Tag Archives: bugs

Zimmy, Kate and the Cuban Beetle ©


Until recently the U.S. government didn’t want you to go to Cuba.  That policy, which started way back in the Eisenhower administration, required that everybody apply for a license before traveling to Havana.    My friend Zimmy Tarbox  has a Ph.D. in entomology. He’s been all over the world measuring the space between the eyeballs of baby cockroaches.  Zimmy’s British colleague, Kate Billingsly, is the world’s leading expert on pond scum skimmer bugs.    Back in 2006, Kate and Zimmy attended the 15th Annual International Cockroach and Pond Skimmer Conference in Cuba.  In 2016 the sponsoring group, the Entomological Society scheduled its 25th annual conference for Havana, and Kate and Zimmy were invited to give keynote addresses in recognition of their outstanding contributions to entomological research.      In Hong Kong last January, the two talked about their upcoming visit to Cuba.    “Speaking of,” said Kate,  “I met Ricardo Calvez in Samoa last month.  He says that the Hypolestes trinitatis, a beetle endemic to Cuba, is in danger of extinction because of loss of habitat.”  “We should do something.”  “Yes, we should.”          The two scientists got the opportunity sooner than either of them thought.  They were invited to the White House.  The President was preparing for a trip to Cuba and, covering all bases, wanted a staff briefing on the flora and fauna of the island.  After speaking with Zimmy and Kate,
one of the staffers proposed a presidential field trip on the island to search for the Hypolestes trinitatis. She wanted something to showcase the President’s interest in the environment.  Kate and Zimmy were invited to lead the expedition.  So, it turned out, Zimmy and Kate flew to Havana, not on a crowded commercial flight from Miami, but on Air Force One.   Organizing a private “off the agenda” trip by the U.S. President to the forests of central and eastern Cuba could have been diplomatically and politically difficult.  But Zimmy and Kate had “friends at court” in the persons of two members of Cuba’s Central Party leadership who were avid amateur entomologists.   The two leaders had been aching to look for the Hypolestes trenitatis but couldn’t justify the cost to the government of such a trip.    At first the Secret Service threw a fit over the idea of the president tramping around in the outback of a communist nation, but under heavy pressure acquiesced to the endeavor.  Thus the party—consisting of the President, three Secret Service agents who didn’t look like what they were, Kate, Zimmy, and the two Cuban party members, slipped out of Havana by night and headed for the highlands.  As they trekked through the sub-montane forest, sometimes on little-used trails and at other times cutting through thick foliage, the members of the expedition kept their eyes peeled for a glimpse of the elusive beetle.  There were a couple of false sightings that disappointed everyone.  Then one of the Cuban party members spotted the prize, a large bug that looked like Hypolestes trinitatis.  The members of the expedition stepped back and waited for confirmation from Kate and Zimmy.

-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Climbing Higher In La Mancha ©

There are few moments in life where the time span between the current and younger versions of yourself collide. Étienne Haute-Montange had such a moment three weeks ago and despite his aversion to leaving Provence, the newly retired French cyclist was excited for his next adventure. But, he never thought it would bring him all the way back to Letongaloosa.
In the early 1980’s, Étienne was working on his grandfather’s lilac farm when news came that he had been accepted into a business program in the United States at La Mancha University. He didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay at home and compete and after only a month in La Mancha, he rushed back to do what he loved—cycling high into the mountains.
Étienne had had a two-decade long career as a competitive cyclist.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago. After completing his final time trial, Étienne packed up and set out to retrace all of his favorite bike routes, He wanted to think. He needed to figure out where the next stage of his life would lead.
Two days later he rode onto his favorite old roman bridge, Pont Julien. He wanted to take in its height and its spectacular views. As he gazed, his cell phone buzzed. The message was from his bug-loving best friend, Zimmy Tarbox. The call solved Etienne’s “what’s next” problem, and put him on a plane bound for Letongaloosa Community Junior College.
The LCJC was offering a summer cycling course for La Mancha and Letongaloosa residents. The course needed an instructor, and Zimmy knew Étienne would be perfect for the job.
Étienne arrived in the small Midwestern college town and got together with Zimmy. Then he went to meet with the chair of the Department of et. al, et al, Dr. Ima Farseer to get her help with the academic paperwork.
Then he headed over to the entomology department to see Zimmy.
“Be careful. The legs of a Cuban rainbow beetle can be rather delicate, or so I’ve read in a paper a good friend of mine wrote.”
Zimmy looked up from the cage of rainbow beetles and smiled.
“Is that so? Well, you know, the Cuban rainbow beetle is tougher than most people would think. This particular species lives high in the mountains and the best way to see one is to climb high into the mountains. You should know all about climbing.”
Étienne grinned, “Yes, I know a quite a bit.”
Then they headed over to The Enchantment—a bar on the outskirts of town. The kind every college town needs to keep its accreditation. They ordered root beers. Étienne filled Zimmy in on the details of his final professional time trial. Then they talked about life in Provence.
Etienne mentioned how he would miss competing in races like the Tour de Fleur, but he was delighted to come back to Letongaloosa to teach others to climb the mountains as he had done in Provence,
Zimmy laughed,” Slow down, old friend. Most of the residents taking part in the summer cycling program are looking to go bike-packing on the surrounding trails or enjoy a leisurely ride around town.”
Then Zimmy remembered the Fourth of July celebration sponsored by La Mancha U, LCJC and some of the other businesses around La Mancha and Letongaloosa. Of course, there would be fireworks, games, and a big cycling race to be held at the Letongaloosa Lake Loop Trail,
“There’s a cycling race on July 4th if you’re interested. It’s no Tour de Fleur, but it is fun and the climb might even challenge you. Plus, Bastille Day is just around the corner. I think you’ll enjoy the festivities,”
Étienne was delighted. He sipped his root beer and thought about this new stage of his life. Coming back to the small Midwestern town was the right decision. He had good friends. Étienne was able to continue doing what he loved.He was on the right path,
Zimmy and he finished their root beer, paid the bill and headed for the door. It was going to be a great summer. Étienne was ready to climb higher and have the time of his life!

-30-

Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co 

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A Thought While Walking the Dog

How many ants

On how many sidewalks

Have been stamped on

By laughing Children??

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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3 Ideas of Gilbert Gleevec

 

1.Uncapped beer goes stale.

2.I did too return your lawnmower.

3.Moth wings don’t taste good.

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Havana Rebound ©

Travel to Cuba is off limits to U.S. citizens. The United States put an economic embargo on Cuba back when U.S. cars had giant fins  and candy bars cost a nickel. The embargo is still in effect.  You can’t go to Cuba without a license.

Prof. Zimmy Tarbox, a professor of entomobugology at Letongaloosa Community Junior College where I teach, got a license from the U.S. government to give a paper at  an annual Bugological Symposium in Havana. Zimmy  avoided all the government rigmarole by bamboozling a bureaucrat in the government licensing office. He got his license to travel to Cuba in less than 24 hours.  Two days later he was sitting at a sidewalk café on the Malecon sipping Perrier water. The Malecon is a boulevard that swings along Havana’s sea wall near the city’s colonial center.

“Well if it isn’t the infamous cockroach enthusiast,” said a melodious woman’s  voice from behind him.  Without turning Zimmy Tarbox said, “Kate Billingsly, England’s  premier pond scum skimmer, I had a feeling you’d be here.”  The two bug scientists had been friends since graduate school.  Now, in Havana,  they shook hands and Kate Billingsly sat down.

“Where are you staying?” she asked.

“I’m at the Hotel Havana Libre.”

“Me too,” she said.

Zimmy  signaled the waiter, and said “Let’s take a walk,”

The two strolled down a sidewalk along the sea wall. Bicycle riders and bike rickshaws rolled passed them on the Malecon.  Lovers  hugged and kissed on top of the five foot  wall. Dozens of other people stood at the wall casting fishing lines into the bay.  The two chatted  about Billingsly’s world renowned research on water skeeters and  Tarbox’s groundbreaking work on cockroach larvae.  Both were scheduled to present research papers  at the conference.

As the two stood at a curb, a bicyclist sped up, braked to a stop, and thrust a folded newspaper into Zimmy’s hand, then sped away.

“What was that about?” asked Kate.

Zimmy unfolded the tabloid newspaper—that day’s edition of Granma, the mouthpiece of the Cuban Communist Party. A message was printed on the front page in large block letters with black magic marker:   It said “Back  booth, Hotel Libre bar 5  p.m. Both of you.”

Kate and Zimmy looked at each other.

“Looks like CIA” said Kate.

“Or MI-6” said Zimmy.

At five p.m. Kate and Zimmy were sitting side by side in a back booth in the darkened bar behind the lobby of the Hotel Havana Libre.  A few minutes passed, then  two shadowy figures slid into the booth across the table from them.

The two wore buttoned up beige  trench coats, but the woman had on a haut couture turquoise wide brim Preakness hat that was definitely not  spy code dress of the day, and the man wore a black GG fabric baseball cap with black leather trim.  The hat definitely  put him outside  the spook uniform  dress code..

The man spoke intensely  to Kate in  an English accent.   “Your paper on water skippers breaches British national security.  We have purged it from your laptop. We’ve installed  an acceptable version of the paper in its place. You’ll  present that version. This conversation never happened.”

The man pulled down the brim of his baseball cap,  slid out of the booth and walked away.

The woman pulled her wide brim of her  Preakness hat  down and leaned across the table toward Zimmy.  She hissed: “The Castro government is dying to get the data in your  cockroach study.  The U.S. Department of What’s Good for America has designated your paper top secret.  You can’t present the paper, in fact you can’t ever read it again.  We’ve installed a new version on your computer. Give that.”

The woman slid out of the booth and disappeared.

Kate and Zimmy looked at each other.

“Same old same old,” said Kate, and shook her head.

“Yeh, just like the Mogadishu  conference last year,” said Zimmy.

“I assume you have a back-up  version of your paper  saved on a secret memory stick,” said Zimmy.

“That I have,” said Kate.

“Me too,” said Zimmy.

:They never check,” he said

“I know,” she said.

They slid out of the booth and Zimmy leaned down and kissed Kate  on the cheek.           “Good luck with your presentation,” he said.

“You too,” she said.

“See you next year in New Delhi.”

“Right,” he said.                                     -30-

 

 

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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