When we were young and playing running bases in our Midwestern backyards, the only buzz that mattered was a shadowy, swarming murmur on the unseen horizon. “I heard they’re in, like, Mexico already,” the older know-it-all kid at the local skate ramp would say, and summer’s idyll would momentarily darken with this shocking news from the Kid Rumor Underground. But only momentarily, since no one knew where Mexico was, and it seemed distant enough that our unblemished skin would stay that way for at least a few more years. And it did. And we forgot about the buzz for a little while longer. But then a few more years went by, and the reports surfaced again. The particulars had shifted, but we were still wrapped up in listening for what no one had heard.
Those goddamned killer bees. They’d busted out of a maximum security hive in Brazil and cut a swath of terror from Sao Paulo to the streets of Mexico City, suppposedly burying their deadly backsides along the way into the juicy limbs of unsuspecting children in every subprefeitura and delegacion.
The chatter was renewed in little league dugouts, with nervous glances at nearby cracks in the cement. There were breathless, eager, and totally inaccurate descriptions of killer swarms amassing at the Rio Grande like Santa Anna’s infantry, hundreds of squadrons of tiny, winged warriors bent on bringing their jailbreak to American skin. “I heard they sting live,” the third baseman said.
Our neighbors heard that and moved north to Canada. “It might give our boys a few more years of life!” the dad yelled out the window of his family’s fishtailing Country Squire. We watched luggage fall off its roof rack all the way to the frontage road.
But the invasion never happened. Or, at least it didn’t happen the way the older kid at the skate ramp had insisted it would. The Africanized honeybees that escaped that Sao Paulo laboratory in the mid-1960s had indeed migrated to the American Southwest by the 1990s, meaning that they really were in Central America when we were young. But those bees weren’t actually pumped full of weaponized venom, and they didn’t actually carry any helpless little brothers back to their bloodthirsty queen. They didn’t even sting Agent Scully. And in the end, the only thing they succeeded at killing was their very own buzz.
The bees’ hype machine failed, despite a 20-year publicity campaign that had gotten thousands of kids on two continents talking. Maybe it would’ve worked if the bees had the benefit of a social network not hardwired into their DNA. You know, like MySpace. Maybe it would’ve worked if the bees had thumbs. But the fact is that their buzz fizzled and subsided, and pretty soon a new threat burbled out of the Kid Rumor Underground.
“Do you know about the dangers of tight-rolled jeans?” the older know-it-all kid at the skate ramp said one day a few summers later. “I heard about a kid who lost a foot to bad circulation.”
He was wrong about that rumor, too, but no one cool ever tight-rolled their jeans, anyway.
So, to paraphrase a noted MC and somewhat unlikely VH-1 reality show juggernaut, who are you going to believe? The Internet’s at least as big as the Kid Rumor Underground, and every corner of it is stacked high with hype, buzz, and content about bands with names no one knows how to say out loud, films no one really wants to see, and arrogant hot air about Something You Should’ve Already Known About that usually turns out to be little more than a few digital files and a moustache. Remember that know-it-all at the local skate ramp? He grew up to be the world’s most incorrect podcaster.
Indie, underground, guilty pleasures. Here at the Detour bivouac, we have a few points to make about everything. Now, about that buzz on the horizon….