Dear Mr. Prince,

It’s been three days since you delivered your keynote address, “When Doves Cry,” to our organization, the American Ornithological Society. As president of the AOS, I wanted to wait a little while before contacting you to express my displeasure with what took place. Frankly, it took three days for my bewilderment and fear to begin to ebb. As you know, we paid you a hefty honorarium to deliver what we thought would be a scholarly presentation. We want our money back.

Despite the provocative title of the speech you proposed, we are not in the habit of hiring speakers who are not ornithologists. But frankly, Mr. Prince, your androgynous, highly charged sexuality hypnotized us. We went crazy; you were a star; we wanted you to take us with you. Also, as you know, we were all quite fond of your father, Tubold. Knowing how rigorous Tubold’s academic standards were, we thought his son would be just as thorough and insightful. But you are not like your father, Tubold.

I’m remembering the beginning of your speech now and regretting that we didn’t turn off your microphone immediately. We were eager to hear about the doves crying, but instead you asked the audience to imagine kissing you. I surveyed the room and immediately noticed women getting all flushed, while the men (who make up an overwhelming percentage among ornithologists) fidgeted nervously, uncomfortable with imagining kissing you but unable to stop imagining it. Your hot breath. Your wispy mustache. I’m sorry. I lost my place. What was I talking about? Right. The speech.

So it was off-topic from the whole crying-doves thing, but we went with it. It was upon opening our eyes that we realized how strange your presentation truly was. You had filled the auditorium with animals. Monkeys, hippos, tigers, a few dogs, a couple of emus, and three llamas. All dressed in purple pantsuits with hair gel in their fur. The animals seemed limber, judging by the poses they were able to maintain. It’s like they had animal versions of your own sinewy body. But their presence made all in attendance very nervous, which gave them another thing to worry about besides “When will he get to the doves?!”

It was when you invited the audience to come onstage with you for some sort of heat-measurement experiment that things really fell apart. Were we intrigued by the idea of feeling heat from you? Of course. How could we not be? But even a tiger striking a curious pose (standing on its front legs, tail in the shape of a zigzag) is still terrifying because it is a tiger. That’s why none of us joined you onstage. We were also eager to hear about the doves. Were they hiding behind the tigers?

Now, obviously, our unwillingness to join in this exercise made you upset. You complained about how we left you standing, and I think you were unhappy with the thermostat setting in the room as well. You began to scream at us in a manner that was admittedly alluring but nonetheless frightening. Some audience members started screaming back things like “I’m afraid of getting mauled by the tiger!” and “The llama has kicked my wife!” and “What about the doves crying?! I really want to find out about that!” You screamed back about how impossible it was to satisfy us (not true: tell about the doves) and something about your mother. (We were fond of her also, as well as Tubold, and it’s such a shame that they died in that mysterious tiger mauling. Tigers in Minnesota! Who would have thought? Did they ever figure that out?) I don’t know what issues you had with your mother, but the place to work those out is with a professional therapist and not while addressing ornithologists.

Then, in the midst of all this chaos, you informed us that the screaming itself was the sound that doves make when they cry. And, I mean, what? No it’s not. Crying doves sound like terrified ornithologists exchanging screams with a sexy, sexy pop singer? Or was that squeal thing you did supposed to be the crying doves? How did it go? “Aii! Aii! Aii! Aiaiaiai!” It was a massive turn-on, but it was not science.

The last thing I remember of that night is uniformed officers and animal-control personnel entering the room (the animals were no longer able to maintain their poses, though I remain super-impressed that a hippo can do any yoga at all) as the ornithologists were whisked to safety. I recall you chasing after people and inviting them to touch your stomach. I actually tried to comply with that one but was carried out by riot police before I had the chance. I still haven’t found out what happened to the butterflies we had tied up in the back of the auditorium.

You know, now that I recall these events, Mr. Prince, I find that I have a hard time staying mad at U. In fact, 2 tell the truth, it might have been the most exciting convention we’ve ever had. So, I guess I should say thank you. Or thank U for the funky time. Please let me know if U ever want to grind out some new ideas. About birds. Or whatever.


Nicholas E. Darling
American Ornithological Society