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Dead Parrot Society - Family Birds

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Old 06-26-2014, 11:31 AM
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Default Dead Parrot Society - Family Birds

Dead Parrot Society - Family Birds

In case you are not familiar with the Dead Parrot Society, it is based on the Monty Python sketch (see "The Dead Parrot Society" story) in which a man is confronted with the undisputable fact that he sold a dead parrot to another man and he just denies the whole thing. The D.P.S. is an organization dedicated to the identification and sometime exposure of dead parrots (clear lies and embellishments) for the edification and sanity of the population. In other words, we sniff out the dead birds and then take the appropriate action.

There are many times that the people involved just donít want to know that the parrot they are so attached to has "passed on". One of the most common examples of this is the bird of "family love" - whole generations have ignored the stench of the decaying fantasy of a loving family even as they are thrown under the buss by their family members. Year after year they go to family holidays pretending that the crushing hugs they receive at the hands of their siblings are not about aggression but are actually affection. They feel that any family relationship is better than none. So the family parrot gets stuffed and all agree to pretend that it lives and is just what they want. Even when they return to their regular lives, they will talk about the wonderful time they had in the bosom of their family - the one they barely escaped alive.

Now, I am not saying that all family relations are like this or like this all the time. It would just be the ones I have personally encountered. There have been those that looked as idyllic as a fifties TV show (e.g. Father Knows Best, where every decision i
s based on the fact of unselfish family love) but on closer examination they more closely resemble The X-Files. Some normal nice warm families may be out there but I have not met them.

In the group of people that I am related to by blood (the blood part makes the most sense), the D.P.s were stacked up like cordwood. Everywhere you looked there were birds staring back at you. "Donít you dare talk like that to your Mother." This from a person who at lest a daily had screaming matches with that very same person in
which all kinds of words were clearly OK to use. I wondered if it was about being a certain age - like being old enough to drink.

It started very young, when I was instructed to sincerely thank an aunt for a gift I did not like right after I had been admonished for not telling the truth. The trick seemed to be knowing when it was good to lie and when it was not. One is quickly alerted by gentle cues (like a smack in the back of the head) when one had misjudged the appropriate action or words.

It is also difficult to "get" a clear understanding for the feeling of love when you are instructed to tell your brother you love him when he has just destroyed your favorite toy. Or demonstrate loving feelings when your sister has just whispered in your ear that you are stupid looking and no girl will ever want to go out with you. If these things were an indication of what love was like, then it was no wonder people get nervous when they are told they are loved.

The most surprising thing to me was always that things that would get you arrested in general society were completely overlooked in family life. Property destruction, assault, character assassination and general mayhem were part of daily life in my family of five children and two adults. I think five was a key number. Being an odd
number it was fertile ground for shifting alliances. There was never a time with out intrigue and of course everyone was innocent.

The saying that "you can always go home - they have to take you back " wasnít talking about my family. At least, I knew that even if they" took me back" I would most likely wish they had not. For some reason, I was one that could not would not "feed" the dead parrots. I knew they were dead and would not eat so I refused to play along. For this most unforgivable of Sins (as I have since found out) I was ostracized and cast out by my family. I saw the reality of my parentís relationship (a marriage that had come to be based on fear not love - where my father was the "good guy" and my mother was the "bitch" -they both had their roles and were comfortable in them) and in a crazed moment of helpfulness (based on my recently acquired degree in Psychology) pointed out to them that I understood and wanted to
help. Not only did that end my relationship with them, for ten years no one in the family would talk to me.

So the point? It is good to see Dead Parrots - then you are not their prisoner. But if you wish to have a relationship with your family it is important to know when to feed those parrots. After all how much will they really eat?

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Old 06-26-2014, 02:03 PM
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Ah...it's so nice to know my family isn't the only one. It's a tough line to walk - at what point does one cease to be "polite" and transition to "willfully blind" to the underlying issues at hand? Coming from a family who has elevated "sweeping it under the rug" to an art form, this piece struck a definite chord.

Originally Posted by Tor View Post
In the group of people that I am related to by blood (the blood part makes the most sense), the D.P.s were stacked up like cordwood.
I adore this line. I don't know if it's the image conjured by the simile, but I just love it. Cordwood. Makes me giggle.

Originally Posted by Tor View Post
After all how much will they really eat?
A perfect ending to the piece - especially if you want the reader to think about this afterward. The philosophical nature of the question asks the reader to make a judgement...but not one that is easy to make or define.

Thanks for sharing this, Tor...it's given me something to mull over for a while
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Old 06-26-2014, 05:29 PM
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For ten years nobody in your family talked to you is really sad, really tough. Wouldn't want to be put in a situation like that because I don't know how I would have handled it. From your writing, though, Tor, you seemed to have emerged from that ordeal mentally intact. It probably strengthened your character in ways you never thought possible, but it much have hurt deeply while it was taking place.

I don't know what it is about aunts and nephews. When I was a boy one of my aunts lived on the third floor of a six story tenement. During the summer, she'd sit by her opened window and gaze down at the street below, and sometimes when she'd see me playing in the street, she'd call down to me to come up her apartment. She was a sweet old lady (lonely though) who would keep me up her apartment for about an hour or two, talking to me about my mom (her sister) and the rest of my family. And, when it was time for me to leave, she'd always give me two quarters (a lot of money for a kid back then . . . set one up for a day or two).

Well, one gorgeous day when all the kids were playing in the street, from her third-floor window she spots me below and calls for me to go upstairs. I really didn't want to because I was having fun, but since she caught me, I had no choice. So, I walked into her building but this time instead of my going directly upstairs, I waited in the hallway of her building for about five minutes before sticking my head out the entrance of the building to peek upstairs at her window. She was gone (probably went inside to wait for my arrival). Once I saw that she was no longer by the window, I ran outside the hallway and raced around the corner to play on a street where she couldn't see me from the window. I felt so bad I did that to her, but it was too nice of a day to sit inside her apartment.

She was a sweet aunt though. When I had gotten older, I used to go up her apartment to chat with her . . . on my own.

Tor, thanks for the read.

Last edited by Cityboy; 06-26-2014 at 05:41 PM..
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Old 06-27-2014, 03:28 PM
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Thanks. Glad you liked it - my therapist says writing about it is helping me get better. We shall see. But The DPS is there to help with many dead birds of many kinds. Part one follows:

The Dead Parrot Society
Dead Parrot? - Yes, indeed! As you may recall back sometime ago there was a comedy group called Monty Python who did quirky "off the wall" improvisational sketches. One of their most well known sketches involved the sale of a dead parrot. Bear with me, there is a point to all this.

In the sketch a man comes back into a pet shop to complaining he was just sold a dead parrot. The salesman tells him that the bird which was clearly dead was in fact not dead - just resting. The customer points out that the bird is nailed to his perch in the cage. The salesman counters that the parrot is nailed to the perch so that he will not fly away. Well, to shorten it up, the customer continues pointing out all of the evidence that the bird is dead and the salesman continues to deny the evidence no matter how compelling the argument to the contrary. As this goes on the customer becomes more and more frustrated and agitated and finally begins to bang the bird on the counter while yelling "the Bird is Dead!…Dead!!…Dead!!!…..". At this point, the salesman calmly looks at the customer and says, "Well, yes, now".

My first response was a short burst of laughter. It then occurred to me that I had been to that pet shop - many times. Indeed my whole life people have been trying to sell me dead birds. "This spanking is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." - Hmmmm. "These carrots taste like candy" - I still hate carrots. "After the surgery you can have all the ice cream you want." - Who wants ice cream after surgery?
Not only from childhood have I been sold dead parrots but also I have been taught to sell them to others. Often this takes the form of the "White Lie". Telling people how smart, thin, attractive or whatever even when no reasonable person would agree that any of those things were the case. It seems polite society is populated by accomplished liars and in fact, that polite society could not exist without them.
We were taught not to say Aunt Blanch smells funny. But instead of saying nothing we were taught to "kill the parrot" by saying something like - "Aunt Blanch what nice perfume you are wearing." - ("Evening in Parrot?" - or is that Paris, one forgets.)
And then there are the parrots that are self-serving - "I am so skilled that I can not help but win" (even though I know I have limited skills.) Or D.P.’s that serve our bosses - "You are so smart that I believe everything you tell me." (even when we don’t believe a word of it.) How about those birds served up by politicians - "I will increase all your governmental benefits and none of it will cost a cent." - (Oh yea,- right). All of this gives new meaning to the phrase - giving someone the Bird.
The list of types of dead parrots is endless and more are added to it everyday. With more and more technology and less social skills to interfere with it, Dead parrots can be e-mailed and texted and any other number of ways be sent around the world instantaneously. No one anywhere is safe from the dead or dying birds.
So what! (you say). You believe that you know whether a parrot is alive or dead in all cases - Do you really? And if you don’t always know - Is that so bad? To quote from an old movie - Have you ever been stung by a dead bee?
I submit to you that not knowing the status of the parrots presented to you can be horrendous and that the longer you don’t know the worse it gets. If you don’t suffer the tooth being filled, eventually they all will need to be pulled. E.D.P.D. (Early Dead Parrot Detection) is essential to successful living. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be required to "feed" some dead bird (more on that subject to come) but it is important to know which are dead while you are doing it.
But who can you depend on to stand up and point them out to you? Who can you turn to in times of confusion? There are few in this world that possess the perceptiveness and fortitude needed to identify the status of the parrots in our lives. There exists an organization that is committed to the identification and communication of this bird data - "The Dead Parrot Society". This semi-secret society has existed since the dawn of "sometime" but as "knowing" is not always labeled as a "good thing" it has remained in the shifting shadows until now.
Given the current situation of the world it may be the time has come for full disclosure. We shall see…… more to come….

D. Parrot Speaks

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Old 06-27-2014, 03:30 PM
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Your heart is clear to me. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 06-27-2014, 04:40 PM
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Tor, I never heard of the Dead Parrot Society. To tell you the truth, before I read it, I thought the article had something to with parrots, and since I had eight parakeets in a large cage when I was small, I tuned in to read about "family birds."

I'll bore you with this small ego story. When I was a kid, I was probably the best "coin in a plate tosser" in Manhattan (I used to acquire all my parakeets when street festivals came to my neighborhood).

I remember one Sunday afternoon when I walked up to a plate pitching booth that awarded a parakeet in a cage for a prize if the participant got the nickel to stay in a flat plate.

Well, I handed the stout man who operated the booth a buck and he gives me 20 nickels. I let the first one fly (I had a special method of pitching) and . . . after dancing around the plate for a while, it comes to a rest in the center of it. Parakeet 4 me.

There's a sign attached to a post in the booth that reads: "One parakeet only." So, I look at the owner and he looks at me. We are both thinking the same thing, and he thinks I got lucky with the toss . . . besides, he knows I'm still holding 19 nickels in my hand, and he wants to recuperate something for his loss.

He nods to me, "Go ahead." So, I wind up and let fly again. The second nickel misses badly, but the third toss, it feels good after leaving my fingertips and . . . bam . . . it settles in the center of a plate. Another parakeet.

Somewhat frustrated, the booth operator cages the second parakeet, but before he turns it over to me we strike up a deal. I sell it back to him (with small cage) for a dollar. I arrive empty handed with a buck in pocket, and I leave with a caged parakeet and a buck eighty five. It was a good five minute's work.

But, most important, he understands I wasn't any lucky kid but a hustler disguised as a boy.

Parrots and parakeets.

Hey Tor, I try to keep my heart where Jesus's heart is, but as you can see I'm not always quite successful. But, I'm working on it . . . harder than ever. Thanks for the compliment. It's a boost.

Last edited by Cityboy; 06-27-2014 at 05:07 PM..
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Old 07-05-2014, 03:41 PM
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Shelly ,
It is the truth
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Old 07-06-2014, 05:38 AM
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The writing and presentation of your thoughts is good. I appreciate the humor and the observations. The Monty Python sketch is a good springboard, especially for those who have seen it.

Now, I am not saying that all family relations are like this or like this all the time.
That's logical, and it could really go without saying. But I suppose you needed to include it to at least indicate that you are being objective on some level.

It would just be the ones I have personally encountered.
But this really calls your whole piece into question. It suggests that your exposure to other family situations is extremely limited, or that you are so prejudiced by your own experience that you can't really consider this with any kind of objectivity.

I am not doubting your sincerity, but either way, I think it's a flaw that weakens the piece considerably. It might be better to just leave out the qualifiers, stick primarily to your own experience with the expectation that people will relate and/or empathize.

Personally, I've known of families that were utterly dysfunctional and toxic, and others that were truly loving and mostly harmonious. And of course, I've seen every shade of gray in between. We have our conflicts, but I am fortunate that mine skews to the latter.

Last edited by JoeMatt; 07-06-2014 at 06:38 AM..
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Old 07-09-2014, 08:47 AM
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Icon10 Dead Parrot Society

Interesting. A dead parrot?-

But, I like the society. I know that the parrot is a symbol of "reincarnation".

Good writing. You decide.

You let us know who your people are. Keep. Great start.
As the saying goes,
first the Dread,
so remember to Dream the Descent.
No despair- it is the Decision.
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Old 07-12-2014, 07:33 AM
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We all have birds that we know are dead but we make believe are alive.

The Dead Parrot society has much work to do.

Glad you like the piece
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