|This is not a parrot|
When I got home from vacation, I read that there had been a little excitement in O’Hare when airport security turned up a set of eighteen frozen human heads in cargo. Well. This sort of thing is going to happen. It’s as common as pants-monkeys. In fact, it isn’t even the first frozen-head incident I’ve read about in the past year. But it got everyone all het up, especially in Chicago, where there might have been political implications.
|Also, not parrots|
You sense a different national attitude before you even get out of the airport in Auckland. In New Zealand, officials would assume you wouldn’t be carting around a box of severed heads unless you had a good reason. We slid through security without being asked to remove our shoes, with the agent requesting only that we partition our daggers in a baggie for admiring. The entire setup was designed to funnel travelers through one at a time so that security personnel could wish each of us a proper good day, hand us a complimentary pair of sheepskin slippers and top up our shampoo. They were a little touchy about us bringing in apples, but otherwise everyone was nice as pie, and in something closely resembling English. The only sign of passive-aggression I witnessed was the placement of doorways in shops and houses. You have to step up into them, as though entering a hatch on a rocket-ship, and they were clearly designed to sieve out the easily-tipped-over visitor; probably a sensible ploy in a land with good medical care available to all. But on the heels of a series of spectacular crashes, I had recently developed a high prancing step like a Clydesdale with an admirer. I was not about to be selected out at the beginning of my trip, and I caught on right away.
|Again, a very nice picture, but not of a parrot|
On our first foray to a snow-covered mountain, I was promised a kea. The kea, I am given to know, is the world’s only alpine parrot. An alpine parrot! I visualized a stunner bright as the flag of an island nation, wearing a sporty fur earflap-hat and a muffler. I had to see a kea! Sadly, none materialized. “They’ll be around soon, when we get lunch,” I was told. “They’ll strafe your shirt and make off with your sandwich, and then they’ll do the finger-poppin’ number from West Side Story.” Oh boy! Parrots!
No parrots. We even went on a hike specifically labeled “Kea Point,” but it was pointedly unparroted. “Is this something I’m liable to overlook?” I asked my friends, who insisted that it was quite a large, ungainly parrot, sort of soiled-looking and dingy, and not overlookable. Plus, any one of them was likely to entertain us by eating our rental car. I was assured they would show up any time we slowed the car down sufficiently, massing up on the windshield wipers and mirrors in a gang, and one of them would shove a sharpened beak through the window and demand five dollah. Oh boy! I thought. Parrots!
No parrots. Many other feathered oddsters showed up. My favorites were the silver-eyes, sweet greenish jobs with pink armpits and flight goggles, and the fantails, which spread their tails just for fun, coy as geishas. The guide book claims they do this to attract insects, but I believe they’re just tarty by nature. It’s hard to resist a truly flirtatious bird, and I was very happy, but I still thought I deserved a parrot, especially if everyone else had already bagged a quorum.
|This is Betsy, not a parrot, but it was RIGHT HERE, swear to God.|
Monday we hiked the Te Henga (“Taaah-wow-wow”) trail. I spotted another fantail and a brace of silver-eyes and then–oh spank me with a glory paddle–in a pohutukawa tree (“paaah-wow-wow”), I saw a new bird, now known loud and wide in a localized area as Murr’s PARROT! PARROT! PARROT! LINDA! HOLY SHIT! PARROT! PARROT! PARROT! or, elsewhere, the Eastern Rosella. And a proper parrot it was, too, red and yellow and blue and green and probably other things not even on the visual spectrum, attractive and bouncy and not at all put off by sudden loud noises. Way finer than that big, dingy, greasy, car-eating, invisible, hooligan parrot. I looked that one up. Closest living relative is the jackalope.
Attention Portland-area readers: I will be reading from my book, Trousering Your Weasel, plus some new bonus material, at the splendid St. Johns Booksellers at 7PM on Friday, Feb. 8. I’d love to meet you and shoot the you-know-what.
Lucky lucky you going to New Zealand. It's my husband's number one destination … Sad to say that if I were able to head for the airport next week in order to witness your 'reading' the welcome I would receive from my own country, would probably not be as well –wr — ummm — welcoming! I must tell you that when my 12 year old grandson spied your book on my desk, he was overwhelmed with the giggles, and intense curiosity. So I let him look at all the other pictures!!! Love the book and the way it looks on my desk! 🙂
Oh thanks! Feel free to pop in a review on my book page (top left) or on amazon or, you know, anywhere. I like the idea of making a 12-year-old boy giggle, although it doesn't necessarily take much.
Wow. How wonderful, and what a gorgeous place to travel to…
Plus, you're being funny. And I like that, when you're funny.
p.s. Would LOVE to hear you read sometime. I won't be in Portland soon, but am actually planning a trip to the west coast for this summer. We should read together somewhere. Cuz we're funny, singly — can you imagine the mirth? And on the book tour, don't forget Minneapolis, please…
What a great idea. You can bunk here! I've got gin.
I've never been to Minneapolis, but I used to summer in North Dakota (no one has ever uttered that phrase before in the history of summer), my sisters and brother were born in St. Paul, and my niece and nephew went to Carleton, so I'm favorably disposed, you betcha.
Actually, at least once, I DID "summer in North Dakota"… OK maybe not the ENTIRE summer… and maybe not all of the time IN North Dakota… plus, I probably didn't utter that SPECIFIC phrase… Oh heck – I had/have relatives in the great twin "cities" of Fargo/Moorhead, and we DID visit them one summer, on a cross-country tour of far-flung kin. Does that count?
Yes. That totally counts. Any stint in North Dakota counts. You betcha. By the way, Oregon is where North Dakotans go to die.
Hey!. I'm on the West Coast, too. And I have a book. We could be a trio. Kinda like the Supremes only white, old and funny. 😉
I don't think Pearl's all that old, Jayne. Just wise.
A colleague is on sabbatical in Auckland right now – I'll tell her to be on the lookout for your bird 😉
Screw my bird.
You take wonderful pictures of not-parrots. I'm so glad you got to see a real parrot. Next trip, look for lorikeets. Betsy, in that bright green coat, does have a rather avian appearance.
The rainbow lorikeet, I am told, is classified as an Unwanted Organism in New Zealand. Ain't that cold?
Perhaps in that "near English" lexicon, they were really saying "Ikea" and you just misunderstood.
Oh, and I vote with Pearl….Minneapolis, please. It is almost like Portland, really!
Man, it's not really on the way TO anywhere, is it? Pretty much has to be a destination. Maybe I should tot up my Minnesota friends and get serious.
Don't get me going on IKEA. We're putting in an IKEA kitchen. I've got the makings of fourteen blog posts about the store alone and every time I try it makes my head explode.
Me too, but it's so much fun to prowl around in IKEAs, and it set our youngest up just fine for her "first job and on my own" apartment.
Very entertaining! And also educational. Thanks to you, I feel confident in pronouncing any place name in New Zealand.
So now, have a crack at this:
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu. Had a dog called that;he answered to Tammy.
(Don't worry – Wiki will give you an audio link!)
Oh lordy. I heard it start with "taah" and end in "wow woo."
CLICK : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=px36UwW6y_g
Those fantails sure are cheeky buggers! Damn things wouldn't sit still so I could take their photo… and then when I'd give up they'd start flitting around me to tease me!
I had high hopes for a Kea… was in several spots around Milford Sound where I was SURE to see one… but *sigh* it wasn't too be!
The Tui was cool too! And the Kiwi is definitely a unique bugger! But my favourites (just above the Kiwi) were the various penguin species I got to see! Little blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins and the very rare Fjordland crested penguin!
I want to go back!!!
Shoot! I did get a fantail picture, and I didn't put it in, did I? That's one of their field marks: out of focus.
Forgot about the tuis. Love the tuis. And their little flappy bibs. We didn't spy any penguins but I did talk to a native who said she had dozens of them camping underneath her house and she hated them. Stinky and loud, I believe she said. But hey. House penguins!
Relax, Murre. You don't have to identify all the birds you got pictures of. Someone else will do that for you. But not me. I don't have the faintest idea what any of them are. Which is rather refreshing.
So delighted to see you jumping right on the New Zealand Bloggin' Bandwagon. It often takes me a full year to get around to blogging a trip, and by then I've forgotten everything. So I don't do it.
Huzzah for you! I'll be reading with eager eyes.
Ha. I got some of 'em. That first one, there, that's a goldfinch. That's what they call a goldfinch. So you see, you can't trust everybody.
Sure doesn't take me a year to forget everything–you must be a little slow!
Thanks for saying- I was going to ask what that was if it didn't come up by the end of the comments- looks more like one of those roseate whatevers.
I've seen video of Keas destroying a rental car. Their efficiency would rival most gangs in this country. I can't believe your niece and nephew went to the "other" school in that town. I'll keep reading your adventures anyway.
It's true. If you go to youtube and type in "kea" the search box will immediately fill in things like "vs. Nissan." You a Macalester dude?
I'm an "Ole", but you didn't hear that from me.
You must be the only touristas NOT to see kea!
Way to stay on message, there, pretending they're real.
I wish I lived in the Portland area so that I could hear you read from you book. Have fun!
I wish I could meet you too, Ahab!
Note to self: Get glory paddle. And congratulate Murr on the book and the reading. That's big excitement for one who deserves some glory (no paddle) for her gifts.
Shit. No paddle?
I totally get your frustrations with not seeing a Kea.
I was in Manatee County the other day (a real county, just south of the Tampa Bay area) and didn't see any manatees. At least manatees don't eat rental cars.
I live in Multnomah County and I don't even know WHAT to look for.
Bigfoot, duh! How about in Forest Park?
If he wears size 13s, he's right in this house.
Is it possible that my mom went to Macalester ?~! College in Minneapolis or St Paul no??? Wow, that struck a chord that hasn't been strummed in some time.
I thought I saw a picture of a heron up there. The dark blue one I believe is one of those large wading birds of the tropics. After living offshore in Key West where there are lots of birds in the mangroves nesting, I miss them. We have other birds here in northern California though. Fun ones like hummingbirds and eagles.
If you get to this area I would love to hear you read from the Weasel.
There are fun birds everywhere. Fack. My heron is a white-faced heron. I looked it up.
Pop out your front door, and I'll read extra loud for you!
If you ever get down this way, I'll take you Snipe hunting. It isn't really difficult, all you have to do is sit in the woods all night holding an open bag in which to snare them. You'll like it. Trust me.
Oh yes! I trust you! Count me in!
I'll be there with my hair in a braid! Now, what about that Southern Cross, Ms Brewster?
Aw, man, and me without a matching braid. But you'll be able to spot me because I'll be the one being herded to the center and urged to vocalize. Cool!
Your cross is coming, dear. I stayed up late for it, just for you.
Your picture of the parrot is . . . in the bird book? Oh, well, glad you enjoyed the adventure.
It IS. It IS in the bird book. That totally counts.
"Oh yeah, I saw a parrot, honest!"
Yeah, an' I seen the Loch Ness Monster.
You think I just got off the boat?
YOU SEEN THE LOCH NESS MONSTER?