Tag Archives: chinchilla

High Infidelity

In doing research for an article I’m working on for Quirk Books, I pulled out my personal copy of High Fidelity (the novel) by Nick Horny. And what do I find inside?

Handwritten song lyrics. Except, it’s not my handwriting. And I’m pretty sure I’ve never lent this book out to anyone to borrow. Eerie, right? And yet, kind of poetic.

So obviously, I laid claim to it (despite the fact that it’s, erm, not very good), and turned into a found poem for Five By Five Hundred (which also worked out well because it’s been a busy few days, between taking my poor chinchilla to the hospital with a broken arm, and sitting on the “Tweet This?” panel for Arts In America).

“Sonic Death Monkey” at FiveByFiveHundred.com


This weekend, my girlfriend and I took a trip to Vermont to visit her parents’ house up there — but mostly to attend this big annual crafts fair. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting Dan, the creator of the Woodrow, a unique Appalachian stringed instrument. From their website:

The Woodrow instrument series is a cross between a banjo and an Appalachian dulcimer (or lap dulcimer). Played upright like the banjo, but having the dulcimer construction, gives these instruments the perfect style for Appalachian, bluegrass, celtic, and even blues music.
Some styles have a real banjo like twang, while others have a more rounded and mellow sound. Each one is different, and the voice and personality vary from instrument to instrument.

So basically what that means is “it’s awesome.” And what’s even more awesome is that my fantastic and lovely girlfriend got me one as an early birthday present, a decision she is going to regret very soon because I can’t stop playing it. Like this:

And on that, I’m gonna go practice this wonderful instrument some more so I can become a master woodrow player. Kbye.

Pets That Go Poop

Just over a year ago, one of my chinchillas passed away. Pedey (short for “Dustbath Pedroia”) was always the stubborn one of the two — the bully older sister — who thought herself some total badass, when in fact she was, well, a chinchilla. As far as we can tell, the cause of death was heatstroke — she was a little overweight from stealing her sister’s food every day, and was too stubborn to sit up on a hot day and get a drink of water.

But the saddest part about it (because to be honest, she was a pretty mean pet) was her sister who survived her. Yubnub was always the sweet one, and say what you will about animals and emotion and memory, but for a good month following the loss of sister, Yubnub was visibly depressed. I’d let her out of the cage to run around the house, and she would just sit there, not caring. She was always a little skittish when she was picked up by a human, but for that month, she had no reaction at all — and not in a good way. She hardly ate. She didn’t even get excited when she heard the crinkling of the raisin bag (a sound which otherwise inspires a Pavlovian response within her).

After about a month of caring for her (making sure she didn’t die from depression!) and letting her know confidently that I am part of her “herd” (which is what they say to do with lonely ‘chillas), Yubnub seemed fine. In the intervening year, she’s been completely normal. Maybe a little lonely sometimes without another playmate, but, well, Pedey was never very playful anyway, and usually just picked on her. While I imagine that the trauma of losing a loved one has essentially disappeared from her small chinchilla brain, I suspect that somewhere inside she still senses something missing. It might not be a conscious realization or memory, but there’s something in her muscles — she can tell that there used to be someone or something different here, and that it’s missing, but she might not know what that something is.

This week on FiveByFiveHundred.com, after spending a great deal of time with Yubnub over the weekend (there was a heatwave here in Boston, and we hid out together in the only room with air conditioning), I decided to pay homage to the departed Dustbath Pedroia. While comparing her memories to, well, poop might seem a bit insensitive, it’s really not — chinchillas (fun fact!) lack sphincter muscles, and thus have no control over their own bowel movements, which means that Yubnub just keeps dropping little tiny poops on the ground behind her without any regard for it. Chinchillas also poop out 90% of what they consume so…it’s a lot of poop for a tiny animal (and, admittedly, the biggest drawback to owning one). The ease with which she poops seemed like a fitting metaphor for the way her memory works, so I went with it.

“Shit For Brains” on FiveByFiveHundred.com