“You’re Austin, right?” the one on the left asked. “I’m Lydia and this is Timmy. We’re friend of JP’s and he said we should come visit you if we ever needed anything.
I would’ve welcomed the creatures into my home regardless, but the mention of JP’s name made me smile, and I enthusiastically invited his pals to waddle on into my foyer.
Jean-Pierre, aka JP, is my dear penguin friend, who I’ve known since my days in Brooklyn. He is a world traveler, but settled down with me when I moved to Maine. As expected, he took quite a liking to The Girl Who Makes Me Want To Fly, and she to him, so when it was time for her to go off to school, it was decided that JP would accompany her to be there for her when she really started to miss me.
I offered my guests herring martinis and a plate of sardines (I always keep JP’s favorites in stock just in case he decides to surprise me with a visit), and we settled down in the living room for a chat. It was a little odd having penguins in the house again, and it made me realize how much I missed my buddy.
“We were talking to JP the other day,” Timmy explained as he slurped down his drink, “and he told us about your blog, and how much of an influence you have on the people of Maine. We need your help.”
Friends of JP in need, were friends indeed. I asked them how I could be off assistance. “We have a puffin problem,” Lydia sighed. “They’re all over the news lately, and there’s an article making the rounds now that states that puffins are Maine’s most populous bird.”
Apparently, Puffin Envy is a major issue for Maine’s tiny penguin population. “We know there aren’t many penguins in Maine, but we used to have the spotlight when it came to adorable black and white birds,” Timmy picked up the narrative. “Then these puffins come along, they multiply like crazy, and now the state is advertising Puffin Tours on its website. Come on! They stole our look. They’re cheap imitations of us!”
I looked at the photos Lydia provided, and they did have a point. Puffins do look a lot like penguins. I pointed out that while the puffins were adorable, they didn’t have the sophistication of penguins.
Timmy got so upset that he spit out his sardine and chugged the rest of his herring martini. “The world needs to know that puffins are plagiarists. They stole our look, our walk, our state…Maine was a penguin haven until those copycats came along and forced most of us to migrate to places further north where penguins could live without fear of being imitated.”
I pointed out that many consider imitation to be the sincerest form of flattery, but the two flightless water fowl in my living room were not buying that line. “I guess what we’re trying to say, Austin, is that we want our identities back,” Lydia explained as she handed her companion the rest of her drink in hopes it would help him settle down. “If one more tourist walks up to me and asks if she can take a picture of the pretty puffin, I’m going to scream! Penguins are not puffins! Just help us reclaim our rightful, unique place in the eyes of Mainers and tourists.”
This Modern Philosopher is always up for a challenge, and I have been ignoring penguins in my blog because the mere thought of them reminded me of how much I missed JP. As you can see from the cherished photo on the left, I’ve known the guy since I was a dorky kid in braces and crooked glasses!
So I agreed to help the penguins. I told them I wouldn’t do anything to disparage puffins in the process, as this blog is all about being accepting of Maine’s many unique residents. They were fine with that.
The process starts with this blog post. As you can see, Modern Philosophers, penguins and puffins do look very similar, but they are not the same. Please take a moment to study the subtle differences. I’d recommend focusing on the beaks and choice of ties. Puffins never wear ties, but penguins love them.
Next time you are in Maine and come across a penguin, acknowledge that. Make sure you point out that you understand the bird in front of you is a noble penguin. Ask it if you can take a photo, offer to buy the penguin a herring martini, and maybe slip in a little comment about how sophisticated penguins are compared to other black and white birds.
Maybe if you all show a little more love to the penguins, the ones that left Maine will hear about it and return. You can also write to the Maine Department of Tourism and ask for information about a Penguin Tour, and when they tell you they do not offer those, demand to know why not.
Small, waddling steps, my friends. Nothing against the puffins, but I’m definitely a friend of the penguin. Will you be one, too?
While I don’t normally take requests on this blog, this post is dedicated to The Girl Who Is Taking Care Of JP. When the person you love asks you to write a post about puffins, you make sure the very next post on your blog is about that subject…