Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bert's take: Laws of Nature

It was one of those perfect days in a California paradise--weather wise, that is. The day started in the mid-70s, then to mid-80s, and by the time I got home, the temperature was back in the 70s again, as the sun started to hide beyond the Pacific Ocean.

I got home early, that is, earlier than my better half. Too early to cook dinner. Time to relax.

I had a half bottle of red wine from Spain, Denominacio d'Origen, 2004 Mas de Caralt, leftover from a couple of days earlier. I got it from Beverage and More, during one of their "buy one bottle, get the next one for a nickle" sales. Excellent wine for the price. On the label it said it was made from Penedes grapes: Tempranillo, Genache and Monastrel, and aged in oak. I like wine aged in oak barrels, as opposed to those giant tanks made of stainless steel. I really can't tell the difference, especially after the second or third glasses, but deep in my subconscious mind, oak aged wines feel more romantic, and this moment was one of those.

I also just got back from a quick shopping from Costco, were I bought a loaf of demi-baguettes from La Brea Bakery. They were baked fresh that day, and I could still see the moisture from the steam inside the bag. This is a sourdough-type of bread, and best eaten with olive oil and soy sauce and lemon; this time, I was contented enough with just a hint of butter, after warming it in the convection oven.

Let's see. I had wine and bread. What else is missing? Cheese? How about music?

There have been plenty of write-ups about the year and summer of 1967, and the 40 years anniversary of "Flower Power" and the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band album release, so I thought I would play the CD given to us by good friends Allan and Tina. It was a collection of the music of the 60's.

It started with the song "Whenever You're Around" by The Dave Clark 5.

As I looked around my small patio, equally reminiscing about my teen years in college, thinking of what my next article would be, I focused my attention on my three variety tomato plants, which are about four-feet tall, and have fruits in several stages of ripening. Maybe I could tell a story about this, and the reason I wanted to plant tomatoes. (Something about a scene from the Godfather movie, where Marlon Brando was playing with his granddaughter in his backyard when he had that fatal heart attack.) Or I could tell a story about the ficus (spelling correct?) [Ed note: Yes, Dad.] tree I have in a big pot which showed evidence of drying out. Is it dead? Is there any hope? How about if I feed it with plant food and just water it everyday?

This is still June, the graduation ceremonies are just about over, and the CD just played the song "Graduation Day" by The Lettermen. Oh how I remembered that song 40 years ago.

Next was the song by Peter and Gordon, "A World without Love." I love the lyrics of the songs in my youth, or those before me. Nowadays, I don't appreciate the rap songs, especially those injected with lots of f-words. Call it the generation gap, because the younger guys I know love them. Must have been the same issues when rock and roll music started back in the 50's. The elders didn't like them, but the generation that would be known as the Baby Boomers loved them.

Anyway, as I was feeling the buzz of the wine, I noticed a wasp trying to enter our garage door, which is at one end of the patio. I know enough about wasps that when provoked, its sting will give you a lot of pain, if not death. I didn't want it to make a nest in our garage. So instinctively, I shut the door closed.

The wasp circled the area looking for another entrance. Back and forth, it flew from my guava tree on the left, to the other side of the garage then back to the door. It must have done this a hundred times, but who was counting? The way it flew showed like it was in a panic mood. Trying desperately to get in. I am not sure about the life cycle of wasps, or who build the nest-- the father or the mother--but this one clearly had a mission.

My mind circled too. My imagination started to roll. Is this wasp a single mother trying to find or build a home for her young ones? When is the delivery date? How much time does she have? Or is this the father of the clan trying to build a nest for the mother and child or children? I know they are products of nature, and although we as human beings invented insecticides to get rid of them, don't they have the same right to be on this earth? Should I let him or her build a nest in my garage?

Chad and Jeremy played a couple of songs, "Before and After" and "Distant Shores."

More wine and bread. More music. Different artists.

Gary Lewis and the Playboys. "Everybody Loves a Clown." Gerry and the Pacemakers. "I'll be There" and "Don't let the Sun Catch You Crying." (I remembered Eric Hernandez. This was his favorite song to sing.) The Spiral Staircase. "More Today than Yesterday."

In the meantime, the wasp's circle of flight was getting wider. He or she was now getting closer to me, probably thinking I had something to do with his or her dilemma: continue to build where it was started to start a new one. I swear I thought I saw it stop in mid-flight and look directly at me. Or it could be just the wine talking.

Jose Mari Chan (where is he now?) sang "After Glow." Followed by The Hollies with their "Bus Stop."

I felt like dancing. This wine was really helping. Perfect attitude enhancer. I started to dance in place. Nobody could see me anyway, right? Bill Cosby would have been proud of me as I imitated his dancing moves.

The Beatles followed with their "Till There was You" and "In my Life" and "I Wanna Hold your Hand." I sat down from dancing and I imitated Ringo and was drumming invisibly to my heart content. I was even tossing my invisible drumsticks up in the air, catching them in downward flight and continue drumming without losing a beat, so to speak. I was really on the roll now. Nothing could stop me.

The Cascades followed with "Lucky Guys" and "Rhythm of the Rain." I love the lyrics of these songs of the 60's. You would think they came out of greeting cards. Very romantic.

"Dream, Dream, Dream." Who sang this one? [Ed note: It's The Everley Brothers. You're the one who introduced them to me.] The words are "I can make you mine, taste your lips of wine / Every time, night or day." What did I tell you? Those words are taken out of Hallmark greeting cards.

As The Fleetwoods sang "Goodnight My Love," the wasp came very close to me, and I swear again it was in the attack mode. Instinctively, I grabbed the rag on the patio table, the one I just used to dust off the table and chairs, and with one swing hit the air in the direction of the wasp. I must have hit it harder than I thought, for I caught the wasp in flight, hard enough for it to bounce against the wall, probably head first, because it landed on the ground without moving. I broke the wasp's neck.

I was horrified. I didn't mean to kill it. I just wanted it away from me. Was it the wine talking? Was it the wine directing the act? Was it the wine manipulating my mind? I was not sure at this point. May be I was looking for a way out. A cop out.

For a few seconds, I stood there motionless. And so was the wasp. Was it dead? Was it an instant death? Did it suffer? Or just didn't know what hit it? I wanted to get near but I was afraid that if it was not dead, it might recover at any moment and attack me, this time with success.

I did what a normal guy would do at this incident: I drank more wine. But with an eye keeping close tabs on the wasp. After several minutes, I made a decision that the wasp was dead. Oh I felt so much shame and guilt. The family lineage of this wasp would end with this one. No more baby wasps flying in a couple of weeks to enjoy the California paradise this summer. And if there ever was a newly built nest, or one in the process of being built, will never be lived in. One family died with one fell swoop of a dirty rag. Shame.

Still feeling guilty, I had to think fast. Did I violate the laws of nature? What is next?

My wine glass was empty. The bottle was empty. The plate of sourdough bread was empty except for a few crumbs. My wife will be home in any minute now. The sun was under the sea in the Pacific Ocean. The blue skies were turning red and dark red. It will be night pretty soon.

The laws of nature. We all have the right to be on this planet. Right? From the tiniest insects or microscopic bacteria to the big animals with wings and fins and paws and tall trees. The laws of existence. The food chain. The prey and the predator. Discovery Channel.

I walk over to the wasp and gingerly picked it up. It was dead alright. There wasn't much light in our patio so I could not see if the wasp was pregnant. All I could think of was that this incident was pregnant with meaning. I walk over to the base of the guava tree, where there were plenty of ants doing their business and dropped off the wasp. The ants will have a good meal tonight.

End of the story.

What else did you expect?

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