On Monday when I got home, my answering machine was winking at me.
OK, so it wasn't winking, it was blinking - I know that. Just is, given my terrible luck with machines, I'd like to pretend one of them thinks kindly of me.
Anyhow, the message was from Jessica Collier, who identified herself as a reporter for the Enterprise.
Without wanting to appear crass, I must say her name meant nothing to me. All right, she was one of the new reporters, but that was it. I don't think I should be expected to know more than that either. The ADE goes through junior reporters like Imelda Marcos went through shoes with the only difference being when the reporters are no longer a la mode, they don't end up in a closet.
I found out Jessica's the Tupper Lake reporter, but still, why would she be calling me? At first, I had no idea. Then I figured, what with my encyclopedic knowledge and love of Tupper, she was using me as a source. Most likely, I reckoned, she was doing a feature on Tupper's great characters, and since I know my fair share of them - extinct, longtime, and recent - my tales would be priceless.
The next day I called her at the newsroom, identified myself and asked what was up.
"Well," she said, "I'm doing an article on chickens."
"Chickens?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, and then paused for dramatic impact, before she went on.
"Do you know," she said, "that you have a chicken named after you?"
"Indeed I do," I said.
She paused again. This time I figured she was taken aback.
"So ah how do you feel about it?" she asked.
"Great," I said.
"Sure," I said. And I meant it.
seidenstein (lower case "s" to distinguish my namesake from myself) is one of Chance Perks' chickens.
And who, you might ask, is Chance Perks?
Chance is one of my former students, and quite the exceptional young man. He's got an insatiable curiosity, as well as the determination to satisfy it. Currently, he's doing research in Iceland, which he also did last summer, and it's only one indication of his drive to pursue his interests. The chickens are another indication.
I don't know the whole story, only bits and pieces I gleaned from Chance. But in a nutshell (or if your prefer,"in an eggshell"), somehow Chance decided he wanted fresh eggs. Realizing the only way to have truly fresh eggs was to raise the chickens himself, he started investigating how to do it. And in his usual manner, he did it systematically and thoroughly.
First, since he lives on Petrova Avenue, he checked with the powers that be to make sure keeping chickens within the village is legal (It is). Then he talked to various people in the egg biz until he knew all he needed to set up his three-hen operation.
After that, he built a coop out of scrap lumber and finished it off with a psychedelic exterior and a tie-dyed flag with a 'P' prominently displayed in its center. It's a fine piece of workmanship, though frankly I think the monogram is a tad too tacky.
I don't know much beyond that, except he lets his chickens wander around at scheduled times, which gives them exercise and an extra food source. It also amuses, or annoys, his neighbors when one of the chickens literally flies the coop and he and his housemates form a posse and head off to capture the miscreant.
From what I've been told, seidenstein is the fastest and farthest-ranging of the trio - a source of pride to me, what with my having been something of a runner in my youth.
The name game
But back to the essential issue my reaction to having a chicken named after me.
I realize many people would consider a chicken namesake a dubious honor, if not a downright insult, but I'm not one of them.
As a student of history and a hardcore realist, I've no illusion that anything will ever be named after me.
Let's get real: What gets named after people? In the public sphere it's buildings, parks, highways, bridges and so on. But who are those people the government so honors? Big-time movers and shakers, that's who. In other words, someone I'll never be.
So how about naming in the private sector? The simplest method is to own a buttload of land and name it after yourself - an impossibility for yours truly.
Another impossibility: If you've got tons of ca-ching ca-ching and no modesty, you can give a bunch of it to some institution and you'll get a room, a stained glass window, or at the very least a brass plaque in your name.
As a veteran in good standing of This Man's Navy, I suppose I have a ship named after me for my heroic service as a morse code operator, but I doubt it. There'll never be a U.S.S. Dope, though from what I've seen of the military mind, there should be.
Of course, there's the ultimate do-it-yourself method: Have a kid and name him after yourself. Clearly, however, in my case the issue issue is no issue. My biological clock may still be ticking, but its alarm has been permanently turned off.
And even if I had a kid, it'd be to no avail, since in Jewish tradition we name children after relatives who've passed away. That way their memory is kept alive beyond their own generation.
So even if a kid was named after me, I wouldn't be alive to see it; thus, having a chicken named after me while I'm alive will just have to suffice.
Plus, to be brutally honest, having little seidenstein saves me a whole lot of money that would've gone to a lifetime of birthday, holiday, graduation, and all other kinds of presents.
And finally, I have three nieces and a nephew, and while they've given me a lot of joy over the years, they've never once given me the fixings for my breakfast.