Bird brain

For over 20 years, i was part of a close-knit technical community.  Seeing the same faces at meeting after meeting, conference after conference, friendships (as well as a few adversarial relationships) formed.  

Attending a round of drunken debauchery workshop in New Orleans a few years back, my pod of Dawg Boyz was doing our very best to support the local bar-based economy. 

Two colleagues, Charles and Greg, were avid bird watchers, and trying their best to call it a night to allow an early start to their birding adventure the next morning. Being one of the more emotionally mature folks at the table, i taunted them for being big pussies and wimping out.  

Greg:  But we’re going to be getting up at 4:00 am!  We can’t stay for another round.

daisyfae:  Aw, c’mon, you big stinkin’ baby.  You’re acting like a girl!  

Charles:  You don’t understand – this is quite serious business, and we need our sleep.

daisyfae:  Right.  Looking at birds is extraordinarily taxing.  How hard can it be?

Invariably they stayed a little longer – but only after i took the bait, and agreed to join them in the hotel lobby at 4:30 am to get schooled in the fine art of birding. And i did.

As it turns out, much of the ‘early’ was necessary to support their ritualistic search for coffee and donuts prior to the actual bird watching.  The drive to Lake Pontchartrain took another 45 minutes. 

i was still drunk from the night before napping in the back seat, while they drank their coffee and gnawed on donuts.   We entered the wildlife area, and i perked up a bit, attempting to pay attention and not welch on the bet. 

Parking and wandering down a few paths, we sat quietly and waited.  Charles kept making this annoying “pishing” sound – some sort of bird call.  Eventually, as the sun was just rising, they got quietly excited, looking here and there through binoculars.

Charles:  Pretty sure that’s a juvenile Wooble Nibbler*.  Can you see the tail markings?

Greg:  No, but it looks to me like a female Amber Bock*.

They tried to teach me.  i tried to listen and learn.  But it just wasn’t my bag…

As we were driving back, they continued to try to explain the joy they found in “collecting” birds.

daisyfae:  But you’re not really “collecting” them.  You’re just looking at the bits and parts of the bird and identifying it.  i don’t get it.  In my world, it ain’t collecting unless you bag ‘em and tag ‘em, then either put a carcass in the freezer or hang it on the wall!

It was pretty clear that this would be my first, and last, bird watching venture with them.  And that was fine with everyone in the rental car. 

Passing an old shed along the one-lane road, i nearly jumped out of the window.

daisyfae:  Hey, stop the car!  Did you see that?  Back in the weeds next to that garage!

Charles mashed the brakes, and i rolled down the window, squinting in the morning light.

daisyfae:  There it is!  Looks like an old flat-fender Willys Jeep!  Back up so i can see the grill and doors – need to figure out if it was a military or civvie… Jesus, i don’t think i’ve ever seen one un-restored in the wild!

* not actual birds, of course, but i obviously was paying no attention at this point.  The buzz was wearing off, and the hangover settling in, and i was thinking about my coffee still sitting in the cup holder back in the car…

Last call…

For the past twelve years, i’ve observed an annual ritual that marks the beginning of winter… It has nothing to do with the calendar, digging out cold-weather gear, the phase of the moon or the location of leaves with respect to the ground. 

It takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on how warm it is outside.  But when it’s done, i am ready.  My mental register is reset and my body prepared for cold. 

Waiting as long as possible, hoping for just one more warm day where i can eek out that last moment before giving up til spring.  Watching the skies.  Adjusting my plans to push the envelope as far into the year as possible.  Me and the true love of my life… On the road.  Basking in an October blue sky and sucking down the cool, dry air.

Today was the day.  Some years i can make it til early November, but my gut told me today was it.  Returning home from an afternoon bike ride, i set the wheels in motion.  Literally.  Grabbing the dog, we hit it…

In the Jeep.  She is my one and only.  And today was likely to be the last day of true Indian Summer.  We scooted off to the dog park, taking back roads and hitting every bump in the road with joy.   As the sun got lower, the chill set in, and we had to head home…

Before we left, i’d taken the hose to the doors and top, and left them on the warm concrete driveway to dry and soften* in the sun.  We pulled into the garage, and i unloaded the mutt back into the house.  And the ritual began…

Untie the bungees and straps, reset the frame, snap the top to the swing frame bar.  Standing on the seats, facing rearward, pull the top forward.  Doing gymnastics that could get me arrested in parts of Utah, i pull the front of the top into the groove above the windshield.  While standing on the hood. 

Climbing off, i tuck the flanges on the back of the top into the grooves.  Climbing inside, i then begin the brute force portion of the event – thwacking the support bars until the top is stretched and the cross beams are locked in place.  Re-stretching and aligning the velcro supports around the door frames.  Hanging the doors and making sure all’s well with the alignment.  The final maneuver? Release a gigantic sigh and call it a summer…

Winter.  Bring it…

From a Spring trip... He was smiling just as much today...
From a Spring trip… He was smiling just as much today…

* There is an art to putting a soft top on a Jeep by yourself.  Best trick i’ve learned is to warm the black canvas top in the sun for an hour or so before attempting to stretch it onto the frame… i’ve busted open many a knuckle through the years attempting to put a brittle-cold cover back on my baby on a frigid day… hence the need for precision timing on the re-install… Too warm a day and i’ve probably jumped the gun, wasting precious jeep-time.  Too cold?  i’ll be bleeding from the fingertips and it’ll take an hour…

Spring Butt Sniffing

Sometimes words aren’t necessary.  Took Mr. Pickles out to the local dog park last sunday to burn off some winter lard… For both of us…

Stripped the top off the Jeep.  Threw the Dawg in.  He had no idea where we were going... He didn't care.

Stripped the top off the Jeep. Threw the Dawg in. He had no idea where we were going... He didn't care.

First 15 minutes in the park.  Always looks pretty much the same...

First 15 minutes in the park. Always looks pretty much the same...

 

Mr. P makes friends easily.  And makes a fine wing-mutt, giving me ample opportunity to check out the man-goods at the park.

Mr. P makes friends easily. And makes a fine wing-mutt, giving me ample opportunity to check out the man-goods at the park.

Happy puppy.  As was the driver on the ride home... loves me my dawg.  loves me my jeep.

Happy puppy. As was the driver on the ride home... loves me my dawg. loves me my jeep.