Everyday for the past two years, Gary drives to a parking lot on the east side of San Francisco Bay, near Berkeley, next to the Albany waterfront. He can’t be late, his fansa are waiting and they’re hungry.
When he arrives, hundreds of seagulls that were standing patiently on the asphalt take flight, reminding me of a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds. The sound of their flapping wings and high-pitched caws is deafening.
He parks his truck and the seagulls go crazy, circling the vehicle like a tornado. Gary gets out and, impossibly, the caws get louder, their behavior more frantic.
He grabs a multi-colored bucket and walks a few feet from the truck, the tornado follows him, and he pulls out slices of pizza. He rips them up, folds them, and then raises his hand. The seagulls dive in and then hover like giant hummingbirds, taking the food straight from his hand.
I sit completely fascinated on the pavement near Gary in the midst of the frenzy while the birds feast. He feeds them bucket after bucket of pizza. All I can see is a blur of wings, webbed feet, and beaks.
When the pizza is gone, Gary calmly walks to the truck and pulls out what seems like a never-ending supply of chicken bones followed by vegetables, which he dumps on the pavement – within minutes the asphalt is picked clean.
I think, where does this guy get all this food? So I ask.
Gary, a gardener and self-professed “waste reduction nut,” began this ritual as a way to recycle the food leftover from local restaurants – two eateries save their scraps for his flying friends.
“They were waiting for you,” I said, loudly over the din. “Yep, they do. I come every morning around the same time,” he replied. (It was approaching 9:30am for anyone who might like to see the spectacle in person.)
“You must be their best friend,” I chuckled.
Looking at the birds fixated on him like fans at a concert, he smiled. “Now I know what Mick Jagger feels like.”