I have rarely been described as an expert on exotic birds, and somehow the 40ish gentleman next to me at the back sniffed out my naïveté. He leaned in:
That's an African parrot. African Gray Parrot.
I nodded, as this confirmed what the presenter had just presented. He continued, leaning into stage whisper, attired in the interesting-to-me combo of Seahawks hat and Packers tee-shirt. I conjectured he must be an American football aficionado.
That parrot there -
he pointed at the parrot the Birdman held -
- that parrot is as smart as your five-year old.
His intuition surprised me, as my son was still a few days away from hitting five. In other words, this parrot was likely WAY smarter than my five-year old, since he wasn't five yet.
I nodded in respectful surprise, and turned back to the presentation. He leaned in to make sure I wasn't missing anything:
Oh yeah. Those birds are SMART. But you gotta be careful with diseases. Like bird flu. You know, wash hands. You think of cats and dogs as carrying diseases, but birds carry them too. Speaking of cat scratch fever, you know that's real? It's a real disease. You know who's a cool guy?
I hazarded a guess, based less on personal opinion and more - unfairly perhaps - on the type of person he might deem cool.
I guessed wildly.
he nodded proudly, but lost the smile to lean in again and pound the air for emphasis:
- He hunts with a BOW AND ARROW. That is a cool guy.
I nodded, in the same manner I might nod if Donald Trump's daughter asked me if I thought he would make a good leader.
You know who is NOT cool? You know who I can't stand?
I decided to retire with my winning streak intact and not hazard another guess; shook my head.
Ted Turner. You know who Ted Turner is? Owned all those TV stations?
You know who's even worse?
I had a strong suspicion, but wanted to give him the opportunity to break the news. He did.
His WIFE! Do you know who his wife is?!
I felt like impressing him.
- Jane Fonda.
I said flatly.
he whisper-yelled while Birdman continued 30 feet away.
So you know what I'm talking about!! You know all about her...
He trailed off, apparently satisfied that we were kindred spirits on the subject of Ms. Fonda. I briefly considered inviting him to stick "Hanoi Jane" into Snopes and see what came up - but he was already off to the next item. I wasn't completely certain of the connection between Jane and where things went next, except that they were both not on his cool list.
You know who else I can't stand?
He scratched his mustache grizzle and continued:
Acrobatically, he leaned in more, because it was important, but to compensate for the lean, he raised his whisper.
- He ought to be hopscotching through a minefield. I'm serious. Through. A. Mine. Field. Not even joking. Treason. High treason. You know what he'd get in just about any other country?
I suspected he might tell me.
The death penalty. Pretty much all these other countries he'd get fifty years plus death.
I had to ponder exactly how that worked, so again, I missed the connecting thread between Dennis and the next piece.
I met the guy who trained the last two Iditarod winners. Can you believe that?
Yep. Right at the dog park. Anyway. I've got this friend who swears - ...
(Again, I must apologize, because in this conversational sprint, I was a mile behind already and still processing Dennis and Jane, so I am unsure if he was referring to the dog trainer or someone else.)
- ...so anyway, I've got this friend who swears that - you what happened in the air over Bosnia?
In the '90s?
I guessed, because I am skilled at educated guessing.
You got it. The flight that went down...this guy saw the plane. He saw it and he says -
he leaned in.
- He says that they were all shot in the back of the head. Back. Of. The. Head. They were supposed to be coming back to testify. True story. I'm not playing. I am not. Playing.
I shook my head, because I was not playing either, although the dozen squawking birds a short distance away sounded like they were. He glanced up at them for a moment.
Blue throated macaw. Those are some smart birds. And you know Vincent Foster? Found dead in the parking lot? Not what really happened. I am not playing. The Clintons...
- A lady in the back angrily leaned in - I had a lot of people leaning into me - and shushed us. It is important to clarify that it was not a librarian, because I adore libraries and librarians, and this woman was not speaking on behalf of the library. She did, however, make a good point. We were being distracting.
I excused myself quickly and quietly, and listened to the remaining bit of presentation on Ledbetter's cockatoos. I noticed my new friend circling around the back and was happy to see he found someone else to converse with, and not be alone. But I will always wonder what really happened to Vincent Foster.