Rats, I Say! 

Wednesday, Jun 20 2007

One of the major perks of moving to L.A. from N.Y. besides my obvious top three — weather that never changes, more space for the money, and cheap smokes — is the absence of rodents and cockroaches in my home. I’m a pretty tough cookie (I am a New Yorker, after all), so when I came face to face with new roommates who refused to pay rent and wreaked havoc on my life, I had to take control.

I was nursing a seriously bruised heart from a recent disappearing act flawlessly executed by a guy I thought was on the same train as I was. Turned out his stop was San Francisco with a different woman, and mine was past Fucked Up, disembarking at Deep Introspection.

My roommate was gone for two glorious weeks. Just me, my dog and quiet — the triumvirate of healing and a recipe for restoration. On my first day solo in the house, I cleaned, organized my desk, set some short-term goals and got ready for meditation before bedtime.

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Around 2 a.m. I was in my tank top and panties, sans contacts or glasses. I stumbled my way to the kitchen for my dog’s water dish. Bending down blindly to pick it up, I was introduced to one of the largest rodents I’ve ever seen.

I screamed, it screamed back. I moved one way, it moved in the same direction. Both of us were scared out of our minds as we danced the “No, you first! Please get the hell out of my way!” rat dance. It was my homage to I Love Lucy.

Now, I’ve seen big-ass rats before. Once while baby-sitting in N.Y. I strolled a 3-year-old down 12th Street as she practiced her new word — “doggie!” — by pointing and clapping at a rat the size of a fat watermelon walking through the automatic doors and directly into a D’Agostino’s. That, my friends, was a big rodent.

It’s gross enough seeing rats on the street, but this time, it was personal. I’m in Los Angeles, for cryin’ out loud! This isn’t supposed to happen here. Needless to say, meditation went out the window. I locked myself in my bedroom with my dog and a bottle of vodka.

I knew I had to call someone, but who? My landlord was on vacation in Canada. I thought about calling a guy I used to date, just to crash on his couch, but he’d totally think this was a rat ruse and clearly his chance to get some tail. I opted to call my friend Al. He and his wife recently moved from around the corner from me in Los Feliz to Van fuckin’ Nuys. Not even rat infestation can make me drive to the Valley. He suggested I get on the Internet to find a 24-hour exterminator. Great idea, but this isn’t N.Y. — I can’t even get a friggin moo shu pork delivered to me past 9 p.m. I started drinking. Heavily. In bed. Sexy, huh?

In my vodka delirium I heard a cascade of talons in the walls. It sounded like they were going to burst through the Sheetrock and join me for a cocktail. What did that dirty rat do? Go back to his little rat family and tell them that the human is alone and totally freaked out?

I imagined the rat sounding like James Cagney. “Now she’s wasted, see, and we can really fuck with her, see... Get her to leave the house, see, and take over! First Los Feliz, see, then the world!” [Insert maniacal rat laughter here.]

Where was Bruce Davison when you needed him? I’d even have settled for Crispin Glover from the remake of Willard — are you with me, people? I stuffed a towel from my hamper in the crack below the door frame, and somewhere between the last of the vodka and 6 in the morning I passed out.

The next day I ran to The Home Depot to look for humane traps. I don’t like killing anything. I tried to find these “live” traps, as they’re called, so I could spare the rat’s soul from being tortured. Rat-diculous? Perhaps. But even more nuts was the fact that they don’t make humane traps large enough for the size rodents I had. I drove all over L.A., going into every hardware store imaginable. It looked as though the rats must die. I didn’t want any of this rat-killing karma on my head, so I called in professional help.

The exterminator who came to my house was named George, or “My Hero” as I like to call him. He knew by looking at the rats’ droppings (ugh) their age, gender and political orientation. I already knew they had to be Republicans because they were making a mess of things and refused to leave. Turns out I had Rattus rattus, otherwise known as roof rats. Apparently these are very common in Los Angeles, and George said he’d been getting a lot of calls about this very issue since the Griffith Park fire. These guys are like the missing link of rodents. They can adapt to any environment, and gnaw through wood, stucco and concrete. They are the Cirque du Soleil performers of the vermin world, using their tails for balance and acrobatics on power lines and rooftops.

George laid out traps that looked like black shoeboxes with holes and peanut butter inside. He put them in my attic, kitchen and laundry room, and under the house. Over the next week the scratching in the walls subsided, and a funky smell emanated from the kitchen. It can only be described as .?.?. death.

Rattus rattus was no more. I prayed the noxious odor would serve as a giant rat warning: Those who enter will swim with the fishes.

That night, I meditated in silence. Looking at my statue of the elephant god, Ganesh, while chanting my mantra, I realized his foot rests on none other than Rattus rattus himself. Namaste, Rattus. Namaste.

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