On the lighter side of the Nonahood, this is a column about the humorous realities of life in Central Florida. We must choose to laugh and sweat rather than cry and sweat.
Have you noticed the birds? They’re everywhere. It’s getting serious. I live in constant fear of being pooped on. Add this aerial threat to the Spanish-Moss-spider-web festivals strewn across my journey from car to desk, and I’m perfecting my army-crawl-ninja-crouch-jump-run-for-your-life walk.
Am I the only one freaking out? I’ve seen two owls in broad daylight. My hunch is we have so many birds that owls can’t find anywhere to sleep during the day.
Maybe I have reason to fear. No, it’s not because of the giant, yellow-feathered and gloved walking nightmare that is Big Bird. Aside: Big Bird is proof that birds evolved from dinosaurs, Big Bird from Barney.
When I was about two, I possessed an angelic coif of feathery golden hair; an irresistible invitation for winged beasts to harvest as nest fodder.
One day, as I was playing in my backyard, my billowing tufts bouncing atop my sweet little head, a claw-footed Ringwraith swooped in to clasp my boyish curls and proceeded to drag me across the property. Apparently, our neighbor’s pet raven (Yes, true story. We lived in Germany.) had been eyeing me and decided he couldn’t resist the temptation anymore. Thankfully, my parents heard my screams. I haven’t been back to Germany since.
Another of my earliest memories is staring at a robin perched menacingly atop some monkey bars. I remember thinking something along the lines of, Oh, no. No, no, no. Not again.
This reminds me of a girl in my college speech class. She spoke about how she had been attacked by dogs over and over throughout her entire life. As she spoke about how traumatic, ridiculous and unfair it was that fate had chosen to deal her this hand of a mongrel nightmare, I began to notice how extremely toothy she was. While she continued to talk, I watched her teeth and gums go up and down, up and down, up and down … soon, the hair on the back of my neck rose, and I could barely keep from scampering from my desk to sink my canines into her leg.
Maybe birds feel that way toward me. Am I subconsciously doing something that makes me a target?
For example, one morning on my way out the front door, I came face to face with two sandhill bird-brains, staring directly at me. They began to approach, and if I hadn’t slammed the door, they were probably going to waltz right into my house. What were they thinking?
“Hey, have you heard about what this guy experienced as a kid?” Other bird, “Yeah, let’s scare the living [bird expletive] out of him.”
I feel like we’d be justified in thinning out the flock of birds a bit. Alligators could start pulling their weight. We could quit feeding them. Actually, you should never feed an alligator. A fed alligator is a dead alligator. I think they must die because they can’t stomach what the FDA approves as food. No surprise there.
A cattle egret provides scarce meat for a gator, but come on, there are thousands of them grazing atop gators’ double-lidded eye sockets.
My brother found out about all the birds down here, and he tried to get me into “birding.” He told me he had a ton of American bushtits perched on his bird feeder. After the requisite seven minutes of uncontrolled giggling, I wondered what other delights birding could offer. He sent me some expensive binos that looked suspiciously like binoculars and The Sibley’s Guide to Birds. The book is supposedly all that, but Sibley didn’t even take any pictures. Lazy.
After thumbing through Sibley’s, I thought I was ready. My brother visited, and we drove out onto Narcoossee Road to Chisholm Park.
Within minutes, my brother was acting crazed. He madly grabbed his binos and shouted, “No way, come look at this. It’s a snail kite!” I took his proffered binos, which still looked a lot like binoculars, knowing I was about to behold the wonder of a kite-shaped bird with a shell. After fumbling with the binos for a few minutes, I found sky. Then I found land. Then I found bird smudges. He panted excitedly about how exceptionally rare snail kites are, and how lucky he was to have seen it and could I see it yet? Could I see it? “Can you see it?” Finally, I miraculously focused the binos, which are way harder to work than binoculars btw, on a random bird. No shell. No diamond shape. Not even a kite string or a crisscrossed pair of flimsy stanchion poles. Who names birds, anyway?
My problem with birding is that they move all the time. Then they have all these different colors and whatnot. It’s a lot to keep track of, and it takes an organized mind to find, check, reference, date and sometimes draw what you’ve seen. Not being a structured type, if I ever made it to the drawing stage, I’d be so tired that I’d draw the ever rare stick bird. I’m not sure how Sibley did it. Oh yeah, he didn’t take photos, so he had all the time in the world. So lazy.
With his copious amounts of time, Sibley should have written something useful, like a book on training birds to eat mosquitos. My family owns a parakeet, apparently the most teachable of birds. But the most I’ve been able to train him to do is to bite my hand really hard. And since he spends half of his time hanging upside down on his perch, and the other half swooning at his reflection in the mirror, my guess is the book could never have been written. Not by Sibley, anyway.
That’s okay, maybe I should just swallow the feathers and leave well enough alone. And considering my background, I shouldn’t even be thinking about birds.
Philip writes for Cru, a nonprofit organization located on Moss Park Road, close enough to the 7-Eleven off of Narcoossee to justify ditching work for a Slurpee. While he thinks he’s funny, he wisely never verbalizes his musings to his two ever-increasingly hostile pre-teens. His brain doesn’t seem to do the heavy lifting in the writing process – his sweaty fingers do. So, if you laugh, snort, chortle or guffaw, they deserve the credit … both of them.