Feather In The Cap

Work in Progress. Updated version

Scene One

Announcer: “The loft of pigeons are preening their feathers, getting ready for the long journey from the emerald waters of the Florida Keys all the way to our northern neighbors in the Big Apple, aka New York City. These pigeons will catch air throughout nine of our great states. The birds did not luck out with good weather this year. It will be a rainy night in Georgia and Hurricane Griselda is expected to touch land in the outer banks of North Carolina. The Doppler radar says it will be low pressure system on the storm front. Can these pigeons so demonized by the public for pooping on heads make it safe and sound to the Empire State Building rooftop? One thing is for sure, it will be a jolly good time to watch which prized pigeon will make it home first and win $10,000 and get free bird seed for a year and live in the tropical paradise of Hawaii!

Let us meet our loft of pigeons entering the race. (The camera pans to each of the pigeons as the announcer presents them.)

Look at Edna. (Dressed in a bonnet, she is fluffing her feathers) Mother of five. She is preening, all ready with an all-weather purse she said contained her lucky umbrellas, BPA-free water bottles, sunscreen, and Band-Aids. She is quite a contender. The mother hen of the loft has been a two-time winner back in ‘98 and ’02. Her supporters are known as the “Mother Hens” and they are rooting for her in the stands with signs that read: She Ain’t No One’s Chickadee. Her owner is Edwina Morgan, a grandmother from Tennessee, who has been known to yarn bomb the library. (Edwina is also wearing a bonnet).

But Edna has got some strong competition. Ollie “The Oopster Poopster” McDonell is rearing to go. (Polishing his sunglasses and dancing) He is doing his signature dance moves before the big race. Look at him shake his tail feathers. He has been known for his speed and agility and much to the chagrin of our humanoid friends- accuracy in pooping on the noggins of little girls. He has won this thing before and wants to make history with a repeat victory. Was it a fluke last year or does he have staying power? His owner is none other than Michaela Jingelo, the country diva who sang the hit “Fly Home To Mama.” (Also wearing sunglasses.)

Another top contender to keep an eye out for is Amy “The Professor” Steinberg. (Making last minute calculations. Pencil behind her ear) She will school her fellow pigeons in aerodynamics and wind velocity. But can she use her book smarts to outwit the physical prowess of Ollie of the other top pigeons. We will have to wait and see if her studying will pay off. She has also been a winner in 2012. Her owner is the very accomplished physicist Wilma Steinberg.

Rounding out the top five to look for today is Charlie “Chuckles” McGoo. (Eating a sandwich) He has been known for his element of surprise. Just when you count him out, he will blind you with his lightning rod speed and take home the golden goose trophy. Be on the lookout for this sly one. He has been known to rule the roost in many a competitions. His one downside, he loves his bread niblets and has been known to take a few detours for a chow down session, but he usually comes out on top. His owner is the comedian Jon Leibowitz.

One last pigeon to look for today is over there in the corner, the shy Mattie Pie, the buttered muffin-mixed pigeon. (Looks scared and shy in corner. Wearing a ball cap with a muffin on it.) He may look a little scrawny, but this little guy has some serious lift-off moves that put him at the head of the flock. Expect him to lead the way for most of the race. Others most likely will use him as a good ole’ wind resistance flying behind him to save energy. His biggest problem is losing steam midway through. He could be caught being in second place like he did at last year’s East Coast Cookaroo Marathon. If he can save some of his high energy throughout the race, he might have a chance. He just lacks confidence to secure the win. Remember it is not who comes in first, but it is the average speed throughout the race. We will see if he has learned anything from his past mistakes. His owner is Felipe Gonzalez, the owner of a muffin and cupcake company in Los Angeles.

Mattie Pie: I think I can. I think I can. Positive thoughts. Think Hawaii. Think lazy days. Think endless supply of birdseed. Do not think hurricane. Do not think I am the youngest one and I have never won a race. Why did Felipe enter me in the East Coast Cookaroo again? Felipe thinks I can do this. Why don’t I? Remember slow and steady wins the race. Not out of control fast and lose it at the end like I did last year. I have never even been to college like the Professor. She knows the flight formulas down pat and all the others have taken home the Golden Goose trophy before. Felipe is going to be so disappointed in me if I lose once again. I will never be a winner. I am always going to be not good enough. But I have to do this for Felipe. He took me in off the streets when I was just begging for food at the park.

(The owners are gathered together fluffing their furry friends’ feathers and giving them a pep talk and spritzing them with water.)

Edwina to Edna: We have got to fluff these feathers of yours. You have got this one. Just make sure you have some oomph for the finale. We are going to the Big Island.

Jon Leibowitz to Charlie Chuckles McGoo: (Spritzing him with water): Remember, eye on the prize. No little detours and distractions. Just focus on winning. Wait, you can’t talk to me. Only your little pigeon frenemies. Remember they are the enemy and I am your only ally in the whole wide world. I feed you. I love you. I even bathe you. Do you like the spritz down? Hmm, I think you do. (Chuckles is showing an unhappy face) Wonder what you’d say?

(Birds are now talking to each other.)

Ollie: Listen bird brains. I am going to be in a hammock next year in Maui while you freeze your tootsies off in your Ivy League institution in Boston.

Amy The Professor: Umm. Listen dumb dumb poop. Keep talking. Trash talk before the race just gets me more motivated. I have solved a highly complicated flight formula for how I will bring this thing home. If my calculations are correct, which they most assuredly are, I have this thing in the bag.

Chuckles: Listen lightweight. I can take you out with a puff of smoke. Boom you are gone.

Edna: Hush up everyone. This race is nothing but a cash cow for our owners. We will be lucky to get through this thing alive, according to the weather reports. We really should have a signal if one of us gets lost.

Chuckles: Whatever.

Edna: I am prepared, as usual. I have bought everyone miniature walkie talkies to put inside their monogrammed fanny packs. I also stored some fruit punch and string cheese in there if you get the munchies. Now clip these on.

Chuckles: Are you serious? You have got to be kidding me.

Mattie Pie: This might slow my lift off down. You have all won this before. I can’t be bogged down by a walkie talkie.

Edna: Do you want to be caught in a gullywasher and have to succumb to a life of scrapping bread in the park. Do as I say!

Mattie Pie: Well, I guess you are right. If everyone will do it then it is fair. So okay.

Everyone straps on their fanny pack.

Edna: See you in New York City! We are going to hit it big time.

Announcer: Things seem tense at the starting blocks. But it is go time ladies and gentlemen. (Flurry of feathers at the racing blocks) They have got to get it together. Big money is riding on this contest. It is 10 to 1 odds that half of these birds will even make it to New York. You have better odds of the New York Giants winning a Superbowl. The countdown has started. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. (Gunshot) The game is on.

Signing off until we meet again in New York City. I am Stephen Colbert, filling in for Bob Costas while he has glasses repaired after ironically a goose tried to peck out his eye. We will see you in New York for who gets the real feather in their cap. Hasta Luego, amigos and amigettes.

Scene 2

(Shows liftoffs. Scenic panorama shot. The fans are applauding and hooting and hollering.)

(Formation is Mattie Pie first, then Edna, Amy, Ollie and Chuckles and the rest of the birds.)

Mattie Pie: Hey Ollie. Looks like turds of a feather, flock together.

Ollie: Good one Mattie Pie. I am saving my rockets for when we fly over the parade.

Edna: Keep it clean, boys.

Ollie: Lighten up Edna. Like you have never farted. The Professor can attest to the fact that all good ideas come from after you let out a juicy fart.

Amy: Actually, my good ideas have come from documented sources that I have attained with my trusty library card. Right now, I am thinking about my superior placement in the flock that uses the theory of back draft to full effect.

Mattie Pie: Oh. I thought we just flew in V formation because it looked pretty.

Chuckles: Yeah, no. It stands for Victory. (Flying to the front. He swaps places with Mattie Pie.)

Mattie Pie: Hey wait. (He swaps with Chuckles.)

The Professor: Let them duke it out. They will tire themselves out before we cross the state line of Georgia.

Edna: Exactly my thoughts. Hawaii here I come.

The Professor: (Starts singing a Hawaii song.)

Aloha, here we come.

Bird medicine, chum, chum, chum.

One feather together.

Unite all under the good mother.

I have been practicing my ukulele to get us in the mood. Ukulele solo.

Edna: (not to be out done pulls out a drum set) Drop me in the sky, take me to the mountain (tune of take me to the river by Talking Heads)

(A beautiful colorful cardinal zips by.)

Edna: Look at her pretty plumage.

Amy The Professor: Why did I have to have grey white feathers? I am a bird, for Pete’s sake. We are supposed to have colorful feathers. It is a destiny I will have to endure.

Edna: I didn’t know you were so into your looks. You look like a fine pigeon. Can you imagine a pigeon any other color. You wouldn’t be a pigeon. You wouldn’t be able to find your way home like we can.

Amy The Professor: True true. I just sometimes wish I had fiery bright red feathers because that is what I feel inside.

Edna: Not me. I like being a pigeon and off white is always in season. Now we still look good after Labor Day.

Amy The Professor: Oh my God. Look ahead. It’s none other than Ollie’s favorite sport.

Edna: Oh, dear one. Help us.

(A statue is up ahead of Ernest Hemingway.)

Ollie: It’s showtime people. Looks like a friend to the feathered ones. (Tries to poop, but is constipated. Makes constipated noises.)

Ollie: Oh no. My mojo is gone. If I can’t poop, I can’t win. This is not a good sign. What in the world did she feed me today to get in competition mode? It sure wasn’t prune juice.

Edna: Who is that a stature of anyway?

Amy: It reads Ernest Hemingway. Good writer, bad for women. Didn’t much care for Kilimanjaro. He liked cats too.

Mattie Pie: Well, he was saved from Ollie. He must be a blessed writer.

(Back to the people)

Edwina: Looks like Ollie just did an Ollie-oop. If he keeps this up, my little Edna will be singing aloha in no time.

Wilma: What did you feed him before the race?

Michaela: I bought it at Whole Bird Food. It is called Seedtopia. It said it was organic and sustainably grown.

Wilma: Oh, that stuff is for the birds. I buy that too but I mix it with chunks of Spanish peanuts and plum juice so he won’t be constipated. I will not stand for that.

Michaela: Thanks for telling me now. Real helpful.

Wilma: Well, it’s a contest. I am here to win. I can’t give away all my trade secrets.

Wilma: Looks like they are about to pass over Gainesville. My alma mater was there.

Michaela: Oh oh. Looks like Ollie is struggling. I can’t wait till we get out of Florida.

Edwina: Be careful what you wish for. We have rainy nights and Hurricane Griselda to beat.

(Back to the birds)

Mattie Pie: Whooa! It is a scorcher down here in Florida. I need some water, but I got to keep on moving. Maybe just a little drink from the lake and I will be fine.

He dives down and drinks from the lake and a little kid is looking at him through a window with a juicy watermelon.

Mattie Pie: Oh my god. Watermelon! My favorite!!! I can’t believe my luck.

Chuckles: It looks like a beautiful park down there. I am going in and seeing if anyone will feed me. I’m hungry. Look a watermelon. (They both crash into the window.)

(Both Mattie Pie and Chuckles look dazed.)

Mattie Pie: I am seeing strange stars. It is like I am dreaming of another planet.

Chuckles: I see twinkly lights. It is Christmas time and I am getting peanuts in my stocking.

Edna: Snap out of it boys. Shake it off. You flew into one of those windows. See. (Knocks on window) It is a see through wall. Now. Come on and get it together. We are flying as one unit. We live and die together. As one flock.

They start flying.

Edna: I can’t wait to get home to the Big Apple. I don’t know about climbing the Empire State Building. I don’t usually fly that high. I usually just land on the fourth floor max so I can spot the food source on the pavement. How are we ever going to climb to the top of the Empire State Building? No pigeons have been there before.

Amy: Yes, there was one pigeon named Hugo Henderson Jr. who made his way to the top in the 1970s. (Dream sequence of the famed Hugo ensues.) He did it on a dare. All the pigeons in New York thought Hugo was a coward because he wouldn’t dare go to parks and beg for food. He dined only at the hands of his owner Maria. Orlando treated him like a king, and would bathe him in rosewater. The other pigeons found out and had a field day making fun of him. They called him a mama’s boy. He wanted to prove them wrong so he climbed all 96 stories of the Empire State Building on his two webbed feet. He didn’t fly. He walked. It took him two days. But when he got to the top of the building, he yelled at the top of his lungs, “Now who you calling a sissypants.” He was exhausted from his trek though and when he dove off the platform he hit high winds and got tangled up in a high-flying kite and the string wrapped around his neck and choked him. He couldn’t breathe and in second, he died.

Edna: Oh my God. We are doomed. We are all going to die an untimely death.

Amy: No we are not. I have devised a plan that makes sure I will live, get the golden goose trophy and move to Aloha land.

Edna: Well, are you going to share it with the rest of us or do we mean nothing to you?

Amy: I might share it with you, but for these other clowns, they have no idea. I mean Ollie, little joy boy gets a kick out of pooping on heads. It would be in the best interest of mankind if he didn’t procreate.

Edna: Well, we are not even close to New York. We have some wild rides before us. I hope to keep this flock together and just make it out all alive.

Mattie Pie: Can I have a word with you Edna?

Edna: Sure.

Mattie Pie: It seems like we are being timed on not who gets there first, but who has the average best speed. Even if I am at the head of the flock for most of the time, I am still doomed if I lose too much steam at the end.

Edna: Yes, slow and steady wins the race. But not too slow. But don’t worry about that. We have a hurricane to get through first.

Mattie Pie: You have all won this before. How did you do it?

Edna: Well, last time I won by staying with the flock and then at the very end giving it my all. I mean every last ounce of energy went into the last mile. Amy told me the secret formula for speed. Speed is distance divided by time. So the more speed you can maintain over a longer distance in the less amount of time, that is who wins.

Mattie Pie: Hmm. Well, last year I was way ahead of everyone and I walked the last two miles and came in second. So you are telling me if I remain sort of fast throughout the race and give it my all at the end, I have a chance.

Edna: Bingo. That is the strategy. You are a good kid, not like Ollie who is pooping everywhere. He doesn’t play by the rules. Look out for him. Also watch Chuckles. Why is he so big this year? What are they feeding him? Look at Ollie and Chuckles.

Ollie: Let’s enjoy the palm trees of Florida and the nice people throwing out that tasty ciabatta bread on the Cuban sandwiches.

Chuckles: I will join you. Yum yum, give me some.

Edna: Just follow Amy and me and we have a chance. One Ollie is all I can muster.

Amy: Look at this rooftop. It looks like a good place to hang our heads for the nights and get some z’s.

Ollie: Great idea.

Edna: Wow, what a beautiful sunset.

Mattie Pie: I could enjoy some solitude and quietness here on the rooftop.

A DJ is on the rooftop in the corner and people start filling up the rooftop.

A DJ says: Are you ready to get the party started?

Loud thumping music starts playing. People are dancing and drinking.

Edna: How are we ever to get some sleep with this loud techno music?

Ollie: I love it! I think I will have whatever that lady in the red dress is drinking. Looks like a slushy.

Amy: Hmm. They all are drinking slushies. Looks refreshing. It is such a balmy evening here in Florida. The humidity is really working havoc on my feathers.

Edna: I will take the slushy that looks purple. That is my favorite color.

Chuckles: (dancing) I love this beat! (Doing some fancy dance moves) I could dance all night! And the beat goes on and on and on. (Singing to the music).

Ollie: I wish I could get my mojo on and poop on that DJs head. But looks like that is not going to happen. I will just have to enjoy the view and drink another slushy.

Mattie Pie: I feel free as a bird! Wait I am a bird. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Chuckles: That was a lot funnier in your head than it was out loud.

Mattie Pie: Everything is a comedy. You are funny. I am funny. This whole race is funny. We are either going to die in Hurricane Griselda or we are going to make pigeon history.

Edna: I am feeling a bit woozy. Hmm. I feel like a conga line. Everyone follow me!

The conga line starts with Edna in the lead.

Amy: Look at those colors.

Edna: It is called Art Deco. I feel the love of the Florida peeps!

Amy: Let’s do the chicken dance!!

Mattie Pie: Wait we are pigeons doing the chicken dance.

Chuckles: (Stumbling) Look at the moon…ooh oooh oohhh… (Falls over rooftop)

Edna: Chuckles…….!!!!!! Remember, you can fly.

Chuckles: I don’t remember how.

Edna: Just spread your wings.

Chuckles: Oh yeah. (Spreads his wings but crashes into an awning and then lands on the pavement) Aah! Aaah!

Edna: (Flying down to his rescue) Are you okay?

Chuckles: I think I broke my leg.

Edna: (Touching the leg) Does this hurt?

Chuckles: Aaaah!

Edna: Well you can still fly. You will just have to land on your right leg. Let’s get you bandaged up. (Takes out her first aid kit in her fanny pack.)

Chuckles: How am I supposed to land on one leg? I am not a trapeze artist for Pete’s sake.

Edna: You will have to figure it out. We can’t leave you here. Here let me wrap it up.

Chuckles: Oh Jeez. Mr. Leibowitz will be so disappointed. I will never win. I have let him down.

Edna: Come on tiger. You are not out by a long shot. We have just started. Get some z’s and be ready in the morning.

(Black out. Sunrise. Birds are chirping. Pigeons waking up.)

Mattie Pie: (groggy) Good morning. Ow…My head is killing me. Does anyone else have a headache?

Amy: Me too.

Ollie: I feel like I have been hit by a semi-truck.

Chuckles: My leg is killing me AND my head hurts.

Amy: I think the slushy may have had something in it. Maybe it was spiked.

Edna: We will never know. We have to be on the road to Georgia. And they will never ever be aware of our little misadventure in Florida. You hear me.

Amy: Good idea. Let’s pack it up and move. Last one out of here is a rotten egg.

(Pigeons fly forward, groggy and all.)

They are moaning, but in good fun.

Mattie Pie: Looks like we are almost there to Georgia. So the real question on my mind Chuckles is why are you so buffed? Last time I saw you in the West Coast Cookaroo you were a about my size, just a scrawny little pigeon. Now you are ripped, bro.

Chuckles: I know. I feel invincible, except for my leg now. It all started when Mr. Leibowitz started injecting me with some sort of bird medicine for my anxiety over hummingbirds. I saw a little red hummingbird at the West Coast Cookaroo and the little burger was staring me right in the eyes, flapping her wings furiously. I thought I was having a heart attack and had to stop the race and land to get over it. I did a few breathing techniques, but the twit tweety bird was harassing me and said I stinked and needed a bird bath. It put me way behind but I still did well. So, Mr. Leibowitz started giving me some medicine to treat my anxiety. But it is weird. I still feel anxious.

Mattie Pie: Hmm. I don’t think that is anxiety medicine, bro. I think it is steroids. You have been doped, dude.

Chuckles: Doped??? But that is illegal. If they do my bloodwork, I will automatically be eliminated from the race. Why would Mr. Leibowitz dope me?

The Artiste

She made us draw bones and dead leaves.

This pig-tailed teacher gave us an hour to draw every nook and cranny of the bones and the curves of the dead leaves.

Nothing pretty. Just white and brown and dead.

She gave us an old shoe that had been worn for 35 years.

We drew the negative spaces and twists and turns of the ratty shoelaces.

I was proud of my shoe drawing and we hung it up on the fridge.

Old, dead things do not excite me I learned.

I wish I could draw the beautiful mess in our minds.

What would redemption look like? What would a happy, medicated couple look like?

We stared at the palms of our hands for two hours and traced each line.

I don’t think palm readers ever get this close of an analysis.

I learned it is better to draw and not look at the picture.

The lines are prettier when you don’t know what you are doing.

They make little patterns and waves and you are completely blind.

God’s blind art was good for the soul.

I will hang up this piece and call myself an artiste.

Step Speech

We had our chance to shake his hand and we were too shy.

But we walked through the bushes and were first to say hi.

He came in likes a storm on a windy footpath.

His white hair blowing in the wind, he walked up the stairs on an anti-warpath.

He spoke of peace, tolerance, and free college for all.

The crowd clapped in approval but no one has a crystal ball.

Will the dream of the small gathering come true?

Will peace prevail and truth in politics reign anew?

No one knows.

So many choices and so many seeds yet to be sown.

Will the rich just get richer, and the poor keep getting poorer?

Is he the man with a plan of integrity or are they all many shades of the fuhrer?

Who to check in that ballot box come election day?

All the dreams and hopes of millions who think they have no say.

Let us be good in our thoughts and pray.


This is about my experience seeing Bernie Sanders give a speech on the steps of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. It was a brush with a prominent politician and I will never forget it. I felt like he was someone who you would want to have over to your house and talk about politics with at the dinner table. But there are so many options this year. I am keeping my mind open and listening to what each candidate has to say.