Monday had started as a calm spring day in Houston, Texas as Pink Petunia and I were traveling south by two-feet and four-paws toward her new veterinarian’s office. The pet clinic happened to be located along Montrose Avenue, which is a busy, pothole infested, double-lane road shaded by lovely mature oak trees and was segmented by residential side streets that invite the passerby to investigate the transitioning neighborhood within a major metropolis.
But on that sunny day we were on a mission to get Pink luxuriously bathed. We think Pink requires a regular spa day to abate her doggy smells and to be expressed. Pink Petunia does kindly warn us it’s time for some posterior attention when she scoots her hairy tuckus along our nice rugs. But she seems okay with the experience, although I have heard her, yelp. I suspect it depended on the size of the fingers that are assigned the task to release her pent-up fecal toxins. Sorry, I swerved into a TMI moment, or Too Much Information, but I wanted to explain our true purpose because, “I ain’t doin’ that!”
As the busy bumper car traffic was delayed by a red light, we risked our lives within the greenish pollen particle raining neighborhood, crossed Gray Street and we proceeded toward the single story ranch style destination. It was within my eyesight just past a modest red brick bungalow. But the well-worn concrete sidewalk was blocked. The blockage appeared to be a troubled, sweating, middle-aged man wearing a dirty white V-neck t-shirt, and baggy blue-jeans. I don’t remember if he was wearing shoes because I was focused on the fact he was waving his pasty-white hands above his head in a sort of experimental ape like dancing style. Obviously, he was having issues. I am not a mental health professional, so I knew instantly he was to be avoided.
It would have been my preference to immediately seek an alternative route. But, he saw us. We were trapped. I considered scampering across the modest homes side yard, but I would have had to quickly bend down to clutch Pink like a fury ruby red football. But then I figured I was a bit bigger than him, sane and I’d likely have ‘Johnny-law’ on my side if we had a mid-morning throw down. But I have experience dealing with odd, crazy people at book signings and what not over my professional career, so I figured I had enough faux confidence to pull up my big boy pants and head forward into battle.
The hint that you are dealing with MADNESS is usually within the glazed eyeballs that appear unfocused. As a good rule, if at all possible, avert their gaze. Personally, I fear I might actually be absorbed into their MADNESS and my attempt at maintaining sanity would be forever compromised. And then I’d wake up one morning in a foggy pharmacological induced haze with my arms tied behind me stuffed within a padded cell. But, I tried the next best technique and froze in place in hopes his visionary MADNESS might provide me and Pink a cloaking device. We would simply disappear into his cotton candy clouds and bunny rabbit world and stroll past us. Unfortunately, we were exposed as he upped the ante and spoke at me in a sort of Al Gore after I imagine him downing several strong cocktails. “Hey, be careful, there are eight birds in those trees down there trying to teach a baby bird how to fly.”
“Yeah,” I said as I closely examined his flopping hands for any potential weapons.
“They attacked me,” he said. His statement of his factual view seemed a bit defensive. The aroma from his breath did not seem to contain any alcohol, but his stench had invaded into my personal space. But then I realized I had my opening, if I acted fast, and I just walked with purpose toward the clinic in an Alice in Wonderland – White Rabbit mode I could escape. So, I nodded, I smirked in fake MADNESS agreement, averted his gaze, and said, “Thank you”. And I pointed over at the veterinarian clinic in an “I’m late, I’m late, I have a very important date,” and waved goodbye. I tugged at Pink’s leash. Pink curiously stared up at me with her tongue wagging out.
At the time, I had wondered how the Mad Town Crier had known there were eight birds up in the tree. Why were there exactly eight birds? And how did he know the eight birds were trying to teach a baby bird how to fly? I had had one adult teach me to ride a bike, so eight to one seemed excessive to me. And by the way, for good risk management measure, as I walked toward the clinic’s side door I used the zig-zag away from the Alligator skill I had learned from living in Florida. But I kept my peripheral vision locked on the Mad Town Crier. He thankfully kept moving down Montrose Avenue.
I wondered if the Mad Town Crier felt it was his mission from God to inform other random concerned citizens that he had been attacked all Hitchcock style, and he had played the vital Tippi Hendren role in an attempt to protect Houstonian humanity from a coven of black birds? I don’t have any idea, but I am curious what’s going on behind those eyeballs.
After we were within the clinic’s relative safety, one of the reception folk asked me an interesting question. “What did that dude say to you?”
I responded in my best drunken Al Gore sounding voice, “He said, those eight birds attacked me.”
At this point, the collective clinic staff laughed, I grinned but they gave each other knowing stares. The stares caused me to wonder. The receptionist told me they had been watching the interaction, because the Mad Town Crier had been attacked by the birds because he would not leave them alone. So the birds were simply defending their nests. I shrugged. And I had my answer, he had counted eight birds.
After I got back to our temporary accommodations, I reflected on the moment, and realized I had played an integral part in the spontaneous roadside play that the staff had found quite entertaining from their vantage point and their normal daily routine. I wondered if that was a moral equivalent to the Roman mob that encouraged the emperor to point his thumb down after the Christian refused to renounce his faith and was then eaten alive for their entertainment? I think the emperor set the willing victim free.
Now, I know I had turned in my man-card many years ago after we had discovered our Cavalier King Charles friends. As the picture attests, these are not dude-dogs. They are not going to go hunt for pheasants across a Nebraska field, or wrestle each other in the mud. These are a lap dog breed that simply wants to make their master happy, and they require professional grooming. Pink Petunia is on the left side, Margaret May of Tartan (yes that was part of her name) has gone on into doggie heaven. We miss her every day. But back to my point, I wondered what the casual driver along Montrose Avenue thought about the Mad Town Crier and me, the middle-aged dude, with a full head of hair and a girly dog? If I were a respectable male, I would have been at a real job that required I drive a hulking diesel fueled truck with lots of shiny chrome, and not be hanging out near Montrose Avenue mid-morning walking with a 13 pound chick dog talking to the Mad Town Crier. For some odd reason, I did a Google search for the area, and I knew instantly I had been spackled with a stereotype. So let me quote the ever popular Wikipedia to provide some clarity:
“Montrose hosts a number of communities including artists, musicians, and LGBTs, and has thrift, vintage, and second-hand shopping stores, gay bars, and restaurants. On Montrose Boulevard and Westheimer Road, there are a few original homes remaining—a majority have been converted to businesses and/or restaurants since 1936.”
Let me tell you what I thought. I am an artist, I am an author and I even create poems. (Check, Check and Check.) I like to wear bowties. (Check.) I appreciate vintage items. (Check.) And I was seen on a Monday morning in broad day-light with my cutesy friend Pink Petunia standing near a hysterical man along Montrose Avenue.
What did I do? Nothing…
Actually, I started to laugh at the absurdity. I am happily married to my best friend. We have lived an amazing life by most standards. We have traveled all over the planet, and we have made and lost lots of money. Just like everybody else, we have had triumphs and tragedies. My point is this. It is a wondrous moment in your life when you no longer care what anyone thinks about you. It is a gift that should be savored because that is the seed from where true freedom grows. The freedom you get to manage a situation with a crazy person and not worry what other passerby’s think, the freedom to share your art, and the freedom to be yourself and follow your own path and accept your fate without regret.