Gratitude for Pelicans

It’s not every day that a reporter gets a celebrity interview. It’s even rarer when the reporter is hardly a reporter, and the interviewee in question has wings. So I had to find a hat that looked somewhat like a reporter’s hat from the days of old, and scribble “Press” on a little sheet of paper to stick in my cap. Once I found something that looked like an old-fashioned reporter’s hat, I then grabbed my note pad and pen. I was ready to go…..except for one thing: I forgot to call a translator to help facilitate the interview. I’m not completely fluent in Pelican; I know just enough to get by.

Regina the Pelican is widely known around these parts. As she spreads her wings and gracefully glides atop the waters of Biscayne Bay, Regina is doing either one of two things: looking for fish to eat, or doing her morning exercise routine. For Regina, Biscayne Bay is her liquid stage, her silver screen turned blue. Yet when on land, Regina, like most celebrities, is very reclusive and protective of her privacy. Approach Regina when she’s on land, and you better be careful – she’ll flap her wings and fly away if you get too close. Like a diva who has simply had enough.

So when Regina showed up outside my door this morning, I knew for sure she was sending a signal: This star of Biscayne Bay was finally ready to give a tell-all interview.  Barbara Walters had been trying for years to land this one, and without any effort at all, I was about to get the biggest interview of the year.

Armed with my pad and pen, and of course wearing my “Press” hat, I slowly approached Regina. “Regina,” I called out. “Regina, it’s me, Scoop.” She didn’t respond. She just turned her head in the other direction.  It seems that when celebrities are used to Barbara Walters knocking down their door, the notion of giving an interview to a lowly reporter named Scoop is none too thrilling. Yet I persisted.

“Regina, I’ve been dying to get an interview with you for years now, won’t you talk to me?” No response. I was still a good three yards away. Perhaps trying some basic celebrity flattery would loosen her up a bit.

“Regina, I saw your last nose dive into the bay. Fantastic form. There’s talk of you being nominated for a Birdie. Does that make you nervous? Or are you just focusing on your next project?”

She slowly made two steps further away from me. Clearly this diva was wise to my flattery strategy. How could I get her to open up?

Even though I had only about seven minutes experience as reporter, and looked totally out of place in my “Press” hat, I wondered if I had enough journalistic skill to pull off a Barbara Walters. Would I be able to bring up something so sad and tragic that my interviewee would have no choice but to break down and spill the beans? Well, you never know unless try.

“Regina,” I called out. “I’m so sorry to hear about that ruptured pipe that spread sewage into the bay. I heard your vacation spot near FisherIsland was wiped out. How does that make you feel? Do you feel like dying inside?” No response. “Surely, Regina, that must make you feel like dying inside.”

Again, there was no response. On the positive side, I was now only two yards away from Regina. I had been moving slowly toward her as I asked my questions. While she was as reticent as ever, clearly she was getting accustomed to the sound of my voice. That being the case, I thought it would it be a good time to ask Regina if those rumors were true.

“Regina,” I said in a calm, professional manner, “After forty-two years of marriage, Sara the Seagull reportedly left Jonathan Livingston after discovering her true sexuality — that she was a lesbian seagull. Rumor has it that there was another female bird involved in the break-up. Regina, with all due respect, I must ask for the record: Are you the bird that broke up the Livingston marriage?” Regina said nothing. She ever-so slightly raised her beak, as if she were offended.

“I’m so sorry, Regina” I said. “I didn’t mean to offend you. Looks like my effort to imitate Barbara Walters is about as successful as Mitt Romney’s effort to imitate emotion. Why don’t I give up trying to be Barbara, and just be me……Scoop.”

She bent her beak just slightly down to the ground, as if to signal she accepted my apology, even though she was still hurt.

“It’s not like it’s even a secret anymore, Regina. The lesbian rowing crew that glides across Biscayne Bay in the early morning hours has already adopted you as their official mascot. So why are you so reluctant to talk about it? The cat is out of the bag, Regina. The bird is out of the nest. Face it.” Regina again slightly raised her beak to signal she was offended.

Regina turned her head toward me, looked me straight in the eyes for several moments, and in a somber, feminine voice said, “Why do you have to degrade me?”

I was too stunned to speak. I was too embarrassed to look her in the eyes. There she stood looking at me, not with an ounce of anger in her eyes, but with buckets of sorrow.

“That’s what you humans do, isn’t it?” she said. “You degrade each other.”

“Yes, Regina,” I conceded, “sometimes we humans degrade each other.”

“Sometimes?” Regina questioned.

“Okay, so maybe it’s more than sometimes,” I confirmed. Regina then walked right up to me. Since I was now sitting, and she was standing, our eyes were in perfect alignment.

She said, “If I could give you my wings, I would. Then you would have the bird’s-eye-view that I’ve had for all these years. And you would see why it’s more than sometimes.”

“I’m very sorry that I offended you,” I said.

“You shouldn’t feel sorry. You should feel grateful,” she replied.

“Grateful? Grateful for what?” I asked. Regina stuck her beak in my face and whispered,”Grateful that you don’t have the wings to see just how awful you humans really are.”

I remained quiet for several moments. Regina again turned her head toward the bay. I didn’t know how to respond to her. I wanted to tell her that her view of humankind was too dark and gloomy, but I didn’t know how to say it. She had seen more than I had. How could I tell her she was wrong?

“Regina,” I said, “Maybe you’re looking at the glass half empty.”

“Where I come from,” she replied, “we don’t have glasses. We just have the bay. And it’s always full, unless the humans make a mess of things.”

“Do I sense some anger toward us humans coming from you?” I asked.

“Humans have anger, not pelicans. We just have sadness,” she replied as she kept her eyes on the bay.

I thought about those words, and after a few more moments I said, “I’m sorry, Regina. I’m sorry if some of us have hurt you.”

“You mustn’t feel sorry for me. I can fly away from you humans and your anger. But you can never fly away from yourselves. No matter how many nations you build, no matter how many borders you draw, no matter how many weapons you have, you will never be able to fly away from each other. If you had a bird’s-eye-view you would understand that. But you don’t. You can’t fly, and therefore you can’t see.”

“Do you hate me for not having wings?” I asked.

“Pelicans don’t hate, we mourn.” Regina replied. As Regina stood there, regal but sad, the words began to sink in.

“What can I do, Regina? I’m only human. I don’t have wings. What am I supposed to do?”

“Listen, Scoop,” she said, “Scoop, that’s your name isn’t it?” she asked.

“Actually, it’s really not my name, so much as what I do, or at least what I’m doing right now,” I told her.

“Listen, you can never have wings like a pelican, so you will never be able to see like a pelican. But there’s no reason you can’t dive like a pelican. So whenever you are trying to get the scoop on something, make sure you dive in. Dive like a pelican. That’s as close as you’ll get to having a bird’s-eye-view, and feeling  what we feel.”

With that, Regina began to flap her wings as if she was ready to take off. “Wait, Regina, why are you leaving,” I asked. “I’m not angry, why are you leaving? Are you scared?”

“No, I’m not scared. Did you want me to stay?”

“Please,” I responded. Regina rested her wings, and sat down. The two of us sat there for the rest of the day, until the late afternoon sun made its pink reflection on Biscayne Bay, home of Regina the Pelican.

* This story is dedicated to all the brave journalists, diplomats, and NGO workers of all faiths and nations who have died in the line of duty trying to make the world a more humane place.

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