March 18 2003
funny in Kansas
Arts and Entertainment
by Dan Leone
The yard birds
I MADE A crack last week about keeping a cow in the city, but the fact is I have every intention in the world of bringing my chickens with me when we move back. There're only three of them left, and they all sleep together anyway. So what's a two-bedroom going for these days? Or better yet, a one-bedroom with a yard?
You see, once you have chickens, you can't just not have them. City, country ... In fact, I guess I'll depend on them even more in town, because what else are you going to look at? People? Dogs? Architecture? Walls?
My idea is to start a business. Same as rich people pay folks to make their yards look pretty, I'm thinking maybe not-so-necessarily-rich people with yards might pay me to bring in chickens. Build a little coop out of skids, or scrap wood. Couple bales o' straw. That old broom handle'll make a nice roost. Old cardboard box for a nest, for the eggs. Teach you what to feed them. How to protect them from bobcats and hawks or I should say raccoons and gang violence, since we're talking urban forces of evil. Landlords.
Now, whatever you do, don't go getting attached to the little ladies, at least not in any kind of a case-by-case manner. No names. You're going to love chickens, in general, same way as you love chicken, for example, or eggs. But that's it. That's all. Then when one gets gotten by a raccoon or drive-by shooting (or landlord), you call me. I'll clean up the mess and bring you another chicken, just like that, no sweat, regular maintenance being 90 percent of chickenscaping. And the other half is mental.
Speaking of Yogi Berra, thanks to the bum leg I haven't played ball of any kind in what's it been over a month now? Meaning, among other things (lethargy, boredom, general malaise, crankiness, despair, irritability, dizziness, depression, cognitive dysfunction, decreased motor activity, congestion, allergies, congestive heart failure, doldrums, nightmares, insomnia, and bad vibes), my commutes to the city have been cut in half. But I guess that falls under decreased motor activity. And I guess, what with the price of gas long since having shot through the roof and currently clearing the ozone layer ...
Where was I?
Oh, with those chickens: don't let them eat sunflower seeds out of your hands, either. No matter how long or hard you've fantasized about the gentle tickle of wattles on your palms ... Don't do it, because then they're going to get attached to you.
I eat lunch outside on nice days. Breakfast and dinner, too, time of year permitting. Yesterday I was having the usual fried eggs and potatoes and homemade toast when the chickens spotted me and were on me like flies. One jumped up on the chair across the table from me; another jumped up on the table and was eyeballing my/her eggs. I tried to shoo them away, but then they were eyeballing my hands: What's he got? What's he got? At this point your chickens are basically dogs, which is to say, no good. Yeah, you still get the eggs, but you can't eat them in peace.
For dinner I went out to dinner. I went to our little burger place, the Sequoia Drive-In, Sebastopol's answer to old Mike down in Petaluma (see last week's column). Like Mike's, Sequoia's burger has won all sorts of awards. The difference is you're not eating at a livestock auction yard, so why bother, really?
Other differences include, well, fries. Sequoia not only has them, but they're fresh-cut and delicious too, and "small fries" means about enough to feed a family of four, even without the burgers. Sadly, they're not included. It'll run you $4.25 for a half-pound burger, and then another $1.79 for the fries. Now, while I'll always have a gripe over the noninclusion of fries, that adds up to just six bucks and pennies, I can't help noticing. Even with cheese (40¢ extra), that's still pennies less than Mike's cheeseburger, which comes with mac salad or a bag of chips in lieu of enough fresh-cut fries to feed a family of four.
I'll say this too: Sequoia's burgers are better. They're grilled instead of griddled, for one thing and that's a pretty big thing. But, all in all, I'd rather be at Mike's at the Yard. For the atmosphere, for what it's worth.
Sequoia's pretty cool too. Just a window to order at, serve-yourself drinks (including RC on tap), and picnic tables one out front, under fluorescent lights, in case it gets dark out, and then a bunch more in back under a green plastic shade roof. So no matter how you look at it, unless you sit in your car, you're eating outside. Which is all well and good ... until the cows come home.