|NOISY MOBS OF SEAGULLS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH SCAVENGING THE SHORELINE AND GREEDILY STEALING FOOD FROM EACH OTHER. MY SCANT KNOWLEDGE OF THEM IS NEGATIVE AND ALFRED HITCHCOCK ENHANCED MY BELIEF BY MAKING GULLS THE KEY MENACE IN THE MOVIE, "THE BIRDS."|
Mixed into the masses, there are also penguins. They aren't the least bit threatening and do not fear humans. Although awkward on land, these flightless birds are expert swimmers. Perhaps due to their tuxedo-like plummage, these adorable denizens of the Southern Hemisphere are portrayed as "cool," playful and uninhibitited. Unlike seagulls, sports teams have embraced the name penguins and some countries include their image on paper money.
In 1993, in the early stages of my wife's pregnancy, I was walking down the hall at work and mistook a penguin for a seagull. I saw (and heard) an Hispanic blackjack dealer ranting, in Spanish, into a pay phone. But despite my curiosity, my limited knowledge of his language, (even when spoken slowly) prevented my eavesdropping from gaining any juicy insights. Then seconds before he slammed the receiver down, his monolingual rage produced one word in English...Bar-r-r-ney.
Behind me he spotted a friend and whined in English, "My wife is driving her sister to Newark Airport tomorrow and now I'm stuck watching the kids...and that means I'll be watching Bar-r-r-ney all damn day!" His tone, coupled with my own heightened sense of impending fatherhood, caused me to be alarmed.
My Panamanian coworker's hissy-fit relugated him to seagull status for some time. When my son became old enough, I learned from Barney's inane blitherings that this non-seagull was correct to feel threatened. My mindset shift was proven accurate when I saw this Latino penguin interact with his adoring kids.
Luckily, I'm surrounded by dedicated dads. But that doesn't mean that in the greater scheme of things that a far bigger number of misfits, dead-beats and losers are running around.
My son was about three when we visited Penelope, my wife Sue's pregnant girlfriend. This Penelope was no common penny. She was a nice looking girl, bright, funny and had an energized lust for life. Incredibly, she had trouble finding Mr. Right and met her husband with the help of a dating service, (these days, I have no qualms about meeting people this way. But back then I wasn't savvy to the obstacles that mature singles have...primarily, the lack of time to cultivate a pool of candidates). When I met Penelope's husband, (Charley Gill), my first impression was, she could have done better.
When I met Gill, he was a high school wood shop teacher, in the throes of applying for an assistant principal license. This exceedingly dull man was the protoytpe seagull. Whatever psychological mastery he possessed to battle students in an elective like shop class, he thought would translate over an entire school full of teenage angst. But he had poor people skills. He made this clear by the way he treated me and his lack of patience or diplomacy for my toddler. Gill's attitude sent up a red flag several times especially when he repeated the phrase, "My way or the highway." His scare tactics created tension with my innocent son which meant on a grander scale, he would be ill-equipped to handle real life problems of bratty high schoolers...and far worse, be a productive father.
In the Gill's unchild-proofed apartment, Penelope was gracious and like a true penguin, gave Andrew carte blanche to wander around. However, Gill followed my son and harshly criticized him (me) whenever hands got too close to one of his valued possessions, (he went especially ape-shit when my boy neared his audio equipment or the wooden model cars he made from scratch).
During my one-on-one time with Gill, I knew he wasn't friend material. Even when relaxed, he tended to talk at me, not to me, in a condescending tone. Maybe that works with unruly students?
In an attempt to be social, he pointed to his framed lithograph of Marilyn Monroe, "Did you know she had six toes?" I'm a store-house of useless information and figured that if I didn't know something like six toes on Marilyn Monroe...it wasn't true. I said, "No way!" Gill yanked at my arm to get my full attention and said, "In her early photos, you can see it. When she became famous she had it amputated." I said, "Don't pull on me." He said, "But Marilyn..." I said, "I don't really care...but never grab me."
The girls made lunch and while we were all together, Gill went through a list of items, like Heinz ketchup that were so perfect in his inflexible world that any variance would be useless. During this rant, Penelope was grinning behind his back. This lack of respect epitomized that pregnant or not, there was no lovey-dovey chemistry between them.
When the conversation shifted to his iminent fatherhood, the douche tried to change the subject. When Penelope persisted, Gill shifted gears and took charge. His arms were waving as he raged on about his projected vision on how things were going to be after the baby arrived. Penelope rolled her eyes and smirked as he plowed on. Even when she pleasantly voiced a contradictory opinion, he rigidly said; no.
Her tact was interesting because she didn't debate the issue, disagree or fight because she didn't take him seriously. I looked at my wife and we silently agreed, that poor unborn kid. The negative vibe made me think, it must have taken a gallon and a half of lubricant to get his square peg into her round hole...and that neither one of them are willing to go through all that rigamorale very often.
Gill was so insecure that out of embarrassment when he realized that Penelope was nodding like a robot waiting for his speech to end, without excusing himself, he hid in his man-cave for thirty minutes.
Penelope was a secondary friend of my wife so two years went by before we hung out again. The Gill's were vacationing at a hotel in Cape May and we drove down to spend a day. Andrew, Sue and I went into their second floor room and were surprised that they didn't bring their baby son. Gill eyed my son like a hawk until the commercial on TV was over before saying, "Our kid doesn't do well on long car rides." Then he plopped onto the edge of the bed and resumed watching an old "BOWERY BOYS" movie.
Gill without facing me said, "Later, there's a baseball game coming on." I said, "Oh." He said, "Remember last year, wasn't it bullshit that they gave the MVP to Sammy Sosa? Mark McGwire clearly deserved it." I made some points to support Sosa's case and Gill exploded about the Dominican slugger not even being an American...so I walked out.
The girls, shaded from the ninety degree swelter by the third floor over-hang were talking about motherhood. I mentioned that Gill wanted to watch TV all day. Sue was concerned that in a sea of adults, that our little guy wouldn't be entertained. So she encouraged Penelope to go down to the pool. Her response was, "Gill won't budge. He came here to unwind and he's perfectly happy to stay in the room." Sue said, "You're kidding? He's gonna sit in there the whole six days?" "No, we go for a walk every morning after going to Uncle Bill's and after dinner we..." "Wait, wait, wait," Sue interrupted, "who's Uncle Bill?" "Oh, Uncle Bill's is a friggin' pancake house. Gill thinks he's in the goddamned Taj Mahal and won't eat breakfast anywhere else...and all he orders is chocolate chip pancakes...like it's only place on earth you can get them." In harmony Sue and I said, "Wow." Penelope added, "Then the fat bastard refuses to eat lunch so he can pack it in, at a dinner buffet." If I knew then what I know now, I'd say all those pancakes point to being a Chilly Willy (penguin) wannabe.
Sue said, "Instead of the pool, let's make a picnic and go to the beach." Penelope said, "Hell yeah, I'll go. Steve why don't you break the news to whats-his-name."
Gill was not receptive to walking all the way across the street, to the ocean. I shrugged, "You come all the way to Timbuktu and you don't care to see how the natives live?" Gill actually stood up and said, "Natives schnatives!" Then he grabbed my arm and said, "But did you know Timbuktu is a real place?" I said, "No. But it really annoys me when you grab me." He let go and said, "Try to guess in what present day country Timbuktu is in...Malta, the Maldive Islands, Mali, Malayasia or Malawi?" I ignored him and said, "C'mon, live a little, you'll be surprised just how much fun, fun can be." He said, "We don't have..." "Sue and I brought everything we need, blankets, sun screen...whatever. Then when we buy picnic stuff and fill in the blanks if we missed anything." Gill said, "Picnic stuff?" I said, "Yeah, you can get anything you like."
On the way to the Wawa convenience store Penelope took me aside, "You're wasting time as a casino dealer, you should work at the U. N. as a diplomat." She smiled when I laughed, "I think Gill really liked the idea of getting ANYTHING he wanted."
We bought-out the store and could have used a camel to schlep all our crap to the beach . Along the way, Gill swatted at a low flying gull and croaked, "Did you know that seagulls are garbage pickers and spread disease? They're like flying rats." The only thing that stopped him from yammering on, was to rent an umbrella.
They say; it takes one, to know one. Gill, the seagull-like slug, parked himself underneath his umbrella as the other four of us splashed like penguins in the surf.
Later, we found Gill passed-out and snoring. He had finished his extra-large sub, a whole pound of cole slaw and three cokes. Penelope wasn't ashamed of him...she just joked, "Jolly Cholly would have eaten all the macaroni salad too, but to him, pasta wasn't invented to put mayonnaise on."
A nearby radio was blasting disco music and Andrew was moved to "dancing" and running around our little oasis. Penelope with her sandwich in hand got up and joined him. The two of them were having silly fun when he slipped and fell. A small amount of sand got kicked onto Gill's feet. He woke up and growled, "Be more careful!" The great mood was broken and Penelope exploded into a vicious tirade. In stressing how much of a drag he was, she pointed her turkey sub at him. Suddenly, a seagull swooped down and stole a chunk of her lunch. In doing so, her ring finger got nipped.
The dirty bird broke Penelope's skin. One droplet of blood oozed out as she screamed, "I'm bleeding!" Gill leaned closer and snarled, "Get over it." "Get over it?" Penelope huffed. "A minute ago you said seagulls spread diseases." He exploded, What are you, fuckin' twelve?" After a volley of loud shut-ups Penelope hissed, "When I stop grocery shopping and cooking for you, you'll regret turning your back on me." I guess the thought of starving pushed Gill's henpeck button. Suddenly, his shop class instincts took control, "We can't waste time, we have to find an emergency room. She needs to have that cleaned, covered and get a tetanus shot. Sue go to the lifeguard and find out where the hospital is. Steve get your car and I'll gather up all out stuff." I was impressed...when the chips were down, he really cared about her.
I took Andrew and minutes later, I was double parked along side the promenade as Sue called out the directions to hospital. I ran out to help Gill throw our stuff in the trunk as the girls got in. I hopped into the driver's seat as Gill stood outside and motioned me to lower my window. He said, "Good luck, I'll take our shit back to the room and meet you there when you get back." Sue looked cross-eyed at her friend. Penelope yelled, "Charley you selfish asshole, you're going to get your butt in our car and follow us over there. They aren't going to sit around the E.R. for hours waiting for me...that's your job!" She looked at Sue and continued, "They're gonna drop me off and go home."
We never got together with them again. But something tells me that if Barney the Dinosaur ever got in the way of him unwinding, the Bowery Boys or a baseball game, he would have kicked in the TV screen. I don't know the whole story but I know they separated a few years back.
I would have preferred to send out a more positive FATHER'S DAY message but in understanding the negativity of a seagull, we penguins are made to look better.