Crows, booze and sunrise

by Matt Doran

It’s 6:48 on a Sunday morning. I’ve only been home a few hours after being out in Pacific Beach (don’t judge me – it was for a birthday party). Having drunk enough to kill a pony, you would think I should be sound asleep, debating boxers versus briefs with Han Solo while enjoying a lovely chop of medium rare unicorn. But no, I’m watching the sun come up over the canyon and pour through my floor-to-ceiling windows. (Jealous? You should be – the view is stunning.)

Am I up for Church? God, no. (Get it?) I combust within 100 yards of Jesus’ crib. Squash game with Gordon Gekko at the club? I’m old but not that old. Making sauce (pronounced “saw-ss”) for my weekly Sunday Sicilian feast a la Jersey Shore? No, I celebrate my Italian roots without melodramatic dinners, plus I made sauce Friday. So why am I awake at such an offensive hour on a Sunday?

There is a flock, a gaggle, a throng of insidious, bellowing, vicious crows shrieking in the tree outside my window. These black beasts of Hades cawed at each other so violently they roused me from my sleep. The satanic squawks emanating from these raptorial nightmares is deafening. The tree is infested with them, as if the tree itself is the devil incarnate and these winged demons swarmed to come and worship. Why, oh why, did Noah have to put crows on the Ark? Never have I wanted more to exercise my right to bear arms and annihilate defenseless animals.

But seeing as I am sans cannon and don’t fancy myself an assassin of fowl, I try blowing my rape whistle (don’t ask) in their direction. Despite its strong, sexual assault-foiling blast, the birds are unmoved and undeterred, their cacophony only echoing louder. I try the fart-simulator-toy my parents put in my stocking last Christmas (we Dorans are a warped bunch). That faux trumpet of flatulence also fails. A neighbor comes outside to shoo the crows away. He is sternly rebuffed. It seems the residents of the Southern Mission Hills area are no match. I must suffer the crows and their infernal cawing and leave Han and my perfectly cooked unicorn behind.

It’s surreal moments like these, moments when the absurd and fantastical invade reality, when I am forced to reflect upon my life: how it landed me here, where it’s going, what I want out of it, why it’s so categorically f—ed and so forth. What I inevitably come back to is how fast my short life has gone by, how ephemeral it’s all been. I blitzed past the milestones: 18, when I didn’t buy a lottery ticket or porn; 21, when I ordered Chinese because I had crew practice in the morning; 25, when my car insurance rates finally came down from the stratosphere (best birthday present ever); and now 27, when the threat of premature balding and the big 3-0 hover like, well, an army of crows in a tree outside your window.

Listen to Matt’s column:

The alarming rate at which my life is progressing is most unsettling, and that worry may in fact lead to the premature balding I so fear – a vicious cycle. The torture the universe bestows upon me. Crows and hair loss. But seriously, dear reader, as I battle frenzied birds and an existential crisis, I find myself confronted with my future and its implications, insomuch as a hungover 27-year-old can grasp.

I toss. I turn. I pace. I fret. I curse the wretched monsters outside. Each caw is like a gavel strike, and my father is the judge.

“What are you doing with your life, son?” he continually calls to ask.

“I’m trying to write, Dad, but these damn crows won’t let me!”

“Matthew, it’s time to grow up. You’ve got to start making money.”

“I’ll tell you how I’m gonna make money. I’m gonna open up a restaurant, with only one thing on the menu: crow.”

“How do you ever expect to meet a girl? You can’t even provide for yourself. I’ll be 72 in December, you know. I won’t be around forever. Your mother and I wouldn’t mind some grandkids. We just want you to be happy, and that means moving back to New York, becoming a lawyer, marrying a nice Catholic girl, starting a family and having us to your new home for London broil every Sunday.”

Could I?

I know I don’t want any of that. But what do I want? What do I want out of my life? I’ve been asking myself this question with relative frequency since graduating from college more than six years ago. I’ve tried my hand at many things, bounced around the globe looking for the answer. It’s only recently I came upon it and was humbled by its simplicity: to be happy.

If I was happy, I wouldn’t worry about turning 30 or losing my hair. If I was happy (and sober), I probably wouldn’t be as upset about the horde of crows ruining my Sunday morning. I would probably treat my parents better when they call, saying how they miss their only child. I wouldn’t agonize about my future. I would just be happy.

So, this of course begs the question, how do I define happiness? Going all SEAL Team 6 on those crows would be a good start. I’m still working on the recipe, but the key ingredient I’ve already nailed down: companionship. We are short for this world. If we want to be happy in the fleeting time we are here, we have to share our lives. I know if I woke up with someone I cared about, loved, we’d have been laughing our a—es off at the bizarre scene outside my window. I’d have someone to help me deal with my well-meaning but oftentimes misguided parents. I’d have someone to lie to me and tell me my hair is thicker than McDreamy’s. I’d have someone to tell me I don’t look a day older than 23.

It doesn’t matter what’s on the plate. It matters who’s across the table. Figure out who makes you happy, and they will help you figure out the rest.


—Matt Doran is a creative writing graduate student in desperate need of a rifle. Email him at to loan him your weapon.