Fighting the cockroach war

Initially published March 14, 2005

There are many tactics of taking out cockroaches. Having been apart of the early wave of gentrification in the Baltimore ghetto, I lived and fought this war within a roach infested building. This building was eventually transformed into a beautiful living space/taekwondo school. But when we first started, the roaches lived there and we needed them out. My sister forced us to limit our tactics to non-toxic pest control since her daughter (Ui-seng) was only 4 months old then and willing to stick everything into her mouth.  No roach bombs were allowed to be utilized.

The roaches were EVERYWHERE

While we were doing construction on the building, I still remember waking up in a panic with roaches crawling over my face and into my ear.  Images of Chekov in the Star Trek II movie flashed in my mind as I dug the bug out of my ear.  I had made the mistake of sleeping next to my check book box  A quick Web search then taught me that roaches eat cardboard glue.  Next thing we did was dump every bit of cardboard from our building.

The roaches take round 1

Non-toxic tactic failure one:  Boric Acid and Citrus spray.

Going to those green web sites on pest control, they suggested both.  I spent hours spraying that stuff everywhere.  I even dumped boric acid powder on top of one poor cockroach which seemed to cause it nothing but slight discomfort.

I still remember running around the building spraying the citrus spray at the cockroaches seeing it do nothing but be a minor irritant.  Friends like Rick and Rex who came to visit us and politely chose not to spend the night with us probably have fond memories of holding a conversation with me while I rudely jumped up cursing and started running around the room spraying citrus spray.

Alas round 2 also goes to the roaches


The first time I went to the basement of our building, I was freaked out!  I mean usually, cockroaches run away from you when you turn on the light of the room.  These thumb sized monsters didn’t budge.  When going down the steps of the basement, it was almost like going into the insect house of the zoo where they showed the HUGE cockroaches, only these roaches weren’t inside a glass box!  On top of that, there seemed to be hundreds of these big monsters.  A friend suggested backing powder so I went to our local Save-A-Lot (the ghetto grocery store) and bought 5 boxes of backing soda and dumped it everywhere in the basement.  I then left the basement for the evening.

Walking in to the basement the following morning, I felt like I was walking into a holocaust.  Those thumb sized cockroaches were everywhere on the ground, only they had imploded with their guts everywhere!  In a sense, I wondered what sins might be added to my soul as I caused the torturous deaths of so many roaches in that one night…  The ghastly image of hundreds of blown up cockroaches all over the floor will always be etched in my mind.

I take victory in round 3

The knockout blow…

The backing soda did its job on the big suckers, but now the roaches were acting like normal roaches in a house.  You would see them there, you knew they were there, but they were small and were scared.  They were still everywhere, but only the small ones were left.  I was still trying the citrus spray, boric acid and backing soda with dead ones turning up, but they still didn’t leave us alone.

A visit to a Taiwanese family friend who runs a restaurant gave us the “final solution”  Biological warfare was needed.  He showed me his secret.  A roach gel which at the time, you can only get from whole sale pest control dealers.  COMBAT roach gel with Fibronil.  What is Fibronil?

Well, the key is to understand the evolutionary masterpieces of the cockroaches.  All cockroaches are hermaphrodites.  Thus, they can maximize their breeding potential.  If there are 20 cockroaches, they will always have 10 couples thus maximizing their broods.  On top of that, they eat EVERYTHING.  Especially the corpses of dead cockroaches.  Though I thought I had won round 3 by blowing up the big huge cockroaches with backing soda, what I had actually done is create food for their young ones thus explaining why though I was dumping backing soda all over the place and they were still getting blown up, they still stuck around since they had food everywhere.

Fibronil will make cockroaches sick.  They will then hang out with their buds and make their buds sick.  After they all get sick, they will eventually die.  If their kids eat them as most
assuredly they will, the kids get sick also.

Thus, with the biological agent of Fibronil, the brood of cockroaches in our now finished renovated building was finally killed off.

Final victory, Tim Chng takes it, though the roaches fought back hard, they have been out of our building for the past 5 years.  If the roaches dare to face us again, I will be ready and armed with the knowledge and experience of this past war!


Dealing With Racism

Originally published: Thu, 08 Feb 2007 17:44:49 -05:00

Like many people of color raised in the United States, I have had my share of racial name calling and attacks. Born and bred in the American heartland, memories of being teased in the playground and being physically attacked during school recess for being the only Asian is apart of my childhood memories. The scars of such childhood attacks run deep and often brings out emotional and irrational responses when racially discriminatory incidents arise in one’s presence. When someone calls me “chink” or uses “ching chong” sounds to address me, the blood would start to flow and a pounding would begin to rise in my head. At that point, rational thought would fade and angry emotional outbursts would take over. This was common throughout my young adult life. Some friends would tell me that I was a magnet for racist comments and would say “only when I hang out with you, do I ever get that kind of stuff” (they don’t hang out with me anymore… 🙂 )

Just 5 years ago, when first coming to Baltimore to go swimming in the local pool with my wife and sister, a few kids in the pool would call me chink. The flashes of that childhood hurt would come back and embarrassingly, I found myself acting like that hurt child and I started hurling insults back. My wife looked at me in amusement and said “they are only kids, you are an adult, why do you react like that?”

“ouch.” I thought about that for a while.

This past Friday evening, while riding the Baltimore metro, two young black high school aged kids walked by me at the metro stop. As they passed, they gave me the “ching chong” sounds and tried to bump into me. Again, the angry emotions were there on the surface of my mind. My tai-chi training was visible as they tried to bump me where they felt the force they exchanged with me sent right back at them. They walked on and went to another place to wait for the train. At that point I decided it was time for me to grow up. I decided to confront the issue as an adult rather than as a child. As I approached them, the kid that bumped me jumped in panic fearing that he would be attacked.

I started the conversation, calmly and matter of factly told him “you know, when you make that ching chong noise at me, it is the same as when white people say those kinds of things about you.” His friend, in a childlike egging on voice said “ohhhhh he just called you a nigger!!” But the young man I confronted said, “shut up, no he didn’t!” He then apologetically said to me “you know, I was just playin….” I said “I know, but I just wanted you to know that” Then I wished him “blessings” as I offered my hand. He shook my hand, and I walked away. As they walked by, the young man I confronted smiled at me and said “see you later!”

Right before the train arrived, an elderly black man who witnessed the whole encounter gave me affirmation in saying “you did the right thing” and well, after 30 years, I hope those childhood scars have finally healed.


Held up at gun point…

Published originally : Thu, 07 Apr 2005 08:35:01 -04:00

After two years of my daily commute walking through the dark streets of Baltimore at 5AM, I was finally held up at gunpoint.  I guess the probabilities are bound to get you eventually.  Around 5:20 this morning in little Italy, as I was crossing Essex Street on Eastern Avenue while heading west, two young black kids emerging from a dark side street approached me from behind and said “come over here…”  I turned as they approached and then they said “give me everything you got.”  One kid showed me his hand gun and I took my wallet out.  I heard one kid tell the other “bring him back over here by the car” (in a dark side street)  Of course I refused to move from the lighted street lamp.  One kid took my wallet from my hand, yet sensing fear in the boys and not wanting them to have my address or pictures of my family, I promptly took it right back.

Now, most wallets have two sections in the bills area.  I have a one dollar section and a twenties section.  I opened my wallet, gave the kid all my one dollar bills (about 5-7 dollars) and then closed it and put it back in my pocket.  The kid with the gun then stuck his gun on my throat saying “you don’t want to get shot, do you?”  While the other kid asked for my wallet again…

All I said was “please sir…” (believing that these kids had no desire to shoot anyone) while the gun was at my throat.  Then the kid with the gun asked me “do you have a phone?”  I lied… “No” he checked my jacket side pockets (My phone was in my interior chest pocket) and then walked away.  I then kept on walking westward on Eastern Ave.  A few seconds later, from the alley way, a silver car rolled out and drove on…  I kept my eyes trained to the ground to give them no excuse to stop.

Thinking back on the incident, it is again a sad reminder that our world generates such desperate people in this world.  It is very sad that these kids find the need to hold people up at gun point for either gang initiation or cash.  In a sense, considering the behavior of humanity in the world, this behavior is probably expected by urban decay youths but it is still very unfortunate.