Saturday, June 26, 2004

The Nest Menace

Hello everyone, and I hope you enjoyed the unannounced and long-enduring hiatus. What happened was that I went on vacation. Madagascar sure is nice this time of year. But them lemurs pack a punch, I tell you what.

Something unnerving happened here at the Kafkaesque homestead though, while I was cavorting with the lower mammals in "The Land That Time Almost Forgot, But Then Saw a Documentary on Snakes and Was All Like 'Oh Hell! Madagascar!'"

What happened was that the birds made a nest.

The wifely friend and I have an ongoing pitched battle with a pair of morning doves. The previous owners of our house, in a fit of extremely eclectic outdoor decorating sensibility, placed an old empty stereo cabinet in the yard. It fit in nicely with the rusted out hot water heater, I guess. When we viewed the house originally, we noticed that there was a bird's nest on top of this cabinet. In general, I have always been one of those people who say "Aw, a bird's nest!", visions dancing in my head of happy tweeting baby birdies perching on my fingers, and perhaps producing an elegant frock for me to wear to the prince's ball that evening.

But I learned my lesson a few years back, when a very similar bird's nest appeared on our balcony while we were living in an apartment whose main features were the gigantic Paleozoic-era roaches and the downstairs neighbors who a couple of times a week barbecued what I can only refer to as Stinkfish. The wifely friend and I were delighted to see the nest, and had ourselves a little tender moment looking at the mommy bird warming her precious eggs. Onto this little bird mother we projected all the wonderful ideas and hopes we had for future progeny, since neither of us really wanted to mention human children all that much.

The morning dove squatted there for a while, and we would creep out to the balcony every few days and look for the baby birds, fearful that they would end up smashed on the floor in some hideous learning-to-fly episode gone wrong. I don't know if the possiblity of the baby birds squishing themselves or the fact that for about a month I had Pink Floyd's craptacular "Learning to Fly" stuck in my head was worse. It's debatable.

Then, one day, we heard small chirps from outside, and our family had grown. Three little birdies were in the nest, cheeping like there was no tomorrow. In fact, since they had only been alive for that one day, I feel confident in saying they weren't comfortable with the whole "tomorrow" concept, and they had to worry about learning to fly and getting squished and all that, so we let them squawk.

In a few days, they started hopping around our balcony, which was extrememly cute. But they kept hopping around, and as you may have guessed, pooping around. These guys were all over that balcony. All over our chairs. All over our table. All over our plants. All over our rare and expensive collection of gnomes.

And thus, their poop was all over everything.

We began to hate the cute little baby birds. They never shut up. If it wasn't the cheeping of the babies, it was the prrroooo-ing of the mother and father. At least I think he was the father. I didn't perform any Montel Williams style paternity tests. We were afraid to disturb the loud and messy miracle taking place on the balcony, so we didn't go out there very much. In the end of it, we were left with the Empty Nest Syndrome, and also the Poopy Balcony Syndrome.

Just clearing up the nest is no picnic. The guys didn't kindly disassemble their stinky, poop-encrusted domicile, but instead left it to us to demolish the structure. Some gratitude.

So pretty much since we've moved into our house, we've had a pair of morning doves hanging around. A morning ritual established itself, wherein the wifely friend would hear the telltale prooo-ing and leap to her feet, grab a broom from the kitchen, and cavort around the yard shouting invective at the avian interlopers. She despises the morning doves, and seems to take sadistic pleasure in frightening them with new and exciting gesticulations and slurs about the pigeon community as a whole.

But the birds grew wise.

After a few months of them swooping in with twigs and sticks, and attempting to invoke their squatter's rights in our eaves, they would wait until we went to work, and when I came home I would find a primitive beginning of a nest, and a sheepish looking morning dove eyeing me from the roof. I would dismantle the birds' efforts, and plead with them to find somewhere else to raise their family. And, for the last month or so, they've been gone. I thought of them moving next door, to my neighbor's house. Maybe the neighbors are more into having flying poop machines roaming the yard. Across the road is a nice European couple who play piano music at concert hall volume. I'm sure they'd like a nice bird family to provide accompaniment.

But now, they are back. We were gone for eight days, and when we returned I found a complete nest, with the mother sitting nervously atop her little brood of eggs. She's out there right now, fearing that any minute we'll come jumping out and force her away from her potential children. And I don't have the heart to shoo her off. Deep down I still get the "Aw, a bird's nest!" thoughts.

And in a few weeks, we'll have little baby birds hopping around the yard, and I'll start worrying about them falling from the nest. Maybe I'll put a little safety net out there.

Just don't poop on my gnomes.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I want to start this next hiatus off on the right foot, so I give you:

Another Cabbie I Have Known

This guy drove me to the airport to get on a flight to Sacramento. I was there to meet up with friends and drive to Reno. This was a cabbie of the gambler type. I got in his cab at ten to six in the morning, told him I was flying on Southwest, and he instinctively said "Ah...You go to Vegas."

It is true that I was not, in fact, going to Vegas, but it was an inspired guess. I had spotted a Racing Form sitting beside him in the front seat. I have had a lot of cab drivers who are really into gambling. Another guy drove my wife and I to a benefit casino night, and when he found out where we were going, tried unsuccessfully to convince us to let him come along and wipe the floor with all the pathetic, would-be faux gamblers. I'm sure it would have been very enjoyable, as we introduced everyone to our cabbie friend at the benefit. Sadly, we declined his fervent pleas.

This guy was pleased I was going to be gambling and launched into another long and tedious cabbie blather about how he was perhaps the greatest gambler on this or any other planet, but due to the fickle nature of fate and circumstances beyond his control, he was forced to drive a cab for a living.

As I said, it was ten to six in the morning and this guy had been early to pick me up. As a result, I had only been able to drink half of my coffee before leaving, and I mentioned this to him. He said "Coffee..." rather wistfully, and I knew he would expand on the subject if I but held my tongue.

"I can't drink the coffee."

"No?" I asked.

"Coffee ate all my stomach muscles!" he spat bitterly.

Now I know a thing or two about coffee (including this hard learned lesson: do not, under any circumstances, use patterned paper towels when you run out of coffee filters, unless you really enjoy drinking perfumey chemicals) and I had never heard of coffee actually eating your stomach muscles. "You mean it's destroyed your stomach lining, right?" I asked hopefully.

"No! It has eaten all my muscles! I used to drink so much coffee, it just ate all of them!" he rubbed his poor gut, which was estimable if totally atrophied.

I was pretty much at a loss.

We were quiet for a moment, the two of us. We listened to the pre-dawn sounds of the road, the cab bouncing over cat-eyes, and pulled into the airport. The cabbie turned to me and said "You know, when you see these old people, and they're walking on their hands?"

No, I thought, in all my years, I don't think I've ever seen an old person walking on their hands. I thought maybe they would make seal noises.

"They drank too much coffee, these people. Now they have no muscles."

I tipped him, walked into the airport, and got a really awful cup of coffee at Cinnabon. But I didn't get one of the herculean cinnamon buns. Those things really will eat your muscles.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Doubly Avuncular

I hereby end this hiatus, this long dark teatime of the soul, to announce that my sister and her partner have made of me a double uncle. Eleanor was born this weekend (she had to be there for Palace making the Premiership), and weighed in at a quite perfect eight pounds.

I don't want to give you the idea that the Kafkaesque family at large is building some sort of secret army of superhuman cuteness, but my is she cute. And has a full head of hair, I might add. So all you babies out there better get your act together, because Eleanor and my nephew Max are way ahead of you.

To the both of you, and the new baby, you've made me and all of the family very proud.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Going Up

From the who cares but me department, here's to Crystal Palace, my family's local team in England, who beat West Ham 1-0 this weekend to earn promotion to the Premiership. Palace are a gang of lovable ne'er-do-wells who've made it to the top-flight three times, only to be relegated the next season.

Relegation is a concept which might have a future in American sports. What it means is the worst three teams in the league are demoted to the first division (like minor league ball), while the best from the first division are promoted to the top division. Can you imagine if the San Diego Chargers couldn't tank the second half of the year in quest of a draft pick, or end up playing semi-pro ball the next year?

Never happen, I know. But here's to Palace. Hope we stay up.


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