The Bird Woman
By Mona Rains
Not long after I returned from my trip, Min (el Viejo) went out to get some new fish for our pond. I was still rolling around the la la land of the long drive recoup, recovery and recon with Min and was only vaguely aware that he was off with his bucket to buy some fish.
He returned with twelve fish bright eyed and excited. Not a normal condition for Mr. Unflappable Min. He went on and on about this really neat woman, and described her as the “bird woman” complete with a bright bird tattooed on her face…
He said, excitedly, “You just HAVE to meet her!”
My inner woman reared and as I pondered this new Min attitude.
“Is she pretty? Are you attracted to her” I asked calmly, but interested.
His face took on a look of mild exasperation as he closed his eyes. Even this much information was too much information for Min.
“Nooo.. it is not like that. You just have to meet her,” He answered.
I felt my own exasperation at his lack of words as I pressed on.
“You have to tell me SOMETHING more than THAT”, I pressed.
“She’s just this interesting, hippie chick and has these birds that I think you might want.”
“Birds? What kind of birds. You know I hate caged birds” I responded.
“They are not caged. Well they are, but she has this huge cage that is really beautiful and interesting and she opens the doors and they fly around and then come back. She has a white dove and three others, I can’t remember what kind.” He said.
A lot of information but not enough, just enough to make me ask more questions.
He described her as “Becky with a smile” which was both shocking and interesting to me - to get this much information from Min, about anyone, and including one of my oldest and dearest best friends.. I did not know he saw Becky like that, but for Min to be excited about anyone was just plain weird. He hates everyone, and has no use for most people, so for him to be so animated and interested in this woman was very, VERY unusual.
Min was interested in both the birds and the cage, but as usual passed it off to someone else, as in, “Mona may be interested in the birds” he had told her.
Min and I had decided to move back to the old place with the swimming pool and the large yard where there was more room to garden even though the place was way too big for us.
AND Min had decided that we should start a hippie commune, or an “intentional community” and he was sure that this woman would be a perfect candidate, and set up a time for us to “meet”, which was at her place.
It was so strange to hear this coming from the mouth of el Viejo, my husband, Min, the quiet man with the brilliant mind, who I had said many times in the past couple years,
“I am seriously worried about Min. I think he may be mentally ill”.
Mostly I said this to myself and maybe my closest girlfriends. But since he actually seemed excited about this, a new project, and agreed to move back to the old place where my swimming pool missed me, and just possibly I may manage to live in the desert.
I embraced this woman totally with eyes wide shut, purely on Min’s reaction to her.
When we went there to meet the birds and we sat down and I stupidly began talking about this idea of community and that we wanted her to see the place, etc, not knowing anything about her.
The first thing she asked was,
“Do you have an open marriage?”
We looked at each other and both said, “no” at the same time. Julie is 53 and a large woman, with bulging arms, chins, baggy front and back, and very much a hippie, with the bright bird tattooed on her left cheek. Not a person that either of us would have dreamed of bringing into our marriage. Not that we would bring anyone in, and Min laughed and said, later,
“yeah, Me, in an open marriage, I don’t think so”.
Min is a shy person and doesn’t get close to people. I must be special.. or something.
Julie lived in a rented shack, with a tent and a bed which the giant bird cage sat beside in a very small yard, and two small but smelly dogs, and she was moving somewhere. Now, because of me, or let’s say MIN, she was potentially moving in with us.
She showed us inside her small house as she extrapolated on about her “last gallery” in “Patagonia” (south of Tucson) and how she had fallen off a scaffolding and broke her foot, thus having to move HERE.
Her house was a treasure of metaphysical and buddistic stuff, with Indian prints and lovely hippie retinue, much like stepping back into the early 1970’s. The art was interesting and I asked her,
“Is this your’s?” to which she replied, “NO no, THAT is and artist that is quite lovely and her work is extraordinary, she is a raven goddess who incorporates the very essence of everything into her work. See how the swirls of life revolve to the cosmic pull of the moon?”
Each and every piece was like that, none of which were her art. This is always interesting to me and I began to realize that I really should have taken some time to get to know her before inviting her into our “homestead” or “planned community”. She can talk circles around everything and anything, explaining everything away with perfect brush strokes of linguistic nature, never really saying anything.
One of her rambles was about raw food, to which I could see Min visibly wilt.
She had her yard sale going on, and I did buy a rather cool dummy, which I would come to recognize as myself, later, after I left her to her diatribe, a couple weeks later.
As we left she grabbed a DVD video for us to “borrow” called GARBAGE WARRIERS, which Min and I had seen before, but we took anyway, which would lead one day to the unraveling of this nightmare.
I did plan on picking her up several days hence and driving her to the old house and back. Both of her cars were in the process of being given away and I had the audacity to ask her why, upon whence she launched into.
“I am here to set an example by walking. This neighborhood is so materialistic and so dull that they cannot even see the impact they are making on this earth. The garbage they throw away, OMG I cannot even believe that they would NOT recycle or EVEN take the perfectly good stuff they throw away and donate to the needy because they are TOO lazy”.
As I worked a word in edgewise and asked her what state the cars were in, after she told me in 800 words about placing an ad in Craig’s list to just “give them away” for the sake of the planet, whereby she was bombarded with Mexican’s calling her and she had quit answering the phone, the very reason that Min had such a hard time reaching her about the fish, which were BTW in a four foot kiddy swimming pool of water when he rescued them for $30.
“Well, the van is shot, it has no a/c and the Geo only needs a battery and licensing”
To which I replied,
“Then I think you need to keep the Geo and give the van away. How can you live without a car?”
To which she replied,
“THAT is why I CHOSE to live close the bus line, and WHY I chose to set an example to these pathetic people who HATE me”..
We drove to our big house, which was empty at the time and listed for sale on the market by Coldwell Bankers, on a day that sported 106 temps. She was dressed in a long flowing skirt, and a long flowing shirt, cosmetic clothing to cover her bulging body, long grey hair pinned atop her head with the bottom and sides shaved.
She also brought a rock for Min, a piece of lava, that she insisted on carrying to the fish pond, even with her broken foot and excessive baggage and clothes in the heat of the day wanting to place it into the fish pond. I asked her to leave that to Min as it was his creation, that pond.
It is a 20 minute drive during which time she talked non-stop, making me increasingly more anxious. Her evaluation of our place, which most people love, was that it was a “fixer upper” and “a lot of work”, and she smelled a packrat in the closet of the guest room. I pulled all my rolled up rugs that were leaning against the wall and laid them out, with no signs of packrat. She witnessed this, ready to pounce, only saying,
“That is ODD that there is NO evidence or droppings.”
The house WAS musty after a summer of three months with triple digit desert heat and a/c turned off. I had been gone for 33 days on my road trip and el Viejo had not been diligent about opening up the windows, or even watering much for that matter as he was busy completing the landscaping here at the new house, which was finished by the time I returned, thus prompting him to want to move back to the old place.
It was so hot that I took off my clothes and jumped in the pool, which I do in front of nearly everyone that I am sure not to offend. There was really no time for the prettiness of bathing wear. She opted to remain in her huge get up and just soak her feet, her horrible damaged foot, which had happened almost three years ago. It occurred to me that was an awful long time to heal, but I guess if you have to walk everywhere, as opposed to driving, to set an example, well, then.. it is still a long time to heal anything.
By this time I was worn out and had decided not to bring her up to our newer house to show her all my cool stuff.
I asked her how long she had lived in her present location.
“two and a half years”, she replied and continued her never ending rhetoric about the state of the world, that particular community, blah blah blah… while I contemplated her energy and felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin.
She smiled slyly as she told me how much she approved of open marriage and how her last lover this and her last lover that as I shut my mind off and pondered how fast I could wrap this up.
I drove her home and SHE suggested that we ALL get together this Thursday, and meet for happy hour at a place “in our neck of the woods” purely because they have organic wine. I agreed. I would have agreed to just about anything by that time. I was feeling stunned. Stunned like I felt when I agreed to tango dancing with Peter after coming off a long road trip. Only worse. There is power over and power within, one of my favorite things to say and that I understand at a molecular level. Power within is much better than power over and I do not like people who yield power over me. I usually don’t let it happen, and I am rarely leveled to “stunned”. I am also polite and do not like to hurt people’s feelings, and do not like confrontation. I will keep my opinions to myself rather than fight. I will walk away. I had to ask myself, “how did I get here?”
I was hopelessly lost when I left her house and only had the urge to buy beer and cigarettes, return to the old house with pool, drink a couple beers and smoke a couple cigarettes. I think I told her I like to smoke in some kind of hidden agenda way, which I am not a fan of, to distance myself from her. Having a strong personality myself I have learned to lighten up, let other people talk, listen to them, hear what they have to say, and not be right about everything. I can’t think of a single person that could drive me to such distraction, with the exception of Peter and his tango dancing, which was not nearly as beguiling begrudging or bewildering.
I was also a bit pissed, peeved and perturbed at Min, his thrusting this woman on me. When I finally came home to the new house, he was home from golf and asked me,
“How did it go?”
I proceeded to unravel her positions, posturing and platitudes along with how she made me feel, what I did afterward, honestly, I had to. As much as he hates smoking he hates more people that make me want to smoke.
There were also the birds. She had picked out the spot she wanted to put them behind the orange trees as the cages needed to be washed twice a day. She was scared to death of the “wash” (drainage ditch in AZ for monsoon rain) and the hawks, YIKES! AND she wanted to move in the end of September on a trial basis for three months, to the best room in the house where she could “keep an eye on the birds” to which I asked,
“for FREE?” trying not to sound too alarmed.
“Oh no, for $500 per month” she replied. Sigh!
There were still several days until Thursday and we still had triple digit heat. I settled into my desert routine, going to the other house to swim, water, open windows and do general upkeep. About this time my adopted daughter came through, screaming out of Mexico with her truck and trailer and two adorable daughters, on their way to northern California.
This was a sudden and unforeseen piece of business, which was wonderful for me. I set up in the old house with the swimming pool where we passed two nights and two days in a wonderful reunion, to reconvene, and a reprieve for me from the bird woman blues.
As the days rolled on Min and I rolled this problem around and around and came up with nothing. Thursday arrived and nothing. He felt that she should call us, since she was taking the bus, after all, and it was 105 degrees still. She did not call, but every time the phone rang we flinched. Thankfully she did not have MY cell number.
A week or so later he got a letter from her. Her email address is SmartJulie2@yaya.com I found out later. Julie had never married nor had children, so she was also one of THOSE!
The following email exchange between Min and Julie transpired:
Creating working relationships can be a threatening experience.
After meeting for a few hours with Mona, you perhaps felt that we should step back a bit and evaluate before continuing. So you did not make contact on Thursday for the planned “happy hour”.
We thought of calling you, but there are some differences of philosophy that I sensed from Mona’s recap of your conversations that pushed us back a bit as well.
You seem to be very rigid in the abandonment of materialistic detritus. We do not understand the ability to function without the means to travel. Tucson is not NYC. Or Frisco. When I first met you in gathering the fish, you spoke of your reason for simplifying as to get ready for travel to the Northeast. Something does not gibe with the abandonment of all your vehicles.
I believe in omnivourousness to the extreme. What does not kill me makes me stronger. Mona is a bit less flexible, but we both learned on the streets of Mexico, eating vendor food, that after the first few food poisoning incidents we could be out there with eclectic abandon. The raw food, organic wine, etc…. is not a practical lifestyle for us, however pure it may seem.
When you told Mona that the bird cages needed to be cleaned twice a day, that was a deal breaker for me. One of the reasons I like fish is that the proper ecosystem cleans itself. I clean the filters in the pond system maybe once every two months, and never add any chemicals. Aside from the pleasure people get from feeding them, the fish do not need to eat either. The birds appear to require a much more dedicated owner then I could be.
I guess the type of shared space that we envision is a bit like the pond environment, where there is independence with synergy.
Let me know your thoughts.
I was hoping to get together for an organic happy hour or not. Philosophy is a large landscape and in our brief meetings I mostly felt a degree of compatibility and meeting Pi cheered me immensely. You have quite a work in progress on your homestead. I bring a lot to the table and have put together a folder of information for your perusal to allay your fears and allow what seems threatening to a more novel experiment. My vehicle situation has everything to do with being near the bus line while having a home base and being able to do my small bit in boycotting the war for oil. At this point in my life I prefer to be home in the garden. This is different from folks that run a travel agency. I venture out into the racy world twice a week. Does Mona still want to convert the Geo to an electric car? Depending on the variables I may tow the Geo behind a motorhome or a small U-Haul for my upcoming changes. I am extremely considerate and not at all rigid. Differences can lead to insight and understanding. AS for the deal breaker, the bird cage gets a quick spray down once or twice a day using 2 gallons of water per time which runs into adjacent flora providing them with a nurtrient rich watering. You have a lot on your plate and the birds would just be one more thing and they deserve to continue to be treasured. Either they will stay with me or some other St. Francis will text and all will be well. Thank you again for adding my fish to your school. As Meher Baba said, “don’t worry, be happy” love, Julie. Ps what did you make of the poems?
As you can imagine Min and I briefed the letter, which seemed to sink in on itself from joining us to moving somewhere else, and we still had her DVD and her poems.
And this email.
Hi, I hope all is well in your whirl. I'm hosting a yard sale this sat. thru mon. 8a-11a. This might be a good time for you to return my DVD Garbage Warrior. I have 2 Blue Globe Buddha Lights that change electric pulse patterns when touched. Mona might like them for her collection. Hope to see you here. Did you like the hunk of Lava? I'm meeting a fellow next week that is excited about the pigeons. Hallelujah! Julie
Min was relieved as he never had to talk to her again, so the next morning I did my best to do my morning dog walking and get over there by 8am. This was further complicated by the fact that I had finally made an appointment to give blood that same morning at 9:15.. which I also felt gave me a good excuse to not stay long. It is hard for me to keep appointments with my non-organized life, and I was determined not to let down the Red Cross.
By the time I got there she had everything out for sale. I returned her DVD and poetry which she had put prettily in a folder with mystical symbols on the front, picked especially for us I am sure, to show her worth as a poet.
“How did you like the poems’, she asked.
“Ah good, even though I don’t understand them really. That’s how poetry can be and I have written quite a lot of poetry also, it can be very subjective”, I replied grimly.
Which only set her off… OMG blah blah blah to the blah blah blah squared!
I wanted to talk to her, calmly, but I already had the idea that she was bona fide crazy, nutzo, cuckoo, at the very least, but I also pulled out my hidden agenda.. I wanted to find out how she survived to go on like this, condemning everything, everyone, everywhere, not realizing that she alienated, abdicated, abjured even the bravest among us that could listen to her, without ever having input. I secretly felt that she must have an “inheritance” a “stipend” or a “trust fund” of some kind. The only people that I have ever met that were as delusional, deluded, or demented did HAVE some kind of something somehow, somewhere putting money in the bank for them.
About this time the gate opens and in comes this beautiful Indian, with long black hair down to his waist and big pearly white teeth that were his own. I can tell. He appeared to be about my age, middle 50’s to early 60’s, and was with the very skinny, very plain, very white woman, who very obviously “with him” as she picked out treasures and they discussed money. I stood by, interested, but also gazing around at the treasure trove of trapclap in the small yard around me.
The two Buddha lights were set aside, and she had not given me the price. She had also set out a game that was oriented around marijuana that she said was for me, as well as a blue tie-dyed dress that you would buy in Mexico or Bali, that she said was just my size. I began to accumulate things and had my eye on another lamp that was in the shape of a brain. I thought of my friend Alice who was forever buying us brain cactus that promptly died. Julie was going on and on about how “interactive lights” create energy and when you touch them they change. The Indian emoted a fine energy that I felt inclined to touch and he was obviously a shaman. He spotted the Buddha lights and we began to talk
“I collect Buddhas”, he said.
“So do I”, I replied.
“I have one from Korea”, he said.
“I have a traveling Buddha, deep red with a knapsack, big smile, you rub his head before you go out the door, from China”, I smiled to compare teeth.
I did not mention that I had bought it at a Dollar Store for $69, not in China.
I asked him if wanted one of the Buddha interactive lights. They were plastic and looked like they came from Walmart, and she wanted $10 each for them. I wasn’t sure about them and wanted the brain light for Alice, and she also had a cool storm light. And so the bargaining began. I like this kind of stuff! But Julie had lost control and began babbling about how the Buddha lights really needed to be a pair as it raised the energy, blah..
Then he asked her if she would take $8.00 for the brain light instead of $10. I piped up
“I will give you $10 for it” and then.. “but you can buy it, you wanted it first and I am not trying to buy it out from under you, just saying that if you don’t want it I will buy it for $10.” And Julie gave me a dirty look.
“I’ll flip you for it” he smiled his perfect white teeth.
“OK”, I grinned.
He took a quarter out of his pocket with his beautiful hands and showed me both sides but all I could see were those long, beautiful shaman fingers and then the palm.
“Just so you know it is not a trick”, he said. I looked at him astonished. I did not care, I just wanted to touch him. He was magnetic. And the woman he was with was such a drag, with her tiny little glasses hiding eyes behind a terrible hat with short hair poking out the sides ignoring us completely but I was feeling her cold shoulder.
Then he said to Julie, “here, you flip it” and she took it.
I said to him, “you call” and he closed his shaman eyes and called “tails”
And she flipped it and it came up tails. I could not tell if he was happy or sad, not sure if it was about the money or the light, and then he said,
“Maybe I will trade it for the storm light, is it the same price?”..
I could see Julie’s brain going full on, $$$$ dinging in her eyes as she sprung to it,
“NO, that one is MORE, it is $15.”
Egads, what had I started! Once again I offered the Buddha lights to the shaman who once again politely refused and took the brain light as he and his plain white woman counted their money and laid it across Julie’s hand.
I had to go! the Red Cross was waiting to mine my blood. I assessed my pile and asked her how much and would she take a check?
“No, just CASH” as she pointed her finger into my chest. I hate that! Is that the first time she did it? Did I only just notice it? The energy has shifted and from that point forward everything she said to anyone she was pointing her finger at their chest. EGAGS to the power of ten.
Julie popped into her shack to get paper and pencil so she could make a list of my shit. People began to arrive and I had to leave. She said she would store it inside for my return.. eeek EEEK I had to come back?
“How much money do you have for a deposit?” she asked.
A deposit, she wasn’t kidding. I opened my wallet.
“Twenty dollars” I said, saving a five and a one, in case of emergency, like I always do so I am not flat broke.
“Stop by Trader Joe’s and get a box to move the Buddha’s”, she ordered.
“I will stop at the other house and get a tote” I said, as the control shifted more.
Darkness began to gather over her head, just a little, as the control slipped and the finger came out. Every time she did that finger pointing I thought to myself that thing about three fingers pointing back at you, but did not bother saying it. Especially after things got hotter, literally and figuratively on my return, when it became even harder to get a word in edgewise and she became more frantic in her bumbling bogus blabber.
I left feeling shaky and confused but energized by the shaman and knowing that I was keeping my appointment with the blood bank. I was still not so rattled that I could not handle this, plus I had to go to the cash machine, and I still wanted to see if I could get her to tell me if she was the Oscar Myer heiress, Queen of Rope, or Post-it note Diva?
All went well with the blood bank, however archaic and futuristic it is, my blood is of the valuable type and I feel my civic duty to give, since I can.
On the way back and by the bank I gave a dollar to the man on the hot street corner selling newspapers. There are a lot of homeless people and more and more guys on the streets that I don’t recognize selling newspapers in the triple digit heat. I have given them money, jackets, food, beer and cigarettes. Why not share? And why be judgmental?
Arriving back at her house around noon, she was a sweaty, stinking mess and had a long list of shit for me to buy, picked out by her mostly. I had a growing fear that a lot of stuff had been pulled from the dumpsters, but honestly, I just wanted to go home, but first.. the problem of my curiosity.
I came in the gate with my tote and she was talking to this man, pointing her finger at his chest, and I could not help but hear her as she talked at him..
“It is JUST like when Clinton was in office, and he had this PROBLEM with Monica.. what’s her name.. and well, they country needed SO much then but instead they CHOSE to focus on THAT’..
They? Is she not part of this country? I wondered silently.
I could see the poor guy look down, just wanting to get away from her and then he said,
“I hope the next person that moves in here we don’t have the so many problems with”.
Ah Ha! Ah Hem.. maybe there was a reason she smelled so toxic.
The area where she lives in this little shack is right next to the dumpsters is in a community called “casitas”, a common housing for southern Arizona snowbirds that wants something cheap for their extended stay retreat from dread winter climates somewhere else.
“I know these people ONLY by their garbage” she tells me, again with the finger.
“I believe we create our own reality” I say, desperate to finish my thought as she pipes up
“YES, THAT IS TRUE”, she say angry.
“If that is the case how do explain this” I said, sweeping my hand around the area of the community?
“Two and a half years here and there is not ONE person you have anything good to say about?” I asked her nicely.. Quietly, gently..
“If you alienate people it is hard to teach them anything or even set an example, and.. ah.. You have a powerful personality and I just want to say this to you because I have one too, and well, other people have pointed this out to me and as an evolving person it is part of the process don’t you think?” I asked happy to have completed one thought.
“I AM HERE TO POSIT” she practically screams at me..”AND I JUST CANNOT BE TOO CONCERNED OR WORRIED ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE BEING ALARMED BY ME”
I am going to wrap this up here but I do want to list a couple of other things that she said that further convinced me that she is a raving lunatic.
1) she NEVER gives money to beggars, when I mentioned I had given the guy a dollar when I went to pay her the $90 she racked me up for shit I did not want, and could not find my fiver, thinking I may have given him that by mistake.
“FOR example” she said, matter of factly, “WHEN I was PACKING water bottles AND fruit for the food bank AND had my arms full this pan handler did not EVEN bother to hold the door for me OR tell me a joke, but wanted money” she explained after saying,
“I am WAY too intimidated to EVEN stop or roll down my window when I see those guys”… WTF?? I thought she was a humanitarian?
2) We HAD to get the snakes out of our house. Packrats attract snakes and she was scared to death of them. AND she would NEVER live that far out there alone, next to the wash with no other houses around. WE live in the city, folks and anyone that has ever been to that house can tell you it is NOT farmland where we live, and it is not that isolated.
3) She is really bothered by “moneyed people that do not buy organic” meaning US. I mentioned that Min had a doctorate in BioPhysics and he does not buy into the whole organic thing.. to which she replied, finger pointed at me,
“I KNOW!”, she screamed and launched into a whole thing about supporting the planet, the farmers, the earth, the markets.
4) She extrapolated at length every time I saw her, a total of four times, about “kindness” and how important it was, how we are a war minded nation and everyone just wants to fight, filled with malevolence, as those three fingers pointed back loudly into her heart.
5) I got a whole load of information about carpet and how bad it was and that the guy that invented it is now speaking out about the dirty business he created. Not totally, because of the money, which led me to believe she was the carpet heiress.
When I finally asked her how she made a living, somewhere in the mess, she said,
“well, for ONE thing I do NOT worry about money” to which I replied,
“you must have an inheritance” which stopped her cold.
She looked at me sideways from her yellow eyes, as if I was privy to private information about her, before she launched into a whole other diatribe about the working class cretins, to which I replied,
“well, somebody has to work” and now she was really riled up.
“NO THEY DON’T”, she screamed.
6) her attitude about “privileged slaves, which IS an oxymoron” is further proof to me that she is a privileged mental case, supported by who knows what, but we thankfully dodged a bullet with her in our “intentional community” which we have decided is to scrap.
Did I mention that my reason to her, for us deciding against the intentional community was because we ourselves did not know what we were going to do, and that it was too hot to think?
And on that note as I left her I told her that Min and I were splitting up and that she was free to pursue him as her next lover, just to pay him back for all this nonsense.
And when I left with my box of junk minus ninety dollar, which I did not try and dicker on, she said, “see ya around the block”.