Tango’s Thanksgiving Adventure

The story of Tango’s Thanksgiving adventure is full of coincidences that are hard to believe.  We got Tango the cockatiel when he was just 8 weeks old. He was the runt of his peers, but had the most charisma. We didn’t think twice and chose him without looking at any others. He weighed 88 grams, and it seemed like good luck since that was the year my wife and I were born. He was my first pet and was an important part of our lives for the past 10 months we had him. He would cause mischief dancing on our keyboards when we needed to do work or singing away when we were trying to watch a movie, but we would still love him. Then came the day of Thanksgiving 2012, a day Tango and we will never forget.

Tango Enjoying Himself

Tango skateboarding and generally enjoying himself.

The strange beginning to this story was the almost unnatural foreshadowing that preceded it. It seems unbelievable now, but the night before Thanksgiving I was watching the movie Rio by DreamWorks, an animated movie about a parrot. I got tired and stopped watching the movie at the point where the main character lost her bird and was putting flyers up all over.

Thanksgiving morning my wife woke me up, frantically saying Tango flew out the window and was gone. My wife was feeding the birds outside and had left the balcony door open. Tango flew out to her and got taken by the wind. He ended up on the roof and my wife could hear him screaming and confused. After she got me, we couldn’t hear his screaming anymore. My neighbor helped me onto the roof, but when I got up there he was gone.  My wife was racked with guilt and we assumed we would never see him again.

My wife went to go print up flyers while I decided to go out looking, both us hoping that we might be lucky enough to find him. I decided to try whistling, and when I did I heard the faintest whistle in the distance. I wasn’t sure if I was just hearing things, but I was desperate so I walked in the direction I heard it come from and kept whistling. I followed it three blocks until I found him in a tree. I felt so relieved, until he flew into the air.

It was a warm day for a Chicago Thanksgiving, but extremely windy. Tango got caught up in the wind and I sprinted after him going yet another block. He was tiny in the sky, getting whipped around but I saw him end up in an Evergreen tree. I couldn’t actually see him in the tree, but I knew he was in it. I called my wife, but she didn’t answer. I called her parents to check if she was there, but she had just left. When I told them I found him, her father and sister rushed over with a ladder, a pole, some duct tape, and a net. In a few minutes my wife called me to tell me she printed the flyers, and I was excited to tell her I found him. She rushed over to where I was with some of his favorite food.  While I waited for them, I stared at the tree unblinking, not able to see him, but making sure nothing left that tree. When everyone arrived, we were finally able to spot him, but the tree was 3 stories high and our ladder was only 6 feet tall. We waived the food at him and whistled, but although he’d look at us, he seemed too afraid to move as the tree swayed in the wind. Then, by accident, the ladder fell and, startled by the noise, Tango took off again and flew back across the street, fortunately to a shorter tree. Unfortunately the process repeated itself – the ladder fell again and Tango took off, coming within inches of being hit by a car which scared him even further away. My wife and I chased after him, following a small grey dot in the sky. This time he ended up in the tallest tree yet. It felt so hopeless at this point and we thought things couldn’t get worse, but the worst moment was about to come.

Tango in the Tree

Tango, frozen with fear, perched high in a tree as we tried to coax him down with food on a pole.

We saw Tango panic as a large hawk emerged in the sky.  Tango zig-zagged and looped around evading the hawk, but the hawk persisted chasing him. I yelled “No!” and although I’m sure my wife was yelling too, I couldn’t hear anything; I focused on Tango flying for his life. A bird whose furthest flight just a day ago was 20 feet indoors, was evading a wild hawk. The chase started to head out of view, so I chased after them. Looking up at birds while running led to a rough fall, but I bounced back up and kept chasing. I ran as fast as I could, but they flew over a building and out of sight.

The Hawk

A terrifying sight, especially for a bird a fraction of it’s size.

It seemed our last memory of him, was going to be him being chased by predator – a chase which we would likely never know the outcome. That was about the worst way the day could end. I looked for a while more, whistling in the area, but I couldn’t find him. We had to go home not only without our bird, but without knowing if he was still alive.

I don’t think the event would have been as heartbreaking if we had not seen that hawk. It probably would’ve been easier if I hadn’t been able to find him in the tree in the first place. We were left to go over a million what-if’s with absolutely no feeling of closure. We had always been talking about how excited we were to share his first Christmas with him. My mother-in-law was even going to make him his own stocking. Now it felt like that was all over. Then we started to think how he never got to have a birthday, and pretty much every sad thing a person can think of went through our minds.

There seemed to be unlimited things reminding us of him. You’d be surprised how many references there are to birds, especially on Thanksgiving. It was pouring rain while we ate, and we could only think about how miserable Tango must be out there. We made it through Thanksgiving, but the next few days were rough. We went searching and put up flyers on Friday, and no matter how we tried to distract ourselves, it was impossible to stop thinking about him. It was sad, but almost comical, how my wife and I would be watching TV then simultaneously turn to each other and say, “I miss him.” We checked the weather every day, and it kept getting colder and we kept getting more worried.

I wasn’t raised religious, and never really went to church, but I didn’t know what else to do at this point besides pray. I prayed that he was alive and would find somebody and they would find us somehow. I prayed on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. With every passing day we felt a little better, but the house still felt so empty. We missed waking him up in the morning and putting him to bed at night. We missed even his worst behaviors.

Strangely enough, just as the story’s beginning was preceded with a DreamWorks movie, so was the story’s end. On Sunday afternoon, my wife and I were watching the movie Madagascar (a story about zoo animals who try out living in the wild only to realize they want to go back to captivity.) Obviously it reminded me of Tango yet again. Then just as the movie ended, my phone rang with an unknown number.

I answered the phone and a woman asked me, “Did you lose your bird?” I said, “Yes!” and she explained how she had met another woman at the Westin Hotel who had found a bird in the hotel parking garage and was taking care of it. She just happened to see her in the elevator with the bird on her shoulder and asked her about it. Then by sheer luck, traffic was bad on her planned route home so she decided to take a different route where we just happened to have put up a flyer. She said it took her about a minute for things to click, but then she made the connection and called the number on the flyer. It was seemingly a miracle that she even saw our flyer. I thanked her several times and we grabbed his travel cage and sped off to the Westin Hotel, just a mile from our house.

Missing Bird Flyer

The flyer we had posted, which by some slim chance was seen, by a person who saw the person who had our bird.

When we got there and talked to the front desk, they explained the bird was kind of a celebrity over at the hotel and had been there all weekend. Everyone seemed to remember the bird. They couldn’t remember the name of the person who was taking care of the bird though. Another person from the hotel walked over and remembered the woman had called the police and left her name with them. The hotel quickly called the police and got her name (Julie) and phone number, but before they said anything, we could tell from their faces this wasn’t going to be simple. Apparently Julie had already left the hotel and was headed back home to Minnesota and was bringing the bird with her (Interestingly, the parrot from the movie Rio was from Minnesota as well).

Tango made his way to the parking garage of a nice hotel before collapsing.

We called Julie, who was in disbelief. She was carpooling back and was already an hour away. At first she seemed hesitant to return him and offered to buy the bird off of us, which I could understand because Tango is a very charismatic bird, but after all we’d been through that was the last thing I wanted to do. While on the phone, I could see my wife impatiently staring at me wondering why this wasn’t a simple conversation. Julie saw they were near the exit for Rockford and offered to pull over. Tango just went from being 1 mile away to 80 miles away.

She explained how she had found him cold and motionless on the ground of the parking garage. His head tucked close to his body. He likely wouldn’t have lasted much longer and most other people would have assumed he was dead. She said it took an hour of warming him up before he started to move again. We were so lucky that she had found him and taken care of him.

We called the Rockford Police to see if she could leave him with them, but they wouldn’t. We then called a pet store in Rockford, but they said they wouldn’t for liability reasons. Then we called Animal Control and they said they would hold him until we got there. So Julie dropped him off and continued off to Minnesota while we headed off to Rockford. We offered Julie a reward for the good deed and all her hard work, but she refused and only asked that we send her a Christmas card with Tango on it.

When we finally got there, it looked closed, but we went around the side, and I saw someone. I knocked and when the door opened, I heard his distinctive whistle that I had heard before and knew it was him. When we saw him we were in disbelief. This four-day nightmare was finally over. All our worries were washed away and replaced with the same kind of happiness we had that day 10 months ago when we first brought him home.

Tango had the adventure of his lifetime: facing multiple near death experiences, battling the elements, avoiding predators, all while discovering the world was bigger than he ever knew. However after less than a half hour of being home he was back to his old self; and the whole time I’ve been writing about this Thanksgiving miracle, I couldn’t be happier to be constantly interrupted by Tango jumping on the keyboard.

Tango back to his old mischief

Special thanks to Julie, the woman who called us after seeing the flyer, the front desk staff at the Westin Hotel, my father-in-law Rick, my sister-in-law Jacqui, our neighbor Roger, Winnebago County Animal Services, and especially my wife Kim for never giving up.

Video Version of Story:

 Tango doing some of his tricks:

Tango Skateboarding away:

14 – Wedding Memorabilia

Our first year anniversary led to a review of some of our wedding memorabilia. It was fun to get to see our wedding album and the video of our wedding. I particularly liked seeing our surprise wedding dance again and just reminiscing in general.

Here’s the video of our first dance

However, there is one piece of wedding memorabilia I could do without. We have held on to a bird cage with a bow wrapped around it since our wedding day. The bird cage was used for people to put their wedding cards in and now it sits on our bookshelf.

The bars are too far apart for it to function as a real bird cage anyway.

It has sat on our bookshelf for the past year gathering dust. I’ve suggested we get rid of it, but my wife insists that we hold on to it since it was part of our wedding. I doubt we would ever take it down to reminisce. I can’t imagine someone seeing an empty bird cage and thinking “Oh they must’ve had a great wedding.” More than likely, when a person sees an empty bird cage they are thinking, “Hmm, did they use to have a bird? Did it die?”

13 – Anniversary

We celebrated anniversaries before we got married, but somehow a wedding anniversary is different. We just had our first year anniversary and the year seemed to fly by (although certain seasonal decorations seemed to be up forever.)

We got to know each other very well this past year. My wife seemed learned new things, primarily new and creative ways of putting up with me. I learned new things as well, such as the importance of coasters.

We decided not to get each other anything for our anniversary, but I breathed a big sigh of relief when the day came around and my wife actually didn’t get me anything. One thing we did do was eat the top layer of our wedding cake. It had been taking up a good amount of room in our freezer for the entire year and it was finally time to take it out. It always seemed like a weird tradition to me, eating a year old cake. What kind of message or symbol is that supposed to convey? That our marriage has grown stale and freezer burned? That we were so broke after paying for our wedding that we will hold on to leftovers absurd amounts at a time? In any case, the cake actually kept really well in the freezer and tasted pretty good (though I definitely wasn’t going to be the first one to try year old butter-cream frosting).

It's not a good sign when your cake is older than your wine.

With divorce rates so high right now, some people might look to me for advice on how to keep a marriage together. Well, I primarily relied on advice my father-in-law gave me on my wedding day: To always say, “Yes dear,” or “Whatever you want honey.” These phrases helped me survive this first year and I’m hoping they’ll help me survive the next one.

12 – Couponing

One thing I’ve noticed about being married is that certain things I might have felt neutral about in the past can make me happy now. For example, the other day, I was surprised at the satisfaction just using a coupon could bring. I don’t think I ever cared about coupons in the past, but after living with someone who enjoys using coupons and getting stuck sitting through a few episodes of Extreme Couponing, you begin to think maybe there is something to this whole couponing thing.

I went out to pick up some Coronas and rum to go with our Mexican dinner. Now, keep in mind, I’m not just anyone when I walk into a Jewel-Osco; I’m a preferred member, and that comes with some benefits. They aren’t going to charge me full price on everything. In fact they gave me some preferred savings on not just the Coronas, but rum as well. Where it gets good though, is the rum came with a coupon to give me 3 dollars off any twelve pack of beer in the store. After all that, I’m walking out of the store with the Coronas 50 percent off.

It's pretty sad that I saved the receipt, even if it was just for a day.

This may all sound very boring, and to some extent it is. Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t have even been able to finish reading that last paragraph before I was married. Regardless, after being married for a while, using a coupon has become pretty satisfying. In fact, when I looked at my receipt and saw I had a total savings of $9.60, I felt so accomplished about it I started humming the A-Team theme as I walked out of the store. All in all, a pretty good day.

11 – Sharing a Bed

I never really thought about it, but sharing a bed is actually a pretty big lifestyle change. For most of my life I had my own bed, could stretch out, and didn’t have to share. Once I got married, my wife and I started sharing a bed. I like sharing a bed, but there are some comical aspects to it. For example, there are the constant accusations back and forth of who is hogging the blanket. What has always really stood out to me is just how much she is an early bird and I’m a night owl. Apparently we’re both birds, but birds with very different sleeping habits.

My wife is able to fall asleep seemingly at will any time she wishes. She also seems to wake up without a problem.  I’ve always been pretty jealous of this ability. I’m not an insomniac, but it takes me a while to fall asleep. It always seems as though I’ll be sleepy until I finally go to bed, and then my mind starts wandering. My wife has suggested I count sheep to help put me to sleep. I’ll try counting imaginary sheep jumping over a fence, but I can only maintain focus until the 5th sheep. When it’s time for sheep number 6, my mind will wander to the point where there is a rhinoceros jumping over the fence, spiraling me into random thoughts where I forget that I was even trying to fall asleep.

This is pretty much what counting sheep turns into for me.

It’s kind of a cruel irony how it’s so hard to fall asleep at night but it’s so easy to fall back asleep in the morning. At night I feel like there’s so much worth doing to put off going to sleep. I’ll do things that have absolutely no urgency to them. When it’s time to wake up, none of these things sound appealing. No one wakes up early and jumps out of bed just to waste time on the internet. Plus, pressing snooze on the alarm and falling back asleep is some of the most satisfying sleep a person can get. It almost seems like you can actually feel yourself sleeping.

But, after all is said and done, maybe I just can’t sleep because my wife is hogging the blanket.

10 – An Olive Garden NYE

New Years Eve was pretty fun, but I think often people start to take it down a notch once they get married. For us it was a slightly more toned down New Years Eve than usual, but I didn’t have any problem with it.

I think what really set the mood for the night was that we went out to Olive Garden for dinner. I don’t feel like any crazy night ever begins with dinner at Olive Garden. After eating at Olive Garden, you probably aren’t going to be staying out until 5am; that would be a ridiculous expectation. I like the food and the prices are fair, but the one thing that I always find strange is their shallow attempt at an Italian ambiance. They greet you at the door saying “Bonjourno” and they supposedly emphasize “Hospitaliano,” but I doubt anyone that goes in their feels like they were transported to Italy. The greeting of “Bonjourno” when you walk in always seemed a little strange to me. Imagine if Taco Bell cashiers always had to say, “Hola, welcome to Taco Bell.” I’m not going to feel immersed in the culture if you say one word in the language and then continue in English. I remember a commercial by Dos Equis, where “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” says, “Unless our whole conversation is going to be in Spanish, don’t lead off with ‘hola.’” It’s not that I’m complaining about hearing another language, I just find the shallow attempt to seem legitimately Italian comical.

It’s not like I walked through the door, saw hanging grape decorations, and thought, “Wow, this place is authentic.” Also, their slogan is “When you’re here, you’re family!” Realistically, it should be when you’re here, you’re around a bunch of families, because there was young children misbehaving all around us.

I feel like I’m going to get some criticism for complaining about Olive Garden, but I actually do like the place. It’s just that I don’t even think Olive Garden itself is that confident in it’s ambience to convince people they are in Italy. Otherwise I don’t think they’d feel the need to put “Italian Restaurant” on their sign.

It's an Italian Restaurant – As if you couldn’t tell from the hanging grapes decoration.

Anyway, after a delicious meal at Olive Garden, we picked up a bottle of Champagne and headed home. It was nice to just stay in, but I think you know you’re getting old when you live on Central Time, but decide to celebrate the New York new years. We watched the ball drop and then started to get pretty sleepy. We managed to stay awake to do our actual New Years countdown, but I think this foreshadowed an even sleepier new years even next year. Unless of course we decide to go to Applebees.

9 – Christmas

Christmas has come and gone and needless to say it presented several topics to write about. I could talk about how we had multiple Christmases to go to. I was even thinking about writing about our Christmas card, which I can pretty confidently say is something I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t married.

My wife says those are snowflakes, but they look an awful lot like doilies - Not to mention snowflakes arn't red.

I think one of the strangest parts about Christmas shopping once you’re married is the fact that you are both sharing all your money. I basically bought my wife’s gift with her money and she pretty much bought my gift with my money. It’s kind of silly all the stress we go through trying to figure out the right present. Since we are spending our own money, we might as well just agree to set a limit and buy ourselves gifts. Then on Christmas day we can do a show and tell about what we got ourselves.

By the way, the scarecrow is gone.

This Santa always looks slightly angry to me.

8 – Doily

Before my wife and I first moved in together, it never crossed my mind that we’d have so many differences in terms of an interior decorating philosophy. It didn’t take long after we moved in to realize that there were going be a few differences. It seemed like it was only a few seconds after we moved our dresser into the bedroom, my wife spread a doily on top of it. This was really the first thing I noticed as being “stuff I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t married.”

In that moment I first saw it, I remember saying, “You have a doily?” and as those words came out of my mouth I thought, “How did I know what that thing is called?” It was a strange moment. It was kind of like when you hear a little kid swear; you think, “Where did that kid learn that word?” Before that day, I am pretty confident I had never used the word doily and I will admit now that I had to look up how to spell it before I wrote this. In any case, I think the doily really speaks for itself and I don’t need to go into much detail as to why I wouldn’t own one.

The doily speaks for itself

7 – Loofah

For most of my life I was always a bar soap person, until one day my wife bought me a loofah. Although I might not have switched over if she hadn’t bought me one, I can honestly say that overall I’m happy with the change and wouldn’t go back. That said, it is probably one of the least masculine things I own. It’s near impossible to look “manly” with a loofah.

Generally, if something can be described as "poofy" it probably isn't very masculine.

I think I’m lucky mine is plain white; really any color added to a loofah instantly makes it instantly more feminine. I really don’t want to make any sort of fashion statement with my loofa.

My wife's is still half white, but even that little bit of green makes it drastically more feminine.

There isn’t that much to say about loofahs, but I should acknowledge the fact that what I’m talking about isn’t actually called a loofah. I can count the number of times I’ve talked about a loofah on one hand, but it seems like every time it comes up in conversation, someone will inevitably bring up the point that it’s not actually a loofah. I did my research this time and I guess it’s actually called a “pouf.” I really thought it couldn’t become less masculine, but calling it a pouf really pushed it over the edge. I couldn’t believe these things were actually called poufs. “Pouf” sounds like what you might call it if you didn’t know the name of it.

Apparently these are actually poufs not loofahs.

If I wasn’t married I wouldn’t have all this newfound knowledge on the world of bath sponges. The word “exfoliate” would likely not be in my vocabulary. Regardless of this new information I have, I think I will continue calling it a loofah; it just sounds right.

6 – Whole Wheat

For the most part I would say I eat decently healthy, but by no means am I a health fanatic. Still, one thing I am sure I would’ve never given up would be white bread.

White bread is delicious; everyone eagerly anticipates it when they go to a restaurant. I doubt people would be so excited when the bread came if it was all whole wheat. Even ducks and geese would probably be a little disappointed if you threw pieces of whole wheat bread their way. Regardless, since my wife and I got married, our house has made the steady transition from white bread to whole wheat bread.

Even Pavlov's dog's mouth wouldn't be watering

For me, white bread is food while whole wheat is just nourishment. No one ever really seems to look happy while eating whole wheat bread. People will say they like whole wheat, but if a study comes out showing white bread is actually better for you, or even just as healthy as wheat bread, I don’t see anyone continuing to eat whole wheat anymore. There would really be no reason to.

I think the brand names really tell the story. For example with white bread you have Wonder Bread. It’s sounds like a super hero plus it has balloons on the packaging. When you hear Wonder Bread, you know you’re in for a treat. Whole wheat brands, on the other hand, always have something like “harvest” in their names. Harvesting is pretty much the opposite of fun. It makes me think of waking up at dawn and working all day collecting plants.

All this said, I’ve adjusted over time to become more tolerant of wheat bread, but the scary thing is this transitional process to whole wheat didn’t end at bread. Sadly enough, it’s come to the point where it’s affecting my pasta. I’m giving whole wheat pasta a try, but I can honestly say – it’s not very fun either. Whole wheat pasta leftovers don’t really seem to disappear the same way normal pasta does.

I doubt Garfield would love Lasagna if it was whole wheat.

I’ve given whole wheat bread and pasta a shot, but when talk of brown rice comes up, that’s where I draw the line. I’m protective of my white rice like NRA members are of their guns.

I’ll give up my white rice when you pry it from my cold dead hands

I don’t know if it even exists, but I hope I never have to deal with the whole wheat version of the potato (if it even exists)

I always thought of potatoes like a giant kernel of rice.