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.