Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Parrots And Me

For most of my life, I've loved parrots.

My life was spent on Long Island until almost the age of eleven.  During those years, for me parrots lived in the realm of black and white "B" criminal movies shown in the wee hours on WPIX-11.  They existed  in the cigarette smoke swirled by ceiling fans, and cawed when Carmen Miranda jiggled her fruits, head-worn and otherwise. Potted palms and servants in starched white uniforms were the backdrop.

Then, in the early 70s,  my father landed a job as a maritime engineer for the U.S. Navy on their base at Subic Bay, Philippines.  I was suddenly transported to a country were real parrots lived.  But not many of them.  As it turned out, almost all of them had been stolen by kooky filthy rich people and their favorite restaurants. I did see parrots, but they were never in the wild, even though I had hiked miles through the steaming jungle as a boy scout. 

In 1982, I graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a major in Music.  During that last semester, I had seen a movie entitled Eating Raoul, which to me was one of the best social satires on Los Angeles ever brought to film.  Later that year, when I was visiting my parents on the East Coast, I took my mother to see it.  Mom was from Manhattan, and shared Woody Allen's intense disdain for L.A.  I hoped she would like it.  In a strange way, she did -- because she found the film as disgusting as her idea of Los Angeles was -- indeed,  I remember her "Judge Judy" OMG face.  Some time later, when I finally decided to move to the San Francisco Bay Area -- with a permanence that lasted 24 years -- she gave me a cheaply feathered false parrot that one could attach to a ceiling hook.  It was pink and yellow and green and had an obnoxous beak:   "Here" --she said-- "Is  your pet parrot Raoul!"

Well, I wasn't going to let this gift be wasted.

I have always been an early riser. One morning, a fleeting girlfriend couldn't find one of her underthings.  She had some idea that she had to go to work...after fifteen minutes of searching she found it hanging from Raoul.  I was enjoying a rather nice bath when she confronted me:   Men are Idiots! 

Dear Reader, as I have stated, it was a fleeting relationship.

I now believe in the Law of Attraction, because a real parrot appeared in my life.  In 2008, after I had long since thrown the cannabis-tarred and feathered faux-parrot Raoul into an Oakland dumpster (in 1996 , at my wife Diana's request),  she informed me that I was getting a Valentine present.  When I came home, there was a Golden Conure - a parrot from Brazil -- whom our friends had said couldn't quite get along with their dog. I immediately named the bird Raúl using the traditional Spanish spelling.

We took Raúl to a bird veterinarian, and found out from the leg band that she had been born in São Paulo, Brazil.   So, with a knee-reflex, we changed her name to Raúla.

Raúla didn't much like the trip from the SF Bay Area to Scottsdale AZ.  It took place  in August 2010, and at the Grapevine Weigh Station,  a California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer detained us, convinced that any persons transporting a parrot must be drug dealers.  After the officer had queried every criminal database in the world for 20 minutes, he let us go, banging his fist on the table, throwing our California Driver Licenses across the desk, and instructing us:  Get out of here !

So we did.

Here is Raúla, the paradise bird of Scottsdale.  She likes toast and blackberries for breakfast.