Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why I don't like birds.

Last Saturday I went to a benefit show at the Zombo Gallery in Lawrenceville. A large group of artists brought bird-themed artwork to hang on the walls. The response was impressive, and there was a nice crowd packed into the modestly-sized gallery for the opening. There were also real live birds as well, including an owl. To be honest with you, I'm not entirely sure what organization was featured at the event. I would have stopped by regardless, but my friend Bob Ziller had submitted a series of pieces and I wanted to make sure to show my face in support of him. I recognized a handful of names as I went around and looked at the other pieces. I'm always on the lookout for bargains at benefits, and there was a wide range of stuff ranging from cheap to outlandishly overpriced. The truth of the matter is that there was only a very small chance that I would have bought anything. Frankly, I don't like birds.

It even sounds strange coming out of my mouth. Is it really true? Don't I like birds? No. I really don't care for them. And of course I was socially maladapted enough to announce my distaste for these creatures, while surrounded by their likenesses on all sides. Then I had to explain my reasons for not liking what amounts to a large segment of the animal kingdom. This was a bit difficult at first because I hadn't ever really reflected on it too deeply. The first thoughts that came to my mind were abstract. I guess I don't like dinosaurs, and since the bird kingdom represents the direct legacy of those extinct creatures- it naturally follows that I wouldn't find space in my heart for these winged beasts. They're too alien. They poop all over the place and spread disease. I remembered a time when one shat on my lower lip. I wiped off the taint of that experience for days, and I got chapped and dry.

Perhaps I was just jealous of the freedom they have to fly away from any nasty environment they encounter. I couldn't really put my finger on it. And then it hit me. It all goes back to a weekend I spent on a farm one New Year's Eve with an ex-girlfriend. I was in my mid-twenties, and I had only very limited exposure to rural life beforehand. We were visiting her best friend, who had married a man much older than she was. He had jealousy issues, and had dragged her ass out to nowhere so that he could escape that distraction. No one really liked him. He had virtually no friends. He was a professor at a local university, and researched water quality as part of his job. But his true passion in life was avian in nature. He identified so closely with his "feathered-friends", that everyone called him "Phil, the Bird-man". Somehow his personality seemed to fit his nickname.

Anyway I made a real effort to get to know the guy. While my ex was running around with her friend, I had plenty of time to crack Phil's defenses. I found out that he loved falconry. This meant that he actually bred and trained these predators for the purpose of hunting furry little rodents for sport. I found the entire hobby a bit barbaric, yet I was willing to ingratiate myself for the sake of something I'd likely never get a chance to do again. He actually suggested we go on horseback, but I decided that this would be overkill. We went on foot. We walked out into the tall grass, looking for rabbits. I was kind of hoping that I could psychically will any woodland creature away from the killing grounds. Of course this was impossible, and eventually Phil spotted a blur in the near distance. The falcon seemed to sense the presence of warm-blooded prey, and launched itself from Phil's gloved arm. It flapped its great wings two or three times and landed on my ankle, its talons digging into tender flesh. Despite the sharp pain, I tried to stay still. Phil had to come over and somehow coax it to release its grip on me. That took several minutes, and ended our adventure prematurely.

Later, back in the farmhouse, I put my feet up on a long sofa and rested while the girls talked in the kitchen. I thought I'd sleep there on the couch until it was time to go upstairs to bed. I woke up late in the night. It was pitch black and I heard weird sounds. A phone was ringing intermittently and someone seemed to be answering it without any further conversation. This went on and on. And then I heard strange screams and eerie scoldings. The voices were coming from the cellar. As far as I could understand, everyone should have been in bed sleeping. I looked at my watch and it was around 4AM. There seemed to be multiple presences just out of reach of the room I was in. I didn't know what to think. Maybe my ankle was infected, and a fever was causing auditory hallucinations? I drifted in and out of sleep. I didn't think it was my place to do any investigating. The next thing I knew it was morning, and I asked if the farmhouse was thought to be haunted. I should have known- it tuns out that Phil had multiple young gray parrots in cages in the cellar. They were adolescents and just learning how to vocalize.

I related my account of that strange New Year's Eve to a circle of friends at the Zombo Gallery. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of it. Possibly they thought that it was all some elaborate setup for a joke. But dear reader- I wouldn't make up any of this stuff. Believe me when I say that I don't like birds, and spare me the task of repeating the story.

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Blogger jefg99 said...

I don't take photos of birds. I don't search them out. I hate being shat upon by one. A bird going after my food disgusts me.

However, hate birds? can't beat a well-prepared roasted duck with orange sauce, or a beer-can chicken for that matter.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

I never claimed I hated to eat them. What the hell is "beer-can chicken"?

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beer can chicken is probably the most moist chicken on the planet. You open a can of beer, pour half out (actually drink half of it), poke additional holes in the top, throw some herbs into the can and rub some inside the chicken's cavity as well, stuff the can up a whole chicken's butt, rub some herbs over the chicken, place the chicken in a sitting position on a grill much like sitting on a throne, grill it on indirect heat for more than an hours, and wallah...moist tender tasty chicken. That's beer-can chicken. If you do a turkey, it's 23-ounce Fosters turkey, with a much larger drill than I have.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Dagrims said...

Beer butt chicken is how I know it.

Take a chicken, stand it up, jam an open can of beer (or cola) inside, and fry or bake it. Delicious.

I like eagles and parrots. Penguins are decent. Hawks are bad-ass. Most of the rest I could do without.

10:20 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Several thousand birds are gonna poop on your house now! They don't like you either, and if they could only call up their dinosaur ancestors, they would take you out.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

"Beer can" and/or "beer butt" chicken, eh? That sounds like the most American of recipes. I'm a bit surprised that I've never heard of it before.

7:43 PM  

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