Hear the Parrots of Telegraph Hill

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this column even semi-regularly that I am a bit of a bird nut.  OK, perhaps I zoomed by “bit of” and went right to “totally crazed” about twenty years ago. Either way, the reality is that birds are a passion of mine.

That’s why I’m so excited about some events coming to Anchorage the week of May 16th.  It’s a chance for people who aren’t bird crazy to mingle with those of us who are and learn why we have the passion we do.  These events may never convert you to someone who happily walks around with band-aids on most fingers because of a disagreement over bedtime with your favorite avian companion, but it will go a long way to explaining why some of us do.

The week starts off at the Bear Tooth Theater on Monday, May 16th with the Alaska premier of a documentary entitled “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”. If that title sounds familiar, it’s because it was the name of a best selling book before it became a film.  Not only will the film air twice that Monday, but the author of the book, Mark Bittner, will be there to make a presentation before each showing.

According to the website for this movie, it is “the true story of a Bohemian St. Francis and his remarkable relationship with a flock of wild red-and-green parrots. Mark Bittner, a dharma bum*, and former street musician in San Francisco, falls in with the flock as he searches for meaning in his life, unaware that the wild parrots will bring him everything he needs.”

*Dharma bum (per Gary Snyder): “A homeless seeker of truth”

The movie is directed by Judy Irving and stars Mark Bittner and avian superstars Mingus, Connor, Picasso, Sophie, Olive, Pushkin and Tupelo.

Of course, the Alaska Parrot Education and Adoption Center (AkPEAC) could not pass up this opportunity to hold a fundraiser at the same time at the Bear Tooth. So people attending not only get to meet a real live author, they not only get to be at the Alaska premier of a new movie, they also get to mingle with a group of crazed bird people who will be happy to occupy you for hours with tales of their wonderful companions.  Of course, if you don’t have hours to spend listening, you can make a donation and sneak away when they take a deep breath before going into their next story.

On Thursday, May 19, Bittner will be at the Cook Inlet Book Store signing copies of his best seller.  According to James D. Gilardi, Ph. D., Director, World Parrot Trust, “By falling in with a flock of wild parrots, Bittner has learned more about a real parrot society than those of us studying wild or captive parrots could ever hope to learn. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill makes essential and delightful reading for anyone with an interest in the complex lives of intelligent and engaging wild animals. By interweaving the parrots’ struggle to thrive in San Francisco with his own personal and spiritual challenges, Bittner’s work ventures beyond a great becoming-one-with-the-animals tale; he successfully inspires readers to find nature and peace in whatever place on the planet they happen to occupy.”

Now if that doesn’t get you reading the book and longing to see the movie, I don’t know what will.

Finally, the week ends on Saturday at the B/P Energy Center with AkPEAC’s annual conference.  Bonnie Kenk, found and executive director of PEAC, will present a program on the wild parrots of Southern California, followed by a presentation by Mark Bittner. For those of us who love companion birds, and for anyone who has ever just enjoyed their wonderfully funny antics and conversation, it’s a conference not to be missed.

It’s like I said, I’m a little crazy about birds.  I have six in my home. Three are waiting for adoption.  You can go to the AkPEAC website at http://www.akpeac.org and find out how to qualify as an adoptive parent.  You can also go there to find a schedule of two-hour training sessions that are offered year round and will help you whether you already have a companion bird (and are constantly being outwitted by it and want to win at least some of the time) or think you might be interested and want to learn more.

So come one, come all.  The week of May 16th looks like a great one for anyone who has ever watched a bird soar in the air and felt their heart soar with it.