Friday, February 3, 2012

When breaking a store’s merchandise becomes therapeutic

Recently while in a quaint boutique, I watched a woman accidently bump a piece of merchandise off a shelf. Initially, I felt bad for her, as the item broke into 3 pieces on the stone floor.  However, a sense of justice suddenly came over me once I realized that the shattered item was a glass duck.

It’s not that I hate ducks on their own merit; I mean really, why would I?  What did any member of the Anatidae family of birds ever do to me?   While they have done nothing to me directly, symbolically they represent everything!

Crime Scene Photo 
Sure, ducks appear cute, but they are not entirely innocent on their own right.  As children, there was an incident involving my brother that taught me this lesson.   The poor lad didn’t even see the evil webbed-footed beast coming.  My brother Matt, an angelic toe-headed boy, was enjoying his youthful innocence on a sunny day in a New York city park, when a sinister keratin-billed quack bit him repeatedly after he ran out of bread crumbs.   At the time, I assumed this future North Face jacket assaulted my brother because it was a Long Island duck, not because it was within its very nature to be diabolical. What can I say? Only that I was naïve.  If only I knew then, what I know now.       
* Strike 1 for the duck*

Despite the attack on my brother, my hatred of ducks didn’t start developing until adolescence. During this stage of life, my mother (endearingly referred to as Crazy Horse by all 4 of her children) decided to muddle with nature.   She did this under the guise of an experiment for my youngest brother’s science fair project.  The project involved imprinting baby ducks, and seeing if they would bond to different stimuli. This required that several ducklings would be hatched in our home.  This would not be a bad idea if you were a run-of-the-mill animal enthusiast.   However, this was (and is) NOT the case with my mom. She is an over-the-top animal lover, knowing no bounds or limits!  She is one of those people who doesn’t quite accept that there are more than just aesthetic differences between humans and animals.   Suffice it to say that she came by her name Crazy Horse honestly.  I suppose, in hindsight, we should have foreseen what would follow this “science experiment”. 

Further, when I reflect on the decorations in my childhood home, one resounding theme arises– DUCKS!  Glass ducks, duck wall art, duck plates, duck linens, duck everything.   It was the late 80s – early 90s, and all things “country” were filling homes everywhere.   I didn’t make the connection until years later, but it definitely appears that my mom was laying a subtle but sure foundation for her quack-like behavior to come.

So now, in her duck decorated home, she had come to possess actual ducks. I recall that the emotional bond between my mom and one particular duck was very mother/child like. Sure enough, that duck, named Aflac, soon became the recipient of all my mom’s emotional affection and tangible love.   The duck ate better, dressed better, and received far more attention than my three brothers and I combined.   While we were downgraded to red-headed-stepchild status, and left to fight over scraps of old bread- the duck was treated as the sacred first born, eating filets, and taking daily trips to Starbucks (even wearing a mom-made diaper).   The absurdity of how Aflac was loved and treated is still a subject of much mockery to this day among my siblings.  We have vivid fabricated memories of being forced to sleep outside in the snow, while Aflac slept inside by the fire.  Our faces pressed against the ice-covered window, begging for blankets, while Aflac complained about how hot the fireplace made his down feathers.   Our malnourished bodies wasting away as we shared scraps of food found in the neighbor’s garbage like Tiny Tim, while Aflac’s gluttony was flaunted before our eyes with a mocking quack.    We had to work like Cinderella, while Aflac dictated from his throne… oh yes - the tyranny of Aflac was a dark time in our family history.

All this to say, my brothers and I were not devastated in the least upon learning of Aflac’s untimely passing several years later.  Happily, most of the emotional damage that stemmed from our mother loving the duck more than us has been repaired.   However, even now, any time any of us sees a duck, we still feel phantom pains where the scars once were.    
* Strike 2 for the duck*

Regardless of the duck-related tragedies of my youth, the fate of “all ducks in general” wasn’t sealed in my mind until a certain floundering college football team in Hippie Town, Oregon, practically transformed college football after being bankrolled by the 1959 alumni Phil Knight in the late 90s.   Prior to the financial backing from Uncle Phil, the Oregon Ducks had a consistent record of accomplishing nothing for the past 100 years (sans a Sun Bowl win in 1963, and a Independence Bowl win in 1989).  However, with Knight contributing more than $300 million to the athletic department at the University of Oregon over the past decade and a half, it is no mystery as to why Oregon has such a ridiculous advantage, and has become THE force to be reckoned with in college football… Then again, if any other team were given unlimited resources and a blank check, we’d see the same result. 

Now, if Oregon just took the benevolent provision and unmatched advantages with grace, gratitude and poise, it would be easy to rejoice along side the dominating football team.  But the Oregon Ducks, as well as their thug fans, don’t have even a touch of class.  They are arrogant, rude, and seem to forget that they are not a self-made team. They may dress, live, and have the following of kings.  But they have the heart and class of carnies.   Similar to welfare queens who win the lottery, and instantly think they are high-class.  You can take the trash out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out of the trash.   
*Strike 3 for the duck*

It seems to me that violence, emotional neglect, and arrogance are all things the world could use less of… So is it really any wonder that the sight of a glass duck, lying in three pieces, seems to bring about a sense of healing?


  1. I truly love you and your ramblings, and oh yeah, Go Ducks!!!!

    1. I wouldn't say that I particularly dispise any animal nor am I being asked to pose naked for PETA, but I find your ancedote to be truly compelling and and honest its portral of avian hatred. Like the tinkling of ice cubes in an empty alcoholics glass I can fully undertand the melovolent sound of the insidous quack and therefore covert from my ambivalent ways and suggest a meeting of the minds over a nice pinot noir and an old school game of duck hunt.

  2. ahahahaha...had to get a tissue to wipe the tears. You are so funny, and so talented!! I love you! BTW, Aflac will haunt from his downy grave! "mom'