Mums the Word

Man's Triumph and the Vengeance of Sparrows

Friday, February 3, 2012

I can usually tell if a restaurant is going to be shit right away, but this place toed the line. The specials on the white board were spelled correctly, a goddamn miracle in modern times. There were Marlins on the wall but they were carved out of wood, a bizarre half-measure parody of the practice usually reserved for trophy space, Peta approved. The flighty hostess sprained her brain cell puzzling over the seating map. Her mind was stalling all over the road, spinning tires and coughing exhaust, struggling to wrangle the choke point of a tourist trap while scheming a life path that might lead to fucking the busboy - correction - that might lead to fucking the busboy again. The rest of her brainpan was occupied by an I-phone that was vaguely hidden under a copy of US weekly, the lesser of two evils running interference for her nasty facebook habit. It was a major victory to be sat by the window.

My silverware was splotched with water spots. It’s not something I really care about; water spots occur because the silver isn’t wiped dry after sanitizing in the Hobart machine. It’s hardly poison, but why didn’t they bother to clean it? Now I have doubts about their dairy. How long am I likely to be sentenced to the toilet?

My server’s name was Austin. A joyless incompetent, he carried himself awkwardly, behaving as if born in borrowed skin. His voice droned artlessly over the specials, subtext screaming, “I dont want to be here, I ought to be out looking for my real face.” I went with the cioppino.

Anemic with confidence, Austin painted the linen with broth before my plate touched the table. I didn’t care, not with this feast. It was fantastic. I considered announcing, “I am happy as a clam,” but took a closer look at the clams in my bowl and revisited the idiom’s meaning entirely. In addition to clams there were mussels, Dungeness crab, scallops and two golden wedges of toasted garlic bread. For these shellfish, life was not a comedy. They were plucked from the sea and boiled alive collectively, their bodies arranged artfully in an abattoir of saffron and tomato broth to be devoured by a superior humanoid life form. I washed them down to hell with a glass of delicately balanced Sauvignon Blanc.

Andy the Android checked me into Tides seafood restaurant on Foursquare, and he asked me if I would like to leave any helpful tips for the sociosphere. The restaurant was perched by the sea in Bodega Bay, California, the famous locale of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, so I warned future patrons to keep one eye on the sky lest the local wildlife take up arms. Also, try the barbecue oysters.

The Birds is one of my all-time favorites. The basic plot:

Pretty face meets handsome fella in San Francisco
Love story spills over into quaint sea town
Millions of birds form psychic alliance, viciously attack mankind

We deserve it, too. Birds have a robust list of grievances and a comprehensive blueprint for a bloody revolution. We took the dodo first, a completely defenseless creature neither swift nor clever. We whacked them off of the planet like so many golf balls into the sea. And didn’t stop there; a different avian species of sputters out of existence every day. Bald eagles are in trouble, condors are almost gone, and the Passenger Pigeon KIA. There are plenty of chickens around but they exist as tortured slaves, mutated by hormones to grow at alarming rates. Their breasts and legs swell with meat so efficiently that they lose the ability to walk, and their organs begin to fail. Antibiotics keep them healthy enough to remain edible, sustaining them as they bloat into caricatures of their true species, and then it’s off to the killing cones. Good night, sweet chicklings; soon we’ll liquify you into delicious Clown Food McNuggets. With the exception of a few free-range cousins, a chicken sold in America never tastes free air, never feels sunshine on her wings, never learns the loving embrace of a devoted rooster. Life for her is permanent midnight, illuminated only by the screams of her sisters. We, Man, deserve to be flayed alive by suddenly prescient, vengeful sparrows.

I am grotesquely overstuffed. I shelved all principles of moderation for this meal in favor of abject gluttony. I’m on vacation, a foreign concept for me. My brain never truly allows respite. Working or not, my demons are always punched in and collecting overtime. The sole perk of self-loathing is the occasional synergy I have with said demons. They play nice when I bask in the glory of our triumph. We won, baby. We took over the planet, and thus I lean back in my chair and gaze out to sea. The bowl before me is a pile of subjugated shells. A pair of seals swims by the dock outside. Droplets of condensation glisten on the outside of my wine glass. I can’t find Austin for the check; he’s probably flustered by some bread stick problem or whatever. He played no role in our victory anyway.

Just outside the window two gulls perch on a life preserver and discuss gull-related concerns. I wish I could help them out; email them a PDF of Hitchcock’s masterpiece. Come on dudes, get your shit together. Man has a technological advantage, no doubt, but you have the numbers. What good are Navy Seals and stealth drones against 400 billion airborne insurgents? Maybe see if the shellfish are interested in joined the melee? It’s not going to happen, though. Evolution isn’t about justice, it’s about survival. We live, we breed, we die. If we miss step two and the music stops, then someday we’ll end up stuffed and studied in a natural history museum, puzzled over and largely forgotten by snot-nosed children of some other species; sentient, superior and unfamiliar to us.

I swirl the last of my wine. My credit card lies on the table in absence of subtlety. I am starting to grow concerned for Austin. The worst part of my imagination draws one possible fate: He is in the back, pouring sodas for a guest, when his manager instructs him to take the garbage out. He walks outside, mind occupied with home and hearth. A bag in each hand, oblivious to danger, he doesn’t notice the line of crows gathering atop the telephone pole, the osprey moving in to cut off his escape route or the Peregrine falcon circling overhead, homing in on his position, ready to draw first blood.


Anonymous said...

I think that has got to be the single greatest movie summary I have ever heard.

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