Wing clippings

Pub date April 3, 2007
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS My new favorite person is this guy Doc who I play baseball with. He’s not a medical doctor. He knows about chicken wings. We weren’t even on the same team, and he said between innings, "Have you ever been to San Tung?"

"Never heard of it," I said.

"Best chicken wings," he said.


"Irving," he said. "Between 11th and 12th."

We were in the Golden Gate Park, Big Rec. That put chicken wings pretty much almost exactly on my way home to Sonoma County, give or take a block.

It was a good game, my favorite kind, a pitcher’s duel, nothin’-nothin’ (nothin’-nothin’-nothin’-nothin’) … but I’m not a nihilist or a sports writer. Wait a minute, am I a nihilist? I can’t keep things straight anymore, damn it. Hold on. [Sounds of papers rustling, drawers opening and closing, coffee spilling.] Where’s my identity?

Chicken farmer!!! People have been writing to me and saying, Chicken Farmer, what about Houdini? Houdini being my famously wayward escape-artist chicken, and "what about" being that I was going to eat her, I said, if I couldn’t figure out how she was doing it — "it" being finding her way into the neighbors’ flower bed and being generally disrespectful to the colors, smells, and natural beauty of it.

"It" being said flower bed.

Damn, I really do need to learn to write. No I don’t. I need to learn to chicken farm because, no, I never did discover her escape route. This, in spite of 24-hour surveillance cameras, stakeouts, and the clandestine cooperation of two "plants" on the inside.

Houdini’s a genius. Nevertheless, I didn’t eat her, not yet. Thanks for asking. She was saved by my chicken farmerly surrealism. I’m not a genius, but I do know how to deflect criticism by not making any sense whatsoever. I bought the neighbors an amelioratory bag of wild bird seed, some oranges, and a package of pretty stickers, and informed them in a letter that I was transsexual and should thenceforth be referred to as Ms. Chicken Farmer, if they please.

Essentially, this was a stalling tactic, designed to buy me and Houdini another week, at least, while my neighbors wobbled and just generally lost sleep.

Not long into that week, when Houdini was next found by me to be luxuriating among the forbidden flowers, I held her down and clipped her wing. It was a desperate measure but not necessarily cruel. Chickens are flightless birds to begin with. What do they need wings for?

Well, balance. It’s more like a haircut than surgery, see? You’re only clipping the feathers, and only on one wing, so that afterward they feel all asymmetrical and artsy and don’t crave flowers anymore. Theoretically.

It’s working, but it’s also only a matter of time, I know. Feathers molt and grow. And smart animals, with the possible exception of me, only get smarter.

So I’m packing up the pickup truck, all dolled up for a gig, when my neighbor comes strolling over with his hands in his pockets … thanks for the seeds, you shouldn’t have, and congratulations.

"I don’t know," he said, checking himself. "What do you say to a trans person? Is that what you say?"

"Congratulations is nice," I said, loading up my steel drum and stand. I like my neighbor Dave. We get along, chickens in flower beds notwithstanding.

"So what do your groupies think about this?" he said. He knows I’m in a band but not what kind, apparently.

I smiled. "Dave," I said, "my groupies are 80-year-old shut-ins with bad eyes and Alzheimer’s. Not that they could ever quite tell if I was a boy or girl, but …"

"Well, congratulations," he said. "You’ve got the hair for it, anyway."

And he went back to his flower bed, and I went to my gig, and Houdini gazed into the chicken coop mirror and felt progressive.

Every time I have to clip a chicken’s wing, I can’t help fantasizing that some day, if there is a god, we will have genetically modified chickens that regenerate missing parts. So that chicken farmers can clip off more than just the feathers. We will harvest chicken wings like asparagus and eat like kings or college students.

But there’s not a god, of course, and that’s where San Tung comes in handy. Doc was right. *


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