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You know what’s best about being here in India? I’m slowly taking on Indian characteristics; turning into an Indian man. Now that’s a vacation!

Oh, and just because I’m here doesn’t mean my business has shut down. My workers are busy battling mountain pests. Call us anytime you need help.
Here’s some differences between “America Mike” and “India Mike”:

America Mike eats most of the foods you eat, and is especially fond of wood-fired pizzas, scrambled eggs, and buttermilk pancakes. India Mike eats dosas, oopma, pongal, and is especially fond of maha raj bhog flavored ice cream.>>America Mike is a professional exterminator who prudently avoids contact with poison chemicals. India Mike fears getting malaria and fills his hotel room with a mosquito-killing fog so thick it could cause brain damage to small mammals.

America Mike fears being run over by a car and gets upset when some reckless driver almost kills him as he walks across the street. India Mike, like the locals, doesn’t bat an eye when a maniac comes within inches of hitting him. After all, if you’re not dead, injured, or lying unconscious in the street, what’s the problem?

America Mike owns a business and pays up the wazoo for an expensive AAA rated insurance policy. India Mike rents a motorcycle with a handshake and no one’s gonna be suing him now are they.

America Mike sets the example for his employees by obeying all of California’s stringent traffic laws. India Mike’s motorcycle headlight is broken, he has no Indian driver’s license, wears no helmet, drives barefoot, and rides on the wrong side of the road when traffic is bad, just like the locals.

India Mike will come home soon enough and transform back into America Mike, but please be patient, it may take him a while to readjust.

I just hope the CHP understands.

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Boy, the sky sure is a marvelous thing, isn’t it? If you could only see the sky from one part of earth, say, from a small town in the Rocky Mountains, people would flock from all over the world to behold its wonders. On a great day in “Blue Sky National Park”, visitors would see puffy white clouds as far as the eye can see. A lot of grandchildren would be hearing those stories, you better believe it. 

Why am I waxing philosophical about the sky? Because without the sky there would be no planes, and without those wonderful flying cocoons, I wouldn’t be heading to India tomorrow for my annual vacation. I’ve waited patiently for a whole year.

India is the land of infinite patience. There’s lots of people and lots of waiting in line. Indian people have learned to wait and they do it with grace, as I learned last year when I arrived in Chennai at my usual hotel.

The laundry manager saw me and headed straight towards me. “Sir, remember last year, I brought your clean laundry when you were checking out? I didn’t get the bill into the office in time and they took 400 Rupees (five dollars) out of my paycheck.”

“Yeah, I remember,” I said, marveling that he had waited a year to hear me speak those words. Five dollars is a lot of money to an Indian working man.

Did he ask for the money? No, he was too modest for that. I gave it to him, of course. He thanked me, bowed, and went back to work. For the next few days, he smiled whenever he saw me.

Tomorrow, I’ll be patiently flying to the other side of the world, swallowed up in that blue sky. 

So, what will I do with myself all day long on vacation? Hopefully not repay last year’s debts!

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(The following is the back cover of my upcoming book, A Rat Catcher’s Guide to Creative Inspiration. Available this spring from Amazon.)

  

Life is most majestic when childhood’s joy meets practiced skill.

         —Jun-Ar Qa’a (tunnel builder, philosopher, sewer rat)

  

My name is Michael A. Nolan and I want to teach you how to capture, not rats, but rather that elusive critter called “creative inspiration”. What are my credentials? Did I graduate from a prestigious university or paint the Mona Lisa? Nope. I learned about creativity in the best possible way: by catching rats and writing about my adventures in the newspaper. Hey, Leonardo da Vinci, I’d like to see you do that!

  

The rave reviews are flooding in like rats in the New York City Subway:

  • “We can honestly say that this is the best book ever on the subject of creative inspiration and sewer rat control.”

     —Pest Management Quarterly

  • “So, a professional exterminator is taking on the daunting subject of creative inspiration. Really? Rest assured,  Mr. Nolan, we in the fine art community are convinced of your rodent catching skills. We will certainly call you should the Guggenheim get invaded by vermin.”

     —The Monthly Review for the Creative Arts 

  • “When I picked up this book, I thought, ‘Is this a joke?’ If it is a joke, it’s no joke. Oh, and thanks, Mike, for the tip on keeping rats away from tomato plants without using poison.

      —What on Earth is Bugging You? A Guide for Organic Gardeners

  • “Michael, enlightened beings don’t harm rats, but rather gently guide them with sacred circle chants. Please stop trapping rodents. You wouldn’t want to be reincarnated as a rat, now would you?

      —The Journal for Self-Realization and Cosmic Yoga

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“Oh boy, a wild critter!”

I glanced out the window to my back deck last week and saw the backside of a furry animal running down the steps. The mystery creature was much bigger than a squirrel. That always adds spice to the sighting.

I made my move. I quietly hurried outside and peered over the handrail to the ground below. I immediately spotted the critter.

“Oh, no,” I thought. “It’s that master hunter, no doubt stalking the squirrels eating peanuts on my back deck.” 

He was a handsome devil, but then again, all bobcats are beautiful. Luckily for the squirrels, his jaws were empty.

I love seeing bobcats, hawks, golden eagles, owls, coyotes, foxes and all the gorgeous predators in our mountains. Have you ever seen one of our adorable pygmy owls? I have. Google them and you’ll see one of the cutest animals ever.

Whether you appreciate their beauty or not, predator animals, like Home Defenders, do the important work of hunting rodents. We work inside the home, and they work outside. That’s man and nature working in harmony. Call us when furry pests invade. (Don’t worry, though, we won’t bring a bobcat.)

I tried following my bobcat visitor. Calling softly and walking gently, I crept closer and closer. To my surprise, he walked nonchalantly ahead. When I was thirty feet away he really surprised me because he turned to face me, sat on the ground and playfully folded his paws in front. I stopped in my tracks.

For a minute, he looked at me and I looked at him. It was a Mexican standoff of sorts, with no hint of hostility. We were just two professional rodent hunters going about our business, two peas in a pod … one of us young, handsome, regal, and the other, well … maybe not so much. You guess which is which.

Aw, come on, people! 

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Planes are pretty neat, huh? We walk into a long metal tube and in a few hours we walk out into another world. It’s a miracle.

I’m flying to India soon for my annual break from running Home Defenders, and I’ve been thinking about planes. But, they’re not the only modern miracles I reflect on …. 

 

Plumbing — We turn the tap and water comes out. What’s so great about that? Everything.

Modern plumbing amazes me. Massive volumes of water have to be collected, stored and pumped up mountains, under streets and into our homes. Every sink, toilet, and bathtub needs shutoff valves and hoses that are under enormous pressure. Hundreds of little things could go wrong, or big things, like earthquakes.

What amazes me most is that there’s no central authority running the show. Water companies manage the pipes under the street, but the system also depends on homeowners, plumbers, handymen, and do-it-yourselfers. We’re like a giant colony of bees that keeps a mammoth nest humming, with each bee doing their part.

Modern plumbing is the human brain at its most brilliant and practical.

Freeways — Wait, hear me out. Sure, the Southern California freeways are notoriously jammed, but I drove to Santa Monica last weekend and only encountered two minor accidents. That is phenomenally amazing!

I passed tens of thousands of drivers. Some were teenagers, others elderly, some were undoubtedly under the influence of alcohol or drugs, most were licensed, some surely unlicensed, most were competent, others not. Yet only two accidents? Why not a thousand? Two thousand?

If you went back a hundred years and described a modern freeway to people, most would shake their head and say, “You’re off your rocker.” Remember that the next time you’re a stuck in traffic.

I’m awed by so many aspects of Southern California life I could even consider canceling my vacation to India just to stay here and appreciate it all.

But not quite.

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Hello, reader, how was your Thanksgiving vacation? I hope yours was great because I ended up spending much of my vacation getting mice out of my parents’ kitchen. So, after a hard summer battling pests, I ended up battling pests on my first break in six months. You can always count on mice to ruin a good time.

Have you ever noticed how dumb those little hellions are? We humans have been oppressing mice for millennia and you’d think that a Spartacus mouse would have risen up by now and started a revolt, but nope, the boneheads keep bumbling into our peanut butter laden traps.  

Mind you, incited by a fearless leader, they’d be a force to be reckoned with. Imagine heading to your kitchen for a late night snack when suddenly you feel pinpricks in your ankles. You look down and see a platoon of mice shooting teeny arrows. You shoo them off with a broom and they retreat into your crawl space where their secret army base is located.

I guess the mouse rebels would have barracks and canteens that serve cheap grain alcohol. Fights would break out and blood would spill. Lady mice of ill repute would be hanging around, showing lots of cleavage. I don’t know if I’d be fascinated by that or just plain disgusted.

Hey homeowners, are drunken soldier mice singing lewd songs in your crawl space? Are they ruining your good times? Call Home Defenders now and we’ll put down that rebellion like those Roman legions of old. Hail, Caesar! (Sure, he had his faults, but at least he was a human being.)

Anyway, I got the critters out of my parents’ home. I don’t have to worry about guerrilla mice ruining our Christmas with their bawdy carols or whatever it is those lunatics do at the holidays.

Hurry up, Christmas, I need a vacation now!

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Rat catchers throughout history have gotten a bad rap. In this winter season when rodents battle to get into our warm homes, I’d like to celebrate this ancient and noble profession.

2640 BC, Egypt: One spring day, Pharaoh Khufu—who built the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World—watched in awe as his palace cat, “Khoofy II”, caught eight rats, one after another. Khufu was so impressed he bade his temple poet, Horus Sa, to compose a poem honoring cats:

 

The majestic cat, let us celebrate,

as the cursed rat we berate.

Oh, puss, your skills honor the gods,

as to your cuteness, well, we are awed. 

 

The love of cats—Mother Nature’s most efficient Home Defenders—has persisted through the millennia and is alive and downloading videos on our own “Great Wonder”, the internet.

 Khoofy II, we who catch rats salute you!

48 BC, Rome: Janus Antonius, a poor rat catcher in the neighborhoods near the Roman Forum, picked up curly metal shavings from a sword maker’s shop and wove them together, forming the world’s first steel wool. Alas, he had no use for it.

One day, seeing a rat run into a small hole in a barley granary wall, Janus realized that he could  plug the hole with his steel wool. Without knowing it, Janus had invented the art of rodent-proofing. The rest is pest control history.

Julius Caesar was so dazzled he rewarded Janus with twenty bags of salt, a precious commodity. Janus immediately became the richest rat catcher in Rome.

However, tragedy soon struck the innovative exterminator. In 45 BC, Janus was executed in the Coliseum for making a drunken pass at a particularly voluptuous Vestal Virgin.

Now that’s a rat catcher worth his salt!

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Quick, what’s the scariest part of your home? Is it the attic, ground zero for supernatural happenings in horror movies? Maybe. Is it the water heater closet, from whence comes many a weird gurgling sound? Well, only if Dracula is hiding in there with a case of indigestion. Is it the crawl space, home of rats, raccoons, poisonous spiders, and snakes? Provided you have a fear of dying a grisly death, the correct answer is “crawl space”.

I’ve inspected thousands of crawl spaces, and here’s the most common questions I get:

1) How often should I get my crawl space inspected? Every year. Crawl spaces are home to lots of destructive pests, including rats, mice, ants, termites, and so on. Most homeowners don’t even know even those critters are under there.

2) What’s it like squirming in a tight crawl space? Well, it’s a claustrophobic place where you think, “What if an earthquake hits and I’m trapped?” It’s a place where you pray you never bump into a live rattlesnake … or the corpse of the guy who did bump into a live rattlesnake. It’s a place where a man asks himself, “Did I go to college for this?”

3) Just what kind of man inspects grimy crawl spaces, anyway? Well, a good one who’s not afraid of a hard day’s work. But maybe one who goofed off too much in college … maybe he should have talked to his guidance counselor once in a blue moon … and perhaps he should have listened to his parents who really did know what they were talking about all along, darn it! 

But, ultimately … one who was never cut out for a white-collar job and who really does love his work. And when you call his company, Home Defenders, he’s more than happy to, ahem … use his college-educated head and send one of his workers to come inspect your crawl space!

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Hey kids, Uncle Pest Pro here! This week, I’m introducing “Kritter Korner for Kidz” and like the name says, it’s just for kids. So gather ‘round, munchkins!

What are we gonna do? We’re gonna hear about scary spiders! We’re gonna draw pictures of blind mice! And we’re gonna learn to holler, “Better call Home Defenders, mom!”

But first, it’s story time! Once upon a time—but really just this morning—I was telling my secretaries how I’ve been eating lots of fruits and veggies lately. “My weight is down to 146 pounds,” I proudly said. Well, it turns out that our bookkeeper, Auntie Nova, was not impressed. “That’s not enough for a big ol’ grown man to weigh!” she said, sounding like that bitter Wicked Witch of the West.

You know, kids, adults are funny. Sometimes they say one thing, but they mean something else. And do you know what Auntie Nova really meant? She meant that when pretty women are in the mood to, well, make kids of their own, they won’t be knocking on Uncle Pest Pro’s door. And that sure is a rotten thing to say.

But that’s grownup stuff and you can worry about it later. For now, eat lots of fruits and veggies … and get ready for the insults because, believe me, they’re coming. Heck, I think I’ll wolf down a milkshake and large fries because no matter what you do there’s no pleasing the members of a certain gender. And that’s not a sexist remark, either, I could be talking about men. Seriously, ladies, no angry emails.

Uh … hey kids, why the long faces? You know, gang … being an adult is all about taking constructive criticism and I just got a fun idea! Let’s all go to the gym and toss that big medicine ball and lift weights. 

A little extra muscle mass never hurt a kid or a big ol’ grown man!

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“Crazy?”

I just spoke with a regular Pest Pro reader who said, “I read your crazy articles every week.” And that’s not the first time someone’s described my articles as “crazy”.

What’s going on? I work hard to write a serious entomological column, complete with Latin names for bugs. And I was an English major, well-read in Chaucer and Shakespeare. Are some readers misinterpreting something? Missing something? Are my articles a Rorschach test into their own psyches?

None of my articles could be described as crazy. If you don’t believe me, just ask my imaginary companion since childhood, a pet rat named Cornelius. Hey Cornelius, do you think my articles are crazy?

CORNELIUS: Negatory on that, good buddy.

You see! He agrees with me. This is just a typical pest advice column, as dry and sterile as a surgeon’s scalpel. Right, Cornelius?

CORNELIUS: 10-4 on that. Breaker, breaker, there’s a smoky in the granny lane on the I-5 near the Grapevine.

Uh, sorry folks, Cornelius is obsessed with trucker’s slang. Just ignore that. But what you shouldn’t ignore is Cornelius’ advice on which company you should call for problem pests. Take it away, Cornelius … (awkward pause). Come on, Cornelius, tell the people who they should call when they need help with pests.

CORNELIUS: When you need help … git on down to Bobby’s Big Rig Emporium, serving the tri-state area since 1952.

Gosh darn it, Cornelius! Can’t you once in your cursed life do what your told and tell the people to call Home Defenders! Don’t you know who butters your bread? Get with the program!

Sorry for that outburst, readers. Just be sure to check back next week when I explain—in painstaking, sadistic detail—how to get rid of a problem rat.

CORNELIUS: Negatory on that, you’d go crazy without me.

10-4 on that, Cornelius. 10-4 on that, good buddy.