Big Blue Bird
The Arnold Legacy
Dennett asked for a story about a surprise or disappointing gift. At first I was stumped, then I recalled a strange incident in the mid-1960s.
A bit of back story is needed here: I was working as a telephone want-ad taker for a large Toronto newspaper. We would take calls from people wishing to sell items, rent places, find tenants, etc. We would tell them how many lines they could get for a specified amount. We would try to help them to word their ads so they would fit in the allocated space and sound good.
I had this one guy who was always calling in with some item to sell, and who would only take the cheapest line option. I always managed to help him out. He was very appreciative and even called my supervisor to let her know about it. It got so he would not speak to any of the other ad takers.
One day he showed up at the office and demanded to see me. I was furious and so was my supervisor. He began to come by every day at different times, hanging around at the elevator on our floor. Somehow he managed to find out who I was and found out where I parked my car.
The first unwanted Gift
One evening I got to my car and found a ratty-looking Peacock feather under the windshield wiper and a flowery hand-written poem attached. The poem promised undying love. He left his name and telephone number at the bottom of the poem. His name was Arnold. Of course, I ignored this but was left feeling very irritated and uncomfortable. No one likes a stalker.
This was the start of a long and annoying period of time when Arnold haunted me. I tried reporting it to the Police, but they were quite unhelpful.
At that time I lived in a hippy part of town in a cheap apartment with stoners, strippers and biker gang guys for neighbors. They didn’t like Arnold and would chase him away if they caught him hanging around.
More unwanted gifts and an unwelcome phone call
I moved, got a new job and joined the Mormon Church in one fell swoop. Somehow, Arnold tracked me down. I knew this because more poems and Peacock feathers would show up under the windshield wipers. One day I got a call at work from a woman claiming to be Arnold's wife. She begged me to see him and even have a date with him because he was obsessed with me and she was tired of hearing about it. I was nonplussed but refused.
Taking the plunge …
I had moved into the home of a lovely Mormon lady, Mrs. Blake (R.I.P.), and told her of these problems. She was concerned but couldn’t really think of anything else I could do to get rid of him. One day Mrs. Blake told me that Arnold had applied to the Mormon Church in our area to get baptised. I was appalled. I knew from his wife that Arnold was an Orthodox Jew and converting to Mormonism was an insane idea. Mrs. Blake tried to explain the problem to our Bishop, but he was a righteous and obstinate man who couldn’t see past the end of his nose, and insisted that once Arnold went through the baptismal font, he would come out on the other side a ”changed man” . I thought “Yeah, right …”.
Arnold somehow managed to contact Mrs. Blake and begged her to help him. She told him it was very questionable for an Orthodox Jew to convert to Mormonism all of a sudden, and she questioned his motives. Finally, Arnold admitted that he was converting “Just so he could be in the same building with Louise, breathing the same air”. She was horrified and so was I. She again tried to convince the Bishop, to no avail.
The last extremely unwelcome gifts
Honestly, I cannot recall if Arnold actually did get baptized, but shortly before the impending day, a bulky parcel arrived at the house. It was addressed to me. I opened it and inside was this large 3'x5' painting of a big, ugly bluebird with a white-rimmed blue eye. Also enclosed a huge (looked like size 10 mens) pair of battery-operated socks. There was a note of course, and, you guessed it, it was from Arnold, reiterating his wish to be breathing the same air as me. Mrs. Blake took the painting, the socks and the note to show the Bishop, reminding him that Arnold was a married man. I gather the Bishop was furious.
I have recreated the big blue bird in photoshop as best I can recall.
I never heard anything more from Arnold, so I don’t really know the “rest of the story”