Biene Bienenstock
Sunday, April 8, 2001

The first day I walked Buster and Wiley amid the small, wooded trails between our apartment complex and the Rhein, I noticed the bee hives. At first, I didn't know what they were. In a small valley below one of the trails were these six stacks of green and yellow flat plastic compartments. The stacks were on top of a long, wide board that was raised up on bricks. We walked closer and, once I saw a few bees coming in and out of the compartments, I knew -- bee hives.

I was immediately charmed. Bee hives! Right here on the Rhein! Their bright colors so beautiful amid the browns of the ravine and the trees. I pictured the bee keeper, sitting in the chair next to the hives, repairing something, or preparing a new hive. Old, orderly German man? Old, eccentric German woman? Middle aged professor type? It had to be someone I would like. I never saw the bee keeper, but I knew he or she was around -- the hives were always orderly and well-kept.

I find honey bees fascinating, because the structure and order of their colony, because they are ruled by a Queen (you go, girl), and because humans harvest their honey. And then there's that whole X-Files connection....

The world's population of honey bees is dwindling, because of pesticides and loss of habitat. It was rare that I saw a honey bee in Texas.

I mentioned the bee hives in my first travelogue about Germany. They were one of the things that made me immediately fall in love with this place.

Some time last night, someone knocked over most of the stacks, and scattered the compartments all around the ground around the hives. They went to a lot of trouble to destroy the hives. Did they laugh as they did it? Did they give each other high fives? Did they delight in the slowness of the bees trying to swarm in the cool weather?

I'm crying now. I wanted to cry when I saw the smashed hives. I stood there for the longest time with a cry in my throat, mouth open, just staring at the compartments scattered and smashed. I wondered what the bee keeper would do when he or she saw it. Will the bee keeper cry? Will the bee keeper try again? Or will the bee keeper give up? And I wondered what I should do. But I don't know whose hives these are, and I don't speak enough German to call the police to report this vandalism.

It's not just the bees and the bee keeper that have me upset. It's also the idea that there are assholes everywhere. I have assumed that the destroyers were teenagers, because, since it's gotten warmer, they hang out in the park in the mornings before school and at night. They are obnoxious and loud, just as teens are in the U.S. In the morning, their trash is everywhere they had gathered the night before -- such a stark contrast to the cleanliness and orderly appearance of the rest of the park.

I hated teen agers when I WAS a teen ager. When I went to the movies, I never wanted to sit with the other kids my own age -- I sat far in the back, or far to the side. They made me ashamed. There was nothing funny about them. They were jerks. And I didn't want to be one.

Now, I'm scared of teen agers. This fear started in Hartford, Connecticut, for various reasons, and it's been with me ever since. Teenagers have such a wired, mob mentality. When I see a group of more than three teen age boys on the street corner, I automatically think about stories I've read about teens torturing and killing pets on a whim, gang rapes, and random, thoughtless destruction. I've been put into some scary situations with teen agers -- white, black, rich, poor. They scare me almost as much as frat boys.

It's raining now. And all I can think about is the bees. I wonder what they are doing. I wonder how they will cope. I wish I could help.

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