The Flap Begins: Two Flyers Put Around the Sunset Park Neighborhood

By John "Birdman" Bryant


The following is a flyer distributed in the Sunset Park neighborhood about 10/29/00.

Note: Paul Knox is the person identified as 'Doctor Obnoxious'.

Dear friends and neighbors:

I thought you might want to know some details about an obnoxious neighbor. He (along with his wife and children) resides in the house at the corner of Park and 1st Av S, directly across from (and facing) Sunset Park. Unfortunately we have not yet been able to determine his name, but since he claims to be a doctor of some sort (perhaps a witch doctor), we shall simply refer to him here as Doctor Obnoxious. And while he may indeed hold some sort of medical credential, his behavior indicates that he is neither particularly bright nor particularly knowledgeable about medical matters. He also doesn't know much about winning friends and influencing people, and is apparently unconcerned about keeping his word. Here's the story:

For the past three or four years my wife and I have been feeding pigeons in the morning at Sunset Park. During this time we have had many friendly encounters with neighborhood people, while having only one person who has expressed objection to our activities -- objection which he has expressed on several occasions by screaming obscene epithets as he drives by. We are of course regretful that such a lunatic is in the neighborhood, but we console ourselves by remembering that there is always one in every crowd, so it has not been a matter of special concern.

But now emerges Doctor Obnoxious, who moved here several months ago, and who on Thursday decided to unburden himself of the belief that our pigeons were threatening the health of his children because there have been cases of pigeons who carry a disease called psittacosis (parrot fever), and because this disease can sometimes be transferred from animals to humans. The notion that there is any threat to this man's children, however, is complete nonsense. As I pointed out to him, psittacosis is a very rare disease -- so rare, in fact, that his kids have more chance of getting leprosy -- or getting run over when crossing the street to the park -- than acquiring psittacosis (there were only two cases in the last 5 years in Florida). Similar statistics hold for other diseases which pigeons could theoretically transfer to humans. Or to put the matter another way, the chance of his kids getting psittacosis is just about as close to zero as possible without actually being zero. (I emphasize this point because one passer-by who engaged in discussion with me about the situation expressed the quite silly notion that, even with there being only two cases of psittacosis in the last 5 years, Doctor Obnoxious was right to be worried about one of his kids becoming Case Three.)

In the course of our Thursday conversation, I asked Doctor Obnoxious what would satisfy him regarding my bird-feeding activities, and we came to the agreement that in exchange for his not bothering us, we would move our activities down to the next tree, about 30 feet away. Or at least I thought we reached this agreement, and so did my wife, particularly because I queried Doctor Obnoxious a second time about what he would be satisfied with, and was given the same answer. But the next day, after I had given him a letter which -- among other things -- restated our agreement, he belligerently claimed that the agreement specified that we were to move all the way to the end of the block. That would actually have been just fine with me, except that it was not what we agreed. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I believe that an honorable man keeps his word except under extraordinary circumstances. (The passer-by mentioned above who expressed the silly notion that there was good reason for Doctor Obnoxious to be worried about one of his kids becoming Psittacosis Case Three also seemed to think that keeping one's word is unimportant -- in his awkward phrase, 'Agreements change'. To that I would say: Keeping one's word is at the very heart of human social interaction -- if you don't believe it, ask any divorcee -- and when there are people who shrug off this matter with a remark like 'Agreements change', you can be pretty sure that society is in serious trouble -- as indeed it is with a serially dishonorable man like Bill Clinton as chief of state.) And if Doctor Obnoxious really had misunderstood our agreement, he could have acknowledged that possibility in a courteous manner rather than presenting me with a face-full of non- negotiable demands. So in my book, Doctor Obnoxious is not merely ignorant (about disease risk), arrogant (about refusing to acknowledge that my activities are posing him no risk) and belligerent (when he doesn't get his way, and when his ego has been wounded by someone showing up his ignorance), but also dishonorable. Pretty nice guy, huh?

And speaking of nice guys, Doctor Obnoxious became even nicer today (Saturday) when he spent an hour clownishly clacking two boards together trying to scare away my pigeons from the park. What I am getting at is, feeding birds in the parks of St Pete is not only legal, but specifically permitted by law, but the ignorant, arrogant, belligerent, dishonorable and clownish Doctor Obnoxious decided that he would force me to either not feed them, or else to move down to the end of the block. So now, in addition to his dirty laundry list of other endearing qualities, Doctor Obnoxious is also a lawbreaker (by disturbing the peace and harassing law-abiding citizens). Like I said, a really nice guy.

Now I am aware that some of you may possibly be pigeon-haters, and thus would sympathize with Doctor Obnoxious. If that is the case, I'm sorry, but my guess is that it probably results from ignorance. For example, we have already mentioned the falsity of the claim that pigeons spread disease. Another frequent false claim is that pigeons mess on cars (this is rare -- the culprit is usually gulls, who drop while flying). A third objection is that pigeon nests can be messy because they contain the young's droppings, but this is not a problem as long as you don't leave cubbyholes, balconies or other sheltered places for them to roost in. (And anyway, the droppings are not particularly bothersome to the birds, as they quickly harden into a sort of glue-like binding for the nest.) And I think that about covers it.

Now some of you may think that this situation is much ado about nothing, since the problem can presumably be solved by me and my wife moving our bird-feeding to the end of the block. (This was the sentiment of the passer-by mentioned above, who said we should be 'big-minded' and give in to Doctor Obnoxious' demands.) And since that is what we have decided to do, that may indeed solve it. But giving in to Dr Obnoxious is not a simple matter of being 'big-minded', because it poses a special problem. In particular, by giving in -- in whatever small way -- to an arrogant, ignorant, belligerent, dishonorable and clownish law-breaker, we do something which may be interpreted as a sign of weakness and lack of courage; and such a circumstance is always an invitation to attack. But we are going to do it anyway, much as we find it distasteful, and see what happens. In particular, we told Doctor Obnoxious that we were going to swear out a warrant against him with the police, but we have decided now to hold off on this unless he bothers us further. We are, however, putting out this letter with a view to shaming him in the eyes of his neighbors, since we feel compelled to respond to his action with something that lets him know we are neither weak nor cowards, and that we will give him tit for tat if he bothers us.


The following is a flyer distributed in the Sunset Park neighborhood around 11/09/00.

Note: Jeffrey MacLeod is the person identified as 'Foulmouth Moustache'.

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

Several days ago we put around a letter concerning objections made by a certain Doctor Obnoxious to my and my wife's pigeon feeding in Sunset Park -- a letter which, according to our sources, created 'quite a stir'. The present letter is to update you on some important developments concerning this matter.

In our previous letter we gave our reasons for referring to Doctor Obnoxious as ignorant, arrogant, belligerent, clownish and dishonorable. As it turns out, however, his next-door neighbor, who lives at 100 Sunset Drive (his side yard is across from the park, with front facing the water), is not much better, and in fact may be worse. This fellow, who sports a moustache, has a mouth like an unflushed toilet, and for these reasons I shall refer to him as Foulmouth Moustache. But it was not only his filthy language, but his implied physical threats, and his vow to 'make our lives miserable' in spite of the fact that he has absolutely no cause against us, which identifies him pretty plainly as an uncivilized barbarian. (And for all his bluster, he was too cowardly to even state his name when asked!)

So why is this important? Very simply, it's important because Doctor Obnoxious and Foulmouth Moustache are apparently trying to stampede your neighborhood association into endorsing a change in the St Pete law so my wife and I will no longer be able to feed our birds. It seems to me that catering to the desires of such unsavory characters is not what a neighborhood association wants to do. And of course, as I pointed out in my earlier letter, our activities are absolutely harmless, and at most are responsible for a few extra stains on the sidewalk -- something most people would never even notice unless they were actually looking for them. (This, I might point out, constitutes far less of a 'droppings problem' than that of dogs, whose droppings we have often had to remove in order to feed our birds.)

But if you are disturbed by unsavory characters trying to use the neighborhood association for their twisted purposes, you might also be disturbed that your association president, Allen Conner, has refused to invite me and my wife to attend any meetings of your association -- something which we requested so that we could have an opportunity to meet residents in person and to explain the facts concerning our situation. Truthfully, I would doubt whether Mr Conner has the power to exclude us, but what really piques my interest is why he is attempting to. He is apparently going to call a meeting in which Doctor Obnoxious, Foulmouth Moustache, and perhaps others are going to try to obtain your support in making a change to the law, yet he doesn't want the very people who will be most affected to hear what is going on. Who benefits from that? Certainly not you, because you don't get to hear both sides. And certainly not us, because we don't get a chance to challenge the things that will be said against us. So the answer can only be that it will benefit the pigeon- haters, including Doctor Obnoxious and Foulmouth Moustache. It will give them a chance to tell you a lot of falsehoods in order to get their way. Is that what Mr Conner wants? Is that what YOU want?

Speaking of falsehoods, it will no doubt be claimed by the pigeon-haters that we are 'outsiders'. To this I would say the following: First, I live in the (greater) neighborhood, and it is precisely because Sunset Park is in my neighborhood that I use it. It is true, of course, that I am not a legal resident of St Pete, but so what? You have no more basis for objecting to my use of the park than I have for objecting to your use of, say, the very fine tennis courts which abut your area, but which are maintained by South Pasadena. The bottom line is that there is no 'residence requirement' for using a public park, and until there is, no one has any right to keep us from using it, or indeed to complain that we do.

In passing, it is worth remarking that a public park is just that -- public. However, this fact seems to have escaped the attention of Dr Obnoxious and Foulmouth Moustache, who appear to regard this public land as an extension of their private yards. They already have the benefit of an unobstructed view and a nearby open space; so we are left to wonder why they think that they have the moral right to attempt to control what other people do on it.

Whatever your political views, you ought to be disturbed by what Doctor Obnoxious and Foulmouth Moustache are attempting to do. If you are conservative or libertarian, you should be disturbed by governmental intrusion on peaceable and non-disturbing behavior, and indeed, behavior which has long been sanctioned by tradition all over America and the world. On the other hand, if you are a liberal, you should be disturbed by the attempt to restrict cultural diversity and to discriminate against an entire class of people (those who love pigeons).

I think it is important to remark that, should you decide to support Doctor Obnoxious and Foulmouth Moustache, what you will actually be doing is encouraging behavior which is uncouth, belligerent, ignorant and arrogant, as opposed to the behavior of myself and my wife, which has been steadfastly the opposite even under the provocation of your very un- neighborly neighbors. That is, when you encourage bad behavior, you tend to get more of it; so if Doctor Obnoxious and Foulmouth Moustache get their way, this will be a green light for others to behave as they have behaved.

In attempting to divine the motives of Mr Conner in his effort to keep us from attending a meeting of your neighborhood association, it is interesting to observe that we have been feeding pigeons in Sunset Park for more than FOUR YEARS without any complaints, but that just six weeks ago I put up a controversial website on the Internet which is very politically incorrect (and which therefore offends certain very powerful groups), and now, suddenly, I find two (and perhaps more) snarling dogs on my tail for no rational reason. Is this an accident, or is someone trying to get at me -- and paying off certain people to do their dirty work? I can't answer the question; I can only raise it. But I do think that the circumstances are provocative.

In conclusion, there are an awful lot of things which are very fishy about this whole situation, including the sleazy characters involved, the lack of any obvious motive for their behavior, and the peculiar desire to exclude me and my wife from your community meeting. Is something rotten in St Pete?



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