By Wm. Maranda
It started simple enough, then it got all long and drawn out. Sister’s friend wanted to know why the heck all these birds show up, dozens and dozens surrounding the house. She’s not here that often, never noticed this before. But she says it’s just too weird. This happens all the time. The neighbors have even pointed out this fact, too.
The joke is this; since I like to pretend my house is a diner and that I’m the short order cook,
“They’re my best customers: they love the food, eat like pigs, never complain.
Only problem is they leave crap for a tip.”
But here we go again, me not wanting to get the, “Bill is nuts, wacko” look. They say it all started when I realized that I was a Gnostic.
So, … Here we are.
Many, many years ago, when I worked at the Sweet Shop, Greek diner in tony “Winnetka”, I had the fortune to have many celebrities as customers. New Trier high school has an extensive list. And, Bob Widdecombe, the diner’s head cook taught me what he learned in the US Army, which got me established in the trade and lead to a degree form Berea College / Hospitality-Business Administration.
After college I was working for Burhop’s Fish & Seafood supply company, traversing the city giving cooking lessons to restaurant chefs. These products are very expensive. This method of showing cooks in their own kitchen proper storage, preparation and cooking technique helped to sell a great deal of high end, top shelf product. By the turn of the century, these dudes were on Rush Street, Michigan avenue and beyond. I heard as my prelude, a few even went on to Charlie Trotter’s as interns.
The restaurant customers were happy with the new menu specials. The cooks appreciated this unique interactive instruction, all while developing additional knowledge, skills.
And we all made lots of money.
But back to the birds.
So, on weekends I also had good size mommy classes in the Burhop retail stores, specifically catering this one-on-one method for the North Shore trophy wife.
Burt Bacharach was a big fish eater, kept healthy. Whenever he showed up for class at the Burhop’s retail store in Wilmette nobody knew it was “the song guy”. Probably because he wrote the songs, he wasn’t on Ed Sullivan singing them. I knew who he was because my mom and brother are musicians and into details, like who wrote the song.
In these Saturday retail classes he was normally the only guy in the group. With the ladies it was more like,
“What’s a man doing at this cooking class?
By the way he’s dressed, you can tell he’s got money, probably eats out a lot.
Watch, I bet that he’ll ask dumb questions.
Maybe he’s looking for a Spring / Winter thing?”
But Burt was here merely for a free pricey restaurant meal, nothing more, and have an enjoyable way to spend this pleasant afternoon.
So, it was on this sunny spring Saturday and Burhop’s is doing our first of the season outdoor grilling along with the standard Wisconsin style fish boil. The song guy was one of the very first to arrive, came early. The grill hadn’t even been flamed, yet.
I was in the store preparing the product; cutting the fish, shelling the shrimp, cracking the oysters. He came over and wanted to know what’s for lunch. I gave him my notebook for the day which lists the order of each step of each recipe, and offered my usual accommodation for him,
“Tell me what you want, anything special?
If it’s not on our schedule, we’ll add it in. I’ll fix it for you anyway.
After my birds, you’re one of my best customers”
That’s the first time I got the look, that “Bill is nuts, wacko” look.
Yep, from none other than Burt Bacharach.
Think of that look on a lone guy on the subway platform late at night. You’re wondering if he’s the type to push people onto the tracks. That’s me.
OK, now it’s showtime. I’m bringing out the food, utensils, setting up, lighting the grill and such. My assistant is arranging cups, plates, etc.
Looking over my shoulder, I take the fish bones over to the hedges in front of the store assembling them on the far, far side next to the back wall as so my birds won’t bother the customers and the boss won’t see.
Before leaving I always clear up all the bones never leaving a trace, picked clean mind you. I do this all year long, but during these cookouts, it’s risky. I could get written up, even fired for feeding ‘my’ birds. Nobody understands, cept’in my birds.
Yes, my birds, my very best customers. Each and every Saturday my birds were anxiously waiting in anticipation for Bill’s tasty fresh fish supper.
When I get back over to my cooking station, I notice Burt laughing.
“Every Saturday I’m wondering why so many birds?
Is because of the lake across the street?
Birds in the air, in the bushes, on the rooftops, everywhere,
So, so many birds!
Gave me the jitters, like in that movie. Was it me?
Hey, Bill, I wrote a song about you!”
Now, there you have it.
Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?
Just like me, they long to be close to you