For reasons only clear to the Creator, Jah, Allah, God, Yahweh and maybe a few ornithologists, each year the Central West End hosts a huge bird convention. Throughout July and August, 100,000 blackbirds land in St. Louis, making it a bigger festival than either Burning Man or the Indy 500. The St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association estimates that the visitors inject at least $172 million and a lot of bird shit into the local economy.
Tonight they're partying like it's the End of Days in three trees in front of the Tortillaria on Euclid. Judging from the number of white dots on the sidewalk, they've been here for a while. In a futile attempt to scare them off, some human party-pooper has tied a fake plastic owl to a branch, but birds aren't stupid; they just laughed hysterically and started crapping on its head.
We're sitting under an umbrella outside the Tortillaria because it's nice to be around so many flying things. Yes, it's dangerous, but worth it to be surrounded by 100,000 simultaneous conversations, nature speaking in tongues through sharp beaks. We can send satellites to Mars, can pinpoint a cell phone in the Pacific Ocean, but we've yet to translate one syllable of birdspeak. They're chirping The Truth, man, and we can't understand a lick of it.
They're probably talking about the Jarritos Limón and tequila that we're sipping on, and have maybe even convened an 8 p.m. panel discussion on the relative merits of said drink. We like this fizzy margarita a lot, but we've got clumsy human brains, not ultra-sleek, refined, faster-than-a-Pentium-processor bird brains, able to make snap decisions and understand fizzy logic.
Of course Drink of the Week didn't "invent" the Jarritos and tequila, but we cobbled it together on a whim as we stood in line at the excellent Tortillaria, where many med students eat many burritos on their way to and from Barnes-Jewish. At peak hours, laughter and conversation bounce around the room like a Super Ball in a phone booth.
Last week Night & Day proclaimed in its pages that "Mandarin Jarritos are the official soda of summer," and while we agree in principle, we're going with the Limón, or lime, because it mixes so well with Sauza Gold tequila. Jarritos is the most popular soda in Mexico and is sold at any stateside grocery worth its salt. The Tortillaria offers six different varieties, including Mandarin, Lemon, Pineapple and Strawberry.
They also offer a nice margarita, it's true, but if you order a Jarritos and tequila, the server gives you a bottle of the former, a two-ounce plastic cup of the latter and a big glass in which to mix them yourself. We like having that control; preferring to taste our tequila, we measure out the Limón accordingly.
By the time our food arrives (a hefty plato flaco consisting of a fish taco with handmade corn tortillas, a cheese quesadilla, black beans and corn on the cob), we've had enough of the birds. We're starting to smell them, and we don't want them to ambush our food. Plus, we were hoping that the birds would swoop down Disney-style, grab us by our sleeves, belt loops and cuffs, and fly us over the city. But that didn't happen, we're pretty hungry, and we have another Limón and tequila in our future, so we lug our oversize brains indoors, away from the taunting chatter of the birds.