The Blues Bird

Parakeets are my favorite birds. My first one, a real character, came into my life when I was about twelve-years old. His name became Buzzard Brain II, because my mother had owned a Buzzard Brain when she worked in the Navy.

My Buzzy loved helping me play my guitar. I had played classical and Flamenco music since eight-years old; self-taught. My bird thoroughly enjoyed sitting on, and running up and down, the neck of the guitar, chirping with the music. Every once in a while, he would stick one of his toe nails around the low G-string and laugh when I plucked to produce a dull twang. He also loved rock ‘n’ roll music and danced with the songs on the radio. His dance consisted of bobbing his head deeply and stepping with his feet to the beat of the music. After six-years, I lost him in 1975 when he accidentally went outside the house on my mother’s back and the wind blew him away.

I didn’t have the heart to find another bird-friend until 1993. My husband and I named our new baby, Buzzard Brain III, hoping he would be as musically inclined as Buzzard II. I ached for another pal to enjoy guitar music with me. I still had some of my old music books with parakeet chew marks on the edges of the pages.

Buzzard Brain III had turquoise blue feathers, as opposed to regular blue, and he had a totally different personality than what I intended for him to have. When he had the mind to, he could say pleasant obscenities like: “Buzzard Brain’s a purdy, dirdy, birdy,” “Buzzard Brain’s a big booger,” “Buzzard Brain’s a super, dooper, poddy pooper.” He could also imitate the sound of people brushing their teeth; the caw of a crow; and the sound of the kisses we blew at him, like my first ‘keet had done. But, the similarities ended there.

Buzzard’s favorite pastime, when we let him out, was Seek-and-Find the Butter tray in the kitchen. After much affliction, we learned to cover the butter at all times, or keep it in the refrigerator to get unusable-hard. He also loved to land on my husband’s expensive Stetson hats and mess all over them. We ended up placing Christmas tinsel over everything precious, which scared Buzzy off. In fact, it was Christmas all year round at our place, because we had some nice things that he enjoyed using for perches. Buzzy also enjoyed sitting on the shower rod and dive bombing whoever was in the shower. When I showered, Buzzy liked to land on my head, and I would quickly dunk him under the shower spray to give him a bath. This act wouldn’t mean anything, except that Buzzy hated to take baths of any kind. I had never had that trouble with Buzzy II.

After a few months of living with Buzzard Brain III, I came to the realization that music did not interest him. The few times I played my guitar, he tried to get as far away from me as possible, like escaping. If the radio or CD played, he didn’t take part in dancing with the beat, or singing with the sounds. So, I resigned myself to the fact that music was not on his list of enjoyable things—until one day, we acquired a friend’s old piano, as a loaner. I bought a good beginner’s book and started teaching myself how to play. After two or three weeks, I started noticing that Buzzard Brain literally hung onto my every note, even the bad ones.

His free-standing cage stood next to the piano, and once, while learning to play a blues song, I heard sweet twittering from his direction. If you’ve ever had a parakeet, you’ll know what sweet twittering is. I glanced over and saw Buzz clutching the cage bars, tightly pressing his turquoise body against them, staring at me intently, while he fluffed soft noises through his white beard. So, I played the song again and he twittered and twirped right along with me. I thought, “How cute,” and did not pay any more attention until a few days later, when learning to play Scarborough Fair. My bird-friend again plastered his little body against the cage, “singing” with the piano. Since then, I experimented with different songs. His absolute favorites were the sad songs, blues, and boogie-woogie songs. It felt great to know that I had a musically inclined parakeet after all. Maybe the guitar strings had hurt his little ears in some way, and the songs on the radio just hadn’t interested him. At that time, my husband and I usually listened to country/western music.

In spite of the fact that I was forty-years old, his interest spurred me on to be a great piano player. Age was not a problem in this case, because I would do almost anything to make my bird happy.

I’ve learned three extremely important lessons with this experience. #1: you don’t have to be any bigger than a parakeet to be a good influence on someone. #2: you should keep your mind open for good influences, even if it’s a little bird that weighs less than a pound. #3: you also shouldn’t try to make anyone into someone or something else—each Being should be allowed to be their own individual self.

By the way, Buzzy learned to say, “Buzzard Brain‘s a blues bird!”