And I tumbled this thorough and fascinating look at crows in Japan. I may not know a lot about Japanese crows, but what I do I owe to this blog. Wonderful job! Why was I thinking about crows? Well, because we have what I think of as an infestation of them in our neighborhood. They perch ominously on the overhead wires, they go into our garbage and tear the bags to shreds searching for food (that blog entry shows the garbage netting people in Japan have to cover their trash bags with at the local collection points), they make a racket calling to each other or just because they want to hear their own voices and they beat their wings against the aluminum siding outside our apartment so that it sounds like funeral drums.
Here are a couple of crow-related anecdotes for you to enjoy after you've gone and read someone's intelligent writings about crows via that link. Click it. Enjoy. Come back.
Incident 1: A Murder of Crows Commits Murder
Years ago, when my friend Mike still lived here, we both enjoyed going to an Indian restaurant for Sunday lunch. The poor restaurant owners made the mistake of putting Tandoori chicken on their all-you-can-eat buffet and we would feast and no doubt cost them more money than they made. Eventually, the new ownership banned Tandoori chicken from the buffet line, and I moved out of the neighborhood soon after. We never went back.
But during our Tandoori heyday, we were sitting by the front windows where we had an excellent view across the street of a small parking lot for some business or other. A dentist's office or a jeweler's shop. I don't remember and it's not that important, after all. What is important is one this particular Sunday we were witness to feathered murder.
While we watched, two large crows repeatedly attacked a gray pigeon and slowly pecked it to death with their heavy black beaks. It wasn't a quick killing, either. The attack went on for several minutes as the crows took turns. By the time we noticed, the pigeon was far too injured to fly away and the crows were free to have their way with it. Why did they kill the pigeon? We'll never know. Who can fathom the mind of a crow, or the minds of two? It was enough they decided the pigeon must die, and die it did.
When the drama ended, Mike and I went back to our meal and consumed even more Tandoori chicken.
Incident 2: Grocery Snatching at the Tea House
A couple of years after that, my coworker Shayne and I went to a tea ceremony. One of our students invited us. The tea house is near Hamamatsu Castle, in the neighborhood behind Concord Hotel. We enjoyed the ceremony so much we eventually did it again. I can't remember if this happened after the first one or the second one, but as we were leaving, we passed an older woman toting a couple of plastic grocery bags full of food.
In a scene that would warm Alfred Hitchcock's mayhem-loving heart, we noticed dark shadows passing closely overhead and turned to watch as several large crows descended upon the woman and tried to rip the bags out of her hands, or snatch the groceries from them. She flailed her arms to warn them off, and they flapped away, only to dive-bomb her again and again. The poor woman began trotting down the narrow street towards her house as fast as her elderly legs could carry her. The crows pursued her for as long as we watched, swooping down and stabbing at her groceries, batting against her head and shoulders and terrorizing her completely.
We were at a loss for what to do. She was far enough away catching up to her was problematic, and we were freaked out enough not to want to get involved. Maybe someone of more heroic spirit might have sprinted to her rescue, but there was also a pretty good chance she'd be just as frightened of us as she was of the crows. I was pretty scared. I know that much. We never really stopped walking, either. We just slowed up a little, glancing back over our shoulders as the crows and the woman shrank in the distance. We passed into the castle's parking lot and lost sight of her, blocked by trees or a wall. Or both.
Whatever happened to her? Did the crows steal her food? Could we have helped? I guess we'll never know. Should we have helped? I think so, but we didn't. And it's much too late now. But I do not trust crows. They're crafty. They're intelligent. When they sit on those wires overhead, I have the suspicion they're just waiting for me to walk underneath so they can poop on my head. Deliberately.