Squirrel Armageddon

evilIf we were having coffee today I guess it would be high time I told you about my experience with Squirrel Armageddon.  That’s right.  I’m talking about evil, vindictive squirrels.

I was reminded of this the other day when I saw some television commercial that featured a number of squirrels all gathered in a tree and they were ganging up on a guy and pelting him and his car with pine cones.  It is amazing the horrors that can be dredged up from something so mundane.

Years ago in Austin, Texas I lived next to a park that stretched along a creek in a narrow band for about a mile or so.  Most weekends I’d take a walk down the length of this park and back.  My garage apartment was right at the edge of a wider area of the park that was nicely wooded and included tennis courts and a playground and at the end of my walk I’d usually saunter across this area back to my place.

One quiet Sunday I was finishing my rounds and as I entered the far edge of the playground I heard a loud noise over near my house.  My next-door neighbor’s dog was chasing a squirrel in the yard.  The squirrel managed to get away but not before it let off a loud frantic alarm screech.  In seconds, in every tree in the park, every squirrel in the area descended and started chirping and flicking their tails, not at the miscreant dog mind you, but at me.  The dog was long gone, show’s over for him.  These guys were all focused on yours truly, the only other living thing in the park.

I don’t know if you’ve ever really heard a squirrel alarm, so I found one on YouTube that sounds pretty close to what I remember.  https://youtu.be/i6IR0JmfkvQ … fast forward to about 43 seconds in.  Close your eyes and let it sink in, then multiply it by hundreds and add in spooky echoing effects from all the trees on an otherwise still Sunday morning. Yeah, I think that would be pretty close.

Don’t forget, they were focusing all their attention on me, every last one of them, their tails flicking, their evil, dark squirrel eyes sizing me up, re-positioning themselves to continue focusing on me as I warily crept across the park, at this point uncertain if the intimidation might possibly turn into action.  I have to admit I thought of that fearsome bunny in Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

This cacophony continued until well after I fumbled with my keys and entered the safety of my apartment.  I’m sure great-great grandchildren squirrels in that park still recount tales of their ancestors fighting and winning the battle of Sunday morning.  Brrrrrr.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  http://thefensk.com for more information.

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Weekend Coffee Hankering

el-patioIf we were having coffee today I’d have to confess to a bit of hankering for the old country.

I saw a posting on Facebook the other day from what used to be my favorite Mexican restaurant back in Austin, Texas.  I both love and hate those postings … love them because they remind me of so many great Tex-Mex meals at El Patio.  I hate them because they remind me I haven’t eaten there is such a gosh-darned long time.  Oh, seriously, I don’t hate the posts and could never hate the restaurant.  It just makes me homesick. It’s been a long time.

El Patio is part of a vanishing breed of old-school Tex-Mex restaurants.  It’s been way over sixty years in the same location, right next to the University of Texas.  My wife’s parents were fans of this place from the start and she even went on a date or two with one of the current owner’s cousins back in the sixties, although that doesn’t have anything to do with the restaurant, but when we got together it was one of the things we had in common:  El Patio!

It’s not particularly fancy and it doesn’t concentrate on trendy additions to the menu.  It simply and surely continues a long tradition of serving quality traditional Tex-Mex food.  The postings really do make me homesick.  Back in the day, I knew people who turned up their noses at El Patio as being old-fashioned and out of step.  I always figured that was too bad for them as that was their loss.  To me, it is comfort food and THAT, my friends, is never out of step.  Old-fashioned?  Let me tell you something, it was the pioneers like the Joseph family who put traditional Tex-Mex cuisine on the map. Spread that on your corn tortilla and eat it.  The so-called trendy places of today would not even exist without the original trendsetters who blazed the trails (quite literally in the case of Tex-Mex).

I missed El Patio so much, I included a cameo snippet of it in my last novel, A Curse That Bites Deep … the snippet is based on my 1980s memories of the place, so it is appropriately set in the 1980s.
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”   “You’ve been away for a while. There anyplace you miss?… How about El Patio?”
Sam thought for several seconds …  “Okay, I could do with some classic Austin Tex-Mex,” he said, smiling.
The small Mexican food eatery was in the shadow of the University of Texas and had a loyal following among the school community. Inside, savory aromas sparked his taste buds, which he thought was odd since he was bombarded with similar smells virtually every day at The Mossback.
They munched on saltines and hot sauce. The saltines were a throwback to the early days of Tex-Mex when fried tortilla chips were not automatically part of the meal.   ”
———

Sigh.
Oh, in the 80s that saltines thing was the norm there.  Now they have sort of caved-in to the times and started serving chips. It was a cost thing.  But in truth, in the old days of Tex-Mex, saltines were the standard at most places.  ( BTW, “The Mossback” is the small fictional restaurant where he works in West Texas in the novel. )

So, to my buddy David Joseph at El Patio, I hope you keep posting those tempting pictures even though they make me homesick.  Perhaps if I sell enough books, I’ll get back by and enjoy another opportunity to feast for myself.  You can read about the restaurant on their web page … http://www.elpatioaustin.com/     If you go visit Austin … go there!   Tell David I sent you.  He might just give me some free guacamole on my nachos if enough people tell him that.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer currently living in North Carolina.  More information and buy links for his two novels, THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP can be found on his website, http://thefensk.com
Remember, if he sells enough books, maybe he can go to El Patio too!