This dislike of close-up birds stems from my high school job at Lititz’s General Sutter Inn. I name names only because the Inn now has new owners, so everything I’m about to relay is no longer true. Back when I was bussing tables, the Inn’s owners had an obsession with birds. The coffee shop was decked out in ugly bird wallpaper, and the hotel lobby was filled with cages of dirty, squawking parakeets and other nastiness. The bird-infested lobby was adjacent to the fine dining room, increasing the gross factor.
Drunky V, one of the owners, was a dirty old man who often drank too much during the dinner shift. On the worst nights, he’d get tipsy, put one of the parakeets on his shoulder, and walk the halls between the kitchen and the bus station, trying to charm the female staff and guests. These little strolls inevitably ended with the poor bird relieving itself on the back of Drunky V’s shirt. Charming, indeed.
Where was this going? Ah, a movie review. I was skeptical about The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a film about Mark Bittner’s experiences with a flock of wild parrots in San Francisco, and only went because the ticket was free. But you know what? This movie was good. The parrots have individual personalities, quirks, and fears. They fall in love and break up. Some are bullies, and some are protectors. Is Bittner just some crazy guy anthropomorphizing a flock of birds? Maybe, but it’s best to watch Wild Parrots with an open mind and enjoy the interaction between the birds and their friend, a formerly homeless dharma bum. Mark Bittner has also written a memoir.