Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ducking Off To California

"Got any spare change, duck?"
I went to Santa Barbara last week, and the sexual highlight of my trip was to see two mallards humping in a public park one morning as I was peacefully trying to read a book. To describe bird sex as wham, bam and thank you mam is inaccurate - it’s much, much faster than that. This duck spread its wings, mounted its chosen partner, and clocked its climax amid a flurry of ripples in less than three seconds before swimming back to its male entourage to quack about the conquest.

This virile pond dweller was positively strutting on water, floating swiftly among its male mates with a certain air of, “Did you lads see what I just did?” When it happens that fast, you have to broadcast the event just in case your contemporaries were momentarily pulling a strand of duckweed from the bottom of the pond and missed it. 

After briefly circling its buddies and vigorously shaking its body a couple of times in a manner suggesting that, if it could speak, it would have been growling the word, “Whoooooooarghhhhhh!” the duck was still bursting with testosterone. How best to work it off? A young turtle was relaxing at the pond’s edge, oblivious to all the lightning
hardcore activity just feet away from its sun spot. Usually, ducks and turtles co-exist peacefully. But on this day, the customary protocol was breached and the mallard charged at the stripling reptile, which fled underwater with a hurt expression that said, “What the fuck did I do to deserve that?” 

In many parts of America, a shock of moral Mums would have had the area cordoned off and tented over by now in case their kids caught an eyeful of this unholy extra-marital humping and unprovoked post-coital, inter-species violence. But in California, everything’s a bit more relaxed. Even the Republican-voting mega-rich are kind of hippy.

In the same park, I saw a young woman with tattoos up and down her arms walking a scraggy dog with her companion, a grey-haired bloke with a ponytail (beards and/or ponytails are mandatory on the west coast – something to do with the aerodynamics of surfing). I watched to see which circle of joint-toting dropouts they’d join on the grass, but instead they climbed into a rather smart car, which bore the bumper sticker ‘Vote Ron Paul’. 

On the street where I was staying, a woman tended her own chickens while her husband was off on a month-long Buddhist retreat. There was barely a house on that street worth less than $2 million, and there’s not much cash in a clutch of free-range hens. The money’s coming from somewhere, but it’s not polite to ask. Still, if you’ve made a fortune out of, say, the defence industry, then perhaps you need to go to a Buddhist retreat to balance your karma.

America’s homeless follow the money too, and thanks to the climate and the abundance of spare change many of them hang loose on Santa Barbara’s main drag. The city used to encourage them, but then changed its mind when the numbers got out of hand. The park bench from which I witnessed the humping ducks featured metal arm-rests to prevent those without a bed for the night from stretching out. 

Nonetheless, the high-end restaurants and shops alongside the clutches of shopping trolley dispossessed on State Street in Santa Barbara provide the archetypal snapshot of advanced capitalism’s stoic tolerance of both extreme wealth and poverty. Interaction between the two – the transfer of quarters or small dollar bills – lasts for about as long as it takes for two mallards to make cute little ducklings. 


Gorilla Bananas said...

Ducks have nasty-looking knobs through, don't they? You wouldn't want to be penetrated by one of those for longer than a second or two.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

It was all over rather too quickly for me to get a glimpse of the fowl appendage.

No Good Boyo said...

California's the only US state I've visited twice, and must say I could easily live in San Fransisco if there were a way of getting them to pay men for being Welsh. California is also the setting for America's best film, John Carpenter's "The Fog".

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