May 27, 2024, 06:24AM

From Venus to Kashmir

Unexpected encounters with the goddess of love, Led Zeppelin and a fly. Why do certain insects, plants and rock stars seem strange to people?

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Art: Michael Gentile

Gene’s choice of a slim, light gray Paul Smith suit signaled a reflection of his state of mind. There was a lot on his plate after his estranged wife tried to shoot him. The color gray suggested a need for order and structure, a calm amidst chaos. The mainstream appearance seemed fitting for a retrograde Led Zeppelin fanatic who loved plant life.

The problem: an affair with his wife’s younger sister was discovered. A slow burn became a forest fire. His marriage went bust. To add another layer of misery, his wife Jill’s mental disorder complicated the emotional burden for everyone involved. It was difficult to rebuild what was lost. Jill went ballistic. She threatened to shoot him in the balls with a pistol pointed right at his crotch. The cowgirl left for Stonewall, Texas, known for its sweet peaches.

Even with legal complications—a restraining order—he thought, maybe it was time to attempt reconciliation. Gene was having an episode. One where rationality disappears, sanity abruptly stops, and delusional thinking takes over. Adding to the madness, two phobias: fear of flying and driving autos. He preferred boats and buses. A bus ride is longer, but the peace of mind offered was worth the trade-off. That was his mindset this morning, watering potted plants in his New England greenhouse. He opened a glass jar before leaving. Hundreds of flies soon filled the air.

The lengthy Greyhound journey to Texas can get boring. Gene read the Daily Mail over his phone. The eye-watering odor of Sani-Flush bowel cleaner wafted up the aisle. Meanwhile, a fly confined to the bus bathroom managed to escape, adding a touch of the unexpected.

Here’s how the dilemma unfolded, reminiscent of Kurt Neumann’s haunting 1958 science fiction horror film The Fly. Gene’s planthouse was now full of mobile heads and compound eyes. When certain insects detect rotting material, their kaleidoscope lenses go crazy with excitement. Countless drooling mouths declare, “We’re ready to check out filth and waste, lick decaying matter and perform other disgusting activities.”

Ecology provided a favorite collection spot: a backyard compost bin area surrounded by hanging yellow sticky strips. If a curious tiny beast lost its bearings around here, it became a food source. Ironically, the pesky fly is a diverse creature who plays a major role in nature’s delicate infrastructure. Despite spreading disease and germs, flies are regarded as excellent pollinators.

Some might wonder, why do certain plants and insects seem strange to them? The Venus Flytrap draws its name from the Roman goddess of love. Native to the United States, the endangered species grows in southeastern coastal mires where Spanish moss drapes over the trees. The carnivorous plant was Gene’s obsession; difficult to cultivate, he’s raised too many to count.

To catch its prey, the plant sets its own trap. A unique snapping mechanism with sticky edges and specialized trigger hairs surround a rose-colored, clam-shaped jaw that snaps shut. The victim slowly disintegrates in a digestive bath.

Back on the bus reading the Daily Mail comments, Gene thought to himself, this was no big secret. The 666th comment referred to Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page as a satanist. The rock god, with an affinity for the mystical, had attended a London movie premiere with a 34-year-old acquaintance. For decades, Page’s guitar work has dazzled millions of audiences.

Gene found himself face-to-face with an Ultra-Brite smile. A fly landed on his arm, then put on a show. Scratching its rear legs with incredible precision and skill, it tried to imitate Page on stage playing “Kashmir.” The guitar riff is a frequent ringtone used by nagged husbands when a wife calls. A schizophrenic once said, “It’s the only song that stops the voices... you wait in the car till it’s over.”

A shared artist interest in the occult didn’t pan out with filmmaker Kenneth Anger. While working on Led Zeppelin IV, Page produced an unfinished soundtrack for Anger’s film, Lucifer Rising. The collaboration was supposed to showcase an intersection of music with the supernatural.

Anger was invited to Page’s house in Scotland, once owned by occultist Aleister Crowley. However, things took a downward turn due to friction between the two eccentrics. Bearing no fruit—a rift between two unconventional minds was fueled by a place’s mystical history. Led Zeppelin fans remain intrigued by the unfinished project.

Page did make a cameo in the final cut, seen briefly in front of a portrait of, none other than Aleister Crowley. Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil eventually composed a meandering film score. If that name sounds familiar to some, Anger was fond of the man found guilty of killing musician Gary Hinman.

Davis Guggenheim made a treasure box, rock guitar documentary in 2008 called It Might Get Loud. There’s a scene where Page cuts loose and demonstrates playing Kashmir with musicians Jack Black and The Edge glued to their seats.

Now Gene felt almost happy. Despite the plausibility factors, he found himself in tune with the bug’s thinking: another moment of disconnect marked with clarity. Think about that the next time you see a fly. Rather than reaching for the swatter, take a moment to appreciate its potential hidden talents. Who knows, it could be a reincarnation of Jimmy Page, perhaps there’s more.


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