May You Dream of Squirrels

My introduction to performance art.

Many years ago .. when station wagons roamed the land, my parents took my brother and I on vacation to Lake Tahoe. This was before DVD players or for that matter before VHS. Nope it was just my brother and me beating the shit out of each other for ten hours and my Jewish mother screaming at us from the front; my father white-knuckling the steering wheel.

The space between Vegas and Tahoe is an empty wasteland, except for the occasional burning car, dead coyote or the creepy purple glow from the nuke test range.

We stopped at Tonopah to get gas and my brother and I jumped out of the car, searching for a snake or lizard to scare my mother with. I lifted a rock and was stung by a scorpion. My middle finger swelled up like a German sausage. My mother wrapped it in ice and for five hundred miles I got to flip off every passing vehicle.

So, in Tahoe my father rented a very rustic cabin and for the first ten minutes it was a kid’s paradise. The rest of the 9 days, 23 hours and 50 minutes were complete boredom. Except for the last twenty minutes. Yes .. those were the greatest minutes of my entire life.

My brother and I, zombied by boredom, finally decided that we were going to become the two great white hunters. Our first quarry was deer. However, deer run very fast and were bigger than us. We lowered our expectations to squirrels. I designed an ingenious trap. It consisted of a shoe box held up by a stick and some Cheese Whiz squished on a string attached to the stick. See, the plan was a squirrel would see the cheese, go into the box, pull the string, drop the stick, which would capture the varmint in the box.

Every day we set up the trap and every night the wind blew it over. You could imagine our delight each morning, when we found the box down. I crept up and gently lifted up the box with a long stick. My brother held a large rock, which was going to be used to stun the creature.

Well after the seventh time, with nothing in the box. We set the trap for the last time and forgot all about it.

Now it was the tenth day and time to leave. As my dad pulled out of the dirt driveway he noticed the box. “What is that?” he asked. “Oh, that’s our squirrel trap,” I replied.

“Well pick that shit up and throw it away.” I kicked my brother out of the car, he stumbled over to the box and casually lifted it up. Now there are few moments in one’s life that are so beautiful and perfect that you get a feeling that you are one with the universe. This was such a moment for me.

Three days before one of the dumbest squirrels in Lake Tahoe, saw the cheese, pulled the string and was trapped by the box. And for three days this squirrel saw neither light nor water. But when my brother lifted the box, the squirrel – half insane from thirst and hunger and blinded by the sun jumped directly on my brother’s chest, dug in his little claws and was never letting go.

I remember my bother jumping back in fright, noticed the squirrel locked onto his chest and did something akin to an Irish jig. His feet were flinging back and forth, his arms waving in the air and he was shouting something in Gaelic. And then he ran full speed into the forest and vanished like smoke in the wind.

My father and mother sat there a moment in complete stunned silence. Then my dad slowly got out of the car, grabbed my mother’s toiletry bag and ran into the trees. I got out as quickly as a could and ran after them.

About fifty yards into the forest, there was a small clearing, rays of golden sunlight streamed through the trees and upon the nettled covered ground there was my father beating living hell out of my brother with a battered toiletry bag, trying to remove the squirrel. At this point, my brother had teamed up with squirrel to fend off my father.

I still get a little teary eyed thinking about that scene.

This was my first experience with performance art

May You Dream of Squirrels


Las Vegas, United States

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