Tuesday, September 8, 2009

THE PECOS PIG - Part 4. The Cost Per Bird

OK, so it’s not on the scale of a blown head gasket but it did strike me as a bit odd that every motel in Socorro, New Mexico, was full tonight. Something about a science fair, the Motel 6 woman told me. Same for the Comfort Inn in Belen. As for two places in Los Lunas, well I got caught by a slow-moving train while trying to find them and gave up. Eighty miles north of Socorro I finally found a Motel 6 near the Albuquerque airport – $57 (senior discount). Monica had all kinds of trouble getting me checked in, having to change room assignments three times. “I’ve never had this happen,” she apologized. “It’s perfectly understandable,” I said, and let it go at that.

Rick the Honda guy called me on my cell phone yesterday with the bad news. “I failed you,” he said. So there I was trying to make him feel better. “I really thought I was going to get you out of here today,” he kept saying.

Rick is surprised at my mellow acceptance. Like I told him, am I supposed to get mad at some anonymous kid in a parts assembly warehouse somewhere in Ohio who missed putting the head gasket in the nicely sealed box sent to El Paso for my Honda? First, no plug. Now, no gasket.

But wait. There’s more. There’s always fucking more!

The “overnight” shipping of the new box of gaskets isn’t really overnight. Something about this having to be “cross-shipped.” I wanted to ask if that meant it was being delivered by a transvestite on a bicycle but thought better of it. The upshot: delivery Monday instead of Friday.

Rick didn’t call me today as soon as he learned the bad news because he “didn’t want to ruin my morning.” And it would have. Instead, I paid my third visit to this burlap-covered bird blind in the Franklin Mountain State Park. I was surprised to find one very large man already inside with a camera.

“Come in. Have a seat,” whispered Richard, the man who had built this bird blind, put out bird seed every week and kept the watering hole working by carrying in water by hand to a 55-gallon drum. Richard was a former rodeo photographer who got hurt and now had trouble even walking. But he had convinced the park bureaucracy to let him build and maintain this blind. He had only gotten interested in birds four or five years ago, but had marvelous enthusiasm about the sparrows and towhees he watched every few days. Now, he said, the park wanted him to create a butterfly garden. Richard was stalled because of the drought and because they wouldn’t let him plant any wildflowers: “‘No way,’ they told me. That would have to be approved by Austin.”

I did have a nice stay camping alone last night in the park. Poor-wills surrounded my camp at dark, making their “poor-will” calls with a little hiccup at the end. New life bird #27 for the trip. When I was at bird #25 I had told my friend, John, on the phone how much the trip was costing me, but bragged about my list of new life birds. “A hundred dollars a bird,” he noted dryly. At the time of the Poor-will, #27, I figured I had brought the cost down to maybe $90 a bird. That was before I knew I had the weekend to kill.

That’s what has sent me north into New Mexico, trying to fill two and one-half days. Rick was nice enough to call late today and confirm that the gasket would not arrive tomorrow, Saturday, but should be there Monday, 10:00 am. “So enjoy your weekend,” he said in his message, with absolutely no irony in his voice.

Tomorrow: "Part 5. The Evil Pig, Texas or God"

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