Sleeping At The Parrot Lounge


Parrot. Lincoln Park Zoo. 1900. The Field Museum Library.

Another excerpt from a work in progress:

I opened the small metal cabinet where all the painting materials were stored and moved it all into the cage area. I went looking for rags and asked the electrician’s employee to raise the volume on the radio. He refused and cocked his head in the direction of his boss and said: “The owner…” in Spanish.

I finished the beer before entering the small space behind the bar that had been designated for the live bird enclosure. A real conversation piece, I had heard. I had never needed a conversation piece to draw me to a place to drink. A drink was all that was necessary for me to show up. I wondered how many beers I had since I had arrived. Was it three or seven? I was feeling fine and in a mood to paint, to loose myself in the Amazon jungle scene I was creating for the birds. I wanted them to feel at home, even if it was a two-dimensional representation of the ancestral home they had been plucked from. Someone had captured these birds somewhere — or their ancestors — and had brought them to fucking Union City New Jersey so that they could be a fucking conversation piece in the middle of a smoke-filled watering hole where strangers gathered to smoke and drink and avoid real conversations and stare at the birds and drink some more…how many beers? Was it seven or three and some cigarettes…was the fresh air supply working inside here or was the smell of oil paint and turpentine mixing with smoke making my head feel light and heavy, very heavy at the same time or the spotlights to highlight the colorful plumage against the fake jungle background and the birds flying high, against the blue sky that was out of reach of the nets and the warmth of the breeze and the soft sunlight filtering through the very high branches and my eyelids feeling heavier as I looked up at the sky and the birds flying above and I closed my eyes and only the sound of the breeze was present in my consciousness and there were thousands of birds flying in my dreams, high above and the sky was an ever changing patchwork of primary colors, like a quilt of feathers covering the sky until a loud bang, like that from a high-powered hunting rifle went off by my head and I expected to see the stricken birds plummeting to the ground and I looked around but I saw no fallen birds and then the sound went off again and I opened my eyes and I saw Mike and the electrician and the electrician’s employee that I had asked to raise the volume of the music looking into the cage and they were laughing, pointing their fingers and laughing because I had fallen asleep — passed out is the correct term — inside the cage.

I closed my eyes again and they disappeared and as long as I kept them closed I could not hear their laughter. With my eyes closed, I looked around for the birds, but they were gone. They had flown away and they had taken their colors with them.

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