BEFORE I GET TO today's topic, which is celebrity-attacking birds, I want to issue a formal apology to the "Tri Cities." The Tri Cities are Pasco, Richland and Kennewick, Wash., which call themselves the Tri Cities in proud recognition of the fact that there are three of them. I had not heard of these cities until recently, when I wrote a column about the Hanford contaminated nuclear dump site, which is located near the Tri Cities. My column was about the fact that radioactive ants, flies and gnats had been discovered at Hanford; I expressed concern that they might mutate and become gigantic and attack Los Angeles and suck all the blood out of actress Fran Drescher.
This column prompted a somewhat critical article in the Tri City Herald, which is the leading newspaper in the Tri Cities area. The article pointed out that my column, in focusing on radioactive insects, ignored many of the positive things happening in the Tri-Cities area, such as (these are direct quotes) "the winning Tri City Americans hockey team" and "the booming construction going on behind Columbia Center mall."
The Tri City Herald article prompted yet another article, this one in the Seattle Times (motto: "We Cover the Tri City Herald"). The Times article quoted a "communications specialist" with the Hanford cleanup company who objected to my statement that the dump site "glows like a Budweiser sign." The communications specialist states: "That's a little bit more than inaccurate."
The Times story also notes that:
* Authorities prefer to call the insects "contaminated," rather than "radioactive."
* According to the president of The Tri-City Visitors and Convention Bureau (this is another direct quote): "The reality is that the real story, so to speak, is that the community has many positive attributes, like a great quality of life."
* The Hanford site also produces (I swear I am not making this up) contaminated tumbleweeds "on a regular basis."
So anyway, I feel terrible. The first rule of journalistic balance is: "Before you report that an area has radioactive ants, always check to see if it also has a winning minor-league hockey team." And I violated that rule. So I hereby apologize to the Tri Cities. I'm sure it's a wonderful area that everybody should visit immediately. To help promote tourism there, I've come up with some slogans:
* "The Tri Cities Area ... Contaminated -- not Radioactive!"
* "Relax! That Booming Sound You Hear Is Nothing More Than Construction Behind the Columbia Center Mall!"
There! I hope that patches things up between me and the Tri Cities. If there is anything else that I, personally, can do from 3,000 miles away, please let me know!
Now let's turn to celebrity- attacking birds. I broach this topic in light of an alarming recent incident involving Fabio, the mega-hunk male supermodel with long flowing hair and a certain way of looking at a woman that says to her: "My chest is the size of a UPS truck."
On March 30, Fabio was at the Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, Va., to help inaugurate a new roller-coaster ride, "Apollo's Chariot," named for Apollo, the ancient Roman god of motion sickness.
With the press on hand to witness this historic event, Fabio climbed into a seat in the front row of the coaster, and off he went. At some fateful point during the two-minute ride, Fabio collided with -- you guessed it -- a contaminated tumbleweed.
No, seriously, he collided with a bird. He was not seriously hurt, but in the Associated Press photo I saw, he had blood on his nose and the stunned look of a man who has gone beak-to-beak with Terror.
Busch Gardens officials attempted to downplay the incident, calling it "relatively minor." They told the press that nearly a million people have ridden roller coasters there, and Fabio was the first one ever to collide with a bird. We do not have to be trained statisticians to understand what this means: It means the bird did it on purpose. The bird community has probably been waiting for years to get Fabio up in a roller coaster and take a whack at him.
And this will not be the end of it. As any bird scientist (or "orthodontist") will tell you: Once a bird tastes celebrity blood, it wants more. Today it is Fabio; tomorrow it could be the Spice Girls. That's why I urge President Clinton to go on TV and bite his lip in a sincerely weepy manner until Congress approves a program wherein we lash expendable volunteer celebrities such as Dennis Rodman, the McLaughlin Group and actress Fran Drescher to roller coasters and send them up around the clock until they are attacked by birds, at which point F-16 fighter escorts open fire (on the birds).
Let's do this now. Let's not wait until celebrity roller-coaster attack birds -- which, like "Contaminated Tumbleweeds," would be an excellent name for a rock band -- puncture a truly irreplaceable national treasure such as, God forbid, Adam Sandler. Let's keep our nation free from terror, from sea to glowing sea.