Living in Sunnyside is ... interesting. The time down here amongst the gumbo-limbo trees is always half past weird-o'clock. Sunnyside and its environs seem to have a population comprised of way more than their fair share of odd ducks, and not just Muscovies.
Recently, I took a short road trip up to a nature preserve in Culo Rata. It was a gorgeous day, rare for the season, but freakin' hot. The heat was made worse by the fact that I was walking on a raised boardwalk through wetlands, so humidity times a billion. Also bugs. I saw roughly a million kinds of birds, though -- gallinules and great blue herons and cattle egrets, oh my. Amazing stuff.
As I traipsed along, I noticed that I was being followed by two women whose main modus operandi seemed to be talking REALLY LOUDLY, thus startling all wildlife within a forty-three mile radius into flight or immobility amongst the tall reeds. Hence, our ladies weren't really seeing much in the way of birds and such, and they were making their displeasure known in grating, aneurysm-inducing voices. The two of them sounded like Mrs. Bighead and Harvey Fierstein. I honestly did not care about their madcap lives, but I learned all about the "teh-rible nusses at mutha's assisted liv-een facility" and how if those incompetents didn't get their shit in order, and that right early, Mrs. Bighead was going to "instigate [sic] a teh-rible lawuh-suit that's go-een to leave them without a dime to theh names." Seriously, I dunno how to even begin to approximate their accents. Horribly affected stuff--imagine the worst stereotypically nasal Bronx dock-walloper accent, only said dock-walloper is trying really hard to sound like posh Brit, but can't quite master the nuances of the Queen's English. Try really hard to hear this in your mind: Harvey Fierstein playing a Hudson River dock worker imitating Margaret Thatcher. It cramps the brain, but it really is the closest approximation to how these two women actually sounded. It disquiets me no end that there are real live human beings out there who sound like these ladies, but I've been told by more than one person that Culo Rata and its vicinity are chock-full of 'em. (Once, I was doing my best imitation of the accent to a new acquaintance, without having told him where I heard someone speaking this way. "Oh, you must have been in Culo Rata," he said.)
The two beldames were dressed alike, in garb that can only be described as Cleopatran funky--gold lame and loose white cotton-poly blend and gilt sandals.
As we rounded a curve on the boardwalk, off to one side of us, at the end of a small slough (pronounced slew, for those of you who aren't intimately familiar with all things swampy, and meaning "a stagnant swamp, marsh, bog, or pond, especially as part of a bayou, inlet, or backwater" -- now you know) was a pile of dead fish, maybe twenty or thirty. A few large black birds were on the ground, enjoying the free seafood buffet, and a half-dozen or so more of the birds were circling lazily over the pile of fragrant fish.
"Oh, my gahd, Madge, look at the eagles. They-uh so majestic."
Oh. No. She. Didn't. My new friend had just misidentified the birds. Thems was not eagles, thems was vultures.
Or even this:
Now, I will concede the point that not all of us are ornithologists, but I thought H. sapiens-type people were just born knowing that "big ugly-ass bird with drab black lusterless plumage" plus "bald, not just white-feathered, head" plus "scarfs hell out of really gross smelly extremely deceased possibly squishy things" equals "vulture". Alas, learning new things sometimes hurts. I mean, if the birds were soaring way off in the distance over a craggy peak, one could certainly confuse an eagle and a vulture, but many of these things were on the fucking ground not twenty feet away. Le sigh.
Due to my beneficent nature and love of my fellow humans, I could not continue going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it without fixing this. So I turned to Funky Big Head Cleopatra Fierstein the First and said, "Miss, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but those aren't eagles. They're vultures."
Expressions of shocked horror and betrayal crossed both ladies' visages. "Oh, my gwahd," said Funky Big Head Cleopatra Fierstein the Second. "Ah yew se-rious?"
"Yep. Those are black vultures."
"Jesus Christ!" muttered Funky Big Head Cleopatra Fierstein the First. And then, in utter bemusement, she asked "Do you think someone should call ay-nimal controwuhl?"
Great gods protect and preserve us. I did not laugh. "Not at all," I said. "They're just doing their jobs, sort of like sanitation workers."
"Well, I guess that's all right then," said the Cleos, and that was that.
Verily, I say unto you "There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen." (Job 28:7, KJV)