Tending the brood

Pub date April 22, 2009
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink

› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The young couple next door to me in Rockridge is building a chicken coop, and I love them for this. They aren’t married and don’t have kids, which makes me just want to squeeze them and look at them, and invite them over for every single thing I eat, even oatmeal.

But that would be creepy, so instead I offer to bring them some straw. Do they need a feeder? A waterer? I still have my place in the woods. I have rat traps, chicken wire, and rusting 55-gallon drums that would look real nice against the falling-down barnlike outbuilding on the edge of their lot.

Together, I think, we can shake up this neighborhood. In just a couple months here I have made more friends (or at any rate met more people I want to be friends with) than I did in five years living in Occidental. In five years in Occidental, I made four friends. Two couples. One I actually met in San Francisco, and the other through a mutual friend in Oakland.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the woods, or I wouldn’t still keep my shack, which I go to when I can for writing and/or romance, and sort of sublet to my artsy bohemian city peeps for same.

The family I work for in East Oakland, Boink’s family, they have a chicken. Used to have three, but two died, and the one that’s left has gone bad. Her name is Cakey. She’s brooding, which means she’s set her mind, and ass, on hatching eggs that no amount of setting will ever induce to hatch. Save maybe a visit from Gabriel.

This is actually a dangerous condition for a roosterless hen to be in, because she might get over it, and she might not. I have girlfriends like this.

It falls on me, while Boink’s family is away in Florida for the week, to traumatize their chicken. I’m surprised Boink hasn’t already achieved this, by accident, but the best way to get a broody hen to snap out of it is to harass the hell out of her.

So I’m going to East Oakland in a moment, I’m stuffing Cakey into a cardboard box with holes poked into it, for air, and I’m driving her out to the country. To the woods. To my shack. Where I can annoy her for three days with sticks, Pere Ubu records, and buckets of cold water — and no one will hear all the squawking. I tried this once with one of my girlfriends and got arrested.

I love Pere Ubu, by the way. But chickens … and perhaps all poultry, for all I know — their capacity to withstand ’70s-era punk rock starts and ends with the Ramones. So you know.

But speaking of traumatized girlfriends, my friend Alice Shaw, after whom I named my great car, Alice Shaw, was mugged at gunpoint in the Mission District. As if I weren’t already mad enough at muggers for stabbing a friend of a friend in Seattle!

And do you know what Alice Shaw said to us, over deep-fried hamburgers after a soccer game? She said, Well, in a way it was nice to be noticed, for a change. I’m paraphrasing.

It is comments like this that make me love human beings even more than chickens. I mean, to be fair, we have no exact translation for the could-be clucks-of-wisdom that chickens call to each other from the jaws of foxes, but it’s a safe bet they are not so laced with humor and sadness as, for example, Alice Shaw’s odd comment.

I wanted to squeeze her and feed her oatmeal, but we were already eating fried hamburgers. Outside, and over rice, with fried eggs on top, and smothered in gravy. What could be better, after a soccer game? It’s a Hawaiian thing, called loco moco, and in fact it was invented 60 years ago, according to the menu, in honor of a barefoot Hawaiian football team called the Wreckers.

Whose players apparently liked to eat, because I, at my hungriest, couldn’t clean half my plate, or even imagine ever being hungry again, so I brought the rest to Earl Butter. We all agreed: Really really dong-dong-dicky-do great, in a school lunchy kind of way.

You want to know where, don’t you?


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L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.