Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Frankly, I Scare Them": The Grub Speaketh

Happy 100 posts BB&B!!!! Today I'm bringing you the next installment of the Human Birdwatcher Project. We are interviewing The Grub for this one, to see if he can provide any insight on The Bird Phenomenon. For those unfamiliar, The Grub is an old friend and trusted advisor of us here at BB&B, although at times he displays wretched, treacherous behavior that has caused acute cases of what some would describe as "fear and loathing" in the past. But these things are quickly forgotten, and we have often used him as a direct line for information on all manner of fronts....working as an informant, he is outclassed by none. He seems to have been bred to convey information, whether you want to hear it or not. Perhaps he has relatives that served as double agents in some long-forgotten, ill-conceived wars. At any rate, he is an ideal person to be a part of The Human Birdwatcher project, which attempts to distill the essence of the birding community.

The Grub was born out of a unholy union between the Carle family and the Sierra Nevadas, and grew up sandwiched between Mono Lake and Yosemite National Park. He has managed to simultaneously become a notorious artist and operate the hugely successful bar Toby and Grub and Jack's, in Mono City, California. What you are about to read is vulgar, offensive, crude, and highly exaggerated.....but there is a rich vein of Truthiness that runs through everything, so it will do you good to make it through it all.

And now I give you......The Grub.

Seagull Steve (SS): Please state your name and occupation.
Grub: Grub. Pretender/charlatan.

SS: Do you enjoy watching birds?
Grub: Um....sometimes.

SS: Do you consider yourself, in any way, a "birdwatcher"?
Grub: When I am watching birds I am a birdwatcher, yes. I wouldnt consider myself a birdwatcher like you are, but if I'm watching birds I'm a birdwatcher as far as Im concerned.

SS: Can you describe how you envision a typical birdwatcher for us?
Grub: Definitely some of the worst social skills of any group of people I can picture. Binoculars and other large asssorted strange equipment dangling all around their person. Lots of accoutraments. A slight slouch in the back, reminiscent of Neanderthals. Well...not as extreme as that, but a vestigial Neanderthal slouch. Absolutely no sense of fashion awareness at all....which I actually have respect for. They have pay no attention at all for how others would perceive them as far as their dress. Within the birding world there probably is some sort of fashion awareness, competing with themselves.....probably something to do with how fancy and expensive their binoculars are. But as a person from the outside looking in.....no, there is no fashion sense whatsoever. Is that what you mean?

SS: Sure, that works. What was your first experience dealing with other birdwatchers?
Grub: Well I was raised and surrounded by birdwatching people. People reading this blog might know the mythical figure David Gaines, a birdwatcher in his own right. I've been surrounded by them my whole life though. My first experience with one was this older bald guy imitating birds while walking around in the woods....a birding by ear sort of thing. I thought these people were really weird, trying to talk to birds.

SS: So what did you think of this bald guy?
Grub: I thought he thought he could talk to birds. I didn't think he could neccesarily. As a side note, the other day he was drowning House Sparrows....pulling them out of Cliff Swallow nests and drowning them in buckets full of blood. He's still around doing stuff like this. This peaceful hippie birdwatcher .....he's explaining why he's busy drowning birds. He grabs them by the neck...House Sparrows get into Cliff Swallow nests and peck them to death. I guess he thinks he is carrying out justice, but in cold blood. Seems to me that its kinda fucked up. I don't think he's an ornithologist.

SS: What is it like having a family of birders? Has this affected your development?
Grub: Frustration, irritation and embarrassment all come immediately to mind. Yes, it has affected my outlook on life. Now I know to be afraid and suspicious of [birders]. I have some as my friends, but not because they are birders. They are inherently strange and frustrating people. You will have nothing to say to them. For those that are my friends, they made me appreciate birders more. But if the only birdwatchers I knew where my family, I would want nothing to do with [birdwatching] and have no respect for it.

The Blue-footed Booby impression sums it up pretty well. I've witnessed my parents pretending to be courting and mating Blue-footed Boobies in front of a large group of people [He is referring to the Mono Lake Chataqua, the local birding festival - The Editors]. It was very embarrassing. They have done this for three years now, and have plans for doing it every year, for a very long time. Because of that I don't intend on stopping drinking anytime soon. It is totally possible that this has something to do with my alcoholism too. I am an alcoholic......there has to be some connection.

SS: Are you friends with any others birders? What are your impressions of them?

Grub: I took a major birdwatching trip with a friend of mine to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, specifically to see Roseate Spoonbills. People asked me why I was going, and I said my friend drinks while birding, but I bird while drinking. I don't mind supplementing drinking with birding, but drinking is my priority.

There is a striking contrast between birders who are my friends (despite being birders) and other birders in general. Parts of them aren't birders. They have knowledge of fashion and more concern for it than typical birders. My friend Steve is very SF and attempts to fit in the genre of hipsterism. Black clothes, tight clothes, useless carabiners..... but he fits in better socially.

I don't get along with pure birders. There is nothing to talk to them about. Frankly, I scare them. My birder friends have enough social skills to carry on a conversation. They can talk about something besides birds. Pure birders don't have the capacity to talk about anything else, especially with passion. Most people can talk about other things. My [birder] friends have more humanity than most birdwatchers. They get along with society better than the average hopeless birdwatcher.

SS: What deep-seated issues to do you grapple with on a daily basis?
Grub: (laughs). Sometimes I have unbearable heartburn that swells up from deep inside my gut. It's probably acid reflux, but I refuse to see a doctor to find out. There is basic terrible gut rot, and just willing myself to continue to survive through the various pains that make up existence.....then there is trying to understand why women need to be involved in anything, because they seem to cause more problems and confusion than anything else. But I don't want them to go away.

SS: Do you suffer from any diseases or disorders?
Grub: Alcoholism. But I don't consider it a disease. The people who label it as such don't know how to deal with it. It's a necessary complication of life. I have no diseases except being a disease myself, because I'm human. I naturally plague everything around me. I have been accused of derangement and mental illness. My grandmother tried to stop my mom from sending me to college because she thought I was mentally disturbed. Apparently I was too insane to bother to go to college. I wasn't worth the money.

Iv'e been asked what the fuck is wrong with me by 70% of people Iv'e ever met. My general reply to this is that I grew up in a small town and never had a girlfriend. I actually didn't even come up with this but that's what I tell people. It might not be completely accurate, but people tend to believe it.

I saw this movie the other day with Clint Eastwood that was filmed here at Mono Lake....High Plains Drifter. [If you would like to know what this movie entails, you should see it yourself. It doesnt sound fit for the faint of heart, or for anyone with any morals at all - Ed.]. I used to tell people that I grew up in a small town and never had a girlfriend, but now I tell them to watch High Plains Drifter.

SS: Why should people care about birds?
Grub: Damn. Hmm. Well my immediate reply is why do people care about anything? I guess I'll leave it at that.

SS: What do you think about the fact that many birders actually do very little to help birds and the environment in general, although they might think otherwise? People say they are often just as ignorant and guilty of consumption issues as anybody else.
Grub: This is a completely accurrate fact about most. I've always felt birding is hypocritical and selfish, at least in the way I've seen most people do it. But that's typical of most groups of people. You are probably going to be a hypocrite in some form or another.

Around Mono Lake there is so much obsession for rare birds and birds that get lost. Every birder is stoked about poor birds who get blown across the country, thousands of miles from where they are supposed to be. You should have seen them racing down to the Mill Creek Delta for some kind of gull, something from eastern Canada and the northern U.S. It got blown across the U.S. and everyone talked about how ragged and fucked up it was. It couldn't really fly. It was all beat up and couldn't go anywhere else. People were getting off on this poor bird that flew the wrong direction. Everyone was so happy that this bird was dying alone, lost, from other side of country. Birders aren't about birds being in places they are supposed to be and enjoying themselves, they are about THE LIST. It's like bagging peaks, another thing that happens around here. It's a broish way to behave, to bag birds instead of enjoying them. Another thing that bothers me is their disinterest in cool birds that are not rare. Like California Gulls. To me, anything alive is a big deal, except for bros and other assorted pieces of shit. I don't like how they single out some species and ignore others.

SS: What is your favorite bird and why?
Grub: I most closely identify with California Gulls. They get the same rap I get. Iv'e known them my whole life. They are common nesters at Mono Lake, very familiar. They're very obnoxious, always around, dig in trash, people are angry at them on a consistent basis. They are scavengers, opportunistic.....I relate to them.

Roseate Spoonbills are my favorite to look at. They remind me of Dodos, which I wish I could see someday. I don't know what Dodos look like, but at least I feel they look like Dodos.

SS: People frequently tell me "Dude, I totally saw a guy today who looks like The Grub in 20 years." Aside from living in Eli Brooks' yard, where do you see The Grub in the future? Will he be a bastion of Lee Vining socializing, or 6 feet under?
Grub: (Laughts) Like I said to the people at the Lee Vining market the other day, who gave me shit for drinking in front of store too often...."You might as well get used to it, since I'll be here for 50 more years. You will have to shovel my corpse off the bench." I might be dead though. I don't see any reason why I will make it past 30 considering how unhealthy I am. And people die every day. I think that's important to keep in mind. There are two more options; I completely reform and sell out, and have some awful job and be an awful person......but if I do have kids, I will have at least 15 and not sell them to organized schooling. But being drunk in Eli Brooks' yard is the most likely scenario.

SS: And finally....what is your favorite whiskey?

Grub: People think Kentucky is better than anywhere else for whiskey. Anything from Kentucky under $15 is better than anything else. I would drink Old Crow more often....I used to drink a pint a day, but because of various health complications and because it's not easily found here, I primarily drink Jim Beam.

SS: Ok, I think that wraps it up. Anything else?

Grub: Watching birds is a relatively harmless activity, I don't have a lot of problems with it. In an unconnected political/social form people should realize it's another thing to do, and to not think much more of it than that.

BB&B thanks The Grub for this very candid interview.....it is rare that someone that has some understanding of birdwatchers can actually be somewhat of an objective observer as well. Something that may be very significant is Grub's reply about why people should care about birds.....it is the exact same response that Liz Donadio made when she was posed this question. Is it intellectual laziness, or is there something more here? I'll let you decide.

More of Grub's art can be viewed here.

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