Sunday, March 21, 2010

Give Me The Bird

It's spring. The weather is breaking and it's time to resume my bird-walking service. It's a shame to see winged creatures cooped up in cages, so I do my best for them by attempting to simulate the experience of flying. I take them out for a nice drive. This is quite a valuable service as these poor creatures rarely get a change of scenery. My flight simulator is what some might call low-tech: the roof of my car. I strap all the cages to the roof rack and set out for a leisurely excursion of the great outdoors. It's very safe as I use extra strong twine to tie all the cages together (our secret motto is: if one goes, everyone goes ).

There are currently five lucky birds whose owners subscribe to my service. The owners and their birds have a great deal of faith in me because I'm president of the Kildare Bird Club (there's only three members, but so far, no one's bothered to check). I also wear a pith helmet with an official-looking company logo emblazoned on the front. The name of the company is Give Me the Bird. It's spelled out in black-colored bird tracks on the side of the car and elicits a variety of responses from other drivers, showing their support for the ideals of the company. It's good to know there are so many bird lovers out there.

Nobody else performs these ornithological outings, and there is no manual, so the birds and I have had to learn by trial and error. One thing I learned was not to go on the expressway anymore. I am not a scientist, but judging by the amount of poop on my roof (that stuff is not easy to clean off), I don't think these birds are supposed to fly quite so fast. And after that excursion, the birds seemed hesitant when I showed up for the next outing.

Sometimes the birds are given to fits of mass hysteria; when one starts squawking, it becomes contagious and soon they all join in until I stop the car and calm them down with some bird-soothing words. Here's the stuff that makes them nervous:

--Driving under bridges: It's the echo that spooks them.

--Driving past Morty's Mini-Golf: There's a ten-foot-tall white rooster with a red blinking eye on the sixth hole that unsettles their sense of scale.

--ABBA: They throw a fit when one of their songs comes on the radio. I'm not kidding. This is when the mass hysteria happens, and I have to get out of the car and sing Blackbird by the Beatles until they're quiet again.

--Driving past Kentucky Fried Chicken: They can smell what's cookin': not-so-lucky birds.

--Stopping to chat with Lu Lu Gilkey, my recklessly-perfumed neighbor: Her real name is Laura, but she wears tight pink t-shirts with Lu Lu spelled out in silver sequins across where it would be impolite to gawk. And she's emphatic about calling her Lu Lu. It's worrisome that another one of her lipstick-smudged cigarette butts winds up in the bottom of Sheldon's cage, necessitating the kind of explanation not conducive to instilling confidence in a business that is trying to establish a sense of credibility.

The entire flock enjoys stopping at Ron's Ice Cream Shop on Devon avenue. Ron likes the birds and sometimes gives them free broken pieces of his extra crunchy cones. Every so often, a small crowd gathers to admire the birds, and they seem to enjoy this; each one showing his good side to the audience. But we leave in a hurry if Lu Lu shows up (as she often does), before she gets a chance to steal the show by yelling "cock-a-doodle-doo" at me.

I don't take the birds anywhere near The Unbuttoned Lady, a well-known gentleman's club on Lawrence avenue. I have to be careful as some of the birds can talk, and I don't want the business to get a bad reputation from their idle gossip. And, no matter what, even if there's free offers of chips and sour cream dip and a somewhat genuine interest in joining the Kildare Bird Club, I'm not going to set foot in Lu Lu's house again. The odoriferous mixture of cigarettes, perfume, and the scented candles she calls "aroma therapy" clings to my pith helmet in an unseemly manner. Also, I'm beginning to believe she doesn't have any free birdseed what-so-ever. And the highballs she practically forces on me in the middle of the afternoon is not quite the standard I'd envisioned for a conscientious business like Give Me The Bird. In the future, it would be best to avoid Lu Lu's house during business hours.