The Exquisite Mr. Dutka

I’ll take grief for describing him as exquisite, but I can’t deny an accurate description, even if tales are cut short. If Rob were a pokemon, he’d be my team lead.

I am reminded of an event when I was little. I loved scrub jays because they reminded me of velociraptors (and I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a velociraptor because my little toes lacked nails and actually had claws that would grow up and out… I later learned that it was a defect, but I’ll stick with the hope that some day I’ll be a fearsome prehistoric predator). They were dastardly sauve and ruled the skies, vocal, social, and brilliantly blue to contrast their drab bellies. One day I sat in my favorite oak tree and admired a bird’s nest, full of pudgy naked sparrow babies. And to my horror, a jay dove from the sky and plucked one of the babies from its nest. I ran, screaming and crying after it to rescue the little bird, but the jay simply scoffed and devoured the hatchling high in a tree out of my reach. I was devastated. And the plight of the baby bird never left my memories. It’s something to note, and you’ll understand later why I mentioned my childhood horror.

But more relevant, there are many people we cross who are deeply underappreciated, and Rob is one of those souls.

So there he is… the embodiment of chaos. Rob is a tropical storm with all its ups, downs, fluctuations, howling winds, sunny days, and even raining frogs (it’s actually a thing, trust me). At 25, he gives Curly a full head of hair and Larry a run for his absurdity. I have never met someone so absolutely excited about life, and yet simultaneously completely oblivious to it. Rob lives so deeply in the moment that there is no investment or consequence (on the latter side: lucky bastard). But on the flip to all his passion, expectedly, there are repercussions: live life at its highest and rules must be bent. His high energy is supported by an underlying tone of survival, the kind of sneaky drive that’s intentionally kept avian fauna just below the apex line, lurking ever quieter to stay out of focus and out of mind, but ultimately well fed. Like the word equivocate, (his favorite buzz word; we all have one or two, a word we love to explain because it’s rarely used but possesses immense presence when it is used; mine are titer and miasma), his life is defined by skewing boundaries at no expense with a failed execution of subtlety. To survive means the world is always slightly bent to his desires, and if things are tweaked when he’s done it’s not his problem anymore.

Rob is the jay in the brush: a vibrant explosion of blue and a shrieking bandit ready to steal your baby on a whim, devour it, and leave you baffled while he treats the skies as his playground with a twitch of his auxiliaries. But I’ve spent a lifetime teaching myself to investigate, and when one can do that they can see that in some cases, these less than favorable parts add up to a far greater good. He is the ultimate supporter and an even greater source of humor and warmth. He is insightful and intrigued by thoughts and meaningful discussions… a splendid soul to share wine and stories! If you spend enough time with Rob, you can overlook the bandit in the brush, and suddenly all your dreams seem incredibly doable and the skies become your playground too. The savage survivalist that is the jay is an extravagant and welcomed piece of the woods you love. But at his highest, he is a catalyst; and at his lowest, he is a fatal storm.

And the sooner I write these, the sooner I can forget. And move on to fairer journies. All people leave footprints in your life and journey, and some are heavier than others: his were weighted with lead as he tread through mine. He has the loathsome skill, when the winds are right, to find a weakness and pick at it until you find your once growing wings are abruptly bald and flightless.

I met Rob at the tail end of a fierce bout of rain. The kind of rain that looks at waterproof gear and laughs, you can actually hear it. (A fatal storm, perhaps?) And I am enamoured with first impressions, I am nearly flawless at this judgement (though I have a terrible habit of thinking, maybe they’ll prove me wrong about their nature) and I find casual impressions to be insightful or amusing to recollect. Rob was the first person I truly met in Ketchikan, the first to introduce and show himself, and he displayed such by discussing the art of eating live baby birds excruciatingly slowly solely for the experience (in retrospect.. he’s not even human anymore, he’s fully a scrub jay!) “It’s not gruesome,” he explained, “it’s a reflection where every part of that bird is a different texture and flavor, and you just think, that’s what the bones taste like! You spend a lot of time chewing this bird.” He was an expert in this field. And my impression was set: a passionate, exuberant, self proclaimed professional at wandering with no idea of where to wander. I loved him almost immediately.

I always bragged that he was a fascinating person to know. He’s the icon in most of my stories as he’s the soul with whom I spent the most time up North. But journies end, Frodo loses his finger, Dobby dies, and the jay eventually eats your baby. But dammit, it’s still a whimsical bird.

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