Jose Rico – Beyond the Barrio: Tweety Bird, Ofelia and the Overnight Makeover

In the Southern California town of La Puente, my sister Gloria shared a home with her good friend Ofelia. One summer in July I visited my sister and upon arrival, I immediately noticed Ofelia’s collection of Tweety Bird figurines all over the kitchen and living room.

Tiny plastic Tweetys, porcelain Tweetys…so many of them “decorated” the place. It was a large collection that included framed pictures of the silly cartoon birdie – there was even a Tweety rug ( don’t step on it ).

The most memorable item was hanging from the ceiling, in the living room’s corner. It was a large yellow plastic cage with a seven inch tall Tweety Bird perched on a swing.

Ofelia said, “Walk up to it”. So I did; and when I was a couple feet away, Tweety proclaimed in a loud, squeaky voice, “ I tawt I taw a puutty cat!”

I cracked up thinking, no home is complete without a Tweety Bird Cage motion-sensor alarm – cause you never now who’s gonna be coming in late at night.

Ofelia owned a modest three bedroom house in what appeared to be a quiet neighborhood. To my surprise, before

I woke up on my very first morning there, I was startled by the crowing of a neighbor’s old rooster. It sounded like it was sitting on a fence just a few feet from my bedroom window.

And when I say an old rooster, I mean he sounded old…or sick.

He had a gravelly crow that hardly sounded like a typical “cock-a-doddle-do”. No, this “foul fowl” was bellowing with a very rusty windpipe. It sounded more like, “Er-er-er-er-errr!”….with a slurring at the end that trailed off which made it both annoying and amusing.

So for the next six mornings I was awakened by the day-breaking or glass-breaking rooster with a sore throat

During my visit, one of the first attractions I was fortunate to see was the Getty Center, located about eight miles north of Santa Monica. The J Paul Getty Museum showcases Greek and Roman artifacts, a separate building where a photography exhibit is housed, American and European art, impressive architecture and wonderfully designed gardens.

“Perseus” Ricci
“Irises” Van Gogh

We spent the day wandering and engaged for almost five hours, mesmerized by multiple classic paintings by the masters.

One of which was “Perseus Confronting Phineus with the Head of Medusa” by Italian painter Sebastian Ricci, circa 1705–1710.

But an especially unforgettable piece by Van Gogh titled “Irises”, actually brought a tear to my eye.

“Sunflowers” Van Gogh

I simply could not believe that I was standing a few feet from the 1889 painting by the Dutch artist – who had completed at least 300 works in his lifetime, but never sold a one. Fast forward to the late 80’s when a tycoon purchased Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” for 39.9 million. Not only is life unfair, its damn ironic.

During my stay Ofelia would come and go, leaving my sister in charge of the house. On certain days we’d have a catch-up chat with Ofelia. In my vacation-mode relaxed state I was up to socializing anytime.

Sometimes Ofelia’s boyfriend, Steve, would stop by to pick her up. One afternoon the four of us sat in the living room chatting for a while when the conversation took a turn. Ofelia began reminiscing about her late brother Tomas.

The story took place in the very same home when her daughter Cecilia was only eight years of age. Cecilia always looked forward to her uncle’s visit. They would all go to the beach, Disneyland or Sea World and have a grand time. At the end of the day they settled in for a quiet night and Tomas would neatly tuck and pull the bedding around Cecilia and then he brushed her long hair.

Ofelia would sit close by reading a favorite bedtime story.

As a year or so went by, the tragic early passing of Tomas saddened family and friends. Things were not the same anymore. At bedtime, a heartbroken Cecilia would cry herself to sleep.

One morning Ofelia was awakened by her daughter’s desperate call, “Mama, mama!” Ofelia ran to her Cecilia’s bedroom to find her in bed, covers tucked around her evenly and her hair had also been nicely brushed. “Oh”, gasped Ofelia, “your Uncle Tomas stopped by to visit you!”

Steve, and I sat there listening, transfixed. He broke the augmented pause by saying,”This is freaking me out!” I then thought to myself, he’s freaked out? I have three more vacation days to spend in this house!

Gloria was quiet when Ofelia turned to her and said, “Isn’t it true Gloria?” Smiling, my sister replied, “Yes, it happened to me too. I woke up one morning with my covers nicely tucked in and my hair was brushed as well.”

As I sat there frozen in place Steve got up and said, “Okay, time for us to go….”, and he and Ofelia left to wherever they were going. My guess is that Steve wanted to go have a shot or two of Jose Cuervo.

Because of the hot summer nights, my bedroom window and door always remained open. That evening, I couldn’t get the story out of my head. I was no longer distracted with anticipation of the morning’s sounds of a sick rooster.

My senses were now heightened. I laid there in a sleepless state still as could be, not wanting to move one bit. It was late and the house was very quiet. All I could hear was my breathing.

Then, from the living room I heard a loud squeaky voice say, “I tawt I taw a puuty cat”. I gulped. The tweety bird cage sensor had gone off – something had walked close to it!

Then, silence again.

In the darkened house I finally fell asleep ….with one eye open and one eye closed.


Jose Oswaldo RicoLeave a comment! I’d like to hear from you.

José Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor Previous  columns HERE