Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ed Ricketts Knew...Giddy Fish-Fever.....PANAMERICANPERPETUALWEEKENDY2K8

"He believed that the soul of a non-drinker was dried up and shrunken, that the virtuous pose of the non-drinker was a cover for some nameless and disgusting practice....He would even try to recall one single man or woman of much ability who did not drink and like liquor, and he could never light on a single name."

- John Steinbeck on Ed Ricketts, from The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

So I know its the 21st century and all, but you can call me old fashioned. Sometimes, I like to read books. Its true. Or, as I would say in my old-timey vernacular, "Why yes, I do fancy me a bout of good readin'. There taint nothin like curlin up with a right dandy book and a warm woman next to the ol' kerosene lamp, with the coyotes (pronounce it "kai-oats") a-howlin and that dern' whip-poor-whill raisin' a ruckus out by the old maple tree in back".

Hmmm.....that was an interesting blend of Victorian and Hick. But the point is that books are valuable......not just to explain how to tell apart Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds (that would really be useful, because I surely dont know), but for inspiration and wisdom. Im on a Steinbeck binge at the moment, and perhaps more accurately an Ed Ricketts binge. When I last read The Sea of Cortes and Cannery Row, I was too young (altricial?) to fully appreciate these books on the levels that they deserve.

There is a distinct feeling about it all, although it is not made obvious, that both Steinbeck and Ricketts had a stronge sense of Nothing, which most of my colleagues understand and appreciate. I am concerned that birders have no knowledge of this, no concept. And I will refrain of diving into this now, because I am very passionate about it. Ye who do not know do not need to know.

Anyhow. Enough of the vague bullshit. I think that on some level, some deranged and atavistic part of my brain is trying to find some way to do Nothing......for the rest of my life. Birds are crucial for this. They spend a lot of time doing absolutely nothing....they are an inspiration, and I plan on being paid to learn what they know. The birder may ask, "Why Steve, what is this nonsense you speak of? Have you not observed the hyper hummingbird? The kinetic kinglet? The nonstop nighthawk? Your hypothesis, dear fellow, is pure rubbish."

Well, why the fuck do I have to get up so goddamn early in the morning to look for them? Because they spend most of the day not doing anything. They sit around, looking at all the silly animals who actually have something to do, pity them and occasionally nod off.

Have you seen a brown booby in California? Oh, seven you say? Well....what were they all doing? Sitting on a rock perhaps? Not doing anything? Thats what Im talking about. And of course there are the bitterns, the herons, the hawks and the eagles that make a living by sitting in one spot for hours on end waiting for the right animal to lurk by to eat. As a Scientist, I can tell you that these animals do not get bored. If they did, they would starve, because it probably takes immense patience and interest in looking around at seemingly uninteresting things in order for them to eat. Yes, drunkenly staggering around in a giddy fish-fever works for the Reddish Egret but not other birds.

Speaking of drunkenly staggering around, I have decided to go on tour this fall, with dates in Monterey Bay, east Texas, and now Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As of today, the title for this group of travels is "PANAMERICANPERPETUALWEEKENDY2K8". Hopefully I can coerce my colleague in Wisconsin to do some birding with me.....this would be very conducive for me to reacquaint myself with some eastern birds I havent seen in a few years, and possibly a few that Ive never seen before....Cape May Warbler? Kentucky Warbler? You never know. Its shaping up to be a very positive fall.

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