Saturday, September 10, 2005


Subtitle: We be schleppin' spiders formication An abnormal sensation as of insects running over or into the skin, associated with cocaine intoxication or disease of the spinal cord and peripheral nerves.
I'm formicating without the benefit of cocaine and without the excuse of peripheral neuropathy. No, my skin crawls because this house is overrun by fleas. We have a vet date next Wednesday to get the cats dipped. That will be a fine time to bomb the house, right? Well . . . don't forget my wife's forty tarantulas. Can't gas the fleas without gassing those bad boys (and girls). That means we have to clear out all our little critters before bombing the house. We're moving them to our office. No, they will not be in view of the patients, some of whom have heart conditions. Which reminds me of a story . . . Karen always wanted a King Baboon spider. For the love of God, if you're afraid of spiders, don't click on this link. And if you treasure your sanity, don't look at this one, either. We had her shipped to us by overnight mail, all eight inches of her. Eight inches of pleasure -- we had Grace Slick beat by an inch. (Sorry. I'm showing my age.) Karen unpacked her and placed her in a large plastic jar covered with nylon fabric. Shift to present tense for that extra bit of urgency. As usual, I get to the office before Karen. Noya and Catrina (my staff) and several patients show up before Karen, too. While those first few patients wait for me, I plug in the laptop and turn it on. Gots to do the morning email & surfing. Okay, so the laptop takes a while to warm up. Let's see how Karen's big motha is doing. Um. Um, how exactly do you misplace eight inches of tarantula? The plastic jar is empty. A hole has been snipped through the nylon, a hole with a serrated edge, as if two not-so-little fangs have been very busy all night long. I give a panicky glance into my waiting room. Two women, each spilling over the physical boundaries of the chairs -- faces florid, neck veins bulging -- smile at me. I give them my most sincere cheesy grin,
thinking, How am I going to check beneath their chairs without looking very, very strange? I edge my way over to Catrina and Noya and whisper without moving my lips (because many of my patients are hard of hearing and can read lips), "There is one big fucking spider on the loose somewhere in this office. Get Karen down here now."
Karen laughed at us when she got in. She thought it was sooo funny that we were all freaking like little girlie-men (and girlie-girls) when she (1) knew where the spider would head, and (2) felt confident the spider would be dormant, thanks to the low ambient temperature. I kept wondering, Does my malpractice cover heart attack due to spider? To Karen's credit, she later apologized for laughing at us. No patients were harmed in the hatching of this anecdote. D. UPDATE. The tarantulas have made it successfully to the office. My bedroom is now an arachnid-free zone. Now I can have sex with my wife without 320 dark beady eyes bearing down on us. (And you thought having the dog watch was freaky.)


Blogger Gabriele C. said...

You sure there isn't one missing? My father told me he today had to evacuate a spider from the parlour that looked like "a mouse with extra long legs. It was the bloody largest spider I've ever seen." And he has evacuated his share of big garage and cellar spiders when we still lived in the contryside.

9/10/2005 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

A mouse with extra long legs, and extra legs, too ;o)

9/10/2005 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Candy said...


Came thisclose to barfing at the description of all those spider eyes watching. Always watching.

Goddammit, now I'm formicating too.

Anyway, about the flea thing: Did Advantage or Frontline not work for you? I tend to be really suspicious of applying neurotoxic insecticides on pets, but I did a lot of reading Advantage and Frontline are relatively benign, especially if you don't use it prophylactically and dose the cat whether or not it has fleas. (Overuse of insecticides has to rank right up there with overuse of antibiotics as a pet peeve of mine.)

I had a massive flea infestation last year. Very mysterious, because my cats are indoor-only. Three doses of Advantage (spaced a month apart) and a shitload of cleaning later (daily sweeping, weekly mopping, frequent vacuuming of chairs, bed and bedroom carpet then immediately discarding the bag [flea eggs and larvae can live in the bag and hop out when they mature]), we got rid of 'em without having to bomb anything. The flea infestation basically died down about a week after applying the Advantage and going psycho with the cleaning; I kept up with the Advantage as long as I kept combing up fleas off the cats.

I'm really sensitive to flea bites, and this year, I got nary a one.

And in case you don't know this yet (you probably do, since you and Karen are really well-read, but please allow me to be pedantic): The bomb very likely won't affect the eggs. Those fuckers get everywhere. Clean your house like you're an OCD motherfucker for the whole week after the bombing. Wash everything that's washable, vacuum, sweep, mop. Every surface that your cats frequent, including windowsills? Wipe 'em down with a damp cloth.

Hello, I am Crazy Cat Lady. I know way more than is healthy about cat physiology and non-toxic ways to treat assorted cat ailments. How YOU doin'?

9/10/2005 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

I think we've established: no threesome action here, at least not while the spiders are watching.

Seriously, Candy, thanks for the advice. Frontline didn't help, not one bit. I'd take your advice on the OCD cleanup, except we are (hopefully) moving back into our REAL house in a couple weeks. We hope.

We settled on the magic carpet powder. Sprinkle it on, vacuum it up after thirty minutes. Don't know if it kills eggs.

Must watch Man with Screaming Brain. Now.

9/10/2005 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I checked out those spider pics, and, you know, I don't think that there is anything to worry about. The beast is clearly surrendering.

I'd be more worried about Gabriele's extra-long-legged mouse, especially if it has fleas.

9/11/2005 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger Jona said...

I love the sincere grin!

9/11/2005 04:29:00 AM  
Blogger Demented M said...

Okay, but where did Karen find the spider? You never said and I would like to know so I never, ever, come face to face with that formicating hairy monster.


9/11/2005 05:23:00 AM  
Blogger mm said...

I would have expected a King Baboon spided to have a more colourful rump.

9/11/2005 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Stephen, the cutie was in my parent's house. If I had found her in my flat, I'd ve been running out onto the street faster than those black guys who keep exchanging the record for the 100 m sprint among them (sorry, I'm no good at names).

9/11/2005 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Stephen: the upraised forelegs are not a sign of surrender. They sense vibration through their legs and build a sort of visual picture of their surroundings that way. The posture you mistake for surrender is a threat position. This tarantula 'sees' you, and has her fangs good and ready.

Michelle: if I remember correctly, she went to ground. She found the darkest, lowest place in the office (beneath a metal-framed shelf) and hid there. An arboreal tarantula would do the opposite. We had one of those loose in our bedroom for three months -- one of the more ill-tempered brutes, by the way. When we finally found her, she had a nice plump abdomen. Heaven only knows what she'd been eating.

9/11/2005 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Kate R said...

I love the word formication for obvious, juvenile reasons. The rest of the story...ergggh. major formication.

(and I *like* spiders. I wave to the ones infesting the bathroom and only clean the webs when I think the resident has shuffled off the mortal coil. I can't imagine what my dh would do if I forwarded this to him. He lets out girlie-man screams when spiders drop in front of him.)

9/11/2005 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Kate R said...

hey, yeah, where is the obvious place a spider would hide in a low ambient temp room?

9/11/2005 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Hi Kate. Some species head up, others down. Also, if it's a species native to your area, it may be quite happy with your room temperature, in which case it will do whatever comes naturally.

Females will find a comfortable location; males will roam, ever in search of females. In humans, we would call such behavior suicidal.

9/11/2005 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger mm said...

So Fat Bastard, the spider that took up residence under my deck and stayed there, was female, yes? I was going to ask where you found the baboon, and how she knew where it would be, but you've already answered that question.

Rather than a political blog, I wish Karen would start a spider blog. Or maybe a more generalized crawlie blog. Then we could discuss dermestid beetles and assassin bugs, and insects that mimic other insects. And the very few monarchs I've seen this year compared to past years.

No - I'm not procrastinating cleaning up my kitchen or doing laundry or sorting through closets.

9/11/2005 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Hey, Maureen. Ya, Fat Bastard will need to be renamed Fat Bitch. If (s)he hung out in one place only, she's a she.

Karen sez: "That's what Arachnopets is all about." Here's the link to their discussion board. Check 'em out. Lots of intelligent folks there, and they're almost all unconventional, iconoclastic sorts of folk. The intelligent fringe. The only negative thing I can say about them: they never came by to check out Bare Rump's place. Guess they don't want their critters to sass 'em back.

9/11/2005 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous fiveandfour said...

Ironically, I was just telling my daughter a story the other day about an aunt and her pet "velvet bug" that said aunt visited in her attic as a child. She talked and talked about her velvet bug, but as the youngest child in a busy household no one took much notice. One day someone finally did ask her to describe it, then show it, and thus the family found out the girl had been playing with a tarantula for untold hours. The daughter and I were collectively shuddering over the thought of the very idea, but Doug you've taken formicating to a whole new level for us! I really wasn't going to click on the links, but my daughter insisted and now we're both paying the price 'cause that gave us a nice, clear picture of what you were speaking of.

We can't decide what's been the most shudder-inducing thing: the tarantula on the loose in the office, the one on the loose in the bedroom with the unknown food source, or the tarantulas in the bedroom in the first place.

9/11/2005 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Tarantula Lady said...

I need to clarify a few things.

Male tarantulas will stay in one area until they reach sexual maturity. Then they give in to the hormones and suicidally run around looking for females.

In the case of King Baboon tarantulas (Citharischius crawshayi for science nerds), the females are VERY hard on the males. They choose dinner rather than a date more than 95% of the time. Most breeders are forced to fatten the female on males until she isn't hungry any more, and then she might deign to entertain the gentleman caller. Of course, then there's the post-coital period of danger.

According to the membership of Arachnopets (3000 strong), no one has ever been bitten by an escaped tarantula. You get bitten when you put your hand in the cage and the critter decides to defend its territory. Or, you grab it with your bare hand.

I don't recommend losing tarantulas, however. One person found her pet several months later in an underwear drawer.

9/11/2005 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Robyn said...

Doug, my son pronounced your spider pictures "tight." Which is good. I think.

When we saw Spiderman, he asked on the way home, "But if he turns into a spider, why didn't the webs come out of his butt instead of his hands?"

I tried to explain the negative aesthetics of a superhero who shot things out of his rear, but my son disagreed. "Nah. Sticky gooey stuff out of his bohunkus would have been LOTS cooler."

9/11/2005 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger THIS! Christine said...

The grin is priceless. The abundance of voyueristic eyes, shudder inducing... and Robyn's son's analysis is freakin' hilarious.


9/11/2005 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Robyn, have you ever seen Mystery Men? One of the superheroes is played by Pee Wee Herman, whose super power is killer intestinal gas. Rent that one for your son, I'm sure he'll be deeply appreciative.

You guys are cracking me up. Time to add Stephen and Robyn to my blogroll!

9/11/2005 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger mm said...


If you ever meet Doug, and he's wearing a silly grin and not staring at your boobs, call Karen immediately!

9/11/2005 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

ROFLOL, Maureen.

Thanks, I needed a laugh tonight.

9/11/2005 03:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Candy said...

This comment thread is cracking me up so hard.

"I think we've established: no threesome action here, at least not while the spiders are watching."

Of course not--wouldn't want to corrupt the morals of innocent arachnids, would you?

9/11/2005 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Kate R said...

I just asked Mike the husband if he knew what formication meant and he said, "something to do with ants?"

I was impressed.

He also remembered the sf story about the kid who craved ants--turned out he HAD to eat them--he needed the formic acid (and he was not from this planet).

9/11/2005 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

See, Kate, that's why guys need so much sex. We're from Mars, a planet where pent-up sexual energy leads to brain aneurysms and arrrgggghuull ('stone ache'). Why can't you Venutians understand that?

9/11/2005 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger jurassicpork said...

Poor guy. It must've been like being trapped at a Republican fundraiser.

9/11/2005 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger amanda m. said...

Dearest Doug,
go away for three days and come back to a pic of you with a grin like that? What are you up too? Oh, losing giant spiders in your office. Cool.
Meanwhile, the round trip airplane ride (CA and back to JFK) was full of turbulence and all I could think was "Hey, I haven't met Doug and Karen yet!"
(I flew into OAK to meet a friend and we drove up the coast)

9/12/2005 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

Oh dear. Spiders, no less and a sexually manical grin. Am I tough enough?

I'm wondering if spiders eat fleas?

9/13/2005 10:03:00 AM  
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