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A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square

An obvious mother and daughter came by the stand today, looking at the fish, chatting and smiling. You might've thought they were one of those hypothetically happy families.

The daughter, about 10 or 12, noticed and picked up the booklet we sell, titled What Lesbians Do. Before she could even open it, her mother gently took it from her hands and put it back on the display rack. "That's not for you," she said, smiling, and they went back to looking at the fish.

The girl remained curious, though, or perhaps became more so. When her mom took a step toward the other end of my table, the girl picked up the book again, and again her mom snatched it away and put it back, but this time she briefly scolded the girl. Then Mom took the kid by the hand, and they walked off.

What I'm guessing Mom's guessing she saw, and I'm guessing she's right, is a girl who's kinda curious about what lesbians do. The booklet is only poetry, so it wouldn't answer that question, but Mom's like, "No daughter of mine will learn about that by looking at a book."

♦ ♦ ♦

High above the sidewalk, in the branches of a tree, was a lost cockatiel. I'm not a birdwatcher, and wouldn't have noticed. There are lots of birds in lots of trees on the Ave.

But a frantic man was pacing the sidewalk, looking up, and just worried thick. When he noticed me looking at him, he said, "It ithn't my bird, but I uthed to have a cockatiel, and I dethperately want to thee thith one thafely returned to it'th owner."

Yeah, the gentleman had a lisp so heavy it was difficult to figure out what he was saying, and he could not have been any further out. He wore rouge around his eyes, a pink shirt, and he slowly snapped his wrists to accentuate particular words as he spoke. It was like an offensive comedy skit playing up every gay stereotype, but once in a while stereotypes are real, or they wouldn't be stereotypes.

I write about my life, and it happened so I wrote it, but as the story continues I'm not going to type any more of the man's lisp.

Some onlookers collected under the tree, wondering what to do about the escaped bird, and the man loudly and dramatically asked, "What can we do?"

"I can get the bird down," I volunteered.

"Really?" he asked. "How?"

"Just let me get my shotgun."

"That's not funny!" he shrieked.

I was only being a wise-ass, but then things got ugly.

A heroic college boy climbed the tree, which was barely strong enough to hold him. As the small crowd cheered him on, he inched out on a branch, reaching his hand closer and closer to the bird. It must've been completely domesticated, because the bird didn't seem afraid of him at all.

He reached his hand further, tried to grab the bird, but when he lightly touched it, it fell of its perch, sorta flying but also sorta dropping down.

And another good guy on the sidewalk tried to catch the bird in midair, but he missed, slipped, and accidentally slapped the bird in flight as he fell. It fluttered to the ground, and the second good guy landed right on top of it.

This was a terrible sight, and a sickening sound. The second guy stood up, and the bird was making a very pained gurgling noise, and you could see that its head was about half collapsed.

The bird was as good as dead, and seriously suffering. After a few seconds of swearing and everyone screaming oh my god, one of the college kids shook his head yes, and the other one stomped on the bird's head, finishing it off.

All this was simply and absolutely horrible to see, a moment I hope to forget. Everyone involved and watching was choked up. My eyes watered. You couldn't not be saddened, sickened.

After several seconds of silence, a delayed reaction, the gay guy broke into absolute hysterics. He wailed, he screamed at the two kids who'd tried to help, and then he bawled, and picked up the dead bird's carcass and held it to his chest.

And remember, this wasn't his bird. He's just the guy who spotted a cockatiel in the tree.

Almost immediately he apologized to the college boys for yelling at them. "I'm sorry, I know it was an accident," he said, "but I'm so, so—" and after that I couldn't understand what he was saying, because he was crying so much.

I didn't want to be an asshole, and also don't want to be an asshole writing about it, so my apologies, sincerely. But like I said, I write about my life, and this happened.

As awful as the whole scene had been, when the man was still bawling a few minutes after the bird's stomping, crying louder even than when it first happened, it started to become inappropriately funny.

No, I didn't laugh, but I wanted to. When my torso silently shook with ripples of suppressed and embarrassed giggles, I asked my neighbor-vendor to watch the fish-stand, and hurried across the street and around a corner. And then, yeah, I laughed.

When I returned to Telegraph a few minutes later, the crowd was gone, the man was gone, and the dead bird was gone. My neighbor-vendor told me that the distressed man had carried the bird with him as he ran weeping down Telegraph Ave, and he'd said something about giving it a decent burial. I respect that, appreciate that.

He's a man who's in touch with his feelings, and there's no shame in it. Also, I hope, there's no shame in finding the whole situation, while ghastly, also funny.

♦ ♦ ♦

Let's end today's entry on a brighter moment, later in the afternoon. Here's a snippet of conversation overheard, as two middle-aged women walked past my table:

"I meditate for world peace, and I know it's working, but it's a really slow process."

From Pathetic Life #18
Sunday, November 12, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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