I fed a fish to a pelican in Frisco Bay

First thing: If you haven’t seen the above video clip, drop whatever you’re doing and watch it right now.  The thing has taken up permanent residence in my mind ever since I first saw it a few days ago, and rarely a minute goes by in which somewhere deep in my skull the phrases “Fuckin magnets, how do they work?” and “I fed a fish to a pelican in Frisco Bay” don’t reverberate like little, stupid ball bearings.  So in the interest of expelling this…this thing from my mind completely, I decided it’d be prudent to analyze it line-by-line.  First up, the standard warm-up rap intro:

(Smug, knowing laughter) We got a theory

See, like, we got a theory…about magic…and miracles (that’s right, that’s right)

Nothing too special here: Shaggy and Violent J (who will henceforth be termed “The Fat One” and “The Skinny One”, respectively) are getting ready, stretching their vocal cords, and setting the scene for what’s to come.  Next the two Cesar Romero as Joker-esque rappers fly upward through the sky on a sort of phallic telescoping tower and drop some science magic:

If magic is all we’ve ever known
Then it’s easy to miss what really goes on
But I’ve seen miracles in every way
And I see miracles everyday
Oceans spanning beyond my sight
And a million stars way above ’em at night
We don’t have to be high to look in the sky
And know that’s a miracle opened wide
Look at the mountains, trees, the seven seas
And everything chilling underwater, please
Hot lava, snow, rain and fog
Long neck giraffes, and pet cats and dogs

Leaving aside the superfluous “please”, which is clearly an attempt to shoehorn a rhyme into an otherwise rhymeless couplet, my main concern here is the randomness with which both Fat/Skinny Clown describe their miracles to us.  Right away we’ve got the sky, mountains, trees, the seven seas, and “everything chilling underwater”, as well as lava (which ICP kindly remind us is “hot”), snow, rain, fog, longnecked giraffes, and “pet cats and dogs”.  Doesn’t bode well.  Next up:

And I’ve seen eighty-five thousand people
All in one room, together as equals
Pure magic is the birth of my kids
I’ve seen shit that’ll shock your eyelids
The sun and the moon, and even Mars
The Milky Way and fucking shooting stars
UFOs, a river flows
Plant a little seed and nature grows
Niagara falls and the pyramids
Everything you believed in as kids
Fucking rainbows after it rains
there’s enough miracles here to blow your brains
I fed a fish to a pelican at Frisco bay
It tried to eat my cell phone, he ran away
And music is magic, pure and clean
You can feel it and hear it but it can’t be seen

The key passage here is that referring to the Fat Clown’s fateful encounter with the pelican in San Francisco, which can be further understood by looking at this image:

In this we can see that the Skinny Clown is representing the Fat Clown’s encounter with the pelican by extending his right hand outward in front of him and his right foot behind him while simultaneously looking behind, presumably at the offended waterfowl.  Behind him a kind of mockup of the Golden Gate Bridge tilts slightly to the left, in order to represent the incident’s location.  Now of course the question here is: what makes this a miracle?  The sequence of events is fairly transparent: Fat Clown, perhaps relaxing near the water in SF after a long night of spraying Faygo on concertgoers, decides, out of the kindness of his overworked and failing heart, to feed a fish to a pelican, expecting that his efforts will be appreciated by the inscrutable creature.  Little does he know that pelicans can be aggressive and ungrateful: “On the 11 May 2008, Debbie Shoemaker needed 20 stitches after a pelican rammed into her face and died, believed to be diving for fish in the sea off Florida” (BBC News, 2002)

The irritated pelican then attempts to eat Shaggy’s cell phone, after which he “runs away” (an act ably illustrated by Violent J in the image above).  All well and good, and certainly par for the course in rap narrative (I could certainly imagine Ghostface Killah or Lil Wayne telling a similar anecdote), but why the connection with miracles?  There seems to me to be nothing particularly miraculous about a disobedient bird, upon receiving foodstuffs, interpreting an inanimate object in close proximity to the proffered foodstuff as further sustenance and attempting to consume said object, aggressively if necessary.  I can only assume that both clowns are unfamiliar with the habits of animals, having grown up in suburban Detroit (although this is debated).  Having spent some years of my youth on a farm, I can certainly attest to the fact that animals are unpredictable, capricious creatures, and will just as soon bite your hand as take food from it.  The lack of proper socialization available to a flighted animal in “Frisco Bay” was surely one of many factors that led to its attempted consumption of Shaggy’s cell phone.  I can’t fault Shaggy for running away, as an agitated pelican is nothing to fuck with, and I can only hope that the overweight performer took some time out afterward to calm himself and allow his heartbeat to return to its normal resting rate before resuming his seaside activities.  Also worthwhile viewing is this page on the symbolism of the pelican in Catholicism, which I hope might shed some light on Shaggy’s seemingly incongruous mentioning of it in the context of other miracles.

Next up:

Music is a lot like love, it’s all a feeling
And it fills the room, from the floor to the ceiling

I see miracles all around me
Stop and look around, it’s all astounding
Water, fire, air and dirt
Fucking magnets, how do they work?
And I don’t wanna talk to a scientist
Y’all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed
Solar eclipse, and vicious weather
Fifteen thousand Juggalos together
And I love my mom for giving me this
Time on this planet, taking nothing for granted
I seen a caterpillar turn into a butterfly
Miracles ain’t nothing to lie
Shaggy’s little boys look just like Shaggy
And my little boy looks just like daddy
Miracles each and every where you look
And nobody has to stay where they put
This world is yours for you to explore
there’s nothing but miracles beyond your door
The Dark Carnival is your invitation
To witness that without explanation
Take a look at this fine creation
And enjoy it better with appreciation
Crows, ghosts, the midnight coast
The wonders of the world, mysteries the most
Just open your mind, and it ain’t no way
To ignore the miracles of every day

The rest consists of the chorus, and Shaggy’s contemplative “Miracles all up in this bitch.”  The key line in the above passage is undoubtedly that referring to magnets, which has already struck the public imagination (I can see the T-shirts already).  But there’s little miraculous about magnets: a description of their processes can be found in almost any science textbook.  It seems the Detroit school system has failed Shaggy and Violent J, and their confused insults toward scientists seem to stem from a fear of knowledge, perhaps also spawned during some traumatic event at school; I can imagine the young Violent J slathering on his first experimental attempts at scary clown makeup in the bathroom during class, having duly asked for a hall pass, only to be discovered by some assiduous hall monitor and dragged by the ear down to the attendance office.  It’s not the scientists’ fault, Violent J!  Without scientists, how could your video feature such state-of-the-art computer effects?

–Jon W.

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About sonorareview

Founded in 1980, Sonora Review is the oldest student-run literary journal in the country. From start to finish, each issue is put together solely by graduate students in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Arizona. All staff members volunteer their time. Former staff members include Antonya Nelson, Robert Boswell, Richard Russo, Tony Hoagland, and David Foster Wallace. Work originally printed in the Sonora Review has appeared in Best of the West and Best American Poetry, and has won O.Henry Awards and Pushcart Prizes. Sonora Review maintains a congenial relationship with the Department of English while safeguarding the editors' complete aesthetic and managerial control. You can contact Sonora Review via email at: sonora@email.arizona.edu Or by mail at: Sonora Review Department of English University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721

6 thoughts on “I fed a fish to a pelican in Frisco Bay

  1. That’s pretty funny, especially the part about the pelican chowing down on the proffered foodstuffs. I think I have to disagree with you on the magnets in textbooks thing but other than that good work.

  2. Referring to” ” “On the 11 May 2008, Debbie Shoemaker needed 20 stitches after a pelican rammed into her face and died, believed to be diving for fish in the sea off Florida” (BBC News, 2002)”

    How did BBC News know what was going to happen in 2008 in an article written in 2002? F*cking magic, that’s what

  3. The best part is how the pelican chooses to run away instead of fly away.
    And the clown apparently couldn’t catch him.

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