Captain Erskine Turns to a Trusty Parrot

September 16, 2009
I thought you might enjoy this one.  What do I know??
The little boy with the Creamsicle hair is beginning the first grade. He’ll be in Room 15, the note from the teacher advises a few days in advance.

"Please get a good night’s sleep the night before school starts and eat a healthy breakfast," the letter reads.

"I always eat a healthy breakfast," I remind my wife.

"I don’t think she was talking to you," my wife says says.

"Sometimes I eat two healthy breakfasts," I say.

"You’re not listening," she says.

More and more, my lovely wife uses the same tone with me as with the kids. I deserve more respect than that, but I realize such things must be earned. She’s still upset with me from the other night, when I referred to the place we sleep as "the Lincoln Bedroom."

"Why?" she asked.

"It honors a dead man," I explained, and didn’t even get a smile.

So anyway, we really need the bird song of children on the first day of school. We need their strobe-like smiles and their shiny patent-leather backpacks to add some luster to our dusty lives.

Such things will ease our entry into September — never my favorite month out here. Too dry. Like living in an ashtray. The vegetation is dormant or dead. Underfoot, our grass crunches like toast. What February is to the folks back east, September is to me.

After last month’s fires, which came within a mile or two of our home, the whole house smells like a cigar. I find it appealing, but others complain. I change the air-conditioner filter and — no kidding — I find coal dust. And brownie mix, the stuff they spilled all over the kitchen. "We’re making it for the firefighters," they said. It’ll choke you just the same.

We were housebound for days during the fires, never a good thing. If there were ever anybody ready to evacuate, it was me. I’d tied rockets to my ankles.

See, we have a 300-pound beagle that really ought to be living in a juvenile detention facility in Texas. We have the little guy, loud as Larry King. His big brother is back home, and he’s not exactly a monk either. Two days after the little girl went off to college, her big sister moved back home too, the lovely and patient one.

So we have a full house again. A big, loud, joyous house — at least when no one’s screaming at each other. Parenthood is an extra inning ballgame, no question.

During the fires, we also added a couple of evacuees, one of whom was a parrot named Walter. Walter was 43 and in need of safe harbor for a few days.

I liked Walter. Like me, he was a few weeks past his prime. We bonded over discussions of prizefights and Lee Marvin movies. As parrots go, he was an excellent listener.

"Know what I miss? The pop-hiss of vinyl records," I’d say, and Walter the parrot would nod knowingly.

"Know what else I miss?" I’d say. "Hush Puppies."

After several days at our house, the parrot began to change. I feared that, by the time he returned home, Walter would be reciting dialogue from "Hannah Montana," which pretty much loops in our house, like some sort of drunk-driving announcement.

I feared that if he stayed too long, Walter would begin quoting Miley Cyrus, or worse yet my wife, who lately has taken to muttering, "Oh, Lordy . . . " whenever something goes a little wrong with the washing machine or some idiot politician says something lame about healthcare. "Oh, Lordy . . . " she says, which I find sort of sweet and vaguely Petula Clark-ish. Yow.

(For the record, I’ve heard her mutter earthier things, but that was back before the bedroom became known as "the Lincoln Bedroom." Good times, indeed. Sort of a golden era of intimacy, 1987-1988.)

Anyway, by the time Walter left, he had picked up many of the expressive vocal arias of our children. He’d begun to whine more than he should and asked me for money two days running, something I just hate.

He’d even learned to stomp his foot and scream at the Dodgers. "BROXTON, THROW STRIKES!" he blurted one day. For his outbursts, I punished Walter, forcing him to watch every minute of "Entertainment Tonight."

Poor guy. When the fires ended, his owner couldn’t get him out of here fast enough — who could blame her. I think Walter’s in parrot rehab now.

Oh, Lordy . . . the prognosis isn’t good.



I’ve been having problems with my PC the last few days.  MSN (who else!) is insisting that I upgrade to a newer version of Messenger and at the same time, won’t let me.  So I am confined to my Laptop in my wife’s office.  For some reason my Laptop won’t connect in the living room even though the PC will. Same wireless cable.  It’s a big mess but at least I can get to my space from here.  The trade-off?  42" TV to a 20" one.  Did I mention that I despise MSN??  Anyhow, if anyone has a suggestion please share it with me.  I have already tried System Restore in Safe Mode and MSN told me to uninstall Messenger but it’s not there to uninstall.  S

Someone wake up Bill Gates!!

Hope you all had a Great ‘Hump Day’!

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5 Responses to Captain Erskine Turns to a Trusty Parrot

  1. Sue says:

    Just yesterday Spaces didn’t recognise me and asked me if I wanted to create my own Space. Um….what happened to the one I’ve had for years? I did find it, all safe in the end, but it had me worried there for a bit….Silly MSN.

  2. Joe says:

    I get a kick out of that writing style…quite descriptive and enjoyable all the way through. Sorry about the computer hassles. I had a lot of trouble with the new messenger but finally it worked out and I ended up with the latest version and things worked out…heck, even my updates have been working for some time…should I knock on wood or something? Bless ya bud, have a good one.

  3. sweeti's says:

    wowow this is soooooooo fun reading I love Mr Walter and as always to way u write Makes me smile what????? Laughhhhu dont have a boring life BOBexcitment on the first row.hehe i have same with MSNso first i puched no Button…but after a while u understand that u cant open ur MSN anymoreso u have to upload..They force u to do now i did….it took 15 minuts to install all the new stuff. and the first look at this new one…hmmmwell seems we need time to get used to it. time is all we need..I hope u survive the dry month of september BobHIHOBe wellMJ

  4. Sue says:

    HA! That’s one of the reasons I never re-installed Messenger! It screwed up our big computer, so I’ve just ignored it with my laptop. I don’t need to CHAT anyway. Love the article, as always and can identify—with the parrot! Have a fun weekend and don’t get toooo into that 42" screen! Fall is here and the colors are a-changing!

  5. Ann says:

    Nice column. Interesting about the parrot. Hope you get your laptop working right again.

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