Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Satan's Minions in Austin

I don't know how well-documented it is on the blog, but it's a well-known fact amongst those who have known me for at least five minutes, that I have a very real, very rational, very powerful fear and hatred of birds.

I can primarily trace it back to my first viewing of "The Birds," and even more so after "The Birds 2." Yes, it was a supremely inferior and cheesy remake, but it took place off the Outer Banks, which is only a few hours from where I grew up. Thus it stands to reason that if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. And hiding under a rickety wooden boat while seagulls peck it, and me, to death is not how I want to go. (Though, for the record, I still can't get over how utterly fake and offensive their portrayal of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was. I've been to the Lighthouse both before and after it was moved circa 1999, and it never looked like that.)

Those who do know me wouldn't believe it, but it actually has gotten better. The abundance of filthy, mangy, cocky pigeons in Chapel Hill, London, and D.C. made it so I had no choice but to chill a bit if I ever hoped to leave my dorm/flat/apartment. Though it still doesn't preclude me from:
  • Going out of my way to avoid minions on the sidewalk.
  • Having friends act as buffers if in a bird-infested area. (i.e. Trafalgar Square).
  • Switching tables or seats if I'm at a restaurant or park where they are congregating.
  • Hyperventilating and almost crying if one gets too close.
Which brings me to the point of this post: the birds of Austin. Seriously, not to be all Jerry Seinfeld, but what is up with Austin birds? There is some species of black, exceptionally pointy-beaked bird in the area that has the most annoying and jarring squawk/call/"I will kill you" sound that I've ever heard. It's one part smoker's hack and one part theme music from a horror movie. Not even exaggerating there. It starts out sounding like it might be musical, until you realize it's an ominous interlude before digressing into a hacking cough. I would not have been the least bit surprised to see a bird meander by like Hitchcock while puffing on a Marlboro.

I had noticed it within my first few days there, and it got more scary when I was eating brunch at Whole Foods and one bird was stalking my table. I kept trying to shoo it away, kept moving the table to scare it, but still it got within pecking distance. A girl at a nearby table kept staring, but I didn't care, I scarfed down my breakfast taco and got the heck out of there.

And three days later, just a few blocks from the same Whole Foods, a flock of at least 200 birds made their way down Sixth Street, just a few hundred feet ahead of my path. They all would move as one, and then land on any available service they could find, lining the street, for reasons I don't want to know. I started shaking and walked as fast as I could to get away. I know I'm a drama queen, but even my more rational side told me to get out of there. (As to why the birds seemed to congregate in the Whole Foods area, I don't know. Maybe they were just looking for some organic strawberries and granola.)

Austin may have great weather, cool shops, and an interesting vibe, but as long as it also has demon birds, I'll just stay put here.

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