386. BEWARE: Killer Wanna Bees

Years ago we were supposed to be invaded by swarms of Africanized honey bees, known as Killer Bees. Saturday Night Live did skits on the Killer Bees. These bad mannered bees eventually did find their way into the Southwestern states where they have killed some outdoorsman types, rock climbers and landscapers, a hog here,  a dog there, and have attacked many a baseball player with aromatic hair gel. The swarm will sting a body  over 1,000 times, injecting more venom than a human body can tolerate. Victims swell up and die, unable to breathe.

And how did these stinking thugbees get loose, you ask?  Human intervention and accident. In the 1950’s Biologist Warwick E. Kerr interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa in an attempt to increase honey production in Brazil.(I am not making this up. I am paraphrasing Wikipedia here.) Great idea, right? What could possibly go wrong?  But, you guessed it– these hybrid bees were very defensive and swarmed aggressively. They had to be kept in containment as the research progressed. But in 1957 a visiting beekeeper not named Bill Buckner thought he’d take the lid off the bees’ hives. Twenty six swarms of Tanganyikan bees escaped through the wickets and into the wilds of Brazil. The rest of the tale is history, stupid history of man playing God and screwing up nature’s balance yet again.

Image result for attention addicts picturesI’m not writing about Killer Bees, however. I merely mentioned them to funnel you ala the old bait and switch technique into my topic–>> Wanna Bees. These are not insects but humans who buzz about.  Hungry and strangely defensive? Yes, but not for pollen or nectar. Nosirreee. They seek attention and any supplemental benefits that come from attention. Fame is the ultimate goal for Wanna Bees. This may come from performing or politics (really, what’s the difference?) or writing (doubtful, not enough face time) or the other arts. Sports has its share of wannabees, hot dogs who not only seek but create drama… because that’s where the cameras go, and bored American audiences crane their necks to see what’s gonna happen next. But the largest swarm ever released comes from the Hydra Headed, Medusa like beast known as Social Media, which inadvertently spawned and released the pathological Wanna Bees into the world about 15 years ago. This correlates roughly with the rise of the celebrity, noun, a useless but attractive Wanna Bee, see Kardashian/Jenner. Synonym, weasel-pede. Primarily American usage.

Andy Warhol was prophetic when he declared, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” That was in 1968, Blogabillies.  Since then the world and its pool of potentially famous humans has grown substantially. Basically it’s doubled from 3.5 billion to 7 billion people. If each person gets his/her 15 minutes of fame, you and I are going to have to wait a long, long time till Zylpada Zyabrowski finishes her turn, assuming we go in alphabetical order.  I’m sure a math geek can calculate the number of hours required, and an engineer can rig up a system to broadcast each famous person, and a political delegate hunter can measure by polls how famous a person is for the allotted time… However, this 15 minutes of fame thing is really getting old. All these “famous” people aren’t all that interesting. Nonetheless we continue hoisting another Baby Bieber up the flagpole of popular appeal until everyone salutes. We step back and yawn, “Wow, that dude is famous. Could you pass me the salt?”

About the time the Killer Bees were released, a new way of parenting was being practiced– indulgence. My buddy Clark once told me that indulgence was the worst form of child abuse ever. When I prodded him for his justification, he told me this.

“You know if a kid gets beaten or sexually abused, he/she can eventually get over  it through counseling and medication, right? But the thing with indulgence is this: THE KID DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HE’S BEEN ABUSED. Instead, he’s been sold a script that he is so very precious and entitled to special treatment by everyone, all the time, everywhere. He’s screwed for life cuz he’s totally unprepared for unfiltered reality. It’s so awful.”

I could not disagree. He’s usually brilliant anyway, an anthracite diamond from Cambria County.

For myriad reasons, parents in upwardly mobile segments of America wanted more for themselves… perhaps because they worked themselves silly and were told by voices on television and radio that they deserved more of everything, all the time, everywhere. At the same time the American economy was booming at such a force that the dollar’s buying power increased, causing a unique problem known as deflation. Suddenly in the late 1950’s the dollar magically bought more. Prices dropped. All signs pointed to success, world domination, and the righteousness of the American Way.

Those parents came to adulthood during the Great Depression and World War II. They did not know what surplus meant since the excess of the Roaring Twenties fueled the near total collapse of the stock market and banking system in the U.S. over a generation previously. Here was a new opportunity to get it wrong again. Those parents might have suffered through bleak decades of war and deprivation, but their little ones would not want for anything if they could help it. Free time, sports, entertainment, convenience foods, miracle drugs, and other indulgences exploded as if to confirm that America had found Nirvana. The kids of that era were given more than any previous generation had dreamed of along with a  system that would keep the dream alive. Television became the opiate of the masses, hypnotically calling them onto the treadmills of consumerism, pulling them deep into the vortex of unending debt.

Voila!! There is the recipe for today’s indulged children no matter their age.

Today’s Wanna Bees sting with cyberwords and emojis, thousands in a minute. They Twitterpate their adversaries with 180 cc’s of deadly venom at a time. All for the sake of more honey. They don’t even know they’ve been abused, honey junkies one and all.

289. Something/ Nothing?

                               

I liked Todd Rundgren’s music in the 1970’s. His double album Something/Anything (1972) was pleasant enough as I recall. Not groundbreaking or toothchipping… just enough of something salty and sweet together, like tortilla chips and chewy caramels for my ears to chomp.  He played all the instruments and sang all the tracks, which is pretty impressive, I think. I recall a review in the Washington Post that called him the clown prince of rock n roll. I guess that was accurate. He made some money along the way and did a good bit of successful producing. So I suppose he knew a thing or two. I mention him as a surveyor’s reference point in time and culture that I am racing away from.

I saw him at the Kennedy Center in 1973, I think, with his Nirvana band. (No, not that Nirvana band! Duh!! They were still in elementary school then.) I wore gold glitter across my metrosexual collarbone and sprinkled more on the tops of my literally blue suede Converse sneakers. And, yes, filthy ones, I wore other clothes. [Strike that last image from the record, your Honor.] It was a fashion statement I will never need to restate, unless it would get me out of prison early. Get this: during the show some joint burning pothead (not the Burrito Manchild ) was being escorted from his seat by security when Rundgren stopped the show and told the wannabe cops to leave the guy alone. Strangely enough, they complied. Who knew that celebrities on stage commanded civic authority? Keep in mind that Richard Nixon was in the White House, and at the Opera House next to our auditorium, Washington’s finest sashayed in the great hall under JFK’s bronze bust while the other glitterati pranced about during a shared intermission. Someone should have lost his scheduling job for that faux pas. When hauled before the review board the next day, in response to the question, “What were you smoking?”, Ted the scheduling director pleaded simply, “something, anything”. “Shoot him!”

Bust of JFK in the lobby of the Kennedy Center

Fasten your seat belts as I whip the narrative violently away from this scene. The other day I believe a musical person by profession at my Sunday School table told her husband that he should never agree with me or say “Right” if I just said “Right” or “Never” if I just said “Never”.  Okay, hurt me. I believe it was a case of Something/Nothing. Robert was confused.

“Can I say ‘Right’ when you say ‘Right’, Dear?”

“Yes, but not when he says it. Okay?”

“Okay.”

I whispered, “Right on, Robert. Right now. You’re righteous. Right?”

He looked at me like I had an ice cream cone on a hot summer day… and he didn’t. “Oh no you don’t, Buddy. Not a single lick.”

“Ri…. ri…ri…”

“Robert!”

Crackamundo, he heeled.

I get a good bit of this reaction from others. I must provoke a certain socially acceptable disdain in folks who feel familiar and comfortable enough to mildly insult me. They tell me I bring it on myself and I can’t disagree. I think it is a pheromone that I emit.

The other night after our ballroom dance class a bunch of us went to a local restaurant and had a drink and an appetizer. I sat across from my lovely bride who sat next to Don the dancing dentist. Within a short period of time Don felt familiar and comfortable enough to drill and fill me. He asked my wife where our daughter got her musical ability. My wife said something like ‘Well, I took piano and guitar lessons, but my husband did not. His family didn’t do much with him.’ To which Don replied something like ‘So you contributed something and your husband contributed nothing’ or something like that.  To which I complained, “Don, don’t you even use novacaine before you stick a knife in a man’s gums?”

We chuckled nervously. I wanted him to think that I am a dangerous ex-con with a hair trigger temper and pistol under the tabletop. At least I wanted to think that he thinks I’m  more dangerous than an ex-hairdresser with a sparky blow dryer in hand. I am no marshmallow, Dude! The bullseye on my back is an unfortunate birthmark not an invitation. But alas! It’s a target for the disenfranchised to franchise like a McDonald’s. (If  you have any ideas what that last sentence means, would you please personal message me? I’d really like to know.)

So, the theme, the overarching theme that I must support with related drivel… hmmm. I seem to have lost it along the way. This is of no concern to me since I don’t usually follow the rules of proper writing. I just accelerate to maintain control. I first over heard this statement in a small English pub outside of Bury St. Edmunds, East Anglia in 1973 or so. Some American military guys were talking quite loudly as they sucked down pints of ale. One guy was reviewing driving training he’d received State side. He was yakking about driving through a culvert when he blurted, “I accelerated to maintain control”, as if that were the punch line to an extended joke. I was seventeen and alone. I wound up chatting with one of the military dudes. He was righteous and much smarter than I was. He told me of the vast peacekeeping mission of the military, how they were agents of peace. I did not believe him, still don’t. However, I had a copy of a science fiction book that a former classmate claimed to have written. Wilbur even autographed it for my girlfriend’s gift.  This military guy clarified that the Great and Powerful Wilbur was lying, which was true, of course, but it wasn’t nearly as cool a story as having gone to school with a famous science fiction author. Just another something/anything that turned into nothing. Why do folks insist on the truth when a faint gauzy blur will do just as well? We know Bigfoot doesn’t exist, but why crush us?

“Hello, it’s me
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong
There’s something here that doesn’t last too long
Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine”
Something cannot come from nothing. Right?
“I’ll have an Anything with a twist of lime.”
Oh where is Todd Rundgren when you need him?

262. Coffee, Constitution and commandments

Despite the utopian nature of the Coffee Summit and the wonderful cacophonous harmony of disunity that has persisted for the past five years, it is time for some tweaking of the original charter. The genuine Magna Carta napkin has been misplaced, possibly in a washing machine. I thought it was in my old wallet, but when I switched to a new wallet at Christmas, aghast! The most important napkin in Christendom was gone!! It was an agreement among unemployed giants of our time inked out during one of the bleakest periods in our collective history. Like Washington at Trenton or Meade at Gettysburg, the future of the nation was at stake as Tim the Silver Back and Chuckles and I stood in a wooden canoe crossing the Conococheague. (It was shallow there and narrow. Okay, we just walked across on a June morning, but it was powerfully symbolic.) And rather than wave a blank napkin of surrender, we (really I) wrote down on one powerful 3″ x  3″ square eternal truths to live by. And I-uh-I seem to have lost it.

I must, however, persevere and recall as much as I can of the Constitution of Coffee Nation before it deteriorates in the landfill of wasted time and wasted minds. First of all, it was decided by voice vote that we would meet Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. unless otherwise directed by the Supreme Imperial Leader, which I decided was me. For an entire college semester, however, we met on Fridays at 8:30 due to a teaching commitment I had made. It was Abnormal Psychology. Shocker. I drew heavily on my interactions with the primates at Coffee Nation for the class I taught. (Sotto voce) “Here are lowland gorilla men grazing at a coffee shop. The one on the bottom is thought to be a direct link to the Himalayan Yeti. Note his ululating calls… ‘Ugggguggggllll. Uggggugggglll’. We call him Chuckles. The one on the top is from Allentown.  His call resembles human speech… approximating the expression of pleasant surprise…’That’s so coooool’. ” He’s Timmy.

It was simple then… Two articles: No politics. No religion. Bodily noises were permissible and continue to be.  Mild violence is encouraged but not required. No outside food or drink is permitted, however. It is not forbidden so much as ridiculed. Brother Lance brought a purple lady’s coffee travel mug once. ONCE. It was a long day for him. But I am getting far ahead of the Nation’s coffee creamer thimble of tears.

We grew one unemployed and undeserving man at a time. Matt the creeper tried to deny his predilections while only reinforcing our beliefs. He ranted on about astral physics while staring at women’s physiques. He was sanctioned. Low octane Walt rolled along for a while. He didn’t even drink coffee. However, we puttered along through his successful chemo treatments. Truly, there are far more departed Nation brothers than active ones. Rob the candy and ice cruncher moved on. Josh the armed American bull rider came faithfully but got a job and married into the System. He was always good for NRA propaganda and outrageous right wing conspiracies from Fox News Nation. “Did you know more people were killed by water heaters last year than by guns?” Many times he was sanctioned for offending Our second amendment– no politics– and for being downright naïve.

The artist formerly known as Egginator was a faithful attendee and chess opponent, but the coffee was too strong for him and he fled back to his Motherland. Ron 1 used to keep the bar up with his aging frame, while chatting amiably to the pretty young barrista-ettes. We talked for  a while about him putting me into his will, but he was hung up on the fact that I was older than he was. “You could die first, Ron. You need to be prepared.” He could not see the logic in my argument despite his End Timer tendencies.

Chuck the Cowboy came for a few visits. He was too busy, though, and could not take the constant demand for sluggishness by the group. He had to rope a calf or canter about. This is the existential problem when it comes to do’ers versus be’ers. Coffee Nation is all about being and is on record against doing. Anything! Once Lance suggested a purpose for our aimless crew. He was severely sanctioned. “Ignore that voice of doooty. We are here merely to be or not to be. Doing is not in our Declaration of Indolence. Heel!”  Dave dropped in for chess a few times and disappeared into that blind alley of upper mobility like a character from a Springsteen song.  We of coffee nation curse the cruel JOBS that have decimated our ranks. As the chart below illustrates, happiness comes from set points, which means inertia. Studies in the UK have determined that working toward specific goals actually hampers perceived levels of happiness in mental patients and sluggards. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Rob 2 affiliated with us for a few weeks. He was between financial gigs but graced us with his starched white shirt appearance for a while. Gigilo Gene took some offense to Rob’s eccentric white collar mojo.  D.J. helped mediate that fraternal fracas before fists flew. His MP background has come in handy a time or two in disciplining Big Steve, perhaps the most faithful National among us. Though fully employed by an international corporation, Steve routinely goes in late on Thursdays. When he dies we will bury him with full Nation honors as outlined in a previous post. (240. Time is Short)

And then there was Gary aka Jerry who tried after a brief internship to organize a coup d’état. What saved the Imperial Leader for Life’s life was the fact that no one speaks French, and therefore they thought Jerry was coughing while sneezing. “Make up your mind, Dude. Either cough or sneeze.” He was sentenced to a North Korean firing squad in Hagerstown. Actually we tapped Josh and his personal arsenal to shoot a precise outline of .17 caliber bullets around Jerry to warn him against insurrection. He was sentenced instead to a lifetime of servitude under a different dictator.

Oh the humanity!

5. later

It’s Sunday afternoon April one, overcast and a bit  too warm in the house but a bit too cool outside for complete comfort without exercising. It’s a back and forth day, the kind that makes folks mildly bothered without their even knowing it. The phone does not ring. The big game is tomorrow night. Not one bright sunbeam all day, just filtered down sunlight, like God needs to change his air filter.

Lots of folks personalize the weather. I used to when I was younger and depressed. Not anymore; it’s a waste of time. Just go with it. You can’t change the weather, so roll, Baby, roll. You can change your own perspective with medication and therapy and time. So there. The dark comes and the spectrum of colors loses out to the gray scale as the evening fades into black.

It’s a day of recharge, enjoy dinner and the littlest things. Read a few more pages of that book I’m plugging through. Relax. Be present. Work is waiting tomorrow to weigh and strain on you. Yawn, and yawn some more. Tomorrow is coming with its weight and strain, but it’s not here yet. Here is here now. Enjoy the now and the here of this moment.