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Between the Lines -- Byron de Arakal

February 27, 2002

An amusing notion has been wandering around in my head in the days

proceeding the citywide ban on duck feeding in Newport Beach. What if

ducks could talk? And if they could, would they agree to an interview?

This is folly, of course, though I suspect the marketing mavens at AFLAC

would take exception.

At any rate, even occasional news consumers must be aware that on Feb.

7 the Newport Beach City Council launched an offensive on the city's duck

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population. Why? It seems a considerable number of these good creatures

(better still when roasted and garnished with a tangy plum sauce) had

over the years established an entrenched beachhead on and around Balboa

Island.

But having done so -- lured there by the infinite bounty of bread and

grain and water left for them by caring souls -- claims surfaced that

mountains of duck dung were soiling harbor waters and certain frontages

on the Grand Canal.

And so the City Council made it criminal to regularly host ducks to a

meal except for the occasional scrap of bread.

Now, having seen that duck platoons have taken to roaming the island

for new food sources, the city is dispatching stealth squads to run

midnight duck raids (but only on the white fowl, since brown mallards are

off limits under federal law) for deportation to unknown inland

locations.

That background aside, we can imagine how an exclusive interview with

one of these disenfranchised ducks might go.

We were expecting to sit down with a representative of the white duck

population. What happened?

"I am a white duck."

You look like a brown mallard to us.

"We have no choice but to disguise ourselves. These are desperate

times for us. We must resort to whatever means are available to thwart

this clearly discriminatory action against our kind."

So you believe you're being singled out?

"Clearly. We don't enjoy the same federal protections that give

preferential treatment to brown mallards. They're rounding us up under

the ruse that our byproducts, shall we say, threaten water quality and

are the source of unpleasant odors. But I dare say that the mallards are

guilty of the same. They're coming for us because we're white."

That's a pretty strong charge.

"But nonetheless true."

What has been the reaction in the duck community to the city's ban on

the feeding of your people -- er, kind?

"Shock. Disappointment. Outraged by the hypocrisy."

The hypocrisy?

"Sure. We've been here for generations, long before people took over

the place. We've seen what they've done to the bay, to our waters, with

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