It sounds like a place in a star wars movie, or maybe a james bond movie, but at least a little more important than fraggle rock. But it is a real place, and there really is a rock there that looks like an eagle. Eagle Rock is part of Los Angeles. If you were a bird you would fly from downtown LA or Chinatown toward the rising sun.
Eagle Rock is a neighborhood, but it is also a rock. Some day I’ll show you how to get there to see the rock, but there is a rock, which is really a small mountain. When the sun is bright, and at particular times of day, you can look at the rock and you can clearly see an eagle with its wings spread flying toward you.
People have different ideas about how the eagle got there. Some people think that the Original People of California had a chief that became an eagle when he died. Others say that the eagle could never be captured, and the Original People hunted it, trapping it near the rock, but it escaped when it became part of the rock. Other people think that the fearless Originals chipped away at the rock to warn everyone else about how fearless they were.
But the explanation that I like best is the simplest. The flying eagle of Eagle Rock is a sculpture carved by the wind and the water and the sun. You and me and everyone else will see things that we can share, and the Eagle Rock is majestic and beautiful and something we can all share, something that gives us power and hope.
Pythons are rather big snakes. But they don’t bite people or prey; they just don’t bite. What they do best is squeeze and they mostly don’t bother people. If you want to know how big around a python is, think about a grapefruit. A big fat python is as big around as a grapefruit. And if you want to know how LONG a python is, think about your living room and about how this python will fit from one end to the other. Grapefruits and living rooms.
Pythons can move very fast and can wrap themselves around their prey quickly. That means small animals like squirrels or rats; or a little bigger, like cats or dogs. Occasionally they’ll eat goats or antelopes. Once a python wraps itself around prey, it squeezes the prey until it can’t breathe. Then it opens its mouth very wide, wider than you even think it can, and it swallows its prey whole. Resting quietly and away from friends, and other prey, it digests the whole animal. At first, you can see a big bump in the python, and maybe see the shape of a rabbit or woodchuck or something else. But the python rests quietly, and the lump becomes part of the python, and the python remains part of the world.
Beatle was outside. Beatle is small, about the size of a cat, or slightly bigger. Coyote was hungry, and he was roaming up and down Avon Street for some food. He saw Beatle, and Beatle saw him. Beatle barked, and barked a lot. Coyote came closer still. When Coyote was just about to pounce on Beatle, Grandma Cathy opened the door and called for Beatle. Beatle looked up, but Coyote quickly ran away to his nest nearby. Beatle kept barking, and then Beatle came inside the house.
Coyote dad was hungry. He knew there were chickens on Avon Street. But there was sharp wire, and he’d cut himself before. He walked briskly from the bush near the tree on the side of the hill. He looked at the chickens. He looked at the sharp wire. With his sharp paws he dug and dug beneath the wire. It was just enough to get through, though the wire scraped his fur and cut his skin. He was bleeding, but not too much, and he grabbed – ONE – TWO – chickens and flew out of the hole he dug. No one saw him, and he took the chickens to his baby coyotes. The babies did what babies do, and the daddy and mommy ate what was left. Every coyote ate that night.
One day there was a brave coyote. He jogged down the street in front of cars, in front of people. He didn’t run away. He looked at the people, he looked at the cars. He kept on jogging. He went to the end of the block, at the cul de sac, and cut up through the brush in the back yards. Dogs barked. Cars screeched to stop. The coyote was just going home after a long work day. No rabbits, no cats, no small dogs to eat. He went up to the bush under the tree in the park and met his family. All of the coyotes were hungry. Brave coyote was the dad, but he didn’t get the food. All the coyotes were hungry. But it wasn’t time to eat.
I’m a father of two boys and one girl. At an early age they developed an unpredictable and insatiable interest in stories about almost everything. I’m a grandfather now and, whatever the clichés, my grandkids thirst for stories. Oz begs me to tell him stories, and I do it almost anytime or anywhere. We started with stories about his family. I occasionally make up stories around my simple understanding of biology (there was a series of stories about pythons, for example). Grandmas riding horses, daddies taking sons to frozen yoghurt stores; I told him about all my dogs when I was a boy. Pythons; coyotes (that we see in Echo Park); rats and snakes: these are stories for boys (and girls). When I tell a story, I wave my arms like a snake, open my hands like a mouth, widen my eyes, and exaggerate every feeling. I’m leaving only the words here. I can’t tell if it’s the words or the performance he likes, but I suspect it’s more the former than the latter. I leave stories here for you to tell again, to elaborate (simply), to name your streets and neighbors and friends and towns instead of mine. Let’s tell the stories, and share what works best.