Last Saturday I went, accompanied by my father and Boyfriend, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History to attend the 21st Annual Bug Fair. Why? Because there is something strangely attractive about facing a caged enemy. To be in the presence of the foe within a controlled environment. And fear, after all, can arouse a twisted curiosity all its own.
Inside we saw it all: insects – dull and metallic, looking like sticks, looking like leaves, looking like miniature dragons, looking like tiny dinosaurs, possessing more legs than was seemingly decessary – were impaled on pins and displayed throught the first floor of the museum. Children, who should also have been impaled on pins, dashed -unheeding – underfoot.
There were live displays, too:
A giant millipede crawling up one's arm feels like, for those who might have wondered, a bristle brush suddenly come to life, with every bristle moving in a different direction. I asked the handler if it was likely to grow any more, and he said yes, it was a possibility. I then remarked that there really didn't seem to be any point. It being a giant already, and all.
An orange-kneed tarantula balanced on my hands – trying to make sense of the plain of rings and knuckles – walking tentatively at first, then stopping to pose for thte camera:
At another table, feeling drunk with power at that point, I saw that one of the tanks was carrying the (sting-less) whip-tailed scorpion was open, and asked if I could hold it. The handler didn't think that this was such a brilliant idea and offered a Madagasgar Hissing Cockroach in its place:
I had to pet this monstrosity, as I was told that it 'liked' it. I didn't want the roach to go all mental and hissing on me, so I had to do so:
I was called 'a very brave lady', to which I answered that if he didn't want to see the brave lady suffer a complete meltdown, this roach had better be taken off my hands. Forthwith.
I saw writhing balls of worms, I saw the dreaded potato bug – clearly a baby, as it wasn't yet the size of my fist (it's also called 'Child of the Earth' which would be rather charming, if it wasn't for the fact that it was a potato bug), I had a most interesting conversation with an isopod expert about the sea roach – a creature in appearance so disgusting, so aesthetically offensive, that I will not dent my blog with a link to any type of image. Dent your own imaginations, if you must.
I spoke with a woman about leeches, and mentioned how maggots were used to clean wounds, a treatment which she confirmed was making a comeback.
Live insects were on sale – purchased chiefly by teenagers who no doubt thought it was edgy and dangerous to have a bug as a pet. I was able to find it my heart to pity an insect whose well-being would now be in the hands of a 13 year-old.
Then we escaped. I kept asking Boyfriend if he wanted to go in for any insect face-painting, but he was having none of it.
Outside we made our second stop: The Pavilion of Wings; in short, an aviary for butterflies. Only a few people were allowed in at a time; when it was our turn we stepped carefully into a very lovely place:
There were handfuls of gardens and treelets distributed throughout this little screened world. And everywhere there flew petals of color and swatches of patterns, as if a tapestry had been torn to pieces and thrown into the wind where they had taken life and flight.
Butterflies fluttered in front of my face or rested on leaves, their wings panting. The colored dust powdering their wings glittered in the sun like a thick, velvety frost.
I saw a butterfly resting on a rock border, being watched very closely by a young boy, maybe 8 years old. He was so intent, I just knew he was thinking how many blows of his fist it would take to flatten that living thing. So I made it a point to walk over, call Boyfriend's attention to the butterfly, etc. The boy left.
But not before leaning forward and solemnly waving goodby to the butterfly. Who knew what kind of communion I had just interrupted?