Friday, May 25, 2007

Is That All There Is?

One of my favorite bloggers, famed Narcozoologist Bubs, posted yesterday about how the much-ballyhooed cicadas had been big no-shows in his neighorhood. I feel your pain, Bubs. Like Haley's Comet, like Comet Kohoutek, they're just another event of nature that has let me down after decades of waiting.

In 1973, when I was 12, my family moved from the lame Chicago suburb of Streamwood to the even-more-lame Chicago suburb of Western Springs. We arrived just in time to hear my fellow seventh-graders tell epic tales of what they had done to the cicadas that had surfaced en masse in the quiet little suburb just days before our arrival. They had stomped and burned the cicadas. They'd ridden over them on bikes. They'd put cicadas down girls' shirts. They'd whipped cicadas into sidewalks and walls, and had cicada fights.

Aside from thinking that these kids 1. obviously had too much spare time on their hands, and 2. perhaps some deep-set psychological problems, the thought of a bug invasion that was right out of a horror movie fascinated me. I was disappointed to discover that I'd have to wait another 17 years to witness this.

That very same year, the Comet Kohoutek had led me on and disappointed me. Those of you of my general demographic (mid-forties) may remember this. A comet was going to pass by earth that was supposed to be spectacular. It turned out to be a big dud, barely visible even with a telescope. I should have learned my lesson from that.

Maybe it'll be more spectacular when it returns-- 75,000 years from now.

As adulthood arrived, I looked forward to the sure thing-- Haley's Comet. In 1970/71, my little Chicago grade school science nerd buddies and I would get in a lather when we talked about the fly-by of the fabled Haley's Comet that would happen in 1986. Haley's comet had been spectacular every time, and had puncuated history. In 1066, it appeared, brightly visible to the naked eye, and was taken to be a bad omen. And sure enough, English king Harold the II died at the Battle of Hastings. The French took over England, and the Germanic language of the natives began mixing with the French of the conquerors, eventually creating the ferocious non-phonetic, virtually unspellable mish-mash that became the English language. The birth and death of great American author Mark Twain was bracketed by arrivals of Haley's Comet-- spectacular both times.

And what of Haley's Comet in 1986? As Wikipedia puts it:

The 1986 approach was the least favourable for Earth observers of all recorded passages of the comet throughout history: the comet did not achieve the spectacular brightness of some previous approaches, and with increased light pollution from urbanization, many people never saw the comet at all.

Worse, it was virtually invisible in the Northern Hemisphere. Since I had just finished college the year before, and had not a pot to piss in, I was not able to travel to South America or Africa that year, and consequently, I was never able to see Haley's Comet.

If I'm fortunate enough to live to be 99 years old, I might be able to see it again when it passes in 2162. And it'll problably suck that time, too. And by then, I'll be too old and tired to be pissed off about it.

In any event, back to the cicadas. After a 17 year wait, 1990 arrived. And once again, I saw not one friggin' cicada! If my admittedly foggy memory serves me right (that was in the midst of my party years), there was a drought that year, and the cicada onslaught was weak. Or maybe they were just boycotting my neighborhood.

So here we are in 2007. After yet another seventeen year wait, I eagerly awaited the Cicadapalooza. For weeks, the media's been hyping this, warning that it was going to be big this year.

Where. Are. My. Friggin'. Cicadas. ?.. Splotchy got them in droves. There are news reports of cicadas knee-deep in some Chicago suburbs. They've carried off cats, chihuahuas and smaller children in a couple of places. But nary a cicada in my neck of the woods, the north side of Chicago.

So it looks like cicadas will be yet another bitter disappointment of nature in my life. Tonight, in a scene I'm certain will be replicated at the Bubs household, I'll sit on my cicadaless back porch, nursing a drink, as Peggy Lee and I recall life's let-downs. Is that all there is to a cicada invasion? Is that all there, my friend? Then let's keep dancing.


Valerie said...

I have not seen one cicada up here in Lake County.

Big Orange (a.k.a. "Uncle Moonpie") said...

I'm not sure no-show cicadas are a BAD thing: I've heard of dead ones falling on your head as you're eating your lunch in the park. I HEAR them but if they're off someplace far away from me, I'm NOT disapointed. I don't LIKE bugs, doubleplusungood to BIG fackin' bugs like cicadas.

cheer34 said...

Nary a one in my part of the woods.

I have a fabulous picture of Haley's comet passing over a cemetery. Its one of my favorite photographs.

Skylers Dad said...

I am not a big fan of any creepy crawlys.

Sounds like this every 17 year deal would drive me out of my mind!

Bubs said...

Johnny I feel your pain. I've had that gypped feeling a bunch of times with comets and meteor showers. As for cicadas...

I'm about to hop in the car and drive down to Splotchy's house. I remember the best cicada viewing we had in 1990 was on a trip to Brookfield Zoo--the place was thick with them, I had at least 8 or 10 land on me while we were there, and my daughter (a year old at the time)sat in her stroller giggling every time I'd put one on her nose.

I'm working up a fierce appetite, and if these bug-eyed little f*cks don't arrive soon...well. I just don't know.

Splotchy said...

JY, I think you have someone ready, willing and able in Bubs if you want help satisfying your childhood cicada dreams in the near Western suburbs.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Sounds like those of you who live in the wrong neighbourhoods of Chicago need to make a roadtrip to those who are currently being blessed. Just bring along a bottle of tequila and I'm sure they will welcome you (the homeowners, not the cicadas).

The Elk said...

Be careful what You wish for....
I will gladly box up the little buggers and hand deliver them.

The little bastards were all over my newly planted pepper plants when I checked the garden yesterday. Whist gently trying to coax them off the plants with the use of a garden hose, a few of the more daring of the bunch decided to make a suicide run at my person. I had my handy can of Flit available and the little darlings were last seen heading east coughing and wheezing.....

I wonder if the Flit would also work on Neo Conservative or Jehovah's Witnesses...Hmmm will have to see.

SamuraiFrog said...

Not a cicada here in DeKalb, of all places, so far. Maybe the Brookfield Zoo will have to be the place to try and find them, if they're hanging around this time.

Erik Donald France said...

Here, we're waiting for the fish flies that last a short while and drop dead, singing "Is That All There Is," too. Maybe ;)

lulu said...

I'm feeling really ripped off too. Damn bugs.

When I was a little girl, maybe 4-5, this was my favorite song. I'm not sure what about it appealed to me, but I knew all the words, and sang a breathy, ennui-filled version on request.

Toccata said...

I could have survived the frog invasion our lake cabin had for about 5 years running. You could not walk on the road without walking along a carpet of dead frog carcasses. Eeek! Still gives me the willies all these years later.

Johnny Yen said...

They're holding out on you, too, eh?

Big Orange-
Oh great-- so what horrible infestations do you like? Rats? Pigeons? Republicans?

That sounds way-cool. You should post that!

Skyler's Dad-
It's nearly as bad as the every-four year infestation of silly white guys wanting to be President.

Brookfield seems to be cicada central this year. And Berwyn, the town of my birth. I may be having a libation out that way Sunday night-- hopefully there'll be a few cicadas left.

I may be out that way Sunday night-- cicadas or no, a libation may be in order. Details to follow. Email me at if you're available.

I knew there's a reason that you're my spiritual advisor!

Let me know how that works out. I may want to try that out on school administrators.

They seem to be favoring the western suburbs.

Of course, remembering some of the people I had to deal with when my family lived in the western suburbs of Chicago, maybe they deserve them...

I'd pay good money to see that!

I can totally see that song being your favorite!

Wasn't that a movie in the seventies that Ray Milland starred in?

SamuraiFrog said...

My mom lives in the western suburbs, so you're probably right.

Kathy said...

LOL . . . love the Peggy Lee closing.

I myself am the owner of an $8 bag of tulle that I was supposed to wrap my new dogwood with. I guess I'll just pass it on to our girls. They'll find a use for it!

Natalie said...

I am so glad i haven't seen any. I hope it stays that way

GETkristiLOVE said...

My favorite Mark Twain quote:

"I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'

I'm not sure how he felt about cicadas.

'Bubbles' said...

Ah, is it cicada year already? Wow.
Are double dare them to come here. The Palo Verde beetles will put them to shame!!

Peggy Lee was one of my parents' favorites. I used to love that song - good thing, cause my parents listened to it a lot!