; Cwyn's Death By Tea: A Nice-a Cool Glass-a Eliminate ;

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Nice-a Cool Glass-a Eliminate

I'm sending out another poke to the Marx Brothers fans to come up with the movie title for the Chico Marx "lemonade" pun above. Can you guess it? No googling!

Yes, it's an easy question. Politics and marketing are all a form of Duck Soup, and of course the tea world is not exempt. Now for you widely-read blog readers, here is one for you.

What do you get when you combine pesticides with Tea?

A dog with two heads. arf arf.

Okay okay, but listen. If you think vendors and tea buyers have problems when it comes to pesticides, I guarantee you none of that compares with what Old Cwyn's got. I still need to figure out what to do with the can of DDT out in my shed.

Everybody thinks I must enjoy writing loads of crap, and you can think that all day long but I still have a problem. I acquired a DDT can a few years back when I bought a large box of cleaning supplies at the flea market. I'm inconsistent when it comes to money. I'll pay $400 for the best gushu tea cake, but then turn around and refuse to pay more than 50 cents for a bottle of household cleaner. And while I might want my tea clean and chemical free, I am going to bomb the hell of out any bedbugs that I bring home from an $800 a night hotel room in Chicago. People have told me that bedbugs are immune to DDT, but I doubt they will survive my can of DDT plus roach killer doused in gasoline all lit up with a kitchen match. And I will feel perfectly happy to sleep on top of that burning pyre as opposed to an organic mattress full of bedbugs.

And while I'm at it, I plan to fill myself up as much pesticide as possible. This is not an activity for a mother preparing her body for childbirth. It's an activity for an old lady preparing for the mausoleum. In the old days, you could only hope to achieve sainthood with huge efforts, moral behavior, charitable works and zero masturbation. If you did all that correctly, then your holiness was rewarded with an incorruptible corpse on Display at the Vatican. Unfortunately, the traditional method of sainthood is closed to me because I know I've been Bad. However, I live in the 21st Century and appearances are far more achievable. The plan is to load up on pesticides so that when I'm all laid out, no bugs, worms or other rot dare come anywhere near my sweetly preserved flesh in the cemetery of Our Lady of Unspellable Surnames where 5 consonants or more are required to buy in. Then I will rise on the last day ready for a cuppa from one of the handy urns I've set up in advance, and be off for a late lunch at the meat shop currently located a quarter mile from the cemetery.

So I really do have a can of DDT. Actually it has pictures of roses on it and is labeled as "Rose Dust." And it came from the big box of stuff I got at the flea market, sold by some elderly people who probably didn't even know what the can really is. That, or they were fodding it off on someone else to deal with. And alas, this isn't the first time Old Cwyn has to be The One to take care of a DDT problem.

The first time was my very first weekend at the convent, of all places. Freshly moved into the Associate House (a residence for postulants), our schedule included a weekend at a cabin on a lake to get a fast course on the Liturgy of the Hours. This is the round-the-clock cycle of prayer performed by nuns, monks and priests, and the book which is used for this prayer is a complicated manual full of page turns from front to back. One has to learn to keep the book straight via a system of ribbon markers and holy cards. It's not really possible to learn the whole thing in a weekend, but we needed at least some basic starting competence at the cycle of prayer used within the community. Previously on my blog, I actually posted a photo of the book we studied at that cabin, here it is again.

Book of Prayer is the one.
This lake cabin belonged to the community and was used either for meetings or for retreats, little get-aways for prayer and contemplation. While poking around, I opened up a cabinet which had a few items arranged neatly along the edge of the shelf like amenities at a hotel. And here was a small paper can of DDT like a trial size of body powder, and a yellowed note with antique handwriting from the 1940s, saying "Please sprinkle this before you leave in order to control bugs for the next Sister."

I mentioned the can to my Director and she didn't appear worried. In fact, she seemed more concerned that I had my book ribbons in the right place than about the potential to bomb the local food chain with two-headed dogs for the next fifty breeding cycles. Or that we Virgins were placing our nubile young flesh on beds of toxic waste. Even worse, I couldn't deal with the problem and remove the can myself. Community Property is free to use, but rules are that one cannot dispose of Community Property without permission. So that meant I had to sleep out the weekend on 40 years of contamination and seek permission from the higher ups to dispose of the remains.

On the following week, I went to see Sister Marlene. She was the manager of the Motherhouse. Now,  note that I didn't immediately seek out the Mother General for a small problem like a can of DDT, no I went to a person of lower authority first, even though her authority did not extend beyond keeping the scheduling calendar for the cabin. She didn't really have the authority for permission to dispose of Community Property, but at least if a brand new postulant is going to stick her neck out and make waves, I showed respect for the levels of command by working my way up the food chain one rung at a time. And I was on the lowest possible rung of all, leaving me a long ways to climb. Unfortunately, Sister Marlene gave me a look which said everything along the lines of "this is hardly my concern."

So with all the bravado of youth I went to the office of the Mother General. Now Sister Patricia was a kind and regal woman whose most distinguishing trait was Grace, something she tried her best to teach me. Sister Patricia refused to accept any gestures from sisters which showed traditional respect for her office and her fine character which got her elected. For example, she never sat with her friends or other higher ups in the refectory. Instead she made a point of finding a table with the least amenable sisters, the most repulsive eaters, the sisters with nothing to say, the most irascible and uptight. In other words, she led by example.

However, it just wasn't her day to lead by example when Young Cwyn knocked on her door armed with a load of facts on the half-life of DDT, or she had concerns far more important than the local food chain. She expressed zero concern for that little can, and did not give me any particular permission to deal with the problem. A lowly postulant in her first week? I don't think so. She was pleasant enough while ushering me to the door and to her credit didn't tell me to find a toothbrush and bit of floor to scrub. Though to be fair, if she had done that I might still be there today. Their opinion later about me was they were far too lenient, and I can't exactly argue that point about the women who spoiled me rotten.

But at least I showed some respect of what they had in terms of authority, even though I made the decision to defy it. I removed the can of DDT myself. Obedience was always my problem and not the celibacy people think is the real problem with nuns and priests. It's Obedience, people, the most difficult vow of all, even with priests who bugger boys. Had they been Obedient, they would have told themselves NO, and listened, and that would prevent hundreds of years of problems. In the old days, those sisters might have just told me NO on the DDT just to test whether I could be obedient to authority, just as St. Teresa of Avila tested her novice by telling her to plant a fully grown cucumber so it could grow and the obedient novice did so without question. But St. Teresa wanted to demonstrate she'd rather have the novice who applied some common sense instead of the blindly obedient mule. Maybe Sister Patricia had this old story in mind herself, but I'll never know because just a few short years after finishing her tenure as Mother General and President, she suddenly died of brain cancer.

I put the can of DDT into a plastic store bag and brought it to the Department of Chemistry at our college next door to the convent. The professor there placed the can into a vacuum container which looked like a drink thermos and kindly assured me he would see to it that the container got taken along with other hazardous waste from the lab. I didn't tell him where I got the can so as not to embarrass the nuns and draw attention to myself stealing Community Property in case someone raised a fuss.

In recent years, my order of nuns adopted Environmental Protection as a community motto in keeping with the Franciscan heritage of concern for Mother Earth and Sister Sky. I've been astounded at how much they are now willing to pay to protest the Environment, especially after I was told the community could never afford to pay for my generation's retirement. A few years ago while in the city I decided to swing by the Motherhouse and saw a fleet of Toyota Prius cars parked in the nuns-only parking spaces, each car costing to the tune of some $35-grand in a system that vows Poverty. There's my retirement, I thought. And I wondered if it crosses the minds of the dear sisters that while a Toyota Prius takes less gas, the electricity they are using to charge the cars burns more coal. Might not the message of "take the bus" (just like real poor people) promote public transport, and reduce carbon emissions far more? Instead of parking and going in, I turned around my 20 year old rusty Corolla with the manual transmission and left town.

The karma people are correct and things keep coming right back around. Nowadays I think of my DDT cans when I'm faced with all kinds of  inconsistencies. Such as in Madison when I'm wearing a vintage mink jacket and get pelted with tomatoes by people wearing PVC shoes. The DDT just keeps on getting larger like a value-size can of Barkeeper's Friend. And instead of a convenient walk next door to a chemistry lab, I must drive for several hours to reach the closest proper disposal facility. Maybe that DDT is just fine where it is out in the shed, after all dear Son has a desperate fear of insects. I don't think he'll mind emptying that can onto his mother's corpse in the hopes of keeping bugs away, at least during the funeral. In the meantime, I won't have to worry about pesticide-fearing Tea Drunks showing up at my house to raid my stash. And you can safely conclude that if Old Cwyn still has a can of DDT, she probably isn't too worried about pesticides in her tea within the standard EU limits.

 Memorial Weekend 2015


  1. I've read so many of your blogs (nearly threw years worth) in the last week my eyes twitching from eye strain. I think it's time to take a break and smell me pu for a while.

    1. Thanks so much for the long reading. I hope you enjoy long form blogs as much as I do.