In My Backyard

I almost wish I just got rear-ended, not because I’m after insurance money or I’m trying to do away with my car, but as I drove towards home, I looked in my rear view mirror and the woman behind me was driving holding a parrot, a big white parrot that probably could almost have driven the car itself.

And they say cell phones are a distraction.

I figure collecting this story by way of a collision would have upped the dramatic value, but it was not to be. The vision of parrot in driver’s seat was enhanced by the fact that the parrot-toting driver didn’t need to be holding the bird while navigating her vehicle, for beside her sat an able-bodied passenger who could have cared for the parrot or at least driven the car. So, of course, I questioned the decision to drive while holding a bird, but I also questioned this motoring couple’s choice of driving with their top down, which not only seemed risky but also a taunting gesture to the parrot as if saying, “Feel the breeze through your feathers? See the open sky above you? Isn’t it beautiful? Sorry, you’re relegated to my captive arms. This is all just a tease.”

Maybe parrots love living in the confines of human life. Maybe a ride in the car is the equivalent of taking a dog on a walk. You see, I don’t know much about parrots, but I do know you can’t give full attention to driving while holding a bird. Think of ‘wing flap.’

I have heard that parrots live an extraordinarily long life – up to eighty years – so an owner must be prepared to will the pet to a future owner, for the bird is nearly certain to outlive the human caregiver. Now that is commitment. I’m worried about finding someone to watch my dog if I want to go out of town for the weekend. Finding a friend you can bank on outliving you who is parrot friendly and interested in a hand-me-down pet? Phew. Talk about stress.

The parrot-driver and I parted ways three blocks from my home as I watched in concern/amusement while the driver successfully achieved a one-handed right turn onto a street that dead ends into beach parking. I suspect that means that the parrot got to go for a walk, which is a nice gesture on the part of the pet owners. Hopefully they headed south on the boardwalk, for then they were likely to encounter a long time Venice regular, a guy who totes around his own parrot of the royal blue variety whenever he goes out for a bike ride (another brave undertaking). Bike rider and parrot park at a local restaurant, and then dine al fresco, the human ordering off the menu while the parrot enjoys carted-in sunflower seeds and then spews shells everywhere creating impromptu art upon the gravely boardwalk.

The fact that this image no longer registers as odd to me shows that I’ve been living in Venice a long time. We collect these kind of visuals in my neighborhood, though I wonder how much longer that will last. Venice is changing under the escalating real estate values, and I don’t imagine many new colorful creatures moving into town. These days when I discard furniture to the alley for any taker, items actually sit there for up to a day. They used to vanish with the speed of a David Copperfield trick. Ah, the good old days when a donation trip to Good Will was a waste of gasoline. Nowadays I suspect my tabletop-size tree of clustered, fake red apples that create the canopy – supposedly quite valuable in its day (and received by me with an awkward smile upon completion of a film job) – would establish a rather secure spot in my alley.

I have to wonder if the days of traveling parrots, rollerskating guitarists, and python-carrying walkers will come to a close, and crazy Venice will only live on as a memory. I hope not, for a slice of history will die when that day comes. In order to preserve the insanity I’m even willing to (cautiously) accept some parrot drivers. And I do hope that the white and blue parrot got to have an encounter. That would be a true Venice Beach moment.

(if anyone is interested in my red apple tree, email me and we can arrange a hand off before it journeys to the alley...)


Girlplustwo said...

I hope it never changes and that we can all keep slowing down instead.

Have you seen the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill? It's filmed in SF but your post reminded me a bit of it.

Anonymous said...

I hope that Venice doesn't change either - it's one my favorite places to visit in Cali. In Manhattan Beach growing up, there was a house that took care of wild parrots who would fly through our neighborhood on a regular basis.

QT said...

Many parrots and cockatiels are like dogs - they are highly social animals, and thrive when they interact with their human owners.

That being said - WOW - driving with the top down? Maybe the bird was attached with a strap?

Kristen & I actually had a "spirited discussion" about Seattle and how she found it lacking in character -(ooh, I shouldn't speak for her, but I think I'm close). There used to be many more colorful neighborhoods, and now it is mostly corporate with pockets of interest and delight.

Wishing I could have met you this weekend - my roommate spoke very highly of you...

Anonymous said...

That apple thing is so Martha. The parrot-driving thing is not at all Martha, and that's a good (if a little scary) thing.

jaded said...

I shudder when I think of unique neighborhoods falling prey to corporate visions and real estate opportunist. Why do we always wish to "improve" that which makes an area eccentric and magical?

Anonymous said...

Hilarious thought, and I agree: Cell phones only distract the driver. But parrots distract everyone else on the road. Can't help but feel sad for the parrot, though--there's no need for a strap, 'cause that guy's got his wings clipped, like most birds kept as pets out of the cag.

Anonymous said...

How very fun this post was. I firmly believe a chance sighting can make an awesome post, as you so eloquently proved. I think you and I have a similar thought process.

Things such as these that you mention, cause a lot of questions in my head. Which creates a lot of random posts on my blog. It's fun I think, to attempt to get into someone else's head.

Or, to just document if nothing else. I enjoyed the verbal documentation.