This afternoon in the sauna I was chatting with a friend about pets and commented that the only pet I’ve had in the past sixty years was a parrot in the late 70’s in DC—while I was living in the Four Belles at Logan Circle. Its name was Lorro, which is Spanish for “parrot” and a masculine noun. However, we called it “she,” though Lorro never laid any eggs… It’s not always easy to determine the gender of a bird, especially a yellow-headed Amazonian.
Lorro was originally my housemate Charles’ pet, but he had a way of losing interest in his whims and wound up giving me the bird, so to speak. It proved to be very little work being a parrot-master as long as I kept the food coming, and she was pleasant company hanging around on her cage in the parlor in the round bay by our ancient (unplayable) Bechstein piano. Lorro had a penchant for talking to herself.
According to Charles, she was raised in a simple Mexican family, which made sense because Lorro had a whole routine of a crying baby and a concerned mother trying to calm it with a lullaby (in Spanish). In addition, she’d sing snatches of Mexican revolutionary songs apparently learned from the radio. Over time the lyrics got a bit garbled.
I guess my voice was too low for Lorro to care for, but she quickly learned to laugh (giggle) just like me. It was weird to be in the dining room and hear myself burst into peals of laughter in the parlor. She also had an unnerving talent for mimicking the veritable symphony of sirens one heard every night there in our epicenter of the slum, now epicenter of chic. She was right on key doing the sirens of the police, fire-engines, and ambulances, and with my laughter mixed in, it sounded rather mad.
Unfortunately, Lorro was a bit developmentally disabled. For some reason she never grew true flight feathers in her wings, and what tried to grow, she assiduously pulled out. Vets said there was nothing we could do… That’s why she just hung around on her cage, singing, laughing, and blaring her sirens. Sometimes I’d take her out riding on my bicycle: As we rolled down the avenue, she’d sit on the basket and flap her stubby wings, shrieking at the top of her lungs.
I think it was the fall of 1979 when Charles went on an extended trip round the ruins of Guatemala. While he was away, I got up one morning to find Lorro lying on the parlor floor as dead as a doornail. Assuming she’d had a heart attack or some such, I mourned and tried to figure out what to do with her corpse till Charles’ return from the jungles (which, by the way, played a large role in his manic “nervous breakdown” that winter).
The solution I came up with was to wrap her gently in plastic wrap and put her in the freezer. To be thorough, I also put the book on parrot care in there with her. When Charles got back, he didn’t want to deal with funerals and anyway quickly proceeded to lose his mind. Over the next year we wound up having to sell the Four Belles, and the new owners inherited a frozen parrot and book on parrot care. I often wonder what they thought when they opened that freezer.