Monday, September 29, 2008

Neighbors, Neighbors, Neighbors

Saturday I happened to glance out the window at my backyard -- there were three or four of the neighbors' puppies playing and rolling around in the yard.

I walked over and the young black woman (whom I haven't seen for several weeks) came to the door and came out on the porch. About the same time the puppies came running across my front yard to the neighbors' front yard. I leaned down and petted one of them (they really are cute), while the young black woman apologized several times. The man who lives there watched all this from inside the living room.

Haven't seen the Asian looking woman for several days, though the red car she drives is parked in the street (presumably so the man can get his big copper-colored truck in and out of the driveway).

More news as it happens!

The picture of two baby cockatiels is from I figured a picture of baby cockatiels would nicely complement a small story about puppies.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

If there was ever an actor with class, it was Paul Newman. A magnificent actor, a man married to the same woman for 50 years, a creator of a successful charity, a fast race car driver . . . .

And he never had to appear on Entertainment Tonight to show himself off. Very few actors have the kind of natural presence he had.

As handsome at 83 as he was at 25, I've loved every movie of his I've seen -- I'm sure I haven't seen them all and I guess there'll be a run on his movies at the video stores for awhile.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Neighbors & Bailing Out Wall St

I had what I thought was a friendly moment with the Asian looking woman this afternoon. She had come out of the house to put some mail in their mailbox just as I was coming in from work. Five of the puppies followed her out the door. They wandered over to my yard and she frantically tried to shoo them back to her yard. I complimented the puppies several times; they really were cute little things, and I asked what breed they were. She said they were "blue pits," and she was going to sell them for a friend.

I am extremely unhappy about this bailout of Wall Street. Thanks to Reagan's deregulation and "trickle down" theory and the Republicans gorging at the public trough, we've all been getting screwed for decades now. And now these guys want the government to bail them out; they want a blank check and they want it right now. Just ask Paulson; he'll tell you the economy will tank if Congress doesn't bail them out within a week.

And what, exactly, are we, the lowly taxpayer, getting out of this? (Pass the vaseline, please.) I've watched my 401(k) drop by nearly half this year, most of the losses from the past four months. I'll never be able to retire with what I and my employer contribute to my 401(k) as long as this crap keeps happening. Yes, I know eventually the economy will turn around, but how many years will it take?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ken Globus

Ken Globus' methods were decried by numerous parrot behavior consultants because those methods depended on the technique of flooding, but there are several parrot owners out there who found his techniques effective through all the years he practiced.

Ken Globus: March 7, 1946 - Sept. 10, 2008
The Bird Whisperer

Dear Friends:
This will come as a surprise to many people who didn't know he was ill, but Ken Globus passed away on September 10th. Ken, who hadn't been a smoker for about 25 years, was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to his esophagus. What's truly shocking is that, between his original diagnosis and his death, only 10 weeks had elapsed.

Most of you are receiving this email because you're on his mailing list. So most of you know him as The Bird Whisperer.

Here are some things you may not know about how Ken got started working with aggressive and phobic birds. Our parents used to own a tropical fish store in Inglewood, California. One day, our mother cleared out some space in the store and asked Ken what he thought would be a good idea to put there. Ken thought about it, then suggested that they might start carrying a few birds. Since our parents knew nothing about birds, they put Ken in charge, and he got to work reading books and researching bird behavior before he bought his first bird for the store. Keep in mind that, in those days, almost all birds sold in stores were wild caught, not bred in captivity - so they were usually pretty terrified and unruly. What Ken discovered - to his great surprise - was that very little of the advice in the bird books was appropriate for dealing with aggressive birds. So, through trial and error, he learned how to work with them.

One of the many qualities that made Ken so successful with birds was his patience - he could simply persist until a bird decided that being aggressive wasn't working to drive Ken away. Another quality that served him so well was his flexibility - if one thing didn't work to calm a bird, he'd try something else until he made progress. (Parenthetically, it's a quality that also made him a great father.)

When my parents reached an age when they were no longer able to run a demanding business, Ken went out on his own, doing private training sessions for bird owners. It was at one of those sessions where an immensely grateful client said, "Ken, you really are a bird whisperer."

Ken called me and mentioned the incident, and I suggested he use the name The Bird Whisperer because I thought it would quickly convey what he was capable of doing. But he was reluctant to use the name because he thought some people might think it was a bit pretentious. As a marketer, I reasoned that, at the very least, it was very easy for people to remember, where Ken Globus was not. He finally agreed.

Over the years, a lot has been written and said about Ken's techniques. You are certainly free to dismiss what I'm about to say as the biased rantings of a grieving brother, but I was simply blown away by what Ken was able to do with birds. I traveled with him both to private sessions and public workshops, and I watched him calm birds that couldn't even be touched by their owners. I saw people sobbing at the the sight of Ken stroking a bird's neck, a bird who wouldn't allow even its owner to come near it for over a decade. And I saw this happen many times.

His bird-training sessions really picked up when he set up his web site. For the first time, people outside of the Los Angeles area where he lived could get a sense of what his techniques were all about. He began to be interviewed by news organizations, magazines and newspapers, all of them interested in how he was able to tame birds so quickly. He was hired by zoos, bird stores, and rescue organizations to deal with birds they'd given up on. And somewhere along the line, Ken got a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Kate Capshaw. Thinking it was a joke perpetrated by one of his friends, Ken hung up on her. She called back and informed him that she and her husband, Steven Spielberg, would like Ken to come to their house for a private session. He gulped, and agreed. And as Ken showed Kate how to handle the bird, Steven walked all around him with a video camera, recording the entire hour-long session. Talk about pressure!

Through his many interviews and public appearances, Ken got to be pretty adept at dealing with one kind of pressure or another. The type that gave him the biggest problem came from his detractors who often wrote vicious and totally untrue things about him, and he would sometimes forward to me the more outrageous items. Usually we would giggle like schoolgirls, but I found some of these things to be appallingly mean-spirited, and I would want him to post an angry rebuttal. But, for the most part, he wouldn't. He simply felt that these people were uninformed. I always thought that was a most charitable way of looking at it, especially considering that many of the most shamelessly idiotic things were perpetrated by some of the more authoritative people in the bird world, people who felt more comfortable sniping at him from a distance rather than bothering to actually attend one of his events. But I digress.

What Ken was able to do with birds wasn't magic. Ken was just an incredibly sensitive and intuitive person who, in a very short span of time, could figure out the best way to get a bird over its fears. At this I'm fairly certain there were few like him.

I can also tell you that as a brother, there were none like him. He was kind, funny, incredibly bright, supportive, generous, and courageous - qualities he displayed up to his dying breath.

Last week there was an occasion I'll never forget. It was only a few days after his passing, and my wife wanted to put together a "remembrance", where a few friends could gather to talk about what Ken meant to them. Even though this was thrown together at the last minute, over 60 of his friends showed up, and I'm certain that, given enough time, a few hundred might have been there. Ken was loved and appreciated by so many people. There were folks there from various stages of his life, all relating stories about Ken that helped to paint a complete picture of him. And what a picture it was!

He was a great guy. A talented man who could do so many things well. And he was my best friend for 57 years.

- Dennis Globus

Neighbors (again)

Let's see -- the young black woman hasn't been seen in several weeks, but the young Asian looking woman has evidently taken up residence.

A month or so ago an older white woman was visiting or staying there, and there was a big metal milk crate full of gray puppies, all squeezed in there together. It was hot, and they had no water or food -- just sitting out in the front yard, yelping like puppies do.

A couple of times I've seen the Asian woman with one or two of the puppies (now nearly grown, though I don't know the breed) out in the side yard. When we make eye contact I always smile, but we rarely make eye contact. In fact, it seems to me she gathers up the dog(s) and puts them inside when she sees me, but that could be my imagination.

The dog, Champ, who gets loose all the time is generally kept in the house, and barks a lot when he's in the backyard.

When I got home from work the copper colored truck had all its doors opened. There were two toddlers in the back seat and the man who lives there had one of the gray dogs, but I didn't stop to see if he took it in or put it in the truck. He closed the back doors, climbed into the driver's seat, and the Asian woman locked the front door and got in the passenger side of the truck. And off they went.

I don't know if they're breeding dogs or what. And I don't much care.

Work was fine until the Evil Committee -- I've made it clear to my supervisor that I want a transfer. She's promised to help, if anything comes up on the job sheet. I'm also requesting a job reclassification in order to get some more money; if I have to put up with certain people on a regular basis and can't get transferred, I deserve a hell of a lot more money than I'm getting now.

This weekend I added my name to Google Alerts, just in case someone out there is using my name in vain. I have a name that is not very popular or common, so I've only gotten three or four alerts -- all obituaries.

Charli and Sugar Franklin are having snits now. I had them both out for awhile until the pizza arrived. So I put them back so they could have some crust with me. Now, neither one wants to come out and let me scritch their head. Even the Bobbsey Twins are ignoring me.

Charli is due for her annual well-bird exam next Tuesday.

Wonder if my babies have forgiven me yet . . . .

Update: Little Flash just flew over to me from his cage, unbidden. I picked him up and gave him my daily little kiss and thanked him for coming over and cheering me up. I'm a lucky girl.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Jim BH called me this morning; he's my writing teacher/mentor. He seemed out of breath and when I asked he said he thought he'd told me -- he has rheumatoid arthritis-associated pulmonary fibrosis. I knew about the arthritis, but not this. No treatment, no cure. And yes, it's fatal if it progresses. He said he's been pretty stable but really about all he can do is sit. He said he does walk around the house, very slowly, a few times a day.

He's breaking my heart.

I still think of him as that man who'd bring in a jug of wine to class, and we'd all sit around drinking and smoking and talking about one another's poems. Then after class we'd all go over to Tolly Ho's to eat greasy cheeseburgers and drink pitchers of beer and talk about poetry and writing. I took his poetry classes for years, two semesters a year. He changed my life.

Now of course, a teacher would be fired for bringing alcohol to class, and I guess if the administration knew then they would have fired him. But we never told anyone. And smoking is prohibited damn near everywhere these days.

He won teacher of the year once, and he was our state poet laureate for a year. His work was published in numerous magazines, and one of his books was nominated for some high-level prize that I've forgotten the name of. He and wife had a big party, invitation only, to celebrate the nomination. One year he brought his own work to class, not only for feedback, but to show us that he struggled with the same poetry and language things we did. The few people who didn't love him respected him highly, and still do. But the number of people who loved him and love him still far outnumber the others.

He lives far out in the country, beyond the interstates and state roads, with his wife, who has published three novels herself. He used to have his special students out for dinner, including me, where we ate wonderful meals and drank too much wine and talked about writing and writers. He was friends with a lot of writers, many of whom would visit for a day or so, but who are dead now.

The wind is howling outside this afternoon, and the leaves of the trees are showing their undersides -- precursors to a huge storm, though the tail end of Ike isn't supposed to reach us at all. Romantic that I am, I assume it's the universe's way of sympathizing with my pain at his illness. Sometimes the wind can howl far better than I.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday Blues

Between dying cockatiels and the black hole of despair at work I'm starting to get depressed.

Luckily, coming home and scritching birds helps lower my blood pressure. I was thinking perhaps I should go down to the crossroads at midnight, like Robert Johnson, and sell my soul to the devil. But what would I ask for since he's already got the lock on the blues?

I watched Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin on ABC News tonight. She had the audacity to twist Lincoln's words to explain her statement that the war was a "task from God" in her church. Lincoln must be turning in his grave. When asked what she thought of Bush's doctrine, she stopped dead and then, recalling her obvious coaching, said, "What aspect of it?" Translation: She had no clue what he was talking about.

God help us, every one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Only people who live with parrots can understand why this is such an endearing picture. There's nothing much cuter than a really wet parrot.

This is Tweety, who owned Jenn, for 13 years. Tweety died after a long illness on Monday, September 8.

People who have never lived with parrots cannot understand. Yes, it's devastating to lose a loved pet, but parrots are different. Parrots are not like dogs or cats or reptiles or rabbits or guinea pigs. Parrots are mostly smarter than we are. They're the descendants of dinosaurs. They teach us to play complex games with them. They talk to us in our language. They scheme for ways to trick us and amuse us. They fly. Mostly, they're the magic we deserve to have in our lives.

Nearly everyone on Tiel Talk cried with and encouraged Jenn through Tweety's illness and trips to the vet, and we rejoiced when Tweety improved and became her mischievous self again. We understand because we live with parrots, too.

Jenn was so lucky to have Tweety for so long, and Tweety was so lucky to have Jenn for so long. Jenn is a better person for having had Tweety. And I imagine Tweety was a better bird because of Jenn.

Jenn's house is silent now, that awful terrible silence left behind when the magic goes away.

But Jenn will always have some of that magic in her heart in a special light place, even though she can't see it right now or even comprehend that she'll survive the grief.

Those of us who share our lives with parrots have all been given great gifts of magic and wonder. And even though the loss is unbearable what remains is a gift of love, a connection to nature and to the higher parts of ourselves. It is an honor and a blessing to live with parrots, no matter how short the time seems.

Rest in peace, little Tweety. We loved you well.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I'm scheduled to report for jury duty at 9:00 a.m. Monday.

This morning I woke up at 7:38, and realized I'd overslept and would barely barely be able to get downtown in time. So I raced through a shower and went into the bedroom to throw on my clothes -- and then stopped. The radio, which I keep tuned to NPR, was playing a little tune they only play for a Sunday morning program.

Sunday? I thought back to last night -- I'd fallen asleep waiting for Mad TV, which comes on Saturday night. I checked the date on my computer. Yes! And to be 100 percent sure, I opened my front door and found the big Sunday paper awaiting me. It was Sunday and I didn't have to be anywhere.


So I did a piece of writing I hope sells. I've been playing with birds, and reading some essays. And had a nice, well-earned nap.

Charli and Sugar Franklin both are molting -- green and yellow feathers all over the place, and those little wisps of white down feathers occasionally floating through the air.

A bit too hot to be out much today, but I'm perfectly happy the way I am. Chorus rehearsal is at six, so I'll go to that. A bunch of us will probably go out to eat afterward -- a perfect ending to a perfect Sunday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Day before yesterday a distraught man wrote into Tiel Talk; his little male cockatiel (a new daddy) was gasping and acting weakened. The area was in the middle of a storm and most of the town had evacuated. He called vets as far as three hours away -- none of them treated birds or had already evacuated. Then the power went out. All day yesterday and last night all of us worried about that poor little bird.

This morning I see he wrote in to say he hadn't been able to find a vet and that the bird had died gasping for breath. He said he dug a hole to bury the little thing, and cried like a baby. As far as I can tell, the hen is okay.

I tell you, if one of my birds was sick or died, I'd just have to lay down and die myself. I do not think I could bear it. I am so lucky that one of the region's best (if not THE best) avian vets is right here in town, and she knows me and my birds.

So let this be a lesson for you readers out there -- if you don't have an avian vet, go find one now.

Most vets study chickens in vet school, and parrots are not chickens. Which is to say that most vets don't handle birds in their practice, or worse, are willing to "practice" on birds brought to them without the necessary training and education. Take your parrots now to an avian vet so there's a history and a file on them -- if/when there's an emergency your bird probably won't have time to wait while you go searching for an avian vet.

On a more positive note, sort of, I trimmed everyone's feathers last night. All the birds are quite angry with that white dishcloth that "trapped" them so I could do the deed.

I need to take more pictures, especially of Flash. He has the longest crest I've ever seen, and it curls right at the top. Too cute for words. I read somewhere that cockatiels are inordinately proud of their crests -- I think they're inordinately proud of everything about themselves.

And that's as it should be.