BOISE, Idaho — Albertson’s LLC said Monday that it has agreed to acquire The United Family, a privately owned chain of 50 supermarkets based in Lubbock, Texas, operating under three banners. Supermarket News Sept 9, 2013

This is really very simple, but I’ll do my best to make it complex. Groucho is a Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot; that’s him above. He joined us in August of 1981 and while we diminish under time’s weight, he’s in the prime of life. In the 32 years since his arrival he’s had just one medical problem. In March of last year his doctor noticed a mass under his left wing. I, being a highly trained observer, had missed it.

“What is it?” I asked forgetting decades of medical training and experience.

“Probably a lymphoma, but it could be an in-grown feather cyst. The former is much more likely than the latter.”

Surgery was scheduled. I was told that general anesthesia in his case carried a 10% mortality rate and that post-op mortality added another 10%. An infected feather cyst was the culprit and even though the surgeon had to go all the way down to the bone to drain and remove the cyst, Groucho sailed through the procedure and made an uncomplicated recovery. The cost for this delicate surgery, anesthesia, and post-op care – realize that Groucho weighs only 585 grams, about 1.25 pounds – $400. The skill required for the operation was as great as that possessed by the best human surgeon. I don’t mean to necessarily imply that surgeons are human, but only that they operate on humans. A similar procedure on a human would run north of $25,000. Why the difference? Animals don’t have medical insurance and their vets expect to be paid at the time of service; so the price has to be affordable.

Groucho is a remarkable animal. He talks. That he may not know what he’s talking about makes him at least my equal. He’s a regular watcher of Sesame Street; he’s up to the letter L and the number 8. Parrots have better eyesight than humans (see below) so he looks as intently as he listens. But all this has nothing to do with salami which is my subject.

Groucho lives on a diet of pellets, Zupreem Fruit Blend Diet for Large Birds to be exact. He gets an occasional treat. He likes uncooked corn on the cob. He shells each kernel (a mechanical feat that is wondrous to watch); when the corn is gone he chews the cob into a powder. He also like grapes and string beans. He opens the bean and eats the seeds (another marvel of dexterity). He also likes chocolate and coffee both of which are supposed to be virtually lethal for parrots but which, in the amounts he gets, have had no deleterious effect over 32 years, unless you count the feather cyst. His all time special treat is salami. But not just any old salami; it has to be Hebrew National Salami. Any other kind is met with either disdain or intense aggression. He hurls the offending snack from his food dish to the bottom of his cage. But if it’s the real thing he dissolves into paroxysms of delight, cooing and moaning as he devours the wondrous goody.salami

Albertson’s Supermarkets carries Hebrew National Salami; for years it was my source for Groucho’s favored brand of salami. Albertson’s main competition in our market was a locally owned smaller chain – United Supermarkets. United understood its market much better than did Albertson’s, eventually driving the larger chain out of Lubbock. Fine, except United did not carry Hebrew National Salami. Groucho was desolate at the sudden disappearance. I shared his grief. Friends and relatives immediately noticed my decline. When I told them its cause they all volunteered to help.

My oldest daughter who lives in Albuquerque where Albertson’s maintains a strong presence started to regularly buy the city’s entire stock of Hebrew National Salami, put it in an ice chest, and make the five and half hour run to Lubbock. Friends who traveled to cities that sold Hebrew National Salami would make large purchases and then come straight from the airport to my home with the salami so it could be put in the freezer before it could spoil. People I had never heard of started to send or even deliver in person large quantities of Hebrew National Salami. I accumulated so much salami that all my freezers were full of the stuff.  I bought a Kenmore Elite 20.6 cu. ft. Upright Freezer. In a month it was full of Hebrew National Salami. I bought another and put it in the garage. You can figure out how long it took to fill it up. I started to beg for space in my neighbor’s freezers. I tried to turn off the supply, but no believed that anyone could have too much Hebrew National Salami. Gary Rodkin the CEO of ConAgra which owns Hebrew National offered to send me a compassionate supply of the salami. Groucho was happy; but I began to feel like a kosher version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice only without the Sorcerer to turn off the spigot.

Then the announcement that heads this piece. Albertson’s under the general business practice of engulf and devour had bought out United. They promised not to change anything, but they surely had their fingers crossed. It’s my fervent hope that they will bring back Hebrew National Salami to the Lubbock market before I have to buy a bigger house to find room for all my freezers. If the salami is sold locally I assume people will realize that I can get the stuff myself and will therefore stop buying it for me.

And guess what? Groucho is a girl. He, oops she, was DNA sexed. Yellow-Napped Parrots are sexually monomorphic – at least to human eyes. But not if you’re a parrot. In addition to red green blue vision, they can see into the ultra violet range. And that’s how one parrot figures out the bird part of the birds and the bees. A boy parrot looks different from a girl parrot, assuming you’re a parrot.