“Tweet,” says the little brown bird perched on a parking meter. His shrill chirp cuts through my consciousness. For a brief interval, we share a moment together. I, staring forward with both long-lashed, light brown predator’s eyes; and he, exhibiting natural selection’s solution to the predator: eyes set apart and looking both ways at once. Curiously, spying me with just one eye seems not to suffice; for he looks first with one eye, then the other, then the first again, his head and neck moving so quickly and precisely as to appear like the mechanical workings of a clock. I almost expect to hear a click with each rapid movement. He does not seem to be fearful, but curious. Save for his head and an odd feather now and again lifted out of place by the light breeze, he stands perfectly still. He looks confident, haughty even. I wonder what he is thinking, I muse to myself? “Tweet,” he exclaims, as if in uffish answer to my unspoken query. “Thanks, birdie,” I reply. “Now that you’ve cleared that up, I wonder if you could tell me who stole my framed George Washington portrait . . . and how and why?” “Tweet, tweet,” and then he’s off in a flutter, alternately flapping furiously, then knifing through the air, ostensibly off on an errand of some dire import. “Smug bastard!” I call after him and shake a righteous fist, ending our dialogue for the time being, and garnering bewildered and defensive looks from several people who happen to be passing by on the sidewalk. Apparently, they missed the first part of the conversation. “Sorry. Not you,” I offer with a half grin. So, now I’m “that guy”, I think to myself. There has been a long tradition at the coffee shop—a rule, even, it seems sometimes—that the socially-awkward, the insane, the exhibitionist is the denizen of the few outdoor tables just outside the floor-to-ceiling glass windows of the establishment. “Cream”, as the coffee shop is named, is nestled on a busy corner of this odd and eclectic “uptown” neighborhood populated with ethnic eateries, a school of massage and holistic healing, a small theatre, salons catering to every taste and expense, small art schools cum galleries, a Buddhist temple and reading room, independent designer clothing stores, a few bars, banks, and kitschy boutiques. Yuppies, artists, misfits, iconoclasts, homosexuals, hipsters, students, the odd "bro", and individuals of all stripes, colors, creeds and beliefs live in this small urban area. Odd ideas, odd art, odd clothing styles, and odd people are the norm, and people in the neighborhood have grown accustomed to an outlandish comment, amateurish song, pungent odor, sudden exclamation, or tirade issuing forth from the cafe's fenestrae as they pass by. An outburst coming from someone as “white-bread” and “normal” as myself, though, causes some form of cognitive dissonance that takes the passers-by a few moments to reconcile. I observe as each person rapidly asks and answers a few quick questions in a mental checklist as he continues on. Was that “bastard” directed at me? No. Is this man dangerous? He seems normal enough. Is it necessary to respond? No. Just a nod. And minimal eye contact. Okay. Cue nod, bend forward and walk more briskly. Some questions are easy to answer. We are barely conscious of our brains ticking them off, making meaning out of sensual stimuli and guiding a constant stream of action. Others, though, needle and bother and corrode. They focus their front-facing eyes squarely upon is and freeze us in fear, or eat us bit by bit unto our end. There are so many questions for me: big questions, little questions, profound and mundane both. Some questions are playful, dressed up gaudily in fruits and frilly frocks and mascara. Some wear the slick, white, expressionless mask of a phantom. Yet others are hard and cold as a little round sea-stone; and then there are ones as amorphous, rich and multi-colored as the mottled patterns created by brilliant light streaming through stained glass onto the coffee-stained carpet of an old church. I seem to spend so much time each day chasing after questions, trying to appease them with answers, or to make them feel irrelevant or forgotten by replacing them with bigger, overshadowing questions. Or is it truly that I am Valjean, chased relentlessly and fervently through the dark alleys and sewers of life by the cold logic and idealism of questions? Certainly, some relentless questions have stolen from me the peaceful tranquility and the life that I desire, much as Javert did to his quarry. It certainly wasn’t a question, though, that stole my Washington portrait, and this is what has been eating at me this morning as I nibble a strawberry anise bran muffin and sip at a scalding double Americano, its bitterness compounded by the morning's perplexities. I'm going to have to get to the bottom of this. Image

Comments

SDaniels June 30, 2009 @ 2:14 p.m.

Hey "Valjean," the size and commercial reality of the half-block of your 'quartier' is a bit exaggerated, non? Unless you've turned the end of Park Blvd. into a Sims or Second World experiment:

"...odd and eclectic “uptown” neighborhood populated with ethnic eateries, a school of massage and holistic healing, a small theatre, salons catering to every taste and expense, small art schools cum galleries, a Buddhist temple and reading room, independent designer clothing stores, a few bars, banks, and kitschy boutiques. Yuppies, artists, misfits, iconoclasts, homosexuals, hipsters, students, the odd "bro", and individuals of all stripes, colors, creeds and beliefs..."

0

Josh Board June 30, 2009 @ 3:33 p.m.

Jeff, You're like...smart or somethin'.

The only thing I'm perplexed by, is what this George Washington portrait was that was stolen. Who would steal an item like that? And why?

I also wonder...if you wrote this on your computer at Cream. I sometimes see people in their writing, as if they want others to see them and think they're penning the next great American novel. Or a screenplay they can eventually tell a girl was being "considered" by a handful of studios.

I did find the piece interesting, as I know the area well.

If I wrote a story along these lines, it would start like this:

"Chirp," said the grey bird perched on my antenna. His beautiful language sounded devine in the sleepless state I'm in as I walk my dog. For a brief second, we share a moment together. I stare at his little black eyes. He, or maybe it's a she...I can't tell with birds. It's not like they have a thingy hanging down I can see....looks back at me. It twists it's head a bit, as if it's doing a Linda Blair impression. But where Blair puked green pea soup at everyone, this bird has a different thing in mind. It lifts a tail feather, as our eyes stay locked. And it craps on my car hood. The vehicle I just had washed and waxed yesterday. It continues looking at me, as if to mock my ability to do anything about it. If I had a clock, I'd chuck it at this thing, yelling "Meet this mechanical cuckoo...and die you little bastard!!" But without anything to kill this little rat with wings, it does nothing but stand perfectly still. I approach, with only the bag I'm going to clean up another animals poop with. I'm thinking if the bird is still there when I get close enough, his little feathery a** is going inside. But alas, he flies off into the morning sunrise. I can only stand there, with my fist in the air...

...and flip him the bird!

0

David Dodd June 30, 2009 @ 4:31 p.m.

Ha! Mine would go something like this:

"Pwo-tweeet?"

It was a question that I couldn't answer. The small bird stood defiantly on the railing, cocking its head at random angles and listening, waiting for an answer, perhaps for a bird-sage ready to give some advice. The bird shuffles down the rail another few inches, maybe it's all about location.

"Twe-pweet?"

Apparently, this was important - certainly the bird had other tasks it ignored, vexed by something that distracted it, and damn it all, this bird wanted answers! I speak English and Spanish fluently, I understand Italian and Portugese somewhat, and a little French. I don't speak bird. It occurred to me that perhaps, should there be a market for it, maybe I could learn bird and teach it to others. I closed my eyes and tried to understand.

"Got any Bread?"

I opened my eyes and blinked a couple of times. The bird was in front of me now, looking at me.

"Bread?" I asked, incredulously.

"Yeah, man, some bread or something. I'm starving."

So, I got the bird some bread. He ate, hurriedly, swallowing down small crumbs about as fast as I could break them off. He appeared to be grateful, and he had his fill.

"Hey, thanks, that really hit the spot."

His voice was high and tinny, but certainly understandable. I kept shaking my head, I figured I was daydreaming. I decided to continue our conversation. I had nothing to lose.

"So, what's it like being a bird? I mean, you get to fly, that must be awesome. What's your average day like?" I asked.

"Well, sometimes it's fun and sometimes it's not so fun. I mean, this morning, I was trying to talk with this one human, and he wound up calling me a smug bastard! That's okay though, I repaid humanity's vulgarity by landing on some other guy's car antenna and crapping on his hood..."

0

Josh Board July 1, 2009 @ 10:26 a.m.

As Grace Slick once said...."your mind, is so full of bread."

I like what Buddy Hackett once said, when a person came to his door asking for a donation to save the endangered snow geese, as there were only 10 left in the world. Buddy replied, "one craps on my car, there will only be 9."

0

SDaniels July 1, 2009 @ 1:35 p.m.

You guys are hilarious, and Jeff, you're a great sport :)

0

Sign in to comment