Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fungus Among Us

blue eyes
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
This morning I took the dogs to the river. They were grateful, because I didn't take them yesterday since I had this weird 24 hour low fever. When it started at 3 in the morning I thought it was yet another hot flash and night sweat kind of thing of the sort with which I have become in recent months so intimately and lamentably familiar. Therefore I ignored it except for the usual things that I do which include grabbing an old t-shirt (I would grab a towel if I didn't have a teenage son, but since I do, all towels are in his room crumpled on the floor) and swabbing off a bit and grumbling at the dogs that it's three o clock in the fucking morning and not actual morning so give it up and moving away from the really hot part of the bed and then lying there wishing I could just levitate and let cool winds flow over me and wondering if I went out and laid in the wet cold grass if it would work and also wondering if it would be possible to harness and sell this heat somehow and then drifting bit by bit off to sleep again. The usual, as I said. The difference was that I woke up four hours later and it hadn't gone away and so I didn't walk the dogs. Then I went to work for a while but eventually gave it up and so on: a Monday gone a bit wrong, altogether.

My friend S points out that I had deep fried jalapeno slices for dinner and she blames them. And she may be right, because I was totally fine by three o' clock this morning after sleeping for hours and hours and also, before the sleep, watching Iron Man, which I thought pretty much sucked but young M thought was raw. Anyway. That's not what this post is about. This post is about fungus.

This morning I was fine and on the way back from my walk along the river I noticed that a giant tree ear fungus I'd been watching on a stump by the parking lot had been broken off. I have a fondness for tree ears, particularly since I saw one at a small wonderful show at the Walters that had been drawn on and then dried by one of those Victorian multi talented young gentleman types. It was all immaculate and beautiful and also the drawing, which was architectural and precise, was perfectly preserved. So I have always wanted, myself, a perfectly dried tree ear to have in my very own Victorian curio cabinet although I've tried to draw on them and gotten nowhere. Also, previous attempts to grab one have failed, mostly because my family, acquainted with my magpie habits, throw them away as disgusting.

Nowadays, though, I really only have young M around and he has no room to speak of disgusting habits, being as how all the towels in the house are on his floor, so I picked up the tree ear and put it on the dashboard of the car, thinking that it would dry nicely in the sun at my work parking lot. Young M shied away a bit when he got in the car and saw the giant brown mushroom covering the dashboard but he recovered nicely and I dropped him off at school (only 10 minutes late, which is doing really quite well for us lately) and went to work. Then I finished work and went back out to get into my car.

Well. Tree ears do not, contrary to what you might have heard, dry perfectly on the dashboards of old cars in sunny parking lots. No. They do not really dry. They kind of - melt. And the smell? The smell is indescribable. The smell carried throughout the parking lot, so that as I went over to my car I was wondering what the hell that terrible smell was. It's always a sinking moment when you realize that the smell, the smell which is making tourists turn their heads and look concerned, the strange, peculiar, extremely not good smell that is beginning to resonate throughout downtown, is coming from your very own car. I wanted the tree ear to be okay, so I tried blaming it on this terrible ancient sausage biscuit that I'd inadvertently found between the seats early that morning but I think actually the dogs ate that, so there was no escaping it. It was the mushroom.

I got reluctantly into the car, eying the giant drooping half melted mushroom falling over the dashboard and, after the obligatory silent holy shit shrieking, rolled all the windows down and drove with my head out the window. I figure I'm probably pretty much dying because of all the, you know, spores that I was inhaling which, at the very least, are no doubt going to turn me momentarily into a freaky, terrible mushroom person. The smell was so bad that I left the car windows open when I parked the car on lower Lexington by Broadways where I went to drink some beer and try not to mutate too fast. I mean. You don't leave your windows rolled all the way down on lower Lexington. Someone might try to steal all your empty vitamin water bottles, god forbid.

Anyway, eventually I had to leave Broadways and I drove all the way home with my head out the window because two hours of open windows had barely made a dent in the mushroom funk. Then I gingerly took the fungus monster out of the car and placed it reverently on top of the chainsaw bear in my front yard, where it looks like a sort of jaunty beret from hell and there, I think, it shall remain. And therefore, be careful of the mushrooms you bring home.

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