Monday, April 25, 2011

Nirvana Knows No Empty Stomach

My Pa is a little like Jed Clampett. You know the Clampetts from re-runs of The Beverly Hillbillies. Like old Jed, Pa's got what we call in our parts a perfect peace.

Never mind Pa ain't got no school smarts, his mind is free from craving, free from anger, and free from the other petty unpleasantries characteristic of city folk.

In what has to be the world's most fortunate hunting accident, Jed Clampett shoots at a squirrel, then lo and behold, hits black gold.

Pa on the other hand, shoots to unleash an oil geyser, misses, but hits a squirrel dead between its sniffer holes. The same squirrel Momma skins, dices, and stuffs in her calzones. The rest is family lore.

Money don't change Pa one bit, but affords him time to cogitate. The secrets of Clem's Microwavable Squirrel Calzones were purchased by a posse of over-dressed but congenial lawyers to the tune of $782 million.

Pa built us a place not too far from kin in Butcher Holler. Momma filled the new place with bronze Buddha figures of all sizes. She and Pa have lots of time on their hands now to burn incense and the like.

The two talk of Nirvana. From what I gather, it involves stages on some grand path. Between you and me, it reeks of common sense -- stuff like refrain from evil, do what's good, and clear your head.

All those clashes of social class that made The Beverly Hillbillies such a golldarn knee-slapper now invade our lives like a disagreeable house guest. Lifelong have-nots, we hardly know how to behave amongst the haves. But if I learned anything from this moonshine ride we call life, it's this:
Don't underestimate what folks will eat if its stuffed in a calzone.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Land of the Cherry People

I want to do with you what spring does with cherry trees
~ Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

I pilot the cherry red bus up East Shore Road out of Polson. She hands me the rubber hose from the water pipe my agronomist room mate crafted from a half carafe and chemistry lab supplies.

Her sun-ripened skin does not belie her anticipation. The biological card shuffler, heretofore known as the pas de deux of anticipation, lights me up like the tiny but relentless flames that keep a camp fire chugging long into dawn so the camp cook can prepare breakfast sausages 8-inches above the embers.

I'm relaxed, but cocked. It's either the Kalispell ditch weed taking hold, or that she simply plans me no bodily harm, like lopping off an unneeded appendage or two. Her smile is more alluring than the grin of any paranoia-inducing Cheshire cat my left brain might conjure up.

"We're entering the Land of the Cherry People", she whispers.

Our wheels roll past thresholds of unspoken reverence.

Into a tunnel of blossom-puckered cherry trees we go. These are not standard-issue cherry trees. They decorate the eastern shore like a wreath of ever-bearing biological spasms reminding us spring isn't meant for naps.

When we exit the Land of the Cherry People at Big Fork, I feel like time was pulled over for speeding.

I also notice I have grown a third leg that's pushing up against the steering wheel like a calf coated in afterbirth. Convinced this bewitching cherry of a companion traveling next to me might stick around long enough to some day trim the fibrous coppice from my ears in a nursing home, I fumble for diversion.

"Will you dig up the Frampton Comes Alive tape?"

"The one with the live version of Do You Feel Like I Do?", she asks.

Ever Patrician and exceedingly polite, my third leg is too pitiful for her to ignore.

"Maybe we should do something about Peter Frampton first", she intimates.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Mating Imperative

Some time back in high school biology, I was captivated by the mating of fruit flies. The deterministic control of the experiment gave me a heady sense of the order of the universe. Such an orderly taxonomy of all of god's critters was antidote to the uncertainty of another outbreak of acne.

I suppose those little creatures, pinned and poked, were my creepy-crawly concubines. They gave my life purpose, beyond indiscriminate masturbation.

But after many formative years jumping through one academic hoop after another, the last twenty years as Professor of Entomology has me pining for the driven sense of purpose I felt when I would impale a frog's tiny hand with a straight pin.

For many years I was clinically detached delivering my bug lectures like an automaton in LL Bean khakis. Now I grow all teary-eyed and mushy when I explain to freshman
Males serenade females with close-range wing vibrations. Females feel the wispy air currents with their finely-tuned antennae.
The wiser I get, the harder it is to be non-didactic with my students. After all, procreation is our one encoded imperative. And two winks after a couple of hucklebucks in the hay, my biological progeny are already finding the rungs of academia to be hastily attached to the rails.

It's only when students visit during office hours that I can be candid about how I feel about those kill-joy existential questions. Mating rituals of insects merely provide the context.

If procreation wasn't our encoded imperative, the antennal ears of female tephritidae wouldn't be exquisitely dialed into the vibratory gusts emanating from their mates. They'd be ignoring this biological imperative as if they'd better things to do.

The female antennae would be tuned to something else - like vintage Chubby Checker. Their tiny gyrating thoraxes would be doing The Twist.