Pages in Time: A parrot gives me the bird
by Milt Huntington
We had just come from a Celtics games at Boston Garden and had decided to stay at King’s Grant just outside of Beantown on the way home to Maine.
We had stayed there before and knew the food would be good and the rooms comfortable and quiet. The Inn boasted a delightful cocktail lounge and live musical entertainment on the weekends. A small swimming pool in the lounge was centered in a jungle-like atmosphere. It was a little steamy, but all in all, rather pleasant.
Large columns were located around the pool to add to the atmosphere, and a wooden foot bridge crossed over what appeared to be a stream feeding the indoor pool. During the course of the evening we notice a large parrot sitting in a cage behind one of the columns. When we cooed “Hello” to the colorful bird, it would politely respond: “Hello! Hello!” We kept it up until the bird got sick of the routine and refused to speak anymore.
The next morning, I woke up a little early, so I decided to don my swimming trunks to take a dip in the pool. The place appeared to be deserted, so I had the pool to myself. After splashing around awhile, I sat in a chair to dry off approximately where we were the night before, right up against a column.
It was at that point I remembered the loquacious parrot from the previous night. I leaned forward in my chair and peered around the column. Sure enough, there was the talkative bird half-asleep in his cage. “Hello!” Hello!” I cooed to my feathery friend in a high-pitched falsetto greeting. The bird didn’t move, but the man sitting on the other side of the column moved. Did he ever move! He dashed out of the lounge as though his bathing suit was afire. He stole one quick frightened glance at me over his shoulder as he pushed through the door and out of my life forever.
It was sometime later when I told my good friend, the late John Gould Jr. about the humorous incident. That was a mistake. It was a big mistake.
John Gould, a Maine paper industry lobbyist, would frequently go to great lengths in the interest of playing a practical joke. On one occasion, he casually asked me over to his house in Hallowell for a couple of drinks. It sounded like a relaxing way to end a day of lobbying at the State House in Augusta. Upon arrival, I discovered he had neglected to tell me a candidate for Governor of Maine was also there. As it developed, I wound up writing some of the candidate’s campaign speeches. The candidate lost the election and I felt partially responsible for having written a rather biting presentation near the end of the campaign. John assured me the candidate would not have done as well as he did if not for the speech.
A few years later John had moved to Washington to take a federal lobbying job with his company. I had flown down to attend a Maine State Society banquet, and responded to John’s kind invitation to stop by his house in McLean, Virginia, for a libation before we both headed for the banquet in downtown D.C.
When I arrived at John’s home, I couldn’t help but notice a sleek stretch limousine parked in his driveway. I didn’t find that too unusual. John’s company provided him such transportation on special occasions from time to time. John’s two sons were playing basketball in the driveway. I grabbed the ball and flung it over the limo. Nothing but net! Without so much as a word, I turned and strode into the house, knowing full well I couldn’t do that again in a million years. I hope I impressed the kids. It certainly surprised the heck out of me.
I entered the house, was warmly greeted by John and his wife, and got myself another surprise. John introduced me to the then current Governor of Maine. We all rode to the banquet in the big old limousine.
Now, getting back to the parrot. As I recounted before, I had unwittingly told John of my experience in the King Grant’s cocktail lounge. He couldn’t wait to tell the Governor all about it. Then John asked me about my plans for the following day and I told him I had an appointment to meet with Senator George Mitchell on Capitol Hill. He seemed to think that was wonderful.
That next day, I walked into the Senator’s office, and announced very formally: “Mr. Huntington to see Senator Mitchell. I have a 10 a.m. appointment. The receptionist and the entire officer staff broke into a falsetto chorus of “Hello! Hello!”
I guess you could say they gave me the bird!
Milt Huntington is the author of “A Lifetime of Laughter” and “Things That Make You Grin.”
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