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The swarm - Sing With Me If It's Just For Today... — LiveJournal
If I should fall behind, Guyster, wait for me.
The swarm
duffymoon wrote a very good, nostalgia piece on the cicada . He meant no harm writing it, I’m certain. Why would he, a man I’ve never met, and who I’ve just begun to read on Live Journal, want to send me into shivering tremors?

First, I've never met a bug I liked. We just don't hit it off. I do worse with them than I do with small children. They make me shudder, rub my skin in that way I’ve seen on TV or from hysterical women, and they've been known to make me squeal and stomp my feet like Rhoda getting her pigtails pulled. And the worst, crunchiest, most oozy, ickified alien creatures on our planet are cicadas.

There’s this thing called irony, best described in the brilliant You Are So Cursed , and it is in full bloom here in the nation's capital, or at least it will be in the month of May. The cicadas are crawling out from their 17-year slumber to invade the city and that is ironic. Of all summers for me to have to live here, it had to be the season of the swarm.

It’s been many years since I last saw them. Our neighborhood was considered one of the hardest hit in the Chicago suburbs, and I guess by that they mean that every single surface that wasn’t moving for more than fifteen minutes would be covered in their filthy and loud mess. I was creeped out by how they would cover the tree bark all the way to the top, the way they would thicken the ground in a cover of slightly shifting movement, whether it was grass, sidewalk, or street. It was a trick to the eyes and an assault on the ears.

One night, I stayed over at my friend’s house too late and missed the train back home. There wasn’t another train until 6am. I had on nothing but hip-hugging bellbottoms that rode an inch past my bare feet. And a t-shirt. No shoes. Oh, and we had taken two hits of acid. Each.

My friend lived in a citified neighborhood hence the bugs were infrequent, a light dusting of the creatures, really. The sound was a quiet din and the streets were relatively clear. I made it to the train in decent condition; the acid was now at that manageable level where only my periphery had unnatural movement.

My house was about eight blocks from the train station. Even when I arrived at my home station twenty minutes later, there seemed to be a reprieve; there were openings that made the whole scene look like a crazy Twister game with the circles moving. I slowly stepped off the train step and with a heretofore unknown agility, I danced around those bad spots with the grace and skill of Astaire. With each step, though, my feet started to get more surrounded, and then I felt my first crunch. I yelped and the echo on the quiet Sunday morning streets fed it back at me. I snapped my mouth shut tight, clenching my teeth, because what if…well, I didn’t want to think about it.

It wasn’t until Euclid Avenue that I started to cry. By then, every step I took was filled with the snap, crackle, and pop of bug bodies. The streets were no clearer than the sidewalks and the lawns were the worst of all. I started to run, in hindsight a bad idea, and it was then that I felt my bare feet, now covered in bug guts, slip effortlessly from under me. I landed in a hard thud on my tailbone and elbows. My head never went onto the ground, though. I could feel them crawl on every part of my body. The steady, mindless march. And something else started to happen. They started to stare at me. Each and every one of them as my judge and jury.

I tried to find purchase and squished back onto the ground. At this point, I was hysterical and I squeaked a silly useless help. Everything Sergeant Friday ever said about drugs was true at that moment. I made it to my feet and ran the rest of the two blocks to my house. The final insult was the pulpy guard sitting on the doorknob looking at me, daring me to touch it. I swatted it off and went in. Closing the door didn’t stop the sound in my head and I rushed to the bathroom. My mother was asleep; my dad was gone.

I looked into the mirror and that’s when I saw myself covered in the guts and death of the insects. My face was flecked along with my arms, and some particularly clever ones found their way up my pant legs. I stripped naked and turned on the shower, jumping in before the water became warm. I had carried in whole ones, live ones, and they slowly came off and slid into the drain. The water started to back up in the tub and soon it was as high as my calves with them floating, some still moving, some doing the back stroke and spitting out water in a cute little fountain. I jumped out of the water and dried off, pleading for them to go away.

I shut the drapes in my room as they had covered my window screen and were watching with delight as I huddled in terror. I made it to sleep, finally, but woke with the knowledge that they were still out there, waiting. For me.

It’s election year this year, and the nation’s capital is abuzz. In May, however, that buzz will become more than a term of slang. It will be real. As real as it was when I was a kid, high on acid and covered in them. They say Los Angeles may not have its share of highfalutin culture or it’s not the financial center of the country and it certainly isn’t the seat of power in the world but it sure doesn't get cicadas, and to me, that's a fair trade-off.
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(Deleted comment)
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: March 16th, 2004 08:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I guess it didn't take you too long to finish that debate! Krispy Kremes have always been suspect to me, especially now that they've become America's donut.
From: umkinda Date: March 16th, 2004 08:17 am (UTC) (Link)
When I was growing up, I always wanted to see some Cicadas. This morning? Not so much...
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: March 16th, 2004 08:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Come to DC. Now that you have super cool new glasses, you can see them with extra clarity.
fabulist From: fabulist Date: March 16th, 2004 09:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Big baby.

Luckily for you, you have a very, very patient friend to swat the big scary bugs for you.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: March 16th, 2004 10:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I am certain my irrational fear will drain any patience out of that friend.
poohbearjim From: poohbearjim Date: March 16th, 2004 09:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Reading your entry I was both amused and grossed-out. This may be a bit hard to believe, but I recall the Cicadas of 17 years ago with fondness. I was living in Northern Virginia at the time and remember being fascinated with them. I had not seen anything like it before and wondered at first what the hell they were. Yes, they were a bit on the disgusting side, but at the same time I wanted to know more about this creature that only comes out every 17 years - and then for such a short time. They were quite the cultural phenomenon, too. I remember the Today Show doing a kitchen piece with some guy with Cicada recipes!

I would watch them emerge from the ground and start crawling up trees and poles. Then they attached themselves and cocooned themselves. When they started emerging I would sit there and watch the entire process which took place fairly quickly. They had wings but were not beautiful like butterflies.

Then came the noise. Wow - with my window closed I could still hear the shrill. It sounded like atomic crickets, amplified exponentially. I can recall seeing the local news airing Ronald Reagan giving a news conference on the White House lawn and barely being able to hear him above the sound. (That was a Good Thing™.)

My fascination with these bugs far outweighed my disgust for them. I'm a bit disappointed that I won't be able to experience them from start to finish since we don't have them down in Florida, but I will be in Baltimore for a conference in mid/late May - maybe I'll at least get to hear them for a bit.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: March 16th, 2004 10:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I wish I could step back and intellectually look at the process, no doubt one of earth's wonders. But I'm too busy going "Ewwwwwwwww!"
duffymoon From: duffymoon Date: March 16th, 2004 09:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you sir, how dare you sir

Thanks for linking me. And a big sarcastic thanks for making me re-live those horrifying experiences in vivid, squishy detail. Sorry if my post dredged up these long buried feelings for you, but now consider it repaid. Good work.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: March 16th, 2004 10:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you sir, how dare you sir

I've been squirming ever since I read your post. I foolishly thought that Chicago was the only city affected (how egotistical is that?). Then someone had to come along and tell me it happens here, too. It's not been the same since.
quuf From: quuf Date: March 16th, 2004 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Twenty years ago, I stopped at a restaurant at the bottom of the Grapevine on Interstate 5 (now marred by the big IKEA distribution center, etc.), and the roof, parking lot, and all the cars were covered with locusts. That crunching sound you describe? I know it well.

I love bugs, and thought the cicada I saw clinging to a palo verde in Las Vegas a few years ago was gorgeous -- the red eyes, the wings like leaded glass -- but don't envy you your experience.

On that note, I guess you won't be visiting the Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian any time soon. The docents there are most accomodating -- and will even let you hold a Madagascar hissing cockroach. ;)
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: March 16th, 2004 10:34 am (UTC) (Link)
No. No Insect Zoo for me, and even a sex tour wouldn't bring me to Madagascar.
poohbearjim From: poohbearjim Date: March 16th, 2004 11:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I LOVE the Smithsonian's Insect Zoo. It's so deliciously creepy.
quuf From: quuf Date: March 16th, 2004 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yes. I had an urge to tuck in my shirt and pull my socks over my pant cuffs when I was there, if you know what I mean . . .
poohbearjim From: poohbearjim Date: March 16th, 2004 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
OH, and by the way, anyone who makes a Bad Seed reference is cool in my book!
twillhead From: twillhead Date: March 16th, 2004 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I saw my first cicada only three years ago, at work. Although I don't smoke, I enjoyed hanging out with the cool people that did, so I was in the outdoor smoking kiosk when we all saw one on the ground, moving slowly. We wondered if it was dying; as we all leaned in for a closer look, it suddenly took flight, causing us all to swoop and duck. I thought they were fascinating creatures, until I read your account -- and all I can say is: OH -- MY -- GOD!! I am now busily scratching my entire body!
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