Twas mid-May in Ocean Beach. May Gray was momentarily at bay, spring had sprung, and every OBecian could smell and see sweet summer coming. Whilst walking my precious pooch, Kindle, on Voltaire Street mere moments before sunset, I day-dreamed with the rest of my ‘hood of long, warm, and salty Dog Beach days to come...drinkin’ Vitamin Water. (We the people of O.B. are, after all, all law-abiding citizens, eagerly willing to comply with our right to drink alcohol at the beach taken away!) I can almost taste the cool grape of the Revive hangover-cure flavor.
Suddenly my personal O.B. pause is wildly interrupted by a beastly beak savagely pecking and terrible talons ripping, tearing, pulling the hair out of the crown of my head. Feebly flailing my arms in defense, I turn to face my attacker. Beady yellow eyes leer back at me, unafraid, from the rooftop this baby crow-wannabe black bird landed on. Fill in your own expletive here as I lunged toward said bird, and he departed for a higher perch.
Kindle and I quickly sprang home with our tails between our legs. (Has anyone out there seen that movie The Birds ?) I shared the traumatic story with a few close friends, and it figures: I must’ve had it comin’! Wrong place, wrong time, maybe? Bad karma? Even though this happened in extreme close proximity to my pad, I avoided the area and scene of the attack for about a week and a half.
Then I awoke one morning, hungover and thirstier than anything, only to find one or two lonely drops remaining in the water jug. Need water. Dying. The voice spoke in my loopy half-drunk mind as I armed myself with sunglasses, slipped into my flips, found a quarter, and headed to the water machine at Litickers. You know that bird is right across the street. Luckily my mind was talking, since my mouth was drier than an unsalted rice cake. I assured my inner voice that I would watch my back, a.k.a. the back of my head, lest I be attacked feeling this awful before my first cup of joe. Anyhoo, that feathered fowl would not be foolish enough to attack an animal-loving vegan more than once! (Did I mention I was drunk?)
All clear. I crossed to the safe side of the street, my red eyes peeled. Mmm hmm...I see ya, black bird. I don’t want any trouble. I’m just gonna keep an eye on ya. No funny business. I am going to walk backwards to this corner. Got my eyes on ya. We are cool, right? Cool. I am just gonna turn this corner, go home, and drink my...Wa-AAHHH!! AaHHHHH!! AHH!!! That mutha-scratcher! I tried to fling the jug up for prtection as I took off screaming and sprinting for home. Four times he dive-bombed me, painfully ripping and pecking.
I suddenly became a vegan bandwagoner, meaning I jumped right off of it! Ban ing through my front door: “Where’s th F@#N sling-shot?” Seconds later, my man is creeping around shirtless, slingshot in one hand, rock in the other. He didn’t take long to come to his senses without taking a shot. I sipped my joe and my water inside, sad and defeated. Woe was me. Woe was me. Thoughts of self-pity quickly diminished to the sounds of bloodcurdling screams. I bet they aren’t vegan , I thought to myself with a sadistic sense of satisfaction.
Thank God I am not the only one feeling that foul-feathered freak’s razor-sharp wrath! I was fixin’ to find out how far from the only one I was. “I figure in the last six weeks that bird has attacked me 50-plus times. Four times a day. He attacked me when I left home and when I came home,” stated deep-in-the-O.B.-streets John R., who luckily also had a bird’s-eye view of said shenanigans to counter the insults added to injuries.
“The bird just pecks me, and I’m just at the point where I’m over it. I went to the O.B. Quik, and some Stick [Tilted Stick, bar] patrons were outside smoking. He [bird] went ‘Chuh, chuh, chuh,’” John remembered, motioning to the back of his head. “I didn’t react, and they yelled, ‘HE DOESN’T EVEN CARE!’”
John then recalled that a couple of weeks ago he had had some people over. “Couple of random drunks, couple of locals, and some friends. One guy claimed he was an ornithologist and declared that the bird wasn’t attacking to protect his eggs or to be territorial — he told us that he was collecting hair to line his nest. A few days later this bald guy was attacked. Disproved that theory — blew it outta the water! I think the bird is a grackle. I think they’re distant mischievous cousins to the crow,” he smirked. (I also heard that it was a starling, which actually are related to crows.)
John also witnessed a premeditated capture involving a few dudes watching and one dude baiting an attack. The friends told the bait when the bird was coming, and he threw a trash bag up over the back of his head and caught the bird, with every intention of slaughtering it. Female onlookers persuaded them to release it.
I saw John a few days after that and inquired as to if he had any recent encounters to share, and he replied that he hadn’t seen Ol’ Grackle for days. “I think he...um...I think someone put an end to his life. That’s not gonna be a very happy ending to your story.” As grateful as I am for John’s help, I am the writer. Naturally, I decided to look further for sources.
I asked Val, the sweet girl from Brazil who runs Cafe Bella in front of the O.B. Quik if she had seen Mr. Brazen Black Bird of late. She sorrowfully claimed that she had not. “It was here Wednesday, I had Thursday off, and Friday it was gone. I think he must have had his babies and left. I don’t think someone killed him because there was two. I’m so sad. I had so much fun with those birds.
“This one girl, she’s real vegetarian. She goes to People’s every day and complains about our soymilk not being organic. She got attacked by the bird, and she just stood there under the tree staring at it for, like, five or ten minutes. Maybe trying to talk to it, I don’t know. But she finally turned around and it attacked her to right here,” Val recalled, pointing to the drive-thru of Cafe Bella (about 100 feet from the tree the bird was in). “She screamed — she was so desperate, like from a horror movie. I laughed so hard. She was really mad!”
So there I had it. I gladly believed that this fierce beast did not meet its demise by a scornful victim. Heck, I knew how mad it made me. I am thankful my anger wasn’t persuasive enough to convince my redneck boyfriend to shoot him with the slingshot. (Besides, we OBecians are law-abiding citizens, remember?)
I shared my happily-ever-after ending with John. I asked him for a final thought. “You know, what I miss most about him is his overall presence,” he told me. “What I miss is sittin’ out front, laughin’ my ass off. I hope he had his babies and left. Otherwise someone took a big chunk outta the food chain.” Touché, John. Touché. Well, this town, our town, is Ocean Beach. We are surrounded by reality. We believe what we want to believe, not what anybody tells us.