A blue heron takes wing along the shore of Lynn Canal.

A blue heron takes wing along the shore of Lynn Canal.

Off the Beaten Path: A humble request for Playbird Magazine

Dear Mr. Hugh Hefner:

Both you and I know there comes a time when the pleasures of Earth no longer amount to much. It’s easy to get depressed when you’ve drunk the best wines only to taste a metallic bitterness, owned the fanciest cars only to find that they, too, rust away, and danced with the Devil beneath the pale moonlight only to find he dances like a Scandinavian intellectual—that is, he only polkas, and badly.

Do not despair, Mr. Hefner! You have not outlived your life! Look to the sky and you will find your salvation. Open your body, soul and heart to birds!

All your life you’ve been dabbling with chicks and look where that’s gotten you. Your net worth is like, only 45-million dollars and you’ve been forced to date and marry several Barbie doll lookalikes the age of your great-great granddaughters.

Today, I’m not only offering you a chance to rediscover what it means to laugh, to cry and to love. I’m also offering you an incredibly lucrative business partnership. Playbird Magazine will be a second lease on life—not just for you, but for men and women around the world that haven’t yet been exposed to the exciting and sexy world of birding. Imagine my wit and your good looks combined to birth a new sort of birding magazine. It would be classy, with centerfolds of wood storks, herons, golden eagles, etc. Each page would have an earthy perfume that would just drive readers wild with fantasies about wetlands.

Here comes the hard sell. You should probably sit down before you read any further. Close your eyes. Imagine you and me, dressed in matching REI adventure pajamas, binoculars in hand, paddling down a slough and singing bawdy birding songs as thousands of swallows swirl in a cyclone above. Or dressed in matching Helly Hansen rain gear, hiking through a rainforest as a goshawk tears through branches at mach speed and nails a squirrel as it sprints, in a futile attempt, for its life. Or wearing matching sailor outfits on a schooner, witnessing the grace of the wings of trumpeter swans beating just millimeters above the still waters of the ocean. Afterwards we could have a hot cup of chamomile tea. If we want to be bad we could even have hot chocolate—sometimes I even put two packages and marshmallows in my mug!

The best part of birding is that it’s a continual voyage of discovery. That, and any one can do it. On Adak Island I met a number of folks who didn’t even get out of their cars. They had spotting scopes mounted on their windows. The drive-by birders pulled up as I was thumbing through my Sibley’s bird book, trying to identify a few different sandpipers in a puddle. They rattled off the birds’ Latin names and left me in the dust. No offense, but I’m sure subscribers and ad revenue will far surpass anything that Playboy ever generated.

This spring I’ll be hosting the first annual Playbird hot dog eating/birding contest on the Mendenhall Wetlands. Afterwards, there will be fowl wrestling, a peacock walk-off and a “flying contest” in which exasperated parents get a chance to blow off a little steam by seeing who can throw their children the farthest into a pond.

I’m excited to be starting up an endurance race/birding competition. Also, I’ve been talking to a number of mixed martial artists interested in figuring out how to combine brawling and birding. Red Bull has expressed interest in sponsorship. There are rumors the corporation is going to make me a several digit offer on Playbird, but I’m worried that our editorial visions won’t align.

Not surprisingly, political candidates are taking interest in the birding phenomenon. Forget all the rhetoric, lying and the good ol’ fashion hiring of gangs of goons to beat up people so they vote the right way. Politicians know now that more than any other tactic and more than any other domestic — and arguably international — issue, pretending to be a birder has the ability to sway votes. Rumor has it at the next presidential debate all the “serious” candidates are going to come dressed up as blue-footed boobies.

On a final note, in a couple of months the spring migrations will begin in my home in Southeast Alaska. Birds of all sorts will fill the air, ocean, woods and wetlands with their calls. You should come visit then, and we’ll hash out my contract and the first issue of Playbird.

I’d like my editorial name to be “Big Bird,” but I understand if for hierarchical reasons you want that title for yourself. I’m not quite worth $45 million. My second choice for my pen name is “Lil’ Quacker.”


Bjorn Dihle

• Bjorn Dihle is a writer based out of Juneau. He’s working on his first book, “Haunted Inside Passage,” and can be reached at bjorndihle@yahoo.com.

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