The Houston Parrot Festival: What an amazing Festival! A great speaker line up, combined with an incredible array of products from some cutting edge vendors offering the best products made this year’s festival a joy. And it was terrific, once I got there. And I’ll be posting about the Festival and giving you a review of sorts in pieces because there’s a lot to tell you about.
For me, getting there proved to be a real pain in the keester. I had booked a flight that left Miami at 3:30 p.m. I had some things to take care of at the Flight Office at the airport so I got to MIA at about 12:30; plenty of time to get my parking pass updated, update some stuff, check my luggage and straighten out some other stuff. Turns out it was more than ample time because my flight was cancelled and I was rolled over to the next one departing at 10:10 p.m. So I hung around and waited. And waited. And as you know, this waiting jazz in an airport really blows.
But time did pass, I made my flight and arrived in one piece in Houston at about 1:30 in the morning. I called my hotel and there seemed to be a problem: “No room at the Inn.” The Hilton went ahead, picked me and and put me up at a Hotel across the street. When I finally got to my first hotel room it was 2:30 in the morning. I mean, good God…
No worries however, because I was right across the street. I called the hotel after tidying up and repacking and they came to get me. But I still had to wait because the people who had decided not to check out and bounced me out of my room the night before still hadn’t checked out. So I stowed my stuff and went to check in at the Festival desk. Little problem: they lost my registration. I was now up to a fight cancellation, an eight hour delay, two hotel rooms, and no ID for the festival. Great.
Deane Cheney finally dug up my registration and gave me my ID. Little problem: no lanyard to hang it around my neck. So we got that straightened out and I finally managed to get started with the running around and seeing everything. As I walked down the hall and was rounding the corner, I bumped into Dr. Irene Pepperberg coming out of the can.
Now, I realize most of the “PN” readers are “Parrot People” and are familiar with Irene Pepperberg and her shattering work with Alex. If you aren’t, I suggest you purchase this: Alex and Me.
And while you’re at it, you might as well watch this:
I’ve been flying for almost twenty-three years, so not a whole lot fazes me. I’ve done my time in first class and have served my share of celebrities: Shirley Temple, Alan Alda, Meryl Streep, Beverly Sills, Sade, Bill Murray, Rod Stewart, Jane Curtain, Ronald Reagan Jr., Andre the Giant, the President and First Lady of Bolivia and so on. And I once saw Stevie Wonder at LaGuardia Airport. (I don’t think he noticed me.) I never turned a hair and you kind of get used to it.
But here was Irene Pepperberg walking out of the Ladies Room and I had that “Oh my God” moment. I mean it. Really. This was my complete “Rock Star Moment Meltdown.”
Now the weird part of this is that I had met her before, but it had been about five years and not that she would remember me anyway.
So I did what I usually do; I just smiled and said “Hi Irene!” and she walked up to me and hugged me.
Well, once I managed to get my jaw off the floor, we started talking. And we sort of didn’t stop for three days. And we never really talked about her research or birds or training or anything like that. I mean it sounds kind of freakish, but those subjects just never came up because we were too busy yakking about airlines, travel, writing, our mothers, hotels, the Women’s Rights Movement and clothes. We also did a little bit of scheming and plotting for future joint projects which are already in the works…
I know what you’re thinking: Here was my chance to listen to a best-selling author and get some inside scoop on her work with Alex and we were comparing notes on how to get junk done when you’re living out of a suitcase. You know, really juicy stuff like, “Okay, so how do you wash a blouse in a hotel sink? Do you use the shampoo or the soap…” Or we were dissecting the best way to cope with certain issues that seem to crop up at shin-digs like the Parrot Festival.
I guess it was kind of an introduction to the beginning of a camaraderie that really has nothing to do with birds. But you never know, it might just involve a few birds in the future.
Patricia Sund is a Free-Lance Writer residing in Florida with her three African Greys. She has been published in About.com, Bird Talk Magazine, Birds USA, In Your Flock Magazine, Good Bird Magazine as well as numerous websites and newsletters. She is currently doing research for a book titled "Parrot Nation".