Flying the Coop and Back 

December 2020 Bird Brains

Published in The Bridge and Tunnel Crowd, Vol. 2 No.4

This being the first column after some time, I feel the need to re-stake my flock’s claim to printed space within The Crowd. The very first Bird Brains closed on a question: what comes next after Toby the budgerigar coming and disrupting my life? Now, I know Toby was actually a canary prophesying an entire year of disruption to come, disruptions still continuing to unearth viruses, violences and other vapors too noxious for even a bird brain to miss, or to justify staying only staring much longer.

So, Bridge and Tunnel Crowd, keep this in mind: in all of Kingdom Animalia, birds are the number one commuter. They are products of evolution, but they are also, simply, feather-coated engines perpetually moving south or coming back or using wherever we happen to be seeing them as their rest stop on some massively precarious route. Now, entertain this. What is our broader New York metropolitan parkway system if not also a colossal tangle of impermanence? I, with full confidence, declare that when each of us rises in the morning for our day ahead, we know we are in for a passage of mighty grit. Accidents, detours, unpredictable weather conditions, poor formations, wind gusts and crumbling roadways populate our dawn and dusk hastes. But we, mammals of The Crowd, are hardly winging it. We embark onward daily so we don’t freeze. We travel so we can eat. We burn obscene energy along the way. We pull over to put away some grass so as to bear our lot. Though heavy-boned and thick-skulled, we of the bridge and tunnel fly for survival, flock for life!

Yet as bird days and commuter ways relate, the majority of budgerigars on this continent do not migrate. For this species, traveling is confined to cages, vehicles and human-built interiors. Many also have their wings clipped, further restricting flight. However consistent, vast migration is not the only reason why you honestly are a bird brain too.

The real, noxious point I want to make is that there are things which are hard to name directly, but nevertheless lie below, providing the beat to our goosebumps. A running joke about the Bridge and Tunnel Crowd is that we are the undesirable inhabitants of suburban sprawl. Less cultured, more basic, non-native, quite bougie wannabe somebodies trying to become through obsessive proximity, appropriation and posturing. The punchline is our lack of self awareness over how embarrassing we are through our ill-examined desires. The irony is that by being punchlines, we’re generally not the ones getting most bruised and beaten by the joke. 

Coincidentally, the budgerigar as a pet caught on late in the United States. It wasn’t until the 1950s at the onset of white flight out of cities that the tiny parrot became, amidst those pioneering long drives and mass settlement into waking dreams, a desired pal. And coincidentally, here we are, one basic goosebumped bird brain and her flock of four budgerigars, who I have grown to treasure and adore. So in the columns to follow, I will try to remain with this weird and seemingly random desire, to follow the story of it. So in the next column I will begin where my desire for Toby did: at the site of his broken, bloody feather in my hands. 

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