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November's Choice - Phyllis, Canasta Champion, Bird Division.

Phyllis Hen comes from

a long line of clever and intelligent chickens. Her mother and grandmother were both champion Tic-Tac-Toe game birds in New York's Chinatown.

Phyllis's expertise is not Tic-Tac-Toe but Canasta. She is the #1 seeded player in the USA, bird division. Phyllis let me interview her during a break in the International Canasta Championships

in Recife, Brazil. I found her to be an attractive and thoughtful bird.

Louise: Thank you, Phyllis, for allowing me to chat with you during the break in your tournament. I'm certainly don't want to interfere in your concentration.

Phyllis: Not a problem. My Ma taught me to focus from the time I was a young chick. Why, I could do the chicken dance or even lay a few eggs now and go right back to the game. My concentration is that good.

L: I've been told Canasta is a game of partners, like Bridge. You must have a partner that you can count on and vice-versa.

P: I have several partners, depending on the type of Canasta we are playing. Today, for example, it's Brazilian Canasta, and so my partner is Teresa Toucan. She is a savvy player and knows the ins and outs of that particular style of cards. She and I are on the same wavelength and we know just when to meld and when to hold. If I am playing Cuban Canasta, my good friend Carlotta the Cuban Tree Duck is my partner. She definitely knows that game front and back. Canasta partners are like dance partners. You have to trust each other and you have to be quick on your feet as well as in your brain.

L: There's foot play in Canasta?

P: You know what I mean...figuratively speaking.

L: Do you have a family, Phyllis? Is there a Mr. Rooster in your life?

P: Oh, isn't there always? To tell the truth, I've been preferring female companionship lately. I've been touring the circuit with my life partner Gladys. Though I am a Barred Plymouth Rock and she a Wyandotte, we get along famously.

L: Does she play Canasta?

P: No way. Her passion is opera. While I play my games, she is either going to performances, listening to operas or taking singing lessons. It's best that we have our own identities but are very respectful and encouraging with each other's interests.

L: That sounds very wise.

P: I know, right?

L: You seem like a very self assured chicken. And I mean that in the best possible way.

P: You've gotta be in this world.

The game buzzer went off and round 2 was about to begin. But before Phyllis ambled off, she showed me a tiny piece of paper that her mother gave her many years before. She always carries it with her when she plays in tournaments. It was a fortune cookie fortune from the old days in Chinatown. It said "Love yourself and you will always have someone who believes in you." More words of wisdom. And, with a ruffle of feathers and a wink to me, Phyllis said goodbye and strutted back into the world of Avian Canasta, Brazilian style..

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