Nutty international news

by | September 22, 2018 5:00 am

Last Updated: September 18, 2018 at 4:06 pm

In keeping with journalism’s mission to bring you the news from near and far, let’s look at some nutty international news.

First up, we have the Australian mom-of-three who claims she pulls down $58,000 annually by cuddling total strangers.

Then there’s a best-selling tarantula taco, served at a Mexico City eatery. It was wildly popular until the federales stepped in and said, “We can’t do much about eight bodies dumped on the streets of Cancun, but we crush food trucks selling tarantula tacos.” Or words to that effect.

We’ll come back to that. For now, let’s look at Aussie Jessica O’Neill, who became a professional cuddler after 10 years as “a massage therapist and counselor,” according to The Daily Mail.

O’Neill says her cuddles, which cost $60 an hour and up, help people who are lonely and disconnected. I get that. Two of my siblings are licensed massage therapists, and they often talk about the healing power of touch. It’s a basic human need, like water or Reese Cups. Babies who aren’t cuddled fail to thrive; senior citizens deprived of touch often become depressed.

“Hug hunger” is real—but cuddling on the clock raises so many questions: Do the clients fall asleep? What if they start to snore? Can O’Neill get up to use the bathroom? Does she wear sweatpants or a Barney t-shirt or what?

Most of O’Neill’s clients are men—she’s a stunning blonde–and she says 99 percent of respect her boundaries and are “very well behaved.”

She said the decision to go into professional cuddling grew from her practice of giving clients a hug when they arrived for a counseling session.

I’ve had counseling; haven’t we all? But I can’t imagine a licensed therapist saying, “That welcome hug went so well, let’s lie down and do it for an hour.”

O’Neill charges $60 for “strictly cuddles,” and tops out at $110 for a “friendship style” coffee and cuddle session. If she really wants to be a humanitarian, she could offer free hugs on the sidewalk; there’d be a line around the block.

Back to the tarantula tacos. I don’t even like generic tacos, because you’re chomping on a corn-flavored shell that shatters between your teeth and dumps meat, lettuce, sauce and sour cream on your shirt. But maybe that’s just me.

These tacos, featuring red-rumped tarantulas, were briefly offered for $27 a pop, about 50 times the price of a regular street taco. The taqueria even posted a vid to Facebook, showing its chef blackening one of the critters before tucking it into a taco. Apparently the operating theory was that anything crisped to a cinder is less off-putting than an actual hairy spider waving at you from a puddle of salsa.

Ah, but here’s the rub: The red-rumped tarantula is a protected species. Agents from Mexico’s environmental protection bureau saw the social media posts and raided the restaurant. Can’t you just see it? “Back away from the taco! Drop the blackened arachnid!”

It was too late for four tarantulas; they’d already gone to that giant web in the sky. Since tarantulas only spin webs to make shelter, maybe Nirvana is an empty shoe. Anyway, the rest of the Mexican tarantula population is now safe from human consumption.

The café, which wasn’t named by the Associated Press, continues to serve grasshoppers, worms, ant eggs and other indigenous delicacies. That may sound bizarre to most of us, but remember, America gave the world deep-fried Twinkies.

Luckily, “Mylanta” is the same in English and Spanish.

Julie R. Smith, who prefers burritos, can be reached at

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