Friends lift a few in fond memory of Jack Nasty

January 07, 1992|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Evening Sun Staff

News of Jack Nasty's passing spread by word of mouth through Fells Point, and last night a few friends gathered at the Wharf Rat Bar for the dead parrot's wake.

Fifteen or 16 people stood at the back bar when Stevens Bunker carried in Jack's cage.

Jack was at the bottom in a small sea chest draped with a 48-star American flag.

The people fell silent in honor of Jack.

Bunker set the cage on a table next to the fireplace, placed the sea chest containing Jack on top of the cage and smoothed out the wrinkles in the small flag.

Flowers were set in beer bottles in front of the cage. Pitchers of beer appeared on the bar. A pizza was delivered. Someone passed around cigars.

Someone else built a fire in the fireplace.

"It's strange where our lessons come from," Bunker began. "Ol' Jack here taught me a few things. Patience, for one."

Jack tried everyone's patience, especially Bunker's. Jack lived his last years at Bunker's business in Fells Point, the China Sea Marine Trading Co. It is crammed with enough marine merchandise to build and fit an ark.

Jack, a green parrot, lived behind the counter with two multicolored macaws, Saigon and Singapore. Although the macaws were prettier, Jack drew the most attention because of his salty disposition.

He developed it at sea. Bunker said Jack was raised on freighters and tankers off the New England coast during World War II. He was a veteran of the merchant marine, Bunker said, deserving of a flag at burial.

After the war a sailor traded Jack for drinks at a seamen's bar in New Haven, Conn. There Jack resided until 1983, when Bunker and his business partner, Bill Oliver, rescued him from the rundown joint.

They brought him to Baltimore with a load of marine salvage. The China Sea Marine Trading Co. was then at 724 Thames St., next to the Cat's Eye Pub. A year ago, Bunker moved the business across the street to the Ann Street Wharf.

Jack became a regular at the Cat's Eye, flying onto the bar and knocking over people's drinks. He became known throughout Fells Point.

Once he flew into the lobby of the Lemko House, a senior citizens' apartment house three blocks away. Later, one elderly woman was heard to say: "That bird has a dirty mouth."

Jack often roosted in trees at night, and Bunker and his buddies sometimes had to shoot bottle rockets in Jack's direction to rouse him so he would fly home.

Inside the marine trading company, Jack was so feisty that Bunker put a sign on his cage: "Jack Nasty -- He Bites Like A Shark." That is how Jack became Jack Nasty.

He greeted customers with a warm "Hello." But sometimes he uttered a curt obscenity.

He seldom cursed around women, though. Instead, when a pretty one, especially a blond, entered the store, Jack's eyes flashed, his cheeks puffed, his tail spread, and he chortled as if he were lost in love.

In time, Jack seemed actually to fall in love with a frequent visitor, Ann Carmody. She is a settlement officer for a title company. She lives next to Patterson Park. She is blond.

It took about a year of Carmody talking to Jack before he flew onto her shoulder. That was all it took.

"It was love at first bite," Carmody said.

She sat outside with Jack in the summer, and one day he snuggled against her jaw. He let her scratch his neck.

Bunker eventually asked Carmody whether she might like to take Jack home. She was delighted, she said.

One of her two dogs died three days before Christmas. That was Ryan, her 14-year-old Scottish terrier. Ryan hated birds.

Now that he was gone, Carmody arranged with Bunker to take Jack around New Year's.

But the Friday after Christmas, when Bunker opened the store, Jack and Saigon were out of their cages. Jack's right foot was injured. Bunker surmised the birds had been fighting. He took Jack to an animal hospital, where the veterinarian said he would have to operate. Jack was anesthetized. He never came to and died that day. Bunker figures he was well over 50 years old.

Bunker picked him up from the vet yesterday, placed him into the little coffin and into his cage and brought him to the Wharf Rat. Among those waiting was Ann Carmody, carrying a bouquet of flowers.

Bunker looked every bit the mariner in his old seaman's hat, mustache, beard and hair falling over the collar of his red plaid shirt. He is from a long line of seamen. He has worked on boats on and off since he was 7. He now is 45.

He stood next to Jack's cage and said he was surprised by how many people had called or stopped by to say how much Jack had meant to them.

"Jack has dropped anchor for the last time," Bunker said. "We'll all miss him."

He read a poem by Albert Schweitzer, "A Prayer for Animals."

It begins: "Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends, the animals. . . . "

Finally, Bunker said: "So we'll miss you, Jack. So long, mate."

He raised his glass, and so did everyone else. They drank to Jack, and then they drank some more. Bill Oliver, who owns the bar and is Bunker's partner in the marine trading company, led the group in a seaman's toast. Everyone slugged down a rum tot.

Bunker and his friend, Sharon Bondroff, soon left with the sea chest wrapped in the flag. They walked the two blocks to the foot of Broadway, where workers are rebuilding the Broadway Pier.

Bunker slipped around a fence, dug a little hole and buried Jack in the flag-draped coffin.

Bunker hopes someday to buy a brick in Jack's memory. For $50 people can buy a brick for the promenade to be built around the harbor, and they can put their name on the brick, or the name of their business or loved one.

People have already given money to Bunker for a brick on the pier. The brick would carry the name: "Jack Nasty."

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