06 June 2007

I don't remember '73 or '90 being like this

I'm about to go insane, if I am not there already.  Stress?  Nah, you kidding me?  I haven't felt stress in a long time.  The Cubs?  Nope, past that too.  World strife?  There's a naive part of me that always feels that no matter how crazy the people who run things are, it will all work out.

Cicadas?  BINGO.

I cannot believe how noisy it has been the last few days around here.  We live in a subdivision that wasn't here seventeen years ago, so if I walk outside and down the street I won't see a single cicada.  However, our back deck faces a neighborhood that was there seventeen years ago.

It's cicada spring break, and directly behind us is South Padre.

I was six in 1973 and all I remember is the occasional bug flying into me (which I'm sure caused me to wig out since I was scared of everything until I was about, oh, 28).  In 1990 I remember my then four-year old nephew being absolutely fascinated by the cicadas as they emerged from the ground and attached themselves to anything they could to molt.  I left shortly after the emergence that summer to spend the summer in Iowa City, taking a few classes before my senior year.

So I guess this is really my first time experiencing the cacophony that these red-eyed creatures create.  They never shut up, unless it rains.  Maybe they are like turkeys; when it rains they look up and drown.  Anyway, it starts at sun-up.  The noise is two-tiered; there is a constant scream in the distance that short of sounds like a billion chickens in choir practice (or a motion sensor alarm going off, but that's something perhaps only Mr. Retail would know), and close by there is a rapturous hum of cicadas looking to get their groove on.  It sounds like the crackle that you hear if you stand under a huge electrical tower, except that it starts low, erupts into an ear-bleeding screech, and then dissipates for a blissful nanosecond or two before it starts all over again.

Our bedroom is at the end of the house where there are not any cicadas.  They woke me up this morning anyway.  And they sang me to sleep last night.  They don't make noise at night-I heard them for so long yesterday that the sound stayed in my head until I fell asleep.  I can hear them now, and they aren't making a peep, so my cerebellum must have the capacity for awesome echo retention.

I keep thinking that there is a loose wire somewhere in my house, spewing sparks and live electricity.  And then I remember that this is the summer of the bugs.

It is actually quite fascinating.  Watching them emerge from the ground just before Memorial Day was interesting.  I'd find small holes everywhere along my mother's house, and there were so many shedded skins at the base of the two trees in her front yard that you'd think she piled mulch there.  The little buggers spent seventeen years underground, and I was surprised at the numbers that never made it to full-blown cicada-hood; some never made it out of there shells before they were devoured.  My sister and her family, which includes a small dog (Roo, also affectionately referred to as the "niece-pup") were here for Memorial Day and I think Roo ate 57 million cicadas.  She gained twelve pounds and six chins in three days.  Others died as they tried to shed their skins, and the really unfortunate ones shed their skin but had something go wrong and popped out with mutilated wings.

The ones that made it fly around all day and make noise.  It's a mating call, they say.  There are billions of cicadas out looking for Mr. Goodbar.  I sit on my deck and look up into the trees that hang over the deck and I can see hundreds just flapping around the trees.  Come here often?  Their wings aren't so graceful-they almost tumble instead of fly.

And they're dumb.  Lord, are they dumb.  Cicadas might be the dumbest living creatures that I have ever encountered (and I know plenty of St. Louis Cardinal fans).  If they somehow wind up on their back, they can't right themselves; they just sit there with their legs going light speed but nothing happens.  Eventually they die of exhaustion.  For some reason I find this hysterical.  I've taken the initiative to try to help these inverted cicadas by turning them over, but they are either almost dead and lacking in energy, or they spin in a circle for a moment or two before they manage to wind up on their backs again.

Again, not the smartest insect out there.  I understand that there are a significant amount of earwigs that are members of Mensa.

Cicadas cannot swim.  I have found many in pools of water that have collected in odd places.  I'm thinking that by 2024 someone could make a lot of money developing a cicada life vest.

You know who is having a party summer?  The birds.  They are all over the place.  Everyday I clean fifty pounds of bird waste off our deck.  Perhaps I could get them to consider Depends.  We even have gulls hanging out in this area.  We're about ten miles away from the lake here.  I've never seen gulls out here before.

I admit that I was looking forward to the cicada experience this summer, since it had been so long since they were here last, but I'm ready for it to be over.  Male cicadas die shortly after they mate, so I've been leaving suggestive video tapes and mini-smoking jackets all over the place in the hopes that they'll get excited much more quickly.  The females don't kick the bucket until they leg their eggs, so there's nothing that I can think of that would speed this process up.

They'll be back in 2024, when I will be 57 and grumpy, so I will have invested in some ear plugs by then I'm sure. They'll be here in 2041 too, when I will be 74.  If I'm still alive then I will probably have lost some of my hearing, which I will be slightly thankful for.



1 comment:

jevanslink said...

I was there for the 1956 invasion. You needed helmets for that one. For these last three I've been in new construction so I've been spared.  I have to say I'd trade cicadas any day for the inch worm infestation of the seventies.

Msr. L