Never Mind Flying Under The Radar. How About Flying Right Smack Dab Into The Middle Of It?

In the aviation world, trying to avoid detection is called “flying under the radar”. We did this in school all the time when we didn’t have the faintest idea what the answer was, to the question the teacher had just posed to the class. We would basically sit there immobile, trying to look as nonchalant and inconspicuous as possible, hoping to be mistaken for a store mannequin or maybe a piece of furniture. Or maybe even a young woolly mammoth that was somehow flash-frozen by a super-hurricane like the ones in that cool (!) movie: The Day After Tomorrow.

Super-hurricanes aside, in a sublime moment of cosmic quirkiness, an ordinary housefly barreled fearlessly into the heart of the storm that was raging in the Vice Presidential debate the other night. The first thing I thought to myself was “Holy Kadoda! This is the Chuck Yeager of flies!” (Chuck was an iconic, fearless test-pilot profiled in that old astronaut movie: The Right Stuff.) Anyway, this fly bee-lined (!) directly for Mike Pence’s head. And stayed on it. For quite a long time.

Immediately after that, a storm also erupted here at The Department Of Fervently Wishing That People Would Quit Using The Term ‘Global Pandemic’ And Just Call It A Pandemic Since The ‘Global’ Bit Is Redundant According To Various Definitions.

It was a storm of hooting laughter.

Mike Pence, possibly asleep, but most likely deep in thought about how he should respond to the question:
“Mr. Vice President, what kind of hair products do you use, if you don’t mind my asking?”

After the hooting laughter subsided I was seized by a powerful urge to run for political office but instead, I ran over to my computer and searched Google using the phrase “fly on his head”. Astonishingly, 967,233,195.2 people had already beaten me to it.

Twitter, for example, was abuzz (!) with wisecracks. A guy whose handle is @joelitics tweeted “That fly needs to quarantine for 14 days now, the rest of its life”. I replied, wondering why that fly wasn’t wearing a tiny mask. Some wag on TV said that it was a good thing the fly never landed on Joe Biden’s head as he (Joe) likely would have toppled over. And the wag also noted that if the fly had entered one of Nancy Pelosi’s external auditory canals (aka ear-holes) it would have crawled out of the other one shortly afterward.

Trump got a pass on all this fly-shaming for some reason.

I think that fly was planted. Somehow. But I feel like they could have gotten more creative. If it had been up to me, I would have brought in a mated pair of Blakiston’s Fish-Owls instead.

“Oh my God! This guy just ran up to me, thrust his gigantic owl into my arms and then ran away, laughing maniacally. I’m so confused.”

These are the largest owls in the world. They hang out in Eurasia: Eastern Russia, parts of China and Japan. They’re endangered. They also sing these fascinating, haunting duets with their mates, over and over when they have nothing better to do up in the trees in Eastern Russia. If a male loses its mate, it will continue to call, unanswered, in the dark and the cold, for months on end. So this tells me these birds are also hopelessly romantic.

The duet is a D minor triad: A3 A3 F2 D2. The male calls “A3, A3” in rapid succession and the female answers immediately, hooting “F2,D2” also in rapid succession. The duet is low-pitched and flute-like. It can go on every few seconds-for hours on end. Maybe that’s why these owls are endangered. I dunno.

“Nyet Officer, I don’t know what came over me. I just ran outside with my shotgun. I couldn’t take one more second of that godforsaken D minor triad.”

You should decide for yourself though. You can listen to the duet here: https://www.naturesoundmap.com/listing/blakistons-fish-owl/

I’m now quoting a highly-accomplished family friend, singer, pianist, teacher and general kick-ass musicologist, Caryl Queen, regarding this whole business: “…Russian composers spent more time in minor keys and modes reflecting their community. The owl makes sense.” Copious amounts of 190-proof vodka probably help. Caryl was also the one who pointed out to me that it was a D minor triad. Which also sounds like some sort of criminal activity if you ask me.

D Minor triads aside, I think it would have been excellent and also charming if Kamala and Mike had taken a few minutes at half-time and emulated the haunting fish-owl duet. A coin-flip would have determined who would be on top-in the musical sense-of course.

I learned about these owls from a book given to me by my son, Drew: Owls Of The Eastern Ice. A Quest To Find And Save The World’s Largest Owl. I have to confess that I needed a good rebound book after finishing reading every word that Australian author Liane Moriarty has written. Owls Of The Eastern Ice filled the beak as it were. Plus there were no owls in any of Ms. Moriarty’s books. Not even one. Not that I was counting.

You know what I’m talking about though. You get into a certain author, or a good trilogy or-God forbid-Stephen King’s nine-book Gunslinger series. When you emerge out the other end, like that fly coming out of Nancy’s ear-hole, you feel kind of lost, like a fish owl who has lost its mate. You just want a new, cozy, literary friend to roost with.

OK, OK, I’m getting a bit maudlin here. 190-proof vodka can do that.

If you want to enter the wonderful world of these “defiant floppy goblins” as author Jonathan Slaght calls them, just go straight in! Don’t try to fly under the radar. I would be the last person to stop you. And also read The Guardian review of the book, penned by Helen Macdonald. Helen says the owls seemed like Jim Henson creations to her. When I read that I thought: “Crap! She’s right. These things are flying Muppets!”

Slaght describes one of these owls as a “dishevelled mass of wood-chip brown”, as if “someone had hastily glued fistfuls of feathers to a yearling bear, then propped the dazed beast in a tree”

Jon Slaght cradling a fish owl with his goblin containment gauntlets

You have to admire these birds: dazed yet defiant, dishevelled, floppy, Muppet-like, goblin-like, maybe even bear-like, yet romantic as all get out, hooting for hours to their mates, in their low-key, flute-like voices.

I’m sorry. I have to go get some Kleenex…You need to get to a bookstore. Or go on Amazon. It’s a free country.

But no matter what, just remember the old proverb:

“Do not remove a fly from your friend’s forehead with a hatchet….unless it is a very tiny hatchet.”

I might have made that last bit up.

Author:

Dave Barry fan and Medical Director at Rocky Mountain Analytical