about, and for five minutes she tried to get her to explain. Eventually, she got something out of her that sounded like "carpet worms." My mother told Ahladita to show her, figuring that would be much easier. So Ahladita brought my mother into her house, and my mother knew immediately that something was very wrong. The entire place smelled like curry and carrion. Ahladita brought my mom into the family room, and walked over toward the fireplace. She stopped in front of the hearth, and knelt down and started slapping the rug. As soon as she did it, hundreds of maggots boiled up from the carpet. My mother completely freaked out, grabbed Ahladita and ran outside, where she then tried to explain to her what they were and where they came from, and why it was never good when maggots came out your carpet when you slapped at it. Something horrible was happening with the fireplace and the rug underneath it.

When my father came home from work, my mother told him what happened, and he went over to check it out. He came back, completely grossed out, but grabbed his shop vac and headed back over. After vacuuming up maggots for twenty minutes, he started checking out the fireplace. There was definitely something foul going on up in there, and my father figured a bird had gotten in there and died. When he tried to open the flue, a rain of maggots fell down and the full stench was released into the room. This was no bird. It was something big, heavy, and very, very deceased. No, it wasn't Santa Claus.

This went way beyond what my father had signed up for, so he admitted defeat and called animal control, who referred him to a local pest control company. They came out and took the damper apart. As it turned out, the chimney ledge above the damper was the final resting place for a very large, very dead raccoon that had apparently been in there for weeks. It took a month for the stench to finally dissipate. The pest control guy installed a screen on the top of the chimney so it wouldn't happen again, and that was the end of that. I think everyone in the neighborhood got screens for their chimneys within the space of 2 days. I am pretty sure not having carpet maggots was a big purchase incentive there.

After that, my parents kept their distance. I think they decided that a friendly wave from across the street followed immediately by jumping in the car and driving away at high speed was the best course of action going forward. A couple of years later, Ahladita and her husband moved away, and the carpet worm story became one of my mom's favorites.

I only hope that wherever they moved to, Ahladita isn't walking slowly around the yard, waving a leaf blower that isn't turned on.

I'll bet you my paycheck they have a screen on their chimney though.


  1. 1) Sorry you are sick and your garage is slick. Get your yard tiled, maybe, and the driveway graded?

    2) You should have tried the curry. Bet it tasted awesome!

    3) I am LMAO at the leaf blower comment and gagging totally about the maggots. Yeah, I had a lovely picture window view of the decomposition process when a vole chewed a hole in the screen in our basement window and got stuck & died last winter. Every time you went down in the basement and looked at the window, there was something new going on - like the times when the whole thing was crawling. EWWWWWW! It took a LONG time for that animal to finish being bug food.

  2. Johnny you're back! Dude, so sorry to hear about the sinuses. I got my first sinus infection at the age of 32 -- your pain and confusion are familiar to me.

    We bought a house two years ago that was 80 years old, and THE FIREPLACE HAD NEVER BEEN USED. The bricks in it were WHITE -- no soot or ash anywhere. I had the chimney inspected for the first time in 80 years. Generations and generations of squirrels had met their demise in that non-sooty vertical tunnel. We have a screen now, too.

    Feel better. You're co ol!

  3. Anonymous12:34 AM

    Oh my god, NETI POT. I swore I'd never stick a coffee creamer in my nose but last week I was desperate to try anything.

    It was like magic. Instant relief. No drug has ever done for me what 8oz. of salt water up my nose did. Utterly amazing. You will kick yourself for not getting one sooner.

  4. Anonymous6:54 AM

    Better than a neti pot. They sell this in local drug stores.
    A douche for your nose....flushes better than a McDonald's toilet and tastes like you're at the beach.
    Sinus infections suck.

    Loved the line about "IRS code for the dining room table".

    Great stuff, as always.

  5. all good stuff!!! Yay!
    However, not wuite prepared for a maggot story this early in the morning...blagh.
    That is one good story- now I think I better call about getting a screen on our chimney.

  6. The house I rented last winter had a garage that flooded too, about this time of year. It wasn't as bad as what you had to deal with, but still, I feel your pain.

  7. Omg, this post needed a maggot advisory label. Seriously, sick.

    I lol'ed at the stairs to the garage part, but I always am one to laugh at other people's misfortunes.

    Hope your head feels better, the second I think I might have a sinus infection, I run to the doc for antibiotics like a weiner.

  8. Yes, she is walking around with a weed wacker....not running.
    Her kids are the programmers over in the payroll department......

  9. as a sufferer of chronic sinusitis, i have to second the neti pot suggestion. i got out of bed at two in the morning one night last week just to clear my head. works like a charm.

    good thing i was done with my cereal before i got to the maggoty part... we've found lots of sketchy stuff in our cabin, but nothing that gross...

  10. Had my first sinus infection last year, too. Felt like I had gone a couple rounds with Iron Mike. Except for the ear thing. Those felt fine.

    "wiggling her fingers... carpet worm" Now I know how to do a massive understatement in sign language and broken English.

    Glad you're back!

  11. Neti pot good. Though weird and uncomfortable. It's horrifying to find out how much mucous you store up there.

    I like dead stuff (studying to be a forensic anthropologist...not a serial killer), so I wasn't too bothered by the maggots.

    But the visual of that poor woman pushing the lawn mower around her yard without turning it on has me giggling like a school girl. Good thing she was only copying your mother on yard work.

  12. Anonymous11:31 AM

    You can buy all sorts of things to honk up your nose, but I just mix one cup of lukewarm water with about 1/4 tsp of salt and snort that. My doctor says that does everything the commercial snortable nasal douchy things do and it's almost free. Even my 6 year old does this to get rid of "clear boogies", as she calls them.

    We had Indian neighbors all over the place at our last house. Nicest people you'd ever want to meet. They had well-behaved kids and brought over nice food a lot. I loved that part. The only bad part was that they all seemed to think that any plants in the front yard were a sign of slovenliness and would dig EVERYTHING out of their yards. Also, it was kind of hard to sell my house, since they often would hang their laundry on the trees to dry and they spent a great deal of time squatting on their front porches in odd clothing. I really did like them though, even though I took a tremendous beating on my house when I did finally sell it. I kind of think we could learn a lot from their culture (and vise versa, of course).


  13. Anonymous1:43 PM

    I almost had "Carpet Crawlers" from the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway out of my brain, but you just brought it all back. Thanks a lot

  14. Anonymous2:22 PM

    I think this is a charming story, despite the grossness of the maggots.

    We had a family of racoons in OUR chimney when I was a kid. We went up on the roof and shined a flashlight down the chimney, there they were way down nesting on top of the closed flu. My mom was terrified that somebody would open the flu and all the racoons would fall out into the fireplace and then wreak havoc all over the house.

  15. Thanks, I no longer have to figure out what to make for dinner because I won't be able to eat today.

    The image of her pushing the dead lawnmower, however, made my day.

  16. Anonymous4:18 PM

    My tummy hurts from laughing! I can't help but wonder how anyone can not know what maggots are...how is that even possible?

    Great tale, Johnny, thank you. I hope you feel better soon. Sinus infections suck harder than a two dollar whore.

  17. OMG.

    I have my own story with maggots - my dog got hit by a UPS truck and had lots of wounds on his back that I had to take care of. He couldn't walk, so I'd drag him out to the front yard every day so he could soak in the sun (he was an outdoors dog). Anyway, the flies were buzzing around him and I always tried to keep them off, but the little buggers laid their disgusting eggs in my dog's wounds. I found this out when I went to check on him one time and saw these white things which, upon closer inspection, were moving. I was five months pregnant at this time which was a good thing since the nausea and all that was past. But I called my vet who told me to pour hydrogen peroxide in the wounds and kill the maggots. That did NOT work. So I ended up digging the little buggers out and smashing them on my garage floor. My husband, of course, was working out of town.

  18. Anonymous5:27 PM

    because i go to a crazy school, where forensic science is actually a class. i got to collect maggots from the body of a dead raccoon, yes gross, yes it was an assignment. so i totally understand the gross out factor, be glad you werent there.
    sorry you're sick, but seriously how ever many years you've been alive and no sinus infection?? thats just unfair.
    get better soong

  19. Holy hell that's disgusting.

    By the way, I'm actually missing a sinus. It was discovered during an x-ray of my face because I hit myself in the nose with a hamper.

    True story.

    Hope you feel better.

  20. Anonymous7:54 PM

    EW about the maggots! Saline nasal spray daily really does help with the sinues, not the maggots.

  21. That is the MOST disgusting thing I have ever heard. I don't think you could ever get that out of your brain. When I was growing up we had an elderly neighbor across the street. She had a family of raccoons move into her basement via the fireplace. By the sounds of the neighborhood gossip, they were shacking up for a while before being evicted. The chimney screens were a big hit in our 'hood as well. Weren't you the "tools frozen in ice" guy last year?

  22. Anonymous12:42 PM

    loved the story - you actually got me to laugh! Success!

  23. Anonymous2:25 PM

    I agree with Dina about this story needing a maggot advisory label. Not much makes me physically ill, but the mental picture of "carpet worms" definitely freed up my evening, as I no longer have any lunch to sweat off. Thanks for that, really.

    I am also a cosigner for the neti pot. It works wonders.

    Oh, and curry is good for the sinuses too.

  24. That was just too funny!

  25. Anonymous6:22 PM

    Eeew, maggots. Gross!
    The lawnmower story had me cracking up, though.
    We had weird neighbors move in next door once. Parents were strange and had kids of every color fostered from ages 2 up to 24living with them.
    Anyway, they came over to ask how to use their mower once, and whe nmy dad checked it out, he discovered thatthe gas tank was empty, and the part where you put oil was overflowing with gas.
    My dad looked at them like they had 15 eyes and said "Do you know how to read English??? G-A-S here. O-I-L there! This is broken now."

  26. In no particular order:

    1) The best part of a neti pot is how frigging happy the people pictured on any accompanying neti-pot literature are about using their nostril kettle.

    2) The lawnmower incident reminds me of an old joke about a Norwegian logger with a chainsaw that my mom's been telling for decades.

    3) Before I got to the raccoon denoument, I was getting a total "OMG, your neighbors killed SANTA!" vibe. Whew...? I guess?

    Excellent story, though. That poor woman--she really needed your folks! How sweet of them, to oblige. At least until the edification of the neighbors got a little too corpse-y.

  27. I used to get a sinus infection every other month. Since the netti pot - NADA.

    I vomited a little in my mouth while reading this story. I think I am permanently scarred.

  28. Only you, Johnny, can put together a story about sinus goo, maggots, and a garage flood all in one good short read. The sari story reminds me of my Indian fluid mechanics professor. She was THE BEST instructor I ever had. I went to college in the frozen north where the wind never stopped blowing and the wind chill was like -40. There would be my professor walking through campus wearing packs, her parka and her pink sari blowing ten feet behind her. I think she wore a sleevless union suit under the thing...bet it was made of silk too.

  29. Anonymous5:28 PM

    Holy shit! I am so glad I don't have a fireplace right now...

  30. Anonymous6:49 AM

    Hilarious read Johnny... and how did you come with the name 'Ahladita'? Its not so oft used even in India and many of us would not even know its meaning. Great Find :)

  31. Anonymous12:14 AM

    Huge "awww" moment when you described the neighbor mimicking your Mom because she had no common language. That actually made me feel all sappy and glad that your folks tried to help them adapt.

    Good luck with the sinus infection! If you let them go too long, the roots of your teeth can get infected and then it's Root Canal time. Happened to my husband twice!

  32. That's just about the grossest thing I've ever heard. Those poor people.