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Category: Humans

Crazy Talk
I talk to myself sometimes. Does that make me sound a little crazy?

I should mention that I’m not talking about under-my-breath muttering here, but a full-throated (though one-sided) conversation. My friend never responds, but he doesn’t need to. I always know exactly what he’s thinking.

I do try to make sure that no one else is around when I’m having these little chats. In fact, I used to think that my effort not to be overheard set me apart from the truly deranged. They seem to mutter and rant without caring if anyone notices. The fact that I was afraid that people might think I was crazy was proof that I was not.

This excuse has always seemed a bit thin, I’ll admit, so what about this one: children talk to themselves all the time. It’s a perfectly normal and healthy form of play. They are producing and directing their own little plays, and they cast themselves in all the roles. Just like me. There’s nothing crazy about that, is there? The fact that I have been trying to hide my conversations is not shame, really, so much as grown-up politeness. I simply didn’t want to spook others with my theatrics.

Unfortunately, some recent technological advances have now undermined this excuse. The Bluetooth headset has revealed that talking to yourself (or at least giving that impression) is not impolite at all. At least not anymore. People walk around all the time these days having animated conversations with invisible partners. It’s become an acceptable behavior. This new development in manners might actually allow me to talk freely to no one in particular without alarming others.

Then came my epiphany. I was in the Piazza Bra in Verona a while back and witnessed an event that rendered all of my lame rationalizations moot. I was stationed at the edge of the square, engaged in some recreational people-watching, when I noticed a man talking excitedly into his cell phone. He was pacing back and forth — forty yards in one direction, forty in the other — taking loudly and nonstop. I mean literally nonstop; there was no moment at which his partner could have wedged a word in. Furthermore, this tirade went on for a good fifteen minutes. There was no one, I was sure, on the other end of the line. I could only conclude that the man was one of those poor souls we think of as raving lunatics. But he was acting in a completely appropriate way…because he had a cell phone.

That was my sunburst of insight. The line between normal and nuts is not only unclear —it may have never have existed at all. Even if it had, that line has now been erased by technology.

We’re all crazy now, so who cares what people think?
No, not those drones. I want to talk about drone bees.

We just entered the world of beekeeping around here, and I am newly aware of what a strange world that is. There is a lot to say about bee society, but I find myself drawn to the story of the drones. The drone bee, of all the males of all the species on Earth, is surely the most pathetic.

He has only one function: to mate with the queen. He does not have the equipment to collect pollen or make wax, and he is not asked to perform any of the many other tasks assigned to members of the all-female army of worker bees. He is not even called upon for the one other job he might be able to handle — bouncer bee. He certainly has the size and girth to shove intruders out of the hive, but he is not qualified even for that humble duty. He doesn’t have a stinger. It’s sad.

So he just hangs around all day with the few other drones, waiting for the queen to take off on her nuptial flight. Until that time he is fed and made comfortable by his female attendants. It’s the kind of care we might call fit for a king, but that is not quite what he is.

If he is fast and alert enough, one drone alone will be successful in performing his single function in life. At that moment (of ecstasy, one hopes) he is the ultimate winner. It’s not pretty, though. His mating equipment, like the stingers of the workers, is barbed. When he is done, the whole apparatus is torn out, and he plummets to his death. The other drones return to the hive to wait for their next chance at fulfillment.

As I say, pathetic. And sad, and unfair, and yes, sexist. But for some drones, I would think it’s sort of appealing. If you’re one of the slow, weak ones, you still get the free food, you don’t have to do a lick of work, and you are waited on hand and foot. Plus, you’ll always have that beautiful romantic fantasy to keep you going. Sure, you will never be successful enough to be disemboweled, but it’s still a pretty good life.

It’s a message of hope for slacker males everywhere. The line between pathetic loser and made in the shade, it seems, is razor thin.
Turkeys Lurking
I wrote last December (in "Turkeysaurus Rex”) of my close encounter with a wild turkey. That account was written in the warm afterglow of Thanksgiving, and, in light of the season, I was feeling magnanimous about the bird and her understandable concern over the safety of her young. Recent events have turned my peaceful, if wary, coexistence with meleagris gallopavo intermedia into something considerably darker.

In that first interaction, if you recall, the turkeys involved were a troop of knee-high poults and their mother. Mom, at the time, was juiced up on a full measure of protect-at-all-costs hormones. Our time together did not go well, but I managed not to take it personally.

That was before I met Mr. Big, the Tom to her Henrietta. He is considerably bigger — at least 35 pounds — and his aggression is driven not by mother love, but by the territorial imperative. His message, however, is the same: get the hell out of here. I was told by my neighbor (the human owner of the territory in question) that Mr. Big is the dominant male in the area and holds sway over a harem of eight hens who roost in the nearby woods. He is used to having his say in altercations with any other toms who enter his caliphate. I am sure that he is willing to enforce his authority with violence when that is called for, but mostly he manages by gobbling loudly, puffing up to full volume, and putting on a slow, in-your-face strut.

It’s an impressive show, I’ll admit. Unlike Henrietta, he did not come straight at me. He tacked toward me like a Greek trireme — one way, then the other, always with one eye staring directly at his quarry and radiating intimidation. I can report that I did feel some fear at this demonstration, but it also ticked me off.

After my confrontation last year with the hen and her bevy, I found that I harbored no ill will toward her. The way I was brought up, a mother protecting her young was said to be a good thing, even if it put you in harm’s way. My meeting with Mr. Big, however, left a bad taste in my mouth. He didn’t attack me in the way that she did; his method involved bluff and menace. My anger wasn’t about being threatened, though, but more about outrage at the bogusness of his territorial claim. I have a right of way across my neighbor’s property. Why should the bravado of some fat-ass turkey trump that? He wasn’t protecting his young; he was asserting a property right directly adverse to mine. Screw that.

Maybe it’s a male thing — his territorial imperative against mine. If it’s that simple, then the deciding factor will be who can successfully assert dominance. So be it. I began carrying a walking stick on my constitutional. I had visions of a face-off with Mr. Big that would involve me marching resolutely toward him and brandishing my cane/kendo shinai as a declaration of my dominance. If he failed to retreat before me, I imagined, I’d have to go all Samurai on the sumbitch.

Not that I was looking for a fight. It seemed a little childish to go mano a mano with a turkey over a property dispute. Still, what’s right is right. I girded myself for hypothetical combat every time I left the house for a walk. Then, one day, my wife had a better idea. “I bought you a present, sweetheart,” she said, handing me a small package labeled Mace Pepper Gard.

At first, I recoiled at the notion of this kind of escalation. It seemed wrong, as if I was going nuclear in what was already an unfair fight. Then I figured, I’m a human being; I don’t have time for this kind of crap. I don’t want any trouble, but if you push me too far, I’ll give you all you can handle.

So I’m packing heat on the trail now — extract of capsaicin heat — and I’m not afraid to use it. Just got to be sure to point this thing in the right direction.
New Old Sayings
Make love not war, but always use protection.

Let a smile be your umbrella unless it’s hailing.

Give ‘til it hurts, and take 'til it feels good.

Be yourself until you find something better.

Reach for the stars, but always use an oven mitt.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon