pest control

Grammar Dominatrix Miss Elvira Smedley whips your candy ass with commas, and you love it, bitch.

I have to get this off my chest.

It’s about something grammatical that is tearing my heart out by the roots, if a heart has roots in addition to all of those gross, rubbery-looking tubes and valves and shit. OK, so maybe not roots. But torn out.

Look it’s a metaphor, OK? Are you trying to help or not?

Alrighty then. What was I saying?

Oh yeah, restrictive and non-restrictive clauses and the correct use of commas.

I thought this was just something that illiterate millennials, if that’s not redundant, suffered from when posting stuff online about Adele’s latest “album” or trading instructions about how to microwave food faster.


But no. It is pandemic. It is appearing in PhD theses, in supposedly high-end magazines, but – let me make an analogy:

hbcYou can take The Bay – a byword for any brand whose defining character is beige, boring, my grandma would love it and I-wouldn’t-be-caught-dead – change the name to “Hudson’s Bay” styled in a groovy-antique serif font, shove a Saks Fifth Avenue concession up its ass, and after all that—

Nobody’s fooled, honey. Where’s my itchy throw with the ghastly stripes, my dog needs one, and then I’m outta here.

It’s exactly, I mean literally, the same with grammar.


What is wrong with this sentence?-

Prokofiev completed the ballet in the latter part of 1935, only a few months before fellow composer, Dmitri Shostakovich, was officially condemned in the first of two scathing editorials in Pravda.

It is the commas before and after “Dmitri Shostakovich”.

You do not use commas with a RESTRICTIVE CLAUSE.

Here’s the deal: can you remove the words “Dmitri Shostakovich” and still have the sentence make sense:

…only a few months before fellow composer was officially condemned….

No, you can’t. You have to have that clause there or it doesn’t make sense. What fellow composer? Dmitri Shostakovich.  The clause is restrictive, the words must flow and work together.

So here it is corrected using that restrictive clause:

Prokofiev completed the ballet in the latter part of 1935, only a few months before fellow composer Dmitri Shostakovich was officially condemned in the first of two scathing editorials in Pravda.

You could rewrite the sentence so that you have a NON-restrictive clause:

Prokofiev completed the ballet in the latter part of 1935, only a few months before Dmitri Shostakovich, his fellow composer, was officially condemned in the first of two scathing editorials in Pravda

Here, you CAN take out the words “his fellow composer” that are between the commas, and it still makes sense:

Prokofiev completed the ballet in the latter part of 1935, only a few months before Dmitri Shostakovich was officially condemned in the first of two scathing editorials in Pravda.

RESTRICTIVE Clause – NO commas (the clause is essential for the sentence to make sense)

NON-RESTRICTIVE Clause – Commas (the clause can be omitted and the sentence still makes sense.)


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to London in 2015


Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, traveled to London in 2015

BUT also correct is:

Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, traveled to London in 2015


This error is now present everywhere, and it is an appalling example of what happens when people no longer read anything but garbage online. But when you read quality stuff – printed, published literature – that has jumped through all the hoops, you absorb correct language just as quickly.

Look out for this egregious error in your online travels, if accuracy and truth matter to you. Because when you can’t accurately use your own language, you can’t accurately express your thoughts.

Here endeth the lesson. Thanks for being there!  I love you guys!  You’re Awesommmmme!!

Now drop those knickers.


What’s wrong with this sentence:

Donald Trump, Supreme Leader of the world’s greatest democracy,  hater of press freedom, four-time bankrupt, manipulative demagogue, proud misogynist, a man who holds the judiciary in contempt, someone with no experience of governing or knowledge of the workings of his own country’s democratic structure, was elected POTUS and given sole possession of the nuclear codes by a minority of eligible voters in November, 2016.

HINT:  It ain’t the commas.



Penultimate Cockroach: State of the Pest Address +PLUS+ “Cockroach Poem”, by Me. (a.k.a. The Cockroach Diaries, Part 2)


State of the Pest Address

You may be wondering.

My once-serene diurnal rhythms continue to be blitzed by my irrepressible cockroach family, those chitin-clad kamikazes of the kitchen counter who, liberally dusted since Thursday last with silica dioxide, rush up the vomitorium of the drawer well, thrust their inscrutable white faces into the spotlight and perform their relentless Noh play of catch-me-if-you-can-bitch-like-whatEVERRRR??!!!

This morning I spotted a new genus, shaped like a tiny black Volkswagen. I think this specimen was a female.  (I don’t know how I know, perhaps a subtle come-hither sway of the hips as she scuttled.)

Does the Royal Ontario Museum have a specimen of the Tiny-Black-Volkswagen Roach, Blatella volkswagenia, var. roddisia? Cause I think she has a thorax that’s just made for having an antique pin shoved straight through it and into a priceless remnant of Robertson Davies’s blotting paper.

When I shooed her away from the lump of butter and the leftover sliced fennel/balsamic/olive oil salad, and the bottle of chocolate sauce that had got knocked over and dribbled its contents onto the counter and down the front of the drawers, and the pan filled one-third with canola oil and copper-colored shards of over-fried potato – she ran – bolted in a way that projected real hysteria – to that mysterious grotto behind the taps from which trickles brackish water flecked with roach leavings, then, in an obvious attempt to throw me off,  zig-zagged in a Keystone Kops fashion under the dish rack and right into the far corner. There she sat, panting, until she was joined by a couple of pin-head sized transparent babies.

All in all, I was reminded of that scene in “What’s Up, Doc?” where Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand drive the Beetle off the pier. Which itself reminded me of a tweet I recently spotted which had been posted by a well-known lady sexologist, declaring, with more enthusiasm than precision, “I am Barbara [sic] Striesans [sic] biggest fan!”

This is what happens when heterosexuals try to co-opt gay icons: Pure tragedy.

I’m deeply disturbed down to my lapsed-Buddhist toes by the anthropomorphic emotional reactions of my roaches.  They sense my vibrations, they hear me approach; they feel my shadow fall; they freeze mid-scuttle—then, without turning around, they saunter away with studied nonchalance.

I suspect, but cannot prove, that they are whistling happy tunes and holding their heads erect.  But then the sharp smack of whatever blunt object I find to hand fills them anew with panic, and they scatter.

Daily, at sunrise, they gather in hastily announced Emergency Meetings, weeping and wailing and rubbing their trembling fore-legs together, to discuss cockroach epistemology, the ultimate meaning of The Great Big Shadow Hand of Death.

I am terrorizing them; I am their vengeful god. No, worse than that.


When I open the oven at 4 A.M. to remove a new loaf of potato-rosemary bread, a mouse, Mus musculis musculis, falls into the perfectly calibrated gap between the bottom of the oven door and the floor of the oven.  It emits a piercing and plaintive what-the-fuck squeak as it hangs there, suspended in the hands of god, its little mouse back and shoulders and its pissed-off mouse face telegraphing a resigned some days it don’t pay to get outta the nest.

When my blood-curdling screams have died away and I look again –  he’s gone.

Now I’m afraid to look in the drawer under the oven.  And my madeleine tins are stored there!  First world problem, yourself! Where did the mouse come from and how did he survive the 450-degree temperature and how many years before his lifeless body passes through the maggot-and-liquefaction stages and crumbles into inert dust?

Because I can’t just keep putting off the inaugural meeting of my In Search of Lost Time gay men’s reading group and naked tea dance, but Proust demands commitment, and that means baked goods that utilize specialized hardware.

I start to cry.

Sweet, blessèd Judy, Mother of Liza!, I intone, fingering my ben-wah balls.  All I want is to be restored to the halcyon days when I could enter the kitchen without my musculature primed for flight at adrenaline levels not seen since the Stone Age, and leave the kitchen without shrieking like a 12-year-old girl whose sadistic gym teacher has just confiscated her Hello, Kitty backpack and iPhone 5.

Later in the day, shortly after I’ve turned on the oven in preparation for baking those madeleines, I smell something vaguely like roast beef…


Mouse miscellany
Wikipedia, The Encyclopedia You Write Yerself!™, tells me the following:

♦ Mice eat their own feces, which allows them to process the extra nutrients their digestive systems couldn’t extract the first time round.

♦ Female mice, when in heat, stretch, point their nose and hindquarters into the air, arch their back downward, and vibrate their ears.

I just provide the information. What you do with it is your business.


Cockroach Poem, by me.

The cockroach runs, then hesitates.
He feels quite safe beneath the plates.

Yet of the roach’s many traits,
The one that serves him least, I think,
Is feeling two emotional states
At once while resting in the sink.

He’s unaware it’s tempting Fate
To stop a while and meditate.

Which is lucky for me,
Cause while he’s meditating,
I can take a cast iron frying pan

And squash him to fuck.

The Property Manager Only Rings Once, Assuming He Even Knows Your Apartment Number (a.k.a. The Cockroach Diaries, Part 1)

Boheme-poster1Cockroach heaven in my kitchen.  David hell.

My strategy:  Render the cupboards air-tight, then coat the entire space with a whisper-thin layer of lethal poison.

I’m on it!

We’re talking, please note, about creatures who will spend the first thousand years after the nuclear holocaust cheerfully nibbling on crumbs of plutonium and sipping heavy water, the Champagne and foie gras of high-living Blattellidae since the dawn of creation.

I spend a small fortune on silicone sealer, buckets of pink spackle, spray styrofoam that expands to fill holes and adheres to your skin so indelibly that its wear-off half-life is measured in decades, and aerosol insecticides so potent they can kill anything that walks, flies or crawls except Donald Trump, whose infestation of the planet thus continues unabated—and my roach problem, so I convince myself, is finally solved.

Added bonus, I am guaranteed a seat on the TTC now that my toxic aura, wafting from my clothing and bodily secretions like cold-war nerve gas, paralyzes entire streetcars full of the peasant classes with just a lift of my arm.

(Why do poor old ladies even take public transit, anyway? The world has bifurcated into five rich people in a stretch Mercedes and everyone else: Therefore take thee up thy bulrushes and goat and WALK, my black-babushka’d komradins! And have a bath in ’17 before you need a vegetable peeler to undress!)

My building management, come by to inspect, is touched by my efforts.  Then Nick the Super points to a tiny glass of dead zinnias that’s sitting on the kitchen counter.

“Dried flowers,” he says, stroking his beard like Dr. Finkelstein the B-movie scientist who’s about to send Tuesday Weld into space in a cardboard rocket held aloft with visible strings.

“Dried flowers will attract roaches like crazy.”

I nod, thinking: He’s stupid, he’s Russian, he’s six-foot-two and talks like Marlon Brando on opiates, and I haven’t been laid in at least 48 hours, so no way am I going to be contrary.

“My bad!” I gush.

And I feel like such a manwhore.  But you know what?  Being chary with your sexual favours at sixty is like dieting on the Titanic.  Have the fucking cheesecake, bro!

Do I have time to shave my legs before he finds the door?  I totally think I do!



Nighttime in unit 805.

I’ve been in the kitchen enjoying my roach-free universe and the attendant foreshadowing, and I turn to leave, holding my cup of No-Name Earl Grey tea.

(Geddit?  No-Name Earl Grey?  Not with me?  OK, look – the joke is, if it was really no-name, it wouldn’t –  

Oh why do I bother.)

And as I turn to leave – a sleek young cockroach, name of Chuck if I recognize him from his days as a nymph on the lam, swings around one of the metal supports of the kitchen shelves with the alacrity of an Olympic gymnast turned European-style lap dancer and fixes me with a hard gaze.  And a hard exoskeleton. His antennae flick at the air.

“So, Daaaavey,” he says with that rattling, elongated “a” common to all Southern Ontario roaches.  “I expect you’re pretty daaaamn proud of yourself, eh?”

(Oh, he’s Canadian, no doot aboot it. Yeah, Americans, all of us Canucks talk like that, doon’t we?  Just like you all sound like JFK, you should be so lucky.)

“I doon’t knoow what you’re talking about.  And let go of my arm!”

I make an attempt to leave with some of my dignity intact.  Which is difficult when you’re wearing nothing but a black net tank top and crocheted slippers from Oxfam that double as hand-puppets.

“Just a little picnic, we was gonna have.  Me and Muriel and the boys.”cockroach

Holy manipulation, these roaches are clever!  Somewhere, deep in my lapsed-Buddhist soul, I feel a twinge.  He’s got me right by the short and curly Siddhartha-pubes, the Buddha-balls, the Gautama-gonads.

“A nice sunny daaaay in the kitchen,” he continues.  “A couplea coffee grounds, some cheese flecks, maybe a fingernail paring, a nice sip at the taaaaap.  Then a fun game or two of ‘Beat the Toaster Element’ or ‘Cluster Behind the Stove Clock Glass’.  Wallow in somea that peanut butter on the floor, then a group scurry.  Simple pleasures, dude!

“But oh, no.  You. You had to have your firestorm, your little cockroach Dresden, didn’t you?   They say we caaaaan survive a nuclear bomb, but that’s a lie I tell you – a rotten dirty lie!”  Hoo boy, he can turn on the waterworks, too.   “Roach torturer!” he gasps. “Aaaaarthropodist!”

And then—he pushes it just that much too far.  A sniff, a little cough <kek kek> and—he starts singing.

Singing Puccini.  “Che gelida manina“,  from La Bohème, if you must know. Oh, yes.  This one’s obviously willing to scrape to the very bottom of the roach-desperation barrel.

His little cockroach voice scratches and warbles, his mandibles throb as he clasps his delicate cockroach front legs in an impossibly affected attitude. He even staggers about and clutches the box of sea salt, just like a real operatic tenor.  Luciano Cockaroachi!

“All right, buster,”  I think.  “You’ve overplayed your hand”.

I spot the can of insecticide on the shelf just beneath him.  He sees that I see it.  I see that he sees that I see.

Some time passes while we notice the other one noticing and notice that we notice the other one noticing and think about making a first move before the other one decides that he’s probably noticed enough noticing to actually do something.

I grab the Raid, aim it squarely between his compound eyes.

“Any last words, Charles?”  I can’t help but leer in that self-satisfied, I’m-gonna-blast-your-little-carapace-to-Kingdom-Come way that we do.

But Chuck knows the game is up and says nothing.  He gives me a wry, fatalistic smile, flips me the bird, turns and scuttles away.

I press down on the white button, releasing the patented, chrysanthemum-derived insecticide in a volley of sweet-pungent spray.  Tears stream down my face.

“Chuck!  Chuck!!” I sob.  “I’m sorry, Chuck, it’s just – oh, Chuck, tell me you understand!” But I keep spraying.  And spraying. And –

And when I finish – well, Chuck’s just a quivering pile of melted chitin.

Show me a cockroach that can write La Bohème.  Just show me.