Considering how badly I screwed up last time I hosted I and the Bird, I knew that the pressure was on. This time, I’d do the venerable yet vital blog carnival proud. This time, I’d showcase all the excellent posts so lovingly submitted to me, instead of getting distracted by the ins and out of the process. This time, in short, I would rock the birding Casbah.

Such was my resolution, anyway, until I read Laura Kammermeier’s excellent post, Who Are The Next “Great” Birders?

Sadly, I must confess that it wasn’t the prospect of being one of the next great birders that entranced me. I am too humble for that. No, it was just that, suddenly facing a large tuition bill instead of a large Skimmer’s bill, I got distracted by the following paragraph:

“But now that Hollywood and Harcourt are hot on our trail, what are we going to do? Capitalize on the increased visibility, of course!”

By morning, I was on a plane to L.A. And not to look for Heermann’s Gulls. The I and the Bird submissions were neatly printed and clutched in a portfolio under my arm, and I have to admit, they were getting a little sweaty. Was I really ready for this? I didn’t even have an agent! I could still bail out – I could rent a car and go to the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area, so lovingly described by Larry Jordan, and see all my old California favorites like Black Phoebes and White-faced Ibis.

Oh, that’s right. I can’t drive. Also, I really, really needed the money.

In a few hour’s time, I was perched nervously on the edge of my seat I the office of a Hollywood producer who will remain nameless. He had a reputation as a bigshot, and perhaps even something of a tyrant; I wondered uneasily if I should try breaking the ice by comparing him to an Eastern Kingbird. I had the post to prove that this was most certainly a compliment, complete with a snappy photo, right here in my portfolio – but would that come off weird and nerdy? I wished I had brought deodorant. Or at least a breath mint.

The elegant little covered dish on the producer’s desk looked as though it might contain breath mints. I lifted the lid cautiously, one ear perked for the sound of footsteps. Unfortunately, Mr. Producer was apparently not too worried about halitosis – his breath mints had long since crumbled to powder in their dish. They didn’t even smell like mints any more, as I discovered when I sniffed them. Still, hoping that they might have some kind of effect nevertheless, I dumped a little of the powder into my palm and swallowed it.

Still the producer did not come. I sat up straight, breathed deep, said positive things to myself. And, strangely enough, it worked! Suddenly, I had confidence. Suddenly, I was brave. Suddenly, I had the energy and moxie and determination of a house wren with a growing brood to feed. Everything was going to be fine – no, everything was going to be GREAT. My ideas, and the collective genius of the birder-sphere, were unstoppable!

It was at this juncture that the producer walked in. Immediately, I saw that I could not use the Eastern Kingbird gambit on him; he looked a lot more like a Blue Jay undergoing molt, and although I had pictures of that too, there was no way I could construe them as flattering. I’d just have to get right to the point.

“Who are…” but before he could finish his sentence, I said “I’m going to make us both very rich!”

Ok, maybe that was the wrong thing to say. He was already very rich, after all. But there was no backing out now, so I just plunged ahead. “Movies. About birders. And birds. They’re the thing. We should make one.”

“Movies about birds?”

“Absolutely! Perhaps about Peregrine Falcons. After all, they’re swift, they’re lethal, and they’re everywhere… maybe a bit too much so…

“Falcons? A sports picture?”

“No, horror! They turn on us! Tear out throats with their talons, peck out eyes – I’m talking special effects galore here. Just picture it – the lead actress, say what’s-her-face, that Megan Fox, she thinks the falcons are gone, that they’ve finally been defeated. Her friends are dismembered, the Turkey Vultures are circling in to clean up the mess, but life goes on, right? But then – and this, this will be beautiful – as she’s walking to her car, machete swinging loosely at her side, exhausted but triumphant, suddenly three white doves fly up, doing evasive maneuvers and -” I leaned in confidingly, “this is the important part, they’re flying on different vectors.


“Exactly! And as any savvy viewer knows, that means that there’s a predator nearby! The falcons are back, and she has to brace for the big final battle! Or,” I added thoughtfully, “maybe we could use that for the sequel hook.”

He looked impressed, but he was trying hard to hide it. “How exactly did you get into my office?” He reached for the phone, but I smacked the portfolio down on the table, accidentally-on-purpose knocking his hand aside. I had to seal the deal now, or he would just take my ideas and steal them. That’s how they do, in Hollywood.

“If you’re not feeling horror, I have a ton of other concepts as well. For instance…” I flipped through the portfolio. I actually had only had the one idea. My heart was racing, but my confidence was still high. I really could have used some water, though. “Don’t you think that travel pictures are about due for a comeback? Because really, pick your poison with travel pictures here. Nepal, Costa Rica, Panama… there’s beautiful visuals to be had at any of these places. Personally, I think the Panama story is just what you need. It has some wacky highjinks and suspense – we’ll have to spice it up a little, of course, maybe add a bungling security officer, like Inspector Clouseau. Or Paul Blart. But you’re the boss, boss. Pick whichever country will give you the best tax break, and I can make it work. Actually, Costa Rica might be better after all. With all those Toucans, maybe you can work some kind of product placement deal with Fruit Loops. And the frogs would make great action figures.”

Suddenly, abruptly, crashingly, I hated myself. Tax breaks? Product placement? Action figures? I was an artist, dammit! This was wrong, it was dirty. And the other bloggers, how could I do this to them?

And the producer. He wasn’t impressed at all. In fact, he was looking at me much the way Nate might, if instead of selling my very soul for a mess of pottage, I reported a Black-capped Chickadee in North Carolina. I needed a drink very badly.

But I also needed money very badly. “Scifi,” I said weakly. “I have a sort of scifi/fantasy thing with a romance element to it, sort of like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But with birds.”

Swiftly, like one of those Peregrines, the producer flipped my portfolio to the floor. The white dove-feathers of the pages spilled everywhere. As I scrambled to gather them, he reached for the phone again. What could I do? I tackled him.

I knew at this juncture that I had but a few minutes. He probably played jai alai or something, and I’d had nothing but peanuts to eat on the plane. So I abandoned all pretense of artistic integrity, and squawked “Remakes!”

He seemed stunned. Of course, the fact that I had wrapped my hands around his throat probably didn’t help. I’m not sure why I did that, actually.

“Or do you call them reboots now? Whatever. Look, we could do The Kids are Alright with Piping Plovers. No? Too soon? How about On the Waterfront! We have lots of material, we just have to move it from Brooklyn to Queens… Corey will be pleased, anyway…”

Too late. He heaved me off and struggled to his feet. I pulled my last and most abject card.

“Sex appeal! We can put in cute, young birds in the bath!

He picked up the phone. “Don’t even think about moving, Ms… ” he glanced at me. “What did you say your name was?”

“Sharon Stitler!”

And with that, I jumped out the window.

Some time later, with a cast on my foot and a couple of maxed-out credit cards and traveling under the name of Selma Mae Benson, I returned to Missoula. Sadder, wider, chastened – and far too late to put together anything approaching a decent blog carnival entry.

So Birdchick, I’m sorry about the visit from the cops you’ll be getting soon. You might want to come up with an alibi, maybe claim you were birding with Owen Wilson or something.

And Mike, I’m sorry I blew it again. I promise that next time I host, I’ll get it right.

In the meantime, bloggers, send your next round of I and the Bird submissions to John at A DC Birding Blog, who is an East Coaster and unlikely to succumb to the lure of Hollywood Babylon. To me, just send money*.

*All characters in this story are fictional. And resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is a coincidence, and in particular, I actually have a job, so don’t worry.

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