Saturday, February 01, 2003

No One In Your Neighborhood Named Birdman Day!

Go ahead, ask around. Drop by the divier bars in the afternoon and say it so everyone can hear it: "Lookin' for the Birdman."

If there was in fact someone in your neighborhood spending most of his time in the shade of a rooftop water tower tending to a cage of near-domesticated pigeons, every drunk without an ear full of wax would swivel on his stool to get a look at you before one of them, not the bartender, but the one on the third stool from the end, prime distance between the draft of the open door and the waitress' service station, the kind of stool that rewards seniority, the one on that stool'd be the only one to ask, "Who wants to know?"

Because the one they call Birdman would have been involved in quite a lot more than just birds. Specifically, he'd act as a liaison between local crews dabbling in cargo hijackings and out of town fences he'd met in his travels when he hit the road to dodge the Viet Nam draft. Everyone would assume the Birdman was protected from someone on high, but since no one knew exactly who, no one'd ever dream about coming near him.

You'd never be able to meet Birdman unless he decided it was worth it for him to meet you. But you'd at least know he existed if, when you asked after him in the bar that afternoon, you felt the temperature drop 10 degrees and you began to wonder if you were gonna see daylight again.

But instead, when you drop by Kincannon's today and ask for "The Birdman," the kid behind the bar will ask you to repeat yourself twice before he hands you a menu of his beers on tap and returns to the Vice City game he'd paused on the overhead TV that sometimes is used for the broadcasting of sporting events. The seven people sitting on stools will not look at you. They are busy staring at their own faces in the mirror behind the bar and wondering if they should make an important phone call they forgot to make twelve years ago. There's no one in your neighborhood named Birdman. Move.