The Flamingo Affair


Felix quickly discerned that I had cheated on him during my weekend in Palm Springs. He didn’t say anything, but I could see it in his eyes: “You’ve been with another flamingo!” In fact, I spent time with an entire flock.

This whole affair began more than 10 years ago, when I ordered 15 wooden flamingos from a mail-order house that specialized in crafty garden and home décor. To provide them with an appropriate habitat, I went to a rock supply yard and bought eight pink-veined granite “logs” and a couple bags of sea green pebbles to create two “wading pools” in my front side yard. I put all but two of the flamingos in the pools and the stray pair in a rock stream.

This installation had an unintended consequence. Friends and family started giving me all manner of flamingo-themed items — candleholder, picture frame, neon light, kitschy tabletop sculptures, etc. I became a de facto flamingo collector. 

Over the years, the elements (primarily a robust desert sun) took their toll on my long-legged, long-necked friends. They needed to retire, and I needed replacements. Shockingly, the mail-order house no longer stocked what I thought should have been a mainstay item.

But at Christmastime, I received a coupon redeemable for a “full flock rework” from Mikey’s Flamingo Paradise Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. In July, Mikey brought bodies and wings to my house. He sanded and I painted. This past weekend, he brought heads, which I painted while he stapled wings to bodies and drilled holes for legs.

Late Sunday morning, we screwed onto bodies and heads the strappy necks that allow the bird’s heads to bob when the wind blows. Then we set them loose in the pools and stream. Later, as I drove away, heading back to San Diego, I looked back and noted with satisfaction that they appeared quite content.

On the other hand, when I stepped out onto my Mission Valley apartment balcony, Felix did not look content. It’s possible that it was the telltale “flamingo pink” dried paint daub on my leg that he noticed (it being right about at his eye level). It would only have made matters worse had I explained that they were wooden and he’s plastic, so it’s not as if they were a replacement for him. But it did help when I told him that he’s the only flamingo in my life with a name, omitting the fact that he shares that name with my favorite cartoon cat (“you’ll laugh so hard, your sides will ache, your heart will go pitter pat, all for Felix, the wonderful …”).