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Blue Star


By Scott Sullivan


Talking Bird

My wife started bringing home parrots years ago. They all hated and bit me. I couldn’t blame them but none learned to talk. Why else have a parrot?

Her most recent, a mustache parakeet, has changed that. Yes, parakeets count as parrots and Soda Pop talks. He recites his name, “Night, night,” “Give me a kiss (smooch-smooch),” “Feel me dog,” “S’cuse me,” “Step up” and “Ah-ah!” (translation: “Let me out of this cage!”). My wife and daughter obey, letting out Soda to shower with them.

“Who makes more sense?” I asked Flannery. “Trump or Soda Pop?”

“Soda,” said my daughter, whose schooling has failed to develop her reverence for our POTUS.

“But he just randomly mimics sounds,” I said.

“Trump or Soda?”

“Show some respect!”

“For which?”

Trump hasn’t been the disaster his most-fervent critics hoped for. We’re not at war yet. The markets have largely risen. His tweets remain nuts but I see their strategy: keep his foaming-mouthed base angry, entertained and in line while his conduct in office is more pragmatic. I don’t like divide and conquer-style politics, but that’s not something Trump invented. Bernie Sanders employed it too. None of this is random.

I love having a talking bird. Plus Soda doesn’t bite me. His “mustache” marking — black stripes above his beak— make him look like Groucho Marx in green feathers.

I believe in intelligent design, i.e. nothing’s “random.” Dumb design also can be intended. Just because we don’t understand the connections between what parrots and presidents say doesn’t mean that they don’t.

Same with local politics. Those who think they are in the know connect dots, that to us seem random, into conspiracies so fantastic only a spoilsport would cite contravening evidence.

When I was 12 I decided TV was idiotic. The best way to learn from it was flip channels — from news to sitcoms to sports to Ronco commercials (“It slices! It dices!”) … — then make up storylines linking those sounds and images.

Some stations signed off for the night showing test patterns. Watching these was like watching Andy Warhol’s film “Empire” — an 8-hour static shot showing the Empire State Building. To mitigate tedium, you noted how building shadows changed as the sun set, how film scars raced down screen as the reel unspooled and the inside of you perceived things. I lacked the heroin addiction needed to fully appreciate this masterpiece. Same with test patterns.

Better were stations that signed off and just showed static — dancing colored dots, not unlike Jackson Pollock’s “drip” paintings. Way more action. How could these not influence my writing?

Most writing should be easy. Start with A, then B, C and such … Make it reader friendly. When you “skip” — juggling standard order, omitting transitions, inserting flashbacks in jarring fashion — you make comprehension harder, challenging readers to unlock or “solve” things.

Then again, gibberish flows more often from writer incompetence than design —although in my case they’re hard to separate. So bird squawks, this column and Trump tweets are of a piece.

“Don’t mess with the mustache” is our axiom. Soda doesn’t bite, but his “Ah-ahs!” pierce us, his captors and enablers. Chastised by a parakeet. “Free me to rule!” he’s saying.

Power makes a fascinating, if often appalling, study. The divide and conquer style — Us vs. Them, draw lines in the sand, never question Our assumptions, just tear down Theirs — seems firmer, more rigid, even Freudian than “soft” approaches such as seeking to learn from others and consensus building.

Both have value. “There is no reconciliation without first sundering,” as James Joyce put it. Same for humans and biting parrots. My wife still has one that chomps me, her and Flannery too. Pay Phone does not talk either.

To become a buddha I must make peace with each piece of the whole. But this parrot paradox?

I still can’t abide with that.