Last August I monitored daily progress as yellowjackets built themselves an intricate paper home outside a dining room window. I first noticed the nest when only six cells had been constructed. Throughout the day and into early evening, the insects flitted away from the hive searching out raw materials for the ever-expanding nest, and food.
As the nest grew, yellowjackets flew to find a spot along the circumference where they added walls to form new cells. Other wasps worked the finished cells, depositing eggs and convering each pit with a white cellulose dome the wasps construct from chewing vegetation and spitting onto the growing hive.
As wasps and hornets go about their survival business their presence can scare the crap out of human beings when out of nowhere a hornet lands on a picnic hamburger and takes a bite. They love meat, wasps, hornets, yellowjackets, whatever the colloquial term used. There’s a difference but it’s an entomologist’s fine point.
Aerial acrobats, cruising wasps swoop in lazy slow arcs toward the spaces between lounging people, speeding up and turning sharply to ensure free flight and avoid colliding with a sweeping hand or rolled newspaper. Poor critter, just doing its thing. (Don't swing at them, blow a puff of air in their direction and the wasp flits away.)
People have good reason to respect wasps. They sting, hard. Happily, wasps are not highly venomous except to allergic bodies. But they’re well-armed and, unlike honeybees, the wasp stinger lances repeatedly, so it’s a blessing wasps aren’t vicious attackers when aroused.
Last month, a solitary yellowjacket found a spot on the porch arch opposite the front door. I debated myself for a couple of days then the other side won and I waited until the wasp was absent and rubbed it off the stucco. A few days later, it was there again. I used a sheet of cardboard and, with the yellowjacket hanging on, I separated young nest from the stucco and the wasp flew away.
She’s back. And working faster than before. With six cells completed, the wasp has deposited two eggs in their respective nurturing places. Tomorrow it will want to cover the holes and expand the hatchery. In a few days, the two eggs will be fully armed yellowjackets. They’ll fly away to gather food and materials, return to their home, begin constructing a larger nest to receive more eggs and grow more yellowjackets.
A front porch is not a place for a wasp nest. For the third time, it will have to go. Tomorrow.
Right now, she’s sleeping on her work. Several flash exposures do not rouse her. Let us see what the sun brings. May she forgive me. And not get mad if she catches me in the act.
Rosie died. Of “Rosie and the Originals” and the timeless song, “Angel Baby.” QEPD Rosie.
When I read the news, I had a quick vision of Rosie sitting with my friend Carlos Vazquez. Carlos is telling Rosie about that gathering at Pasadena City College two years before Carlos was elected Student Body President on a Chicanismo platform. The pig in the president’s office refused to allow Carlos’ portrait in the student union gallery of presidents. Such was Cal State Los Angeles back in the 1980s.
I directed a performing group named Teatro a la Brava. The Teatro was mostly students amplified with a few community people who had loose ties to CSULA.
We were invited to perform an acto for at-risk youth. The writers put together a one-act on gang violence. We were the highlight and watched as the opening acts went through their paces. A couple of speakers, a poet.
The final act before Teatro A La Brava was a young woman who took the stage and began singing “Angel Baby.” Not quite a capella, she had a singerless soundtrack and was putting her heart into the performance. Out in the house, some of the mocosos started sniggering as only would-be pachucos can do, laughing and making derisive hoots at the woman. They thought she was lip-synching and they were going to make her pay for it, no matter the song. Or, perhaps because of the song, "Angel Baby" being the anthem to teen love with sacred Oldie status among the gente.
Carlos Vazquez was one of the best people I've known, and today he showed his character.
Carlos strode onstage and demanded the booth to shut off the music. He sat on a chair with his guitar and strummed out the intro to "Angel Baby." The badly shaken woman smiled and took her cue, singing in angelic voice the song she had been performing.
You couldn’t hear a voice in the enraptured and abashed silence.
When Teatro A La Brava performed its acto, Carlitos enacted a velorio for a character killed by a raging gangbaner. We didn't know it, of course, but Carlos performed his own velorio that day. A few years later, Carlos happily married, got gunned down by a raging gang asshole.
See you on the other side.
Not Even A Penny For The Little Guy
The raging gangbangers in the Oval Orifice want to kill funding for anything that takes money out of their pockets. Among the targeted programs, Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that supports national service programs including AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.
This means no money for the tutoring program I volunteer for twice a week. Let me tell you about my kid.
His teacher says he has a lot more confidence and his performance shows marked improvement since we've been reading together. My tutee, a 3d grader, in the Reading Partners Program at my local elementary school, is a smart kid with some reading issues, principally fluency.
I am so happy for the little guy, to see him smile when I tell him he's set a new world's record on the one-minute read aloud, a fluency-building strategy where the kid reads for 60 seconds three times, striving to read deeper into the text each exercise.
I can't get him to hold his head high when he returns to his classroom. But lately there's been a bounce in his step as I escort him back to his classroom and tell him to visualize himself walking into the classroom head high, proud of his achievement. This boy is becoming a reader.
Screw you and screw his future, says the cretin in the Oval Orifice. That's the message of the administration's hateful designs to shut down the federal agency that supports national service programs including AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, whose employees staff Reading Partners.
Most California Congressional Districts have human beings in offices up and down the bureaucracy. They'll resist cultural subversion and find means to continue some of the programs that make us a literate culture. In other places, there's a struggle for public opinion to pressure electeds to find the way to stop the pernicious policy hegemons of the far right.
One way to help is contacting one's Congressional representative and voicing support for national service programs that create jobs and help kids like my tutee get the skills needed to survive as adults. That's where Voices For National Service can help.
Voices For National Service has a tool that gives you talking points first, then connects you to your representative's phone lines. Here's how they say it works. Click the links for more information on the organization and the tactic:
Using the simple tool below (click link here), take just two minutes to call Congress and tell them why you care about national service. Enter your phone number and full address, and you will receive a call back from 202-517-9863 that will provide guidance on what to say to your elected officials, and then patch you through directly to their offices. You will first be connected to your congressperson.