Friday, May 1, 2009

My Experiences As a Designer #1

Ash and Rain

Looking back, I sure do wish that I'd taken the time to keep better records of how many houses I’ve been invited into over the years working as a designer. I wish I’d kept notes about my experiences and the various characters I ran into along the way. Of course, there were many that I will never forget. Like the German college professors, a couple residing in a rambling ranch located in Alta Dena, near the border of Pasadena. The woman, (she was a mathematician), kept two African Grays in the kitchen. The huge birds had done their best to eat the cabinet doors and countertop edges. Her beloved pets had trashed the entire kitchen and dinette area. Shredded wallpaper littered the floors. Husband and Wife were forced to move the coffee maker into the family room, and were no longer able to prepare meals. Those creatures literally ruled the roost. The kitchen had become one giant birdcage with huge glass windows providing a magnificent view of the San Gabriel Mountains as backdrop. My job was to design and build a room addition to house the birds, as well as bring the kitchen back to its former glory so it could fit in with the rest of the well-kept-mid-century-magazine-worthy dwelling.

The Wife introduced me to Ash and Rain. I had never been in such close proximity to such birds of high intelligence and impressive stature. They climbed all over my client, exclaiming their love in ardent fashion. “Oh, Dear,” the birds crooned, “give us a kiss. Give us a kiss Dear!” And it amused me to no end how they spoke with a heavy German accent, just like their owner.

The room had to be built before we could turn our attention to the kitchen. A week into the project The Wife left to attend a symposium in Europe. The Husband instantly changed from a debonair, self-assured brainiac, into an insecure bundle of nerves. The birds, it seemed, had no use for the poor guy. The birds, in fact, loathed him. “Don’t be a baby, Darling.” The Wife told her husband in front of me. “Be strong. They react to weakness.”

“Be strong,” he grumbled. “They like to bite my face. And it’s two against one.” He decided to plead with his stubborn wife, almost whispering, “Can’t you hire someone to look after them? You know they hate me!”

“I cannot trust a stranger with my babies,” she scolded. “You’ll be fine.”

The Husband entered the kitchen to feed the birds following The Wife’s departure, and one of them did attack him. He had three bite marks, one on his ear and two on his arm, which he displayed when I arrived that morning to check in on my crew. “The bastards can starve from here on in!” He cried. “They called me every name in the book, just like my wife likes to do when she’s mad. They berated me, and then the big one came after me.”

What could I do? I nodded in sympathy.

Most of the workmen got a kick out of the African Gray drama. But one guy, he shook his head and said to me, in obvious disgust; “I’d roast those two like I do a turkey. I tell you, that would be the day when I’d let two flea-bitten birds get away with murder under my roof,” he said. “To hell with that.”

I shushed him. “Keep your opinions to yourself,” I warned. “This isn’t your house.”

The Husband wouldn't even go into the kitchen at all the next day. “Goddamn it,” he said. “I’ll show them.”

I’m afraid of birds, really afraid. Thank you Alfred Hitchcock. But I made a vow to myself that if The Husband didn’t feed them soon I would have to give it a try.

The following morning Ash and Rain called through the shut door. “Darling, oh Darling! A little orange juice! Did you read The Times? Oh, Darling. Dear…come on…you know I didn’t mean it. I get angry. Please! Darling!”

The Husband sat on a bench just outside the door with a frown on his face. He cried, “You goddamned birds. Goddamn you.”

Their voices sounded exactly like The Wife. I’m not kidding. If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn that she had returned and was calling out from that defiled kitchen. “Are you going to feed them?” I asked. “Because if you aren’t, I’ll do it. I can’t bear to see them go hungry.”

We slid the door open and ventured in together. They were sitting atop the avocado green side-by-side refrigerator. “Hello Darling,” the big one said. “You wonderful man,” the little one said. I watched The Husband prepare and set out their food and water, and they behaved themselves.

The room addition turned out great. Ash and Rain had their very own 15 by 30 foot room outfitted with plenty of safe, inedible perches and poles to walk and hang from. The windows faced the garden.

The room turned out lovely. Even though the kitchen wasn't finished, The Husband was able to roast a chicken and present it to The Wife for dinner on the night of her return. She insisted I stay on to have a glass of wine, and we walked out to admire the bird’s room. After two weeks of eating out of The Husband’s hands and treating him wonderfully, Ash and Rain reverted back to their old ways and began to scorn him as soon as The Wife arrived. “I will get even,” The Husband said, turning to face The Wife, “Didn’t you say you’re going to Hawaii in September?”

"Oh Darling," she responded. "Don't be that way."

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.


david mcmahon said...

I'm thinking this met have led to a modern version of Grays' elegy in a city courtyard!!

lakeviewer said...

How funny! You must have met many colorful characters to use in your fiction now.

TheWritersPorch said...

How funny Elizabeth! I love it! I was going to e-mail David and suggest it for Post Of The Day but see he has already read it! BRAVO, I know it will win!

Kirti said...

Oh my goodness, this is GREAT!
You are such a great storyteller...It seems so REAL to me...

Kirti said...

Oh, by the way, I went on a small rant after your comment on Fine Art Friday because I too hate art critics!
Speaking of critics in general, so many fabulous writers have also been victims of bad reviews... Just goes to show that they don't necessarily know what they're talking about!

GutsyWriter said...

What a story. I have a friend who knows a ton about African grays and exotic birds. It's her job and she's very firm with them. She constantly complains about the owners not knowing how to handle the birds. What a fascinating job you have.

Anonymous said...

I've never been a fan of birds as even less so. Ouch!

Anonymous said...

That was too funny! Thanks for sharing.

Cloudia said...

People ARE queer!

Woman in a Window said...

Are you serious? This really happened? No. Couldn't be. Not really. Really? No. This is fiction. But I want it to be real. Tell me it was real.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Oh, WIAW, it happened. And I am going to post other crazy experiences with my clients periodically. Look for my upcoming confessions ;-)

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Oh, what a fertile field of characters!!!! And designing gave you a wonderfully close-up look at all their lives!!!! Wonderful! Thanks for stopping by, and for your friendship! I'm so looking forward to getting to know you and your beautiful writing! Best wishes~Janine

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Look forward to getting to know you as well, Janine!

Marguerite said...

Just loved this story. I am looking forward to reading your book. Thanks for including me in your blog list.

Lover of Life said...

What a wonderful and entertaining story. Those birds are really really smart. Kinda scary smart!

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

a scary and funny post....not sure which side of the perch I'm sitting on this one!!

TheWritersPorch said...

Congratulations on POTD! I knew David would love this!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

But of course, this is a POTD! I knew it!!!!!!! Fantastically Feathered Fun told so beautifully by you!!!!! Congrats!!!!!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Thanks for sharing! Congratulations on the Post of the Day Award from Authorblog!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I am honored to be chosen for the post of the day. Makes my Monday shine!