Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ambushed in the Airport Parking

After twelve hours of travel (one missed connection and being on standby for two flights), I arrived in Houston, Texas. Even as we were on final, I knew I was in trouble - we were at altitude and I was sweating slightly. (I'd just left a comfortably warm day of 44 degrees at home.) As I walked up the jetway, I had a brief impression of trying to breath a warm soup of jet exhaust before getting into the climate-controlled terminal. Upon meeting and greeting Peter, I walked with him all unsuspecting into the ambush in the parking garage.

Barely had I taken ten steps, shuffling a little awkwardly with my carry-on luggage that seemed to be growing heavier and heavier every time I picked it up, when WHAM!

I got clobbered with a full body slam that drove the breath out of my lungs. At first I thought I had merely been tag-teamed by two southern muggers, Mr. Heat and his drinking buddy Mr. Humidity, but as I simply struggled to breathe through their blows while Peter hurriedly dragged me to the safety of an air-conditioned truck, I realized that the other guy on the three-day bender at the bar, Mr. Smog, had joined in.

Much gasping and wheezing and a small exhausted nap later, I woke up and found myself on the road between Houston and San Antonio. We were pulling into a stop for some gas, and the sky was blue and filed with puffy clouds, the wind was a good steady fifteen knots with gusts, the air was comfortably, pleasantly warm, full of bright sunshine, the earth was lush and verdant with green growing things, and the cutest tiny little black birds that look like raven chicks almost too young to fly, but have this big showy black tail almost bigger than their body were filling the air with melodious chirping. (What are they?)

So I'm going to give Texas a second chance before fleeing in horror... but Houston might just have used up any chance for me to ever want to set foot there again.

5 comments:

John the Texaner said...

I beleive the bird you are referring to is a Great-Tailed Grackle. Very common here and quite intelligent birds. Some people don't like them at all. I personally think they're pretty, especially the males, which have an iridescent blue/purple hue to them.

My condolences on having to fly into Houston. Perhaps next time you can route through Austin - a MUCH prettier and largely smog-free place. :)

Diamond Mair said...

I can sympathize - when I came down here to re-connect with the FodGuy after almost 30 years, it was in August - I'd thought Pennsylvania was less-than-pleasant that time of year - got off the plane, the FodGuy wasn't immediately there, so I went outside for a smoke - I was smacked with a degree of humidity that caused me to believe someone had thrown a hot, wet, HEAVY towel over my head .................. for future reference, March isn't too bad to travel down here ;-) ................ I posted to Peter to eMail me for my phone number - I'll guide y'all from Houston to LA via something other than "interstates" .................... ;-)

Semper Fi'
DM

Old NFO said...

Heh- and this is the cool season... Try August! Better yet, don't!

John the Texaner said...

Reviewing your post, I realized that you referred to the birds as "tiny". I don't know Alaskan wildlife enough to know what you would consider tiny, but I'd consider the Grackle to be more of a medium-sized bird.

A couple other possibilities might be a Bronzed Cowbird or Brown-headed Cowbird, which have similar features, but are smaller in size and have shorter beaks.

There's the Blue-black Grassquit, which would actually be considered a tiny bird. It does seem to fit your description best, as it has many features similar to a crow.

I'm no bird enthusiast, so there's probably a lot of species that I'm missing here. Texas has an incredible variety of birds, so you're going to see a whole lot of them.

Enjoy your time in San Antonio!

On a Wing and a Whim said...

John,

I'm comparing them to the nearest black bird I know, which is a Raven. Given I'm used to fat happy ravens that mass up to 3-1/2 pounds, the birds are cute and tiny, and definitely grackles. Thanks!

There are definitely smaller birds, too. There's a pair of swallows nesting in the entrance to the hotel, and quite cute as they dive-bomb people who linger too long nearby.