A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about health and medicine

Vengeful Birds, or Why I Duck a Lot

Just more proof from the good researchers that I am not crazy.

sunny 23 °C
View Work Trips 1997 - 2004 on GregW's travel map.

Sometime in 2001, when I was working in San Antonio, Texas, I was viciously attacked on the streets. It was around 6:30 in the evening. After finishing work, I had head back to my hotel, had a quick shower. I was feeling particularly dapper that evening, so I put on a nice collared shirt of a light material, a pair of light khaki trousers and I slicked my hair back with a generous dab of hair gel.

Around 6:30 I headed out to go and get some dinner. I left my hotel, the Westin on West Market Street, and was heading east on Market when the first attack happened. I didn't see it coming. But suddenly, *SWOOSH*, something had grazed the top of my head.

I looked up to see a medium-sized bird swooping up into the air. It landed on a lamp post, looked down at me and squawked twice. "Did that bird just dive bomb me?" I asked myself, looking around quizzically. Everyone else on the street went about their business, oblivious to what had just happened. I looked back up at the lamp post. The bird looked down and squawked again.

I continued on my way. About 20 feet later, the damn bird came swooping down again and dragged his claws across the top of my head. Luckily back then (almost eight years ago now), I had a more robust head of hair, and the birds tiny (but no doubt razor sharp) claws failed to cut my skin.

The bird again flew up into the air and found a perch, where it looked down at me and screeched loudly. I looked at a couple of passerbys. "Did you see that," I asked. "That bird just attacked me, AGAIN. That bird is stalking me!" They nodded politely with strained smiles on their faces, then quickly looked away and hurried down the street.

I started to quicken my pace down the street, looking over my shoulder. The bird launched another sortie. I ducked, my hands above my head swinging wildly as the bird flew down, and buzzed above my head. "Damn bird, leave me alone," I shouted. A couple walking towards me on the sidewalk, quickly cast their eyes down and crossed the street. "That bird is attacking me, REPEATEDLY!" I shouted after them by way of an explanation.

I broke into a run, sprinting down Market Street. The bird came after me again, flying so close to my head that the combed-back hair on my head was brushed up and forwards over my forehead. I turned the corner and sprinted up Presa Street, screaming "leave me alone, stupid bird!" I think a woman might have shrieked in horror and children clung wide-eyed to their mothers' legs, but I was for the most part keeping my head down in an all-out run up the street.

The bird, wings spread and talons pointed menacingly forward, made another plunge at the soft skin my scalp. I stumbled and fell onto one knee. "Please stop! Please stop!" I pleaded with a voice-cracking yelp. The bird flew up and perched on a lamp post, I broke into a run across the street, looking over my shoulder.

I stumbled on the curb, and staggered helpless into the wall of the building across from me. I looked back. The bird remained perched atop the lamp post. He looked at me, and squawked triumphantly. I just stared at my nemesis, chest heaving, face streaked with sweat, shirt plastered to my back and a dirty scuff mark on my left knee.

"What do you want? Why are you doing this to me?" I cried out. A man and his girlfriend who had been walking towards me turned and headed the other way.

The bird had no answer except for "Caaawww!"

I retreated, slowly, inching my way along the wall, keeping my front turned towards the bird, my eyes on him. He made no more moves, just silently watched me from his perch on the lamp post high above the street. I reached Commerce Street, and broke into a run, not stopping until I was inside the air conditioned safety of the Rivercenter Mall.

I bring this story up today, because I saw on the News this morning that apparently birds single people out for attack. According to research done on mockingbirds by the University of Florida, "Research has shown that mockingbirds can remember the faces of people who venture too close to their nests and single them out for attack. Targeted individuals are dive-bombed and even have their heads grazed by the screeching birds, while nearby onlookers are left alone."

This is good news for me, because I think most people think I am crazy when I mention this story. Now I can point to this story and say, "see, the bird did stalk me!" I don't remember going close to the birds nest, but I might have accidentally. At the time, I was inclined to think that it had a problem with my hair gel. I stopped using that brand right after, and since then have kept my hair short and tried to use only lightly scented products on my hair, in case the more robust scents drive birds into a frenzy.

Of course, the story doesn't explain why it is since that time I have been repeatedly stalked by birds. I haven't been so blatantly attacked since that day in San Antonio, but often pigeons and other foul winged things seem to be flying directly for me. I often find myself having to duck and start moving in a (hopefully) defensive zig-zag pattern. Others I am with often point to the fact that pigeons just in general like to fly low to the ground and aren't necessarily targeting me, but I think they are wrong. I'm pretty sure the birds still have it out for me. I'm am sure that the birds have not forgiven me yet.

I know, I know. Know you think I'm crazy again. I think I need to contact those researchers in Florida and get them to do a follow up study on how a mockingbird in Texas will communicate transcontinentally to birds in England to continue to carry out his mission. I'm pretty sure they'll find that's true too!

Posted by GregW 00:55 Archived in USA Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

Heavenly Thanksgiving And Noticing I Am Fat

South Lake Tahoe, California / Nevada, USA

View Work Trips 1997 - 2004 on GregW's travel map.

For the U.S. Thanksgiving in 2002, I booked a long weekend in Lake Tahoe. Two nights, three days and a three-day ski pass to ski Heavenly ski resort. I knew the skiing wouldn’t be great, but I also knew that I would be moving from California back to Toronto in a few weeks, and then off to South America for 8 weeks, so I wouldn’t have much chance for skiing otherwise that winter.

South Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place, situated on Lake Tahoe and surrounded by mountains. From the top of the Heavenly ski resort, you can see both Lake Tahoe’s forested shores as well as the desert plains of Nevada. South Lake Tahoe is split down the middle by the California-Nevada border. The California side is typical ski town, lots of little hotels, restaurants and ski rental shops. Once you cross the border into Nevada, suddenly massive casino-hotels rise into the air, all the flash and neon expected of Nevada.

It was in one of those casino towers that I decided to have Thanksgiving dinner. I figured that I should be able to get a seat at the top of the hotel buffet on Thanksgiving Thursday. After all, wouldn’t everyone be at home enjoying a family dinner?

No, in fact, they wouldn’t be. It was going to be a two or more hour wait to get up to the buffet. So instead, I walked back over to the California side and popped into a little bar. The bartender served me beer and gave me a free plate of turkey and mashed potatoes. I chatted with a couple of cougars at the bar about South Lake Tahoe and what appropriate hot tub wear was. (It’s nothing, for those who are interested). After a few hours and a few beers, I wandered back to my hotel.

The next day I headed up to the hills. The skiing wasn’t great, but it was nice to be out, and the scenery was fantastic. But by the end of the day my knees were killing me and my legs were very wobbly. I headed back to the hotel and crashed on my bed. As I was watching a U2 concert on TV, I looked over at myself in the full-length closet mirror and noticed that I had a huge gut sticking out. “Oh my God,” I thought, “I am really fat.”

It’s not that I didn’t know, realistically, that I was overweight. I weighed 235 pounds, I knew, because there was a doctor’s scale in the cafeteria at work and I had recently weighed myself. At 5 foot 9, 235 pounds was pretty big. And every time I looked in the mirror, I saw the fat man looking back at me.

Inside me, though, I never really saw myself as fat. When I imagined myself, I imagined myself with the same thin body I had in high school. As much as I knew I was heavy, I never really believed it, until that moment in Lake Tahoe.

I don’t know what it was about that specific time and place that triggered the understanding. Maybe it was just the right time. Maybe it was all the bad things that had happened to me in the past few years – my mother’s death, my bad jobs, my unsuccessful relationships. Maybe it was my aching knees after skiing. Maybe there was something special about the mirrors. I don’t know what triggered it. All I know is that it was triggered, and I needed to do something.

In the event that I was going to back away from doing something about my weight, the next day Karma hammered the point home to me. On my second day of skiing, I could only manage a half-day until my knees were aching so much from carrying my obese frame that I had to give up. I didn’t even ski the third day.

That was November of 2002. On Monday I went and bought Dr. Atkin’s Diet Revolution. By the end of December I was down to 215 pounds. On February 1st, I was 200 pounds. March 1st and I was 180 pounds. Since that time, I have fluctuated between 180 and 190 pounds. I’ve gone from a 42 inch waist to a 36 inch waist, and my knees don’t ache anymore.

This isn’t a diet recommendation, necessarily. Low carb eating worked for me, but then again I never really like potatoes and bread all that much. So it’s pretty easy for me to have an extra helping of meat and skip the fries. The point of the story isn’t about diets, though. The thing that I find interesting about this story is that I was somewhere else, somewhere away from home when I finally understood I was fat.

It is often the secret goal of travelers to have some sort of understanding about themselves and the world, to have revealed to them some secret of the universe, and to have that revelation change them. This was my grand revelation, and it came in the most unexpected place and time. The trip that I really expected to learn a lot about the world and myself was my 8-week backpacking adventure around South America. While I did learn on the South America trip, the lessons were nothing to compare against that one moment, listening to U2 in the background and looking in a full-length closet mirror. I was fat, and I needed to do something about.

Posted by GregW 17:20 Archived in USA Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]